This came up during the proposal phase on Area 51 -- and I felt at the time that unlike many other Stack Exchange sites, a site on RPGs will be largely subjective. Sure, there are definitive answers (rules, release dates, etc), but a good number of questions will be on style, flow, advice, etc.

Now we have a few choices when it comes to these kinds of questions:

  1. Leave them be. In the Stack Overflow world this would obviously never fly, but there's a huge difference between programming and RPGs. As Bryant said on my earlier Meta question, "Perl is a bit more defined than the process of roleplaying." The problem with this approach is that a line must be drawn somewhere -- so where does that line get drawn?
  2. Bring out the Community Wiki police. Personally, I'm against this on SO, too -- CW is not, in my mind, a shield for an inappropriate or subjective question. Either the question is appropriate, or it is not. If the question is not appropriate, the community should absolutely close it. If it is appropriate, then berating people into making it CW confuses the purpose of what CW actually is: Group editing and community ownership.
  3. Shut 'em down. Close them. They're subjective, possibly argumentative, and there is no defined "right" answer. They don't fit in a Q&A environment. On SO, this is (perhaps 90 - 99% of the time) the right answer.

I ask this today because of my most popular question -- currently sitting at 3 close votes, with an upvoted comment that perhaps Community Wiki would be a good idea. Whatever the community does, of course, I'll accept -- if it gets the other two votes it needs, I'll cast a reopen and see what happens. It's obviously a popular question, with 11 answers. However, even as I wrote it, I knew it would be controversial at best -- it was intended, not just to spark a discussion, but also to test the boundary conditions of this site.

So where are our boundary conditions? (And I should note that the Gaming SE site went through some similar growing pains, so this is nothing new.)

share
    
This is a subject that should be reviewed again. If you are starting with a line about how subjective your question is then you shouldn't ask it. –  anon186 Sep 15 '10 at 15:44
add comment

13 Answers

Some amount of subjectivity is unavoidable and desirable. See the SO blog post "Good Subjective, Bad Subjective" for the Management's take on the question.

I think we should try to steer things toward less subjective questions, however. We don't need another forums site for people to gibber about things; God knows there's enough of those. We really should press on the Q&A format IMO.

I think perhaps we should try to guide questions to useful format and answers to giving useful data rather than being opinion-fests.

It's a fine line. But I think "Use music during games?" is a semi weak question. Or at least, it is if the answers don't come in with a strongly objective "here are the pros I see, here are the cons I see" answers.

Remember that though "Perl is less subjective than RPGs" - it's not by much. If you let people they'll argue about the "right" or "best" way to do things in Perl. We don't want any of that here either.

I think we should edit questions to be more conducive to objective responses - I do think "Are dice REALLY necessary" is a title that can turn inflammatory. "What are some approaches to diceless gaming?" is a lot better. Or "Techniques to run games diceless?"

One recent spate of questions has a number that IMO go way over the line to being lightning rods for pointless arguing - what makes an indie game indie, is railroading bad, etc. I think a lot of those topic titles could be improved. "Sunrods, should they be used?" is argumentative. "When and why would I use a sunrod" is better.

I think we have a lot of folks coming here without SE experience and just RPG forum experience, so there's a pretty good reason to kinda police pretty hard out of the gate to get things going well. It doesn't do anyone any good if this SE gets approved but then people end up not bothering with it because it just turns into a random messageboard. I personally am interested in a Q&A site but not another forums site, there's enough of those and they're toxic enough.

As we've come into the public phase, I am seeing a lot of - to me - unacceptably subjective questions, like "how do we save print distribution". There is a difference between 'subjective' - someone's take on how they do it, like how do they handle sex in their campaign - and 'speculative' - just talking out your ass about how you think the world should work. Speculative is way across the line. Subjective is OK in small doses - but again, I am not sure what about playing RPGs is any more subjective than programming - only a non-programmer would really think that it is. Our devs just had a week long argument over the best way to log...

share
    
Yeah. I'd rather see something like 'What music should I use for this specific effect?' –  Bryant Aug 21 '10 at 3:12
1  
Off-topic, your comment about Perl made me think of this article: "Why I Hate Advocacy" perl.com/pub/2000/12/advocacy.html –  RMorrisey Aug 21 '10 at 8:22
    
