Specific question in discussion: gruesome execution by slow dissolution in low-concentration acid solution

But lets talk more generic: Questions of how to kill a person, or set of people are technically in scope of this site.

But should be such questions welcomed here? To be honest I have strong opinion against such type of questions. And I would like to start general discussion about if such type of question should belong here

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    $\begingroup$ When you say "should be such questions welcomed here?". Are you asking if such questions should be banned? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ Yep. My personal opinion is, that questions about causing huge pain to a person should be banned here $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ I think with these kinds of questions, it's best to simply hold them to a higher standard. If they can be made into some of the best, most on-topic questions on the site, then they can stay. Otherwise, we close or downvote them. It's not exactly fair, but it protects the right to free speech while still ensuring most such questions don't see the light of day. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ The real problem is, most of the time in these cases the asker is not a real worldbuilder, just some kid trying to get fuel for his [insert adjective] fantasies. I'd vote close such as "Real questions have answers". $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand the downvotes on this meta question. it's a discussion, not a proposal; even if we disagree about how questions about killing people should be handled, this meta question seems useful to me. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 16:12
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    $\begingroup$ Upon Pavel telling Dave that he did intend "should such questions be welcomed" to mean "should be banned," I downvoted the question. I don't mind the discussion but I'm strongly opposed to banning questions (which sets a bad precedent) based on personal taste as opposed to a downvote, which is the function that a downvote has (which I utilised to express my own disapproval with this question :P ) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ Ah. I vote on posts based on what's in the posts, not what's in comments (which sometimes come and go). Different strokes and all that; thanks for explaining why you downvoted. I've been known to upvote a discussion question that brings up something that I think would be a terrible idea (and also upvote an answer that refutes it), while if it were a feature request I'd downvote. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ This other question about dangerous questions seems particularly apt, if not a duplicate. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ In RPG world we deal with this a bit and have largely consolidated around a social norm of discussing lines & veils. The post there linked holds no answers to this question, but perhaps readers may find it a useful paradigm for organizing their own thoughts. (I don't mean that RPGSE gets lots of questions in this vein; rather, that this is something we RPG players often run up against.) $\endgroup$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ See also what are lines & veils. $\endgroup$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ I'm fine with these types of questions because they do relate to worldbuilding as a topic. Only when these questions get really graphic would I vote to close them. $\endgroup$
    – fi12
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ @fi12 that looks like an answer to the post's question--I suggest you go ahead and post it as such. $\endgroup$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 23:38
  • $\begingroup$ @nitsua60 I was considering it, but that's all I really have to say, so I feel like my answer would be far too short. $\endgroup$
    – fi12
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio Not sure how this works here on WB.SE but on most SE site metas, downvote indicates disagreement. Therefore downvotes on this discussion obviously mean something like "Yes, I think those questions belong here." Also if comment clarifies the question it is valid voting incentive in my opinion. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ This approach certainly discourages future Quentin Tarantinos, Mel Gibsons, George Orwells, Charles Dickenses, etc. Gone too would be questions about worlds set in the Roman Empire (with Crucifixion or being reduced to an entertaining Colosseum sacrifice as capital punishment) or perhaps a world at war like in world war 2? Too realistic? Maybe we should all just invoke that new GDPR right to forget and the rainbows and unicorns will pop out. $\endgroup$
    – Paul
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 8:36

6 Answers 6


In general, I don't have a problem with them since most of the time, those questions are posed in a clinical voice, much like a doctor might describe injuries from a horrific automobile accident. Yes, people died or were severely injured but there's not glorification of their injuries/deaths. There's no judgement call of whether their deaths were a good, bad, glorious, inglorious thing to happen. It just happened.

I'd have considerable problems with a question that wasn't in that clinical voice and just downvote them or ignore the question. But I don't think there should be a blanket ban on violent questions. (If there were, a great many of the best questions (IMO) would be removed from the site.)


It depends.

Questions about building a world in which people may be painfully killed (for example my bonegrass question seem to me to be acceptable (obviously, or I wouldn't have written the question), but questions specifically about methods or torture or unpleasant death are likely to not be well received.

That said: if you ignore the subject matter the question you linked to is a decent example of a worldbuilding question (though I think it's erring on being too broad, there are certainly too many questions in play and it's idea-generation-y). People's like or dislike of the subject matter can be (and is, as you've shown) expressed via the upvote/downvote buttons.

