So far, my question Is there a credible way a shapeshifter could gain/lose body mass when changing forms? has received eight upvotes, one downvote, and two close votes (both as "This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding"). I'd call this a reasonably positive but rather mixed reception by the community.

None of the people who have downvoted or voted to close have left any clear comments explaining why, so there is nothing that I can act on in order to fix the question, if it indeed is to be considered off topic in its current state. At this stage, since we are still trying to figure out exactly what the scope of the site should be, close votes in particular really don't mean much if they aren't accompanied by a description of just what makes the question off topic.

What about that question would make it not about worldbuilding?


3 Answers 3


A positive reception doesn't make a question on topic, but in this case I believe your question is on topic.

The meta question problems encountered during worldbuilding seems relevant. Personally I consider your question to be one which affects the building of your world, not just stories set within it, and as such on topic.

The example question in the linked meta post can be answered by geographical, technological or social considerations, so is not just a question about people but about the world they live in. However, I had to edit that clarification into the question before the close vote would disappear.

I consider your shapeshifting question to be on topic for the same reason. Building a world in which a shapeshifter can apparently change mass requires a world in which the physics, technology or biology allows for this. You're not just asking for a shapeshifter, but for a reality in which it can be realistic. I think the answers reflect this. You can have a world with altered biology or a world with nanotech and this would allow you to make an otherwise unbelievable story much more feasible.

Such decisions will affect the rest of your world. A world with a nanotech threat may have cities designed very differently to defend against them. A world with altered biology might well have a whole ecosystem of different metamorphic creatures. Legal and political systems may also be different depending on which solution you choose. These things may not form part of the answers, but the answer to your question still has a huge effect on the structure of your world once you start to incorporate it.

Your question will very much influence the nature of your world.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree (and upvoted the question). I think "how can I make this property of my world work" is part of world-building. $\endgroup$ Sep 22, 2014 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with your first sentence. Please see my answer for why i disagree with the rest. $\endgroup$
    – Chad
    Sep 23, 2014 at 19:07

I'm not one of the close voters but I've mixed feelings on the question.

The main problem is that no part of it is about the world, it's about a single type of organism within the world.

However that is no different than other discussions such as scientific reasons for dragons and largest sea creatures. Those creatures can be a large part of designing the world and may even play some part in shaping it so they are a worthy discussion point.

So I've mixed feelings, as its about designing a single creature type, but in balance I think it's on topic as that creature type is part of the world and its ecology.

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    $\begingroup$ Every organism is part of a world of some sort, and just because it is one type of organism doesn't mean that it can't be of great importance to that world. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild Mod
    Sep 23, 2014 at 7:08
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    $\begingroup$ Worldbuilding doesn't have to be about the entire world it's in. It refers to all the things which, together, create a world. A single type of organism, even a single type of metal. No detail, no matter how small, is not part of worldbuilding. This stackexchange should promote putting thought and attention into the small details which may not have any significance to the plot. They flesh out a world and give it texture. $\endgroup$
    – neph
    Sep 23, 2014 at 16:35

Where the mass does goes from one form to another is not about the world and unless your story requires the answer matter. It only matters to your story. That makes it about story telling.

Beyond that there are dozens of different mythologies that include lycantropy legends. Most that I have seen say that a werewolf is much larger than a common wolf. But because there are many mythologies and it is your world it is your decision what happens to them.

This question can be changed from being about storytelling to about world building with the addition of a few details. First include the details that you have already determined about how these creatures came to exist in your world and what rules you have already set for them. Second instead of asking where the mass goes ask how you can explain in context to those rules the change in mass from one form to another.

As it stands your question is probably better suited for SciFi.SE.

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    $\begingroup$ All that said please see my answer here: meta.worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/a/178/72 please note that all of my criticisms of the question still apply even with my proposed scope increase. $\endgroup$
    – Chad
    Sep 23, 2014 at 19:06

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