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Dandwiki has a markedly poor reputation in the online RPG community; material from it is often dismissed out of hand, and users are encouraged to avoid it and to not incorporate work posted there into their games. For what reasons has the site gained this reputation?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure how this isn't purely opinion based. How is someone supposed to support an answer to this, besides "I think X"? \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Nov 3 '17 at 4:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience..." (from the close this question menu dialog) Expert experience with dandwiki and its reputation should be expected from answers to this question. \$\endgroup\$ – Derek Stucki Nov 3 '17 at 4:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related on UX \$\endgroup\$ – indigochild Aug 29 '18 at 19:58
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There are really two problems:

  1. Zero quality control. Anyone can add anything they want, and since there is no vetting, the overwhelming majority of it is bad. This becomes a vicious circle where the only people who go there are the people who cannot recognize the low quality of the content—which means their own content is likely low quality as well.

  2. Poor indication of what is and is not homebrew. Many things have been put up there in the wrong places and marked as official material when it is not, which makes it very hard to trust it for use as a System Resource Document.

Both problems basically stem from the same source—the lack of sufficient critical mass in editors to maintain the place. Wikis only function well if there are enough editors to mind what the public is putting there, and dandwiki never had that. In fact, it never was clear if people were even allowed or supposed to provide editing on others’ work—which defeats the point of a wiki. This lack of editors also meant there is no one correcting mis-use of various marks of officiality, which leads to the second problem.

The second problem is really the real problem. As they say, 90% of everything is crap, so the first problem is neither surprising nor supremely problematic; it just means you have to spend time and effort finding the few diamonds in the rough that I’m sure are there. But misleading readers about material and making them think it was “official” causes a lot of headaches for DMs and groups and is the real reason that people dislike the site so strongly.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Relevant to point 1 is "the dead sea effect". An organisation/place is bad, so the good people leave, which increases the concentration of badness, so more good people leave faster... infinite vicious cycle all the way down. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 2 '17 at 23:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I once attempted to try to help point out balance issues in classes on dandwiki on the chat pages for those classes. It didn't help. I gave up and left. So yeah.....you have a case-in-point right here @doppelspooker \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Nov 3 '17 at 2:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 Definitely on point number 2, maybe worth also saying it's difficult to tell what edition something is, especially if you're a new player. Just last night I was helping a player create a character and they were getting confused because they used the dandwiki. They kept finding 3.5e sources of information instead of 5e. \$\endgroup\$ – KumosAgosta Nov 3 '17 at 15:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Dandwiki nowadays has a banner on homebrew pages versus SRD pages. It may be worth acknowledging that and how it might be improving or affecting things, if at all -- right now it sounds like things get misclassified per point 2. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 4 '17 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelspooker Honestly, I don’t know that it matters; its reputation is so tarnished (and really, its premise so shaky to begin with) that I don’t really feel like it’s worth investigating the current state of things. If someone wants to do so and report back in another answer, I’d likely upvote that, but the question is about how their reputation got to be the way it is, and that’s what I’m answering. A quick check sees the banner you mean—which I initially thought was an ad, so that’s less than great—but I have no idea if they have gotten better at classification. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 4 '17 at 15:43
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It contains lots of homebrew.

The site hosts pages and pages of homebrew races, classes, feats, spells, etc. Far, far more than the amount of official content on the site. Take a look at the list of class pages.

It's easy, especially for new players, to mistake the homebrew for official content.

Official content on the site is marked with a "SRD" label (example), but homebrew doesn't have a similarly prominent labeling, you have to check the tags down at the bottom of the page the homebrew banner is inexplicably hard to notice despite being bright purple.

The results from the site are highly ranked in relevant searches (e.g., this is the first result in a google search for 3.5 necromancer).

When combined with the name (you expect a site called https://www.dandwiki.com to be a wiki for D&D, right?), this means that it's very easy for new players to stumble upon homebrew content, think it's official, and expect to be able to use it in their games. As a DM, saying "no" to this gets annoying after the first few times, especially since...

Lots of the homebrew is super terrible.

