Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery

...and everyone does it.

I have been badgered quite heavily with accusation that inserting "Mi-Go-like" creatures into my world somehow forfeit's my ownership of my own world, on the premise that "I did not conceive the Mi-Go." This to me is ridiculous. Beyond ridiculous, in fact. And this is not a single question issue; this attack is being levied against all forms of extant concepts from elves to vampires to dragons.

The allegation goes, from my best understanding, that if you have a thing/creature/place in your world which has been derived from an existing thing/creature/place, then you do not own that world (it is not your idea).

Try to follow this logic, as posted by the one accusing me of "building someone else's world:"

1. The goal of this site has always been focused on helping someone build a world of their own creation - not somebody else's world.

Fair enough. "Ownership" decides fitness on this site. And then, we have:

2. Just because you're taking somebody else's idea and inserting it into your world doesn't change the fact that it's not your idea.

Fair again. Not my idea. Darth Vader was not George Lucas' idea. Avatar was not James Cameron's idea. Ents were not Tolkien's idea. It goes on, we agree. The poster's point is the Mi-Go, from H. P. Lovecraft, are not my idea. All points agreed so far.

But now we stray into a some strange logic. Here was the conclusion of the comment:

3. The issue isn't that someone might hold the rights to Lovecraft's work. The issue is that it's not your work.

Wow? To be clear, they are referring to this world, Hell, which I created on this site. It is "not my world" now. OK, so the formula here seems to be,

ownership of "the idea" = ownership of "the world."

Therefore, incorporating any extant "ideas" into a work on this site, fails the "No Third-Party World building" test.

This means, that among the 18,900,000 estimated works of English-language fiction, WBSE members can not recycle any of those ideas on this site. Of course, this does apply to every other language as well, and to game worlds, virtual worlds, etc. We can assume there are possibly 50,000,000 "worlds" that contain hundreds or thousands of "ideas" each, which are "off topic" for this site.


Example scenario: "I want a race of ursoid warriors, that are basically 8-foot tall teddy bears. But how can they hold a sword?"

Now, most people will think this is a perfectly fine question. But this one person, who claim that "Ideas" convey ownership, would ban close this question as off-topic. Why? Because author E. W. Finch already created a warrior race of bears, called the Osmani, and has had them in print for many years. The copyrights are still wholly owned by Mr. Finch and son. An excerpt:

The Seeker’s new orders were the oddest he had ever heard of. They assigned four midshipman and an Osmani Ambassador to a working Scout ship. Yet the Lane had enough experience with the inner workings of the Corps to see a little deeper. Everyone with close personal contact with the ursoid had been assigned to the same small ship. Lane suspected that this was the Admiralty’s way of controlling information about Arnog and his adventures with the Scout Corps. Someone higher up was taking an interest in the Seeker and her crew...

Wesley tried to teach Arnog gunnery skill, but that failed at first. He didn’t fit inside the turret. Instead, they went to gunnery control on the bridge, still a tight fit, and learned to use the targeting computer there. With only a few hours practice, the ursoid didn’t really have the knowledge to be a functional gunner, but it was a start.

Each of the crew went through their primary skills. Nas showed Arnog how to use the communicator. Chief Harvin showed him some basic skills with tools. Press showed him how to use a cutlass and found the bear was already quite good with a blade. That skill, coupled with the strength of three men, would make Arnog a formidable foe in any sword combat. The problem was finding a blade the right length and strong enough for him to use. He ended up choosing a two handed broadsword – one he easily grasped with a single hand.

p. 58, Star Seeker: The Nexus Nightmare, (c) E. W. Finch, used with permission.

Do you see the can of worms he has opened?

How is this burden even possible? How do we police "Ideas" and "concepts" so they don't get built on this site, the way every other major author builds ideas? Do we exclude every single trope that's ever been used as well?

The answer is, we do NOT police "ideas" on this site.

Yes, a concept may be too broad to explain a single problem. Yes, a concept may contain too many questions if used alone. But no, it's 3rd party origination does not disqualify it for worldbuilding here.