While I personally find directly asking 'what's the worst way this could possibly be done' to be objectionable, it doesn't preclude it from being a question this site should accept. We're about building worlds, after all. Not every part of a world is nice.

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    $\begingroup$ this concrete example is too broad and partly opinion-based. But it is on-topic to me. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 7:13

Yes, I think it should be okay to ask on this site.

If you find those questions distasteful, then you should also find any of the following distasteful:

  • Murder mystery novels
  • Dr. G - Medical Examiner the television show
  • Questions about causing human extinction (arguably worse)
  • Questions about genocide (arguably worse)
  • ...

The topic itself isn't inherently distasteful. You can easily discuss such topics in a mature, reasonable, and empirical way (and in this case, clinical), and in many cases it can be considered an art form. Just because you subjectively cannot stomach those topics doesn't mean it should be disallowed. Allow the "welcoming" aspect to remain subjective - if you don't like it, downvote it.

I don't agree with your downvoting but I support your right to do so, but I don't think that downvotes should be called upon in order to discourage it. Let your opinion remain your opinion.

Secondly, worldbuilding doesn't necessarily entail that the world is nice and full of rainbows. I came to StackExchange because I feel at home with the empiricism, where personal feelings and emotions don't make the site feel suffocating. If we treat everyone with respect and good faith, then that means that we expect each other to treat such topics with dignity, and if that expectation is met, then that means we can be free to talk about darker aspects of reality with maturity.

The rest of the internet is already a cesspool of feel-good protection with demands for trigger warnings abound, and shadowbans for people who make anyone else feel the slightest bit of discomfort, which I feel is deleterious to a website about expertise, reason, and "just the facts."

In my opinion, you should downvote a question because it's a bad question. I do think that the question you linked is broad, but I feel that would be a better reason to downvote it, not its content.

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    $\begingroup$ I strongly agree. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 22:41

I personally feel an aversion against the example question due to the way it is built up and the subject it is about. I abstained from downvoting it though, because my reason for downvoting would be that I find it distasteful which is not a valid reason for downvoting in my opinion.

Now for reasons to downwote this particular question, and lots of similar styled ones. I have a strong opinion that questions on WorldBuilding SE should at least make an attempt at showing why they are asked. Providing such information should be so easy for an OP that I consider it a reason not to answer a question, downvote it, or even outright close it.

To give a few examples of such information:

  • How does the question relate to a world or story:

    In my story there is a Mafia conglomerate which is well-known for their brutality; well not yet as I still need to cobble together what makes them so brutal. Now I've had an idea about using acid...

  • Why did I come up with the question/issue

    Having always been a big fan of chemistry and also being a fan of torture I was thinking about possible ways to use acid in torture. I am aiming to create a method of torture where the tortured will be submersed in an acid vat and kept alive as long as possible by artificial means. BUT I have no idea how to achieve that...

  • What do I aim to solve with the gained information

    They've developed this method of torture to make a statement of how far they are ready to go if needed to prove a point...

Now having even one of this things addressed in a question would leverage it into something that I consider fitting the format we have here; trying to address all of it or even more would make it even better. But then again this is rarely done, especially in a bunch of questions which seemd to pop up in the last few days (my perception of this phenomena might be clouded by the fact that I only recently got more active again)

Based on all of this, is it my opinion that questions asking about very explicit content and/or show clear signs of idea-generation/little effort on the OP side with no sufficient story/world-backing should be considered to be closed or even deleted

The points mentioned in this section are here to show how I personally reacted to the questions; None of them though are valid reasons for closing/downvoting a question in my opinion

Addendum(for those who care): Regarding the specified question, here is a breakdown of why it really put me off:

  1. A title that has no capitalization whatsoever

    I interpret it as: "I just had this idea and now I want you to think about it for me" (to say it nicely)

  2. The introductory statement: "How about a new, very gruesome method of execution?", followed by

    Which, no matter the intention behind it, just sounds absolutely wrong to me (morally, in my twisted mind)

  3. A broad list of questions basically condensing down to "What do I need to make this happen? Please do my research!"

    The question contains a brief paragraph about ideas the OP had, but reading the following questions (multiple ones) shows that the brief paragraph is literally no more than the initial idea with little to no research put into it

