Do Random Tables Reduce Player Agency?

pemerton

Legend
Rolling more frequently on the different roads means the paths have agency. It doesn't make the encounters not illusionism. If the first roll is a traveling merchant caravan, the second is a dragon, and the third is a band of mischievous pixies, what does it matter for illusionism whether the the encounters are all on the same day on the fast road, vs subsequent days on the slow road? The same rolls happen either way. It's not meaningfully different from if the GM is choosing those encounters and placing them on whichever path the players choose.
This makes no sense to me. The two roads use the same table (eg they both go through hills, and both use the hills encounter table). The GM rolls on that table, either in advance or in the moment. And the rolls would be the same either way - so what? Where is the illusion? The GM has applied the mechanic. They could even be quite transparent about it - eg rolling in front of the players, sharing the encounter table with them, etc. It's not as if the players uttering the words "We take this road" has any causal effect on the fall of the dice that the GM rolls.
 

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Fanaelialae

Legend
This makes no sense to me. The two roads use the same table (eg they both go through hills, and both use the hills encounter table). The GM rolls on that table, either in advance or in the moment. And the rolls would be the same either way - so what? Where is the illusion? The GM has applied the mechanic. They could even be quite transparent about it - eg rolling in front of the players, sharing the encounter table with them, etc. It's not as if the players uttering the words "We take this road" has any causal effect on the fall of the dice that the GM rolls.
It's illusionism in the sense that the encounters are the same regardless of the path (albeit, as I've said, a useful and accepted form of illusionism).

If the GM simply decides the PCs encounter A, B, and C regardless of which path they take, we can both agree that that is clearly illusionism, right?

If the procedures in place would generate the exact same outcome (and having the same probabilities) then IMO that is also illusionism (though, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, a useful and accepted form thereof).

My point is that I believe that procedures can involve a degree of illusionism, depending on the implementation. However, IMO, assuming the players know of it, they're a lot less likely to feel like their agency has been undercut, in contrast to the GM simply choosing the encounters (what we traditionally think of as illusionism). Although, as evidenced by some of the responses in this thread, it appears as though some folks would feel that their agency has been compromised to a similar degree in either case.
 

Reynard

Legend
It's illusionism in the sense that the encounters are the same regardless of the path (albeit, as I've said, a useful and accepted form of illusionism).

If the GM simply decides the PCs encounter A, B, and C regardless of which path they take, we can both agree that that is clearly illusionism, right?

If the procedures in place would generate the exact same outcome (and having the same probabilities) then IMO that is also illusionism (though, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, a useful and accepted form thereof).

My point is that I believe that procedures can involve a degree of illusionism, depending on the implementation. However, IMO, assuming the players know of it, they're a lot less likely to feel like their agency has been undercut, in contrast to the GM simply choosing the encounters (what we traditionally think of as illusionism). Although, as evidenced by some of the responses in this thread, it appears as though some folks would feel that their agency has been compromised to a similar degree in either case.
It's still an argument that makes no sense.

ETA: I actually got interrupted while responding. I didn't mean my reply to seem so curt. I meant that it makes no sense in the given context that there is an implicit difference in the routes. That difference might be frequency, but it is more likely also content. At the very least it is contextual. Let's say there is an equal chance of meeting a patrol on either road. Even so, the shorter road is still more dangerous because that patrol is going to be expecting trouble and start out more hostile to the PCs. The patrol will be less likely to help and more likely to harass the PCs, perhaps mistaking them for vagabonds or bandits.
 
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CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
Rolling more frequently on the different roads means the paths have agency. It doesn't make the encounters not illusionism. If the first roll is a traveling merchant caravan, the second is a dragon, and the third is a band of mischievous pixies, what does it matter for illusionism whether the the encounters are all on the same day on the fast road, vs subsequent days on the slow road? The same rolls happen either way. It's not meaningfully different from if the GM is choosing those encounters and placing them on whichever path the players choose.

