Some questions on Worldbuilding have empirical answers. They are based on real world data and have definitive answers. An answer is expected and should be accepted.

However, much of Worldbuilding is hypothetical, or theoretical. There is no absolute answer. A person can ask a question and receive answers. One of those answers may be accepted, or none can be. The issue arises in that one or more of these answers might not satisfy as an answer to someone else.

How does one ask a hypothetical/theoretical question, which was asked before, without being marked as a duplicate? Perhaps a person just wants more possible answers?


4 Answers 4


If you are just looking for random more ideas you are in the wrong place. The idea is to have answers that are better according to the criteria defined by the OP, not to have brainstorming sessions.

Criteria are where you can try to start with a new question. Just add a link to the other question at the start and say something like:

I have seen [this question: *question title*](/link/to/old/question), but the answers didn't talk about stuff, which is why I would like to focus on stuff in this question.

Then it's obvious that you have found the old question and thought about the differences between the old one and the new one, as well as showed that the answers are not applicable to one another.

If you have exactly the same question without any difference and you think that none of the existing answers really answered the core of the question you could add a bounty and write something in the bounty description that is similar to what I said above: make sure that people see what you are interested in and what the current answers are missing.

If you want discussions you can visit our chat. In case you are not sure how to word a new question because you feel it's too similar to an existing one you can try our Sandbox.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If someone wants to open a discussion there is the option to start a chat. If someone wants to refine a question to avoid getting it closed quickly they can use Sandbox. $\endgroup$ May 22, 2018 at 10:47
  • $\begingroup$ Good answer. This covers exactly what I was going to say. Secespitus I would edit in the items from @StephenG 's comment to help further guide/offer options to new users seeing this post. $\endgroup$
    – James
    May 23, 2018 at 14:34

WB:SE is not a discussion forum

The natural creativity of Worldbuilding.SE and the very ambiguity you are discussion are at natural odds with the intent of Stack Exchange and its original site, Stack Overflow. The reality we must abide by is this: Stack Exchange sites are not discussion forums. Consequently, we are bound to the basic one-specific-question-one-best-answer model used by the SE sites. We are lenient, but we are expected to follow the rules.

Asking a duplicate question because you don't like the other answers is fundamentally admitting your question is too story-based

One of the ways we determine if questions are on/off-topic is to judge whether or not the queston is too story-based. Basically, we're here to help you develop consistent rules for a fictional world. This may seem counter-intuitive, but we are not here to help you write your story. That's your job. If you think about it, the only reason you don't like the answers to the previous question is because they don't fit the story you're writing. In other words, the reason you're asking the question is story-based, not worldbuilding-based.

Are you fishing for ideas, or looking for something specific?

As was once said here on meta, many WB questions have some element of fishing for ideas. But, simply looking for ideas to overcome writer's block is not what this site is about (see "WB:SE is not a discussion forum," above). We are developing a catalog of questions to help site users better understand how various question types are on/off-topic. A duplicate question (especially one that naturally generates a list as a response) treads close to the "I need an infinite list of things" question type.

Our question sandbox is your friend!

The very best place you can address this issue is in our sandbox. If posting your question there results in comments that it's a duplicate, that is the best place to discuss why you believe it isn't. It's where you can work out the too story-based kinks and forcus your question on the issue that makes the previous answers unacceptable, eventually crafting the question into something unique and appropriate for the main site.

We don't (and shouldn't) do this on the main site because the process is messy and can be quite confusing to other users, which is not the purpose of the main site.


How does one ask a hypothetical/theoretical question, which was asked before, without being marked as a duplicate?

You are not supposed to be able to. Stack Exchange is about building a knowledge base and helping future readers as much or more as helping you here and now. If you are about to ask the same question, do not.

The proper way to do it is to set a bounty. In bounty reasons, you may describe what answers will satisfy you.


(...) hypothetical, or theoretical. There is no absolute answer (...)

If the knowledge needed to answe a question is covered by a theory, then it will most probably have one absolute answer. This is the case with many reality check and science-based questions, such as, for example:

The Paradox Men - Cosmology

How would one design an undetectable nuke to hit the Moon with?

And especially hard science ones, such as:

Plausible biological alternative for normal photosynthesis

If there is no theory, but an hypothesis can be made or used - such as a hypothetical questions involving the Copenhagen interpretation, for example - even then, rationale may be used to upvote and reward good answers, and even pick one that best fits as a model that the OP seeked.

If the answers for such questions do not serve you, it is not because the topics are hypothetical or theoretical. It is because the real question you have is different from the question that was posed. You should consider why the answers you find do not serve you, and then you can propose a new question and explain how yours differs from the one that was previously posted.

And if you really find that the question you have has indeed already been asked, but the answers to not serve you: remember, this is a community. Answers are chosen as good or bad based on consensus. Had you asked the question yourself, you would have gotten the very same answers. Consider whether there is something that you are missing between the asking and the answering.

  • $\begingroup$ Well put. The examples are helpful. $\endgroup$
    – James
    May 23, 2018 at 14:36

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