I don't want to encourage extra closures and I certainly don't want to close any of the following. In fact I prefer to keep them open.

How would a superhero who needs to fall asleep to use his powers fall asleep during battle? - All about a single individual in a seemingly normal world. No close votes.

How long would it take a body to decay and the bones to fall to the ground from a tree? - About one dead body in a normal world. No close votes.

Reactions to a Young Time Traveller - About a single person travelling to the past. No close votes.

Backpack contents for a modern person stranded in the stone-age - About a single person travelling to the past. Closed because too story-based.

I'll declare an interest in that the final one is my own question. It is what prompted me to ask.


What do the first three questions have in common that make them not story-based and/or character-based that is not shared by the fourth?

  • $\begingroup$ I can't recall for the others but the Young Time Traveler one did get onto the close queue. You're only seeing that there are currently no close votes, because they expired. $\endgroup$ – Cyn says make Monica whole Jan 21 '19 at 6:46
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    $\begingroup$ Two of your examples had a bounty on them when they were new. bounty prevents votes to close, something I personally disagree with exactly because it creates situations like this. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jan 21 '19 at 13:47
  • $\begingroup$ I also see "story-based" applied inconsistently but more on the second question - i.e. people who say this is based on reality so it can't be about world building. Just because a world follows all or most of the physical laws of our world - doesn't mean its any less worldbuilding. Fyi, I thought your question was "too broad" or maybe "too opinion based" because there wasn't enough detail to judge how good an answer was - and the edits take care of enough of that now for re-opening (IMHO) $\endgroup$ – LinkBerest Jan 21 '19 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ You could have found similar numbers of questions closed incorrectly as TOO story-based when they were not. Inconsistently does work in both directions. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 25 '19 at 4:01

Due to the creative nature of this site, we're notoriously inconsistent with just about all votes

I'm not perfect, but my judgment is usually based on the following:

  • Is the question asking how to use a rule or system of the world? (E.G., how to use the superpowers, which are intrinsic to the being of the superhero.) then it's not TSB. Why? Because the explanation given in an answer can be applied to most if not any situation (circumstance) the character finds himself/herself in.

  • Is the question asking about a decision to be made by the character in question? (E.G., what should I put in my backpack?) then it's TSB. Why? Because the only thing that need change to completely change the character's decisions is the situation (circumstance) of the story. It's applicable to only the circumstance described and can't be reused in another story based on the world.

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    $\begingroup$ RE dot point 1. This I agree with. However, I have seen that meets your criteria exactly & it was closed as too story-based. That "we're notoriously inconsistent with just about all votes" covers it. The site's creative nature is of no account. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 22 '19 at 1:27
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    $\begingroup$ RE dot point 2. Reread the question. It doesn't ask what the character should put in their backpack. It asks what should be in the backpack. Deciding what goes in it could have done by committee. Do astronauts decide what goes in their survival kits (if they crash somewhere remote)? No. presumable NASA does it for them Also, trains them how to use it. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 22 '19 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android, It doesn't ask what the character should put in their backpack. It asks what should be in the backpack That's one mighty thin line - and one that only the OP can clarify. The Q did not (if it does now) indicate that a governing organization was controling the decision of its contents. You cannot assume to be right if I cannot assume to be right. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 22 '19 at 2:26
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    $\begingroup$ Congratulations! That is precisely my point. There is nothing to justify complaining a character is making a choice. There are multiple possible ways in which the selection can be made. You cannot, therefore, complainit was a character's choice. Besides character choice doesn't axiomatically make a question TOO story-based. In some cases, it might, but not in all. I am not assuming I am right, it's just that I know your argument is wrong. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 22 '19 at 12:09
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android, and there's nothing not justifying the character is making a choice. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 22 '19 at 14:44
  • $\begingroup$ That argument is irrelevant. There is no evidence in the question the character made the choice. You are only assuming otherwise. I recommend you read this meta post. worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4664/… The backpack question is about what resources are needed. Something covered by the linked post. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 23 '19 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android, and no evidence that the character didn't. Is this argument going anywhere? You can't make assumptions if I can't make assumptions. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 23 '19 at 4:03
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    $\begingroup$ I concur. The creative nature of folks here and the creativity & "opinion based" nature inherent within worldbuilding almost forces us to apply standards haphazardly. I've said before that Stack Exchange is the single worst platform for a worldbuilding forum to exist on, simply because of the way SE works. If we really wanted to uphold the SE model, we'd really have to close (and delete) 90+% of all WB questions. Simply because every single one of them is in some way "opinion based". $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 24 '19 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ @elemtilas, honestly, the biggest problem we have (IMO) is overcoming the "Dang! That's a cool question!" temptation when it's obvious the question has problems. I'm probably a more consistent voter on days I don't have time to answer questions. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 24 '19 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH --- Agreed! Though I am much less likely to VTC a "dang that's cool" question with problems than a less cool question with problems. The cool question would have to be really, truly problem-ridden! But there again, when we look at these "problematic" questions in light of our art or activity -- worldbuilding -- I see a few minor problems as much less of an issue than they might be in a different stack. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 24 '19 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ It isn't getting anywhere because you're trapped by your own misconceptions. My argument is one of proof by counter-example. You assume it's x, I show it can be anyone else. I am not assuming who did the selection. That is irrelevant. But it means you cannot assume it is the lost time traveler & then decide the question is TOO story based. You are making an argument without foundation. The fact is there isn't enough information in the question to decide who packed the back pack. As someone who railed against arbitrary & idiosyncratic versions of VTC reasons, I hold you to [cont.] $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 25 '19 at 3:15
  • $\begingroup$ [continues]: to a higher standard. It seems to me that you have adopted your own arbitrary & idiosyncratic version of the TOO story-based VTC reason. You will be glad to know you are among friends. The *TOO story-based VTC reason is the most arbitary & idiosyncratically applied. This makes it the most consistently inconsistent VTC. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 25 '19 at 3:18
  • $\begingroup$ Cool questions as the biggest problem here!? IMHO it's "That's a good worldbuilding question! Why is closed?" Answer: because more creativity is applied in finding ways, rightly or wrongly, to close them, than answering them. A lack of critical thinking, analysis, & reason being applied first in evaluating the questions also helps. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 25 '19 at 3:21
  • $\begingroup$ The main problem with TOO story-based (TSB) question is they often have a good bit of worldbuilding (WB) in them. The trick is to get the balance right. There is an acid test I use to distinguish whether a question is TSB or not. Does the outcome move the story forward or not? If the OP has specified what the outcome will be, then that's no. using the back pack question as an example. TSBQ: "A man is marooned in neolithic Europe, in a failed time travel experiment, carrying a backpack filled with long-term survival gear. What happens next?" [continues in the next comment} $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 25 '19 at 3:48
  • $\begingroup$ [continued in this comment]: WBQ: "A man is marooned in neolithic Europe, in a failed time travel experiment, carrying a backpack This needs to be filled with long-term survival gear. What resources should be in the back pack?" Please note: the outcome has been specified by the OP. What is in the back pack is there to ensure the man's long-term survival. This is WB in the sense defined here. Se Help center. The TSBQ asks WBers to decide where the story goes next. That makes it TOO story-based. You may find the acid test useful. [continues] $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 25 '19 at 3:53

