Part three of the case study series.

Part 1 - Tim B

Part 2 - Daaaah Whoosh

I submit the following for review.

What single element could destroy the world?

About world building? Insofar as destroying worlds is about world building yes, I believe this is on topic. My major gripe with this question was actually some of the answers it attracted. Many of the answers failed to take the premise of a mad scientist into account. This led to some modifications of the restrictions that I placed around the situation. I didn't feel that some of them should have been necessary but if you're not specific around here people tend to go for outlandish.

Risking off-topic?

No, this question seems pretty strait forward on topic to me. If anything you could probably claim it is idea generation but I think the restrictions put in place make it clear I am looking for someone with chemistry/physics knowledge to fill in the gaps.

How would space battles alter combat tactics?

About world building? This question helps define combat in space, so in my mind is a discussion of how things differ from the combat we are used to today. Feels pretty on-topic, discussion of a system and how it impacts the world.

Risking off-topic? Nope, I am happy this one is well within scope.

What are the primary triggers for the decline and fall of great empires?

About world building? Yes this is about world building, specifically developing a history for the world in question.

Risking off-topic? I think it is probably too broad. We went back and forth on this question several times. It was an early question on the site so I can't recall exactly, but I think it was closed once or twice. This question would probably have benefited from the sandbox but I don't think it had been created yet. It could probably be reworked to be more on topic, I'm just not sure how.

How would multi-race humanoid evolution happen?

About world building? Absolutely.

Risking off-topic? Not at all. This one is nice and clean.

How to explain the co-existence of peace and violence in religion

About world building? Yes, the goal of this question was to help illuminate how this process works so it can be included in the world as a source of conflict throughout history etc.

Risking off-topic? It feels on topic to me but there could be an argument that this is a plot idea. I think the question is effectively framed as looking at the system though so it should be good.


2 Answers 2


What single element could destroy the world?

About world building? I don't really see how this would be considered worldbuilding. It's about destroying a world, but it's our world, not a fictional one you're building. Also, it's not so much about the best way to do it, but the best way given some random criteria that no one would actually use when trying to destroy the world.

Risking off-topic? Aside from being out of scope for the site, I think it's well-structured. It's definitely idea generation, but with solid enough criteria that all answers are essentially numerical; basically, the lowest number wins (see Green's ontology). This is a good example of how to ask a Stack Exchange question, I just don't know if it belongs on Worldbuilding.

How would space battles alter combat tactics?

About world building? Yup, cut and dry about building worlds. War tactics inform ship design, logistics, locations, and important events.

Risking off-topic? I don't see how. Answers should draw on real-world examples and experience, and the answer with the most of this should be the best one. If two armies have two different opinions on tactics, usually one of them loses, and that should apply here, so no opinion-based problems, and enough criteria is given as to technology to keep it from being too broad.

What are the primary triggers for the decline and fall of great empires?

About world building? I can see its applications in world building, but for the most part it's more of a history question. But since I don't think it would quite fit on History SE, I think it fits here.

Risking off-topic? Again, this asks for real evidence, not opinion or speculation, so I think it's suitably constrained by reality.

How would multi-race humanoid evolution happen?

About world building? Yep, I think it's about worldbuilding.

Risking off-topic? The problem I see here is that it may be difficult to draw upon actual evidence. You never specified where your races were from, so answers based on D&D races or Tolkien races could be just as valid as answers that drew upon the user's own understanding of what these races are. So I think this one is opinion based because you haven't rigorously defined your fantasy races, but if these races are more consistent across different sources then I may be wrong. That said, I think the answers are good, so a similar question with more constraints would be on-topic.

How to explain the co-existence of peace and violence in religion

About world building? Yep. Kinda like the space combat one.

Risking off-topic? This one seems like it's almost going into idea generation/opinion based territory, but I can see that you're trying to stick to historical precedents again, which I think it a suitably limiting factor. I would be worried about the kinds of answers this could generate, but the question itself seems fine.

Final words: The last 4 questions are all definitely about worldbuilding, and a trend that I noticed is that they seemed to be constrained in proportion to the amount of real-world knowledge and experience they expected. These questions don't ask for ideas or opinions so much as they ask about what has come before, and what can be said about what already exists. You seem to be asking more for an idea generator rather than idea generation; these answers should allow you to create your world on your own, rather than having the answerers create it for you. Which I think is a great example of what this site is supposed to be about.

  • $\begingroup$ Seems like good analysis. The final point about seeking an "idea generator" rather than an answer unique only to his scenario seems particularly important. $\endgroup$
    – Avernium
    Feb 10, 2016 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ I disagree with your first analysis - I think destroying worlds, even if it's our world, is in scope for worldbuilding. I don't think "Worldbuilding" was meant to be taken literally - I've always understood it to mean something more like the construction of worlds + scenarios, instead of just building worlds. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Feb 10, 2016 at 18:56
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Aify I just don't see how destroying a world can lead to a world + scenario. At the end, you've lost everything you might have built, and as a singular destructive act it seems more like plot-building than world-building. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2016 at 19:30
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh I think a question discussing the destruction of a planet could pertain to world building (particularly in multi-planet societies), but this question doesn't seem to be informing world design. As you suggested, it feels closer to plot (or the actions of a single character). $\endgroup$
    – Avernium
    Feb 10, 2016 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Avernium Yeah, that's a better way of putting it. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2016 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ However, that one question doesn't specify a particular world - it generalizes to "How does one destroy all life on a planet using a single element", which is definitely on topic for WB, since any story looking to wipe out life on a planet can reference the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Feb 10, 2016 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh Think of it more as, how to destroy a planet in my much, much larger world. These events would influence almost any warfare or history a world has to offer after that point. Think of Star Wars. The destruction of Alderaan affected a lot about other worlds for a long time afterward. So the destruction of one world can lead to different events, ideas, and other things on different worlds. $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2016 at 23:19
  • $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon I agree with your argument, I just don't think it applies here. The method of world destruction is largely irrelevant, unless it's going to happen again. Destroying the world in question using a different element would change nothing bout that larger world. See Avernium's comment above. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2016 at 0:14

World Destruction: I have mixed feelings on this one. I'm not sure it is really world building. I've got a combination of concerns around the broad scope and the fact that it's not really about building anything. Perhaps if you asked about the plausibility of destroying the world with a specific element that might be better.

Space warfare: On topic.

Fall of empires: On topic. While it may be broad it's actually reasonably constrained and just asking "most important" helps on that. Maybe some more constraint would be good.

Multi-race evolution: Mixed feelings on this one, it feels a bit too opinion based, you could make a valid argument for virtually any combination. Maybe the nature of the tree needed constraining or a way to judge which tree is better.

Religion peace: On topic


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