I see more and more questions asking for help to explain how a specific magic could "work". They are all opinion based, a kind of brainstorm exercise, and sound more like plot related questions than world building.

  • $\begingroup$ This has been debated several times , I even made a thread related to this myself. The thing is imo, there are many badly asked questions about magic that make you wonder how it can be on topic, but then there are really good ones. Let's not throw away the good stuff just because some unrelated questions do not meet the quality criteria $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Oct 4 '18 at 10:49
  • $\begingroup$ I think it depends on how well the asker describes the magic system. If they describe the limits of the system and what they want it to be able to do, the question can be acceptable, which is unfortunately where a lot of questions fall short. $\endgroup$
    – John Locke
    Oct 4 '18 at 10:56
  • $\begingroup$ World Builsing is not a forum. $\endgroup$ Oct 4 '18 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Renan it is a forum in the broader and true meaning of the word. $\endgroup$
    – Lupino
    Oct 4 '18 at 12:14
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    $\begingroup$ @AntonioAmaralBraga I think Renan's trying to point out that forums are discussion-based, while SE is pretty strictly about just Q+A. It's an important idea, because while discussion (of the sort your question talks about) works okay on forums, it's pretty antithetical to the SE model. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Oct 4 '18 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ The quality of the question (.i. the writing skills of the querent!) do not determine the appropriateness of the topic. Magic is clearly a matter for Worldbuilding.SE; explanations are clearly within our purview. If the query is of low quality, improve the quality! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Oct 6 '18 at 8:36
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, it's a Q&A forum. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Oct 6 '18 at 8:36

Magic has been a part of WB.SE from the beginning. The problem with magic is that it absolutely fails the standard SE test for being "opinion based," which is defined as:

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 problem, of course, is that no one has expert experience, facts, references, or specific expertise in magic.

For this reason we've had to redefine POB. Here, it's not from the answerer's point of view, but from the OP's point of view. If a question is asked such that there's no obvious or sensible way the OP can determine a best answer (other than by their own opinion, AKA, flipping a coin), then it's POB.

Thus, magic survives on the site.

Remember that this site is about helping people develop clear and consistent rules for a fictional world. Magic's just another applied rule — and that's how we draw the line. Is the OP defining the rules for his/her world? Then the question is on-topic. Is the OP simply trying to figure out how to tell their story? Off-topic.

I summarized all this in a POB description here, including a lot of links to the very Meta posts that you want to read.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 Agreed: magic is entirely opinion based. (But so is worldbuilding in general!) Also agreed: re the redefinition of POB with respect to the OP. Most of the questions that get closed due to being "opinion based" are really a matter of the OP not writing their question the right way. No in-world criteria for judging the responses; lacking data for how to formulate a good response with respect to the situation of the secondary world itself. I think that might be more a problem with documentation and certainly with teaching new users than it is with the questions being asked themselves. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Oct 6 '18 at 8:42
  • $\begingroup$ BTW, I read your answer re POB description. I'd just say that the two examples are, in fact, both good questions. One is written well: focused and to the point; the is not written well: too broad. Both are entirely opinion based. But the OP of the second gives no guidance for our opinions whereas the OP of the first gives ample guidance! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Oct 6 '18 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ What about magic systems with well-defined rules? With a magic system that has set limitations, the best answer is the one that first the story the best while being the most realistically achievable. $\endgroup$
    – John Locke
    Oct 7 '18 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnLocke, You are correct: well-defined rules satisfies the problem with magic & POB. The framework of the rules become the criteria whereby the OP would judge the best answer (e.g., the answer that most closely adheres to the rules while still being awesomely creative). The basic problem is that we, the community, judge whether or not the rules the OP has supplied are adequate to avoid POB - not the OP. $\endgroup$ Oct 7 '18 at 23:59
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH That seems fair. The OP, being the author of the story, probably knows a huge amount about their world and magic system. If they do not provide adequate information, the question should definitely be closed. It is the OP's job to give information for answers to use $\endgroup$
    – John Locke
    Oct 8 '18 at 11:23

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