by Ramanan Sivaranjan on June 24, 2013
Random Wizard has written a couple interesting posts about player choice in Dungeons and Dragons that are well worth a read: Shades of the Quantum Ogre, Two-headed Quantum Ogre, and Shaving the Quantum Ogre. The Quantum Ogre was a term I had never encountered till I started reading gaming blogs. People who think very hard about games—and why shouldn’t they!—use the term to describe the following scenario, more or less: players are presented a fork in the road; they can go left or right; regardless of which path they take they’re going to fight an ogre. In this situation the agency of the players is an illusion: why even bother with the fork in the road? For a lot of people the appeal of D&D comes from the open ended nature of the game. It’s quite easy to make the argument that the Quantum Ogre is bad (and such arguments have been made quite well countless times). At the very least, it seems like a waste of time to pretend to offer up choice when there is none.
Ultimately, one needs to optimize for fun when it comes to playing games. Increased player agency might be one way to do so, but it’s not the only way. Does it matter if this ogre battle was predetermined if it was awesome? I’m not so sure.
Updated 2013-06-25: Random Wizard wrote an additional post on this topic.
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