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There's this question.. several peer mods labeled this as story based in the comments, but in my opinion there is no close reason, because of the tags, which point at the political system, not character motivations..

Why don't supernaturally powerful people help save the world?

I will cite it here.. the question is tagged properly,

enter image description here

This is a world of heroes and legends. Gods exist, mighty dragons, and heroes who were powerful enough to contest them and save the world. Level 20 NPCs, if you were.

You may even find some of these heroes in your adventure. The storemaster of a magical shop might have once been a mighty hero who fought dragons and defeated monsters from beyond reality.

But when threats happen, these heroes don't intervene with anything close to reliably. When orcs threaten to invade the kingdom, that storemaster doesn't role up and crush them. When heroes work to destroy the horde, the ancient orc shaman who has bound gods doesn't stop them from destroying the horde.

This is true even with larger threats, like that when a dark and old god that could destroy the world is summoned, the very powerful people don't all come running to crush them early. Why is this?

This question is separate from past questions, which assumed these powerful figures would be working for kings- this is not true in this question. Kings can and do fall, and nations can be crushed by rivals, without all the great heroes coming in to stop it.

An ideal answer will have realistic motivations or reasons why most extremely powerful people exist and can interact with people but don't solve even larger issues for nations.

Maybe the last sentence seems to suggest to some peer-mods, the ideal answer will be about motivations of the superpower people ? But that is not the case. It sais, an answer should be motivated properly, by the answerer. It does not ask for motivations of the superpower people, which would be story-based indeed.. but does it, really..

My question: could some of these SB close-votes be based on a misunderstanding ? And why would the tags not prevent closure, in this case ? This is about political system and super-powers, not about motivations of characters.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I've seen similar questions about the actions of a group, e.g. worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/225686/… or worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/227914/… even when it's more strongly focused on motivations. I'm not sure why my question was a particular problem over others. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ @NepeneNep Seems like both those questions should be closed as well. Human motivation is complex and highly dependent upon the specific individuals in question. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings suppose it's not about human motivation.. and when the answer is not about human motivation either.. what would be story based about it ? this question bears tags requiring that.. would it be appropriate to acknowledge the questioner's intent ? Like in above case ? $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies Tags aren't magic. They're a search assistance tool. If the text of the question has issues no amount of tags is going to resolve those issues. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:19
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings I know that.. they can be used by people in searches.. but are tags really irrelevant, to specify a question ? Especially in this case ? Or should further specification always be explicit, in the question text,.. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:20
  • $\begingroup$ We can't read minds. All we have to go on is the text of the question. If OP wants to clarify that, they can edit their question so that it better reflects their intent. But when it comes to voting on this site we should only judge based on the text of the question. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:22
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings why are comments have to be answered within 1 minute.. and why are interesting questions closed so quickly.. especially by you ? And why not put instructions in this case, instead of repeating the rules and refer to the help center and immediately vtc ? $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies Because if a question has issues it should be closed as swiftly as possible. We want to motivate people to, ask good questions or edit their posts. Letting a problematic question sit around gathering answers just to be closed later defeats the reason for having a VTC system in the first place. Remember that after edits a question automatically gets entered into the VTRO queue. I'm just 1 vote. I cannot close a question on my own. There are plenty of interesting questions that aren't a good fit for this site. That's why there are so many other sites in the SO network. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings on se-sites it requires magic to get a topic reopened after closure, things go down in the list. If closing can be prevented by giving some guidance beforehand, would that not be a better approach ? In this case, you'd give your tip, that is, "make your tags explicit in the question text"... Put the tip, wait a few hours.. and then see what happens.. In this case, the tags clearly indicated the intent already, an edit would not be a problem (at all.. it could be done by any mod !) $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Goodies I don't think the data backs up that claim about reopening questions. If we could get people make edits to resolve the concerns raised during the VTC process that would be great but that isn't the norm. We have a system in place for questions that are edited, reviewers after an edit not seeing any remaining issues with a question and the VTRO queue. Both work surprisingly well when issues are resolved via edits. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:52

3 Answers 3

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Tags aren't magic. They're just a way to help categorize questions. I can't magically launder questions into compliance with worldbuilding policy by adding the correct tags.

The only tags that specify a question are , and , because they specify how a question shall be answered. All other tags are purely used for bucketing. Even these tags don't change our criteria for assessing whether questions are a good fit for our site or not.

