I recently saw this question and this related question which give a map of a fictional world and ask "how realistic is it?". The first concerns city and country placement, while the second is related to geography. Certainly, these are useful questions to ask about a fictional world, but I was previously of the understanding this sort of question was off-topic for this site.

I'm not really concerned with getting the linked questions closed or anything. Rather, I've had similar questions myself I've refrained from asking, and would like to ask. If these types of questions are on-topic, are there specific guidelines for asking them in a manner that stay on-topic?

Specific questions, such as the numerous topics in the creating a realistic world series, make sense to me. Each question has a specific context, and answers can be reasonably ranked as "this works well for me" or "meh".

"Check my work" questions like those I linked, however, seem to be primarily opinion-based, and rather ambiguous. Additionally, such questions could get very complex.

As an example of this complexity, the world I'm building currently has four major factions with 2000 years of "recent history" plus another 15000 years of older history. I've accounted for 500 years of nuclear fallout that initially killed most of the people on the planet, then forced the survivors into specific, mostly-unaffected regions, then allowed slow expansion as the fallout dissipated. I've tried to account for growth and setbacks based on local climate, geography, and faction mindsets.

At this point, I've barely scratched the surface, but I've already got several thousand words describing simple relationships and origins of various physical and social features of my planet. And now I'm delving into the more complex task of writing more detailed histories of the capital cities of each faction, which will likely require at least cursory histories of nearby cities and major trade partnerships.

In short, just describing my current map and political boundaries seem like they would be too long for this site. Let alone trying to make someone wade through all of it to make specific suggestions for fixing problems.

On the other hand, relatively simple worlds like that originally linked likely don't have enough detail that it really matters if they're realistic. In that case, the question is really more about "are there any really egregious errors I should fix before doing the actual worldbuilding?", and less about proper worldbuilding. Additionally, most questions short enough to really work on the site are likely simple because of a lack of effort or research, rather than because of a concisely-written, but still nuanced, question.

In summary, I understand that getting feedback on a world you're currently building is useful. However, I'm concerned that short questions will tend to fall into the "do my homework for me" category, and questions with reasonable levels of worldbuilding will tend to be too long and/or complex to fit the site's format.

Should we avoid creating more questions of this nature, or, if not, how should we format the questions to stay on topic?

  • $\begingroup$ I think we already have a method of formatting questions to stay on topic; we can edit their questions (with sufficient rep). And we already have means of closing posts that ask too many questions, or are really somebody just writing a chapter to seek praise or plot advice or whatever. As for "do my homework", I don't think "short questions" imply that situation; and although I disdain Q that can be answered by one search term like "gravity on Mars", I don't mind saving somebody hours of "homework" they might get wrong if not trained to detect BS in my fields. $\endgroup$
    – Amadeus
    Commented Jul 28, 2017 at 16:07

2 Answers 2


Yes, why not?

As a general rule, if the world is decently designed already and the author put effort in it, checking if it looks believable is a good thing.

The questions you posted as examples attracted really good answers, useful for future readers. That's great, and that's why I'm glad these questions are on this site. If there were more of such questions and issues were starting to repeat, we might need to extract canonical questions from them. Right now, I see more good than bad.


I don't notice too many "do my homework for me" questions

Or, if they pop up, I ignore them and move on.

Since there's no limit to the number of questions a person can ask, there's no limit to the amount of clarification a person can get. However, each question must be small enough for an answerer to digest and respond to in a reasonable amount of time.

Question length is limited by the attention span of those who might respond. In many cases, long questions have lots of descriptive text but the fundamental question itself is actually quite short. All that descriptive text, while fun and interesting, detracts from the asking and answering of questions. (Granted, this isn't always true. There are legitimately long world descriptions that aren't fluff.)

Worldbuilding is almost entirely concerned with the construction of systems. Given that systems easily experience combinatorial explosions in complexity, it can be difficult or impossible to manage all the side effects. Asking questions to verify that an offered system isn't completely insane seems on-topic to me.

That said, to WB in general, there's little utility for questions that are abstract enough to be used in other situations. For the two questions you cited, I would hope that the answerer would describe why the cities and geography are sane.

  • $\begingroup$ "Writing.SE concerns itself with the actions of people in those systems." No, Writing concerns itself with how to tell a reader what's going on in those systems: the technicalities of writing. Questions about existing literary works, asking what or how to write, and asking for critique, are all off topic there. Enough so even that they have their own, specific close reasons, just like Worldbuilding has "too story-based". $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling thank you for clarifying. I'll make that correction. $\endgroup$
    – Green
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 10:51
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I am pretty sure writers changed their tune on critiques of writing samples a while back but I haven't been to the site in a while...someone ping Monica $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 20:27

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