Good points, all. Flamebait must be avoided at all costs (says he who initiated some, ironically) ... But questions are still questions even if they are subjective. The difference between an SO and this is, to me, Stefano Borini's answer. –  John Rudy Aug 21 '10 at 23:23
    
What if the question was "How can I, as a small press publisher, work usefully with the print distribution system?" –  Bryant Aug 28 '10 at 23:56
    
That would be excellent. Even more excellent is "what successful ways do you other small press publishers work with the print distribution system". Solicits real expert advice and not people saying "buy from your FLGS!" –  mxyzplk Aug 29 '10 at 0:44
1  
+1 on the edit. –  Numenetics Aug 29 '10 at 1:32
add comment

This is the POV of someone new to Stack Overflow, so take it with that grain of salt.

I vote "leave 'em be." Looking at the front page right now, we have:

  • Music during game or not ?
  • What makes a skill challenge great?
  • Any good tabletop RPG’s for young beginner players?
  • Gather a group of players in a foreign country
  • Your friend wants to learn the ways of the Dungeon Master, what do you do?
  • How can I make my game more “noir” as a GM?
  • Sunrods, should they be used?
  • Are dice REALLY necessary?

... OK, I'm gonna stop counting subjective questions. They are alll over the place. I'm pretty sure that shutting them down would fail the proposal. Now, maybe that's the right thing to do -- again, non-SO viewpoint here. But clearly people want to ask subjective questions, and gaming is pretty subjective.

I should now suggest a place to draw the line, I suppose. Hm. Well, let me throw this out there: should the goal be to make subjective questions system-specific? That has the effect of cutting back on the answer space to some degree. E.g., the Noir question was Shadowrun-specific, so that made it easier for me to answer. Likewise, the Batman question was specific to 4e Organized Play, which allowed me to focus the answer to an environment I knew well.

share
    
I would have to agree, especially with the perspective that the proposal may well fail without subjective questions. This site, more than most, will need at least a certain amount of subjectivity. –  John Rudy Aug 20 '10 at 17:48
1  
Some questions (and answers) do apply to different games. Linking it to systems would make the site utterly useless to me since I do not use them -- Yes, I run systemless games. –  Sardathrion Jul 26 '11 at 9:12
add comment

This is pretty confusing to me as a newcomer.

"What makes your game sessions better?" is shut down but "Does system matter?" is OK. The former seemed more useful to me than the latter in terms of actually improving play.

It seems pretty arbitrary, and I don't really know what kinds of questions I can ask outside of things that have a discrete, quantifiable answer.

share
2  
There has 100% definitely been inconsistent closing so far. I think this is partially because there are a relatively small number of people who can vote to close, so one person's decision makes a huge difference as to whether or not something will be closed. This will probably smooth out with time. I think it's also partially because there's no consensus, and I'm not sure that will smooth out; we may just not fit well with what the SO peeps are trying to do. –  Bryant Sep 3 '10 at 12:05
    
I think we're not being objective enough. Theres a real place for a forum in rpgs that is objective. There are enough other discussion palces out there where subjectvie stuff can be asked (for the record I voted to close Does System matter, its a horrible question). –  anon186 Sep 3 '10 at 14:25
    
I don't think "does system matter" is subjective, I just think it's a question on the order of "will this sharpened pencil make a mark on this piece of paper if I hold it properly?" –  Bryant Sep 3 '10 at 15:36
3  
I hope it settles out. There has to be a line somewhere, and I hope it is not all the way to "how many hit dice does a bugbear have"? –  Jmstar Sep 3 '10 at 21:09
2  
It is definitely settling out in the neighborhood of "how many hit dice does a bugbear have"? after all. –  Jmstar Nov 16 '10 at 15:09
add comment

Obviously D&D is not C# to paraphrase Bryant. As a long term (though lowly member) of the SO/SE community I think this site has to be different. Role playing is by it's nature a subjective experience. Furthermore as with any human experience things will work differently for different groups of people. However, I don't think we should let anything go. I think questions that are highly argumentative should NOT stay. Do we really want to allow:

Which is better, d20 (D&D) or d12 (White Wolf)?

