I have a question brewing in my head, and already written up, and I wanted to check and see if it would seem appropriate here. I know that a question like this would not be appropriate over on Stack Overflow or any of the other programming-based question sites because there isn't a single 'right' answer, (though there may be a 'best' or 'most helpful' answer).

In short, I am outlining a situation in which magical catastrophes occur, laying down what is causing them, and specific triggers, and asking for more ideas for the sorts of disasters that could cause. I have several ideas already, but the situation is worldwide in scope, and I'd like to have some more variety.

So, is a question like that appropriate for WB? One wherein I lay out how the disasters are being caused, and ask for ideas for specific instances...


4 Answers 4


I feel like you're making the question you have in mind seem worse than it is.

This is seems no different than a question like What would World War I outcomes be if the Tunguska event had occurred over London in 1908? which deservedly was a well received question.

What you need to be careful for is that you don't focus too much on "what would be interesting" and more on "What would be likely/possible given the restraints". Afterall, this is not Writers.SE. Be sure to define exactly what the restraints are, to make sure the answer goes into the direction you want it to go and to prevent the question from being too broad. Don't be afraid to change the question around a bit if some issues come up in the comments either. That's what the comments are for, improving teh question.


I will readily admit that I haven't read the specific question(s) in detail, and may end up changing this answer (or like Tim B, post another answer) after I do, but am going to answer this in a somewhat more general fashion.

Questions on the form "does anyone have more ideas about this?", even with well-defined constraints, fare very poorly with the Stack Exchange format.

The problem is that questions on that format have a strong tendency to become very open ended. Yes, we have some questions that can be considered rather open ended. Most of the content posted on Worldbuilding SE is going to be highly speculative in nature in one way or another. One way to actually mitigate that, and help prevent questions from becoming "too broad" or "opinion-based", is to be very specific about what you want to know. "I need more ideas" in any way shape or form does not do that.

In fact, questions on that format have an infinite number of possible-answers. For that reason, they tend to be better suited for either a discussion forum (which Stack Exchange is not and very specifically aims to not be) or chat (which Stack Exchange does provide). If you go the "chat" route, I recommend taking what you have learned and turning it into a question and answer if possible within the Stack Exchange framework and general rules. There tends to be several knowledgable people in chat who are likely to be able and quite possibly willing to help you frame what you want to learn in a question which is appropriate for the Stack Exchange format.

Questions need to be specific enough that answers can be specific and judged on their respective merits. That's how voting works, and how good answers end up rising above less good answers in the end. (The bad answers are generally culled if not improved on.) If we can't judge how well an answer actually answers a question as asked, then voting breaks down; it becomes basically "I personally like this answer" or "this answer has a longer list of possibilities", which is not what voting should be about at all.

For that reason, I would argue that the type of question that you indicate, in general, should be avoided on Stack Exchange in general. They are likely to end up closed as either too broad or primarily opinion-based, depending on specifics as well as the mood of those voting to close (there is significant overlap between those two close reasons, and I personally know from experience that it's not always easy to pick one or the other). If you have a question which you feel is becoming on that format, I would strongly suggest taking it either to chat, or your own head :) and simply reworking it so that it is at least in some manner objectively answerable.

Also note that the Worldbuilding SE is still in relatively early beta. Questions ending up being put on hold and eventually closed remains a good thing, as it helps establishing the site's scope. So don't feel bad if your questions end up being closed; take the input, re-do the question, and either edit your question such that it fits within the site's scope (if that can be done without turning the question completely on its head) or simply post an entirely new question.


Now I can see the actual question this refers to (https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/2781/magic-came-back-catastrophes) I can see two problems with what you are asking here.

The first is the scope, you're asking for a huge number of ideas over a huge range of scenarios. For a good question people should be able to give one definitive answer and be able to judge which answer is better than which other answer.

The second is that really you are asking for what feels more like plot ideas than world building ideas. These are all possible plot events, not things that shape your world.

The question needs to be drastically refocused so that:

  1. It is much more reasonable in scope
  2. It's clearly talking about world building not plot building
  3. We have a way to evaluate answers and can objectively up-vote them or not based on their respective quality
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah...you can see why I was concerned enough about the question to ask about it here. I know the scope is huge, and I know there is no 'definitive answer.' $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ Yep, was a good idea to ask. For what it's worth I think you can make a good question (or questions) out of this. You need to change the focus though. $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ I can't agree that the question is about plot ideas, though the focus could indeed be made more clear in the question. Other than that, I agree. Divide and conquer. Possibly in 4 (or 3) questions to ask how one element would interact with each other element? Q1: A with B,C,D and E; Q2: B with C,D and E; Q3: C,D and E with eachother. That gives 4, 3 and 3 combinations to discuss per question. @guildsbounty $\endgroup$
    – overactor
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 14:49

I've been thinking about this some more and want to say why I think that splitting this particular question was a bad idea.

The problem is that none of the new questions are actually different. They're just "pick element X ask the same question".

My map-making questions that I split had logical separation. Different people would answer each section and apply different expertise. Each question was actually different and the answers were very different too.

You can't take a "too broad" question and make it not "too broad" by just splitting it into 5 flavours. You need to actually break it down in a more meaningful way.


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