Do Random Tables Reduce Player Agency?

pemerton

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).
But what is the illusion? Illusionism is about the GM misleading the players as to how the content of the fiction has been established. But in this case there is no misleading. The GM has followed the process of rolling on the table, which - ex hypothesi - is the same for both paths.

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?
No. It depends on what the GM says or implies about the ostensible process of play compared to the actual process of play.

I honestly don't know what you mean by "illusionism". You don't seem to be using it in the sense I'm familiar with, which is the GM obscuring from the players the way in which they determine what happens next.
 

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Retros_x

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


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.....
No. That is just bad DMing / bad design. If a DM communicates a path is safe, they should NOT roll on a table that lead to dangerous encounters. It should just be safe. But you if you still want to have a random table, you could roll on a "non-combat/fluff encounter table". Than you still have random events without violating the premise that informed your players decision.

In this thread were many examples stated of:
1) Scenarios with random tables that had no bad impact on player agency
2) Scenarios with random that had bad impact on player agency
3) Static scenarios that had bad impact on player agendy (classic railroad)
4) Static scenarios that had no bad impact on player agency

It is just logical to conclude that if you have no variance or you have variance has NO general impact on player agency. There is no causality, there is not even correlation between random tables and player agency. Because that is just HOW you design the challenges, these are tools in your toolbox. What you make with these tools, your actual encounter/scenario design that you come up with affects player agency. And your DMing is what affects player agency. Do the informed decisions of the player have consequences and impact the world, is the game truly interactive, these are the questions regarding player agency. And no "informed decision" does not mean that your players have 100% clearance on what will happen exactly.
 
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Reynard

Legend
No. That is just bad DMing / bad design. If a DM communicates a path is safe, they should NOT roll on a table that lead to dangerous encounters. It should just be safe. But you if you still want to have a random table, you could roll on a "non-combat/fluff encounter table". Than you still have random events without violating the premise that informed your players decision.
I did say "longer and safe, or faster and more dangerous" so the implication was that it wasn't necessarily a guarantied 100% completely safe route. We are still playing D&D, after all.

But to your point: if the GM told the PLAYERS it was safe, I think you are right. If an NPC told the PCs though, that's a different story. This goes back to the limits of certainty we were discussing earlier.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I did say "longer and safe, or faster and more dangerous" so the implication was that it wasn't necessarily a guarantied 100% completely safe route. We are still playing D&D, after all.
This.

If the safe route gives 1-in-10 odds of meeting something dangerous while the risky route gives 6-in-10 odds, it's pretty clear which one is generally safer; even though the dice might let you sail through the risky route unchallenged and yet get you hammered on the safe route.

It's all a matter of luck. :)
 

Retros_x

Explorer
I did say "longer and safe, or faster and more dangerous" so the implication was that it wasn't necessarily a guarantied 100% completely safe route. We are still playing D&D, after all.

But to your point: if the GM told the PLAYERS it was safe, I think you are right. If an NPC told the PCs though, that's a different story. This goes back to the limits of certainty we were discussing earlier.
If the NPC told the PCs, everything is possible, but in a good scenario design the PCs should be able to gather information to make an assessment about the choice that is at hand. That has nothing to do with random tables though. WHAT you are designing and HOW you are designing it are different dimensions and for me its clear that player agency is an outcome of what you design, while random tables are part of how you design it. Those are not directly related. Of course one can affect the other, but there is not a general causal relationship like "more random tables -> less player agency". Its all a question of what adventure/scenario/encounter are you actually designing with these random encounter tables.
 

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