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 lot of work with delayed effects, secondary effects, obscure immediate effects and combinations of the above. After all, my PCs are in a place where just about everyone is experienced in both plots and interfering with plots, and most of them are either trying to be untraceable or rather fond of the idea that revenge is a dish best served cold (if not both). The fact that most of my players are Type 1 or 2 cause and effect analyzers and I’m a Type 4 doesn’t exactly help matters—at least, not for them. But either way, when something happens, I try to make sure that there are a lot more results than just the one that shows up immediately.

One of my favorites, and a major plot-breaker in its own right, happened when I was on a summer-long pseudo-timeskip because one of my players was unable to get online. I set up a little run in which Luath followed his mentor on a small-scale attempt at keeping Fate going the way it was supposed to. Original plan: he hears about Something Going On down thataway, and takes the information back for when the rest of the group convenes again at the end of summer. Which lasted about as long as it took for him to try to investigate it, and—well, along with setting off the native language incident, it culminated in a nice messy chain of causes and effects that still hasn’t fully resolved itself. Original cause: Luath gets himself (and his mentor, not that they were aware of that part) captured saving his sister and her teammates from what had been going to be a later-arc antagonist, the implacable Zora Aldebar.

Direct immediate effect: Rest of the group, once aware of this fact, go to bail him out. (Not that Luath would have noticed; the immediate direct effect for him is that he’s stuck trying to talk his way out of a rather nasty situation.) Obscure immediate effect: Zora’s assistant Nandin, considerably more reasonable than his boss, comes into contact with someone of decent power who isn’t Zora or on Zora’s side for the very first time and (direct effect of Luath talking Zora into thinking he’s on her side) communicates with him as an equal, striking up a strong mutual respect. Additional obscure immediate effect: Luath’s sister ends up being worried about him, so when the group comes looking for him, she bullies them into taking her with them and making it look like it wasn’t her choice (so this is both an immediate and a secondary effect. It’s not the first).

Then we get into secondary effects, each the direct effect of something before. Secondary effect of group looking for Luath: Group finds Zora’s home base. Secondary effect of Luath striking up conversation with Nandin (and one of two direct effects of one of Luath’s mentor’s unsuccessful attempts to get out of an aspect of their sticky situation resulting in Zora going violent on her; the other involved Zora attempting to sell her to a demon), Nandin starts identifying with the new people a lot more than he does with Zora.

Then we add another cause: during the inevitable fight with Zora, one of the PCs breaks the sunroof of her summoning room. Direct effect: her “watchdog”, the fate-twisting demon spider Akhterim, whom the group had managed to sneak past, wakes up and joins the fight. Secondary effect of Irayo coming along for the ride: when Akhterim gets involved, she and Nandin are both separated from the party in the same general direction (and obscure and somewhat removed secondary effect of Luath having saved her bacon earlier, and a direct effect of Nandin trying to protect her from both Zora and Akhterim, she’s a lot more willing to give the kid a chance despite having spent her life being taught he’s demonspawn). Direct effect of Akhterim’s arrival: the group becomes more concerned with getting out than defeating Zora, leading to all of them, plus Nandin and Irayo, back in Heaven in a rather messy pile (this leads to Nandin and Irayo taking up residence there, which is its own can of plot-worms), and to their having a rather interesting group of reinforcements when they return.

And the chain continues. The group bringing reinforcements the next time means they find themselves having a little difficulty when Akhterim drops a plot-bombshell regarding why they really don’t want to kill him (as the reinforcements don’t know what they know). Successfully capturing Zora—well, as it stands, the consequences they know about are the mistrust of some of their reinforcements for one of the PCs who seemed to sympathize with her a bit too much; Zora ending up under the functional but rather distant control of an ally of the PCs; the group finding their way to the door of the woman who summoned the demon; the (several steps removed) discovery that Zora’s old mentor figure had been a false identity of the group’s old nemesis Jalil and that Nandin was Jalil’s reincarnation; a lot of division within the group itself due to their differing opinions of Zora—and, (okay, OOC knowledge and somewhat more obscure but still relevant) wherever the plot was going before, it sure as heck wasn’t headed there now.

Even now, we’re still seeing results of this, though it’s been several months game-time since the incident occurred. Not bad for one accidental plotline that came from one player not knowing how to leave well enough alone!

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