The only thing that is going to come out of that is a flame war, and it won't benefit anyone. Leave it to /tg/.

The other thing I think we shouldn't allow is list questions. We don't need to be another repository of lists of game types. There's a lot of that out there, and it's not what SE is about.

To illustrate let me use the same list of subjective questions Bryant does.

  • Music during game or not?
    • Ok
  • What makes a skill challenge great?
    • Ok
  • Any good tabletop RPG’s for young beginner players?
    • Listy, should go away
  • Gather a group of players in a foreign country
    • Ok
  • Your friend wants to learn the ways of the Dungeon Master, what do you do?
    • Ok
  • How can I make my game more “noir” as a GM?
    • Ok
  • Sunrods, should they be used?
    • Ok
  • Are dice REALLY necessary?
    • Iffy. Watching to see if it turns into a flame war.

We have to allow more than S[O|F|U], but we can't say anything goes.

As for community wiki, I don't think it should be enforced on all subjective questions, otherwise no one would get rep. I think community wiki should largely be left up to the poster.

share
    
+1, and if it starts turning into flame war land, I'll cast a close vote on it myself! (Unless it's already closed by the time I get there, of course.) Just remember: Iffy was kind of the point there -- how do we know where our boundaries are if we have no examples of what's over the line? :-) –  John Rudy Aug 20 '10 at 19:23
1  
Well, I honestly don't see what the problem is with the "dice" question. With online communities, as with my games, I always ask myself "What is the problem we're trying to solve by making this rule?" I'm not quite clear on what the problem is with asking a subjective question in a SE site dedicated to such a creative and collaborative thing as RPGs. –  TML Aug 20 '10 at 23:00
1  
@TML The problem is that it is a highly emotional topic for some people. If it gets overly involved and turns into ad hominem attacks, that benefits no one. Again, that isn't a hard and fast rule, and I'm not casting a close vote now. –  C. Ross Aug 21 '10 at 14:03
    
@C. Ross: Did the edit help the flammability any? –  John Rudy Aug 21 '10 at 23:34
add comment

I'm sorry :'(

You definitely raise some good points in #1, as so many questions have been answered "Depends on your players/group" that it's obvious we can't play by SO's rules.

...and more good points in #2 about the question being either inappropriate or appropriate.

But I made that comment since I felt like it was a good, appropriate question (perhaps even a great one!) which belonged on the site, but which didn't have an objective answer.

I definitely do not believe that question should be closed, and if it is I will promptly vote to reopen!

I think ideally it would be rephrased as a "What are your experiences with dice-less games?" so as to be less argumentative... and then marked as CW ;)

The problem with the way it's phrased now isn't so much that it's subjective but that it creates a kind of False Dillema - which promotes conflict. @Logan MacRae's answer is incredible not only because it's a cool idea, but the answer dispels the false binary by having a gray zone of randomness without dice, specifically.

I think we need to re-define what's Community Wiki, and put that definition in the new FAQ. For starters, I think questions which are less questions and more lists of ideas, inspiration and experiences (such as this one an this one, or yours were it rephrased as above) are good candidates to not be closed, and to instead be CW.

Questions which are argumentative and encourage polarization should indeed be closed.

Except yours... 'cause I like it. And what I say goes :P

share
    
LOL, and perhaps redefining CW is another option as well. BTW, I didn't know this at the time, but @Logan MacRae is my DM. :) –  John Rudy Aug 20 '10 at 19:20
2  
Hahahaha... StackExchange aparently serves as the ultimate GM screen. –  LeguRi Aug 20 '10 at 19:48
add comment

I agree that, by very nature of the SE we have, subjectivity is intrinsic. We are discussing and asking questions about creativity and personal experience, on something that is seldom factual and often imagined. We are also discussing of a game where the ruleset is to be generally followed, but can also be changed at will from personal taste.

We cannot expect a "correct answer" on most of our questions, but we can expect a "preferred answer" by the question owner, and nice answers from the community. I wouldn't be surprised to see a minus-voted question to be accepted as the correct one, just because the owner likes it although it's outside of the standard ruleset.

