troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Schrödinger's Question
Professor Oak conveniently "forgets" his own grandson's name.

If I ask you, "what color is the dragon in my garage?" and your reply becomes true no matter what color you give, you just answered Schrödinger's Question.

This is a role-playing trope where you determine reality by answering a question whose answer you don't know. It reverses causality: instead of your reply being based on the correct answer, the correct answer is based on your reply. It's a way of letting players in on building the universe and, as such, is a subtle form of Breaking the Fourth Wall.

A mild version of this trope appears when an RPG asks you to name a party recruit. You may never have met her before but once you give her name, even her family refers to her so. Note that there are occasions where naming a character doesn't fit this trope: nicknaming a freshly caught Pokémon has a good in-game explanation, but naming your rival does not.

More egregious examples can be found below.

Related to Schrödinger's Gun, where the game or Game Master changes reality but the player is not complicit.

Named after Schrödinger's Cat.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Video Games 
Action Adventure
  • Hand Waved in Illusion of Gaia due to the psychic powers of the hero, Will. When he is asked to pick a card near the game's beginning, he finds the right one no matter which he chooses.

Eastern RPG
  • Chrono Trigger allows the player to name party recruits. It makes sense with some characters (Crono, the Silent Protagonist, or his childhood friend Lucca), less sense with other characters (Marle, whom you've never met before she appears), or no sense at all (Magus, who's mentioned by his default name numerous times before he joins your party). Furthermore, if you change your name mid-game, all the NPCs change their dialogue, which means you actually changed the way they remember you. Note that Robo does not fit this trope because Marle literally names him.
    • Marle's a interesting case because it's a nickname she gave herself on the spot. The royal court will still refer to her by her actual name of "Nadia". However, you are free to actually name her Nadia if you knew this beforehand, and watch as all the situations where her real name and her nickname come into conflict, despite it being the exact same.
      • Technically, this is because the translation was idiotic. In the original, Marle's real name is simply her nickname plus a "dia" suffix. So if you name her Marle, it's Marledia. If you try to name her Nadia, she becomes Nadiadia, etc, so it's impossible for her nickname and real name to conflict.
    • In the case of Magus, that was the name he was given by the Mystics who took him in (his real name is Janus), so it is giving you the chance to refer to him by his real name from that point onward. Still a bit strange if you decide to give him a totally different name instead, though.
  • Final Fantasy VII lets you rename the characters, but one, who's given a fake name to start with, is referred to as "Nanaki" later on by those who actually know him, no matter what other name you give him (potentially leading to the wonderful line "Nanaki, who is 'Nanaki'?" on subsequent playthroughs). A better example would be in the reunion scene after the player has escaped from Midgar. Cloud recounts the details of events 5 years prior and at various points he will be interrupted by another character asking him if he did something or went somewhere and the player is given the option to decide yes or no, despite that the events hypothetically already have happened. This, however makes sense considering the fact that Cloud is not telling the truth about what happened.
  • A funny example in Final Fantasy IX occurs when Zidane, in attempt to be serious, calls Dagger by her real name. If you name her Garnet from the get go, it comes out as "Garnet. No... Princess Garnet."
  • Pokémon plays this trope fast and loose. In most versions the professor who delivers the opening monologue allows you to name your rival as he "forgets" the name of his own grandson, son, or daughter. Parodied here.
    • Gold/Silver/Crystal was more egregious: You run into a trainer who just stole his Pokémon from Professor Elm. When you return to the lab, the police ask you his name. Up to this point, the trainer was identified only as "???", even in his own dialogue where he says "My name's ???." The Updated Re-release (HeartGold/SoulSilver) works around it by calling him "Passerby Boy" in the meantime, and when he drops his trainer ID card while walking away, he reprimands your character for reading it, noting that "you saw my name" without revealing what his name is supposed to be.
    • In Pokémon Emerald, you can choose whether Latias or Latios appears by telling your mom what color Pokémon you saw on TV flying over Hoenn.
    • In the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, you get to determine what kind of Pokémon your partner will be, along with their name. Despite the fact that they, unlike you, existed before you entered the picture. They hadn't existed for long, though.
  • In Star Ocean First Departure, there's a PA where Roddick has to guess which of Ilia and Ashlay will win a drinking contest. Whoever you pick loses, and their alcohol costs 10% of your current Fol.
  • In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, Emil is asked to guess which of Lloyd's companions joined him at the end of Tales of Symphonia. Since it was based on Relationship Values there, any answer could be a correct one, and, indeed, no matter what Emil (that is, the player) guesses, Lloyd admits that he guessed correctly. Later scenes have Lloyd confide in that character in particular (with romantic leanings if the character chosen was female.)

