Illusionism: Where Do You Stand?

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
As a DM, I'll say that I don't use the "Quantum Ogre" device, and that I never have...but in practice? You'll never know for sure.

And as a player, I'll say that I don't like it, and I can tell when my DM is using it...but in practice? I'll never know for sure.

So to me, it's an interesting thing to talk about, but I don't give "illusionism" too much weight. It's a game. At the end of the night, I either had fun or I didn't...I don't ask myself if it was the right kind of fun, or if I was tricked into having fun, or if it was only "illusionary" fun.
 
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payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
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)"?

As a DM, I'll say that I don't use the "Quantum Ogre" device, and that I never have...but in practice? You'll never know for sure.

And as a player, I'll say that I don't like it, and I can tell when my DM is using it...but in practice? I'll never know for sure.

So to me, it's an interesting thing to talk about, but I don't give "illusionism" too much weight. It's a game. At the end of the night, I either had fun or I didn't...I don't ask myself if it was the right kind of fun, or if I was tricked into having fun, or if it was only "illusionary" fun.
I think it really comes down to frequency and noticeability. I think there is a huge difference between quantum ogre happening a few times a campaign and a few times a session. Nobody likes the idea of it, but I also don't think its a capital crime either if it slips in seldomly. 🤷‍♂️
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
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.

This was a big controversy when PF2e was designed; the "magic items will be regularly present, which means they'll be necessary" contingent won, but it wasn't without resistance, which is why there are options to work around it in the DMG.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
This was a big controversy when PF2e was designed; the "magic items will be regularly present, which means they'll be necessary" contingent won, but it wasn't without resistance, which is why there are options to work around it in the DMG.
Yeap, they also changed needing a specific item and going with a rune option. You can move the magic to any item that works with the rune. Not a fan of many of the choices for PF2, but do respect the variants in Game Masters Guide change the game a lot to my liking.
 

Jack Daniel

dice-universe.blogspot.com
My problem with illusionism is the same as my problem with fudging, forcing, and other soft railroading techniques: even when used in good faith by a DM who only wants to run the best game possible for the players, they're still negations of player agency, located precisely where player agency needs to matter most. Even if we operate solely under that good faith assumption, there's still the unavoidable element of the DM forcing a desired outcome by authorial fiat.

I don't want to author what happens to my players' characters. Not singly on my own, not collaboratively with the players serving as a kind of writers' room, not at all. This is why I don't play trad or narrativist style campaigns: if there's an element of authorship involved, it makes the game feel "solved." I don't want to be playing tic-tac-toe when I could be playing go, and I most certainly don't appreciate a DM who insists that the game at hand is go when it's really tic-tac-toe under the table.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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,
Ditto, and that's how I run. :)
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.
Worth noting that in 3e, say, where item dependency was more paramount, item-building rules were eased greatly in order to account for this.

Otherwise, in my game in-character options exist for commissioning the construction of magic items but it's a long slow process often taking many in-game months or even a year or two, meaning you're probably going to do a lot more adventuring before the item is ready. Characters occasionally do this if they think they'll a) survive long enough and b) still be in the area when the item's done.

Another option, also not reliable but sometimes present, is to use a wish or similar to create the item you need, or get it as a Deck of Many Things prize.

But in general it's kind of a take-what-you-get-and-make-the-best-of-it system...which matches then char-gen philosophy as well. :)
 


aramis erak

Legend
Ah. I thought you meant punishment for learning player-side rules.

Gygax's advice here I'm fully on board with: a lot of the mechanics, charts, tables, etc. IMO can be quite happily kept DM-side, leaving the players freer to just play their characters. I like this both as a player and a DM, and one of my biggest regrets about ever becoming a DM is that doing so let me see far too much of what's going on "under the hood" thus diminishing my enjoyment as a player.

A simple example of what I mean: in pre-3e D&D combat a player rolled the to-hit die and added the character's bonuses, then the DM consulted the combat matrix vs the target's AC to determine if the swing hit or not. With 3e, this math was moved player-side as BAB, meaning more work and number-crunching for the players; work that IMO is the DM's job.
Note that the rules for combat are in the DMG.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Worth noting that in 3e, say, where item dependency was more paramount, item-building rules were eased greatly in order to account for this.
Probably more detrimentally to the lack of understanding the rules to players was GMs in 3E. I ran across a good number of GMs that "never had to have magic items ever in the past, so you gotta earn em!" completely lacked the understanding of the ruleset. Also, its a complete drag to keep getting bracers of armor and daggers nobody uses that sell at half value to get the items you do need.
Otherwise, in my game in-character options exist for commissioning the construction of magic items but it's a long slow process often taking many in-game months or even a year or two, meaning you're probably going to do a lot more adventuring before the item is ready. Characters occasionally do this if they think they'll a) survive long enough and b) still be in the area when the item's done.
As long as the items are not assumed by game rules do whatever you want. Otherwise, you are screwing the players for feel and not understanding the ruleset.
Another option, also not reliable but sometimes present, is to use a wish or similar to create the item you need, or get it as a Deck of Many Things prize.

But in general it's kind of a take-what-you-get-and-make-the-best-of-it system...which matches then char-gen philosophy as well. :)
No thank you to either of these.
 

My problem with illusionism is the same as my problem with fudging, forcing, and other soft railroading techniques: even when used in good faith by a DM who only wants to run the best game possible for the players, they're still negations of player agency, located precisely where player agency needs to matter most. Even if we operate solely under that good faith assumption, there's still the unavoidable element of the DM forcing a desired outcome by authorial fiat.

I don't want to author what happens to my players' characters. Not singly on my own, not collaboratively with the players serving as a kind of writers' room, not at all. This is why I don't play trad or narrativist style campaigns: if there's an element of authorship involved, it makes the game feel "solved." I don't want to be playing tic-tac-toe when I could be playing go, and I most certainly don't appreciate a DM who insists that the game at hand is go when it's really tic-tac-toe under the table.
Welcome to my "enemies of DM empowerment" list.

Now I have to make an enemies of DM empowerment list...
 

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