Colored magic makes my faeries too powerful

Is it on topic? Off topic? Something we want to encourage?

The question itself is on topic, but is the way it's presented (as a competition), or the fact that it's not actually trying to solve a "real" world building question a problem?

We've had several hypothetical questions asked and answered because someone was curious and exploring a concept so we've already established that "real" world building is not a requirement, although we do prefer it as it makes it easier to keep things concrete.

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    $\begingroup$ I have no idea of what the question is asking. Is it treating WB as a discussion forum? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ I am the author of that question. I am very much interested in what everybody decides on this metapost. I did a search here before posting the question, so I believe this metaquestion is the only one on the forum discussing the idea of competitions on Worldbuilding. The end-goal for such competitions would be a place for the community to sharpen their approach and cohesiveness when a "genuine" question comes along. If such efforts are deemed as off-topic by the community, I have no trouble with the question being closed down. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ I would argue the only difference between such a "contrived" question and a "real" question on WB is what the author will do with the results. However, when compared with questions like "what event needs to occur to make a desert of glass," I think these competitions may not be any more open-ended than the real questions already are. However, with a competition, we can address how the forum can narrow down these open-ended questions when there isn't a writer's world or a game designer's world on the line. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ Two facets of the discussion: 1) Do we, as a community, want games like this on our forum. 2) Will the presence of such games improve the quality and quantity of what a Google searcher sees from this forum. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 16:15
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    $\begingroup$ I'm with @superluminary here. What is the question? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 16:24

5 Answers 5


I actually kinda like the idea, but I don't think its a good fit for this site. The asker points out the issue in the opening of the question.

Worldbuilding Golf, unlike Code Golf is a subjective effort. Very few worlds can be summed up as fast as "shortest program" or "use only punctuation," which are easy fodder for Code Golf.

As the asker says, Worldbuilding Golf by nature is subjective. That means it doesn't work very well. Do we reward answers that are creative? Or answers that most fully answer the question? Ideally that would be one and the same, but I doubt that will happen a lot. It's hard to do a "subjective" contest like this.


If I haven't misunderstood, this is a "let's all play a fun game" question.

Puzzles and Golf are all about this type of thing, and that's all fine and jolly.

Whether it's on topic here? I would say it's a reasonable and enjoyable question. The preamble adds specific rules which turns it into more of a forum style chat game. I would say for me this is the problematic part, as we already have rules.

My assessment. Without the preamble: on topic; with the preamble: probably not. Just my opinion.

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    $\begingroup$ @smithers - sorry if I've been unclear. It's not the style of writing that matters, but the content of the question. We have to decide as a community what type of posts work and what type don't. That's how SO has always worked. It distinguishes SO from the other forum sites out there. Also, I'm not the arbiter of truth, just some guy with a half formed opinion. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ "other forum sites" -- I would argue that the "other" is incorrect there. Stack Exchange does not host forum sites but Q&A sites. This is not to argue that a Q&A site is better than a forum site. They are simply different. In answer to Smithers, I would point out that this "game" artificially limits the writing styles of answerers. As Smithers says, who cares to do that? As such, I think we should avoid games like this, as they don't push for better answers. All that said, we might find another game format that does fit the purpose of the site. $\endgroup$
    – Brythan
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 0:14
  • $\begingroup$ @brythan - yes, thanks for the clarification. SO is not a forum site. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 8:05

Answers on Worldbuilding.SE are intended to help in the worldbuilding process. They are not intended to help with writing style or layout. Useful answers are written with this single purpose, not in an artificially condensed writing style for the purposes of a game.

I love the idea of having games (this one and others) which can bring us together as a community in healthy competition. I'd like to see this discussed in chat and maybe regular challenges set up similar to those held at writers.SE. However, it is important that games be kept separate from the Q&A part of the site.

By all means set up a chat room specifically for planning and organising games. You can also use a meta post to discuss what this should involve and to provide an up to date summary.

This answer draws on the useful advice I received in response to this meta post about building a world collaboratively.


It's fine to propose question drives, challenges, and contests -- on meta. Embedding all that into a question on main is problematic, and that will have to be edited out before the question can be reopened.

This particular game ("golf"?) proposal strikes me as needing some work. It seems to encourage brainstorming on a discussion forum. Stack Exchange sites are not for free-form brainstorming, and they are not discussion fora. Chat is a great venue for that and our site's chat room is frequently quite active, so please avail yourself of the opportunities there. If you (meaning the author of the question on main) want to pursue the "golf" proposal, please make a new post on meta explaining the idea, how it would work, and how it fits the Stack Exchange model. The fewer established principles you violate, the better the odds are of it working.

Questions are meant to be useful for the long-term. Any limitation in a question like announcing a time period during which answers are welcome runs afoul of this. The asker of a question is of course free to share any constraints he himself is operating under (like "I need to submit a draft in two weeks", but if somebody comes across the question six months later and has a good answer, nothing in the question should discourage him from offering it.

On this specific question, I can't tell what the question actually is. I see it was closed for being off-topic; I would have closed as "unclear what you're asking". My advice to the OP would be to cut all the contest meta stuff and then clarify what remains into a clear question that the community could then reopen.

  • $\begingroup$ If I remember correctly, the question was: "How could humans survive in a world with faeries." The whole colored magic thing explained why humans were at a disadvantage. $\endgroup$
    – DonyorM
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 2:50

As I understand it, the motivating principle behind golf was stated by William of Ockham: more parsimonious explanations are more believable. In the case of this particular question, I myself think the setup itself needs to be golfed down first, but I'm not sure the asker would necessarily agree.

Magical phenomena result from three different orthogonal fields. A single spell can be positive or negative in each of these fields, but a positive spell and a negative spell in the same place, at the same time, and in the same field cancel out. Mages explain this using an analogy to the opponent process of color vision: "you can't have something both red and green." Faeries, being smaller and more numerous than humans, can band together to manipulate magical fields at a finer detail than a single human can, allowing them to make use of sharper gradients.

So the motive for asking a "golf" question is to find the most parsimonious explanation for a phenomenon, in order to make the phenomenon not feel contrived. It's sort of like the difference between what members of a literary analysis wiki call "justification" and what they call a "handwave". To fit the goal of golf into a question that has an answer, one could finish by stating Occam's razor explicitly in the question, as I did in an edit.

What's the most parsimonious justification for how Humans can continue to thrive despite Faeries' finer control of magical color gradients?

  • $\begingroup$ Jolly nice, and this fits well with the way the question has been tackled. Would anyone else agree with editing the question along these lines? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 9:52
  • $\begingroup$ @superluminary I've golfed down the preamble. What's left to fix? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 5:53

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