This is yet another post to try to rationalise the limit between story-building (off-topic) and worlbuilding (on-topic).

A recent question:

How to determine where the nearest mainland shore is when standing on an island?

was first closed for story building, then edited and reopened. It started some discussion on the chat. To make it short, DaaaahWoosh* summarised as

think the main point here is that we all agree the question can be on-topic, we just disagree on if it was in its original wording

So the question can be on-topic. But depending on how it is worded it would or wouldn't cross the line.

What I suggest as an exercise here, is to write simplified versions of the same question. And that all should go over all different versions and

  • upvote when the version is on-topic,
  • downvote when it is off-topic.

Please don't leave it without voting as we really want to establish a scale.

If you think that all the proposed versions are on-topic, add your own version that would, for you be off-topic. The other way as well: if they are all off-topic, write your version that is on-topic.

  • $\begingroup$ Please take in mind that we want to focus on the on vs. off-topic. So yeah some of those questions might be too broad. But please assume that some constraints are given to focus the range of possibilities. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Mar 8 '16 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ So the options you listed out are interesting but really they all ask the same question so first, is that primary question on topic? Namely, how can I orient myself toward the mainland in the fog? $\endgroup$ – James Mar 8 '16 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ @James, the fact that they primarily ask the same question was on purpose. It makes it easier to actually compare. Now, do you think that that question is fundamentally off-topic? $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Mar 8 '16 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ No I don't personally think it is off-topic. Navigation seems perfectly on-topic to me. $\endgroup$ – James Mar 8 '16 at 21:35

I have a world with large turtles who resemble some islands. Except that they move, even if quite slowly. And I have a population who lives on those islands. The problem is that some days the fog is so thick that they can't see where the next turtle or the shore is. And since the turtle moved they don't know where they are. What techniques could they have developed to always locate the shore in the fastest way?

  • $\begingroup$ This one feels like idea generation but with giant turtles. The turtles are irrelevant, but you're still asking for a list of ways to do something, with no defined criteria for which way is best. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Mar 8 '16 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ Please assume that I provide reasonable constraints to limit the scope. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Mar 8 '16 at 21:02

On a world similar to ours, with thick fog near the coastlines, which for geographical reasons has numerous small islands near it.

Due to storms, reefs, and rocks, it's not uncommon for boats to wreck, and if the sailors don't drown it's not uncommon for them to wash up on one of the islands.

Due to the fog, spotting the sun isn't always dependable, and even though the islands are generally only a couple hundred meters off the mainland wave sounds are usually dampened by the fog.
Also, the sailors may not have a compass with them.

What are some dependable ways that would be taught in sailing school to find the mainland in this all to frequent occurrence?

  • $\begingroup$ IMO, that's a question for Google rather than WB. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Mar 8 '16 at 21:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre I'm always surprised by how few people actually know how to search for things effectively. Plus, a good answer will usually pull from multiple sources, which takes skill to see what is good info and what isn't, and put it all together. Just saying "Look it up yourself" isn't really in the spirit of this site, though "try looking up X" is a little better, and "This is how you do X, here's a link for more info" is better still. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Mar 8 '16 at 21:49

On my world, there is a rare magical storm. It appears as a fog and transport randomly one or more person to another place. There is a population of fisher who live on the shore. Since it happened a few times, they developed some methods to help them find the shore in the middle of the fog, without any other information on their current location. What could they do?

  • $\begingroup$ This one seems like idea generation to me. But I recall idea generation is no longer a close reason, so, too broad? $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Mar 8 '16 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ Please assume that I provide reasonable constraints to limit the scope. $\endgroup$ – clem steredenn Mar 8 '16 at 21:02

In my world, I have an exploration party that has to get to the shore of an island. The story part is not important, however, how the island is constructed would greatly affect what techniques are used to find the nearest shore. Also, I should mention that it is really foggy on the island, so you are likely to no see very far.

What are the shore-finding techniques available for various kind of geography?


Joe is an average person who due to unexpected circumstances got left on an island. He is a bit hungry, and scared and wants to get ashore as soon as possible. However the island is surrounded by a thick fog. How can he know in which direction is the shore?

  • $\begingroup$ In this case, I think the effect is too localized to be worldbuilding. There is no effect on the world, thus it is off-topic. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Mar 8 '16 at 20:50

Meet Bob. Bob is great. Imagine McGyver, A-Team, Ethan Hunt, Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris together in one person. But then better.

He let himself be captured by the Bad Guy(TM). But while he escapes, his enemy left to kill the president. He finds himself on an island in the middle of the fog. Swimming up to the shore is not problem. But how can he find the right way?

  • $\begingroup$ This is very much about the story, and very little about the setting (world), just "an island with fog" $\endgroup$ – SE - stop firing the good guys Mar 8 '16 at 20:49

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