I am heavily influenced by the Myst-Series with this thought.
There, the D'Ni found a way to use write symbols into special books, which then would open a portal to the described world.

Of course this way is not an option for us. Can we however find a way (like a form to fill out) to ask if a specific world is stable (like in won't break, is suitable for life, makes sense ect.).

This form could include information like amount of suns, planets, gravitation (higher/lower than earth), distribution of land, characteristics of Flora and Fauna, Type of civilization(s), technological advancement ect.

Of course a lot of this information can often be omitted, like information about the solar system (we assume it to be stable if it is left out).

If such a terminology can be found, it would open a lot of questions like

Could this system exist?

Is this political situation possible or would they slaughter themselves immediatly after world start? In short: Does this make sense?

What characteristics would a civilisation on this planet develop?

If we'd had a uniform way to describe worlds and civilisations, a lot of this questions would be answerable like this:

No, the third planet would crash into the second planet in 2000 years, but before they would get so close that storms would kill everything on the second planet.

They would slaughter, because a monarchy like this can't have a democracy like this next to it without a revolution, so they have to start a war to keep the king on his throne.

On your High-G planet a civilisation would (almost) never build higher than second floor and would never travel to the stars because...

Only that we would have the possibility to actualy compare worlds from different questions (as they use the same vocabulary to be described).

Recap: Would a common describing language help this site and would it be worth the effort?

Proposal: Worldbuilding

  • So you are suggesting a standard terminology? Or perhaps a worksheet for worlds? Both? Just want to clarify. – James Sep 2 '14 at 15:50
  • @James Effectively I'm suggesting both, but in my opinion a standard terminology is the basis of a worksheet. So once a common terminology is found, a worksheet can be created, not the other way round. – J_F_B_M Sep 2 '14 at 15:53

I think (and this could end up being wrong) that SE has us covered on developing a standard terminology. This will, I am guessing, be facilitated with tags as time goes on, we will need to have regular conversations in meta regarding tags and definitions.

I am not sure what to make of the worksheet idea. They are very useful for world building, I have even created my own to help me keep track of things. Were someone to ask, "Does anyone have a worksheet for helping me define "X aspect" of my world?" I would say that is an excellent, appropriate question.

Making them a part of asking questions in the first place...I am not sure how that would work. We are going to have to be very careful about questions being too broad and I would be concerned that worksheets could exacerbate that issue...

All that said, very specific worksheets: Define a religion, define a nation, etc etc etc etc could potentially be useful...


Probably we could create a language for describing worlds. It would be complex, but it would allow us to give a large amount of information about a world within a short space. We could substitute letters for characteristics, and use numericals(where possible) to define distances, sizes, etc.

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    I am a little bit concerned that this might it hard for new users to find their way around. – drat Sep 3 '14 at 10:43
  • We could add an explanation on the help page. – user2425429 Sep 3 '14 at 22:22
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    My experiences from other SE sites is that help pages tend to be ignored. – drat Sep 4 '14 at 6:39
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    Speaking personally, it would probably give me trouble even if I had the help page open in a second tab. I'd have to find and then translate each term, and then attempt to understand its use within the sentence-- if a single sentence contained more than, say, four of these terms interacting with each other (a noun and three adjectives, say), that could get really frustrating really fast. – Katharine Sep 8 '14 at 4:43
  • it would have to be intuitive, like "d(s)" for "distance from sun" – user2425429 Sep 16 '14 at 0:03

It seems you are exploring the idea of a DSL (domain specific language) describing a world instead of a list of attributes. The list of attributes approach is done and any good sci-fi RPG will have planetary record sheets that would capture those.

For a DSL, which is more expansive, you're looking at specifying operations and interactions (world.evolve()). That too is a solved problem.

The question for you is, do you want to describe the world or operate on it, or both? If both, consider doing a little reading about Domain Specific Languages - you're not coding here, but you might find the concepts useful.

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