This discussion spun off from the most recent ACS debate but it should by no means be taken as an opinion either way on the ACS format. Whether that specific tag/series is kept or axed makes no difference on the subject of this post.

JBH made clear that they consider that ACS allows questions that would otherwise be off-topic. Namely, because a question looking for e.g. a realistic jackalope is asking about someone else's world (the world of the myth), not about the worldbuilder's world.

[Q]uestions about the evolutionary justification of human myths are intrinsically off-topic. Remember, the goal of this site (see the Help Center) is to help people create imaginary worlds. Their own imaginary worlds.


This question is asking if it's time to withdraw permission to break the rules, because all ACS questions are asking about something the poster didn't originally create in a world that isn't theirs.

That is the same argument that's used to disallow questions about lightsabers from Star Wars; asking about other worlds has issues with legality, morality, practicality; and it runs at odds with the definition of the site: to help people construct their own fictional worlds.

I contest that folklore is like 3rd-party worlds; I think no 3rd-party-world issue reasonably applies to myths. In fact I think that the suggested argument would run counter to the way the website has been functioning, given the existence of tags like , and .

First, let's make a distinction between a myth and a record of a myth. "Ragnarök" is a myth. "The Prose Edda" is a record. The rules that apply to 3rd-party-worlds apply to records of myths, since they are essentially works of literature that happen to be documenting folklore, but the same does not hold for the underlying myths, which can have been recorded many times in many ways but are rooted in a tradition belonging to one or more cultures.

I'll give a table with specifics but this is the core part of the argument. Mythological creatures are not defined by any records, but by the common elements of multiple stories and traditions, transmitted orally until recorded at different times by different people. Folkloric creatures are parts of a cultural experience. Merfolk are not defined by Hans Christian Andersen, Thor is not defined by the Edda. Folkloric creatures exist in commonalities between multiple independently created records.

That makes mythological creatures vague and often contradictory (when different records disagree), and a sufficiently specified question (one that isn't going to be closed for lacking details) has already done an interpretation of an element found in myth; they have for example specified how many limbs a dragon has and whether he breathes fire or acid. Interpretation is a form of creation; by ironing out the sketchy cryptid into a concrete beast, someone has started creating their own world.

Now here's the table. To the left is a problem that a WB question about 3rd-party-worlds faces, to the right is how that problem applies (or doesn't) to folklore.

Problem 3rd-party world Folklore
Legality A world built atop a third party's world is subject to copyright restrictions and may be discouraged or illegal. Myths are not copyrighted. Records may be copyrighted, for example if it is a modern translation. Obviously the idea of a vampire is not legally restricted, or there wouldn't be so many stories with vampires in them.
Canonicity A question for "how do lightsabers work" has a canonical answer that's drawn from a source; it's correct by virtue of being written in a separate book of fiction. That's a whole different kind of research than any other knowledge-gathering taking place on Worldbuilding.SE. Myths evolved over their creation history and continue to evolve this day; that's why records can be so different. There is no canonical answer in folklore because no record is more authoritative. In fact the same creature can appear in different cultures, where they may have different narrative functions and thus very different records. Just look at how many kinds of vampires exist in various storytelling traditions. A question about a mythical creature can only have a canonical answer if the querent asks specifically for an answer as relayed by a particular record; and that's a research question that would not be allowed here anyway.

The elements that are universally agreed on are more like staples of a genre than rules of a system; they are vague and ready for an author to iron out into harder systems for new literature - or even to ignore entirely. Everyone agrees mermaids live underwater, but a story about a Venusian species of merfolk that flies in the planet's upper atmosphere sounds fascinating to me!
Authority A third-party world is someone else's world; the only one who can give the correct answer to the questions is the author. A myth has no author. Folklore belongs to a culture (or several) but cultures are made up of many people with their own views. You cannot go and ask the Romanians to agree whether sunlight burns a vampire to a crisp or just gives them rash - in fact, as far as I understand, weakness to sunlight is not even mentioned in the Romanian tradition.
Ownership of the world Writing in a third-party world, as a fan fiction expanding on that world, is inserting one's own material inside a place someone else created and subject to the original rules - that goes against the purpose of the site, which is to create new worlds. A story using mythical creatures is not generally expanding on the mythical records; Marvel's Thor is not a fan fiction of the Edda, Twilight does not expand on any vampire literature I know of. Stories featuring mythical beings put those beings in fresh situations, e.g. a world like Earth but where those beings exist. That's a new world.

What I want to achieve with this proposal, if people share my views, is that no future question should have to use the same weaselly language ("this dragon-like creature I'm designing...") that's currently used for elements from 3rd-party worlds. And I wish to use it to reiterate that even if ACS is going the way of the dinosaur, asking about ways to design creatures sourced from folklore should remain welcome. It is the way we have used the , and tags; it should remain that way if it's up to me.

