While reviewing Most painful way to kill somebody with 10 bullets? I looked up the and tags. Their definitions aren't great in context of worldbuilding, and I think that's encouraging people to slip non-worldbuilding questions into the queue.

The more egregiously abused of the two is . A review of the questions using the tag shows that 75% of the questions (9 of 12) have negative votes and 33% (4 of 12) were closed. That strongly suggests to me that the community's belief that questions are off-topic.

To be fair...

I think there could be a place for the (and similarly tag, although its percentages are not as high) tag within a world-building context. In other words, if we changed the tag's description from:

The deliberate killing of an individual in a controlled environment and its methods and ethics.

to something like...

The political, social, or technological considerations involving the sanctioned and deliberate killing of an individual in a controlled environment.

...(Although I'm not completely happy even with that)...

we might get fewer abuses of the tag. Maybe. I'm not convinced a lot of people read the tag descriptions before applying a tag.


The tag doesn't get a lot of use, and what use it gets is predominantly down-voted by the community, which suggests the tag should be dropped.

An upvote to this question is IN FAVOR of DELETING the tag

If, on the other hand, you're in favor of keeping the tag, please consider posting an answer that explains how the tag description & wiki can be updated to better focus users on worldbuilding rather than storybuilding.

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    $\begingroup$ Related: worldbuilding.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7933/… $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Jul 21 '20 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Renan, dang... you wrote yours only 10 minutes before I wrote mine. That question really touched a nerve. I'd be content to dump both of them. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 21 '20 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ Me too. In the very least the one in the first link is story-base. $\endgroup$ – The Square-Cube Law Jul 21 '20 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ 2/3 of all questions tagged [execution] come from the same user, and aside from that, there are a grand total of two others users who have asked questions with this tag. I'd vote to delete it because it doesn't seem that helpful or widely used. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Jul 21 '20 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Halfthawed I didn't even notice that! Looks like someone took action, though. All of the questions previously tagged have been untagged. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 21 '20 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Halfthawed Curiously, more than a third of the torture questions are from one user, too. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 21 '20 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH It was half earlier this afternoon. Methinks that someone has been revisionist tagging certain questions. Not that I'm complaining, I think it very well might have been justified. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Jul 21 '20 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ Well, now that there are no queries in the EXECUTION tag...I suppose the query is a moot. Tag could be quietly deleted and no one would be the wiser! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jul 22 '20 at 4:35
  • $\begingroup$ I was going to add an example based on the one execution question I answered but I then realized it was not tagged with that tag (it could be though) $\endgroup$ – LinkBerest Jul 25 '20 at 0:11
  • $\begingroup$ a way of execution or method can also related with culture/religion or social point of view though, such as guillotine which considered as more humane or less painful by the france during that time, euthanasia by syringe injection, or electrocution, etc, or three times maximum attempt in beheading to give less pain to the executed persons, or roman crucifixion, norse blood eagle, chinese 5 painful execution, and sudoku as the worst way to execute in their culture. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Jul 25 '20 at 7:01
  • $\begingroup$ oh well its already gone, to bad...... i imagine most question regarding this is related to human, but i can see this use for aliens or other animals folk (PETA wont like it) such as slug and snail people being execute using salt for example or finding humane or worst painful way to do it, such as this link. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Jul 25 '20 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ @LiJun Anything can be rationalized including the worst of all possible human behaviors. That doesn't make it right. As I mentioned, people (especially one) were abusing the intent of the tag(s). One of the many issues we must deal with is that we can't control the ages of people visiting/using the site - which means there is a bottom-line limit we must (and have before) deal with. It falls under the same category of inviting (and sometimes compelling) people to use civil language. We're not all adults here and some things/issues/topics/behaviors/etc really are and should remain off-topic. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 26 '20 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH still i disagree with such extreme measure of deleting it though, it just simply need new categorizing or description to make it not abused as plot, like what i mention as example to make it more worldbuilding rather than plot. and i also agree with elemtilas answer regarding the torture and execution tag (i recommend you check that if you are not yet) $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Jul 27 '20 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ here elemtilas quote "WB.SE exists for the purpose of helping writers and geopoets build up their fictional worlds. It's not all bunnies and flowers. Sometimes the flowers bite back, slowly digesting the bunnies in the process. In other words, well made worlds delve into the questions of evil as well as good; and also into the mindsets of peoples & cultures that turn blind eyes to objective evil and even actively engage in it for seemingly noble purposes." $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Jul 27 '20 at 4:03
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH if you are so worried about not sheltering underage from such dark/disturbing question might as well make NSFW tag. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Jul 27 '20 at 4:10

The real question is whether we are happy to do basic research for the querents.