  • $\begingroup$ Imho this statement mixes way too many points. Personal taste, correct syntax, intent of the question, ... $\endgroup$
    – fgysin
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ @fgysin if you are referring to the Addendum section: Those 3 points there are things that I personally don't like but I do not see them as reasons to downvote or close a question - I might have to remove this section if it's too unclear :/ $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ +many for holding WB questions to the standard that they be asked out of difficulty building a world, rather than just idle curiosity $\endgroup$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 20:24
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    $\begingroup$ I also find the question distasteful, however I don't feel that the OP has to provide a wealth of background information in every (or even most) situations. This question, as creepy as it is, stands on its own two legs just fine (i.e. with no need for a background) $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 22:38
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    $\begingroup$ Many of the points you list are basically "low quality". $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 3:21
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    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM its not even about much background, but just enough for the OP to show that they are actually struggling with this question in a worldbuilding context, and them not just madly asking loosley related questions because they don't want to think :/ $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 6:20

I downvoted the question for several reasons, but an important one is that it seeks a "gruesome execution method" and is asked in a "hey, let's brainstorm this" way. To me that reads as the OP treating the subject lightly. That all combines to one big squick for me.

I didn't close (or suggest closing). While in my opinion the question isn't strongly tied to worldbuilding, and I would have cast a close vote as a normal user, I don't feel strongly enough about its non-worldbuilding-ness to mod-close it and I see no other votes. I won't be unhappy if the community closes it, but I'm not going to hasten that outcome either.

Another answer suggests that people who object to this question should also object to medical shows and murder mysteries. No, that's totally different -- it's not about the process; it's about the sadism. I don't watch graphic horror movies either. I do read and watch stories involving murders, including ones where people were murdered in unpleasant ways, where the story is about responding to the murder (like investigating it). And if the murder is shown on-screen and that involves some blood then so be it. It's not about the graphic details but the intent behind it. I have no interest in watching Freddie Krueger get his jollies from gruesome murders. For me, this question evokes Freddie Krueger, not a medical show.

I'm not calling the OP a sadist, just to be clear. I'm just saying that a question seeking a "gruesome" method of killing somebody, a question that makes it clear that prolonged torture is the goal, is not something I want to support, and that downvoting is an appropriate way to indicate that.

Provocative topics can provoke negative reactions. So long as everybody remembers to Be Nice, that's fine. People asking such questions should expect this outcome.

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    $\begingroup$ We have a difference of opinion on the evoked feeling - when I see a question like the one linked, my mind instantly goes into biology and chemistry mode where all I see are equations and such. I trust the asker. I trust that the goal here is purely academic. That's what good faith means. There's a historical precedent for the artistic and academic nature of execution methods - see the euthanasia coaster. If the problem is giving ideas to would-be killers, then the media I listed has that same problem (which I think is a non-issue.) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ @TheAnathema I'm not concerned about giving ideas to the asker, nor am I presuming bad faith. I tried to be careful in describing how I react to this question and what (justifiable, IMO) action it provokes (a downvote). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 18:13

My opinion is very close to Joe Bloggs.

I wanted to add that if the information is used for World Building, then we don't know how the information would be used (i.e. is the organization using such methods portrayed in a good or bad light).

I have to admit several concerns voiced here hadn't occurred to me prior to my answering of the question.

I have a relative that writes mystery novels and we spent many days discussing how she might make a body disappear for her novel, yet she obviously wasn't using that information for doing something evil in Real Life.

I'm not saying that we have no social responsibility here.

But if we apply a higher standard for these sorts of questions, what is going to keep a sociopath from lying to get what they want?

Maybe the standard we apply should be one of reputation? At least for reputation, they will have to invest more time and effort than simply figuring out a cleverly deceptive question.

  • $\begingroup$ The thought that I see brought up here is the one of policing the internet; I am not sure if we have the means and possibilities to do that properly; I do not think the extreme case of a 'sociopath' will be remedied by adding a reputation barrier to pass for certain topics, but it is an idea which is worth investigating - thus +1 $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 15:26
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    $\begingroup$ This site is purely for answering the questions, not for trying to police those who ask them. If we had to do that then nobody on Chemistry SE would ever answer anything! $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ I suspect that taking the motive of "deterring sociopaths" into account targets a situation that currently falls under the heading of "extremely unlikely events." Is there any evidence that anyone has ever used any Q&A site to specifically get information on how to kill people? Or is there any reason to suppose that if they did, they would be unwilling to accumulate reputation? They have invested time in committing a murder. This is a poor source, anyway. I suspect that the collective murder expertise of worldbuilding.SE pales in comparison to the knowledge of a single career criminal. $\endgroup$
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 5:30

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