Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Quantum Roleplaying

In quantum mechanics there's this idea of wave function collapse, in that interaction with a measuring device supposedly causes a wave function to reduce from a plurality of eigenstates to just one. My interpretation is that it's simply saying this: before you roll a die, there is a probability that it lands on any face (for d20: 5% 1, 5% 2, 5% 3, etc.), but the instant you actually roll it the possibilities collapse to just one (100% certainty about the particular result that you rolled). *

It seems to me that this is quite similar to the moment in RPG's when a designed scenario full of  possibilities switches to a narrative story, at the point in time when you actually play it. That is, "scenario becomes story" when the dice hit the table and we find out what actually happened. Prior to that moment there are endless possible outcomes -- a statistical space, really -- whereas afterward there is one known outcome which we then seek to explain as a "story". Story generally exists only after the fact, not before play, in RPG's. *

We might more broadly say that this occurs in any live performance: theatre or music, for example. Technically many possible exciting things can occur which we only know about for sure after the fact. However, this phenomenon is several orders of magnitude easier to see in RPGs, which has such an overabundance of possible outcomes (in conjunction with both player choices and random die-rolls), as opposed to theatre or music, where the script and rehearsal set a relatively narrow expectation for what should happen in the performance.

* Note: This is a heretical interpretation on my part.

New Magic Item: Arrow of Time

This very rare arrow acts as +3 to hit and damage. On the round when it is fired, probabilities for critical hits or fumbles are tripled (i.e., if normally 1 or 20, become 1-3 or 18-20) for all parties in an encounter. If hit, then the target must save vs. spells or else only achieve average results for the rest of the encounter (i.e., automatically roll a natural "10" for any to-hit roll or save, exactly average damage or spell duration, etc.). It is occasionally produced by chronomancers and best used by parties who are overwhelmed by stronger forces and expect to lose the fight without extraordinary help.


11 comments:

  1. It might be heretical to story gamers, but it's certainly orthodox to traditional role-playing gamers.

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    1. You're right of course. I feel like I've been flambéed a few times for it :-)

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  2. Scenario: Player announces that they will be using the Arrow of Time later in a turn (since "on the round when it is fired" includes anything that happens before the arrow is fired, this would be necessary unless you want to open yourself up to fiddly retconning). One of the enemy attacks that PC, rolls a critical thanks to the extended range, and kills them with a hit that would otherwise have not been lethal. As a result, the arrow is not fired, and therefore none of its effects take place.

    Nu?

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    1. Well, I guess that should be interpreted as "the period of time from when the arrow is fired to one round later".

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    2. I like that, in those cases, time goes back to the start of the round and everything is rolled over. Or perhaps time goes back to any time of the firers choice, from the previous full moon, to just prior to the start of the round.

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  3. Cool magic item! One quibble - you do not "fire" an arrow (or, for that matter a quarrel, nor a bow or crossbow) unless you douse them in gasoline and put a match to them. The term "fire" only came about as a result of gunpowder weapons - shoot or shot are more appropriate terms for bows, arrows, crossbows, slings, etc.

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  4. I'll tentatively agree with your claim that "story exists only after the fact" if we stipulate that "stories" are determined rather than merely determinate. If they are the latter, then they can, of course, exist before all the details are filled in. Either way, though, one may act (either as player or as character!) with an awareness of the story one would wish to see played out - I think I can say for certain that my cavalier wants to be the hero of the "knight slays the dragon" story when he accepts the quest from the terrified villagers! Whether he'll get his wish...

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  5. I don't consider that idea heretical at all. I think the problem is people think of story only in terms of fiction. Story, in the form of narrative, is also present in memoir. From that I realized that Memoir is Story.

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  6. Delta, you are not alone. Story does not exist in roleplaying (D&D or any other game). It exists after a game has been played and the players recall the game's events. The mind interprets real-time events and experiences through the lense of story. There are people who do not see it this way but their lack of understanding does not make the truth any different.

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