Per the Help Center: What types of questions should I avoid asking?

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

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  • you are asking an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?”
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Currently I personally deal these questions on quite a regular basis, and it seems that they're getting more frequent; some recent examples:

I'm aware that “What if ______ happened?” is generic boilerplate text that's present on all SE sites, but it seems particularly applicable to this site owing to it's nature: dealing with speculative works in the first place would tend to invite this kind of question moreso than for other sites.

Given this consideration, are these questions of sufficient volume to merit a custom close reason?

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    Please note that I'm NOT advocating a blanket ban on such questions; this is an excellent example of what is IMO the right way to go about it.
    – user8719
    Jan 8, 2015 at 13:31
  • I wouldn't mind if there is a specific close-reason - it can help deter those types of Qs. But just out of interest, is there anything in particular wrong with "Primary opinion-based"?
    – Möoz
    Jan 12, 2015 at 2:40
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    @Mooz - it doesn't seem explicit enough in this case. Having "what if" as a close reason sends a clearer signal that this kind of question is off-topic, and doesn't potentially invite argument or denial from the OP. If a question class is regular enough and if you're copy/pasting the same text as a comment every time in order to explain your VTC, then it signals that something is missing.
    – user8719
    Jan 21, 2015 at 20:12
  • "If a question class is regular enough and if you're copy/pasting the same text as a comment every time in order to explain your VTC, then it signals that something is missing." That's a very interesting point!
    – Möoz
    Jan 21, 2015 at 20:43
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    I should add that other SE sites have custom close reasons which could be handled by POD too; e.g this from gamedev: 'Questions about "how to get started," "what to learn next," or "which technology to use" are discussion-oriented questions which involve answers that are either based on opinion, or which are all equally valid'; so precedence does exist.
    – user8719
    Jan 22, 2015 at 18:01

2 Answers 2


I think the implication of the caveat against "what if x happened?" questions is that they should only be asked if they're supportable (e.g. that there are sufficient in-universe reasons to think that something would have happened had something else not happened or if there are good reason to presume that there will be out-of-universe sources to draw on such as Director interviews). They should be neither open-ended nor require large leaps into the hypothetical.


Q. Would Yavin have been destroyed if Luke hadn't blown up the Death Star?

A. Yes, almost certainly. It was about to happen when Luke blew it up.


Q. Would Yavin have been destroyed if Leia had been taken by Obi-Wan?

A. Deeply unclear. No canon reference support this version of events.

The irony is that it's not always possible for a non-specialist to tell the difference and often it doesn't become clear that an answer is possible until after the question is closed.

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    Proposed close wording: "Okay, do you have any reason to think this aside from just pulling it out of your ass?"
    – Izkata
    Jan 9, 2015 at 0:50
  • +1. Logic-based answers are acceptable, but any answer to your second example question wouldn't be much better than fanfic.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    May 5, 2016 at 13:29

Speaking from personal experience, I did ask one What would have happened if question.

What would have happened if Snape had died in absence of Harry

In that question, I wanted to know only the in-universe explanation. As in, did Dumbledore and/or Snape had a backup plan for giving Harry those memories. But seeing that no evidence existed, I turned to see whether JK Rowling had answered this What if question in her later interviews. Apparently, she hadn't.

There in lies my point. What if my intention with my What if question was really what-if parallel universe answers? Then that question should/would have been closed as primarily opinion based. But then what if JK Rowling had answered the question in one of her interviews. Would the question still be primarily opinion based? I suppose not.

TL;DR; So, I would not close a What if parallel-universe scenario question if it is answered by the author. Absolutely no question of closing a What if in-universe question.

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