Ideas are never "third party worlds" and in fact they are very rarely original. For example, both J. R. R. Tolkien's and C. S. Lewis' worlds are knock-offs of George MacDonald. Avatar, the whole story, is Dances With Wolves and Neytiri is Stands With a Fist, amputee soldier Jake Sully who recovers his leg through the 'avatar' is amputee Lieutennant John Dunbar who barely escaped leg amputation. The Star Wars franchise has almost no original content at all, it is simply a retelling of Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon. Darth Vader is Ming the Merciless. 'Cloud City' is 'Sky City'. The city's ruler, Lando Calrissian is Prince Vultan, who even won the city in a gambling bet just like Vultan, and has a crush on the leading Lady (Princess Leia / Dale Arden), and is subservient to the evil empire (Vader/Ming). The undersea city of Otoh Gunga is the Undersea City and its ruler King Rugor Nass is King Kala. Every Star Wars idea was created by Alex Raymond. But who "owns" the worlds of Cloud City, Otoh Gungam, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, the Death Star, and every other knock-off? They are firmly George Lucas' worlds. Every episode of Star Trek is a knock-off of something popular at the time. The Kradin are the Yautia (Predator). Star Trek: Discovery's new Klingon clans are all inspired by ancient Earth civilizations, and the first Klingons were Soviets. Now, The Orville is a knock-off of Star Trek. Put a "Sky-city-like" city in your world and it is still YOUR world. Put a light-sabre-like sword in your world and it is still YOUR world. Put a Predator-like creature in your world and it is still YOUR world. Put a Mi-Go like creature into your world and it is still YOUR world.

No, go down this road and the whole site can just turn off its servers and shut down. There will be no original "ideas" or concepts once our "Idea police" start going to the library and digest the millions of worlds out there. But hey, I am just one opinion. I have done the hard work of building a creature from scratch. I am not being lazy here. But if there were any world outside which did have a jet-propelled squid, everyone's workload would be lighter if I just referenced that. I have painstakingly built worlds, cities, and aliens. This isn't asking for a shortcut. It's about having a sane policy, and just making descriptors and ideas that inspire creativity legal.

Should worlds containing "Ideas/Concepts/Tropes" that have at any point been used in other worlds be closed as "off-topic" for WBSE?

  • $\begingroup$ Wasn't your previous question or the two latest questions enough to understand? There's enough talks lately I'm not sure it's useful to dig again the topic of... being off-topic ;p. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2022 at 1:54

3 Answers 3


You seem to be missing the points that have been made to you repeatedly about site policy in the past week.


You are fundamentally mistaken about our 3rd party world policy. It does not mean that if something exists in a 3rd party world you can't reference it on this site in any way. To quote Monica Cellio from the initial discussion formalizing our the 3rd party worlds policy.

This site is for questions about building worlds, not questions about how others' worlds work. Now very few ideas are completely original, so your world might use elements from, or derived from, other worlds, but there's a key difference: If you ask "how does a lightsabre work in Star Wars", the only authoritative answers come from the Star Wars canon. If, instead, you want lightsabres in your world and ask "how can I power my lightsabres given (constraints)", that's a worldbuilding question that will likely get answers that have nothing to do with the Star Wars canon.

Ask questions about your world. If you've borrowed ideas that's fine, but the focus is on your world, not what another author intended.

In this question and the one you asked yesterday you seem hung up on the idea of ownership. We do not care about ownership. We care that you're building a fictional world. When someone asks about a 3rd party world the problem has always been that the ask isn't building a world. Similar to how speculation about real world biology is not permitted on this site, but asking about biology within a world you're building, is the bread and butter of this site. It's not that your don't own the real world, it's that to ask about the real world is not about world building.

The goal of this site has always been focused on helping someone build a world of their own creation - not somebody else's world.

You cannot build someone else's world. This isn't site policy, it's a fact of worldbuilding. If you try to establish a fact about the Star Wars universe, it may exist in your head canon but your head canon is a distinct world from canon Star Wars, and every other fan's head canon. If it's not your world at best you can fork it, and will then need to establish how your world diverges. When we ask "Should this question be asked here?" we're looking for questions about worldbuilding not speculation. Unlike what you seem to think the key distinction is build not own.

Just because you're taking somebody else's idea and inserting it into your world doesn't change the fact that it's not your idea.

We don't care who owns ideas. We don't police ownership. In fact it is site policy to encourage people "filing off the labels" as a way of working around the 3rd party world policy. What we care about is that you're building a world not speculating about the idea. Lightsaber is trademarked by Lucasfilm. We forbid you from asking about the lightsabers generally, because that wouldn't be building a world. We do permit you to ask for help establishing facts about lightsabers in your world.

The whole reason we have a policy against 3rd party worlds is because asking about a 3rd party world is not world building. Getting inspired and incorporating cool ideas into your world is at the heart of what worldbuilders do. Everything else is just troubleshooting. Stealing ideas is great. Everything has already been worked out for you, nothing to ask us about. Making stolen ideas your own is even better. You may have some issues getting everything working right together. We'd love to help you with that.

