The Quantum Ogre is a concept in TTRPG encounter design. The basic idea is that the game facilitator has decided the PCs will encounter an ogre, and regardless of what choices they make or which paths they take, they will encounter an ogre.

There are debates about whether this is good or not, and I’ll leave those to other people. Instead I want to look at how to put this power in player hands, because players can be excited about things happening, only for them not to happen because of how the facilitator has structured things. What if we could reward player excitement, and take some of the weight of encounter design off the shoulders of one player?

Imagine this kind of Dungeon World move as a partial replacement for “Trap Expert” and “Tricks of the Trade”:

Trap Sense
When you search for traps, roll +DEX.

  • On a 10+, hold 3
  • On a 7-9, hold 1

Spend your hold as you examine the trap you found:

  • Nobody will get hurt if you attempt to disarm the trap
  • You know how to disarm the trap without revealing this to the dungeon’s denizens
  • The trap protects a small but valuable cache (weapons, items, or coin)
  • The trap protects another secret (a hidden door, an informative inscription)

This is not the best version of this move. But I think it’s a good demonstration of the principle:

The choice of whether there is a trap has been moved onto the player.

Making the move introduces the existence of a trap that can be disarmed, but need not be if you don’t want. If you do want it, the promise of safety and reward exists. And if you don’t roll well, you can still take the hit for some kind of payoff.

There’s something else this does. The original phrasing of Trap Expert has the player asking questionts like “is there a trap here”. But who are they asking?

Compared to the original formulation, moves like this remove the need for a game master.

Is a GM-less game good? Is it better or worse? Like the quantum ogre, that’s a decision for individual players to make and for gamers to discuss among themselves. But isn’t it nice to have the option?