No, in the OP, which is what I was discussing, there is no mention of making rolls in advance. @Reynard later mentioned that that's how he runs things, and that if the PCs backtracked to the other road a different set of rolls would be made. And I agreed in my response that in that case, there's no illusionism. But that is not what was presented in the opening post, which is what I've been discussing.
It's illusionism in the sense that the encounters are the same regardless of the path (albeit, as I've said, a useful and accepted form of illusionism).

If the GM simply decides the PCs encounter A, B, and C regardless of which path they take, we can both agree that that is clearly illusionism, right?

If the procedures in place would generate the exact same outcome (and having the same probabilities) then IMO that is also illusionism (though, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, a useful and accepted form thereof).

My point is that I believe that procedures can involve a degree of illusionism, depending on the implementation. However, IMO, assuming the players know of it, they're a lot less likely to feel like their agency has been undercut, in contrast to the GM simply choosing the encounters (what we traditionally think of as illusionism). Although, as evidenced by some of the responses in this thread, it appears as though some folks would feel that their agency has been compromised to a similar degree in either case.
but even if both paths are rolling on the same encounter table that shouldn't mean they get the same results, and i don't mean that in the sense of what the random outcomes could've been on the path not taken, there are mechanical differentiators between the two routes even if it's not specifically the encounter table itself or the encounter check DC.

even if both routes encounter the very same merchant, dragon and pixies the fact that one path means they'll encounter them all on the same day changes things, the pixies might not be an issue as a standalone combat but after the dragon the group might be running low on resources and that changes the situation, that is not an illusion, even with the same random encounters on both paths the nuances of how to approach them is different and it provided a different play experience.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
but even if both paths are rolling on the same encounter table that shouldn't mean they get the same results, and i don't mean that in the sense of what the random outcomes could've been on the path not taken, there are mechanical differentiators between the two routes even if it's not specifically the encounter table itself or the encounter check DC.

even if both routes encounter the very same merchant, dragon and pixies the fact that one path means they'll encounter them all on the same day changes things, the pixies might not be an issue as a standalone combat but after the dragon the group might be running low on resources and that changes the situation, that is not an illusion, even with the same random encounters on both paths the nuances of how to approach them is different and it provided a different play experience.
That just means that the choice of route has agency.

Look at it this way. If I decided the players will be attacked by a vicious werewolf irrespective of their choice of route, that encounter is illusionism. It doesn't matter if they meet it on day 1 on one route or day 2 on the other. It doesn't even matter if there are some other encounters before/after the werewolf on one of the routes. All those mean is that the choice of route itself has agency. The werewolf encounter is fixed in their path regardless of that choice of path.

IMO, if you instead have a random encounter with the same random table at point X on one route, and point Y on the other route, it's still illusionism, because we can presume that roll would have been the same, irrespective of the choice of route.

If, on the other hand, the rolls for one road are pre-rolled and different outcomes would be used should they choose to backtrack to the other road, or different tables are used for each road, then the encounter is not illusionism. There are different outcomes for each path, even if they are randomly determined.
 

Reynard

Legend
That just means that the choice of route has agency.

Look at it this way. If I decided the players will be attacked by a vicious werewolf irrespective of their choice of route, that encounter is illusionism. It doesn't matter if they meet it on day 1 on one route or day 2 on the other. It doesn't even matter if there are some other encounters before/after the werewolf on one of the routes. All those mean is that the choice of route itself has agency. The werewolf encounter is fixed in their path regardless of that choice of path.

IMO, if you instead have a random encounter with the same random table at point X on one route, and point Y on the other route, it's still illusionism, because we can presume that roll would have been the same, irrespective of the choice of route.

If, on the other hand, the rolls for one road are pre-rolled and different outcomes would be used should they choose to backtrack to the other road, or different tables are used for each road, then the encounter is not illusionism. There are different outcomes for each path, even if they are randomly determined.
I do not understand this. All that matters for this to not be illusionism is for the choice the players make to impact the roll. If you make 3 rolls on the "fast rote" and only 2 rolls on the "slow" route (because the former is more dangerous and the latter is safer) then the choice is about gambling on probability. If the GM rolled both sets of encounters and it turned out each route resulted in one encounter and it turned out the encounter was the same on each route, that doesn't retroactively eliminate agency.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
That just means that the choice of route has agency.

