Articles from December 2009



Secondary Purposes, or Why E-Books Can’t Replace a Library

It started with my boss worrying about the future of the library as a viable structure again. It’s not the first time, it won’t be the last, and I’m pretty sure the fear is unfounded, but it got me thinking about why I’m so sure the library isn’t on the way out. And that why, [...]

Cause and Cause and Cause and Effect

Last week I discussed causes leading to multiple effects, and how a situation can spiderweb its way out from those. But there’s also a converse—that it’s possible for one effect to have multiple contributing causes. Who says there has to be only one reason for everything happening?
Sometimes, a number of different things push circumstances to [...]

How Stories Change

During yesterday’s riff on the uses of metafiction, I made a stand against stories that were near-perfect, practically word-for-word recollections of things that had happened. I’m not fond of perfect stories; not only do they ruin the suspense and make the plot a little too clear when used as clues or foreshadowing, they’re rather bad [...]

Integrating Metafiction, or Telling Tales

People generally like stories. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be reading your work or playing in your games, would they? The fiction section wouldn’t be so large, there wouldn’t be a whole mess of legends that the teachers in elementary and middle school insist on walking you through, and the entertainment industry wouldn’t be the [...]

The Generic Villain Makes a Case for Friendship

Evil can’t operate alone, and we’ve internalized that, but not all the way. We can deal with people who aren’t our rank, whether they’re subordinates like minions or lieutenants; we can handle things that are hopelessly above our rank, like elder gods; we can even sort of handle equals, though it’s usually in a friendly [...]

Impractical Applications (Luath Bends the Plot)

I spent much of this week discussing cause and effect and how they can work in a plot. It’s a bit of a pastime of mine; a lot of my plots are based at looking at causes and finding new and interesting effects. While direct immediate effects would seem like the most common, I do [...]

A Few Notes on Miracles

In the spirit of Christmas (all right, sort of), I’m here to talk to you about miracles. A lot of the miracles I’ve seen all look the same: they’re big, and flashy, and look like they were designed to frustrate sfx artists and elicit gasps from an audience. They’re big, brass-band climax setpieces. Nothing against [...]

Lack of Involvement: Little Killer of Plans

So the situation in your current game calls for a Big Crazy Plan to end all Big Crazy Plans, and you’re ready to deliver. You know the other players and their PCs well enough to incorporate all of their capabilities, not just fitting the roles to the powers but making sure the parts they have [...]

Cause and Effect in the Long Term

For most people, it’s easier to treat the immediate and even the secondary effects of something that happened as, well, immediate. They have a direct correlation, and they happen right now. But not everything happens immediately, and not everything takes a short time from beginning to ending. Why can’t these things cause effects to happen [...]

Four Ways to See Cause and Effect

The thing about cause and effect is that not everybody tends to think about it the same way. Some people treat the matter as linear: one cause, one effect, and leaving it at that. Some are good at taking the cause and effect chain down several rungs, but only seem to work with chains of [...]