This page was written before the late 2019 changes to close-voting. However, much of the information is still relevant. -JBH

The Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! page for new users is up and running. My next goal: An introduction to VTC reasons for new users. Why?

  • Because the help center page isn't all that clear. It could be just me, but the page (and linked pages) seem to be a bit of a forest for new users.

  • Because at least one of the VTC reasons, primarily opinion-based, is not defined the way Stack Exchange defines it at all. This is a consistent problem here because we have no control over how that VTC reason (or any VTC reason) is presented when you click the "close" link. Yuck. I suspect, therefore, that this is the best we can come up with.

What are the eight VTC reasons (1/2a/2b/2c/2d/3/4/5) and their current definitions?

  1. Duplicate of...

This question has been asked before and already has an answer.

  1. Off-topic because...

This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center.

  • Off-Topic: This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center.

  • Off-Topic: You are asking questions about a story set in a world instead of about building a world. For more information, see Why is my question "Too Story Based" and how do I get it opened?.

  • Off-Topic: This question belongs on another site in the Stack Exchange network

  • Off-Topic: Other (add a comment explaining what is wrong)

  1. Unclear what you're asking

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.

  1. Too broad

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.

  1. Primarily opinion-based

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise

The Rules...

  • We're looking for a clear, (ideally) one-paragraph description followed by both a good example and a bad example question along with links to the relevant Meta posts on the subjects.

  • If someone has posted a proposal that's basically what you believe but you want to discuss alterations, that's a conversation for comments under that answer.

  • If you really disagree with a post, then propose your own answer for that topic.

  • The highest voted answer for each VTC reason will be accepted in a final meta post that will cross-link to the Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE!

  • I'd like this to go 7-10 days with a roll-up to a usable new-user reference on or about the end of the month. Thanks!

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Lots of questions that remain closed for valid reasons eventually get deleted. This isn't a problem once you get past 10k rep, but it means that new users generally won't be able to see the examples. New users in particular also might not have the experience to be able to tell why a particular question meets the definition of any particular close reason. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jul 19, 2018 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling, In most cases, the complaints come in long before deletion occurs. I believe the second part of your comment is the most relevant, and the biggest reason why I'm proposing this. Experienced users (hopefully) who disagree with VTCs for a particular question can direct people to these results for clarification. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 19, 2018 at 17:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Nice work, this list should be helpful $\endgroup$
    – James
    Jul 19, 2018 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ I'd like to suggest that the final, new meta post that you're planning to build with this be added to the FAQ/FAQ tag so that it's easier to see, if that's possible (Just flag for a mod to add the mod-tag.) Also, perhaps once it's done, when you go to link it to the Welcome to WBSE post, you embed the link directly into the "how to reopen" or "Hold/close is an opportunity, not a judgement" so it's really easy to see, since a lot of new users will want to know how to get their question reopened as soon as possible. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2018 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ This is looking good so far! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jul 21, 2018 at 21:47

3 Answers 3


VTC Reason: Primarily Opinion-Based (POB)

This is the most difficult VTC reason for new users to understand because it is different from the default reason provided by Stack Exchange and we cannot change the text on the VTC form. This explanation supercedes that form for all purposes.

The problem with a creative and imaginative site like Worldbuilding.SE is that most questions require opinion-based answers. No question about (for example) magic can be answered based on facts, references, or specific expertise.[Citation Needed] Consequently, the meaning of POB has been modified to make it a meaningful VTC reason.

POB means the OP (original poster) cannot select a best answer simply as a matter of the OP's opinion. The OP is responsible for providing enough information to reasonably judge which answer will be the best including background information and a list of criteria, restrictions, or limitations that will be used to judge the answer.

(Good Example: left open) Based on the above description of my magic system and my kingdom's legal system, how might Parliament enact a law to protect common citizens against unwanted spell effects? The best answer will consider both personal injury and property damage while avoiding the need to register magicians.

What makes this example good is that it points to necessary background information, it specifically identifies the people/organizations involved and the problem, and it lists constraints to identify the best answer. The following question on the Main site is an excellent "good example."

A second example on the main site is one that would today be voted to close as primarily opinion-based despite having the necessary data to be answered. The data is visual rather than text and, as described in its comment chain, reflects real-world scientific analysis despite the question's brevity.

(Bad Example: closed as POB) My magicians are an unruly bunch who tend to cast fireball and lightning bolt without regard to others. What could a medieval kingdom do to protect their serfs from these guys?

What makes this question bad is that there may or may not be additional information, the issue and the people involved are poorly defined and difficult to understand (making the question open-ended, which is off-topic), and there's no method provided to judge one answer better than another. Quite literally, "the King could play music all the time to keep the magicians calm" and "laws declaring liability on the magician's part if their magic harms another person" are equally valid answers with nothing but the OP's opinion to determine which is best.