The issue isn't that someone might hold the rights to Lovecraft's work. The issue is that it's not your work.

This is patently false. You can ask about ideas that do not come from yourself. Everything is a remix, nothing is truly original. What we require is that you ask about ideas solely within the context of establishing facts about the world that you are building. In the Lovecraft Mythos there are two distinct descriptions of the elder sign, If you wanted to ask about elder signs, you would need to decide what shape (or shapes) the elder sign has in your world.

The implications of all this is that when dealing with ambiguous source material you need to decide unambiguously what is true in your world. For instance if your world has elves, you need to decide exactly what elves are in your world, before you can ask us questions about your elves. Once you do that it doesn't matter if your elves are exactly like some other worlds elves. You've established the rules of your world, and provided you follow site policy about the form of the question, you can ask as many questions you want to help you establish more facts of your world.

The edits you've made to the Mi-Go question still leave you with a post that isn't a good fit. As has been said multiple times your current question runs fowl of our policy forbidding questions asking for brainstorming or generating ideas. It has been closed as off topic, but with the edits you've made it is still not suitable for reopening.

Once a question is closed the displayed reason for closure is fixed as the reason with the most votes, alternate reasons are discarded. The standard for reopening is "In it's current form would you vote to leave open if you saw it in the VTC queue" not "is the stated close reason resolved?" Until you resolve every issue with your question it will remain closed.

None of this has to do with the fact that you're asking about an idea, concept or trope, that has been used in another world. Search this site and I think you'll find that there isn't a single question that isn't asking about one or more ideas concepts or tropes that have been used in another world. If you read the post where the restrictions on questions about 3rd party worlds were discussed and adopted, you can see that there never was.

Multiple pathways to resolve your question's current issues have been suggested. None of the suggestions would have changed your question to not contain ideas, concepts or tropes that have been used in other worlds. However instead of making the edits necessary to reopen the question you've asked multiple meta questions and argued with pretty much every active meta user. This disruptive behavior in the face of clearly communicated opportunities for recourse isn't a good look. It's hard assume positive intent when the standard for review of questions has been explained multiple times within the past 24 hours, and you post another confrontational post that could be answered simply by reading the help center

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, but what is this here for? I am not making a meta post to open a specific question? I’ve commented to you that I have understood all of your concerns. But here it is again: I get it. The question isn’t fixed. I am not asking to open it (it’s probably headed to the sandbox). This question is explained in the title. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Jul 24, 2022 at 2:54
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ As I say above 1. "There are very few topics that are truly off topic for this site." 2. "Search this site and I think you'll find that there isn't a single question that isn't asking about one or more ideas concepts or tropes that have been used in another world." It should be obvious that we don't have a policy of prohibiting questions asking about ideas concepts or tropes that exist in other works of fiction. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Jul 24, 2022 at 3:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet "This question is explained in the title." it's a wrong premise stated in the title. As this answer shows states multiple times. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Jul 27, 2022 at 10:28


That is all, really.

Ideas really aren't the issue, and this is simply a matter of nothing new under any sun. Borrowing an idea from an existing third party world is not a problem. As we dealt with in your other query, the problem has always been one of focus of the query.

Are you focusing on your own world? Or are you focusing on someone else's world?

Assessment: I read through your Mi-Go query, and quite frankly, I don't know quite what to make of it. You make a lot of reference to Lovecraft, which is a red flag. Not having read Lovecraft myself, it's very unclear to me where the dividing line is between your work and his.

I'd've closed your question for lack of clarity.

Conclusion: You obviously have the power to edit your post to make it conform to the ACS type of query. It's one thing to reference Lovecraft, it's another thing to mention his work in every paragraph.

Since you borrowed the idea of Mi-Go from Lovecraft, I'd suggest listing out all the major and pertinent congruences between Mi-Go and whatever your creatures are called. Then specify what you've done to make yours uniquely yours. Then edit out the constant Lovecraft references and replace them with references to your own world.

Lastly, I'd suggest breaking this down into two or three separate queries. Questions about environment, inability for artificial retinas to capture visual data and their need for other people's brains are are quite separate matters and deserve their own queries.

It seems to me that your question was closed for understandable reasons, all of which are easily addressed & fixable by you. Fix the problems and I'd happily vote to reopen!

