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There are a lot of questions asking after a potential role for a certain creature or device.
Since other tags will narrow down potential use (which is nevertheless usually beneficial to prevent rolling list questions), and some querents might not want to steer potential answers one way or another, would it make sense to create a specific tag for this?

Usage guidance

  • Excerpt:
    Use this tag if you are looking for a specific role for a specific entity in your world—a creature, device, class, or concept.
    Make sure to limit potential answers by providing as many relevant details as you can about your world, the context, and the entity (its characteristics, properties). Try to describe the general direction in which you want to take the role, and/or the relationships it has towards other entities.

  • Body:
    Apart from using additional tags to quickly clarify your setting (e.g. ), you can use them to limit the potential role you're after to a certain area (e.g. , ).
    As with all questions here, ideally there should be a single best answer, and a question should reflect this.

Alternatively, it could be called , or something more specific like it.


This came up as I edited this question: it only had a tag, which seemed overly broad (and at first glance inappropriate).

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    $\begingroup$ Could you come up with a sample tag definition and usage criteria? $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Oct 21, 2023 at 23:52
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas Done. Thanks for the notification. $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Oct 23, 2023 at 12:52
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    $\begingroup$ IMO, the "role" is very contrived. I don't really see how it clarifies a question as a tag. Seems to just be a buzzword to tack on to the tags section. With a definition of "Use this tag if you are looking for a specific role for a specific entity in your world—a creature, device, class, or concept." there is very few cases where [role] won't be appropriate. And there is not many if any touching points between all questions. The "role" of ravens as messengers and the role of magnesium have nothing in common other than that one word. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Oct 23, 2023 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ Good point, @VLAZ. I had started to write a rebuttal, but it turned out be not much more than a definition of worldbuilding itself, proving your point in the process. I'll think it over, and delete the question if I can't properly retrace why it seemed logical and helpful in the first place. $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Oct 23, 2023 at 13:21
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    $\begingroup$ When talking roles, you're quickly talking about individuals. In truth, what you want is to be more general to the society. Talk about society classes or castes for instance; Suddenly you move from individual to groups of individuals. $\endgroup$ Oct 23, 2023 at 21:47
  • $\begingroup$ Could you clarify re "specific entity" whether this refers to a specific named individual within society, or if a corporate entity is what is meant? Also, I looked at the question you linked to and added "communications" and "creature design" to the tags. Those seemed much more appropriate than "society" or "culture", though I left them as is. Would the ROLE tag be considered a supplement or aggregating tag? Or as a sort of reserve tag if e.g. the crows were to be used as golem supervisors and no other specific tag seems to fit? Basically, what is the role of the ROLE tag? $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Oct 25, 2023 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas (Do you think this question needs a [role] tag? :D) "Specific entity" in the sense that it can be of a variety of natures (organic, conceptual, technological), but clearly defined (and perhaps unique, in the sense that it deviates from the common denominators, but that's also something I came to reconsider). An aggregate tag was my initial idea, I believe. To distinguish it from other types of questions. $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Nov 11, 2023 at 19:18

1 Answer 1

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As defined, no.

One of the defining mantras of this Stack is that we help you build your world (story-independent issues) but do not help you write your story (story-dependent issues). Generally speaking (and this "policy" goes back a very long way in our history), the closer you get to asking a question about a single person (an individual1), the more off-topic the question becomes.

Where this line in the sand gets a bit blurry is when we're dealing with building communities. For example:

  • Off-Topic: My sentient species includes one member who is significantly more intelligent than the average. What role could that member play in society?

That question is off-topic because there is no fundamental limit to what roles the single member, no matter its attributes, could play. Story circumstances can be trivially created to rationalize any role.

  • On-Topic: I'm developing the structure of of a small town in my world. I'm using as a template the nomadic communities of the Bedouin from the early 1800s, but with greater access to non-water-based resources and a greater tradition of trade. My current government structure is [place detailed description here]. What role would a government position similar to "Mayor" have?

While I don't claim my example question is perfect, the point I'm making is we're no longer dealing with an individual member of society. We're dealing specifically with a role in that society that any member of the society could become. We're defining the rules of (in this example) governance rather than rationalizing why an individual would make a choice or why a society would choose to direct the individual into a particular role.

In relation to the linked question

Having said all that, the linked question is a type we're very familiar with. Despite the living, breathing nature of crows (sapient or not), the question type is called Use of Technology. Such questions are on-topic because the question can be written in an objective manner that meets Stack Exchange's expectations for the use of its service. In short, the question can be written to ask for help solving a problem and not simply to generate ideas.

While it's true that a "role" tag could be used for this purpose (what "role" could the crows play in terms of communication?), it's vague and would be abused (yup, it would be abused something awful).2 A better tag (and it's a wonder we've never created it) would be a tag.

Thus (as defined) no, I do not believe we should have a "role" tag.


1The word "individual" is important. It doesn't matter to this Stack if we're talking about an "individual creature" or an "individual company" or an "individual organization" or even an "individual planet." When it comes to asking about the role such an individual could/would/should play within a group of its peers (e.g. one person's role in society or one planet's role in a galactic empire) it's all the same to us. Consider from the Help Center "On Topic" page the description about off-topic questions about choices. And if that doesn't help, go read Isaac Asimov's Foundation series and return with a 3-page essay about the limitations of psychohistory — which is basically the problem we're trying to avoid.

2When creating new tags or modifying existing tags, it's very important to realize that your average user will use a tag based ONLY on the words chosen for the tag name and not what the tag summary or wiki say. It takes time and a lot of hand slapping to get people to realize that tags have intent, scope, limits, and expectations. Consequently, choosing the name for a tag that clearly expresses the goal of the tag with the least amount of likely abuse is important.

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    $\begingroup$ I think perhaps Joachim is getting at role not as the plot related actions of an individual, but rather in the broader sense of general mechanism or function. Like you'd find in a scientifical paper: the Mediatory Role of Light Sensitive Fairies in the Scheme of Elvish Urban Landscapes: a Retrospective Study of the First and Second Ages. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Oct 25, 2023 at 12:21
  • $\begingroup$ Mind you, he does say "specific entity", so I could be wrong! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Oct 25, 2023 at 12:22
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas I'm sure he is, but the ambiguity is the fundamental issue, IMO. The word is used day-to-day for too many different things. Though barely relevant, the use of "role" as a tag name on Movies & TV would never be "in the broader sense of [a] general mechanism or function." In that specific sense, the word "purpose" is far more suitable - but I imagine even more people would abuse a tag called "purpose." After all these years, I'm convinced that if you have to explain the tag in its wiki because the name isn't clear enough, the words for the name weren't well enough chosen. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Oct 26, 2023 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas I did mean it in that broader sense, thanks for your understanding :) But that also means I have to agree with JBH's assessment: it's too broad, requires clarification, is abuse-sensitive, and simply not as helpful as I at that moment felt it could be. $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Nov 11, 2023 at 19:01

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