Illusionism: Where Do You Stand?

Ugh, the Quantum Ogre.

If the party didn't know about the ogre, or wasn't choosing a path in order to avoid the ogre or encounters in general, or their route doesn't make the placement of the ogre nonsensical, then the placement of the ogre doesn't violate their choice or agency.

The Quantum Ogre has the problem that it logically extends to the idea that the only campaign that does not engage in badwrongfun illusionism is one in which every single location, trap, and monster is placed before characters are generated. We overlook this because the QO presents the choice very close to the encounter, but in its simplicity it provides no guardrails against extending the separation.

I feel the Quantum Ogre is a poor, overly simplistic frame for a discussion around a nuanced topic. :p

This matches my feelings very well. It also matches my objections to people who object to die roll fudging well, too.

I don't see anything sacred about what I do when I prep for the night that suggests that the choices I made in the past should override what I've learned in the meantime. That would be like prepping for 6 PC, and then running the encounters unmodified for 4 PCs because two people had conflicts that night.

I don't use fudging or quantum ogres very often. I'm much more likely to use it in the PCs favor, so I'm more likely to use quantum treasure or quantum MacGuffins.

It just feels like a strange line to draw. I would wonder how people would feel about the differences between:
  1. Create a list of impromptu wilderness encounters. Periodically, roll whether or not a random encounter occurs. If an encounter is indicated, randomly determine which of the prepared encounters.
  2. Create a list of impromptu wilderness encounters. Periodically, roll whether or not a random encounter occurs. If an encounter is indicated, run the next encounter on the list.
  3. Create a list of impromptu wilderness encounters. Periodically, run the next encounter on the list.
  4. Create a list of impromptu wilderness encounters. As needed, run the next encounter on the list.
  5. As needed, run an appropriate impromptu encounter created on-the-fly.
 

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payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I agree it's not really illusionism as per the quantum ogres example, but it is IMO a contrivance; and comes across as a contrivance when done.

For example, if you're fifteen adventures into a campaign and an enchanted glaive has never crossed the PCs' path and then someone brings in a glaive-spec. Fighter, having an enchanted glaive just happen to show up in the next adventure is a bit too contrived, and comes across as such to the players - including the one that benefits. Same thing if Illusionist spellbooks suddenly start appearing in treasure right after someone brings in an Illusionist. It's obviously contrived, and annoying because it's so obviously contrived.

I prep situations, adventures, etc. as they are, and it's up to the players as to whether they find interest in them. I place treasure without regard to whether any one character (or player) will find it interesting, though occasionally I'll think "I wonder what they'll think of this if they find it" regarding some unusual item.

=======
I should note, to partly counter something I said upthread, that while I've never used random treasure tables to assign treasure in a dungeon or adventure, I do use a random item generator (a.k.a. a whacking big Excel spreadsheet) for generating "shopping lists" of what happens to be available to purchase in town this week/month/season.
My opinion on this has changed from edition to edition. There was a time magic items were just nice to haves that did cool things. Then, they became essential items to character progression that the game doesnt work without (which was never really communicated well to the players.) I prefer the former to the latter, which makes your take on items make sense. However, if the system assumes the latter than you are just putting the players at a disadvantage against the design of the game because of your feelings on illusionism.
 

MGibster

Legend
Illusionism is also referred to as a type of game that is governed by covert GM Force to a sufficient degree that the GM effectively has claimed control over the trajectory of play.
I don't know if I've ever heard the GM described as using Force. I typically reserve Force to either physics or threats/use of violence. But you know what? I'm down. What kind of Force do I use as a GM? Why Magnum Force of course!
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
I don't know if I've ever heard the GM described as using Force. I typically reserve Force to either physics or threats/use of violence. But you know what? I'm down. What kind of Force do I use as a GM? Why Magnum Force of course!
Why force? Because "use of force" has the very pejorative implication that you're noticing with respect to threats/use of violence.
 



TheSword

Legend
The difference is, if I've put the ogre on the left side of the fork in advance, I've also put ways for the PCs to find out there's an ogre there, or at least there are ogres in the area. If there's a choice the players have to make, that choice is meaningful. Otherwise, it's the illusion of choice.
Why bother doing that for every single encounter you create? Surely it’s acceptable to have a mix of fixed locations and floating encounters? Why is fixing everything in place virtuous?
 

DammitVictor

Trust the Fungus
Supporter
It's not a matter of fixing everything in place, it's a matter of committing to what has been fixed in place. If there's a fork in the road, and the players can choose to walk down either path, the consequences for walking down those paths need to be different.

edit: I mean, hell, with the stock example of the quantum ogre the players can still encounter the same ogre regardless of which path they go down, as long as they encounter the ogre under different circumstances. Different terrain, different allies, the ogre's in a better or worse mood. The important thing, ironically, is the illusion that the world exists when the players aren't looking at it, that the world exists outside of their interactions with it; the "illusionism" we're discussing here is bad because it spoils that illusion.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
It's not a matter of fixing everything in place, it's a matter of committing to what has been fixed in place. If there's a fork in the road, and the players can choose to walk down either path, the consequences for walking down those paths need to be different.

edit: I mean, hell, with the stock example of the quantum ogre the players can still encounter the same ogre regardless of which path they go down, as long as they encounter the ogre under different circumstances. Different terrain, different allies, the ogre's in a better or worse mood. The important thing, ironically, is the illusion that the world exists when the players aren't looking at it, that the world exists outside of their interactions with it; the "illusionism" we're discussing here is bad because it spoils that illusion.
How would the players know? they cannot experience both roads simultaneously. As long as they only encounter the ogre once what is the difference?
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
The difference is, if I've put the ogre on the left side of the fork in advance, I've also put ways for the PCs to find out there's an ogre there, or at least there are ogres in the area. If there's a choice the players have to make, that choice is meaningful. Otherwise, it's the illusion of choice.
I get that once it's established in play that the ogres are there/may be there and the PCs decide to go somewhere else that it would be on the railroady side because the DM is overriding the PCs' best efforts at deliberately avoiding ogres.

It's just that, usually, the "quantum ogre as illusionism" argument doesn't hinge on any knowledge of the players. It's usually more along the lines of "PCs take left fork -> ogres, PCs take right fork -> ogres, OMG! ILLUSIONISM!!1!" And what I'm asking is: is there really a difference when the presence of the ogres wasn't established in play prior to the encounter? Is it illusionism because it was in your notes prior to the PCs picking a fork regardless of validating that presence in play? Are DMs who run by improv immune from the accusation of illusionism because they aren't working from pre-written notes? Is there a real difference between "hmm, feels like a good time for something to happen and I like ogre encounters" and "my notes say there's an encounter about now and it's ogres (because I like designing ogre encounters)"?
 

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