Think of a rock hitting a pond. That rock represents the interaction you have with an external tool such as an oracle. For the purposes of this post, lets assume the rock represents a query to said tool.
The First Ripple
The first ripple is the direct answer. It may require interpretation or it may not as in a yes/no question. The important thing is that for this analogy, that answer is the direct result of your oracle interaction, and it is some sort of idea that becomes fiction. This idea is a direct result of what you asked and what the oracle produced.
The Second Ripple
The second ripple is the result or consequence of the first ripple of fiction or "what actually happened". In other words, the second ripple's cause is the first ripple. It is not caused directly by the rock you threw.
And So On
Each subsequent concentric circle, or outward ripple, of fiction is caused directly by the preceding one. Each one, in turn, that many more steps removed from the rock that started the chain, yet indirectly caused by it.
What I Mean By "Events"
Anything ranging from what a chair looks like (atmospheric description) to setting in motion a siege of Troy due to the seduction of Helen (what one would actually use the word "event" for).
The important thing is that all of these are begotten by previous fiction or directly by a "rock". (This is not a 100% true of actual play, but lets keep it simple-- as I'll ask you again below).
Oracle, RPG Mechanics & PC Actions
These are all equivalent. They are all different kinds of rocks, but ultimately all work like rocks.
Keeping The Analogy Simple
For the sake of clarity, lets keep the analogy simple. Even though in actual play an event may be influenced directly by both the "rock" and any number outer ripples preceding it, lets pretend that events are only directly influenced by those immediately preceding them. It just makes things clearer.
It is also true of actual play that previous ideas that never became realized into "what really happened" may still act as catalysts for other ideas, etc. Lets also ignore that for the same reasons stated above.
An Old Poll
I've asked this question in a less clear form before. I knew what I wanted to ask, but did not have the right vocabulary.
You can see the results of that poll yourself, and can even participate still, even though the question is stated in terms of percentages, which I feel is less clear than thinking about links in a chain reaction of events (or ripples).
Of course, with me, even if I don't do it intentionally, it always leads to the Dead Horse of "when does solo RPG feel like 'just writing' to a given individual?"
Keep in mind that one could theoretically write the content of a whole adventure based on a single "rock" in a pond given that the potential creative chain reaction could be infinite as events engender other events in your mind. Yet that sort of play has never become evident in the actual plus I've seen. There is eventually more than one "rock" thrown into the water.
So, here I'm asking people again, in what I hope is a more concrete way of measuring this, how long a chain of causal events are you happy to invent before you feel you're about to cross into 'just writing' territory?
No answer is wrong.
But I will Challenge You
I may challenge what you say here. Some people elsewhere have gotten testy when I did that, so just a fair warning. It's never happened here, but I don't want anyone to take it personally if we challenge each other as we search for insights. :)