Relevant Meta Posts

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ While I understand your examples, and it's nice to show while telling, please tell us why the first example is better (it gives lots of info, sets constraints, defines world, and has a narrow question that while opinion based can make one answer better than another, etc.) $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2018 at 15:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @FoxElemental, how'd that do? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 21, 2018 at 17:26
  • $\begingroup$ Much better now, thank you. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2018 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ so pretty much wording should be better and to point, and the criteria for a proper answer should be provided. $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2018 at 14:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Persivefire, yup, that's pretty much it. The community has a strong love-hate relationship with this VTC reason, but since it's forced upon us by SE, we must deal with it. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 24, 2018 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ what exactly is VTC $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2018 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Persivefire, Oh, sorry. VTC = Vote to Close. You'll occasionally see short-hand like this, "VTC OT:NAW" which means "I voted to close as off-topic: not about worldbuilding." The short-hand is a way to save space in comments, which have length limits. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 24, 2018 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ can these VTCs be changed if users vote it out or vote for it to change? $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2018 at 15:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Persivefire, Nope. VTC reasons are Stack-Exhange wide, not specific to any individual site. That's why we must do things like this meta post and an effort toward redefinition. The VTC:POB reason will always exist with the wording that it has no matter what we do. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 24, 2018 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Persivefire, unless you're talking about this answer specifially. Then it can be changed and voted out. In other words, we can't stop POB from being a VTC reason, but we can make an effort to redefine it - and that effort is within our control. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 24, 2018 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ so we can redefine VTC reasons but can't get rid of it $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2018 at 16:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Persivefire, Correct. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Dec 24, 2018 at 16:11

VTC Reason: Off-Topic: This question belongs on another site in the Stack Exchange network (OT:SITE)

Most Stack Exchange sites have rules regarding whether or not they will accept a question migrated to their site and all SE sites have authority to reject a migration request. Consequently, most Stack Exchange sites have their interconnection with this VTC reason disabled, meaning it's only valid purpose is to indicate that a question belongs on Worldbuilding Meta or Worldbuilding Main. Therefore, it should only be used to vote that a question should be migrated from Main to Meta or vice-versa.

If you believe a question really should be migrated to another Stack Exchange site (e.g., Astronomy.SE), use the OT:MOD VTC reason and leave a comment for the moderators about which site you believe it should be migrated to. Please remember that due to each SE site having authority to reject migration requests, it may not be possible to honor this request.

(Bad Example, closed as OT:SITE) (posted on main site:) Why was my previous question closed?

Please note that real-world questions are on-topic and will not be migrated to other sites. This rule comes with some expectations. Click Here for details or review the summary for OT:NAW.

Relevant Meta Posts

  • $\begingroup$ Relevant meta posts: The famous, hot, active worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6161/… (And all of the many, many linked discussion posts.) Try to integrate the most relevant here--we are having a struggle over site scope, especially with TB/POB questions. That particular meta discussion is so important as a reference post. Please do add $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2018 at 15:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @FoxElemental, I have the real-world links here right now. I'll decide whether to move that italicized bit referencing OT:NAW over to OT:NAW to refer back here after I write it. I don't want to waste space duplicating the discussion and simply need to decide where it makes the most sense. Probably OT:NAW since you can't actually choose to migrate a question anywhere but Meta. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 21, 2018 at 17:34

VTC Reason: Off-Topic: Unclear what you're asking (OT:UWA)

Stack Exchange (SE) is not a forum for discussion. It is Q&A site, meaning that an Original Poster (OP) asks one specific question and selects one best answer from the answers given. A question may be closed as OT:UWA for any of several reasons: (a) too many questions have been asked, (b) The question uses specialized vocabulary that few can understand, (c) the question is too ambiguious to permit focused answers, or (d) no actual question has been offered.

  • Worldbuilding.SE is tolerant and will regularly entertain some secondary questions in support of a primary question. However, the community is not obligated to do so and OPs should not be in the habit of asking multiple questions. One question per post, please.

  • It might seem counterintuitive that a question using specialized vocabulary is unclear as the purpose of the specialized vocabulary is to make the statement unambiguous — but the consequence is that perfectly reasonable answers will be lost because only a specialist can understand the question. As much as possible, OPs should avoid the use of specialized vocabulary.

  • A question that is perfectly clear to the OP may not be clear at all to the community. Questions should be specific, identifying their subjects and prerequisites, and identifying any conditions that narrow the scope of the question.

(Good Example) My starship will need to orbit both a gas giant with a sulfer-rich atmosphere and a habitable world with a nitrogen-rich atmosphere. Using what we know of metals today, what metals would be best to build the hull to protect it against the high concentrations of nitrogen and sulfer?

The Good example is clear because it specifically explains the relationship between the ship and the planets, the criterion for the answer, and indicates exactly what information is wanted.

(Bad Example) My starship is in orbit and the gas giant contains a lot of sulfer while the habitable planet is unusually high in nitrogen. How would I protect my ship?

The bad example question is unclear because we don't know the nature of the protection sought by the OP, whether or not either or both planets are involved — or even if something other than the planets is involved. We can make assumptions, but assupmtions lead to low-quality answers.

  • Finally, questions are occasionally asked where no question is actually proposed. In rare instances, no question mark exists in the post at all. OPs should avoid being so caught up in explaining the background of their question that they forget to ask the question.

Relevant Meta Posts

  • $\begingroup$ It sounds to me like you're trying to make this overlap with "too broad" but other than that, not bad. $\endgroup$ Jul 21, 2018 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ @FoxElemental, I'm not trying to, but an unclear question is broad by definition. In a sense, the two VTC reasons are trying to tackle two specific conditions of being "too broad." (a) Ambiguous questions and (b) poorly scoped questions. If you think about it, a "response" to both unclear and too broad is, "what, exactly, are you asking?" I'll try to separate the definitions when I write the "too broad" entry. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 21, 2018 at 18:42

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