I don't see where you're specifically being targeted or badgered. Right now, as you're aware, the whole ACS is under attack. To be honest: I think your question, even though it needs work, and even though it is not about a mythological creature, is likely to be actually better than many of the recent ACS queries that are about mythological creatures!


This issue has been beaten into the ground.

I like your statement that Ents weren't Tolkein's idea. Here's why: you're dead wrong.

Ents is also an ancient English word (for a giant); but the Ent of my world I suppose are entirely "original" creatures, so far as that can be said of any human work. If you like, they are a mythological form taken by my life long love for trees, with perhaps some remote influence from George MacDonald's Phantastes (a work I do not much like), and certainly a strong (twist?) given my deep disappointment with Shakespeare's MacBeth...” (From a letter to Mrs LM Cutts)

Thus, though I knew for years that Frodo would run into a tree-adventure somewhere far down the Great River, I have no recollection of inventing Ents. I came at last to the point, and wrote the 'Treebeard' chapter without any recollection of any previous thought: just as it now is. And then I saw that, of course, it had not happened to Frodo at all. (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Letter 180)

If you go far enough back and assume that Tolkien was inspired by tree-gods of humanity's ancient past and therefore our 3rd-party/commercial world rule is invalid. I can only but show you the door. We've drawn a pretty clear line, but yet again, let's hash through it.

You've posted a number of poorly-to-very-poorly received Meta posts grinding away at this issue. Here's the gist of it in relation to the post concerning an actual creature from H.P. Lovecraft's works.

The 3rd-party/commercial work rule is being investigated. Generally speaking, that rule has been expressed as: we will help you build your world, not someone else's world, with the caveat that we will help you incorporate a concept from someone else's world into your world based on your world's rules.

We have traditionally used the example of a Star Wars lightsaber. Let's keep that for a moment. We'll help you take the idea of a lightsaber and develop that idea in your world. In the end (and this is incredibly important) you don't have a lightsaber. What you have is something that reflects Lucas' idea, but in the end, it's your reinterpretation, your product, your concept. Lightsabers don't exist in your world, but something that reminds readers of Star Wars lightsabers does.

What the linked question tried to do was use someone else's creatures directly in their world. That crosses a line. They're not reinterpreting other than making what minor changes must be made to force them into their world. Or, worse, their world is too reflective of the other world such that it permits someone else's character to live within it.

No. That violates the 3rd-party/commercial world rule. You can't have Han Solo in your world. You can have a character that reflects the characteristics of a swashbuckling anti-hero (which you can find in numberless stories across the realm of human thought), but you can't call him Han Solo. You can't dress him like Han Solo. You can't duplicate the mannerisms of Han Solo. Han Solo belongs to someone else. We don't permit that. And this is reflected in my comments about the Mi-Go. The creature doesn't belong to the OP.

The 3rd-party/commercial rule allows people to be inspired by the stories, writing, characters, and world of another person — but it will never allow someone to plagiarize that other world.

