This recent question about making a car unavailable to some users seems have sparked some interest from high- and low-rep users alike, but there appears to be a growing consensus that it isn't on-topic for Worldbuilding. I attempted to articulate in the comments to chasly why I believe the question doesn't deserve to be closed, but the growing consensus has me concerned that I may not be understanding our scope quite right.

Can anyone definitively identify whether that question is on- or off-topic and why?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think it is important to point out that the OP commented, "I sandboxed this question and it passed sandbox." How and why did it get approval in the first place? $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2015 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, a related question is how well our sandboxing process is working. I haven't been paying attention to that at all. $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2015 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ Its sexist overtone probably didn't help. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Nov 11, 2015 at 23:06

3 Answers 3


Questions here need to be about worldbuilding, not just about things in your world. If the question asked how a security-conscious society would design cars that could only be operated by their owners (within these economic/technical/etc constraints), that would be on-topic as an aspect of the world.

Some more (made-up) examples might help:

  • How can my law-enforcement officers defend themselves from laser weapons? On-topic; question about a technology that fundamentally affects the world.

  • How do infantry tactics in a medieval-style army change in the presence of fire-breathing dragons? On-topic; question about the behavior of an institution or group of people in your world.

  • How can my evil overlord prevent his slave labor from escaping given these terrain factors and fortifications? Borderline; it would depend on how much of this is about the terrain and fortifications and perhaps the general characteristics of evil overlords, and how much is about the specific evil overlord. If we start getting clarifications like "he's an excellent shot with a crossbow, and he can move small objects with telekenesis, and by the way he's immune to fire", then we're solidly into the realm of plot and should close it.

  • How can an assassin kill the king given the following defenses? Off-topic; unlike the previous one where we might be able to abstract out some general answers about fortifications and terrain, this is really dependent on the specific situation. It's plot, not world.

  • How does a security-conscious society with today's level of tech ensure that only the owner of a car can drive it? On-topic; see the first paragraph of this answer.

  • How can Bob prevent Alice from driving his car? Off-topic; ditto.


I am author of such question. Here I will try to step back a little and provide my thoughts on the subject:

How can you help?

  1. Provide constructive feedback: As author I heard only "This is not about Worldbuilding!" I get you. What I didn't hear is what would make such question to be about Worldbuilding. I know that original idea was, that such question would be better off on Lifehacks, but still, even if a question is in scope for site A, it does not make it out of scope for site B
  2. Encourage people to use Sandbox (And visit it by yourselves). When I had idea for this specific question, I had a gut feeling that such question might not be on scope. So that question being off-topic is idea I also support. However, as an author, I made all possible steps in making such question on-topic, which is posting it in Sandbox first. If such question did receive similar comment on Sandbox, I would improve on it as long as there is common agreement. Or delete it completely.
  3. Encourage casting close votes: The discussion below this specific question looks like flame war to me. And where there is flame war, people tend to take sides. When you cast a close vote, people with enough reputation get "notified" and my past experience tells me, that community of this site takes quick actions, so if another 4 people get to same conclusion as you did, the question will be put on hold.
  4. Encourage the idea, that putting any question on hold is good idea: If you are active user, chances are, that some of your question will be put on hold. And that's good. As an author and beginning writer, I am familiar with idea of editors and second drafts. Make sure, that any user knows that putting question on hold is not a bad thing.
  5. Use Meta: The Meta is good place to discuss about questions. And sometimes to vent out your feelings about recent happenings on the site. For instance, I personally got bit annoyed by frequency of one user posting questions about one idea. So I asked about it on meta. We discussed it and that's it.

My personal comments:

It makes me bit sad, that mine question caused such huge discussion. I admit it is not the best as of quality and/or scope. However, at this point, I feel "betraying" the 10 users who did answer the question by changing the scope.

If you are thinking of putting that question on hold, it is fine with me and as stated above, I think it is part of normal writer's life.


First, I'm fine with calling more story ideas related to technology to be on-topic. That said, the official rules are that questions should be related to world design. So if everyone or even a large minority had cars like this, it would be on-topic. But this is about a specific individual who wants to have a special car. If this isn't covered under the prohibition against questions about individual actions to enable a specific plot point, what is?

If this question is on-topic, we should change the rules to cover it.

For example, questions are welcome
as long as they are not about:
- Actions of individual characters, rather than elements of the world they inhabit
- Elements of plot

Those two rules seem to pretty clearly exclude this question to me. The plot is that Alice and Bob have this relationship. How can the individual Alice alter her car so that only she can drive it?

Want a similar question that would be more borderline? What physical property of the universe should I change such that Bob can't drive Alice's car? Example answers might be to make Bob and Alice radically different sizes. Or to give Alice a magic power that allows her to start cars. Those are changes to the world or universe, not to one specific vehicle that is different from everyone else's vehicle.

Again, I don't hate this question. I'm fine with rewriting the rules to cover this situation. But this question seems pretty clearly on the wrong side of the rules as currently written. Should it be? I don't know. But it is.

  • $\begingroup$ According to this question I asked about character action, I don't believe the first rule applies here. Maybe it was just me, but I looked at the broader question of "Person X wants to stop Person Y from using the car." Are we not allowing any question like that, or am I generalizing too much? $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Nov 9, 2015 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ I think it should remain on the wrong side. Where do we draw the line? What about, "How does Alice stop her 3 year old son Bob from opening the knife drawer in the kitchen but she must still be able to open it?" That exactly parallels the question under discussion. It might be a good question for Lifehacks, but Worldbuilding? Brythan, I don't get your argument, "If everyone or even a large minority had cars like this, it would be on-topic." Why? That makes my knife-drawer question on-topic. Lots of people have knife drawers and inquisitive young children. $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2015 at 22:32

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