You are drawing a false dychotomy between this:
The players have chosen to play the game as players so they traditionally only control only have slight and limited control over one single character. The GM controls everything else.
Unless your talking about a game with no player characters or one where the players can just free from alter the game reality at will.
It's not that players either have slight and limited control over one single character
or, if not, then they are free from alter the game reality at will.
I'm gonna call these your A and your B. There is a kaleidoscope of different ways authority at the table can be distributed, and if we think of the ones presented above as though they are the only possibilities, we miss out on the nuance that can be created in between but also within these categories.
For instance, between and among
these categories, we have:
- Shared narrative control: All players have some level of control over the narrative. They can introduce new story elements, create NPCs, or even alter the game world's logic. The GM still has the final say in resolving disputes and maintaining coherence in the story.
- Resource-based authority: Players have a limited pool of resources they can spend to influence the game world or narrative. These resources could be action points, tokens, or some other currency. The GM still controls the overall narrative, but players can use their resources to shape the story in meaningful ways.
- Character-focused authority: The authority is primarily given to the players' characters, with the GM taking on a more supporting role. Players are encouraged to explore their characters' goals, motivations, and backgrounds, driving the story forward with minimal GM intervention.
- Consensus-based decision-making: Instead of the GM having unilateral authority to make decisions, the group collectively makes decisions through discussion and consensus. The GM still acts as a facilitator but has no more authority than any other player.
- Challenge-based authority: The GM sets up a series of challenges, puzzles, or encounters for the players to overcome. Players have the authority to choose how they approach and solve these challenges, but the overall narrative is still driven by the GM.
- Scene-based authority: Each player has the authority to frame and control one or more scenes during a game session. Players can decide what happens within their designated scenes, with the GM providing structure and guidance as needed.
- Mixed authority: Different types of authority are assigned to different players or aspects of the game. For example, one player might have authority over the game world's history, another over NPC creation, and another over the overall narrative arc.
The above is not meant to be a real taxonomy. It's meant to illustrate what possible arrangements there are where it's not either A or B but somewhat of a mix. They are also not mutually exclusive, there are overlaps. These are not real categories. Also, they suggest pretty boring design
That was between and among, now lets look at within, specifically within slight and limited control over one single character
1. You could have something like FFG's Star Wars, where PCs mostly operate from the limited perspective of their characters but can use destiny points to introduce narrative twists, enhance actions, or alter the story in meaningful ways. These are diegetically connected with the "abilities" of the character as they are meant to represent their connection to the force, a very real and impactful layer of reality in the galaxy.
2. You could have something like classic old school D&D where PCs mostly operate from the limited perspective of their characters but where their real world creative solutions to the challenges posed by the GM have a significant impact on the game world.
Player: "Can I spread some of the troll's snot in my boots to make them super sticky and have and easier time climbing the wall?"
GM (whose agenda is to reward creativity): "Yes" or "lets roll for it"!
You might not have noticed, but the player in that example just invented fiction outside of his character's limited perspective
, namely that troll's snot is a sticky enough substance to climb walls. This is a particular and very rewarding form of collaborative world building I'm almost sure you recognize. The GM has an open invitation to allow troll's snot to be a valuable substance in the world, or to allow players to collect it as an adventuring resource.
3. Believe it or not, Apocalypse World.
By the book AW has this to say:
Apocalypse World divvies the conversation up in a strict and pretty traditional way. The players’ job is to say what their characters say and undertake to do, First and exclusively; to say what their characters think, feel and remember, also exclusively; and to answer your questions about their characters’ lives and surroundings. Your job as MC is to say everything else: everything about the world, and what everyone in the whole damned world says and does except the players’ characters.
It's completely under the GMs prerogative to ask if they want to have players to contribute any details to the fiction other than what their characters think and act. No questions asked? Then no answers given. No new fiction built that way.
Players in AW don't control anything but their characters, but within that control their characters they have tremendous power to determine the ways things go for them. Take a look at my driver's ability Eye on the door:
Eye on the door: name your escape route and roll+cool. On a 10+, you’re gone. On a 7–9, you can go or stay, but if you go it costs you: leave something behind or take something with you, the MC will tell you what. On a miss, you’re caught vulnerable, half in and half out.
As a PC, I get the power to feint, and I easily get out of conflicts depending on what my priorities as a player. It is not a completely reliable currency. Sometimes I get out and that's it. Sometimes I'm forced to make a difficult choice to leave. Sometimes I fail and I have to get out like any other PC. I have not invented fiction outside of my player characters limited perspective. I haven't altered the universe in any way. I have acted in a diegetically logical way and the outcome follows logically from everything that has come before. But the macro-effect that my contribution has, the way my ideas are incorporated into the story, is that now the story has to accommodate to the fact that I am out of that conflict and cannot be brought back in. The focus on the story for my character shifts and I am now able to move on to something else or have to deal with something else and the rest of the table follows me onto my next conflict.
I, as my player character, without ever leaving the confines of their own perspective, without ever "breaking immersion", without ever considering or contemplating any notion related to things "story structure" or "the story we are writing together", have unequivocally, irrevocably said "Hey, everyone, I'm moving on to the next scene". If we are playing by the rules that should not seen as disruptive, but that is a feature of the game, just like old school's troll's snot.
So you see, saying that slight and limited control over one single character
can mean a plethora of things. Do you mean 1, do you mean 2? Do you mean that characters can only perform one physical action at a time? That the number of steps needed to achieve certain outcomes is up to the GM?
Illusionism can happen in any of these, and I include the more indie versions of authority distribution. I find common ground with you there. In the past, while learning story gaming I have been a bad illusionist GM too! (Mostly because I was not fully playing by the rules even thought I thought I was.)
However, once again, to your suspicion that the way in which other kinds of roleplaying have to work
is by necessarily defaulting to a more obscure way of illusionism where players think that the are all powerful and in control free to declare anything at any time but secretly the GM is still in control, I say: No. That's not it.
Story Gaming is functional, is collaborative, and can be played with slight and limited control over one single character or not, we've seen both kinds be successful.