Please upvote if you agree that on this basis, questions with folklore should remain on-topic. Comment or answer if you know of any arguments either way that I am overlooking. Downvote if you disagree with my view (preferably also comment/answer to let me know why).

  • $\begingroup$ This is a bit confusing ^^' : The title asks if myths are 3rd-party/off-topic, and the body tells to upvote if they're not 3rd-party. It makes the vote look different whether you're inside the page or on the topic list. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena Fair. I was just following the example of the linked ACS post (question in the title, answer/proposal in the question body). Meant to be a leading question. It's probably more clear if I make the question negative? $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 13:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just change the title to something in the like of "Are myths different from 3rd-party worlds?" :)? It'll make no reversed reverso on people's minds ^^. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ Will do, thanks for the feedback $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't the reason for no 3rd party worlds because of copyright and the fact they fit better on science-fiction & Fantasy stackexchange? There are no legal problems when it comes to myths and there isn't a Mythology stackexchange. Even if there was, most mythological creatures aren't biologically possible as commonly presented. $\endgroup$
    – ITM_Coder
    Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ @ITM_Coder there's a couple of reasons going around. I don't happen to agree with the one about the better fitting sites; wb.SE allows making stuff up and sci-fi.SE doesn't. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 11:13

5 Answers 5


Very few topics are truly off topic on this site. Questions about myths aren't an exception. For the vast majority of closed questions the problem is the form of the question, rather than the topic. The issue with myths and 3rd party worlds is that they lead to questions that violate multiple of our requirements of good questions. At it's core questions about myths or 3rd party worlds lead to questions that:

  1. Lead to questions not about worldbuilding
  2. Rely on unspecified relevant details
  3. Rely on the answerer to brainstorm, generate ideas, or otherwise establish facts about the world to be able to answer the question

This isn't specific to questions about myths or 3rd party worlds. Asking "How do mediclorians cause Jedi to be able to lift objects with their mind" is a problem even if George Lucas asks it. The problem still exists if you're asking about dragons, time travel, magic or FTL, physics, or chemistry. There may be general assumptions about how a thing things work, but those assumptions aren't codified or universal1. Even if they were, you are under obligation to follow any of those general assumptions. We're not here to discuss tropes, or science in general, try TVTropes, Physics.SE or Chemistry.SE. we're here to help you build your world. Note how you can answer "How are dragons immune to fire?" with "They just are", "Aesbestos scales", "Magic", "In my world they aren't" or a myriad of other answers. On this site questions with many valid answers are prohibited. Underspecified questions like this which lead to many valid answers are at the root of many question closures. Especially when asking about myths or 3rd party worlds.

Personally I believe that our no questions about 3rd party worlds is technically a pragmatic overreach. We could resolve every issue with third party questions just by asking that they clearly establish all relevant details within the question itself, like we do with every other question. But because this requires a detailed understanding of the application of site policy, it's much more efficient to say we don't allow questions about third party worlds and suggest that they file the labels off. The act of filing the labels off requires that they bring any relevant details into the question. Which is what we wanted them to do in the first place.

Regardless of what inspired your question, existing work of fiction, myths you grew up with, a wild dream you had last night, the sublime majesty of the natural world, or some cool science fact that ignited your imagination, you must always make sure that you're asking about that within the context of building your world.

  • Don't ask about elves, ask us about your elves.
  • Don't ask us about Skrulls, ask us about your Skrull knockoffs
  • Don't ask us about Kami, ask us about your Kami
  • Don't ask us about orbital mechanics, ask us about the orbits of your planets

Regardless of what you're asking about you need to specify how things work in your world for it to not be closed. With both 3rd party worlds and myths worldbuilders still have the same tools to ask about the things specific to the world they're building. File off the the labels ask about the thing clearly separated from canon. For instance while I can't ask "how do lightsabers work?" I can ask "How could would solid plasma containment on a 'laser sword' work?" Despite it being obvious to everyone familiar with Star Wars that they're asking about a lightsaber, we wouldn't close the later question for clearly ripping off a 3rd party world, because they've taken the steps to be clear that they're not asking for a answer from canon.

