What is the current litmus test and general consensus on a Q being “too story based”? I see many Q's do involve story to some extent but the close reason is “too story based”.

I'm using the “Joe” test. If the question postulates a world and does not ask for any guidance in shaping that world, but asks instead “What would Joe do?” than it’s off topic.

“What would everyone do?” is the same thing. But “What resources are available?” is akin to working out details of the world.

So today, In a doomsday scenario, what would be possible transcontinental communication options? is the latter (OK) but How much should he ask for the spellbook? is (besides being POB) the former.

  • $\begingroup$ Personally speaking, I find this closure reason too confusing, especially when WorldBuilding is basically story-telling. In your example above, I'd say that "What would Joe do" would be opinion based $\endgroup$
    – user10945
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 7:09
  • $\begingroup$ What would a reasonable person with Joe's background and capabilities do? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 11:25
  • $\begingroup$ In British law this is called "what would a man on the Clapham omnibus think?" test. Basically it's what a reasonable man would think about whatever is the given matter under legal examination. However, there are specified criteria for story-based for closure on WB. The trouble is that in most cases when too story-based is applied as the reason for closure it isn't applied correctly. Some questions jazz themselves up with story aspects. Something that often confuses the perception of enough WBers about what to do. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 12:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Pete "What would Joe do" is a reasonable person test as suggested by SerbanTanasa. This is decided by a combination logic, common sense, and reason. It can be described as opinion based, but many decisions to close are primarily opinion based. A few VTCers do seem to understand the criteria for closure. Can't be sure about the rest. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 12:09
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa s/would/could. "What would Joe do?" is about the story; "what could Joe do?" is about what is possible in the world. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ "Too story based" is the rarest of the close reasons, for me, but I observe that it usually arises when the entire question hinges on characters in a scene instead of a situation. For example, it's fine to ask "How would Mary survive the apocalypse?" but not "How does Mary get out of this conversation with her boss?" Often these are just "off-topic", but if Mary's boss is an alien with a custom psychology, it looks a lot like a WorldBuilding question. $\endgroup$
    – SRM
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 4:43

1 Answer 1


To my way of thinking about what this site does if there isn't a story element or impact inherent in the question then it's really just a chemistry, earth science, physics, or cosmology issue, not worldbuilding. However a question in which story and character dominate to the exclusion of the environment in which they exist falls short of meaningful worldbuilding. In short any question that asks participants to do a character's thinking for them is "too story based", while a question that asks for options and helps to develop the environment and setting is about worldbuilding and belongs here.


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