Quantum Ogre Theory

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This week I learned about an interesting tool / cheat used by games masters: The Quantum Ogre. We’re going to briefly talk about what it is, how you can use it and/or avoid it. And of course, we thought we’d end the article with rules for including an actual reality-bending quantum ogre monster for your players to fight (because why not?)

WHAT IS THE QUANTUM OGRE?

The quantum ogre is a term for an obstacle (generally of light-medium difficulty) that the GM plans ahead-of-time and throws in the players’ path, whichever way they go.

Example: 

GM: Before you stands a crossroads. The path on the left leads down into the valley, directly towards the castle. The path on right slopes upwards to the craggy peak that snake behind the castle keep.

Player: Man, this is tough… I think we go down into the valley.

GM: You come across an ogre!

Player: What would have happened if we went to the right? Another ogre?

GM: Uh, Maaaaaybe…

*GM notes: encounter 1 – definitely an ogre*

WHY DO GMS USE THIS TRICK?

The reasons are simple enough: 

Players like to have choices (or fail that, the illusion of choice)

  • Writing an entire adventure is demanding enough for a GM; asking them to write an adventure where there are 2+ outcomes for each decision, i.e. prepping twice the material that will actually be used… is ridiculous.
  • It makes it easier to work in essentially plot points, thus typing combat with story (ex. The quantum ogre also carries a quantum letter that needs to fall into the players’ hands.)
  • It works

DOWNSIDES OF THE QUANTUM OGRE

Resorting to this trick may make your players feel like they don’t REALLY have free choice; they are essentially on a railroad with only 2 results: a pre-written destination, or their deaths. 

Personally, I don’t mind a little railroading or quantum trickery when dealing with a one-shot, or if the players decide to deviate way off track and I’m improvising. However, when in comes to campaigns, there might be better ways to make the players feel like there are options.

HOW DO WE AVOID THE OGRE CLICHE?

Trick 1:

Whenever the party is about to embark on a big adventure, the GM should ask lots of probing questions about what the players want to accomplish, and what’s their ideal situation; next, break down this ideal scenario into smaller items This will give you several dials you can play with, and inspiration for obstacles. 

Keep in mind the old Project Management Triangle: GOOD, CHEAP, FAST: you can only PICK TWO.

Description: triangle, with the corners labeled “cost,” “time,” “product (scope / quality)”

In other words, you can produce something Good & cheap (but slowly); OR good and fast (but at high cost); OR cheap and fast (but poor quality).

Similarly, if a GM can get 2-4 priorities from the players, the GM can offer choices; each scenarios offers some of those qualities, but not all.

Example: 

Players: We want to approach the castle.

GM: Okay, how do you approach? What do you ideally want to happen and not happen on the way there?

Player: Well, we want to get there without signaling our approach; we want to avoid fights; and we want to get there before nightfall (while the vampire lord is still asleep).

GM: Okay! Before you is a fork in the road. The lower path leads into the valley that stretches before the castle. The path on the right leads up into the craggy hills.

What the players don’t know is that:

  • The path to the left will get them there quickly and without fight, (but they will be noticed, giving enemies inside enough time to get their good armor on)
  • The path to the right will get them to the castle before night and without raising the alarm, (but they they can’t avoid the fight with the ogre ).
  • This also opens up an optional 3rd option, to utilize any spellcasters or rogues: maybe there’s a secret path through the sea caves filled with magical locks*; if the PCs don’t role perfectly, they are stuck opening them slowly over many hours. Thus, they get their stealthily and without fight, (but not before sunset).

*Note: While it’s fun to tease the PLAYERS with an occasional riddle, this is not always required; besides, that is rewarding the players for being smart; sometimes it’s important to let the characters be smart (or dumb) on their own. An obstacle can be as simple as saying, “There’s a magical door in front of you, asking for the correct password. Roll Arcana”; Based on the roll, tell them how many minutes or hours it takes them to research and provide the right word. If you want to make it more dramatic, you can add a penalty for each botched attempt, like a sinking ceiling or a magical attack, but this is not required.

Trick 2 – Don’t Plan an Encounter, Plan a Difficulty

This works mostly for story-games like Fate, but when prepping your adventure, don’t plan a minor battle as “a conflict with a guard with Superb +5 in Fight”; rather, think of it as “An obstacle with a difficulty value of Superb +5.” 

Example: 

GM: You approach the city walls. 

*The GM wants to give the players a mild obstacle, but nothing too impossible; if they have a Great +4 to a skill, they set the difficulty of the first obstacle of this session a little higher, namely Superb +5.*

GM: Do you approach by the city gate, or scale the walls?

*If they go through the front, they will will encounter an ogre sergeant who’s not easily persuaded or beaten; roughly Superb +5 to defend against approach, give or take +1/-1.

Similarly, if they decide to scale the walls, they will find that doing so safely and quietly is very hard; again, difficulty Superb +5.*

Player: Actually, you said that a river ran through the city; I want to go underwater, and try to infiltrate that way.

The GM didn’t think of this; good thing they didn’t spend a lot of time fleshing out that Sergeant! The GM tells them there’s a grate blocking access to the city via the river; It’s possible to squeeze through or pry it open, but the difficulty is (you guessed it) Superb +5!

With non-fate RPGs, this can also be done, but easier when thinking of Challenge Ratings. 

  • The players want to go through the gate? They have to fight a ogre sergeant with CR 2.
  • They want to swim through the river? They are attack by four crocodiles (which add up to CR 2). 
  • Want to open a secret door? If they fail, the infiltrator is hit with a booby trap attack (that happens to be the same as two javelin attacks from a CR2 ogre.)

