Monday, September 21, 2020

[yamycfyx] Two-level plot

Gods fight amongst themselves while mortals also fight amongst themselves.  While this is a common and attractive plot structure, it poses logical problems:

If the fighting among the gods can affect the mortals, there's no point in the mortals fighting.  No matter what the mortals do, the ultimate outcome depends on the gods.

If the fighting among the mortals can affect the gods, then it diminishes the power of gods, diminishing the entertainment value of all-powerful beings fighting each other.

Inspired by Star Wars: If the Jedi and Sith are too powerful, then, if you aren't such a Force wielder, it's pointless to fight.  Whoever wins the fight between the Force wielders will, through precognition, mind control, and telekinesis, enforce their will on the Force-weak.  But if the Force wielders are too weak, then it diminishes the entertainment and appeal of having them in the fictional universe.  (The Jedi were too easily killed off with Order 66: it would have been better if Anakin killed them individually.)

One good way around this problem is to have the gods and mortals widely separated in time.  The narrative can still tell the stories of the two wars in parallel and draw comparisons though literary techniques.  Causality flows between the wars (if it flows at all) only in the direction that makes sense with time.  (Interesting things become possible with time travel, as is always the case with time travel.)

If the war of the gods happens first, then maybe the story is how the mortals were created as a result of that conflict and have been doomed since birth to continue the conflict.  If the war of the mortals happens first, then maybe the story is that the gods are the distant descendants (ascendants?) of the mortals, but they still haven't resolved the conflict that plagued them as mortals.  Either order could have all the combatants of the later war be revealed to be the descendants of just the victors of the earlier war.  The defeated side of the earlier war got genocided: there was a lot at stake.

Two-level conflict is also an entertaining structure for a game.  It potentially has the same problem as with plot.  The outcome can't just be the outcome of the portion of the game at the gods level (e.g., whoever catches the snitch first).  Combinatorial game theory or other mechanisms could avoid this problem, for example, a tie among the gods is broken by the mortals.

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