1 Technically well established peer reviewed science is pretty universal, and not open to much interpretation. As a worldbuilder you don't need to hold yourself to such a high standard. Popular understandings of science are perfectly acceptable for your world even if technically incorrect.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think it is possible to ask plainly "Do vampires sparkle?" on Worldbuilding.SE without being closed for lack-of-details. "How do we even know whether vampires sparkle? You haven't told us anything about your vampires!" $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm I'm using simplified questions for brevity. Pretend that in addition to the core ask present there's sufficient supporting text around it. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ I think it is literally impossible to have a full question like that; it would simply not be worldbuilding. My proposal is to allow worldbuilding questions incorporating folklore, not any of these meta-canon questions that are essentially asking for cultural trends. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ But you do touch on the core point, "Vampires", "Jedi", "Yokai" all are too ill defined to be good asks on their own. Folklore is a meta-canon. Askers need to collapse their Q down to their specific canon. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ That's my exact point! Someone simply asking about vampires, period, has not supplied enough details for anyone to respond with a suitable answer. I am not suggesting anyone can ask about vampires, period. I'm saying that the process of making vampires specific, of interpreting myths and ironing out cultural trends into facts, is doing worldbuilding and creation. And asking about the resultant creation should be fair game. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:20
  • $\begingroup$ We should never reject a question because they're asking about a vampire, but they need to ask a question not about their specific vampires, rather than the meta-canon of vampires. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ The only difference I see between 3rd party worlds and myths is that there's less of a label that needs to be filed off, to establish the question as existing in your world specifically. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ What I'm opposed to is JBH suggesting that we should not use the word dragon or vampire but file the serial numbers off and essentially ban those words, in favour of dragon-like-creature the way we don't say lightsaber but we do say lightsaber-like-weapon. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ And I think they are different in that a question asking for something about their vampires, while perhaps not doing enough groundwork for an answer to be objective, should by default be treated as underspecified and needs-details; instead of off-topic. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ You start off with the statement that questions involving myths are by default "ask[ing] us to rule on canon or meta-canon" when I think that by default someone has done an interpretation of myth, and perhaps an insufficient one. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think that's what JBH intends. I'd suggest getting in a chat with him and asking him to clarify. Regarding ACS I think we should nuke the format and the supporting infrastructure. Then allow for people to ask questions about anatomy, specific to whatever creatures they have in their world, with some emphasis that they shouldn't be trying to revive the ACS format and ask about an "Anatomically correct Yggdrassil". $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ Creature design is still on-topic, is it not? I agree with ACS as it currently stands to be a bad format because it lets people put out creature specifications with no other research into evolution, but that would be a bad question no matter whether it's about the Chupacabra or a new creature called a Floppydoodle. Creature design should lay more groundwork but with groundwork it can be viable no matter whether the creature is unique or named after something from folklore. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm It really depends on the specific ask. Note above that I don't think any myth is automatically off topic, but I do think that you need to be precise with the format of your ask so that you're asking us to solve a specific problem you're having. If you wanted to write a Star Trek fic about Kirk and Spock getting trapped on the planet of the Kitsune and need help building the world, that's great, just structure your ask so that we don't need knowledge of Star Trek, or Kitsune, to answer it. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ On WB the easiest way to do this is file off the labels. For instance if you want your Kitsune to actually be shape shifting sentient blobs of protein, we don't want commentary or answers that say "Your Kitsune don't follow canon". $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 14:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The various close reasons, are just useful buckets, It's often the case that multiple close reason are all valid. Best thing to do is clearly describe the specific issues with the Q when closing so that people can make the appropriate changes. We wouldn't reopen a question that was edited to be specific but is no-longer about worldbuilding. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 15:06

Oh, What a Can of Worms We Weave!

Some points to consider: As I understand it, the ACS became a way to legitimise asking queries about the natural evolution of real world mythological creatures, for use within a fictional world and specifically barred asking about mythological creatures from third party fictional worlds.

Also as I understand it, the present proposal would terminate the ACS as a viable sub-forum within WB.SE. While existing queries would be archived, no new questions should be entertained.

When it comes to mythology and folklore (in general) and the creatures and peoples that populate those domains of human experience (in specific), we have to understand that these creatures, while not "real" in the sense of a physical manifestation; however, they are absolutely real as mythic or metaphysical manifestations.

Mythology is the science that treats of myth, what myth means, and what mythic time, space, history and nature are as real objects within the human experience. In this sense, myths and mythology are no different than metals and chemistry. Both have a place within the art of worldbuilding.

Mythic and folkloric reality --- the geography, history, populations, ecologies, etc of mythological places --- are not "third party intellectual properties". They do not belong to a specific named individual writer or artist or a corporation as intellectual property. They belong to the deposit of human culture and experience. But neither are myth and folklore "fictional worlds". They are not considered 'constructed' or 'devised' in the way we tend to think of when speaking of 'building a world'. They are simply a part of the human experience and are thus as "real world" as tidal forces, bears, and orbital mechanics.

What the Proposal Means: Because mythological creatures --- real world creatures that inhabit real human mythological realms of space and time --- are at present "exempt" from the usual rules of WB.SE, we're able to ask about their physical evolution here the way we might ask about bird evolution. If the proposal be accepted, then this exemption shall expire. We must make it clear in the ACS page that the sub-forum is CLOSED. Any question that would have been entertained via the ACS ought to be immediately closed. Mod-hammer closure would be best, perhaps, until the dust settles.

But, if mythology is a science like chemistry, and we can ask about the properties of metals, why can we no longer ask about the properties of a creature like Pegasus? Herein lies part of the problem. While you could no longer ask about the evolution of Pegasus, nothing stops you from asking about the evolution of a "winged horse".

The Answer to Your Question: I'd argue that the answer to your question is both yes and no. As is often the case!

