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As the Risk Factor identified as most important by this post I'm starting a discussion on Too Individual/Character Based.

Please start answers to this question discussing each of the examples, adding more examples, and discussing just where to draw the line. Once we've reached a consensus and updated the descriptions given here we'll then create a meta post to point people to and a custom close reason.

Currently the preferred name is Too Character Based suggestions for alternatives are welcome.

Close Reason:

You are asking questions about an individual and how they will or should act, not about building a world.

Full Description:

Asking about the actions of individuals is not Worldbuilding so is off topic for this site. Creation of historical figures, authority figures, pantheons, etc for a world is on topic but anything that asks whether someone would or should do something is not.

How to Fix:

Rephrase the question to remove all references to an individual and any "should" or "would" parts of the questions. "Would Joe Marine 17 climb this hill wearing his backpack" is off topic. "Could a well trained marine wearing a 30kg weight backpack complete a 1 mile route with 500' of ascent in 10 minutes" is on topic.

Only the person who is writing a character can decide how that character will act in a given situation. Worldbuilding can determine what is possible for that character to do, but the choices that the character makes given those possibilities is down to that individual character.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Character-based" is a better name than "too individual"; good change. Now it makes me wonder if "character-based" and "plot-development" collapse onto each other -- questions about your story are off-topic either way. Thoughts? $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 22 '16 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio I agree, they go together, but will people make the connection between character and plot? It seems obvious but then we have been paying attention to the issue so who knows?! $\endgroup$ – James Feb 23 '16 at 3:44
  • $\begingroup$ @James people might not immediately connect character and plot as the same thing if we use those words, but I think we can craft a single close reason that instead talks about story and people will get that. Worldbuilding can't help with the elements of your story (like plot or characters), but can help with its setting (world) in all its fine details. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 23 '16 at 3:48
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting idea. I'd be ok with merging character based/plot based if we can come up with a coherent and clear description of where the boundary lies. I think that might be easier with them being separate rather than together though $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 23 '16 at 10:36
  • $\begingroup$ I concur that those can come on the same thing. After all, we don't want to go multiplying the number of special close votes. However, we need to set for a common definition, and a common line between accepted and not accepted questions. And I can see many plots questions that are not about character, and possibly some that are character-based but not about the plot... $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Feb 23 '16 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, shouldn't the current discussion be only about the plot/individual/character-based risk factor? Meaning that for the sake of that discussion, ON-TOPIC and OFF-TOPIC are only about that part in particular? IG and too-broad are other risks factors... $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Feb 23 '16 at 13:06
  • $\begingroup$ @bilbo_pingouin Yep, very much so. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 23 '16 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB, so I edited it in some of the posts below, as they indicated "too broad" or "IG" as off-topic reasons. $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Feb 25 '16 at 6:54
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Upvote if you believe this question is ON TOPIC.

Downvote if you believe this question is OFF TOPIC.

Edit the answer and add reasons why if you think of a reason that is not covered yet.

Can you shoot someone with a bullet... from orbit?

Reasons why on topic:

  • Asking about capability not about whether the sniper should/would do it.
  • In general we've decided that things like weapon capability is on topic, this seems to fall inside this area even though it says "I".
  • Asking about a gap in your scientific knowledge should be on topic. Example: "I have a character and I want him to do X, can and how should it be done?" This is fine so long as you are avoiding the why he should do something.

Reasons why off topic:

  • It is a question about physics that does not have any implication on the world wherein it is used. The OP asks for a plot element, which does not affect the world as such.

  • Asking about an individual character. We only provide exceptions for notable historic character and even then the focus must be on the consequences of their actions, not the actions themselves.

