When a question offers the option of being answered in terms of magic is it still valid for this site?

I was reading this question, currently phrased as:

Could someone give me an explanation – realistic or magical – as to what could cause a continent the size of, let's say Europe, to go rapidly underwater in a matter of 100-500 years?

And the addition of "realistic or magical" opens up the question to a very broad range of answers, as highlighted by this answer where a (new) user outlines a perfectly feasible plan for one of the endless examples of how magic could be used to solve the problem but we could have millions. Perhaps someone opened a magic portal to a world full of water and can't turn it off or maybe a desert tribe found a spell to turn sand into water but its got out of hand...the possibilities are endless so, I think, the question is too broad but only whilst it has the option of magical solutions.

However no one has tagged this as off topic because, I think, the "realistic" option is still there.

  • $\begingroup$ Erm... Is there a reason that the linked question isn't closed as opinion based? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 15:00

3 Answers 3


JBH is essentially correct. Questions that involve magical elements are welcome on Worldbuilding, but there are caveats. (Also note that Worldbuilding SE has a long-standing policy that answers should be based in known sciences unless something else is explicitly called for.)

What topics can I ask about here? in the help center offers some guidance. For example, it states that questions are on topic that are about...

  • How to achieve a specified effect in a defined world, including by the use of biology, technology or magic, while maintaining in-universe consistency

It also says that

If your question involves magical elements, you must provide enough details about the magic system in question so that answers may be given that conform to the particular magic system.

My emphasis in both snippets.

Especially the latter is because while Worldbuilding's purpose is, in part, to help ensure internal consistency, its purpose is not to design a magic system for someone. So if you have a world that involves magic, and want help with some particular aspect that involves that magic, that's generally fine; but an unbounded "oh, yeah, and it's fine whether it's realistic or magical" most likely isn't because that would allow essentially everything to be a valid answer and there would be no way to determine how well a given answer actually answers the question.

We've had ample discussion on Worldbuilding Meta about questions that involve magic. Here's a quick search that probably doesn't show everything, but is likely to be restricted to posts that are at least moderately relevant in this case.

If a question is asking for answers based in magic, but doesn't sufficiently describe the magic system so that the scope of the question is sufficiently narrow that actual answers can be given and judged on how well they meet the criteria specified, then generally speaking, the question likely should be put on hold until the magic system is defined.

As an example, simply asking "how can characters travel between worlds using magic?" is too broad and/or primarily opinion-based, but if you say that "my world has magic that allows instantenous travel between worlds, but only when the character is unaware that their current location is one of these magical portals; how can I have them travel multiple times through the same magical portal?" is probably okay because it describes the relevant constraint and asks about a specific issue arising from it, while not being restricted to some particular characters. (Tip of the proverbial hat to C. S. Lewis.)


We don't always get around to VTC. However, the best solution is to invite the OP to improve the question. Magic is, kinda by definition, primarily opinion-based and broad. That's overcome by having the OP tell us about how magic works in his/her world. Once we know the rules of magic, we can give specific examples of how to use it to meet the need.


Not to take away from both good answers to this question, but if I was to put it more concisely (a break with my regular traditions I know);

Every 'system', be it science, magic, religion, economics, etc. is constrained by a set of rules; that's what makes it useful.

We as a collective group of providers of answers inherently know at least some of the rules that apply to science, economics, religion, etc. Magic on the other hand can be loosely defined as 'unexplainable science'.

To me, this is no different to the problem every fantasy writer (and some sci-fi ones) face when trying to present a viably consistent universe; sure you can do whatever you want, but it has to be explained in a consistent universal context first. It's not the job of the reader to fill in the blanks.

Why I think this distinction is important is that like JBH says, if the magical constraints are supplied, we can use our ingenuity to come up with an answer to the question in the same way we often speculate on theoretical scenarios presented on the site, using science, economics, etc. to back ourselves up.

A question that merely says 'come up with a potentially magical solution' is asking us to invent the magic on their behalf, and that's no longer ingenuity; it's creative writing.

I think we need to be clear with the people creating questions that what we're really after is a set of constraints, not the first 3 chapters of their novel that show the context and background of their universe. Tell us how magic works, not why and we can take it from there.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .