I wanted to test a theory. I wanted to see what would happen if a question that asked for a narrow list of ideas would react on the site now that a week or two of my previous meta post asking how to make fishing for ideas questions suitable for Main have gone by.
My test question asking In a world of groovy super spies, how would a spy cross a ravine? was closed for... of all things... being "too story-based."
When you follow the "why was my question closed for being too story-based" link you find the following statement:
Asking about plot elements such as the actions of characters, rather than about the world in which your story takes place, is off-topic on Worldbuilding. Capabilities of characters within a world and creation of groups of characters (like nations) are on-topic, but questions must focus on what is possible or likely to develop, not what someone would or should do.
I suppose the close voters felt that the question reflects a character choice that would have occured long before the mission actually started. Something along the lines of "gee, there's five different tools that would help me over that ravine, and I'm sure to be chased by dogs and cornered at the ravine, so which tool should I choose to get me over the ravine?"
Except that such an assumption feels ludicrous to me. It feels a lot like someone is judging the question based on its backstory and not on the question itself. Quite frankly, I'm not asking what choice the character can make. I'm only asking what devices could be available to the character. The difference is insanely important: if I remove the backstory from the former, no question remains. If I remove the backstory from the later, the question remains. This wasn't a question about character choices — it was a question about tool design.
Worse still, this sets a precedent. It suggests that all finite-list-of-things questions are off-topic because they are always dependent on the structure of the story. Examples of questions that now must be hunted down and closed:
- What kinds of creatures would likely evolve in this enviroment (story based! Impossible to provide enough details)
- What kinds of remnants might be evidence of a previous civilisation? (story based! Remnants will be used as part of an undisclosed plot)
- What kinds of wounds would a laser weapon leave? (story based! Depends on the choices of characters pertaining to distance, armor, and the conditions of weather)
- What kinds of third-world countries would survive nuclear winter? (story based! Any resource available to one such country is intrinsically available to all depending on their choices)
- What level of technology can be expected from a society terrified of physical and wireless networks? (story based! Narrative necessity would drive the needed tech)
- What kinds of diet/intake changes would be possible for a race with extensive DNA modification abilities? (story based! By definition, the OP can always derive dietary conditions based on the use of clarkean magic)
It appears to me that the Stack is becoming more and more physics.SE, earthsciences.SE, and all the other Stacks — we just allow backstories.
So questions (yup, "needs more focus"):
What is a strict definition of "too story-based?" Because if we use the link we provide as the definition, my question did not meet the expectation. Note that I wholly agree with the following: worldbuilding (on-topic) is about designing and consistently using the rules and systems of a fictional world of your own creation. Storybuilding (off-topic) is about plot, circumstances, and character actions/choices." I do not believe my question was storybuilding (prove me wrong if you disagree, thanks!).
Do we allow fishing-for-ideas questions or not?
MODERATORS It's time you guys stepped up with some opinions. Based on the positive feedback to several of my previous Meta posts, the policies of this stack have changed — but you appear to not be keeping up with the times. Does Meta decide policy changes... or do you?