How long does it take to build a wall? has been closed as being off-topic as a real-world research question (per campaign research questions, II).

I agree that real-world research could answer this. I disagree, though, that it's the only way to answer that question: I believe that answers that do depend on RPG expertise exist.

For example, the answer I'd have written:

5e doesn't have rules that cover this sort of thing. But fear not! You're in luck! (I go on with my usual praises for 2e's Castle Guide, provide examples of how well 2e plays with 5e.)

So then I'd detail how I arrive at a production multiplier of ~2/3, factor in overhead costs, blah blah blah, and it's \$X\$ weeks (and about \$Y\$ gp).

This would be an inspiring answer, clearly based in my expertise sitting alone in a room with my RPG books, designing towns and structures in far too much detail.

I think the question should be reopened. But I think it worth laying out before my vote overrides those of other 5e gold-badge-holders and another diamond. Please express 'yea' or 'nay' as you see fit.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm... the plot thickens. I've since-learned that the close votes were actually two unclear, one too-broad, one POB, and one OT. Make of that what you will.... \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 14:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think OT overrides the others (because there's no point fixing something that won't be accepted), but I'm not certain. \$\endgroup\$
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 18:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @wizzwizz4 A diamond moderator closed that question the first time, and if a diamond moderator closes a question then the close reason they chose will be the reason that's displayed, regardless of any other close votes cast. So the off topic vote would have been the one cast by SevenSidedDie. (That surprised me when I first encountered it but it does help us handle the exceptional scenarios we're here for.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 0:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I find it amazing that a question which can be answered by determining how many wall-of-stone spells some mages can cast was closed for real-world research. \$\endgroup\$
    – barbecue
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 1:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @barbecue note the first comment here: 4 of 5 close-voters cited unclear, too-broad, and POB; that constellation generally means (IME) "please put in some more detail/constraints." It turns out the real-world research bit was a bit of a red herring. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Commented Sep 19, 2017 at 3:07

4 Answers 4


Questions asking about a general real-world topic such as history, geography or economics might more likely belong on another Stack Exchange site (e.g. History) than here. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself …

Would an RPG expert give me a better/different/more specific answer to this question than a Historian, Geographer, etc? If yes, then feel free to ask it here.

Based on the above guideline regarding research questions, is the wall question on-topic?

I believe the answer is: yes

First, consider what other (potential) experts could provide information. A history expert (since building walls like this would be similar to field fortifications) or a construction expert and lumberjack combo (to cover chopping and building) could provide the information. However, an RPG expert would provide different/more specific information than these other experts. For example, depending on how much HP a tree has (since this is an RPG, trees have some form of HP representing how hard they are to chop), a character may be able to do enough damage in one hit to chop it down, and then move and chop down another, cutting two trees in 6 seconds (a lot faster than possible in our world, but in a world of magic, who knows?) There may also be spells capable of speeding up other processes like digging holes or erecting the wall that a non-RPG expert would not know about.

That being said, as currently formulated the question is (in my opinion) still too broad, since without knowledge of party composition all we can do is speculate about potential ways and means the party could improve over a group of 5 average Joes.


I think it is on-topic...

I tried searching questions that ask similar things but we do not have a tag for it and it turned out to be ineffective (I tried this search but it's really weak -could someone with better SE-search-fu improve this?). (Quick meta-ception: is there value to add a tag for this topic? perhaps?)

Failing that, here are a few questions I can recall from memory that are similar (limited to only, though):

So we do have questions of similar topic, and they are all well-received. With that, I don't see why this one should be off-topic.

... but it is very unclear as to its parameters

OP has given us nothing but the circumference needed, and that 5 people are going to be building it.

  • Do these 5 people have magical capabilities- can one cast Wish and be done with it in 6 seconds? Fabricate? Illusory Reality? Are they all wizards who don't have spells to deal with this sort of situation?
  • How many of them know carpentry?
  • It is edited out now, but we need the number of people who will probably help in the construction.

While the potential Castle Guide answer in your post could make a great answer, I think your comment asking for more details is a tell-tale sign that this question is unclear.

TL;DR Question is still close-worthy as unclear


I think this should be reopened (and appears to be now). However I would like to add a point of note to this discussion.

I think that real-world examples should be a fall-back, not the primary source. Effectively we should view questions in this context in terms of priority.

  1. Always source rules/context first. If there is a related RAW or RAI it should be used before any others.
  2. If there is no RPG context to draw from, use real world as the fallback. This should never be used if there is no in-context answer though.

This gives a solid base as to how the question should be answered (using in-context first, and using real world to fill in the gaps).


I would rule in favor of the question because primary source material could cover such stuff in an official way, even if it is hidden in a little known supplement.

In this case, there is old (outdated) material from an older version, that was never touched again and thus holds some good start for an estimation based on rules, not on research.

Then there might be 3rd Party supplements that (more recently) covers such topics.

So, with the right supplements, one doesn't need to do any non-RPG research.

Also: Instead of doing research on roman forts or real construction times, it can be looked upon as an applied RPG-math question:

  • How much circumference is there? See question.
  • That is how many trees? Assume an average tree diameter, divide circumference by that, get number.
  • How many are needed for bracing? assume such and such length needs so and so many trees for bracing, add to number.
  • That is how many acres of woodland (which is 'healthy' with 40-60 trees and overgrown and almost impassable with 100-200 per acre)? Divide number of trees by tree density per acre to see how much you have to strip bare... and go on to Part 2.

Now, the rest is pretty much estimating a time for cutting the trees (maybe something in the survival chapter? Otherwise: just assume something), calculating the travel times (for heavy load) between the various acres that are to be cut clear and then add some (estimated) time for construction.

This is like 5 minutes or research (to find out what is a usual tree density) and some estimations/assumptions based only on RPG Expertise followed up by hacking it all into a spreadsheet and calculating.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ That second part, though... I think you're describing exactly the sort of answer "campaign research, II" is designed to prevent. If you're seeing that require RPG expertise, I encourage you to make that clearer. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 14:12
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ That is the kind of real world research we created our policy to avoid having to do, yes. If people have to research that stuff about actual trees and building, it's no longer RPG expertise. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 2:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I disagree with your second sentence. There is indeed an RPG centric way to assign values to perform such a calculation. However, if Dimitri won't come back and engage to improve the question with a bit more detail, I think it will remain closed due to "lack of interest by the querent." \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 14:53

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