  • $\begingroup$ It doesn't matter whether your world has Han Solo or a knockoff because both are characters and anything character related or dependent is not permitted on this site for being NAW. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Aug 1, 2022 at 3:06
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings 😏 That's an important point, but it doesn't reduce the value of using Han Solo as an example of the problem. We do allow creature-design. So we can use Lovecraft's Mi-Go or Tolkien's Ents with the same intent and the same effect for the discussion. One cannot have an Ent in their world because the creature "Ent" doesn't belong to you. But if you want a talking tree, we'll help you build that creature! But it won't be an Ent even if people are reminded of Ents when they read about it. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 1, 2022 at 3:11
  • $\begingroup$ Seems like the Monica quote indicates that what whether you reuse the name or not is irrelevant, just that you must clearly be building your world not speculating about an already built one. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Aug 1, 2022 at 3:16
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings That observation has already been lost. At that point we're infringing on copyright. The reason Dungeons & Dragons called their monster a "treant" and not an "ent" is because they actually did name it an Ent in their original game - and Tolkien's estate sued them and won. The essence of the rule must continue to reflect the ideal that people are building their own worlds and not extending (or cherry-picking) another's. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 1, 2022 at 3:20
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings Let's put it another way that I hope we'll agree on. Shakespeare brilliantly said "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" In our context, using a "rose" in your world when already used in another's is simply plagiarizing and violates the intent of our Stack. Because we're willing to help anyone take the idea of a rose and create (for the purpose of example) a jasmine. It's not a rose. In fact, it's only a "rose" from the perspective that it's also a flower. But it smells just as sweet (so long as you like the smell of jasmine) and doesn't plagiarize anything. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 1, 2022 at 3:22
  • $\begingroup$ I think it's even closer than that. Take a lightsaber, call it a lightsaber, but if you're asking about a lightsaber here, it must clearly not be speculation about star-wars and be a question related to getting your lightsaber to work in your world. Note the example from the Monica Quote. If an answer requires speculation about a 3rd party world it's not a good fit. If a poster has fixed the relevant details we don't care whether you call it a photon epee, or a lightsaber. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Aug 1, 2022 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH Likewise Lovecraft’s C’thulhu mythos got all the way to print in AD&D (resulting in some of the most valuable Monster Manuals ever). I know the rules. That’s why I don’t have Mi-Go in Hell. Mi-Go are from Yuggoth and serve Hastur or Tsagthoggua or Nyarlathotep, and mine rare earth elements. The electrons in their matter vibrate at a different frequency making them impossible to film, but visible to the eye. Thus, this claim is why you are “dead wrong:” “What the linked question tried to do was use someone else's creatures directly in their world.” I did nothing even remotely like that. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Aug 1, 2022 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet I have one of those Monster Manuals. And TSR lost the lawsuit, forcing them to remove the mythos. Thanks for making my point? You don't have "my Mi-Go." You have Lovecraft's Mi-Go that you're trying to crowbar into your story. If you want something that's "yours" you're welcome to base it on Lovecraft's Mi-Go, but you need to create something new. Unfortunately, using someone else's creatures in your world is exactly what you're trying to do. Otherwise you wouldn't have even used the superficiality of someone else's name. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 1, 2022 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings That's fair enough. Do you think that's what Vogon Poet did? Because he spends more time referencing Lovecraft than he does his own world in the "ACS" post. He even posts pictures of what people think Lovecraft's Mi-Go looks like. If it quacks like a duck.... $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 1, 2022 at 19:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JBH I feel the question fails to clearly be about OP's world rather than speculating about a 3rd party. OP also seems to want to ask 3 questions at once, and is looking for brainstorming and idea generation rather than asking a single specific question. Particularly damning is that OP mentions conflicting reports about the critter, rather than clarifying what the ground truth is for their world. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Aug 1, 2022 at 19:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet As I have said elsewhere, you seem to have some idea about how they move through space, if you took that, then asked us how they could power that propulsive method, you'd then have a decent ask for this site. Regardless of whether you're asking about a 3rd party world or not, asking us to brainstorm, generate ideas and build your creature for you is not permitted on this site. It's insufficient to tell us that you're not speculating about a 3rd party world, your question needs to actually be asking about your world in particular. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Aug 1, 2022 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings you really dislike Q’s about 3rd-party worlds, as do I. But this question just won’t die, even after several weeks ignoring my very simple question: Whose world is Hell? Obviously it’s not mine (the OP), but who, then, is this 3rd party? What if you answered that? All the typing you would have saved? I get it. Brainstorming questions like how to stay sane in bunkers need to be closed. But creatures with Space-flight? “Brainstorming?” Well, just shut the site down. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Aug 1, 2022 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet It doesn't matter who owns "Hell" or who the 3rd party is. It's insufficient to say "In my world" you need to make sure that the content of your question is clearly asking about your world not speculating. It's not the ask, it's how you are asking it. If you took ownership of the critter, and gave us a foundation to build our answers from it would be trivial to ask about how a space monster could be unphotographable. Please keep in mind that everyone has been telling you repeatedly that the ownership of the world is not the issue. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Aug 1, 2022 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ Whose world is Hell? To whose world do the Mi-Go belong? This issue has never been about your use of Hell. It has always been about your use of Lovecraft's creature. (Why on earth are we still debating this? Go change the name of the creature, change its basic attributes to reflect your world, then ask how to bring your creature into existence. Is this really that hard? Or are you that desperate to plagiarize Lovecraft's works?) $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 1, 2022 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH The creature never once had the name “Mi-Go,” so it is incomprehensibly hard to understand your problem here. Now, look to the title of this post, and see why “change its basic attributes to reflect your world” is so confusing. My creature flies through space, can’t be photographed, needs intellect, and runs my world Hell. Those IDEAS are not owned, and are not off-topic. I will not “change my lightsaber” so it is described differently than Lucas’. Because that’s silly. That’s wrong. The idea has no owner. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Aug 1, 2022 at 20:56

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