On the CW, remember that our site is most likely to be in the low population range, hence we expect a reduced amount of votes. Forcing frequent CW question on subjective questions (the large majority) would reduce the incentive of increasing reputation, and we all know that people go at large to increase their reputation. It's one of the winning characteristics of the SE engine. CW should be for "collection questions", where no answer is more likely to be appreciated or not, and each answer is part of a larger document which is completed by the contribute of the community as a whole. Examples: collection of house rules, or collection of home-made spells, or collection of changes from one ruleset version to another.

So I would propose to relax the rules followed on SO. Questions that are really subjective and argumentative are "what is the best"-kind of question, or "X sucks, why people play it", which are subjective and argumentative, but everything else that is just subjective is likely to be a legitimate question for our community.

share
    
Outstanding analysis, and more or less what I'm in line with. I do think @C. Ross brings up a great point on the flammability of some questions -- including my own (which I'm about to go tweak a bit). So now the question becomes ... How do we codify something that allows the inherent subjectiveness of the subject matter while specifically disallowing flamebait? –  John Rudy Aug 21 '10 at 23:20
1  
@John: we can try the moderation strategy: by respecting the fellow poster and deleting offending ones. It will probably trigger another flamebait on meta, but at least we preserve the site from useless, annoying noise. –  Stefano Borini Aug 22 '10 at 7:44
add comment

In my mind as a new member, the rules on subjectivity are a great weakness that prevents this site from growing into a useful resource for players and GMs.

New members are told to post questions that can be answered objectively, yet only a single one of the site's 30 most popular questions can be given a single definitive answer ("Who created the idea of Experience Points?"). A few others can arguably be answered objectively, but only by either giving the answer in the form of a list or restricting the answer to what is subjectively most important ("3d6 vs a d20: What is the effect of a different probability curve?", "Differences between D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder", "What games are out there that could be played in a single night, with no prep?", ""What alternative monsters are there to replace orcs, kobolds, and hobgoblins in low-level encounters?""). The rest of the questions demand entirely subjective answers—and they are great questions! They are exactly the type of questions that I, as a GM as well as a player, would want to ask and have answered and discussed on a site such as this.

If the rules tell us that the vast majority of the popular questions on this site are discouraged and ultimately harmful to the community, then there is nothing else to say than this: The rules are wrong.

share
3  
blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/good-subjective-bad-subjective Please read this. There are good subjective questions. There are bad subjective questions the questions that have been getting closed lately are bad subjective questions. –  wax eagle Jul 25 '11 at 19:11
1  
@Jakob I think we've long admitted that we allow more subjectivity on this site that would be tolerated on other SE network sites, but there is still a line. We do want to avoid questions of "What do you like" and "What is best in ...". A good way to think about it is if the answers will get voted on more for "I like this answer", than "this answer is effective, works, true, then it's probably not suitable. –  C. Ross Jul 25 '11 at 19:13
1  
How are the questions listed subjective? The alternative low-level monsters ones have very objective answers by way of references to a monster manual or bestiary. The differences between 3.5 and Pathfinder are significant and can easily be answered mechanically in one answer without generating a list. The differences are based on fact, not opinion. The probability curve question is also based on mathematical fact. There are is absolutely no subjectivity in any of the questions listed. You should also read the post about good and bad subjectivity as some subjectivity is good –  GPierce Jul 25 '11 at 19:13
1  
Exactly: The questions listed are those few of the top 30 that can be considered objective. The site culture at this point both encourages and discourages subjectivity, sending very mixed messages that make it not at all clear to new users what they are allowed to ask. A culture that leads users to constantly having to ask for permission or being afraid to even ask a question at all is not constructive. –  Jakob Jul 25 '11 at 19:30
2  
@Jakob - yes subjectivity is both encouraged and discouraged in that there are "Good Subjective" questions. The questions you listed are good subjective. However, most of the subjective questions that come through here are bad subjective. the faq has a list of question types that you probably shouldn't bother asking. If you need help figuring out if a question is a good fit, hop on chat we will be happy to help. –  wax eagle Jul 25 '11 at 19:55
2  
@Jakob - I agree, the rules here are arbitrary. I have not figured out what the rules are and it annoys me. –  David Allan Finch Jul 26 '11 at 9:21
1  
@David from Jeff Atwood - i.stack.imgur.com/BngZk.png –  wax eagle Jul 26 '11 at 13:56
    