  • Questions of mythical creatures as mythical creatures are off topic (We do have a sister forum that handles queries about mythology and folklore!)
  • Questions of the origins, form, mechanics, psychology, evolution, behaviour, etc of mythical creatures as mythical creatures are off topic.
  • Questions of real world mythological creatures or peoples as they might exist within a fictional world and provided that fictional world context is made plain are on topic (For the same reason we entertain queries that involve other real world sciences and the things they study like chemistry, physics, biology, linguistics, theology, etc.)
  • Questions about the origins, form, mechanics, phsychology, evolution, behaviour, etc of fictional creatures, of which a real world mythical creature might be seen as a type, are on topic ("Winged horse" vs "Pegasus")

What Your Proposal Means: I concur with your proposal given that it is made clear that it is not a "real world question" about real world mythology. A question about mythology or mythological creatures specifically has to a) include sufficient fictional context that it can't be mistaken for a real world mythic creature and b) must focus on the fictional world and how the creature fits within the lore of the fictional world.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't personally agree with "they are absolutely real as mythic or metaphysical manifestations". Real things have properties, and mythical constructs have contradictory properties. Depending on the record, Tlaloc is the abstract force of Teotl as it reveals itself in the rain; or a tangible super-human who is the literal father of Huixtocihuatl. It's even more obvious with dragon tales where they have varying numbers of limbs. And the study of mythology is a fair science but they would never claim that every tale is tale perfectly coherent... $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ ...that would be disingenuous because the whole reason these records can be less consistent than the X-Men canon is because they were written indendendently, at different times (often separated by centuries), by different people, for different purposes. So I don't even know how you could say a mythical being has any properties at all. I would say a mythical being has conventions, not properties. Thus I would not say that a myth is equivalent to a real world creature; but that it is equivalent to a genre. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 8:27
  • $\begingroup$ That being said we agree that a question that treats a vampire as a real thing (whether out of personal belief, or because they want to ask for popular conventions about vampires rather than make a vampire of their own) is off-topic. So I think we agree on outcome, just maybe not on the terminology to get there. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 8:27
  • $\begingroup$ I also had to read your last two bullet points very carefully. "real world mythological creatures or peoples as they might exist within a fictional world and provided that fictional world context is made plain" - I hope I'm not straining at gnats here as JBH like to call it, but I really need to know what counts as "fictional world" for this phrase. The whole genre of urban fantasy plays in a world like ours except for a handful of differences, so "Our world but it has vampires" is a setting of many stories. Does that also count as a "fictional world" for your purposes? $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 8:41
  • $\begingroup$ If I understand the third as I'd like to understand it, then... we kinda agree on the fourth. If I want to ask about a creature without giving too many specifics, like if I want to know what role pegasus cavalry would play in WWI dogfights and don't want to specify whether the creatures prefer grass or hay, then maybe winged horses would be a clearer way to phrase it. I also believe "my pegasi" would probably suffice in the same case. Make clear that you are talking about a creature of your own design, even if you don't supply the whole design. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ As it relates to ACS; the average ACS query gives no (real or fictional) world context and also shows practically no research effort into evolution, it is just a list of creature details and an encouragement for answerers to go wild with it. I would personally not say that ACS legitimises mythical creatures, because that kind of question when asked about a Floppydoodle with no mythical backing would be closed in an instant. Rather it is a format involving mythical creatures that legitimises plain idea-fishing. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 9:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Six consecutive comments on one answer, that's a new personal record ^^; $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 21, 2022 at 9:25
  • $\begingroup$ 1 & 2. I don't personally... Having contradictory properties isn't really a problem. My point is simply that the people, things, places, and etc of mythology have properties the way other things of the real world do and thus pertain to the real world. Whether myths and folktales are coherent or not is neither here nor there. For the purpose of this query, mythological creatures are on-topic because of the ACS; folklore is not a third party world because it wasn't consciously created by a specific author as a work of fantasy or sci-fi. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Jul 30, 2022 at 6:25
  • $\begingroup$ 4. I had to read... A "fictional world" is nothing more and nothing less than the sort of construction that this forum deals with. My intent is not to argue what our forum is all about! So, yeah: fantasy worlds, sci-fi worlds, urban fantasy, alt-history, etc. --- @KeizerHarm $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Jul 30, 2022 at 6:31
  • $\begingroup$ 5. If I understand... You can give specifics or play coy! I think the distinction would be between asking how Pegasus, the mythological creature, might fit within a WWI air corps vs winged horses, donkeys, zebras, etc, fitting within a WWI air corps. As with any query, as much clarity as the querent can muster is always welcome! "My pegasi" is fine, as far as I'm concerned, so long as the querent makes clear what is meant by "pegasi". --- @KeizerHarm $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Jul 30, 2022 at 6:35
  • $\begingroup$ 6. As it relates... Correct. As I understand it, the ACS was founded, more or less, as a way to ask questions concerning mythological creatures' anatomy & physiology while getting around the problem of "questions about the real world" being off topic. I concur: it's pretty plain that these ACS questions are often quite low quality. I wouldn't agree about idea fishing, though. Well, no more idea fishing than any question here does! Even the worst of the ACS questions all boil down to "how does this creature fit together". --- @KeizerHarm $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Jul 30, 2022 at 6:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Then we agree in practise. My upvote of approval you shall receive. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 11:51

I agree with your part and Sphennings's, and, depending on the definitions used, JBH's too. Since putting a myth into a world we create is the act of creating one's own imaginary world, asking about such myth in this situation is on-topic per the definition of worldbuilding I use.

Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for writers, artists and others using science, geography and culture to construct imaginary worlds and settings.

From the tour

World building includes geography, culture and creatures for the world, not to mention magic and planetary physics, in short, everything from the physics underlying your reality to the entire universe you want to build.

From the help-center

Here are some additional notes however :

Worldbuilding Stack-exchange general rules still have to be followed

It's the word of caution when defining what is worldbuilding and what's not. You can be on-topic regarding worldbuilding, but you can be off-topic regarding the rules of this site. Therefore, you'll be closed if you don't ask a reasonably scoped question about a specific issue you have. There are plenty of details about this in the what can you ask and what you shouldn't ask sections of the help-center, so I won't push too much into details. It would be just rephrasing them.

Askers have to prove they're in the "art of making worlds"...

Then, you'll have to either prove that your issue can help making someone's world, or that it'll help you make your own world. What does this mean?

You can ask about folklore, but you have to give at the very least an hint you're not just studying a domain. In this case it would be studying something akin to legend studies, theology and mythological history.

If you're asking whether cyclopes in the Odyssey are all shepherds, this is the plain study of myths. Now then, if you ask if your cyclopes in the world and situation you're imagining would be all shepherds, you're actively creating a universe and thus, it's on-topic. You just have to prove that you're creating something, not asking something already established.

Asking plainly about vampires in Twillight, The Nemean lion zombies in Left-4-Dead, or elves in Lord of the ring without a direct potential in imagining a new world from the question are off-topic. And well, I guess there are better stack-exchanges for that : mythology SE, science-fiction & Fantasy...

... And we are ought to use the principle of charity, at least to an extent

There's one thing though... We do have to consider to use of the principle of charity. That is, take the interpretation of one's text which is the less ambiguous, more reasonable one1. Indeed, determining whether someone is asking about a real-world domain (geography, physics, ...) or not is already not easy. But it's even worse with folklore's :

  • New members haven't met people on this site and don't get all the rules (and sometimes oldies forget them, too 🐶), but -most of the time- they come to a worldbuilding site, to... Willy the well, build worlds (this point works with all domains).
  • As opposed to other domains, folklore, myths and legends are all varying from story-to-story and person-to-person, especially with non-written legends, making it much harder to say this question is asking specifically about cyclopes in the Odyssey, not just an heavy inspiration from it.
  • And as icing on the lying cake, myths, folklore and legends are a very common inspiration for many, many artists. Be it old legends (Hydras, chucapabras, kamis...) or "modern" ones (vampires, zombies, dwarves and elves...), you'll find them a lot being asked because people want them in their own work.

The last two points mean it is harder to consider a myth question to be off-topic than questions in other domains like physics or biology. This doesn't mean that other closure reasons (lacking details, focus, story-based, opinion-based...) should be banned because being off-topic is harder! Closure reasons can overlap, but they are independent. So unless the asker's intent is very clear, it can be more reasonable to avoid choosing off-topic as a closure reason, whether it is the only one that could apply or if they're one of many possible.

1 : This was what Otkin used when reviewing questions, back at the time, and it's a pretty neat concept when reviewing.


I believe my answer and Spennings' answer are fundamentally identical. But as the person who wrote the linked question about the continuation of the ACS, I wanted to include my two cents.

The problem isn't the idea of myths, it's the fact of myths

The problem with 3rd party and commercial worlds has never been the ideas they contain. The problem is we do not help build 3rd party or commercial worlds. We help you, the poster of a question, to build a fictional world of your own creation. If somebody else created the world, it's not yours to build.

But we've always helped people build their worlds to incorporate ideas from 3rd party or commercial worlds.

On-Topic: I would like to include Star Wars-style light sabers in my world. Given the following list of rules, conditions, and restrictions in my world, how could I justify and explain something like a light saber?

Off-Topic: How does a light saber work? (Implies, "how does a light saber work inside the Star Wars universe?" or, worse, "how does a light saber work in the Real World?")

Human mythology is based in a public-domain 3rd party world

But it's still a 3rd party world. We're happy to help querents to implement (as an example) the idea of vampires inside the structure of their world. But asking how to justify the myth of a vampire in the context of the Real World is off-topic.

It's not the querent's world.