Western RPG
  • From Dragon Age: Origins: Naming your dog in the Human Noble Origin. In every other origin, you first meet and adopt the dog during the course of the game, so giving him a name on the spot makes perfect sense. In the Human Noble origin, however, you've had your dog for most of your life, but are still asked to give him a name in the same manner.
  • The Elder Scrolls series:
    • Morrowind has the character quizzed on his name, race, career, and star sign during the opening sequence. Amusingly, due to the different sizes of the races, the camera instantly jumps from the height of 'average human' to whatever your new race is once you've answered your question — apparently a Dunmer PC was standing on his toes, and the orc was squatting.
    • Oblivion also plays this one straight with the soon-to-be-assassinated emperor (voiced by Patrick we-could-only-afford-him-for-one-afternoon Stewart) quizzing your character on his or her star sign.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, a doctor asks you a series of questions to evaluate your personality and memory. Which is fair, seeing as he just nursed you back to health from a bad case of 'Got-Shot-In-Headitis.'
  • The canceled game Fallout: Van Buren would have started with your character in a jail cell, and one of your first character-defining choices would have been if you were or were not guilty of the crime you were locked up for.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II, an early conversation has the player determine their version of what happened at the end of the previous game, as well as the gender of its player character. A slightly later but still early conversation decides the color and type of your old lightsaber. At the end of the game, Atris was originally supposed to fight the player with their old lightsaber.
  • Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide, your character engages in a pointless discussion with an evil spirit, who attempts to find out about your past. How you decide to answer the spirit makes no difference to the outcome; the only discernible purpose to the exchange is so that the player can give him/herself a cool backstory.
    • Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask Of The Betrayer has conversations with Bishop's spirit and Ammon Jerro that determine what happened to your party members from the previous campaign.
  • Inverted in Ultima VII; the leader of the Church of Happyology will ask you questions for a personality test. No matter what answers you choose, he will always interpret them as the "worst" choices, diagnosing you with a screwed up psyche badly in need of his cult's guidance.
  • In Planescape: Torment, the proper answer to the question "What can change the nature of a man?" is the one you choose.

Real-Time Strategy
  • Starcraft II does this in the Hanson missions. If you choose to assist the protoss by clearing an infestation in the final mission, the infestated areas cover large sections of the map. If you fight off the protoss, trusting the colony's main scientist to find a cure, only a few infested people are seen in a quarantine area.

Simulation Game
  • In the Animal Crossing games, the Player Character's face and starting outfit are determined by your answers to Rover's (in the original, City Folk, and New Leaf)/Kapp'n's (in Wild World) questions at the very beginning of the game.

Survival Horror
  • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories: the answers the player gives during Dr. Kauffman's therapy sessions not only help to determine Harry's past, but some features of the actual town as well.

Third-Person Shooter
  • The identity of the human Council member is made by the player about an hour into Mass Effect 2. While the decision was made at the end of Mass Effect 1, there is no autosave after it, necessitating that it be put into the game. It works rather well: Miranda is trying to assess how good your memory is after you're brought back to life. It's one of three questions you're asked. But only if you imported a save from the first game. If you start with a new character, Udina will always be the councilor.

Other
  • Inverted in the Interactive Fiction Amnesia - To test how badly you have amnesia, you give yourself a test, and state what hair and eye colour you think you have... Then you look in a mirror, and find you couldn't have been more wrong, whatever you enter.
  • In the Infocom mystery game Moonmist, you are asked your favorite color at the beginning of the game. Your response determines the identity of the "ghost." (Adaptive puzzles are a common feature of IF games.)
  • Subverted in Douglas Adams' Bureaucracy, where you'll be asked a number of questions at the beginning of the game. The program will then delight in having characters call you the wrong name, refer to you as the wrong gender, have wonderful objects appear in your least favorite color, and generally use the info you give to screw with you as much as possible.

    Non Video Game Examples 
  • Commonly inverted in tabletop RPGs where players ask Game Masters leading questions in hope of changing reality to suit their characters' needs. It's actually an explicit part of the rules in a number of games, including Exalted, Feng Shui, Adventure, and the FATE System. For instance:
    Player: Is there a chandelier hanging from the ceiling?
    GM: Sure.
  • Actually encouraged in some types of (sometimes called 'narrativist') tabletop RPGs, such as Lady Blackbird, where the Game Master sends questions back to player characters, letting them build the world as they speak:
    Player: What does the imperial guard look like?
    GM: Well, you've been working as an imperial guard yourself five years ago. So tell me, what does the guard look like?


Schrödinger's GunInteractive Storytelling TropesMultiple Endings
Schrödinger's Player CharacterUsefulNotes/Schrödinger's CatSchrödinger's Suggestion Box
NPC RoadblockImageSource/Video GamesYour Princess Is in Another Castle

alternative title(s): ptitlew76489vv; Schroedingers Question
random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
26236
5