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  • $\begingroup$ Related: meta.worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/q/2353/28 $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 21 '16 at 21:26
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    $\begingroup$ I love how there's two downvotes, but still no reason why it's off-topic. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Feb 22 '16 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ Yep. I might have to change the rules to just say add a | or something next to the on/off topic reasons you agree with. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 22 '16 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ I mod-closed this at the time based on flags/comments/impressions. It looks like I was wrong. Before I possibly confuse matters more by mod-reopening, would anybody care to weigh in by casting reopen votes on that question? $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 22 '16 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ I really really have to disagree with bullet point 3. This is not a place where we ask about gaps in our scientific knowledge. This is a stack where we ask about building a world or setting and often use science to do so. The actions of an individual character are just as off topic as the motivation. $\endgroup$ – Mourdos Feb 23 '16 at 0:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Mourdos I added that bullet. I think we have regularly addressed questions in this vein and see no problem keeping them. It is objectively answerable as opposed to "how would a character act" $\endgroup$ – James Feb 23 '16 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ As Mourdos, I also disagree with the point 3... on that question. Yes, gap in science knowledge is welcome... as long as it is about worldbuilding. There, I don't think it does. $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Feb 25 '16 at 6:48
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This isn't an example question; it's a proposed change to the proposed close reason that we're discussing. (I'm hanging this here for now, but ultimately I assume we'll have a post asking what our close reasons should be where we collect them all for voting.)

Close reason: Story-based

Close Reason:

You are asking questions about a story set in a world instead of about building a world.

Full Description:

Asking about plot elements such as the actions of characters, rather than about the world in which your story takes place, is off-topic on Worldbuilding. Capabilities of characters within a world and creation of groups of characters (like nations) are on-topic, but questions must focus on what is possible or likely to develop, not what someone would or should do.

How to Fix:

Rephrase the question to remove all references to individual actions and any "should" or "would" parts of the question. "Would Joe Marine 17 climb this hill wearing his backpack" is off-topic. "Could a well-trained marine wearing a 30kg weight backpack complete a 1-mile route with 500' of ascent in 10 minutes" is on-topic. "Would government pass such-and-such law" is off-topic. "What could cause government to pass such-and-such law given these societal conditions" is on-topic.

Only the person who is writing a story can decide how characters will act or plots will develop. Worldbuilding can determine what is possible, but the choices about what happens given those possibilities belong to the author.

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  • $\begingroup$ I was just thinking along these lines when reading Pavel's case study questions. Though I still don't know if any of his questions would apply. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Feb 24 '16 at 14:35
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Here is an example of a possible character-based question that is highly-voted and well-answered.

Upvote if you believe this question is ON TOPIC.

Downvote if you believe this question is OFF TOPIC.

Edit the answer and add reasons why if you think of a reason that is not covered yet.

How to Defeat a Precognitive Warrior?

Reasons why on topic:

  • While the question focuses on a single character, the question behind is about the techniques that were developed to fight against such creatures. Which is about worldbuilding.

Reasons why off topic:

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  • $\begingroup$ Good example :) Anyone want to fill in some reasons? $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 23 '16 at 19:16
  • $\begingroup$ This one is a good example of what I would consider our borderline. It is a good though experiment, it is clearly focused on the problem and not the reasons someone should act...but at the same time there is clearly no objective criteria, in the case of a question like this I would vote to leave it open based on the fact that it is a well asked question but it could go either way in my mind. $\endgroup$ – James Feb 24 '16 at 14:52
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Upvote if you believe this question is ON TOPIC.

Downvote if you believe this question is OFF TOPIC.

Edit the answer and add reasons why if you see a reason that is not covered yet.

Could an average person take over the world?

Reasons why on topic:

  • Joe may be named but is defined as a generic class of person.
  • The question asks about capability, not what choice should be made.

Reasons why off topic:

  • Note that this question should be and is closed as "too broad" but that doesn't have bearing on this question of whether it would be on topic if the scope was corrected. (James +1)

  • The question asks "how can Joe take over the world" not, "in which world could Joe take over". The question asks for the actions of the characters, who isn't, by his function, a significant figure of the World.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Too broad" is not off-topic, and less a reason to be closed as "plot/individual/etc.". We try to ascertain what are the boundaries of that precise risk factor. Please only take that one into account. $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Feb 23 '16 at 20:05
-3
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Upvote if you believe this question is ON TOPIC.