There's no oversight on what gets added to the site (it's a wiki, anybody can edit it)! Not only that, but the site doesn't even make it easy to spot the bad entries (comments are restricted to the hidden-by-default "discussion" pages, there's no voting mechanism, etc.)

As a result, the site is full of crap.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Am I the only one who sees a big banner at the top of the homebrew content with a disclaimer? \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec Nov 3 '17 at 17:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SirTechSpec Hah! It totally is there, but I have absolutely never noticed it, so apparently yes you are. Editing. \$\endgroup\$ – A_S00 Nov 3 '17 at 17:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @A_S00, the wildly different color and style combined with the position of the banner makes it look like a banner ad or an irrelevant part of the site header. Most people will simply ignore it because of this. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Nov 3 '17 at 18:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SirTechSpec I encountered content, once or twice, that was not under such banner but I would bet it's a homebrew. And since I wasn't able to find an option to flag it for moderator's attention, I can't trust it was ever evaluated. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Nov 5 '17 at 12:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Banner invisibility now being discussed over at UX.SE: ux.stackexchange.com/q/120541 \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Aug 27 '18 at 12:29
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The biggest problem with "dandwiki" is that it is named "D&D Wiki" instead of "D&D Homebrew Wiki (that also has pages for publications/products and SRD content)."

I have been a somewhat active user of the site for the past year now and maintain that this is the biggest problem, but most diehard contributors argue that just because it has SRD content and such the title of "homebrew" is inappropriate. This is despite the fact that homebrew is over 90% of what the wiki is used for, and arguably the only reason to use it over better sites that exclusively contain SRD material.

For any remotely experienced DM, the titular inclusion of "Homebrew" alone implies (a) hey this is homebrew, (b) most of this will be crap so use your own judgement, (c) if you aren't the DM, ask your DM about it. Almost every external complaint I've heard about dandwiki originates from three points not being clearly communicated and/or understood.

The "homebrew" banner was globally added to the top of homebrew pages a few months ago to help this miscommunication problem. It's a step forward. I maintain that a title/logo change would do more to help it, though.

Secondary and lesser problems include that despite the extreme efforts of a very small group of people to balance and improve homebrew content, anyone and everyone adds whatever they want, and changes whatever they want—without even needing to create an account. Often these problematic contributors are actively and even wildly opposed to someone else improving "their" work (which coincidentally became the origin story of dnd-wiki a few years back), which only makes the problem worse. Even so, it is at the end of the day homebrew. If everyone who ever visited the site was immediately aware, "this content is mostly homebrew, so use your own judgement," then I am sure the wiki would have a significantly better reputation.

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    \$\begingroup\$ As I noted in comments to my answer, the homebrew banner currently looks rather like an ad. I had to have it pointed out to me; I ignored it out of long training ignoring ads. But anyway, +1: you are absolutely correct that the site’s reputation for problems stems almost entirely from people thinking material is official when it is not, and then showing up to games with it expecting that it’s allowed when it won’t be (or worse, DMs thinking they are supposed to allow it when they shouldn’t). \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Nov 20 '17 at 15:06
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In addition to what other posters had mentioned, pages tend to get shuffled around. About halfway through a campaign that ran for nearly a year, a class I was using (a conversion of Pathfinder's Summoner class) got renamed. Since the class in question had about 7-10 different conversions on the site already, and this particular version had an annoying habit of getting changed (evolution point cost of some abilities was changed seemingly every other time I leveled), it was a pain to find it again. It ended up being sorted way down the page, but I nearly had to scrap my character and remake him using one of the other, quite different conversions of the Summoner class.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please bear in mind we expect people to answer the question independently, meaning they should still be able to make sense if all other answers are removed. Answers that are merely add-on tidbits are pointedly to be avoided, and answers that can stand alone should avoid phrasing themselves as add-ons. You may wish to summarise the issues to make it more comprehensive, or leave this experience as a suggestion for someone else to add. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 3 '17 at 9:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener This seems to me like it is a complete answer—pages getting shuffled around or edited out from under you is a reason to have a problem with the site. The fact that the answerer also agrees with other answers doesn’t really affect the fact that this an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 27 '18 at 15:44

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