The Generic Villain on Phase 1

It’s well known that the Laws of Dramatics state, restate, reiterate, repeat, and otherwise pound repeatedly into our heads with all the strength and half the subtlety of a radioactive metropolis-stomping monster that the heroes always win out in the end. But did you know there’s a Law of Dramatics that confers similar narrative immunity on us for certain periods of time?

To understand this, note that the Laws of Dramatics are coming together for one purpose: that the end result of any given chain of confrontations be as splashy and dramatic as is even remotely possible. It isn’t that interesting if the heroes succeed in foiling the first part of the plan, now, is it? This results in what we call Joker’s Law, which clearly states that the heroes’ ability to thwart your plan is inversely proportional to the distance between you and ultimate success. In particular, they can’t thwart Phase 1.

What does that mean for us? First off, it’s to our advantage to have plans that don’t come together all at once. After all, if it’s a one-shot plan with no long-term payoff, odds are it’s going to drive the conflict and thus going to be easily thwarted. But when you’re on the early phases of a long-term plan, you’re practically unstoppable. (Note: Under no circumstances should you declare this fact to all and sundry. That’s called tempting Fate.) Therefore, if your plan has early phases, you can get through them reasonably unimpeded.

Second, create plans whose phases overlap with other plans’ phases. So maybe Phase 5 of Plan X is set up by Phase 3 of plan Q, which in turn is accomplished through the same actions as Phase 1 of Plan I. See where this is going? Whether or not they actually render it unstoppable, the Laws of Dramatics will still cushion your plan: after all, it’s still Phase 1.

But what do you do on last phases? That’s still under debate. Some say that Phase 1 of a truly vital plan will make even a last phase invincible; others say that the last-phase nature of the phase in question will counteract any level of Phase 1. Then there are the ones who say that the parts of the plan that constitute Phase 1 of the big plan will succeed and the parts that constitute the last phase of the other plan will fail; they often tack the last phase of a potentially dangerous to the heroes but not actually vital to their long term strategy plan onto the first phase of a vital, final-conflict-facilitating plan. After all, most heroes only think in one plan at a time, so if they succeed in thwarting one plan, they’re less likely to notice the second being carried out concurrently and thus might not even realize that plan exists until Phase 3 or 4.

In short, plans with phases are as much our tool as any mystical artifact or doomsday device. Remember to use them, know how to take advantage of them, and do your best to use small conflicts to figure out what sorts of interactions your Phase 1s have with other phases. Now go plan!

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