Combinatorial Explosion

So, your supernatural underworld game is going great. Characters have an Origin quality, a Power Source quality, an Allegiance quality and a Nationality quality. You’ve spent a fortnight on the Scottish Criminal Mutant Werewolf content, and now you’re on to the Russian Criminal Mutant Werewolf content…

This is madness. This is the combinatorial explosion. Qualities necessarily control which parts of the content a character can see. That’s their job. But if you structure your world so that each bit of content can only be seen by a character with a specific arrangement of a large number of qualities, you’ll be writing that world forever. You’ll never get it finished and you’ll probably just give up.

So don’t do that. Make sure that most of the characters can see most of the content. The structure to adopt is that of a river rather than a tree. So, characters don’t each have to see all the same content, but they’re all basically going the same way and will most likely see most of it. You want any one character to see 90% of your content, not 50% or 10%. A way of doing this is to ensure that you have Quality Parsimony. Combinatorial explosion is a fundamental problem of interactive narrative, and the quality-based narrative approach is designed to minimise it.

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