If a question asks about what a character (or organization) should do, or will do, it's not about the construction of the world it's about the actions of a specific entity in a world.

Looking at the specific question it's asking for an open ended list of reasons that specific unspecified individuals would make a particular decision. As written "Their parents weren't killed after watching a movie." is equally as valid as "Perhaps they're more focused on symbolic gestures of beating up costumed petty criminals than doing the hard work of using their billions to effect real social change". Sure someone could attempt to create an answer that isn't character dependent, and is generally applicable. But that's not what the question asks for. The question asks for an open ended list of reasons that powerful individuals could act a certain way, which is going to be unique for every unspecified.

When assessing when to close questions we should look at what is there in the text, not extrapolate to some idealized form of the question. If you happen to see a question with potential after a round or two of edits, please work with the OP to help them bring out the gem of a question that you see.

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  • $\begingroup$ You are extending the rule imho. The question does not ask about what a character (or organization) should do, or will do. Or why any character does something. It asks for an explanation, why certain characters (multiple, all of them) won't do or can't do anything.. There is no single character or motivation involved, the entire group of superpower humans decides not to help in a war. Why ? Some law, or political thing.. or it has to do with a corrupt elite of superpowered humans.. Who don't want to protect the population because.. Multiple answers, but maybe there is a best answer ! $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Goodies So they want us to do their worldbuilding and brainstorming for them. To quote the help center "If you are looking for discussion, brainstorming, or an overall process rather than specific questions and answers, the Worldbuilding Stack Exchange might not be a good place for your question." Also the standard is many valid answers OP may feel than one answer is better than another but if a Q garners many answers it's not a good fit for this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:53
  • $\begingroup$ Disagree it is not a good fit, the tags indicate it is about the system, not the characters. To complete your quote, the help center specifies "brainstorming", with two introducing criteria: ">>Questions must be specific as well as answerable.<< If you are looking for discussion, brainstorming, or an overall process rather than specific questions and answers, the Worldbuilding SE might not be a good place." it's not any brainstorming is forbidden, WB would be forbidden.. criteria are: is the question answerable ? and is the question specific ? Both are the case for this question... $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 1:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Goodiea We're not here to build your world for you. We're here to help you solve specific problems you encounter while building your works. Similar to how SO will help you solve specific programming problems but will not write your code for you. We used to have a separate close reason for idea generation but that got merged with POB, since, by definition, brainstorming and idea generation are opinion based. Still calling something brainstorming is simpler than explaining how brainstorming is POB every time you VTC a question. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 3:01
  • $\begingroup$ Almost every question on the frontpage, and almost every question I see doesn't have specific magical and scientific guidance on how all their magic and science works. Should we be reporting almost every question done because they're getting us to build their world for us? From a quick glance, the angel question, the church question, the mountain question, the village question, the climate question, and so on don't rigorously define their magical and scientific limitations. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ @NepeneNep We expect questions to provide the relevant details. If I ask "How will my magic system do a thing?" I'd better describe my magic system if I want my question to remain open. In general we make an assumption of things being similar to earth, except when specified. If I ask "What is the maximum altitude a human could climb to?" I don't need to say no magic because that's implied by me not describing a magic system. But If I ask "How high can a wizard climb to?" a magic system is implied and better have the relevant details described. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ That's not really how questions are moderated. There are lots of questions with sci fi or fantasy premises which remain open without describing in detail any variances from traditional science or magic. That's the standard you're using, but it's not really a common standard most use. A lot of questions assume some element of magic or science fiction, and don't rigorously define every aspect of their world. Half or more of all questions would need to be closed by those criteria. It's also not a standard in any official documentation for the meta I know of. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 9:29
  • $\begingroup$ @NepeneNep They only need to describe the relevant details. For instance I don't need to tell you the color of the arachnids when asking about their theoretical maximum size, or tell you whether it's possible for them to be cybernetically or magically enhanced if I don't want you considering cybernetics or magic in your answer. However if I do want answers about magically or cybernetically enhanced arachnids, I better explain how the relevant magic and cybernetics work in my world. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ They mostly don't describe the relevant details though- I've looked through the cybernetics questions and they mostly just ask "Why would people have xyz cybernetic feature" And people explain why using real world physics. For magic, it's pretty hit and miss, but it's fairly routine to not explain magic unless it's relevant to the question e.g. worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/227546/… this one where cities are moving due to some unknown magic. Your standards aren't really followed by most questions. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 23:19
  • $\begingroup$ @NepeneNep How the cities move isn't relevant to how you handle representing them on maps. Could be magic, or steam, or they could be carried on the backs of a turtle. But if I ask "how would magic, politics, or social pressure prevent someone from using their powers to save the world?" Knowing how magic, politics and society work is a essential detail. If you disagree you can leave a comment requesting clarification and voting to close with "Needs details or clarity" as the reason in the meantime. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ There were several questions asking clarification on how they moved, since the speed of movement, the range, and the type of movement they could do was relevant to how you represent them on maps. This is true of most questions- they don't clarify details to the degree you mentioned. You're using a standard for my question that almost every other question would fail. As such I am doubtful about the standard being a real standard. If it only applies to my question it's a special case. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 2:54
  • $\begingroup$ @NepeneNep We seem to be drifting pretty far away from the main question asked. If you'd like to discuss in more detail the closure of your question I'd suggest posting a separate meta question. It's hard to provide a complete answer in a comment thread limited to 500 characters. Relative to this OP's question, changing tags won't save a post with other issues. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 15:39
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You're confusing what tags are meant for

First please note that 2 of the tags are actually not appropriate : The question is not about how to worldbuild in general ( tag), and it doesn't seem much preoccupied by "the governance of people", like government building or how to "govern people" ( tag).

Then, tags are not magical keys that prevent questions from being closed. In other words, it's not because a tag matches the description that the question is on-topic. Example?

Ok, quick example : An anvil falls from 10m under Earth gravity, in how much time will it reach the ground? While this question is about , it is just a plain physic question. There's just no worldbuilding context to it and is therefore off-topic.

Finally, assuming tags can prevent a closure is just putting up too much value in them. It's what helps categorizing a question (to search them later), but it doesn't define its core, it's only the skin, if not the nails knowing they're rarely read. The meat and skeleton of the question is its content and title only.

Why would I close the question in its current state?

It's about heroes. Heroes are not an organized system, they're individuals, especially in regards to the references made : D&D or pathfinder level 20 characters and their godly antagonists, a lone shopkeeper... Indeed, a lone shopkeeper doesn't seem to be part of any reasonably sized group of super-heroes, and pen&paper roleplay games are all about individual character and player choices rather than following the overarching social system they're in, especially in the later parts of a campaign where they're high-level1.

Here are a few existing story examples with people having all the attitude of heroes and making personal choices and not group or society choices :

Here's one from Nanatsu No Taizai (quite revealing spoilers ahead):

Melodias doesn't build up an army to battle the Ten commandment upfront for several thousand years, and he doesn't seem bothered to do so by any group during this time. Note also that several of the deadly sins have some personal troubles -and not group troubles- to solve before coming back into the fray!

And one about the Star Trek : Picard TV show :

Retired cpt Picard isn't pressured socially or under some rules by anyone to help Data's daughter -and everything universe-saving related-, quite the contrary! It's because it's the daugther of his old friend, and his take-on of the world which makes him come back into action.

Peck, even in the latest Star Wars, where an old jedi is reluctant to come back to help the resistance. Even with the background of a whole organization behind, it fell down to personal thoughts and experiences rather than rules written or implied by the society.

All the above is basically the same thing as having Batman killing people or not2, it's something inherently character-based. Unlike other characters, heroes -and by extension super-heroes- are all about outstanding individuals facing the world troubles among with their troubles. That's the word : Outstanding. By standing out and being supposedly few (lvl 20 characters in D&D and variants are close to become gods and therefore hopefully they're few!), they cannot act as part of a social group, even if they can be in one.

That's why the question is story-writing. In order to be worldbuilding, it would have first to be about a group or guild of heroes and focus solely on the guild with its rules and mottos, not the people as stated in the title. From there you would start having a chance of being worldbuilding, though to be honest it's still really not an easy path. Perhaps it has a better place in Writing.SE?



1 : Take a look at Baldur's gate and the first Planescape torment games, or more recently Pathfinder : Wrath of the Righteous. All godly main characters, but you make their choices, not any society's or group.

2 : It's a staple of modern Batman dilemnas, both in movies and comics.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer. "The meat and skeleton of the question is its content and title only." yes I've understood that point (see sphennings), and there may be other close reasons.. but this meta topic is not that, it is about the tags that exclude story-based answers, which is now the close reason. True, on SE sites, tags are not meant for specifying a question. However, tags can provide information about the opener's intent with a question. In this case, tags are politics and superpowers. The opener is looking for a non-story based answer, so why keep talking about personal motives ? $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies Then you didn't really understand the difference between categorizing and defining a question :). You can categorize a question but still be off-topic (or story-based, that's only a subset of off-topicness), because it's its definition, its meaty part and skeleton that actually matter. In this case, it's still story-based because it's a bit like asking if your horse prefer to cook pastries or play tennis. The question -choosing an activity- can make sense, but not in the regard to the subject and context raised.[...] $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 6:27
  • $\begingroup$ [...]Even if we considered the question first and foremost without its background, we lack critical data to make an accurate worldbuilding answer, like Sphennings and AlexP said somewhere around there $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 6:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies A good way to think about it is you need to do more than tell us that a question is on topic the question actually needs to be on topic. For instance changing "What should my character do?" to "What should my character do? [on topic]." does nothing to resolve the fundamental issue with the question, asking about the actions of an individual. If a question is so poorly written that it needs the politics tag to illustrate that the question is asking about politics, then the politics tag is not appropriate, and the question probably needs to be closed pending clarifying edits. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 16:10
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Tags are just Window Dressing

I'd argue that the question itself is clearly not story based. Especially after the edit that replaced "motivation" with other, external factors.

In fact, that whole last paragraph literally screams anything but story!

An ideal answer will have realistic motivations or reasons why most extremely powerful people exist and can interact with people but don't solve even larger issues for nations.

The best answers are not even going to examine the retired hero's mentality, psychology, whims, desires, regrets, motivations, or anything else arising from within. The best answers are going to touch on the hero's story only in so far as it might tease out the external factors that are working against the hero.

It might be that these heroes really and truly want to go out and fight dragons. Show the entitled young generation how it's done kind of thing!

But that doesn't mean they actually can go out and fight dragons! And it's here, in the realm of external forces, whence the answer must arise.

Given that the question is already solid, what do we make of the tags?

Well, I'd argue that the tags serve only to reinforce the solidity of the query as written. Clearly, the OP is looking for some kind "underlying system of the world" type of answer. And this kind of answer is not synonymous with an individual character's own choices.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd disagree with your assessment of the edit. Replacing "motivations or reasons" with "social structures, magical reasons or political reasons" does noting to reduce the broad and open ended nature of the question. In fact I'd argue that OP is now asking us to make up facts about the social structures, magic system and politics of their world since none of those are described for us. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings --- I don't see the breadth as especially problematic here --- he's only focusing on three! And one of those, political, could be subsumed by social. As for making up facts about his world, that is kind of why we're here. The only place where that is specifically disallowed is for reality-checks. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 23:59
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    $\begingroup$ If I could make up facts about people's worlds every question could be answered by "Your world has magic pixies that do that thing you asked us about". $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:00
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings --- Yes. Yes, you could do that, if you like. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:01
  • $\begingroup$ Listing every reason why magic could prevent someone from going to save the world, without defining a magic system is an impossible task. First there are an infinite number of potential magic systems. Then there's listing out every way that each magic system could prevent some undefined someone from doing a thing. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:02
  • $\begingroup$ We actively discourage people from doing that. When people ask question about their magic systems we require them to describe them in enough detail that we can answer their question based on what they've given us. We're explicitly not here for brainstorming or idea generation. So questions where the only bounds are the immense creativity of our members are far too broad. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:04
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings --- Listing "every reason" is straying into Hyperbolistan. Very few questions include such obvious and absolute restrictions. We really only differentiate between "I'm interested in this small set of considerations" (finite list) vs "give me everything you can possibly think of!" (infinite list). $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:10
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings --- Can the question be improved? Sure! That's another argument for another round of closure voting! We're starting to stray off topic here! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:12
  • $\begingroup$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for ", the OP is looking for some kind "underlying system of the world" type of answer." the current edit confirms that in the question text. Reopen is on +2 now. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Apr 9, 2022 at 1:23

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