And the answer is that in practice it depends.

Of course, in principle all questions which show complete lack of research and very little thought ought to be downvoted and closed. But... Some subjects we find palatable, and we even find pleasure in explaining how to approach a problem in an easily understandable way. Other subjects we find disgusting, and since we are disgusted we have no compunction to downvote and close the question.

To give an example directly related to the [execution] tag: in Henryk Sienkiewicz's Quo Vadis (with many adaptations, notably the 1951 film with Peter Ustinov as Nero, the 1985 miniseries with Klaus Maria Brandauer as Nero and Max von Sydow as Peter, and the 2001 Polish film) there is a long episode revolving around the creative ways in which the fictional emperor Nero had the fictional Christians put to death as fictional scapegoats for the real historical Great Fire of Rome; the episode is essential to the message of the book, and illustrates an essential aspect of the fictional depraved Roman world. I can easily see a 21st century Sienkiewicz asking a question on this site trying to clarify his mind about how would those depraved fictional Romans go about staging the spectacular executions of a few thousand fictional victims.

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    $\begingroup$ "I can easily see a 21st century Sienkiewicz asking a question..." Such a question would be closed as too story-based and/or opinion-based. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 21 '20 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH: Only if poorly phrased would it be closed. "Is is reasonable to expect mass public executions to be staged as public entertainment?" would be acceptable. "Would amphiteaters used for gladiatorial games be reused to stage the deadly spectacle?" would be acceptable. "Would there be admission charged?" and "Would the be sellers of refreshment?" would be acceptable. "Would it be expected for the executions to have indecent aspects?" would be acceptable. "Would there be any public reaction to the mass executions and their titillating aspects?" would be acceptable. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 21 '20 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ Now that I agree with. In the end, this is all about reducing the number of low-quality questions. With the probable exception of the last example. "How would people react..." questions are frequently closed as they depend too much on exactly who "people" are. Otherwise, yeah. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 21 '20 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ It seems to me that "What would a depraved Roman emperor do?" is less of a question of worldbuilding and more a question of how creative/depraved the imagination of the answerers is. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Jul 22 '20 at 2:04

Tags do not make a question automatically off topic. Execution and torture tags have a place in WB on the level that you may have a question about the mechanics of torture or execution.

So asking, "Is an injection of 5mg of mercury into someone's blood fatal?", is a valid use of the Execution tag and asking "How much mercury do you need to inject someone with to make them sick but not kill them?" is a valid use of the torture tag.

I'm personally for using such tags BECAUSE not everyone on this site is an adult. This follows the same logic as an R rated film saying that it is rated R for violence and nudity. If a question is tagged as Execution or Torture and you have a problem with this, then it gives you a great big red light not to read any further since you can expect some rather unpleasant content.

  • $\begingroup$ Stack Exchange has already threatened to start arbitrarily deleting questions involving these tags, and their problem is specifically that people want details about the mechanics of execution and torture - which will always be hard to police because human nature is to be gruesome (not clinical) about it. Worst of all, we've had very young children on this site and "red lights" are only valuable if they have an adult watching their every movement. It's foolish to pretend we can make this an "adults only" site. Besides, (*continued*) $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 9 '20 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ from my perspective, an adult is a person who has the ability and the maturity to avoid discussions inappropriate for children in circumstances when it is impossible to exclude children. In other words, unless we can come up with a way of rapidly policing the use of these tags to guarantee only clinical, child-appropriate questions and answers are asked, we're stuck with SE's choice to arbitrarily delete, which means we're ahead to simply dump them and ask all the adults to grow up and live with it. $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 9 '20 at 17:23

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