My personal participation in this site has come about because I have always had lots of ideas and prior to discovering WB there was nowhere for them to go. Who knows - it may one day turn out that I actually build a world that ties them all together.

My question though is who is this site actually meant for and what are they actually doing?

Are they:

(a) writing a novel or series of novels

(b) designing an RPG

(c) creating computer games

(d) creating their own fantasy world to escape from reality with no intention of publishing or involving anyone else

(e) something else?

I would be genuinely interested to know, partly out of inquisitiveness and partly because I believe some of the conflicts of opinion on whether a question is a 'good' one or not may come from different people's motivations.


  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Related: worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1962/627 (from, wow, three and a half years ago), worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/q/3667/627 and worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/q/3781/627. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 0:55
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I participate because I'm a writer who's always looking for new, interesting story elements. I have most of my crucial sci-fi technologies nailed down, but for those that I don't, I may explore them here. I find that every time I do so, an answer always pops up with some crucial detail or idea that had completely sailed by me before. Worldbuilding has been a great resource for me--and likely many others--both as a passerby and as a questioner. :) $\endgroup$
    – user44399
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 12:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For me it is definitely D. I love setting up a fantastical situation and then working out every little ramification of the premise. I hope to someday produce something based on the world I'm building, be it a short story, RP campaign or something else, but my near terminal case of procrastination is holding back progress. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 10, 2019 at 18:00

11 Answers 11


raises hand

I started out on Worldbuilding solely answering questions; it was about 3 or 4 months before I asked one of my own (and those first 3 or 4 months saw a lot of answers from me). For a while, I worked on various unrelated worlds that kinda ended up vanishing into nothing, although I did go so far as to start writing about one on Universe Factory before sunsetting it.

Since the spring of 2016, though (!), I've been almost exclusively working on a world that's shown more promise. The premise is that a galaxy-wide consortium of scientists and engineers have gathered to built a biosphere from scratch, which has involved terraforming a hitherto uninhabitable world in secrecy, in the outer reaches of the galaxy. While there were a number of technical problems involved, they - as of the writing of this answer - have managed to successfully jump-start a series of ecosystems, and are in the process of studying them.

This has involved a number of questions I've asked to date (6, at last count): Can every animal eat most other animals?, Is a galaxy-wide language possible?, What's the quickest way to add oceans to a planet?, How can I move a planet? (sort of), What are some relatively detailed programs or resources for simulating planet-wide evolution?, and Can I monitor animal movements from space?. I'm hoping to write an opening chapter - or at least an overview of the setup - in the next couple of weeks, if possible. We'll see how that goes. In the end, I don't expect to publish anything, but I definitely do at least want to build the world itself and write maybe a few short narratives taking place in it.

I mostly answer questions on this site; it's what I like to do. I mean, I like to think about strange questions and bizarre scenarios, but in the end, it turns out that I just like to write about astronomy and physics and math and related topics. This provides me a place to do just that, and to help people. But it has, also, proved to be an excellent resource for my own world building.

Worldbuilding, like all Stack Exchange sites, is definitely meant as a place where people building worlds who have questions and problems can come to find solutions. But I also think it's a place for those of us who aren't building worlds every day/week/month/actively who just want to think about these things and write answers for those who need them. It is very much a place for us, too. I think a lot of the answerers - certainly the most prolific answerers - fall into that category.


(e) something else - Therapy

As we go through life we gather an immense amount of experience which doesn't apply in our everyday life and, in fact, we actively try to avoid thinking about. When I saw this crazy question about singing and combat on the HNQ list - it made me cringe and once again remember a time in my life I usually try to avoid remembering. I had to look, had to see how someone was about to get it all wrong again.

Shocking part was, once I looked I realized I had a solid answer which actually made me smile and allowed me to look at some of the good memories I had of that time. Memories which usually get buried under so many of the bad ones. Moreover, it allowed me to share and educate others on events which many of us avoid talking about.

There have been other questions like this since, most are not that direct of a connection: many times they just remind me of worlds I built for D&D sessions I once ran for friends I no longer get to see or remind me of a person I once knew who always talked about a subject - but most remind me of good memories from times when things weren't so good or of people who are no longer here.

So I look for questions: on a bad day, when I'm sick, when its just one of those anniversaries, or just when I need that break. More and more I find that answering these questions help me build up the idea of a world I want to build (for a book or RPG, not yet decided) that reflects these people, these events - even if this has little to do with the questions themselves.


Personally, I'd check many of your proposed answers, maybe all! ;)

I dabble in writing, design my own worlds for my RPGs both online and IRL, did some stuff in computers (just starting), create worlds for silly fun with friends.

There will always be conflicts of opinion on what is a 'good' question when it comes to creativity and imagination like what we do here. For example, some people have their imagination more grounded in reality, and will consider anything that violates laws of physics as we know them as bad, while others will just forget about the laws of nature as we know them know to create what they like.