I agree that that question is not too story-based. However, it might easily be considered either Too Broad or Primarily Opinion-Based. The reason is that you are asking for a collection of things. What makes one collection better than another? Should everyone post collections that are 98% the same, only differing in one item? I have a brilliant idea for one more item. Should I post that as a separate answer?

Another issue is that there are different approaches. This is the most story-based part of it, although I'd call it opinion-based instead. One person might bring a crossbow. Another might try to bring a kit for making black powder. It's opinion as to which is better.

Some portions of the answers say things like reference books and seeds. Seeds of what plants? Which reference books? Those are questions in and of themselves.

The question should be limited more. E.g. here's my pack choices. I still have ten pounds. What am I missing? Should I leave off something in the pack in favor of a better something else? E.g. replace a modern hunting rifle with limited ammunition with a muzzleloader and a chemistry kit. Or a crossbow. Perhaps ask that in its own question (What's the best weapon for one-way time travel to ___?).

The way that too story-based is meant to be used is when someone asks a question about plot. What would be typical reactions to a modern person is acceptable. What a particular person might decide among those typical reactions is not. It's your job to pick the personalities of your characters.


Here's my take on those questions:

How would a superhero who needs to fall asleep to use his powers fall asleep during battle? - About how some super power works, legit.

How long would it take a body to decay and the bones to fall to the ground from a tree? - About how decay works in a world (which happens to be our world), legit.

Reactions to a Young Time Traveller - About how people would act about something, I just voted to close as story-based.

Backpack contents for a modern person stranded in the stone-age - About how people would act about something, I would have voted to close as story-based.

If it's about what one or more people would do on a situation, it is not world building, it is story writing. But I don't think the Writing stack accepts these questions either.

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    $\begingroup$ Questions about "what to write" are off topic on Writing. However, if a question can be formulated in terms of technique and applies to a writing problem (as opposed to just a problem encountered during writing), then it's likely to be on topic there. writing.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic has more details. $\endgroup$ – user Jan 20 '19 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ If superpowers are automatically acceptable then I would say taking a backpack of any present day technology to the Stone-Age constitutes a superpower for the carrier. Decay of a body would surely be better tackled on a criminology site - they study this sort of thing intensively. I could go on, and I could find many more examples but I'd rather just get my question re-opened. $\endgroup$ – chasly - supports Monica Jan 20 '19 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ @chaslyfromUK "I'd rather just get my question re-opened" Your question currently has three reopen votes, and thus is well on its way to being reopened. Having the cast close/reopen votes privilege, you should be able to see this yourself. Questions are put on hold (and closed) when a sufficient number of established users feel they should be, and are reopened when a sufficient number of established users feel they should be. That some particular question is open or closed may simply be a result of how many such users have happened to view it, and how they felt about it. $\endgroup$ – user Jan 20 '19 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ RE the back contents question. I suggest you read this meta post. It is a resources question not story-based. By the way, the VTC reason is TOO story-based not merely story-based. worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4664/… $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 23 '19 at 1:16
  • $\begingroup$ I disagree on question 2. That's clearly a let me google that for you moment which has no to only the most tenuous business being in WB.SE. I don't see Q3 & 4 as "story based" at all, though they are opinion based and liable for closure by those who close such questions. $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 24 '19 at 16:47

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