Xanatos Gambit & xX Centric Plots — A-to-Z Blog Challenge, Literary Terms

XHardest letter to date. I’m betting it will be the hardest of the last 3. How do I measure how hard this was? I have about 6 different resources to find terms to transform into literary terms for my blog. With X, I found only 1 in all of those resources. The second one, I made up. You can do a Google search for both terms, figure out which one is made up, or just read below. Do note, that even though one is made up, I feel that it is still important to know.

So get ready for Xanatos Gambit and xX Centric Plots. And for this one, working as hard as I have on this letter, I really want to hear your responses.

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Xanatos Gambit

Xanatos Gambit is when a plan has multiple foreseen outcomes where each one is of benefit to its creator. It is a win-win scenario. It is generally done by the Antagonist, since they’re the ones trying to get away with something. It is almost always a complicated plan.


Xanatos Gambit is named aver David Xanatos from Gargoyles. He is a ruthless and amoral character. He is also the CEO of his company and serves as the primary antagonist. I didn’t watch this growing up and only know about it thanks to That Guy with the Glasses Nostalgia Critic.


Any plan that is devised, there is a chance for success and failure. With the Xanatos Gambit, even though you want success, you still gain from failure. Now this is a good method to use, though difficult, due to having a recurring antagonist and dealing with occasionally letting him win. This is best featured in the show Kim Possible, that most of the villains don’t see success, and if they do, it is short lived. This creates Villain Decay.


So, this allows the antagonist/villain to have a long-term win, even though it appears that our heroes have a climactic victory. It can been seen as the difference between Long Term victory or Short Term Victory. Also the saying, “The battle may be lost, but the War is far from over.”

Now generally, the plan is planned out well into advance, but on occasion, it is revised continually to bring about a winning solution, or at least a winnable outcome. In this case, it is called a Xanatos Speed Chess. If the plan requires a high amount of luck than planning, then it is called a Gambit Roulette.


Important to note, to be a Xanatos Gambit, ALL PLAUSIBLE OUTCOMES MUST BENEFIT THE CREATOR. It can’t be that that at least two plausible outcomes will benefit the creator. ALL is the keyword.

Rather than point out examples as I write out in more detail of this trope, I am instead going to pick out a few from TV Tropes that demonstrate this. It is in no particular order.

1. The Incredibles. Part A of Syndromes plan was to collect battle data. Whether the bot is destroyed or not, there is something to learn to make improvements.


2. Princess Bride. Westley vs Vizzini. Playing a game of wits, Vizzini has to guess which goblet Westley put the poison in and then drink which one he thought didn’t have the poison. Of course both cups were full of poison, so Westley would survive no matter what. Even if Vizzini figured out the trick, Westley would be close enough to kill Vizzini.

3. Iron Man 2. Ivan Vanko attack on Tony Stark. This was at the race track, specifically chosen by Ivan. If Ivan had won, then Tony would be killed and his vengeance completed. Had he lost, as he did, then the world would know that Tony’s claim about how impossible it was to replicate the Arc Reactor tech was untrue. Thus what he meant by, “You lose!” Essentially, Vanko bloodied the nose of Stark.


4. Deep Space 9. I mentioned in the Pale Moonlight in another post. This was a perfect example of this trope. Had Garak’s plan worked, fantastic. But since it did not, having the opportunity to plant the bomb still allowed the outcome they wanted.

5. Portal 2. Wheatley, now being in control, has a four part plan to keep you from winning. He took into consideration that Chell could win, so he worked to make sure she couldn’t. Fortunate for Chell and her quick thinking, or desperate thinking, she found a 5th option. An option that Weatley couldn’t have known about.


xX Centric Plots

xX Centric Plots is a term I made up. And I admit I did so to have a term. However, it doesn’t make it any less valid.

Allow me to explain xX. The first X is a placeholder for a number. The second X is the name of the trope. So it could be 2X, or 4X. X is actually referring to ex words. So the number is an indication of how many of the ex words we are using. While it should be 4EX, using simply X makes it sound cool.

If you are a video gamer, you’ll instantly recognize 4X. 4X is genre of strategy-based video games (and board games) in players controlling an empire. The 4X refers to “eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate”. The genre is known for its deep, complex gameplay and required use of micromanagement.

So I am borrowing the concept for this literary term. Below I will attempt to explain the various eX terms to help define your story. How your story falls in with the terms will be a tally for the first X. So if you were to match 3, then it would be 3X. Now I am adapting these to be types of plots. Meaning that it is a plot element found in the story. It doesn’t have to be the main plot, and can simply be a plot device.

This trope is used mostly for Epic stories, High Fantasy, or Space Operas. It would be difficult to have more than one in a short story.


Exploration is a vice for mankind. It can be both good and bad, but mostly good as it leads to us learning something new. The unknown beckons us. What is over the next horizon, what is at the next star?