We all have our likes and dislikes, and this community only needs to be civil about this and try to find some common ground.


I came to Worldbuilding SE because I had what I thought of as an unusual hobby of building worlds. I started out making up worlds and populating them with animals for fun when I was less than 10 years old, and a little later, when playing RPGs, I found fault with their default worlds, so at first I improved them, then I started making them up from scratch.

Through school, I specialised in the sciences, especially biology, and was indifferent to the humanities like history, mainly because my teachers had succeeded admirably in making History unutterably boring to me.

However, one of my roleplaying friends was a historian by inclination, and through roleplaying - and each of us making up our own worlds and playing in them with each other - we both managed to pick up some of the other's speciality. I picked up history, or at least the bits that interested me, not the bits that my teachers had wanted us to memorise, and my friend picked up at least some biology.

As an offshoot of roleplaying, I began writing down stories about the worlds I had invented and my friends had roleplayed through. None of those stories were ever published, though.

Then, after discovering Stack Overflow (I became a software developer after leavschool) and RPG SE, I came across Area 51. I was only mildly interested in some of the proposals until I found Worldbuilding.

Since then, I got married, had 3 kids and put roleplaying on hold for the foreseeable future. However, I couldn't give up building worlds, they just seem to bubble up in my mind.

While answering and asking questions on WB SE, Universe Factory was proposed, and some of the idle questions I had been asking gelled into a story in my mind that was the foundation of 'The Juggernaut' story that I have been posting on occasion, the first story I have ever released for public consumption.


For me definitely D

When I was about 10 I made up a lion/wolf-like creature called a 'Shaggy', named so because they were fluffy, over the years I drew more of them and made up different breeds of them just because at the time it was fun.

About 3-4 years ago I became more interested in them and started to improve them and their stories just started to evolve on their own. 2 1/2 years ago they sort of took over 😂 and got some major improvements, they were made to be more cat-like and realistic, were given all round better anatomy, were given a better name (Shaguyans), got a scientific classification and I even made a map of their world...

And so I plunged face first down the Worldbuilding rabbit hole... AND IM NOT COMING OUT!

(WooHoo my first answer. Sorry about the last bit, I couldn't help it).


Great question!

I don't think I fit neatly into any of your categories. I'm not into writing or game design. I've just been making a world (one world only!) for such a long while, thirty to forty years, it's become like breathing. Just part and parcel of being. I have published some stories, but that's not the impetus. I think they're more a byproduct of having a somewhat worked out world. Mostly, I just share some of what I've come up with on worldbuilding and language invention forums for anyone who's interested to enjoy: (Main Wiki); (Some Other Tidbits); (Stories & Articles); (Art); (Universe Factory).

I tend to agree about geopoetic philosophy giving rise to conflict over whether a query is good or bad or on & off topic here. (Professional) writers especially tend to view worldbuilding very narrowly I've noticed. It's a thing done for the specific purpose of building a frame around which to construct a story. That done, you write the story. That done, you move on. Game designers seem to approach similarly. And neither delve very deep. I think these are the folks who tend to ask the character & plot & maybe "high concept" queries. The story questions.

Those of us who approach from a "realistic" or "scientific" perspective may be writers but perhaps more of the hard sci-fi orientation. These are the ones that ask about climate and planetary mechanics and look for equations all the time. These folks tend I think to close the weird and wonderful queries.

Those of us who approach from a "fantastic" or "mythological" perspective may also be writers but from the fantasy orientation. These tend to ask the highly opinion based queries. Their questions are regularly in the VTC queue, and I almost as regularly vote to keep the open.

All in all, I think WB.SE works pretty well as a Q&A forum. It is not designed to handle 80% of the questions that get asked here, and I think if the Overseers were to pay a visit and perform an audit, they'd probably shut us down for skewing the stats!

And because you said there's no place for your ideas to go:

Worldbuilding forum or other conversational place?: there are plenty of forums for geopoets, worldbuilders, invented culture and country makers to share ideas apart from this Q&A forum!


I like to see questions with underlying purpose. Not just shooting the breeze for the hell of it. Nothing wrong with doing that, I'm just not sure that here is the place in some cases and it's not something I have a ton of time for.

I came here because I'm writing a fantasy novel and have spent a lot of time on the web researching all sorts of things. I first found SE because of a post about how long it took to travel on horseback. I am also active on Writing (which makes sense) and MiYodeya (because my novel has a Jewish theme; this is the place I've asked nearly all my SE questions, though I've asked questions unrelated to my work too).

So yeah, I have noticed that you, Chasly, have been asking a large number of questions and that they appear to be for your own amusement and not tied to a work. That does affect my judgment of their suitability for the site and my desire to answer them. I haven't voted to close any question that is otherwise well written, but I've skipped over them.

