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"How to do something" questions are typical for most practical discussions. They are perfectly fine, until:

  • OP can actually do this and check if that does solve his/her problem
  • OP can see how many people do the same thing and what long-term results do they have
  • We can compare our results and come co conclusion, what method is better and why

In a fantasy setting the only criteria is - does the author like it or not, which is the definition of "opinion based". He can like an option because it looks plausible for him, or it looks cool, or because it gives more ideas for the plot. There are no other means to determine which way is actually the best.

I have a magic device/ability X.
What would be the best way to do Y with it, in my fictional country of Z?

Even when you describe how the device works, what possibilities and limitations does it have, there will be a context that changes everything. If we are talking about a magical, fantasy, not science-based setting, nobody can deside which way would be the best, its always up to the author. As the result, we don't have a strict answer, but a bunch of ideas/opinions instead.

Examples of "how to" questions:

How do I protect my shop from teleporters?

How would you defend a package from magic Ninjas?

How would lawmakers try to use and abuse a system with magically-enforced laws?

Rynn's Jewelry Box: Best Way to Use a Unique Small-Scale Replicator?

How to defeat a nature Mage?

How could a group of 6 people destroy an army?

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    $\begingroup$ "In a fantasy setting the only criteria is - does the author like it or not" - this is not true, usually what we look for in these questions is a list of criteria the OP will use to judge answers. If they don't have that, you can VTC as opinion based, but it'd be much more useful to comment and suggest they add such criteria. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Aug 22 '16 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh Yes, the OP might write kind of a list of criteria beforehand. That doesn't change the point - OP vision is the one and only source of criteria. He accepts what he likes and rejects what he doesn't like. $\endgroup$ – enkryptor Aug 23 '16 at 10:59
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My humble opinion is that these are extremely helpful to world builders, can have reasonable estimates of "better or worse" (if not quantifiable), and fit the theme and purpose of this site.

I think it would do the site a discredit to begin to VTC any such question simply because the quality of the answer isn't quantifiable. After all, the original website, Stack Overflow, very, very often will get multiple solutions to a problem all which objectively work to solve the issue, but which will take different approaches, use different technologies, or vary in the coding grace and future flexibility. Even there opinion has to weigh in on picking the best solution.

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater; there should be meaningful ways to judge a better or worse quesiton, but any opinion doesn't dictate a vote to close.

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  • $\begingroup$ Indeed, choosing which solution to use or which is somehow "better" invokes opinion, but whether a particular solution accomplishes the goal set out in the question or not can be judged completely objectively, assuming a well-written question. The extreme case of this is someone posting a unit test and their attempted solution, and asking for code or code changes to make the unit test pass. Quite often, high-quality questions on Stack Overflow boil down to unit tests expressed in English. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 28 '16 at 10:07
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Before doing something relatively invasive like flagging or even voting to close, you should always consider if a less invasive approach is applicable and appropriate.

For example, let's take an otherwise good, on-topic question that simply ends by asking:

What would be the best way to do Y within the above constraints?

or, with a context that implies the asker is seeking more than a yes or no answer:

Can I do Y within the above constraints?

Is that really a question we would want to close? I don't think so.

Instead, you can propose an edit to the question, such that it ends by asking something along the lines of:

How can I accomplish Y within the above constraints?

which basically asks for the same thing. Both are asking for a way to accomplish a specified goal within a specified set of constraints.

Nobody, to within experimental error, is going to propose an answer that they do not feel is the best approach to solving the problem the OP is having.

Now, nobody is proposing that you should completely rewrite the question; in fact, doing so is often frowned upon. But if a relatively simple edit can turn the question from "hmm, maybe I should flag this because Reason X" to "okay, might not be a great question, but it isn't bad either", then making that edit is probably appropriate.

See also Why can people edit my posts? How does editing work? in the help center.

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  • $\begingroup$ Once you edit the question to be "how to Y", the answer to "what's the best way to Y" should be the top voted answer anyway. $\endgroup$ – Laurel Aug 29 '16 at 23:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Laurel Indeed, that's kind of the purpose of community voting. Of course, it doesn't always work out quite like that in practice. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 30 '16 at 4:25

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