I entirely reject the belief that an idea must have a single individual who is accountable for the creation and/or modification of an idea to justify that it's his or her idea. Just because an idea is so old that it's in the public domain, just because the "owner" is "humanity," just because we can't conveniently ask someone how their world could or should be modified, doesn't change the nature of the problem.

It's not the querent's world.

No one is saying that myths are off-topic. What the referenced ACS Meta post is asking for is to delegitimize asking an off-topic question about a 3rd party world.

If you want to implement the idea of vampirism in your world, great! That's exactly the question we like to answer! But if you want us to explain how a vampire could exist in the Real World.

It's not the querent's world.

Finally, the moderator's ruling about real world questions does not provide a loophole for asking questions about Real World myths. We do not answer questions about 3rd party or commercial worlds. And that includes the Real World.

It's not the querent's world.1

We will answer Real World questions to further our goal of helping querent's build fictional worlds of their own creation. But we do not answer Real World questions for the purpose of realizing something in the Real World.

ACS-style questions about human mythology have always been off-topic. They were legitimized by the original ACS meta post. I'm asking in the linked question to delegitimize ACS-style questions and return them to their native state because the privilege is abused.2

But what really bothers me about this post is that it's nothing more than a way of permitting the ACS abuses to continue. What's the point of asking to shut down the ACS if we're going to simply re-legitimize the questions in another Meta post?

Policy Proposal: The Real World is a 3rd party world, and that includes its mythology. Human mythology asked in the context of the Real World (aka, asking for an "anatomically correct" vampire based only on the rules of the Real World and its mythology) is off-topic.

1I'm sure you'll agree that it's unbelievably annoying for me to repeat that phrase so many times. But it appears there are some people who don't want to be restricted by it.

2I had to VTC yet another ACS question only yesterday as a duplicate. Reviewing the querent's list of questions posted on Main reveals more than 50% of the questions that user asks are ACS questions—and more than 50% of those get closed. Enough already, but that's a discussion for the other question.

  • $\begingroup$ Please clarify and specify world ownership for me; what kind of ownership are we talking about? Legal, practical, moral? It is really something I need clarified. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm you're straining at a gnat, and it's irritating. You didn't create the Real World <needs citation> and we have a policy that we only answer questions about worlds you did create. Period. So, what's the definition? If you can't prove you created it, it's not yours to claim ownership. The fact that someone can't specifically identify a person who could claim ownership is irrelevant. Its... not... your... world.... $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ I cannot pay your points any respect if you refuse to clarify them and instead just repeat them. I literally cannot. I made a whole table about different points of contention regarding 3rd-party worlds and how authoritative control, legal control, control over the canon, do not apply to myths. And rather than respond to anything you just say "Not your world". What kind of ownership are you talking about that means you can simply ignore any effort I put into this and only repeat yourself, and expect that to be enough? What... did... I... mis?? $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ If your concept of ownership is as simple as "Whoever first created it", tell me that! If so I have arguments for that. But if you refuse to clarify then I cannot respond. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ I can respond to other parts of this. You say you are fine with "vampire" the idea, not specific vampires. My point is really that the concept of vampire the idea far outweighs any specific conceptions and that seeking to build directly from that idea, as part of the process of making things into a bespoke adaptation, is just as fine as building from an idea you thought up five minutes ago. And because you don't clarify ownership I have no idea if that line of thought runs afoul of "not the querent's world" or not. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ What... you... are... missing... is that the only definition of "ownership" that matters is whether or not the person asking the question owns it. All other issues are entirely irrelevant. I'm not responding to this line of reasoning again. You're just trolling. It doesn't matter in what context you DON'T own something. The fact that you DON'T own a world means you can't ask questions to expand that world. Conversation over. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 17:24
  • $\begingroup$ "the only definition of "ownership" that matters is whether or not the person asking the question owns it." Can't you see that that's circular reasoning? $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm If it can help feeding the thoughts... I doubt someone as in "an moral or physical individual" can claim ownership of a myth using any standard definition. Therefore, "it's not your myth", at most it's "your record of the myth". As such, you don't need to have an accurate definition of ownership. [...] $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ I'd argue that the act of creating a world by it's very nature makes it something you own. It may be derivative but it's still yours. We don't care about the legality of knockoffs, just that if you're relying on 3rd party sources, you run the risk of underspecifying your question. Don't ask about elves, ask us about your elves, don't ask us about Skrulls, ask us about your Skrull knockoffs, don't ask us about Kami, ask us about your Kami. Regardless of what you're asking about you need to specify how things work in your world for it to be a good question. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 18:11
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ As a reviewer it's much easier to say don't ask about 3rd party worlds, than it is to derive why 3rd party asks are problematic from first principals every time you leave a VTC comment. So we created a useful shorthand. "Don't ask about 3rd party worlds" It's the same with the story based VTC reason. It is derivable from the SE defaults, (story questions are entirely based in opinion), but it's much easier to just say "don't ask about plot details. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 18:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ We also wouldn't give any author a pass for asking about a world that they own. They would still need to specify just like anyone else. If Rowling asked us a question about house elves without specifying how they work in her world, we'd VTC for the exact same reason as anyone else asking the same Q about house elves. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 18:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH So vampires exist in the real-world then? Because "my world [with vampires, I imagine] is just like the real world". There's definitely a need to clarify things here ^^. Not really on ownership (though I agree it's better to define the terms), but on the place of legends as inside a world, as a world-itself or as a depiction of a world. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 18:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH As I said to KeizerHarm I think we're all pretty much in agreement on how to draw the line between what is OK and should be permitted, and what's problematic, and should be closed. They're not a fan of categorizing the closure as "off topic" which seems unrelated to this Q or the ACS Q. That should probably be examined somewhere other than this comment thread. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 19:02
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Tortliena It's pretty clear that whether something is or isn't 3rd party does not matter. The core problem exists in Qs that aren't 3rd party. We don't care whether someone is asking about a story, trope, myth, or real world. If they're asking about that as opposed to a fictional world that they're building, then they're not building a fictional world, which is definitely off topic. If they're building their own knockoff based on a story, trope, myth, or the real world, regardless of their source of inspiration they need to make sure all relevant details are well specified. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 19:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @sphennings, We agree on this :). That's the study of mythology and folklore. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 19:10

