Encounters / Malfunctioning Bullet Dispenser

This is an encounter for the editing game we're putting together. Visit this forum thread to join the fun.


As you round the corner of a corridor, you see a strange machine shooting square bullets at the bookshelves. It looks something like an elaborate espresso machine on tank treads.


You scan the device with your Tropedex:

Bullet Dispenser: This robotic device creates bullet points for use in articles. Sometimes it can run wild


But that can't be right, this machine is causing chaos not order. What could cause it to act this way? A closer look reveals the problem - the lever has broken off from overuse!

The scenario unfolds clearly in your mind. It seems one well-meaning troper, too shy to add information to an existing bullet, opted to simply add another. This set a precedent and soon existing writing was being neglected in favor of simply stacking more on. It has the rank smell of natter, but examining it closer you find none.

You do the most natural thing first. You break off a piece of a hardline you drew with your editting pen and bind it to the remains of the lever, returning it to the off position. The machine has been stopped for the time being, but it's not hard to see that unless something further is done, the problem will only worsen.

What will you do?

a) Do nothing. It might not look pretty, but the information is still there.
b) Hack away, leaving only the first and second bullet points.
c) Sort with caution but kill natter with extreme prejudice.
d) Shunt everything to the first tier bullets.

Do nothing

You decide to leave the page as it is. It's not really hurting anything after all. As you turn to walk away you feel the ground quake and are knocked to your knees. Terrified you turn back and there, lumbering before you is a monster made of seven bullets stacked together, wobbling side to side under its own tremendous weight. A seventh tier bullet!

Even a third tier bullet is rarely necessary, but this abomination is unlike anything you've ever seen. You turn to run but you're blocked on all sides by sixth and fifth tier bullet monsters, all chanting:

  • Actually...


  • Not really.

Dear god. They're Justifying Edits.

You understand now. It didn't have to be natter. It only had to look like natter to attract more. And now they're devouring the article.

Game Over

Hack away

Time to dance. You rev up your seldom-used editting chainsaw and grin.

You start by making a quick pass along the examples hunting for natter, the worst of any mess, and you actually find some. You show it no mercy. Next you start again, this time hacking away at the fourth and third tier bullets until they're scarce. As you're searching for the last few you spot an example you recognize.

You have to read it twice. It does seem like it's missing something. The example is good, but there's a much more important use of this trope from the same work that isn't even mentioned. Looking at your hands you find smeared across your palms the remains of a third-tier bullet elaborating on this very example. You know you shouldn't just put it back as is, so you start to incorporate the information as a coherent whole:

  • Used twice in Revenge of the Scrappy:
    • First by the Scrappy himself when they're first escaping the Frost Mooks.
    • Second just before the Earth Shattering Kaboom.

But before you can finish you hear the lever being pulled. It seems there's incomplete and erroneous examples all over the place now and some weaker-willed troper has set to fix it with more Justifying Edits. You shout to warn him but it's too late, the lever breaks, and soon the article is in the state you found it in.

(But Thou Must!; now go back to the selections above.)

Sort with caution

You pull back your sleeves and get to work. This page would be doomed otherwise.

You start by making a quick pass along the examples hunting for natter, the worst of any mess, and you actually find some. You show it no mercy.

Next you start organizing examples into the first and second bullets:

  • Used twice in Revenge of the Scrappy:
    • First by the Scrappy himself when they're first escaping the Frost Mooks.
    • Second just before the Earth Shattering Kaboom.

Beautiful. You even get fancy and whip out the seldom-used "\\" paragraph breaks, for a particularly long example.

As you're moving some examples you're not sure about to the discussion page you see another troper standing near the Bullet Dispenser. He considers it for a moment, but amends a nearby example with his editting pen rather than using it. You've set a good precedent and made someone a better editor. Once a bullet point is written, it belongs to all tropers. It's not a forum post or some sacred thing they'll chastise you for disturbing. Good work.


Shunt everything to the first bullets

Easy solution. The problem is the formatting looks like natter, right? Eliminating the bullets but keeping the text as is would solve that.

You take out your handy editting scalpel and masterfully trim anything higher than a first-tier bullet point from the text. Soon everything's looking nice, neat and spiffy clean:

  • In Title of the Mysterious Planet X this is subverted by John in chapter nine when he's using the Rube Goldberg Contraption. It's later played straight with Madeline in chapter two, when she's dangling from the rope ladder. Notice that when John does this in chapter nine he's still thinking about the toxic spill from the previous chapter. The sequel references John's use of the trope in the climactic helicopter battle when Aurora, in an Ironic Echo of John's words, whispers "Tread lightly, Commander." The manga adaptation features this trope prominently in the character Asuna, who plays The Ditz to Madeline's Insufferable Genius. The live action adaptaption follows the plot of the original novel closely but only includes the scene with Madeline leaving it implied with John. According to the director this is because they felt it would have a poor effect on the pacing even though this makes Aurora's Ironic Echo meaningless. In the fourth volume of the manga Biggus Baddus himself uses this trope at the top of his Evil Tower.

Huh. Now you realize that you have made a pile of mess. It now becomes incomprehensible. Now you just run away, trying to find some help for the ugly mess you've made.

Game Over