We often have stories where our character or the Protagonist (say if it were a Kingdom) must travel an unknown or not well mapped out area. Perhaps they need to get to the other side (Why did the Chicken cross the transdimentional vortex?) or some legend in middle that will help us in our quest.

While technically the reader is an explorer with any new book they read, if a book is based on reality, then the writer doesn’t need to spend much time explaining how the world works. If however it is based on a new world, or a series of new worlds, then a great deal of exposition is needed.

However, exploration has more to do with the characters than the readers. The characters to explore the unknown, the strange new worlds and new civilizations. Of course, character set upon to explore are generally made of sterner stuff, but then you have a Frodo Baggins with an Aragon.

Exploration doesn’t necessarily have to be a place unknown to the world, simply unknown to your characters.


Stargate SG-1: Every week was something new to explore and understand
The Lost world: Novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about exploring the Amazon
Star Trek: Built upon the premise of exploration, but also explored what it meant to be human. Especially Voyager where their path home required to explore more unknown.



As a Sovereign State, you must determine how well you can maintain yourself. Can you be self sufficient or maintain trade? Or is there something you need that you don’t have and costs too much to obtain?

If you need something over there, you may decide to take it. If it is an unknown area, then taking it is not too hard. Send explorers, map out the area, send settlers and you are on your way to expand your territory.

Sometimes though, someone is all ready there and to have what they have, you must take it by force. History is filled with people who simply took land by force.

In Science Fiction, this can be seen as a space war and/or terraforming a new planet.

The Original Star Trek featured this, as the Federation and the Klingon Empire fought for worlds that had dilithium crystals. And TNG/DS9 demonstrated that the reason the Cardassians took over Bajor was their empire lacked resources.



This is a rather complex one. Exploit Centric Plot can be summed up into two categories, Exterior and Interior.

Exterior is when you exploit the land of its resources or the people apart from the main society. If a society was smart, they would only take what they need when they need it. Keeping the people happy and fed.

Unfortunately, Empires, and the people who rule them, want to build as much resource as possible. Often there are two reasons to strip-mine a resource: 1. continued expansion; 2. vanity.

There is also exploiting your colonies. Typically to do with resources as well, but there is also taxing. This can be seen in Early American history. Taxation without Representation. However, an Empire may opt to over tax an area if it is believed they have a lot of money.

Interior is interesting, and it is mostly exploiting the people. To successfully run a Sovereign state, it does require manipulation of its citizens. Sometimes the manipulation can be a good thing, or a necessary evil, but most often it is a bad thing. Generally it comes in social class and working. With Social Class, you make it difficult for anyone who is not in the high class to become high class. Kick them when they’re down. There is also working. If there are a lot of people who need jobs, and only so many positions, then you can pay a lower amount to get the truly desperate people. Seen in the Grapes of Wrath.


Generally, the rich get richer and the poor remain poor.

Parts of Robin Hood and 3 Musketeers demonstrated over taxing of its people.


Death happens in a story, but most of the time it is interpersonal. Person versus person. This is not an example of Extermination.

When we speak of Extermination as a Centric Plot, we are talking on a larger scale. We are talking a full scale battle, a group of people versus a group of people. This is often due to expanding of territory of gaining resources, though expansion of ideology has been known to be a reason. Stopping uprising or fighting rebels.

A story centered around a large battle or war can still be about individual characters, but you are dealing with the concept of “if we don’t kill them, they will kill us” and it comes up in conversation a lot. In fact, you don’t even need to show that many battle scenes. DS9 was successful in dealing with the Dominion War and not doing non-stop battles. But people still spoke of the war, spoke of battles, mourned the dead friends. Or you can make it the main focus of the story, such as the comical Starship Troopers.


At a later time, I plan to extend this trope I create to encompass more X words, but for now I will leave it at four.

Xanatos Gambit & xX Centric Plots

To really pull both of these off, as writers and characters, it takes careful planning. You need to really understand the outcomes and consequences therein. We aren’t talking about a story to read in an afternoon, we are talking about a story that takes commitment to be a part of.

Understanding details such as the how and why something is happening is key, not just the what. Emperor Palpatine could tell you. Every move made had the potential to go one way or another and yet he knew that he would benefit no matter which direction it went. While there wasn’t a lot of room for exploration, there was still plenty of the other 3. When you look at Star Wars for all 6 movies, it is genuinely a 4X story.

xX is not about slapping it onto a book just to have it, it is about designing your story and making it into something before you can say it is a 4X story. Same with Xanatos Gambit. You can’t just make a plan to only fail and still benefit the antagonist, you really have to create a situation and know all the possible outcomes and really leave it as the main path is what the character wants and can still be happy with the alternative, almost like he wanted to fail in the first place. And it is a fact that dons on the protagonist and readers at a later time.

Help Keep This Site Running

This site is a great achievement for me, but due to being unable to work, I may not be able to keep this site running. With your help, I might be able to.

I need $125 by October 30th, 2017. Anything you can give will help.


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