Downvote if you believe this question is OFF TOPIC.

Edit the answer and add reasons why if you think of a reason that is not covered yet.

What single element could destroy the world?

Reasons why on topic:

  • Effectively narrowed/constrained
  • Asking for a technical solution to a problem

Reasons why off topic:

  • (Idea generation [...] => Not the question within the current thread, please ignore for now)
  • No context: the OP does not provide a context on which the question is based. There is no indication of how this relates to building a world.
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  • $\begingroup$ This, to me, doesn't seem like a good example of this risk factor. But if it is, then I think we need to change the name back to Too Individual. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Feb 22 '16 at 22:07
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    $\begingroup$ I think this is a good example of a question that is off-topic in its existing form, but not necessarily always off-topic. If the OP had provided a context which explained why this was relevant to the world they were building, it would scrape in as acceptable IMO. $\endgroup$ – Ieuan Stanley Feb 23 '16 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ "IG" is not a reason to be closed as "plot/individual/etc.". We try to ascertain what are the boundaries of that precise risk factor. Please only take that one into account. $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Feb 23 '16 at 20:07
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Upvote if you believe this question is ON TOPIC.

Downvote if you believe this question is OFF TOPIC.

Edit the answer and add reasons why if you think of a reason that is not covered yet.

Santa is Satan, but why?

Reasons why on topic:

  • Building an authority figure
  • Creating historical backstory for the figure
  • While it is asking about a decision the decision is already made, it is asking for reasons why that decision might have been made

Reasons why off topic:

  • Question is not about helping refine the backstory of a historical figure, it says 'make one for me'. That is clearly story/plot, not about the impact they have had on the world. We made an exception for historical figures of importance to allow questions about how they shaped a world, not so that we could do all the work for a plot/story suggestions. (James +1)

  • The connection between the backstory requested in the question and the world being built is too tenuous (thus its 'worlbuilding-ness" isn't clear enough).

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    $\begingroup$ I personally feel that the first off topic reason (which I added) actually falls under 'plot based' rather than 'about a character'. I'm happy with the notable figure exception we have, but only for how those people and their actions shape the world. $\endgroup$ – Mourdos Feb 21 '16 at 21:41
-5
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Upvote if you believe this question is ON TOPIC.

Downvote if you believe this question is OFF TOPIC.

Edit the answer and add reasons why if you think of a reason that is not covered yet.

How would Facebook Sysadmins prevent the summoning of Cthulhu?

Reasons why on topic:

  • While it's asking about actions of a character in a story that character is generic "Facebook Sysadmin" and the question is asking what options that character has not which options that character would choose.

Reasons why off topic:

  • (Idea generation [...] => Not the question within the current thread, please ignore for now)

  • While "Facebook Sysadmins" are generic characters, they are not generic characters in position of authority over the world. While they have some influence, they cannot take or execute decisions that could have a significant impact on the world.

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    $\begingroup$ This isn't really an individual-character question but more of an idea-generation one. It does have constraints, though. I like the question (it's well-asked and well-answered); when I wonder whether it should be closed, though, I'm not thinking about individual actions but other factors. $\endgroup$ – Monica Cellio Feb 21 '16 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ "IG" is not a reason to be closed as "plot/individual/etc.". We try to ascertain what are the boundaries of that precise risk factor. Please only take that one into account. $\endgroup$ – bilbo_pingouin Feb 23 '16 at 20:10
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Here's a somewhat safe bet for this risk factor I found. Let's confirm that, and use it as an example.

Upvote if you believe this question is ON TOPIC.

Downvote if you believe this question is OFF TOPIC.

Edit the answer and add reasons why if you see a reason that is not covered yet.

NPCs discover they are in a video game. Do they let the PCs know?

Reasons why on-topic:

Reasons why off-topic:

  • The question asks about the reaction of a group of characters. Does not influence the world as it is built.
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  • $\begingroup$ I agree with the off-topic reason, its still about a character's action, its just more than one character. $\endgroup$ – James Feb 23 '16 at 20:59

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