Reality Makes the Best Fantasy: Binaries and Dichotomies

Illustration of a Dichotomy, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Good or Evil. Night or Day. Male or Female. Inside or Outside. Cold or Hot. Empty or Full. With Us or Against Us. Heaven or Hell. Order and Chaos. Black or White. Innocent or Guilty. Dead or Alive. Beginning or End. Believer or Non-believer. This or That.

Binaries are common constructs in societies. People divide and compartmentalize and set things in opposition to each other. It can make things simpler to only have to consider two possibilities, to belong or not belong.

However, nature and life rarely work in absolutes and things are never this simple. Thinking of situations as things in opposition can lead to conflict and seeing things as Either/Or can lead to the perceiver missing out on a whole spectrum of possibilities.

If we think of things in terms of Black and White, we won’t see all the colors that lie between the absence of light and the fullness of it.

Instead of making a list of tips, hooks and ideas I challenge you to think of the binaries you have in your games and within your characters that lie in opposition to each other. Maybe hold them in your brain or write them down. Draw them as two opposite spots on a circle and then think about the things that lie all around the circumference of that circle. Who or what lies all around the circle in terms of morality? Gender? Class? Empathy? Ability to follow rules? Loyalty? Conformity? And what kinds of conflicts and alliances do these propagate? How do these things overlap and rub against each other? How do they balance each other?

What things are more similar than they appear to be?

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