As the type of person I am, I tend to explain what happened to prompt a question, along with the actual question. There's a two-fold reason for this; the first being that so far I've found answers to be more in-depth when I ask the question in this manner; the second being that I feel it helps me be more clear about what exactly it is I'm asking.

That said, on multiple occasions, it's been pointed out to me that the stories I tack on to my questions get as much attention as the specific questions I'm asking, and some times more so. I don't dislike this outcome, but it does make me wonder if there's not a better way to ask questions on this site.

I've tried asking direct, short, simple questions, but in general I find that the answers tend to be of the same type. However, when I elaborate, I often have to go back and edit the question to make it more clear to people what I'm asking.

How do I get the in-depth, thoughtful answers I'm looking for, without making it unclear what I'm actually trying to ask?

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2 Answers

Make the question you have clear first, and add a clearly marked 'for example.' People do love to fixate on the single example, however, and it's harmful to go too much into it unless your question is really just about that one case. Keep it brief.

Using multiple short examples instead of one long one helps with that. Also, use formatting to clarify your real question. Your questions tend to be big walls of text with the real question embedded in some body paragraph, not set apart, not using bold, etc. For example, How do I handle a player who plays his character far differently than the character was originally presented?

You recently answered How to fix the broken Diplomacy skill mechanic in 3.XE and Pathfinder?, which is pretty well formatted - clear question, then example. Some people still unhelpfully fixated on the brine dragon example but at least it was only in the comments, the answers are pretty clean.

Note in contrast a question more rambly and incoherent than yours, which has been closed. Old School gamer attempting to get back into it...with some trepidation

Observe good examples on the site and bad examples; seek to emulate the former.

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I have just edited your question I cite above. Note that I moved the actual question to the top, cut a lot of crap out of the example that didn't need to be there, and then bolded the reiteration of the question in the conclusion. It's about 50% better now. –  mxyzplk Nov 23 '12 at 5:39
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I was first a Stackoverflow user before being a rpg.stackexchange user, so I try to ask questions the same way.

On Stackoverflow, putting code is encouraged, but not too much. You have to put just enough so that people can understand what you are talking about, but not paste your whole code. The usual rule is "as little code as possible to reproduce the problem".

So, same with examples. If no example is necessary ("Is there a rule for gliders in Shadowrun?"), then no example. I fmy question is related to an example, I put the story, and then remove every unnecessary element, until I have a self-contained story that only presents the elements required to understand the question.

It's more difficult with RPGs, as real stories are more difficult to deconstruct than coding, but still a good path to follow.

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You will notice that for now this question totally violates my own rules ;) Nobody's perfect. –  Scrollmaster Nov 29 '12 at 21:20
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