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If I encounter a problem during world building, I would like to ask it as a question. However, not all problems I encounter will be related to world building.

Off topic

As an extreme example, if my pen runs out or there is a fire alarm, my world building will be interrupted but it would make no sense to post a question about it.

On topic

If I specify the locations of a collection of villages and a distant city, I could ask what road layout is likely to emerge naturally if not planned in advance.

I don't expect disagreement with the examples (if there is, let me know and I will simply change the examples).

The question is, where between these two extremes should we draw the line on what counts as a "world building problem" and what is simply a problem that happened to be encountered during world building.

The reason I am raising this question is due to a close vote on this question, where you can see the discussion in the comments. I would like some guidance on where the line should be drawn, which will hopefully also indicate whether that question is on topic.

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I disagree with Chad on this one. The permanent war is going to be a large part of both the terrain and society. It would change the landscape (potentially), the people (definitely) and the way the entire world works.

I think this is on topic as such a large event is going to have a massive impact on the world that is being built. It's going to have just as much if not more effect than (for example) the tides created by multiple moons.

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  • $\begingroup$ i second that. When events impacts on society level the world in which the society lives is also affected. $\endgroup$ – Fulli Sep 22 '14 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I think this is the key to understanding what the question is looking for - it's not just about the people. I'd like to see answers that explain how a narrow pass between two isolated regions could keep conflict restricted enough that both sides could always keep up with resources but never push the other back. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Sep 22 '14 at 18:10
  • $\begingroup$ I've added a clarifying paragraph to the linked example question so that it is clear that not only social effects can be answers, but technological, geographical, etc. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Sep 22 '14 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ So how is my stone age clans warring for centuries maybe milennia going to affect anything signifigantly? Context matters. $\endgroup$ – Chad Sep 22 '14 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, but until you establish that it's possible - and then choose which route you are going down - you don't know how it is going to affect things. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Sep 22 '14 at 19:02
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The line should be is the question more about the World building or the story telling.

World building questions ask about effects and civilizations and properly scoped to in bounds of time, scale, and technology as appropriate. Story telling questions ask about specific actors more than the overall effects. Plot building questions tend to be more abstract but are still story telling questions rather than world building.

In your linked question you ask about a permanent war and can it go on. Since you have no scope of time or distance this becomes a story telling/plot building question. However if you bound it properly and expand to ask about how the war would scar the land or affect the population, or something similiar then it would be a properly scoped world building question.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree that plot building will tend to be off topic. I disagree that the example question is plot building. I see it as world building restricted by a plot requirement. I wouldn't expect many of the questions to be about world building with no restrictions - each world builder is building for a reason that influences what can and cannot happen. $\endgroup$ – trichoplax Sep 22 '14 at 18:19
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    $\begingroup$ It depends on your perspective. To me, it's much more plausible that an endless war is caused by personalities or story (putting it offtopic?) than by some intrinsic dynamic of the universe which is somehow static (on-topic worldbuilding?). $\endgroup$ – Telastyn Sep 22 '14 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Telastyn: If you are telling a story of generals making decisions in the war, the war would be mainly story. If you tell the story of farmers in war times, the war would be an aspect of the world which they live in (although specific events in that war would still be story telling). $\endgroup$ – celtschk Oct 3 '14 at 11:16
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As far as I can see, the general principle is whether the question can be addressed effectively or not within the stated bounds of "world building." Assuming that "world" includes historical phenomena, there can never be an absolute division here. What's required is sufficient specificity and detail that an effective answer can actually address a reasonably large proportion of the issues at stake.

In the case at hand, it seems to me that several of the answers are thoughtful and on-target, and should be of value not only to the original questioner but to future readers. Thus I'd argue that the community finds it relevant and interesting.

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A rule of thumb can be:

  1. If it is about how the world is or how the world works, it is on-topic. Examples can be used for the question, but they are not the question.

  2. If it is about a single individual of that world (instead of the individual being the example stated above), it is off-topic.

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