I won't claim that you shouldn't be posting them, because that's not my call to make. If they're useful to others, for any reason, then they belong, and hopefully they're useful to you too. But you asked about motivation, and that's mine. Ditto with the answers. I would rather see answers that have some research behind them, rather than the sort of conversations I had back in college (or high school) where a bunch of us would get together and geek out about all sorts of things (pre-personal computer so it was all stuff in our heads or that we'd read). (Something I still do in person but not on a large network like this.)

So sure, funny is great (I still love the "expresso shot" comment on one of my answers), but my aim here is more studious. Flippant doesn't do it for me and quick one-offs telling me to do things I already researched and decided against can be beyond annoying. You're right that a lot of this comes from our motivations for being here. I try to remember this about certain people and I hope those people will respect posts from those of us whose motivations and approach to research differ from theirs.

  • $\begingroup$ I commented elsewhere (and got some negative feedback) that some people are big picture and then research the details and others work from the bottom up. In my own case I simply had ideas, but I'm beginning to detect a commonality between them. I still may never write a novel but I have felt myself focusing increasingly on an eccentric emperor and his foibles and how a rather harassed adviser copes with his often unreasonable demands. The more I ask apparently disparate questions, the more an imaginary world unfolds in my mind. I don't condemn anyone's participation unless it is abusive ... $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ ... but I do find some people's censorship a little stuffy. After all criticism is built into the system with up- and down-voting. One of my driving reasons for participating is to discover what makes a question popular - in other words I go in search of up-votes. Is that trivialising the whole thing? No, because if I ever do write a novel I will have a very good idea of what people enjoy, what they find self-consistent and what background information needs to be supplied for the story-line to make sense. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 1:48
  • $\begingroup$ I think a lot of that depends on the site. Here, what makes a question popular is often stuff I don't care about or stuff I don't do well. If I don't have a hard science question, I won't try to ask one just for points. I'm also active on Mi Yodeya & get very low points there (but no downvotes) because they're more parsimonious & my questions are ones people don't tend to answer. But just formulating them & writing them up is helping my novel tremendously (& my ability to do Torah study). P.S. It may be discouraging but it's not censorship unless it's a government or similar. $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Commented Jan 5, 2019 at 15:14

I don't build worlds but I like to think out of the ordinary, trying to make the impossible possible. That's what attracted me to this site even if I don't answer to questions (this is my first answer) and don't ask many questions (only one this far).

However seeing what other members imagine, how others respond or try to come up with solutions (even outlandish) was a big plus for this site and not others.


I would LOVE to say anywhere between "a-c", I keep planning and starting and whatnot, but my Crippling ADHD tends to ultimately lead me down the path of "d", especially since I've started a pretty low-energy desk job and need something to occupy my brain XD

(I've only just signed on with the site today, I discovered it a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to get enough! Everyone here is super nice so far, and I've gotten so many great answers already! :D)


Lots of people have a wild imagination and enjoy to dream up fictional worlds and situations and speculate about them. It is sort of like a hobby, and it becomes way more fun when you involve other people.


For the record.

I more a "consumer" than a contributor. Actually I'm eager to contribute but rarely find the chance, here are very knowledgeable users and when not knowledgeable they compensate being terribly good at researching.

I hope I can start to contribute more after I finish my online astronomy course, feel free to ask for the link if you are curious.

If you want to understand my use case, that I guess falls in a group that should not be less than 10% of users, I would describe it as:

So far, I formulated questions centering in space settings, but I read a lot of questions and answers from other areas. I guess I have read all "threads" about building dragons.

I formulate questions like they are for storytelling. And this won't change, probably.

I, in fact, write stories. But never with the intention of made any of them public. These stories are always for video game projects. Most of them will never be completed. And not necessarily the full story. I may take only the setting or the setting plus some concepts but then change names, places, and even role genres. Also for some exercises that may or not be used for a video game in the future. If you are curious, I usually use the notes format, with a lot of random thoughts here and there, and more rarely I write in novel format, with dialogues, scene descriptions and everything. Never with hand, always using software.

I often do a lot of reality check and believability check. Before I discovered the Q&A format I would do a lot of googling around different related things trying to measure the level of believability of a certain idea.

Believability is no what hurts suspension of disbelief the most, or well doesn't have to be. It's more art than science. Done right, nobody cares about believabililty, but I care a lot. Every time you hurt believability you have to give something as compensation, and if there is not enough compensation then people start to care. Compensation can be in the form of visual quality, character personalities and their overall design, etc. But depending where you hurt believability those may not save you.

In brief, worldbuilding can't be neglected. This place has a perfect name, I started to use that word a lot since I landed here. The translation doesn't sound right or practical in my natural language (can't be made into a single word), because of that in the past I used a bunch of different words to describe what we have for worldbuilding. Now I just put a "worldbuilding", without translating it, here and there.


You must log in to answer this question.

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