Look at it this way. If I decided the players will be attacked by a vicious werewolf irrespective of their choice of route, that encounter is illusionism. It doesn't matter if they meet it on day 1 on one route or day 2 on the other. It doesn't even matter if there are some other encounters before/after the werewolf on one of the routes. All those mean is that the choice of route itself has agency. The werewolf encounter is fixed in their path regardless of that choice of path.

IMO, if you instead have a random encounter with the same random table at point X on one route, and point Y on the other route, it's still illusionism, because we can presume that roll would have been the same, irrespective of the choice of route.

If, on the other hand, the rolls for one road are pre-rolled and different outcomes would be used should they choose to backtrack to the other road, or different tables are used for each road, then the encounter is not illusionism. There are different outcomes for each path, even if they are randomly determined.
If you don't know how the roll will turn out, how can it be illusionism? If you have two choices, and due to various rolls both choices end in a TPK, is it illusionism because, after the fact, both choices led to the same grisley end?
 

Of course, dice, math, probabilities and more are a whole can of worms. And it's really one few people understand.

If a DC is 17, and you roll a straight d20 it "feels hard" as you have to roll only a few numbers out of the 20 on the dice. It "feels" like it is harder to roll a 17-20. But that is not how it works. The chance of you rolling Any number on a D20, is exactly the same every time you roll.

And so a "safe path" is not as safe as players might think. If the encounter chance is 1 in 6, there is still a chance a "1'' will be rolled.

And anyone who has played dice games know....well dice are fun. Sure it "feels" like the "safe path" should have "fewer" encounters. Except a 1d6 is rolled each time. And it's possible to get a one every time the "safe path" is taken. Because random dice are random. It "feels" like that should not happen....but dice have no feelings and it sure can.

Play enough games and you will see some amazing dice rolls. The chance is 2%, and they roll a 01 on the d100. The chance is 99% and they roll 100. They need a 20 to hit and save the day...and they roll a 20. The dragon does a full attack and rolls five natural 20s.

Also note encounter tables too and how they are made. A lot of games and GMs use the soft tables that contain some "interesting" encounters, but they will all be simple, easy and balanced. So sure if the worst encounter on the Safe Road Table is "a gray cloud covers the sun and makes your character sad" then sure nothing much will happen to the characters.

As the other way to do it is the hard tables with a chance of easy, medium, hard, and impossible encounters. Maybe even when you roll a "19" it will say "roll on the hard monster table" or something like that. So yes, it's possible, say on a roll of 20, for even 1st level characters to encounter The Dragon of Doom.

And this goes right back to the point: Players pick the "safe path" with the false assumption that nothing will happen to their characters. Then the DM rolls on some random tables...and some vampires pop out to drain and rip the characters apart. The players complain "but it was the safe path". Ok, but, sure, the DM rolled five "20" s in a row....and got slaughtering vampires.

You can go on forever and ever about how "rare" this event was or would be. Or how it won't happen all the time. Or really say anything else. The bottom line is: when the dice are rolled anything can happen.....
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
If you don't know how the roll will turn out, how can it be illusionism?
Valid question, but note that someone has been suggesting* making those rolls ahead of time - which means the GM already does know how those rolls will turn out.

* - in this thread or another, can't remember at the moment.
If you have two choices, and due to various rolls both choices end in a TPK, is it illusionism because, after the fact, both choices led to the same grisley end?
It's not illusionism unless the GM, in an "I'm tired of running this campaign" moment, decided ahead of time that either choice would wipe them out.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Valid question, but note that someone has been suggesting* making those rolls ahead of time - which means the GM already does know how those rolls will turn out.

* - in this thread or another, can't remember at the moment.

It's not illusionism unless the GM, in an "I'm tired of running this campaign" moment, decided ahead of time that either choice would wipe them out.
Agreed, but I would add that, if the rolls were made fairly and unchanged after the fact (regardless of the player's choices), they still wouldn't count as illusionism even if they were made beforehand.

For example, if the players tell you their route at the end of one session, you roll for that route and make note of the results during prep, and then adjudicate those results during the next session when the PCs actually take that route, there's no illusionism there.
 

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