I will very simply open with a complete agreement with the OP, and expound a bit to say that there are entirely too many words being bandied about for what should be a simple metric: Is the question building a world for the OP of for a third party? That is the line we have decided to draw.

As this applies to the ACS creatures, an answerer must decide if ownership of the WORLD the creature occupies is clear in the question. As JBH notes we can’t force querents into wordsmith acrobatics to avoid the letter of the law when all they want to to is respect the SE policy of scannable questions. Adjectivizing should not be punished, it should be encouraged. What does that mean? It means that a post which uses “google” as an verb instead of “conduct a large-scale Internet search using a widely-deployed search engine” should not be chastised for thrird party world violations. Nor should people who want to describe “a short cutting tool which uses an intense beam of light with a short range of effect” and put the third-party word “light sabre” in there. They used the word “light sabre” because that saves hundreds of words, not because they want to intrude on George Lucas’ turf. Now, back to the ACS, this applies extremely well here. Myths are nouns and adjective which communicate a vast amount of information. The word “vampire” is densely packed with adjectives! Undead, Sun-averse, Immortal, Nocturnal, Human, Blood-drinking, hypnotic, shape-shifting into bats, superhumanly-strong, etc.If you own your own world, and you want a creature with those qualities, then LET them use the stupid word “vampire” for crying out loud so we can scan the question! The test is extremely simple: Who owns the world? Third-party is off-topic. Your world? Go ahead!

Adjectivizing is not a crime

I need to briefly vote on a “policy recommendation” to treat “anatomically correct vampires” as off topic. Um, No. Please PLEASE follow this to the logical conclusion, for the love of all things carpal-tunnel! What this policy means is that adjectives are a crime, and you create the following bifurcation:

To the point,

We want THIS to be Illegal:

  • Q.1) I want vampires in my world! (Oh! What audacity!!)

For the obvious purpose of encouraging members to do this, Legally:

  • Q.1) I want creatures which drink blood, like, umm, a mosquito? Can I say mosquito on this site?
  • Q.2) Now I want a creature that is hurt by sunlight! Oh, and it’s the same creature as Q.1, so read that up.
  • Q.3) OK, Now, I want this creature to be immortal. And it’s the same one as Q.1 and Q.2.
  • Q.4) Almost done! I want the creature in Q.1, 2, and 3 to be able to shape-shift into a bat.
  • Q.5) Thank you all for your patience… but where did everyone go? Can my creature… the one from Q.1,2,3, and 4, have a weakness to wooden stakes? How is that possible please?
  • Q.6) OK, I am REALLY sorry for being so wordy, but, well, you know the law! Can you please read questions 1,2,3,4, and 5 and now tell me how this creature can have some sort of hypnotic ability that it uses to trap its food?
  • Q.7) Now there is ONE tiny other little descriptor here. Please read all of Q.1,2,3,4,5, and 6, and tell me how this creature can not cast a reflection in a mirror, and my world will be complete!

This has spun into madness now

Obviously I am leading into a world of my own creation, named Hell. As it turns out, Hell is VERY hard to describe. But worse yet, it’s proprietors are even more so by several orders of magnitude. Nonetheless, in designing my world, like every good author, I cheated. I leveraged other people’s research and creativity to connect with my audience. I needed a place of pure evil that was within our own solar system. Many mythical places exist. So I thought about it.

Could I have Wookie-like aliens? No, nor scary enough. Not local enough.

Could I have Vogons? They are evil, to be sure, but not really locals.

