I recently asked the following question What if The Royal Game written by Stefan Zweig was about Go instead of Chess? and still don't know if it belongs on Worldbuilding.

I think there are multiple things to consider.

The question itself asks about a world that was already built. In this sense it may not fit Worldbuilding but something like "World-re-building".

The question asks about how to create a world very similar to an already created world with a main difference. From this difference, new possibilities emerge. This argument leads, in my opinion, to leaving the question on Worldbuilding.

Another thing to consider, the original author has is own style and ideas. Forking a story of his needs to be consistent with the previous work of the author. This may be more appropriate for Writers ?

So, what to do with this kind of questions ? What about the specific example ?


In general 'world-re'building' is what the vast majority of people here do. We don't completely throw out the rulebook on physical laws or history and start again, rather we take a world that's already been built (even if it's right at the fundamental level) and ask how our changes might affect it.

But onto the actual question.

I personally think that questions of this type 'what if x person had done y instead of what they actually did?' are rarely suitable for worldbuilding, but that's because they tend to generate opinion based answers, not because they're based on works or a world that already exists. In the example given, the 'correct answer' depends a lot on what the OP's opinion is of Stephan Zweig, and what various people's opinions of the effects are. It also (and this is crucial) has no bearing on a world that the OP is building. He's just asking a hypothetical question about a book someone else has written. If the question was reworded as 'Could an imprisoned man learn Go in a way similar to that used in The Royal Game?', then it would be on topic.

It's possible that someone on Writers would have a better idea of how the book would have been written on a different subject (or for the OP to write a book in the style of Zweig), or someone on chess might have a better idea of what the effects would have been on the game of chess had The Royal Game been written about Go, but overall this isn't a suitable question for any of the stacks, due to the lack of any way to define the acceptability of an answer. Two separate questions (one chess, one writers) could potentially do the trick, but you'd have to craft them very well.

For future instances of this kind of question: It depends upon the question. If the question falls within the scope of worldbuilding and isn't going to produce opinion based answers then it's fine. Otherwise? Well. We've already got rules for that.

  • $\begingroup$ Readers from 2020 forward should be aware that Worldbuilding has adopted a policy of forbidding questions about 3rd party and/or commercial worlds. The goal of this site is to help people develop a fictional world of their own creation, not to ask questions concerning a world of someone else's creation. (Hope you'll forgive me, Joe. This Q popped up on the "related questions" list for a current Meta question about plagiarism.) $\endgroup$ – JBH Dec 14 '20 at 2:32
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH: it’s fine. I don’t think my answer is in conflict with the new rules. If I’m building a world that shares elements with a third party world then it would be foolish not to reference them, but if I’m asking a question about a third party world then it’s not Worldbuilding. For example my ‘Starship Exciting Undertaking’ questions are very much set in a world which parodies and draws from a well known fictional universe (I’m not even pretending otherwise), but they are very definitely not about that universe. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Dec 14 '20 at 11:11

Your question does not appear to be about world building at all. It's about a plot. Or the story of a man.

I haven't read the original book you cite, but from your summary, you talk about a man who, by reading a single book about chess, is able to play reasonnably well, because he integrated all the details about the games presented in the book. How does that affects his neighbour? The government? The biotopes? The climate? The History? Or the society as a whole? To me, it appears not to affect any of it. And therefore it is not about worldbuilding, but rather plot-building.

Plots are very interesting points, but unfortunately, there aren't any specific sites dedicated to it. This is due to the inherent subjectivity of plots.

To be more specific to your question, why do you think the same story about go would be so much different? Go is a game with more degree of freedoms, but with many similarities with Chess.

  • $\begingroup$ Based on your line of reasoning, I'd argue that it's more character building than plot building. Which doesn't have any major effect on your conclusion, because both are equally off topic on Worldbuilding SE. $\endgroup$ – user Jan 11 '16 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I englobed the character building as a plot line into plot building. Because from the question I gather that the evolution of the said character is the centre of the plot of the book. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Jan 11 '16 at 13:23

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