That’s it for the lofty game theory discussions: here are the rules for a Quantum Ogre (first for D&D 5e, then for Fate Core and Fate Accelerated)

Quantum Ogre

The quantum ogre, or as it’s sometimes called, the Schrödinogre*, is a rare creature born amidst a temporal storm. As such, it naturally shimmers and projects duplicate versions of it, allowing you to peek into alternate timelines to see where the being could have potentially gone. Thus, it’s hard to be sure which of the fractal ogres is the real one unless you observe it closely, or until it brings a heavy club down on your head.

*Credit where it’s due, my wife came up with “Schrödinogre.” She insisted I credit her so people** don’t forget that.

**Mostly Me.


D&D 5e Rules

Large giant, neutral evil
Armor Class 12 (Hide Armor)
Hit Points 90 (10d10 + 35)
Speed 40 ft.
STR
21 (+5)
DEX
9 (-1)
CON
18 (+4)
INT
6 (-2)
WIS
10 (+0)
CHA
8 (-1)
Senses Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 8
Languages Common, Giant
Challenge 4 (1,100 XP)
Natural Mirage.Quantum Ogres always appear in pairs, at least to the untrained eye. Once per day, whenever you encounter a quantum ogre, it is accompanied by an illusionary double; treat it as if the ogre had cast the illusion spell Project Image, without requiring a spell slot, action or spell components. It can be dispelled or sensed just the spell normally allows.
Avoidance. If the Quantum Ogre is subjected to an effect that allows it to make a saving throw to take only half damage, it instead takes no damage if it succeeds on the saving throw, and only half damage if it fails.
Displacement. The Quantum Ogre projects a magical illusion that makes it appear to be standing near its actual location, causing attack rolls against it to have disadvantage. If it is hit by an attack, this trait is disrupted until the end of its next turn. This trait is also disrupted while the Quantum Beast is incapacitated or has a speed of 0.

Actions

Multiattack. The Quantum Ogre makes two attacks with either javelin or greatclub.

Greatclub. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (2d8 + 5) bludgeoning damage.

Javelin. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 12 (2d6 + 5) piercing damage.


FATE CORE RULES

Quantum Ogre

High Concept: A reality shifting brute

Aspects: Craven Bully; Hard to pin down; Hits like a Bull; Shadow Double* (see stunt)

Fantastic 6+ – Physique
Superb 5+ Fight – Stealthy
Great 4+ Notice, Intimidation, Will

Stunts: 

Natural Mirage. Quantum Ogres always appear in pairs, at least to the untrained eye. Treat it is if there is a second ogre, which can only interact in non-physical ways (ex. Intimidate, Notice); once a character successfully attacks the ogre’s double, you may compel the Shadow Ogre aspect to have the attack automatically fail (however, the player gains a fate point). Alternatively, you may have the attacking player make a successful Notice roll, to overcome a Difficulty of 5; if they succeed, they may forgo the fate point and take an alternative action this turn instead. Either way, the double is revealed to all characters nearby, and it can take no actions except moving around.

Avoidance. If the Quantum Ogre is subjected to an effect that allows it to avoid harm. It has armor +1 (ignoring the first stress from each attack).

Displacement. The Quantum Ogre projects a magical illusion that makes it appear to be standing near its actual location, causing attacks to falter. When defending against any fight, shoot, or magical attack, the Ogre may defend with the Stealth skill and gains +2 to the result. It may not use this stunt if it was already hit by an attack this round, or has an aspect that hinders it’s abilities (ex. Chained to the floor; blinded by sand.)

Bitter Rage. Once per round, if an Ogre attempts an attack against one character and was not successful, the GM may pay a Fate point to have the Ogre take an additional attack action against another character.


FATE ACCELERATED

Quantum Ogre

High Concept: A reality shifting brute

Aspects: Craven Bully; Hard to pin down; Hits like a Bull; Shadow Double* (see stunt)

Superb 5+ Forceful
Great 4+ Sneaky
Good +3 – Quick, Careful

Stunts: 

Natural Mirage. Quantum Ogres always appear in pairs, at least to the untrained eye. Treat it is if there is a second ogre, which can only interact in non-physical ways (ex. Intimidate, Notice); once a character successfully attacks the ogre’s double, you may compel the Shadow Ogre aspect to have the attack automatically fail (however, the player gains a fate point). Alternatively, you may have the attacking player make a successful Notice roll, to overcome a Difficulty of 5; if they succeed, they may forgo the fate point and take an alternative action this turn instead. Either way, the double is revealed to all characters nearby, and it can take no actions except moving around.

Avoidance. If the Quantum Ogre is subjected to an effect that allows it to avoid harm. It has armor +1 (ignoring the first stress from each attack).

Displacement. The Quantum Ogre projects a magical illusion that makes it appear to be standing near its actual location, causing attacks to falter. When defending against any fight, shoot, or magical attack, the Ogre gains +2 to defending with Sneaky. It may not use this stunt if it was already hit by an attack this round, or has an aspect that hinders it’s abilities (ex. Chained to the floor; blinded by sand.)

Bitter Rage. Once per round, if an Ogre attempts an attack against one character and was not successful, the GM may pay a Fate point to have the Ogre take an additional attack action against another character.


That’s it for today. If you like the D&D version, you can also find it at DNDBeyond and add it to your campaign. As always, please share, subscribe, and game on!

-Dave Seidman Joria, Tangent Artists

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