Well, in the end I chose to model my world after Lovecraftian (Oops! I just adjectivised again!) lore, without incorporating ANY of his concepts. I decided that my uber-scary critters needed to make your skin absolutely crawl, like the Mi-Go, but very obviously NOT the Mi-Go.

Oh the flurry of accusations that railed against me! It made it so very obvious that Lovecraft books are picked up more often in here than demolition orders posted in Alpha Centauri!

Let’s be clear: If you do NOT even know the fundamentals of the third-party world in question, respectfully decline to comment? The “all mythical adjectives are third party” rule is the lazy moderator’s excuse to intimidate creativity (or exponentially increase server load?)

An example is in order here, drawing off Lovecraft. Now, Lovecraft was himself inspired by the new discovery of a far-off mysterious planet named “Pluto” on February 18, 1930. It took him less than a year to put all that newspaper buzz to work for him and fill Pluto (he never actually called Yuugoth ‘Pluto’, to be fair, but we all knew what he meant) with the nastiest, most horrifying creatures, who worship such evil denizens as Yog-Sothoth, Nyarlathotep, Sedmelluq and Shub-Niggurath. These fungus-like hyper-intelligent beings pawn from incantations in the Necrimonicon, and are formed of a matter which is not found anywhere on earth, and cannot be captured on film! They have the horrific habit of coming to your town and trap you brain in a vat for eternity, where you are kept still alive and conscious!

Now I ask you, if this third-party world of Lovecraft’s had concepts that could be used as adjectives, what harm is there in that? As I said at the opening, we WANT queries to be concise. And we WANT to judge a query based on the ownership of the WORLD, not the parallel concepts it may share with extant societal myths and legends. Pluto is a REAL world concept, that Lovecraft leveraged to get the attention of his audience. He used a common descriptor to connect his images to their consciousness. No different than us telling someone to “google it.”

Now that I have been forced to elucidate what the word “Lovecraftian” means with respect to the Mi-Go (derived from the Tibetan word for yeti), cna anyone REALLY argue that my incarnation of a Mi-Go-like creature is somehow “H. P. Lovecraft’s World”? Surely, I have no gods. I have no necrinomicon. I have no Yuggoth, or aether. And very specifically, these creatures are in FACT made of common matter, and greatly regard the laws of physics that his creatures often ignore. I used Mi-Go as an adjective, that is my only crime. The same crime that “dragon-like” and “vampire-like” and “ghost-like” and “Klingon-like” querents have used. My crime is the sin of scannability.

Do not do this evil thing!

  • $\begingroup$ Is the question building a world for the OP of for a third party? Is it o"r" or o"f"? The meaning's totally different x). $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 6:16
  • $\begingroup$ I'll just point that in the alternative "long-way" Q1 to Q7 are better suited than Q1's "short way", because they each deal with a specific detail of said 'not-a-vampire' creature. Asking about all of them at once make the issue much less specific. In fact you don't need to redetail everything that was told before for Q2 and on-forward, only important stuff like "humanoid" and "night-living haematophagous". $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 6:22
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The vast majority of suggested edits I proposed to your Mi-Go question had nothing to do with removing either the word Lovecraft or Mi-Go from the question. Fundamentally saying "I want X in my world" isn't a good question, whether it's vampires, Jedi or FTL. If you say "X is in my world", you could be done. You need to ask for a more specific question, which means telling us about the facts you have already established about your version of X. But asking us to "make a vampire for you" has been and will always be a bad ask regardless of what you call the critter. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ Names were never the issue. Properly defining your version of a thing and asking specific, questions about only your thing. Is a requirement on this site. "Do Vampires sparkle?" isn't a good ask, but "My vampires have nano-diamonds in their skin (it's the source of their invulnerability) would this make them sparkle in sunlight?" is. This is similar to how you can't ask "How do I program X?" on SO but you can share a minimal reproducible example of the problem you're having programming X and ask for help getting it to work. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 22, 2022 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings you are absolutely correct, I am not ignoring you. Had I asked the community to make a Mi-Go I would have no argument. I did not ask for any canonical creature to be designed, however. My query can NOT in fact be answered from any extant canon. Mr. Lovecraft could NOT possibly answer my query even if he were alive, because Hell isn't C'thulu. In every sense, the world of "Hell" is a piece of Vogon Poetry. A poster wanting an "alligator-like" creature is NOT invading on William Shakespeare's canon just because he coined the word alligator in Romeo and Juliet! $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Jul 23, 2022 at 23:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Note how your MI-Go question has other issues with it than that it is asking about the works of Lovecraft. But when determining question closure it does not matter whether an adjudicator of canon can answer a question or not. The novel standard of review you're applying is an incorrect interpretation of site policy. Furthermore the form of your question is fundamentally lacking so even if we applied your standard of review to determine whether the question is on topic it would still be closed as I have described in the comments of the question itself. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 0:31
  • $\begingroup$ I will address those in due time. TY $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 1:05

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