splitting an infinitive

Why not?

Well these days (as opposed to a hundred (good to one sig fig) year period of conservatism around which the language is fluid as hell) that’s maybe not a useful question. We do what we please with English and the language is sort of famous for surviving it. For a long time, however, and currently amongst the sort of pedant that has a strong opinion about Oxford commas, the split infinitive was Not Allowed.

But English is really good for splitting infinitives.

The infinitive form of a verb is its naked form, unconjugated. So in English the infinitive “to go” is conjugated as “she goes, we go, they go, you go”. That infinitive is apparently never allowed to have a word inserted between “to” and “go”. It’s to be treated as though it’s un-fucking-divisible. A single word with a space inside it that apparently acts like a letter.

This is, I think, mostly an effort at linguistic political correctness to avoid drawing attention to the fact that many (maybe most) lesser languages do not have this feature. Their infinitives (aller, for example, en Français) are really one word. Which means they do not have the tonal equivalent of “to boldly go” which delivers a mood distinct (to my ear anyway) from “boldly to go” or, worse, “to go boldly”. It’s perhaps the proscription itself that lends this tone (which totally undermines my argument by making the proscription necessary in order to have the feature) by undermining the formality of the “correct” structures. Kirk in the Star Trek opener is established by his linguistic choice as an everyman who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about ancient style guides nor, by extension, Robert’s Rules of Order. We know in our viscera before we even see him that he’s a hero we get to aspire to be. He shirked his way through college and the academy (which later we find out is true). He must have.

And some infinitive busting structures don’t even have correct variants. Consider “I’m going to fucking shoot you in the face.” It’s distinct from “I’m going to shoot you in the fucking face” in that the rude word modifies face instead of shoot. And obvious you can’t say “I’m going fucking to shoot you in the face.” Then you just get laughed at. You’ve descended below the low bar of lovable rogue to incomprehensible villain. “I’m fucking going to shoot you in the face” is weird acceptable, modifies the wrong word, and seems like a grammatically worse choice than splitting the infinitive even though it’s fine. It’s more of a hipster bandit move; an attempt to get you to argue with their usage so they can produce evidence it’s correct. Before shooting you in the face.

So let me suggest that we need not be polite to our compatriot languages who are stuck with indivisible verbs. Our verbs are naturally divisible and this division begs for modifiers. Every space is a possibility for a slightly different tone. It does not invite confusion but rather establishes the writer’s intent clearly and efficiently. The space in the middle of our infinitives is a tool to be wielded however we like to use tools.

Of course, once we get to this point we have to wonder what the “to” is for anyway. What does “to go” mean, decomposed? What work does the “to” do? In the phrase “I’m going to go” it seems to have more to do with “going” than “go” to my ear. That is, as the sentence proceeds, “I’m going to…” is still sensible — I’m certainly going somewhere and to is a somewhere word. I’m going to the store. I’m going to outer space. I’m going to sleep. The “to” is independent — it doesn’t need a verb at all to be useful.

So rather than knuckle under to linguistic equivalentists who would hobble English in order to put it on equal footing withe French or, heaven forbid, Latin, let’s instead celebrate the feature of the English infinitive. Split it at will. It’s already split.

factions as a template

So I was thinking about how to make a generic faction, like for any game at all, and around the time I was thinking about it Takuma Okada tweeted something similar and pointed at Apocalypse World style moves. This is very smart, obviously: moves are certainly a great way to generically encode what things do without having to address specific system mechanisms because the ref’s moves in AW are not really part of the mechanism, per se. They have only narrative structure, giving the ref permission to make a particular thing happen in the story. They don’t engage dice (though that can obviously cascade on from the move when a player reacts) or remove points or add points. They pivot the story. Well that’s as generic as you ca get, so here’s a faction template. My “methods” are moves.

This is a quick hack. What’s it missing?

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Alien space bug faction needs fleshing out.

Faction Name

Start with a description here of the faction. Get flowery. Add a little micro (really micro mind you) fiction maybe. Good place for your illustration. Anything in this spindly typeface should be replaced with your own text. Also the title, unless “Faction Name” is in fact the name of your faction.

Interface

This section outlines the things your campaign needs to provide to make this faction work: just because it’s generic doesn’t mean it actually fits anywhere. State these up front so that a potential user can quickly disqualify it if it’s inappropriate.

Location

What terrain does the faction need to make work? Where are they headquartered? Robin Hood needs a forest. Rogue Armor Five needs a space station. Deepness Sentinels need a mine in a remote mountain.

Necessary allies

Is there anyone that has to be on their side? Think in general terms — a leader with certain characteristics, a revolutionary organization?

Necessary enemies

Is there anyone that has to be opposed to them? Can the user just plug in any old opposition and it will make sense?

Magic requirements

Are we assuming magic? Are we assuming certain kinds of magic?

Technology requirements

Are we assuming technology? Are we assuming certain levels of technology?

Objectives

What is the faction trying to accomplish? Keep it generic; the most specific you should get is to reference a “necessary ally” or “necessary enemy”.

Opposition

What sort of organizations oppose this faction? Keep it generic; the most specific you should get is to reference a “necessary ally” or “necessary enemy”.

Strength

How tough is this faction? Can it field armies or only lone assassins? Estimate its membership and its influence.

Military

What kind of strength can the faction bring to bear in a military context?

Political

What kind of strength can the faction bring to bear in terms of bureaucracy, diplomacy, espionage?

Popular

What kind of strength can the faction draw from the common people?

Wealth

How much money or local equivalent can this faction bring to bear on a problem?

Methods

Add methods if you need to but at least name and expand on the following ones so that they suit the specific ways and means of the faction. Take into account the Strength parameters to add detail: a militarily weak faction won’t act militarily — they will act to their strengths and protect and disguise their weaknesses. The ref can pull any faction method out and stuff it in the narrative whenever they feel that seems like a swell idea.

Wreck a plan

The faction ruins a player plan by doing something — inadvertantly or otherwise — that undermines their assumptions. Of course, the players won’t know the back entrance is full of Deepness Sentinels on their own mission until the players pry off the sewage grate.

Impede travel

The faction is interrupting a regular travel route, ideally one the players want to use or are expecting news or goods from. This must affect the party to be deployed. It’s not just a news story, it causes the players grief.

Recruit

The faction tries to recruit the party.

Harm a faction you care about

The faction does some harm to a faction the players are allied with. Maybe the players themselves! Burn down the magic college. Call the cops on the oxygen hoarders.

Be the villain

In a surprise twist, this faction is the real enemy!