@wax-eagle: I get the picture and have seen it before. I think the problem is where you view the set boundaries. To me they seam arbitrary. The difference between rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/9048/… and rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/9132/… is trival. To me it is implisit that the ambient-sound-effects are for an RPG and on topic. –  David Allan Finch Jul 26 '11 at 15:53
    
@David originally the difference was trivial i voted to close both of them. as phrased now it is not the fantasy one is actually useful. –  wax eagle Jul 26 '11 at 16:02
add comment

I feel that subjective questions and answers are a given. I would only vote to close items that are argumentative. To me this is more a matter of wording. For example, I would be interested in a question about the relative merits of different game systems as long as the answers remained civil.

share
add comment

A lot of these questions that seem to be subjective are asking for advice. I think there's value in providing answers containing good advice that can be measured by a community vote. This is very different than an unmoderated, unaccountable post in an internet forum somewhere.

share
add comment

My two cents:

Argumentative/best/favorite: Close.

Listy (objective): CW. If someone's new to RPGs (as someone else mentioned in their answer), I refuse to tell them, 'No, you can't ask what's a good game to start out with. That's a bad question.' Be nice to the newbies. They're our future. A compiled list of game systems, or a list of links to sites with helpful information on some issue, isn't a bad thing.

I also don't want to give them a ton of points, for convincing everyone to list their favorites. CW is meant for this sort of in-between. Duplicate listings should be consolidated and removed by editing.

Basically, any question that has no clear, single answer is a candidate for CW. A question should only be closed if it has no basis in objective fact, is argumentative, or the material is off-topic.

share
add comment

We do have a reputation system... If a qwuestion is borderline (like a lot of mine seem to be) then why not warn the poster by down votes? Maybe adding a comment saying why you downvoted it so that the poster can re-phrase the question.

I found that a few questions I asked were fine once a moderator re-prharsed it. None of the meaning of the question was change, just the semantic.

A better "how to write a question" guide is needed...

share
    
Questions aren't usually just getting closed in one fell swoop - close votes and downvotes always happen, and that's the "warning." But even if a question gets closed, that's not the end of it - questions can be reopened (by the community and by the mods) if rewritten well. There's a lot of information on how to write good questions in the faq and meta, mine that first... –  mxyzplk Jul 26 '11 at 12:05
    
For example the FAQ rpg.stackexchange.com/faq leads you to How to Ask rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/how-to-ask which leads you to Writing the Perfect Question msmvps.com/blogs/jon_skeet/archive/2010/08/29/… –  mxyzplk Jul 26 '11 at 12:07
1  
RPG stackexchange needs to address the fact that people need good advice about the hobby that does not necessarily fall into the objective true/false category. –  Ry St Aug 18 '11 at 17:38
add comment

Gaming may be subjective but I think it is important we push for as objective questions and answers as possible.

Questions should be questions and can be answered. "How do I do X" or "I did Y is it right?" seem good. What do you think about Z questions seem mostly too subjective unless the answer is one that can be objectively stated.

I also think questions that have no right answer (like the future of book distribution) are way too subjective for this site. If its the type of question you and your friends are going to have over a few beers its probably not for this site.

Answers should always have a discrete, objective and backed up answer. If they don't, they probably don't belong on this site.

Frankly, this site has an opportunity to be a unique and different voice in gaming because of the avoidance of subjective questions and answers. I want to see us try to realize that.

share
add comment

As long as the "Don't be a dick" rule is followed I say leave them alone. Hopefully the Stack Exchange mechanisms will allow a happy compromise to be achieved.

share
    
We need clarity to be successful in getting people to feel good about what they can post and what they can expect from mods. –  Ry St Aug 18 '11 at 18:14
add comment

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .