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Schrödinger's Gun

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"What we depict in the game is only a tiny part of the Inkling world. What we don't see in the game is left to players' imaginations."
Hisashi Nogami, Splatoon 3 developer interview

In a nutshell: the world of a fictional universe isn't fixed beyond what the author has revealed to the reader.

So, to keep the plot on the rails, the author can subtly tweak facts the audience hasn't discovered yet. Improvisation masquerading as planning, if you will. For obvious reasons, this kind of plot event is pretty much impossible unless the work in question is either interactive or serialised.

In the former case, the advantage to this trope is obvious — a Game Master in a Tabletop Game could be badly hamstrung by a player anticipating the general direction of the campaign and being prepared for anything. The subtle Retcon this trope provides is essential to keeping things interesting. Likewise, if it's necessary for the plot in a Video Game to have the Player Character meet The Rival early on but they're technically free to go anywhere they want, this trope is essential to keeping the plot together.

The trope has also become increasingly important in more traditional fiction as of late because the Internet's technological revolution is such that an author's "twists" could easily be predicted ahead of time if enough clever fans put their heads together and talk things over. (And over.) Catching wind of this, an author might then avoid being predicted by "coalescing" Schrödinger's Gun into a sniper rifle, uzi, or rocket launcher as the situation requires. Since these cases involve more conscious improvisation, readers are more likely to consider the possibility that the writer doesn't actually know what they're doing and is just jerking them around, if not making it up entirely as they go along.

In interactive media such as video games, this trope can take the form of setting details retroactively warping themselves around the player's choices in ways that cannot be logically caused by the player character's in-universe choice — for example, when the real location of an artifact you seek throughout the campaign is dependent on the order in which you visit its possible locations, making a Last Place You Look scenario. In effect, your choices in the game affect not where you end up, but where you began.

A helpful way to look at this is how sometimes Mystery Fiction authors will constantly feed the audience "clues" supposedly narrowing down the possible suspects, only to select the "right" clue as a Chekhov's Gunman by the denouement and fit the facts around it. Similarly, in movies it is common practice to write most of the story — and only then pick the ending that resonates the best with the test audience.

Also known as "Railschröding" (forgive the pun) because it can easily be used for Railroading purposes.

The larger principle behind Schrödinger's guns is Chandler's Law.

Compare Writing by the Seat of Your Pants, Schrödinger's Suggestion Box. A subtrope is Schrödinger's Question.

See also the Useful Notes regarding Schrödinger's Cat.


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    Board Games 
  • In 4000 AD, ships in FTL drive can turn up anywhere that is the same number of sectors away from the sector they started in as the number of turns they've been in FTL drive. This means that the player can often adapt the plan to new developments.
  • Ankh-Morpork Stealth Chess adds the Assassin pieces, who as long as they are on an outer file they alone can be in (these files are called the Slurks) move as though on a second, hidden board beneath the main one. However many moves an Assassin made in the Slurks when reentering the main board is the furthest away* from the square from which it entered the Slurks that the Assassin can turn up again. The player can change plans suddenly.
  • In Forbidden Desert, the players must recover the parts of a legendary flying machine. The location of each part is indicated by two clues, one for the row and one for the column. However, until the second clue for any given part is revealed, the part's location is not only unknown, but also unfixed. Each turn, the storm moves tiles randomly, including both revealed clues and unrevealed clues. Only when the second clue is finally revealed is the part's location fixed. Even then, if the clues indicate the empty space that represents the storm, then the location is still unfixed: the part's location will be the next tile that moves into the hole.

    Comic Books 
  • A Batman Gamebook involves the Joker deciding to kill half of Gotham's population. Batman decides that involves piping poison from a utility. The Joker is always at the first utility one chooses to investigate.
  • The villain of The DCU Crisis Crossover Armageddon 2001, the mysterious Monarch, was originally intended to be the superhero Captain Atom. After fans figured it out too soon, DC decided to change the story to preserve the surprise, and the Monarch wound up being a different superhero entirely; Hawk, of Hawk and Dove.
    • However, this turned out be rather sloppy; one of the tie-ins had already explicitly and unambiguously shown that Hawk could not possibly be Monarch. The final reveal didn’t even try to address this discrepency, and combined with Hawk's dubious-at-best reasoning for a Face–Heel Turn, the whole thing came off as a cheap Ass Pull.
    • Incidentally, the latest Monarch, villain of Countdown to Final Crisis, actually was Captain Atom (but he got better). You couldn't make this stuff up.
  • And it happened again at DC when they were publishing 52. The character Booster Gold and his robot buddy Skeets are from the future. In the first few issues, Skeets' records of current events become incorrect, which makes Booster suspect another time traveler is trying to alter history. Writer Grant Morrison balked at this, saying that the "fix the future" storyline had been done before. The editor would only allow him to change it if he could come up with an alternate explanation for Skeets' behavior. Morrison's response: "Because... he's evil?" — which wound up completely changing Booster's storyline and others in the series.
  • The infamous Spider-Man Clone Saga features Peter and Ben as "Schrodinger's clones": Ben was supposed to be the clone, but once the character became more popular, editors decided Peter was the clone...which lead to some backlash since Peter is the main character. As the story grew more complex, writers had no idea who was supposed to be the original and who was supposed to be the clone. One idea even posited that they were both the original: At the end of the story, Peter would be sent back in time in a Stable Time Loop, and believe himself to be Ben. It was only when Ben died that it became clear he was the clone "all along".

    Fan Works 
  • In the Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc fanfic Hope on a Distant Mountain, the events of the visual novel turn out to be a virtual simulation. One of the programmers supervising Naegi's sim exploited this by changing the identity of the Mastermind before it was ever revealed. When asked why, he proclaimed that this made a better Plot Twist, as their original choice seemed 'too obvious'.

    Film — Animated 
  • There is a weird scene in the beginning of the Disney's Alice in Wonderland where objects appear out of nowhere when Alice is told that they are there by a talking door, who speaks as though the objects were already there. It makes more sense when you realize the whole movie was a dream.
    Door: Of course, you've got the key so...
    Alice: What key?
    Door: Now don't tell me you've left it up there.
    [key appears on table]
    Alice: Oh, dear.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Clue: Masterfully applied in The Movie about the board game Clue. It has endings for several characters where they are the killer, and of course they Flash Back retroactively showing how only they could ever possibly be the killer. Each theatre showed it with one of three different endings. The VHS release showed all three endings straight through, and the DVD lets you do it either way, with a random ending or with all three. In the end end, Mr. Green reveals himself as working for the government and that "They all did it!" Take them away boys!
    But if you want to know who killed Mr. Boddy, it was me, in the Hall, with the Revolver. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go home and sleep with my wife.
    • The final ending is itself a parody of the game, in which the killer could win by exposing himself. Not like that.
  • The 1995 movie Mr Payback had the audience vote at several points to determine how the movie proceeded.
  • Purposefully used by George Romero in Martin. For purposes of making the film he decided the title character was not a vampire, but admitted in an interview that it could be open to other interpretations.
  • Star Wars:
    • In A New Hope, there are several mentions of "the Emperor," but no details about him are ever given. At the time, George Lucas apparently intended for him to be a Puppet King controlled by devious advisors. In subsequent films, the Emperor is instead revealed as the Big Bad. The Puppet King concept on the other hand was used for The Rise of Skywalker where it is revealed at the beginning that Supreme Leader Snoke, who was defeated in the previous film, was a cloned puppet ruler used to distract and mislead the Resistance.
    • The Empire Strikes Back hints at the existence of Luke's sister, who was then intended to be introduced as a new character in a later episode. But Lucas was getting burned out and decided to end Luke's story within one more film rather than the four more he had originally planned. Thus, in the interest of wrapping everything up quickly, Return of the Jedi revealed that Leia was Luke's sister all along.
    • The Force Awakens built up a mystery surrounding the identity of Rey's missing parents. At the time, there was no definite solution to the mystery, and several possibilities were considered in order to keep the audience guessing. They are later revealed to be nobody special (and dead, meaning Rey never gets to see them again), but her grandfather, on the other hand, was revealed to be the exact opposite of a nobody.

  • Just about every Choose Your Own Adventure book does this heavily, in order to keep it interesting through multiple re-reads.
  • Rampant in the Give Yourself Goosebumps books. There'll at the very least be a major choice near the beginning that divides the book in half (say, try to give the magic book back or try to hide it), and the entire setup, the very nature of the situation you're in, will be completely different depending on which you choose. Then other decisions will cause the same thing to happen on a smaller scale. Worst, often there'll be a situation in which you have a single decision where both lead to a quick death and an unhappy end, but the nature of what was putting you in danger is not the same depending on which you pick.
    • All-Day Nightmare starts with you and a boy called Max waking up with as Amnesiac Protagonist Catalyst in an old creepy house. Depending on your choices, you and Max turn out to be either secret agents who underwent memory erasure, alien abductees, or werewolves.
    • In one subplot of The Twisted Tale of Tiki Island, the ghost pirate skeletons turn out to be human criminals in disguise. In another subplot, they are real ghosts.
    • In Shop Till You Drop...Dead!, the monster that awaits you on the seventh floor can be either a toy ape that comes to life at midnight or... your friend Reggie who turns into a monster at midnight.
    • In Secret Agent Grandma, your granny can turn out to be either a secret agent who investigates an alien plot, an alien impostor in human disguise, or a secret agent protecting a very important floppy disk... which turns out to contain all the cool video games from next year.
    • In Diary of a Mad Mummy, the mummy's diary may be either a real thing, a prank by your brother Derek, or a hoax planted by a government intelligence agency with the intention of recruiting you as an agent. The hieroglyphs in the diary are either clues pointing to hidden treasure or reviews for Egyptian restaurants, and in one more subplot, the mummy is revealed to be an animatronic.
    • In It Came from the Internet, when you get infected by a computer virus, you can turn for help either to doctor Bronstein or to a hacker girl called Rachel. In one subplot, they genuinely want to help you, while in another they just want to use you for their evil purposes. In one more subplot, it turns out that the monster that infected you is not actually evil, and the virus can be cured with just a hot bath.
    • In one ending of Scary Birthday to You!, the creepy birthday entertainer Dr. MacDeath turns out to be just pulling horror-themed pranks on you without meaning any harm. In other subplots, he is actually evil.
  • Lampshaded in The Hobbit. From Chapter 8 "Flies and Spiders." At this point, Bilbo was in his 50s and little has been said of his hobbies or activities before being recruited by Gandalf.
    ...and even grownup [Bilbo] had still spent a deal of his time at quoits, dart-throwing, shooting at the wand, bowls, ninepins and other quiet games of the aiming and throwing sort—indeed he could do lots of things, besides blowing smoke-rings, asking riddles and cooking, that I haven't had time to tell you about. There is no time now.
  • Implemented in-universe in Labyrinth of Reflections. The hero is playing Doom-based virtual reality game and, after reaching the end of a mirror maze level (also serving as Title Drop), finds himself encircled by a monster with a lazer gun and its 12 reflections. Unable to determine where the real monster is, he fires randomly, shatters all the mirrors but runs out of ammo and is killed by the real enemy. When he respawns, other character tells him that The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard and the real monster is always the last one to die.
  • "Schrödinger's Gun" is the title of a short story about a detective who uses something similar to this trope in-universe to solve murders.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Each season of 24 has lots of shots of various characters giving significant looks and suspicious glances, so when The Mole is revealed, no matter who it is the audience has already been given a lot of seemingly suspicious behavior to justify it.
  • Babylon 5:
    • During production, J. Michael Straczynski planned the B5 plot out for a 5-year arc. However, he also made plans for Real Life Writes the Plot. Indeed, the show didn't even end as he had originally meant for it to end, due to changing station commanders between seasons 1 and 2, changing several major plot points. And if you were just watching the show, you probably wouldn't have noticed (much).
    • One particular noteworthy instance of a double-Schrödinger for the same plotline. Lyta Alexander was introduced in the pilot as a telepath who got to see and have mental contact with a Vorlon, thus establishing her connection with them and providing possible material for leveling her up later. However, because the actress had other obligations Lyta didn't make it to the first season. Instead, Talia Winters was introduced, also a telepath. And she was also given a plot arc that actually began the process of leveling her up. Then, the actress playing her proved too much of a prima donna (and went through a nasty divorce from Garibaldi's actor), so she left. But they got Lyta's actress back, so they just went on and did what was originally intended. There was also a setup in place in case they needed to bring Talia back (Kosh backed up her brain), but it never went anywhere.
    • The obvious actor/role substitutions: Jeffrey Sinclair/John Sheridan; Carolyn Sykes/Catherine Sakai/Anna Sheridan; Laurel Takashima/Ivanova/Lockley. Minor aversion with Ivanova, as she wasn't a straight substitution. Originally, Takashima was a traitor. Instead, it's Garibaldi's aide. Word of God is this was done because JMS let slip that Takashima would have become a traitor. So instead he gave that to someone else, and tossed in the occasional Red Herring regarding Ivanova for those who thought she was a straight substitution as subtle misdirection.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • The "Helo on Caprica" plot in the first season was like this. Favorable fan reaction to Helo upgraded him to Mauve Shirt, and a new plot was born. It's actually evolved to the point of being an entire series long affair, which in retrospect the writers may have never considered until the miniseries was over and done with.
    • Likewise the final five Cylons, when revealed, are practically Schrödinger's Hit-squad. All were perfectly plausibly human until the revelation, and Tyrol even went through an "Am I a Cylon?" existential crisis and was told by an existing Cylon that he wasn't! But after the revelation, things still fit with them being Cylons, especially as certain things assumed to be the case about them, but never outright stated, turned out to be incorrect. The series kept its word that "anyone can be a Cylon."
  • Doctor Who:
    • The new series set one of these up with the Master. After his death and cremation in "Last of the Time Lords", an unidentified hand reaches in and takes a ring he wears. Russell T Davies had no long-term plan for this, and did not assign the hand to anyone in particular. It was meant as a hook for whoever wanted to bring the Master back next. As it turns out, he ended up using it for his era's Grand Finale, "The End of Time", before handing the show over to Steven Moffat.
    • In turn, Moffat has said in interviews that he does this all the time — it looks like he's got this masterplan where everything fits together, sometimes over years, but only because no-one notices all the things he didn't get back to. River Song is a partial exception; she was initially made up just for "Silence in the Library" (and named for a cheap gag where the Working Title was "A River Song Ending"), but he had her story basically worked out by her second appearance.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A campaign example for Pokéthulhu involves the players "choosing between four houses for shelter". The book explicitly says that no matter which house the party chooses, it will be the one which contains the plot devices.
  • FATE:
    • One character creation option is for players to begin with an essentially "blank" character sheet and fill in their skill proficiencies as the play progresses. For example, if a character is stuck behind a locked door, the player can declare that his character has the lockpicking skill and fill it in in one of his skill slots. The FATE-based Dresden Files RPG specifically allows this whether or not the character has already rolled the skill at a baseline level, both because there can be in-story reasons to hide their skill and because it's more fun not to have to worry about it.
    • FATE Core allows players to spend a Fate Point to "declare a story detail" to their advantage, like saying they retroactively brought a piece of equipment or that they Suddenly Always Knew useful information.
  • The "Gizmo" advantage in GURPS. This advantage allows the player to be carrying around an unspecified "gizmo", which he may at any time "pull out" and declare it to be whatever device he wants it to be (that he could have reasonably possessed). Additionally, the gizmo does not "enter play" until activated, so it cannot be damaged, lost, stolen, or uncovered in a search.
    • The same is true in Toon — Steve Jackson games love this trope.
  • This is essentially how Burning Wheel works: If you say that you want to kick a bowl of fruit into the guard's face to create a distraction, then there will be a bowl of fruit right there for you to kick. It wasn't there until you said it was. Essentially, the players all have Schrödinger's Gun, to an extent.
    • Houses of the Blooded is similar. When a player rolls for something, it's generally the right to decide things about the scene or how actions turn out. The rules explicitly state that you can decide pretty much anything that hasn't specifically been established yet.
      • There are several other games which allow the players to retroactively decide minor aspects of the current scene, such as Feng Shui and Exalted.
    • Adventure! handles this with a game mechanic: players can spend points to perform a Dramatic Edit and declare that there is e.g. a convenient manhole cover in the blind alley they've run down. This is great when the players only need to use it to collaboratively make situations more awesome, but less great when, as it sometimes does, it becomes a sort of ablative defense against railroading (why would the GM decide it was a blind alley in the first place?).
    • In Wushu, everything happens exactly as the players describe it. Additionally, the more complicated and dramatic a description is, the more dice the players receive, providing massive incentive to weave complicated and dramatic descriptions. To prevent complete insanity, actions can be vetoed by another player or the GM, and there's generally a "pool limit" maximum dice cap.
  • Nobilis has The Monarda Law, which states that the answer to a PC's question should almost never be a flat-out "no". Additionally, in that game, prophecies explicitly work by the GM throwing out a lot of meaningless symbolism — when the PCs offer a plausible explanation, it is assumed to be true, and any action they take on it gains a bonus.
    • The John Tynes Call of Cthulhu scenario In Media Res uses a very similar device: You're given a whole heap of weird symbolism to throw at the players, and whatever they decide it means, it means.
    • And really, the whole idea of it is a pretty common Game Master trick: Throw out an ambiguous scenario with a lot of plot hooks, see which one the players respond to, and run with it like it's the baton at a relay.
  • Exalted and its modern cousin Scion both rely on a Stunting system. Do it with style, and even if it is utterly ludicrous, it's more likely to succeed than if done boringly. For the most part, "stunts" involve pieces of the environment that the players make up as they go along. Asking if something exists in the scene should be met with "It does now."
  • The DC Heroes had a similar feature. A PC may spend a few of his/her Hero Points to decree the existence of specific objects in his vicinity, if the GM agrees to allow them.
    • Then there's the Omni-Gadgets. "Whaddya know, this 8 AP Omni-Gadget in my belt is a Force Field generator!".
    • In the next edition they added the Omni-Connection advantage. "Paradyne Technologies? What luck, an old buddy of mine from college is the VP of Marketing there!".
  • It is explicitly written into the rules of Paranoia that anything the GM says goes. Anything. The GM is perfectly free to roll a 5 and declare it a 17. Similarly, players may discover that they had mutations they were unaware of, that the NPC they're assigned to kill suddenly belongs to their secret society now, or that their weapon was actually sabotaged by Communists, or that while they were fleeing from a renegade robot they caused an Ultraviolet citizen a twenty minute delay in his routine. If it doesn't contradict established fact, or if the GM can invent a justification for why it doesn't, then it's all good. (Although, considering that this is Paranoia, contradicting established fact is perfectly acceptable behavior.)
  • In the new Czech RPG Střepy snů (Dreamshards), this is a mechanic given to the players — if you want to have done something in the past that could help you in the current situation (or if you simply want something to be a certain way), you can burn one of your dream points and it's part of the game now. Hiding in a basement and the only way out is besieged by zombies? One dream point later, you can leave through the secret door (that you most certainly installed) into the tunnels below.
  • Spirit of the Century is fond of this one. The languages that a character knows need not be specified at creation. A character can spend "Fate Points" in order to make declarations about the scene in their favor or create weird coincidences (e.g. "I declare that the guard holding us hostage was my college roommate"). Players can use knowledge skills to make similar declarations (so an expert in architecture can "create" a secret passage in a building by declaring that he or she learned such in his or her research). Furthermore, numerous stunts allow for Schrödinger's Gun situations, like Universal Gadget, which once per session lets the player create a better-than-off-the-shelf custom item on the spot and introduce it into the game just just when he or she needs it (the character may have had it all along or simply be really good at improvisation), or Master of Disguise, which allows a character to effectively stop playing, then later declare that any unimportant character "is really me in disguise!" The game also gives rules for on the fly character creation, which works similar to the FATE example above — unsurprisingly, as it's based on another version of the same system.
  • Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies and other PDQ system games are fond of this one - there's usually a power currency (Style Dice, Hero Points) to let the players declare significant facts about the game, such as inventing useful NPCs or giving them new abilities. S7S even encourages players to make flat statements that something exists and tossing a Style Die down, as opposed to asking if it's so and having to pay the cost the GM sets (though the GM should ask for more dice on particularly large changes anyway).
    • PDQ2 rules game Vox has a starting scenario to run character creation similar to a FATE game, where you choose what you can do as you need to do it until all your abilities are set.
  • Pulp Hero has "floating perquisites" such as Floating Contacts and Floating Favors that a character can buy and leave undefined when they are purchased during character construction. These Contacts and Favors represent a character who is so widely traveled he potentially has friends who owe him favors everywhere in the world. The player can define who these Contacts are whenever he feels the need to call on one. Once the player uses them, though, they become regularly defined Contacts and Favors.
  • Mage: The Awakening uses this as a game mechanic for archmasters. To represent their capacity for superhuman mental abilities, they have a pool of points that let them interrupt a scene and explain how they had prepared for it in advance, ranging from retroactively being Properly Paranoid to setting up a full Gambit Roulette scenario.
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons campaign Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, the villain is trying to find a treasure vault hidden somewhere in the city of Waterdeep. The DM and the players choose the season when the story takes place, which also determines which of the four villains is the most actively pursuing the treasure, as well as where the entrance to the treasure vault actually is.
  • The One Ring has this as a game mechanic:
    • At the end of each in-game year, the Game Master narrates changes that have occurred offscreen in the world at large; heroes with a Standing score can intervene and explain how they would have influenced events, within the limits of their rank and abilities.
    • Adventurers' traveling gear is abstracted for simplicity's sake, so players can claim that it would make sense for someone of their means and talents to be carrying a given piece of equipment, should the need arise.
  • In Epyllion, Crafter PCs carry with them a small bag of miscellania. What's in the bag? Whatever item (within reason) the party needs to patch a leak/tie stuff together/whistle for help/[insert eventuality here]. Of course, nothing game-breaking or too unrealistic is allowed, but a Crafter player can still be very useful indeed.

  • Drood, a musical based on The Mystery of Edwin Drood, stops the action at the point where Charles Dickens' death left the novel unfinished and then uses audience votes to determine the villain, lovers and true identity of Dick Datchery.
  • Shear Madness allows audience members to question all the suspects and vote on the identity of the murderer. The audience is always "correct" - That is, the play has multiple endings and whoever the audience chooses always turns out to have been the killer.

    Video Games 
  • Plenty of Interactive Fiction games use this to let the player configure his character.
    • In Amnesia the main character closes his eyes and visualizes his appearance, to check how badly he's affected by the titular condition: your choices of features turn out to be completely wrong.
    • Ballyhoo: You need to get into the circus in order to save a certain Damsel in Distress, and you need a ticket (and a character configuration) to get through. Once you get a ticket, you'll have to punch out a blue dot (for male) or a pink dot (for female) before you can insert the ticket there. Whichever dot you punched out becomes the correct answer.
    • Enchanter: In a 12 Coins Puzzle, the game determines which coins might be fake given the information available to the player. Whenever there's more than one outcome, the game will change it to the wrong coin.
    • A less known IF game called Enlisted pulls it off for the same reason, where you get your uniform out of a dispensing machine, and what settings you set it to (short, tall, etc), turn out to be the right ones.
    • The classic Infocom game Leather Goddesses of Phobos does this, where you have to go to the bathroom, and whatever room you choose — ladies' or men's — ends up being the correct one.
  • From Ace Combat:
    • You finally bring down a Yellow Squadron bird in the "Stonehenge" mission of Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies. No matter which one gets shot down, though, it's always Yellow 4 who bites it. Later avoided with the remains of the squadron in the final mission, where if you manage to shoot them down in the right order you get to hear their panicked reactions as the chain of command is passed down along the squadron.
    • In Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, four branching missions are hidden away behind two seemingly random YES/NO dialog prompts at the end of the preceding missions. Your answers will determine whether you go down the A or B paths. Only the first of these missions qualifies as a Schrödinger's Gun, as the opposite mission on the other end of the "coin flip" is explicitly referenced as having happened concurrent with the chosen mission, only carried out by another fighter squadron.
    • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War also averts this, as every encounter with an ace squadron has them react accordingly to which ones you shoot down first. It's most notable with the Gelb team at the end of mission 6, and Espada team in mission 15, as there's only two of them on both teams.
    • Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation also plays it straight. The opening mission squares you off against Strigon Squadron. It doesn't matter if you shoot down all eight of them, just one, or none of them, at some point before the end of the mission Strigon 1, Viktor Voychek, will report that his plane has been shot down.
  • Aisle type one-move games take this to the logical extreme: you get only one move and the world need not be internally consistent since each world instance ends after that single move. For example, in the parody game Pick Up the Phone Booth and Aisle, climbing shows you to be a mountain climber, whereas entering the titular object reveals that you're a spy.
  • One of the characters you can date in Amorous, Lex the husky, dresses androgynously until the second date. Whether they turn out to be male- or female-presenting changes depending on your choices.
  • Assassin's Creed II does this with The Truth. No matter what order you find the glyphs, the segments of the video and puzzles will always be found in the same order, possibly because Subject 16 shares the same memories of Ezio's travels, and subsequently knew in what order you'd visit the places he marked for the pieces of The Truth, or because the glyphs work the same way in the Animus as they do in the game.
  • Baldur's Gate II has a sidequest where one of your companions returns home to find his sister has been murdered, and an investigation is still in progress. His father is convinced it was a hit from a rival and tells you to kill him in revenge. If you kill the rival, you later find out that he was innocent; if you spare him, he was guilty all along.
    • The Cleric Stronghold quests take place based on your alignment, which are presumed to indicate worship of Talos, Helm or Lathander. As a servant of your respective god, you have five people who come to you for counsel, but their problems are the same regardless of your alignment. You have to give them advice in line with your deity's ethos in order to get the most XP. To whit:
      • The first instance is a merchant named Glinden who finds out his wife's been having an affair. Do you a) tell him to kill his wife and her lover, then rat him out to a local Corrupt Cop in exchange for a reward? b) tell him to remind his wife that the "for better or for worse" is not conditional and they have a duty to be together, thus leaving them to a stable but likely hapless union? or c) tell him to forgive her for cheating on him, thus bringing the spark of happiness back into their married lives?
      • The second involves a dwarf called Ti'Vael who was challenged to a duel and ended up killing his opponent in the heat of the moment because he wouldn't stop taunting him. Do you a) tell him to murder all the witnesses, then kill him and turn his head in for a reward? b) tell him to turn himself in and throw himself on the mercy of the courts? or c) tell him to make amends for the man's family, revealing that the jackass was a waste of skin anyway and his death has allowed the dwarf to fill the hole he left in his family?
      • The third instance involves a young woman called Rania whose faith in the church is waning and who wants to leave for a while. Do you a) kill her where she stands becasue no one leaves your church alive? b) Remind her of her duty towards the church, causing her to leave anyway because you're too inflexible? or c) tell her to give it time and come back when she's ready, prompting her to thank you for your kindness?
      • In the fourth case, an underling called Cortiso comes up to you and demands your position, claiming you've been unfairly promoted over him and generally acting like an Entitled Bastard. Do you a) let him have the position, then get your Corrupt Cop friend to drag him off for Rania's murder? b) challenge him to a duel for the position and win, killing him in the process? or c) quietly acquiesce the position to him, then allow your and his superior to tell him off and send him home, allowing you to resume your position?
      • Finally, the conclusion of the questline involves the Talassans wanting to attack the temple of Lathander. What you do also depends on your position. As a Priest of Talos, you get the order to go into the Lathanderite temple and start bashing everybody; as a Priest of Lathander, you get ordered to launch a counteroffensive by preemptively moving against the temple of Talos; as a Priest of Helm, thus placing you outside the conflict, you protect the temple of Lathander from Talassan attack, then convince the Lathanderites not to retaliate for the people's sake.
  • Baldur's Gate III: In Act 3, there's a subplot where shapeshifting villain Orin the Red will secretly kidnap one of your party members and impersonate them. Despite the implication that she spent at least a few days in your camp (Gortash can even warn you what she's up to beforehand) the identity of the victim isn't selected until the reveal. This means it's possible to change who Orin kidnapped after learning about it via Save Scumming (she won't kidnap anyone who's in your active party during the reveal).
  • Batman:
    • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, at one point Batman must search three body bags in order to continue. No matter what order he opens the actual bags in, the result is always the same. His dad's body, his mother's body, and then Scarecrow. Also, no matter what order you collect the audio logs in, they are always the next in the set, as are the Spirit of Arkham messages.
    • In Batman: Arkham Knight, when Batman manages to corner Scarecrow aboard the airship, he starts hallucinating two different Scarecrows along with the Joker telling him to "Pick the real Scarecrow!" No matter which Scarecrow you choose, right or left, it's always the wrong one and the real Scarecrow douses you with another dose of his fear toxin. Conveniently, the game also disables all of Batman's techniques that would allow him to attack both Scarecrows at once, preventing you from Taking a Third Option.
  • The protagonist of Bio Forge is an Amnesiac Hero. Early on in the game, you stumble across several ID files - but only one of the people listed can be you. Your decisions determine just who your protagonist is.
  • The Blade Runner Adventure Game had several plot points (such as whether characters were replicants or not) decided either at random in each game, or depending on the choices the player made.
  • Borderlands:
    • Tales from the Borderlands: Felix's ultimate fate involves this. After he betrays Fiona and steals a case full of money from her, you're given the choice of whether or not to warn him that the case is protected by a bomb that will explode when it is opened. If you don't warn him, then he attempts to open the case, triggers the bomb, and dies. If you do warn him, then it turns out he already knew about the bomb and removed it earlier.
    • Borderlands 2:
      • During the quest where you have to find Helena Pierce's audio logs, if you try to destroy the ice block on top of the house near a vending machine (the location of the second ECHO log) before the audio of the first ECHO log even finishes, the ice block will respawn, with a chance of spawning additional cash.
      • During the quest where you have to collect Tannis's ECHO logs in Sanctuary, regardless of the order in which you retrieve the ECHO logs, the audio being played will still be in sequence as Tannis records her story from start to finish.
  • Brain Lord: In the first town, there's a small sidequest you can do involving rescuing a pair of kids who wander down into a cave below the city. However, they only get lost in the cave if you actually talk to them - ignoring them or simply not talking to them will mean you don't need to rescue them.
  • Burial at Sea requires you to search the back rooms of three establishments for an invitation from Sander Cohen to steal. It's guaranteed to be in Last Place You Look, to ensure you don't miss out on any other pocketable valuables or the spiels Elizabeth uses to distract the shopkeepers.
  • Both Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Black Ops II feature missions where the player is searching through multiple houses for one specific person. And, in both cases, you can search the houses in whatever order you want, but your target is always in the last one you search. It's less noticeable in the first case, as one of the safehouses is much further off than the rest of them are and getting between them isn't exactly easy, so you're likely to just naturally end up there last unless you go out of your way to visit it early.
  • In Catherine, the differences between the "Bad", "Good", and "True" version of each ending are supposedly determined by how well the girl can sense your feelings (that is, your position on the Karma Meter), but other events happen differently seemingly independently of your feelings about relationships. If you choose Katherine, Jonny, Orlando, and Boss don't show up to corroborate your story in the Bad ending. If you choose Catherine, her father doesn't show up in the Bad ending. And the difference between the Good and True freedom endings is whether or not Feather wins the wrestling tournament, which Vincent should have no way of influencing.
  • In Cave Story, choosing to avoid speaking to an injured old man A) determines whether or not his injuries are fatal (they are only fatal if you talk to him) and also B) determines whether or not there is a vitally important rope among the junk on the floor of a room entered later, which appears to have been sealed for many years. (The rope is only there if you didn't talk to the old man.)
  • In the second NES Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers game, the player faces a Wire Dilemma when defusing a bomb. Any choice turns out to be the right one, though one causes the screen to flash white with a boom, then revert back as one character says "Just kidding!"
  • Clock Tower: Your friends are only considered dead by the game if you see proof of it. It has actual gameplay implications, in that the only way to get the A and S-endings (where one of the other girls is still alive) is to actively avoid investigating strange noises or places where a body could be found, because if you do, the game will take the chance to declare one of your friends dead.
  • The "It's War" chapter of Conker's Bad Fur Day has a pair of levers near a soldier strapped to an electric chair. Whichever lever Conker pulls first will electrocute the soldier, and the other lever opens a door.
  • Contra: Hard Corps:
    • Colonel Bahamut's plan for the Alien Cell depends on which path you take through the game. Either he wants to use it to power a Kill Sat, turn it into a bio-weapon, merge with it, or load it on a missile and launch it into civilization.
    • Bahamut's base is either right next to your current location, a train ride away in the jungle, or a boat ride away on an island.
  • On one path in Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, Mitsuki ends up facing ominous approaching footsteps, with a choice to wait or run away. If you wait, it's Yoshikazu, who kills her with an axe. If she runs, it was Taguchi, and she ends up running into Sachiko needlessly fleeing from him.
  • In Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising there is a traitor in your party. And you really don't know who it is, as it's affected by your actions in the game. However, the treachery began long before the game, so the "choice" of traitor is retroactive.
    • The choice is determined by your Corruption rating, defaulting on Martellus on a perfect play. But really, he's the last person you want as a traitor. While others all have their starts of darkness and motive rants prepared, Martellus is just a plain generic boss, and a hard one at that.
    • The sequel trims down possible traitors to three characters: the Force Commander, the Devastator sergeant Avitus, or the assault sergeant Thaddeus. All others are loyal and playable. Turns out it's Avitus
  • Dead Rising: Did Barnaby manage to bite Jessie when he started turning into a zombie? Only if you start case 8-1. If the truth vanishes into darkness before then, no he didn't.
  • An experience while playing Déjà Vu (1985) seemed like a literal Schrödinger's Gun: trying to shoot the gun-toting mugger resulted in him firing first for a game over. Restarting and giving in to his demands the next time around let him escape while claiming that the gun wasn't even loaded. Of course, that could just be the mugger kicking you when you're down.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution: when you rescue the three scientists at Omega Ranch, the third one will always have the virus Sevchenko built, regardless of the order you visit them.
  • Devil May Cry: No matter which of the two color-coded Emblem Shield doors you go through, the Luminite and Pair of Spears key items will always spawn on the first path you choose, while the Nightmare-Beta gun will spawn on the second path.
  • Dot's Home: Whether Dot joined her school's lacrosse or basketball team when she was younger and who had moved in next to her grandma's house depends on two crucial choices Dot makes in the past. When she returns to the present, she subconsciously unpacks the MVP trophy she won and the picture of the sports team she joined, but she doesn't think of checking her neighbors through the window until after her third time travel trip.
  • Drakengard has what might be the most strenuous version of this. Depending on which ending you get the very fabric of reality functions differently. Your Dragon might be the only thing that can save the world, or you may be destined to destroy her lest she destroy the world.
  • Dragon Age:
    • Dragon Age: Origins:
      • You may end up with plot-relevant fights halfway through traveling, no matter where you are, and there are dozens of them. Even if you meet a bunch of elves defending themself against some darkspawn in the far northwest near the dwarven home, while the elven woods are southeast and the darkspawn isn't actually rare on the surface that far north.
      • The origin stories always end with Duncan bailing your ass out of trouble, which every origin you choose will be the place Duncan decided to recruit a new Grey Warden. It is implied if you go back to those places as a different origin that what happened happened but without Duncan saving that would-be hero. The Dwarven Noble, the second child of King Endrin, was framed for murdering his brother and killed on the Deep Roads; the Dwarven Commoner died in jail, refusing to eat; the human noble was killed by Tim Curry, etc.
    • Dragon Age: Inquisition
      • Schematics for elemental runes (Fire, Frost, etc.) are found as ancient glyphs on the walls in various locations, only readable using Veilfire. Each element has 3 levels of runes: normal (no prefix), Master and Superb, and therefore may be found in 3 different locations. However, you cannot find the higher-level runes before you have found the lower-level ones. In a normal playthrough you are supposed to find the Fire Rune in The Hinterlands (the lowest-level area), the Master Fire Rune in The Western Approach (a middle-level area) and the Superb Fire Rune in The Hissing Wastes (the highest-level area). Yet if you choose to ignore the glyphs in the lower-level areas you may change or even reverse the order (i.e. the content of the ancient glyphs in all locations is in fact decided by the order in which you choose to read them).
      • Inquisition uses a similar set-up to Origins for the Player Character. Four peoplenote  attended the Conclave: a human, as a member of either the Chantry delegation or the mage delegation depending on whether or not they were a mage; a Dalish elf sent to spy; a dwarven smuggler sent to spy and to steal treasure while everyone was occupied; and a vashoth mercenary, sent along with several other members of their band to provide security for the event. At some point during the proceedings, one of those four overheard the Divine being attacked and rushed off to help. That one is the one the player chose as their character. The three that were not chosen were killed by the Breach along with thousands of others.
  • In Dragon Quest V, it doesn't matter whether you decide to marry Bianca or Nera, either one will turn out to be descended from Zenithian blood, and will give birth to the legendary hero. The original game plays this straight, but the remake justifies it a little. The new character Debora is Nera's sister, so they share the same fate, and it's hinted that all three girls are secretly related anyway.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In Oblivion, in the Shivering Isles expansion, you are tasked with taking care of a bunch of adventurers invading a dungeon. They make their way through 3 sections, and in each of them you sit in a safe spot and must press one of two buttons that will determine their fate: one results in one of the adventurers dying, while the other drives one of them to insanity. In the second section, two of the remaining adventurers come across a tightly locked cage filled with riches. Your choice is either activating a fire trap that blasts them, or making hundreds of keys appear in the room. This trope comes into play with the orc adventurer's behaviour: even though the circumstances are exactly the same, depending on your choice, the orc makes a completely different decision. If you choose to release the fire trap, he will try to pry the cage's bars open moments before the trap activates. If you release the keys, he will instead be vary of the cage and decide that they should just go away, moments before the keys appear.
    • Skyrim has this principle as the whole basis of its Radiant system. Many side quests will feature randomised aspects that are determined by which places the player has or hasn't visited yet, what other quests have already been completed, what level the character is at, etc. Some items or characters will appear in variable locations, based on e.g. where the Dragonborn happens to be when they reach a certain level. The trope appears in several other specific ways throughout the game:
      • The various shouts available to the Dragonborn normally are learned by visiting Word Walls dotting the landscape of Skyrim. However, the text of the word walls will change depending on which word in the shout you have, so you will never learn the second or third word in a shout without knowing the one before it.
      • Two dragons that you must fight in the main quest do not have unique models. While they are semi-locked into specific Dragon forms, if you are high enough in level (possibly by putting off the main quest for quite a while) they can change into different species of dragons.
      • In the opening sequence, the player can decide to flee the dragon attack either with a member of the Imperial Legion or with a Stormcloak. No matter which they go with, they will always find their escape route through the keep blocked by hostile members of the opposing faction.
      • Similarly, the lead-up to the Siege of Whiterun is determined by which side the player picks in the civil war. If the player joins the Stormcloaks, they're tasked with delivering an axe to Whiterun's jarl on behalf of Ulfric Stormcloak, as part of a Nord custom allowing the other ruler to declare his intentions — in this scenario, Jarl Balgruuf rejects the axe (indicating that his fellow jarl will need it for business on the battlefield) and calls upon the Imperial Legion to defend his city from the Stormcloaks. If the player joins the Empire, they instead deliver an axe from Balgruuf to Ulfric — once again, the other jarl rejects the axe, this time because Ulfric's already ordered the attack on Whiterun.
  • In the horror RPG/adventure game Elvira 2 - The Jaws of Cerberus, there are three places where Elvira may be hidden. No matter in what order you reach them, the first two Elviras will be fake and transform into monsters.
  • Escape Velocity Nova has a few - mainly, the fact that you with little doubt is the universe incarnate in two of the storylines, certainly isn't in one of the storylines, and has some question-marks regarding that status in the remaining three storylines. Other than that, Frandall either set up the Rebellion as a trap or is genuinely, if for selfish reasons, opposed to the Bureau, and someone shows up in the Auroran storyline that has what would have been your role and backstory in the Pirate storyline.
  • At one point in Fable, a key is hidden in one of three books. No matter what, the key is always in the second book you pick.
  • Fahrenheit has a tarot card reading about half way through. No matter which card you pick or in what order, you get the same ominously creepy message. It seems you really can't fight fate.
  • Fallout 4 uses the same engine (Creation Engine) as Skyrim for good and for bad. The faction most likely to use and abuse Radiant Quests are the Minutemen where Preston tells you to go defend a Settlement/clear out a Settlement spot/deal with (feral ghouls/super mutants/raiders)/save somebody kidnapped/etc. While these quests are always there to help you level up they get really old really fast and some places are locked out from you until you reach a high enough level (such as having a lock/computer too difficult to unlock).
    • Later DLC for the game also makes some of the quests a little ridiculous... how did a small group of Raiders manage to kidnap your 15 foot tall Glowing Deathclaw, and get it into the bunker with the normal sized door? And why would it need rescuing from a group it would easily eat for lunch if they attacked the settlement it was part of?
  • In Fear Effect, two of the player characters continuously are at odds over whether or not a girl they are helping is a legitimate Damsel in Distress or secretly the Big Bad playing Evil Plan. Right before the final battle the player must decide who is correct and that choice will determine the final scene of the game. If the player decides innocent it will turn out she is innocent, if the player decides she is lying it will turn out she has been lying throughout the whole game. So in essence the girl is paradoxically telling the truth AND lying throughout the story until the scene when the player makes their decision.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • In Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, there's a plot choice point of which main character to follow. Excluding the main character, you get all the current secondary characters and the same new characters (with a few exceptions) appear in each chapter. Your chosen lord will even have the same encounters with the Big Bad and the Big Bad will always take the Sacred Stone from whichever lord you picked.
      • That being said, there is a difference in the routes, at least storyline wise. In Eirika's, Lyon's spirit is subsumed and killed by the demon king's. In Ephraim's, Lyon's spirit unites with the demon king's and does a full (if very sad) Face–Heel Turn.
    • The couples you pair in Fire Emblem: Awakening become the parents of the child units, which means those pairings are retroactively set the same way in the past timeline which the children have traveled from..
  • Grand Theft Auto:
    • In the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas mission "Green Goo", it's always the third box that contains the eponymous green goo you're looking for.
    • In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, the player is recruited by an old Haitian woman to help out her son in an upcoming gang war. This mission involves assisting a group of a dozen Haitians as they fight off wave after wave of Cubans. This raises the question of exactly which of the dozen Haitians is the son you are trying to protect, as mechanically and graphically they are all identical. However, the mission is a failure only if ALL the Haitians die, which means that 11 of the 12 are "expendable", i.e. NOT the son you're supposed to protect. Thus one can conclude that the son will always be the final Haitian killed, regardless of the order in which the Haitians go down.
  • Guild Wars:
    • A quest in the first game requires the player to help the prince find a gift for his beloved. There are three items you can show him; the first two will always be rejected, no matter the order you try them in. An alternative option is to find only one of the items and hand it directly to the birthday girl, who gets pissed that the prince hired someone else to choose a gift for her.
    • Guild Wars 2 makes extensive use of this trope, from personal storylines (which affect instances) to dynamic events (which alters the state of the world players share).
  • In Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, decisions you make about the protagonist simultaneously affect several supporting characters. Your best friend Rowan Khanna is always the same gender as you; Rowan, your Quidditch teammates Skye Parkin and Orion Amari, and Quidditch commentator Murphy McNully are all in the same house as you, while Quidditch rival Erika Rath defaults to Ravenclaw but is moved to Slytherin if you yourself are a Ravenclaw.
  • Common in the Henry Stickmin Series, as the creators maintain that confirming any one canon route would defeat the purpose of having the player choose.
    • In the Wait for Transfer route of Fleeing the Complex, you are given a choice of whether to call Charles or the Toppat Clan for help- whichever one you pick is who you sided with in Infiltrating the Airship.
    • Completing the Mission starts with this- you can pick any combination of endings from Airship and Complex, which determines the route you take, excepting the mutually exclusive ones (you can't side with the Toppats in Airship and get rescued by Charles in Complex, or vice versa). Depending on the option chosen, you might have to stop the Toppats from launching a rocket, the rocket might already be launched, or the rocket might not even be mentioned.
  • In the Text Adventure The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1984), there are 12 or so Chekhovs Guns to collect. The bad news is you'll need one at random at the end of the game or you'll die. The other bad news is the "random" one you need is always one you don't have unless you have them all. It's a cruel game.
  • Idol Manager: Thanks to the Take Your Time elements in gameplay, story mode has several nation-wide events that would be on their own schedule in the real world wait for the player to get to the point of the story at which they interact with them, regardless of the in-game calendar date. For instance, no matter how long it takes for the player to do so, the Nation of Idols show will be doing the final preparations for its first season right around the time the Player Character's group tops the sales chart. Even more blatantly, the Tokyo Summer Games will turn out to have been rescheduled from 2020 to the upcoming summer whenever the next objective becomes applying to have the group sing at their closing ceremony, even if doing so took several in-game years.
  • Used extensively in Illusion of Gaia, due to Will's ability to guess any question correctly. It is demonstrated at the beginning of the game, where Will is asked to pick a card. No matter what the player picks, it is the right one. It resurfaces much later for a Wire Dilemma, where the player simply has to remember that Will is psychic and make a decision quickly.
  • At one point in Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis the game branches into 3 paths: "Team", "Wits" and "Fist" each involves teamwork with Sophia, lots of puzzle solving, or lots of fistfights respectively. Which path Sophia will suggest is determined by how Indy solved the first puzzle of the game: Sweet-talking praising of Sophia to her backstage guard (Team), making his way through a maze of crates into a fire exit (Wits), or knocking out the aforementioned guard in a fight (Fists).
  • inFAMOUS examples:
    • The game employs this to make its Sadistic Choice even worse. Your girlfriend Trish is always on the tower you didn't save, regardless of what the Big Bad says. Turns out Kessler is actually Cole from the future, which means he can predict what Cole would do in that situation.
    • Both games also include an optional series of Dead Drops that flesh out the story. Their locations are fixed, but no matter what order you visit them in, you'll always find the first Dead Drop at the first site you visit, the second at the second, and so on. This means the story itself will always make sense, but where you find it may not. For instance, some of John's messages are recorded during the part of the story where travel between the three boroughs is difficult or impossible, but if you wait till late in the game to pick them up, they may be scattered all over town.
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist: Quite a few elements of the plot are clearly adapting to player choices:
    • Jobs, classes and relaxing activities are done in one-month blocks, but each of Sol's peers can be part of events exclusive to several different activities, resulting in what they are doing during some months adapting to whatever Sol is doing. For example, all three classes have events involving Tangent, but seeing any event involving her implies that she just happens to be taking a specific class at the same time as Sol, regardless of when Sol is taking the class. Another example is biology classes, which Cal will sometimes happen to be taking at the same time as both Sol and Tangent rather than working in Geoponics, his usual workplace.
    • Some events simply don't happen if Sol doesn't find out about them. The artificial plague meant to kill all local wildlife will never come up if Sol doesn't befriend Tangent and the fleet from Earth will be a non-entity unless Sol works as the governor's assistant often enough to eventually walk in on Lum during a specific conversation.
  • At the end of The King of Fighters '95, returning villain Rugal announces his plan to destroy your team for foiling his plans last time. At the end of The King of Fighters '96, Chizuru reveals that she lured your team there because she needed the help of those responsible for defeating Rugal. In both cases, this speech is made regardless of which team you are playing, and whether or not they actually won or were even in the previous game. (Aside from Geese/Wolfgang/Big, whom even she refuses to acknowledge.) This is additionally in spite of both victories over Rugal in canon being attributed to Kyo Kusanagi (his win in '94 is even specifically noted on SNKP's official website chronicling the series' history), who'd go on to win the '96 and '97 tourneys.
  • The prologue of Lacuna (2021) is played as a teenager named Mira just prior to a major disaster. The final action that the player takes in the prologue determines whether Mira survives that disaster or dies. The game proper begins after a 40 year Time Skip with a newspaper article featuring an article about the disaster; if Mira survived, then her parents did not but if Mira died, then her parents lived. Note that Mira's parents are not seen at all in the prologue nor does any of Mira's actions have any demonstrated implications on what her parents did during the disaster.
  • In The Last Remnant, a side quest features an amnesiac named Jorgen who asks you to bring him three items that will help him remember his past. There are more than three items that can be used for this quest, and depending on which ones you bring and in which order, the character's past (and his class) will be different.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Master Sword in The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games can come from two conflicting sources depending on which game you play first. The games also include a Schrödinger area of the game map: at a certain point in the game, you can earn a flute that will eventually allow you to summon one of the three animal companions. Each of them have skills that allow you to reach places Link can't reach alone, and depending on which flute you get, part of the map ends up being an area that requires that companion to get through. (If you go to that area before getting a flute, the game forces the choice for you.)
    • Late in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Link must revisit each of the previous areas in order to collect the parts of the Song of Heroes. These can be done in any order, but no matter when you choose to do Eldin Volcano you always arrive just as it erupts.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, three different chests can contain the magic lamp: the one in the house Link wakes up in, another one in a tunnel under the castle, and the last one in Princess Zelda's cell. There's only one lamp; the second and third chests are backups for the first one in case you somehow didn't notice it; so, the lamp will magically appear in whichever chest you open first (if you open the other two, you find only 5 Rupees).
      • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time likewise has several chests around the world that contain Deku or Hylian Shields - unless you already have that type of shield, in which case they just have 5 Rupees. They're mainly intended to provide easy replacements in case of fire (for the Deku Shield) or Like Likes.
  • In Live A Live, only one of the three Earthen Heart students (Lei, Yun, Hong) survives, depending on the player's actions.
  • Seen in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga in a boss battle at Joke's End. When Jojora asks the Mario Bros. which of her friends should come (and beat the crap out of them, presumably), the player is given the choice of four different names, which seem to refer to four different possible enemies. However, no matter which one you pick, Jojora's friend will look and fight exactly the same. The only thing your choice really affects is what name the battle display refers to her as, as well as if you have a chance at a hidden item.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The first two games have an instance of this in the opening scene. In Mass Effect, regardless of what Shepard's background and military reputation are, he or she is the perfect candidate for the first human Spectre. Likewise, when Mass Effect 2 begins, regardless of whether the imported save file flags the council as saved, lost, or lost and replaced with an all-human council, Shepard "did everything right."
    • If the player imported a Mass Effect save into ME2, Shepard is given a brief debriefing and then, as a "memory test", is asked which of two characters he or she chose to represent humanity on the Galactic Council. Because that decision wasn't saved in ME1 (the final save file is created before the decision occurs), either choice is considered correct and will determine which of the two is the Council member later in the game.
    • Mass Effect has a few moments where your two squadmates will disagree on the big decision you are about to make. However, their opinions can sometimes change depending on the other squadmate so that there will always be one in favor of each option. Thus, some squadmates will be in favor of saving the council, but if a different character is present they might instead be in favor of letting them die. This is presumably to make it clear that Both Sides Have a Point and avoid a scenario where two characters are egging you on with the same opinion.
    • Mass Effect 2 has you interact with Khalisah al-Jilani, who will try to frame your decision at the end of the last game (saving the council at the expense of human ships, or letting the council die) in the worst possible light, regardless of which you chose. This at least is fully in character, given that she's a paparazzi.
    • In the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC your teammate (besides Liara) is always taken out by a thrown table at the beginning of the final boss fight, whoever (s)he is, and rests unconscious for the entire battle.
    • Mass Effect 3 reveals that all of 2's DLC missions happened whether or not you bought them, but the details changed without the PC on hand. Cerberus resorted to nuking Project Overlord, Liara needed a whole team of mercs to take on the Shadow Broker (and couldn't save Feron), and Arrival took a whole team of marines (none of whom survived).
    • A more minor form in Mass Effect 3, on one side-mission, you are looking for someone and they are in one of two rooms on the presidium. They are always in the second one you go to, no matter which order you choose.
    • The entirety of Mass Effect: Andromeda is one giant Schrödinger's Gun dependent on which Ryder twin is chosen to be the player character at the start of game. If Scott Ryder is chosen by the player, then there is a malfunction in Sara Ryder's cryo pod that sidelines her for the majority of the game while Scott becomes the Pathfinder and explores the Heleus cluster, culminating in Sara being kidnapped by the Archon as a part of the final boss battle. If Sara is chosen by the player, the game plays out functionally the same; Scott's pod malfunctions, he's sidelined while Sara becomes Pathfinder and explores Heleus without him and then has to rescue him from the Archon during the final boss fight.
  • Meritous: From "Somewhat Frequently Asked Questions":
    Does the order you fight the bosses in matter?

    The bosses are tied to the three PSI keys. You can get the PSI keys in any order you like, but you will always fight the three bosses in the same order, no matter which PSI key (the sword, the lance or the bow) you get first.
  • In the end of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, you are to choose between two guns, one loaded and one not, and duel Ocelot with them. No matter what you choose, you and Ocelot both survive. If you grab the loaded gun and purposefully miss, there is a hole in the wall, but if you shoot him or grab the gun with no bullets and he shoots you, it turns out the bullet was a blank. Oddly enough, however, the bullet Ocelot keeps around his neck the whole game is a blank; you can notice that if you zoom in on it.
  • Metroid Dread does this with an actual gun. The Omega Cannon actually has limited ammo, but will only become depleted once you use it to destroy an E.M.M.I., which will somehow always be the last shot.
  • In most versions of Minesweeper, the very first square you click will never have a mine. Some versions are advanced and merciful enough to detect when the player is forced to guess, and rearrange the board behind-the-scenes to make their guess the right one.
  • In Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, at the start of the game Largo can come from the left or the right depending whether Guybrush crosses the bridge or tries going back the way he came.
  • Moonmist does this with your favorite color — which color you choose determines how your bedroom is decorated, and also (no causal relationship) who the villain is.
  • Applies in-universe to the Myst franchise: when a descriptive Book is written, it creates a link to a world which precisely matches the description, but any features not mentioned are up in the air. After the link is made, the writer can actually change the world by specifying new details, as long as they don't contradict anything that has yet been observed. If they do, the link will instead be changed to a different world which fits the new description.
  • In Neverwinter Nights 2, you are given the choice to either join the guard, or the thieves. If you join the guard, then they are heavily overwhelmed and many of the members are obviously corrupted, while the thieves are ridiculously powerful and pretty much rule the city. But if you join the thieves, then the guard ends up being quite strong, devoid of corruption, and very efficient, and quite a nuisance to the thieves' business. In some cases it's because the tasks of bribing guards and extorting merchants was delegated to you, but in a few quests towards the end of the storyline a number of guards are hostile to you no matter which side you're on.
  • In No Umbrellas Allowed, the Amnesiac Hero's true identity is revealed to them by the Blackmailer at the end of Week 5. He turns out to be one of the four people who went missing in the fire at CARI, and his identity depends on the choices he made throughout the game. His Old Friend's identity also changes depending on his own.
  • In Octopath Traveler, regardless of which character you choose to start the game with, Kit will always appear outside the town you start in.
  • Papers, Please does this with terrorists who are part of Scripted Events — on some days, a specific entrant in the queue will turn out to be a terrorist. They will always have their paperwork in order, so you'll likely approve them only for the checkpoint to shut down as they carry out their assault. However, if you reject their entry, then all subsequent entrants will have correct paperwork (meaning that denying these subsequent entrants will get you citations) until you approve one of them, at which point they turn out to be the terrorist and all entrants after that one (or at least the one or two entrants you'd have time to try to process afterwards) will go back to being regular entrants who may or may not have correct paperwork.
  • In Peasant's Quest, at one point, there are four bushes with a trinket hidden in one of them. No matter what order you go to the bushes, the trinket is always in the fourth bush you look in.
  • Persona:
    • At two different points in Persona 3, you can join one of three clubs. No matter which club you choose, the characters for the related social link will always be members of that club. It's most obvious with the Culture Clubs, as Yukari says Fuuka is a member of one of them, but can't remember which — it turns out to be whichever one you end up joining.
    • At the end of Persona 3 Portable, if you're playing as the female protagonist, or the male one on subsequent playthroughs, and have romanced at least one character, then you will hear a voice and the game asks you to specify whose voice. Whoever you pick dictates which character reaches the roof just in time to witness your final moments of life.
    • To a lesser degree, the Athletic Club in Persona 4 — you're still hanging out with Kou and Daisuke — only difference is which one is the focus character. Midway through the link, Ai will join the club, become its manager and develop an unrequited crush on Strength Social Link's focus character.
      • Rank 9 of Persona 4's Tower Social Link involves Shu's Forgotten Birthday. Because of this, Shu's birthday falls on whatever date the player initiates Rank 9 on.
      • Whether Nanako dies or not is dependent on which of the Multiple Endings you're on, but the choices you make that determine which ending route you're on have no real connection to the conditions that cause that character to die. Thus you have Nanako dying in the bad ending, in a coma in the neutral ending, and miraculously recovering in the good ending, seemingly just to make those endings happier or sadder.
  • Pillars of Eternity: The plot changes in various ways depending on what dialogue options you choose, with the answer you gave being treated as if it was always true. Much of the tutorial is devoted to just fleshing out your character’s backstory through such dialogue options. The sequel takes this even further by adding whatever choices you made in the first game to the mix.
  • Pikmin 4 makes a lot of retcon-like changes based on the player's actions.
    • The Rescue Corps' spacesuit and ship colour matches whatever the player picked their recruit to dress in. Any castaways found on the planet that would've been dressed in that colour find themselves wearing a different colour instead.
    • Castaways are always rescued in a set order. It doesn't matter which cave is explored first, or even which unconscious people are seen first - whoever is first saved is somehow always Russ.
    • Leaflings are always cured in a set order. No matter which cave is explored, which challenge is completed, which creature is fed the medicine - the same person appears as the first one, even if this would mean they were born with a different hair colour to match the leaves.
  • Pokémon:
    • In Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald:
      • May/Brendan's comments at the beginning of the game indicate that they already have their first Pokémon, yet they will always magically have the one with a type advantage against you.
      • In the post-game of Emerald, a TV reports on a flying Pokémon. Your character is asked what color the Pokémon is. The response you make your character give determines whether it's Latios (blue) or Latias (red). In the original Ruby and Sapphire this depended on the version you got.
    • In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl the player character you didn't pick with the gender opposite yours (Lucas if you picked the female, Dawn if you picked the male) always has the starter that has a type disadvantage against yours (i.e. you pick Fire and they get Grass) despite getting their Pokémon before you did. They even remark that you could have matched if you'd picked a different starter, which of course can't happen.
    • In the main games, the player's rival always gets whichever starter Pokémon has an elemental type advantage over the player's starter; while this is usually by virtue of the player choosing first and the rival second, in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 the rival is known to already have their starter Pokémon long before the player acquires theirs (having raised it from an egg) - the Mon's specific identity is simply not revealed until the player selects theirs and faces their rival in battle.
    • When you do the first Looker Bureau sidequest in the postgame story of Pokémon X and Y, the 5 tickets you need to find have text on them. No matter what order you do them in, the text they read is dependent on when you find it, not where it is. Which raises the question: how did Looker know what order you'd go for?
  • Done twice in Portal 2, with an actual gun. With two of the later puzzles, the player needs to fire the portal gun quickly to not die, but if they fired the wrong portal, they'd end up dying anyway. To fix this, the programmers fixed it so that whichever portal you fire is the right one and it retroactively changes the portal you had already placed.
  • Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords: In the early-game mission, "The Missive", you, the player, are given a message from the queen to give to your father. On your way home, you're waylaid by a thief. Defeat the thief and the message is genuine. Lose to the thief, the message turns out to be a decoy.note 
  • In the FMV-based adventure game Ripper by Take 2 Interactive, the titular serial murderer has four possible identities, depending on how the player pursue the investigation (one of them being the main character's girlfriend).
  • Red Dead Redemption 2's epilogue is set eight years after the events of the main story, and changes the Player Character to John Marston after Arthur Morgan dies in the climax. For the most part, side missions that aren't directly tied to the main story in some way can still be started or completed without consequence. However, there is one exception. "The Widow of Willard's Rest" involves the player teaching a young woman named Charlotte to survive on her own in the country. If Arthur completes her story before the epilogue, then there will be an optional scene in the epilogue where John can meet her and the two reminisce about their mutual friend. If Arthur meets her, but doesn't finish her missions, Charlotte will be dead by the time John gets there. However, if Arthur never meets her at all, then she will still be alive in the epilogue, having apparently only moved out to the country recently, and she will learn from John instead.
  • In Riven, the passcode near the end of the game which unlocks Catherine's prison is randomly generated the first time you see it, retroactively setting the lock to that code. It is impossible to open the lock without having first seen the passcode. This prevents a medium-aware player from saving the game early, finding out the code, loading the saved game, and then opening the lock much earlier in the game, which would have required the designers to come up with a completely different ending. Note that the other randomly-generated passwords are not Schrödingified, so you can use this trick to unlock them ahead of time.
  • RuneScape: In one quest you are given a mysterious box and told not to open it. If you try to use a lock pick to open it before you are supposed to it will only contain another box and a note saying not to try that again. If you lose the box the guy who gave it to you will say that he knew you were going to lose it and gave you a fake. When you you take the box to the person you are supposed to take it to and it is opened it is revealed to contain wigs and makeup.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux, Alex's backstory is determined by the protagonist's actions within the Schwarzwelt.
    • If you are Neutral-aligned, Alex comes from a future where humanity goes right back to its decadent ways after the crisis is resolved. Having grown complacent over time, humanity is unable to stop the second Schwarzwelt, leading to the destruction of human civilization; Alex is one of the few survivors.
    • If you are Law-aligned, Alex comes from a future where anyone who is not brainwashed by Zelenin's song is considered to be unclean filth and executed. Alex is the last remaining survivor of those who cannot hear her song.
    • If you are Chaos-aligned, Alex comes from a future where every human seeks to prove their strength by attacking anyone they come across. Naturally, this mindset has led to the complete annihilation of humanity, and Alex is the last surviving human period.
  • If Sierra adventure games can't kill your character off with something because you noticed it, they may not bother with it at all. Your car only has a fault if you don't perform the safety inspection. (Police Quest 1: In Pursuit of the Death Angel). The policeman's only there if you're indecent. (Leisure Suit Larry 1: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards). There's only a car coming if you don't Look Both Ways. (The Dagger of Amon Ra). The biggest example is in the latter: giving the wrong item to a speakeasy doorman would make the game Unwinnable, so it also causes a completely random person to walk in from offscreen and stab the protagonist to death. The game then quotes knife crime statistics.
  • Used in the Silent Hill series. Although, given how the town seems to have Reality Warper powers, it's possible these alterations actually are happening in-universe.
    • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories does this for Mind Screw purposes. During the therapy sessions, your answer to some questions will always be wrong, no matter what you choose—or when you're asked to color in a picture of a house, whichever color you choose will determine the color of your childhood home. Then there's the late-game twist that the "Harry" you've been controlling is actually Cheryl's mental projection, and the real Harry's been dead for years. Your actions as the mental Harry retroactively determine whether the real Harry was a loving parent, a coward, or an abusive alcoholic.
    • In Silent Hill: Downpour, Murphy's actions in the game can alter his backstory to fit, determining whether or not he murdered Coleridge to avenge his dead son Charlie, or was merely framed for it by Sewell. Or if Murphy is evil enough during the game, then it turns out he killed Charlie himself.
  • The Splatoon games do this by way of Audience Participation, with the final Splatfest (community events where players pick sides in a "Cavemen vs. Astronauts" Debate) in each game deciding a major element of the following installment, from story to theming. Naturally, if a different side won, story events and other details about the setting would have gone in different directions.
  • In the Star Ocean games, in order to keep some kind of weird Arbitrary Headcount Limit, you can only pick certain party members; which prevents you from getting others, who just aren't available anymore. Or, in one particularly egregious case (Bowman), just not interested in traveling with you anymore.
  • Star Wars:
    • In the ending of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2, you have the option to kill Darth Vader. Since that's obviously not going to happen, selecting that option will cause a clone of the Player Character to appear out of nowhere, easily kill you and your allies and save Vader. If the player chooses not to kill Vader, there is no clone.
    • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords:
      • You can answer various questions about past events, such as Revan's fate in the first game and the color of the lightsaber the Jedi Council took away from you, and the answers retroactively determine what happened.
      • Depending on which side you pick on Onderon, an opposing NPC will either be a mercenary or a patriot.
  • StarCraft II includes three levels where you can choose one of two possible methods to take. While one isn't one of these (merely determining if you strip the Zerg of their primary Zerg Rush generating unit or of their flying units), the other two are:
    • In the Colonists story arc, the climax is to either fight off the Protoss to try and see if the Zerg infection amongst the colonists can be arrested and perhaps cured, or to side with the Protoss and mercilessly burn out all of the infected. Your choice is always the correct one: Choose the former, and the game reveals that there were only a few infected colonists, who are easily contained, and Dr. Hanson leaves the ship to work on researching a cure. Choose the latter, the infestation is far more widespread, and Dr. Hanson goes insane and infects herself, turning into a monstrous human/zerg hybrid that Raynor has to kill.
    • Meanwhile, in the Shadow Ops story arc, the climax involves Raynor siding either with Tosh or with Nova to, respectively, either free the fellow Specter program prisoners (supposedly too mentally unstable to release back into society) held at the New Folsom facility or stop them from getting free. Once again, your choice inevitably turns out to be the correct one: side with Tosh, and the Specter prisoners would turn out to be helpful, if somewhat eccentric victims of circumstances wrongfully kept in a hellish prison and more than willing to help once set free. Side with Nova, and it'd turn out that Tosh had been completely insane the whole time, and has not only already took over an orbital facility near the planet that now must be blown up lest it be turned into a Specter factory, but also experimenting on innocent civilians, turning them into (equally, murderously insane) Specters against their will.
  • In The Suffering, the player character is in prison for murdering his family; whether or not he actually did depends on the Karma Meter.
  • In Sunless Sea, Maybe's-Daughter's story arc is set up in such a way that it combines this with a degree of randomisation. When you start her arc, she presents you with a list of places you might be able to find her mother, and as someone who has played a videogame before, you assume it's going to be a straightforward example of this trope and she'll be in the last one you visit. Actually, the game does a randomised check when you hit the appropriate prompt in a place you haven't searched before, and she's in whichever one you're at when it succeeds - but since the odds start at 4% and double each time, she'll generally only pop up once you've checked most, but not all, of the places (which is just as well, really, since one of the locations is on the surface and so requires ferocious fuel expenditure and a minor risk of death to reach, and another is surrounded by Blue Prophets, basically swarms of ship-killing death parrots).
  • In Super Mario Bros. 3, there's two slightly different Boss Rooms in Bowser's Castle, with both having a holding cell behind them. No matter which one you go to, you'll always face Bowser there and find Princess Peach in the room behind.
  • In Tactics Ogre, there's a branching off point at the end of the first chapter of the game. You have to choose whether to kill a group of prisoners in order to frame the Big Bad. (It's complicated and political). If you choose to kill the prisoners, your best friend will reveal himself to be incredibly noble and oppose you and all governments, and throughout the game form La Résistance until you become The Atoner. If you choose not to kill the prisoners, your best friend will reveal himself to be the biggest asshole ever and side with the killers just to gain power. In a way, this is a bizarre Sadistic Choice. You cannot be a spotless hero and at the same time have your best friend be a good guy (and alive) by the end of the game.
  • 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. But since the scene was based on Relationship Values in that game, any answer could be a correct one. Indeed, no matter what Emil guesses, Lloyd says that he guessed correctly. The question is a set-up to allow the player to choose which one, letting them pick their own preference or continue from their own experience playing the first game.
  • The Talos Principle: In Road to Gehenna, the order the robots are encountered is predetermined. Regardless of which order you choose to complete the puzzles, the first robot you free will always be the same, as well as the second, the third, etc.
  • In the FMV game Terror T.R.A.X. - Track of the Vampire (played by Spoony here), one of the Bad Ending paths has one of your agents getting captured by a Mad Scientist vampire. When the second agent finds the first, Mission Control orders her to shoot him preemptively. If you don't, he springs up as a vampire and kills the other agent. If you do, the vampire calls to taunt you with the fact that the agent was still human so you killed him needlessly.
  • In Trials of Mana, the player can choose three party members for the whole game: one main character and two support characters. Whoever the player picks as the main character becomes the only one who can wield the Mana Sword, and it also determines which of the three evil factions wins the race to the Sanctuary of Mana, and which of the three final bosses the player ends up fighting.
  • Undertale:
    • A minor incidence of this was used as a joke. Papyrus, assuming you spared him, will call your cell phone once you reach a certain place in Waterfall and ask to confirm the clothing you're wearing, since a friend of his wants to know. Said friend turns out to be Undyne, who actually wants to kill you, which Papyrus strongly disagrees about. After your first encounter with Undyne, Papyrus calls again to explain his reaction to the prior phone conversation, revealing that no matter how you answered him, he gave Undyne an accurate physical description of you, despite his efforts to the contrary:
      • If you told Papyrus the truth about what you were wearing, he assumed you were too smart to tell the truth and passed your "misdirection" on to Undyne verbatim.
      • If you lied about your outfit (or changed clothes after the phone call), then Papyrus assumed you were telling him the truth, so he lied to Undyne on your behalf—and his lie just happened to match up with whatever you're actually wearing at that moment. This information does not actually affect any of the player's encounters with Undyne.
    • The very last thing you're able to do in the Golden Ending is choose whether to live with Toriel or tell her you have "places to be". One interpretation of this is that you're deciding whether or not Frisk still has a human family to go home to, giving them a Multiple-Choice Past.
  • A minor example in the paladin quest "The End of the Saga" in World of Warcraft: Legion. You need to search three graves, and what you're looking for is always in the third grave, no matter the order of search.
    • Also in the Suramar arc in the same expansion: You help a Nightborne noble by disguising yourself as her younger sibling. That sibling will luckily be whichever gender you chose for your character.
  • In XIII, the player must enter a locked cabin to obtain a fuse. There are several guards in the area, but the last one who gets killed is always the one holding the key.
  • Yakuza 4 has an example with an actual gun. One of Tanimura's substories has him playing a game of Russian Roulette with an old man with 3 million yen on the line, with the player being prompted to pull the trigger either fearlessly, listlessly, or nervously twice during the event. Tanimura wins the game if he pulls the trigger fearlessly then listlessly, going off on a hunch that the revolver was loaded with a blank — which the old man promptly disproves after paying him the three mil by firing it into the ceiling. On any other combination of choices, which should end up with Tanimura dead, the bullet really is blank.

    Visual Novels 
  • Happens in Radical Dreamers the so-called "prototype" to Chrono Cross. Depending on which room you entered first and what you did; Magil is either a time-traveling guitar playing rockstar detective from Mars who plays with hand-puppets, the forgotten lover to Ridell, or a demon from hell. Likewise Kid is sometimes else raised by a nunnery that Lynx killed off, raised by Lynx's daughter Shea, or a gigantic berserk magic-wielding sunflower. Lynx himself is a nobleman, a ghost, a Humongous Mecha, or a giant space octopus.
  • Virtue's Last Reward basically runs on this concept. Whether or not the Old Woman dies depends on which story branch you choose for an initially-unexplained reason, and sometimes your selections in the AB Game will change your opponent's. These turn out to be plot points. Yes, it is that kind of game.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, the Game Master has the option of doing this in the middle of an ongoing game. However, creating logical inconsistencies will have severe consequences, and cause an automatic loss.
  • In Hate Plus, if you choose not to invoke Old Save Bonus by using a completed Analogue: A Hate Story as a base for a new save file, you'll answer a survey for your employer asking you to describe the AI you salvaged, from which AI it was to their personality, among other things. How you answer the survey determines which AI you'll play the game with and, if you have *Hyun-ae rather than *Mute or both at the same time, whether she sees you as just a friend or a lover.
  • In the Spot the Imposter-laden Who is Mike?, your choices determine if you're playing as the real Mike who's desperately trying to prove to his girlfriend Sarah that the "Mike" who found him is a fake or as the evil duplicate who's plotting to take over Mike's life. Additionally, in one story branch, whether or not you shoot the injured Sarah that another Sarah (who's trapped behind a jammed door) claims is the fake determines which one of them actually is the fake. If you shoot the injured Sarah, the "Sarah" behind the door laughs at you being tricked into killing the real Sarah. If you don't shoot her, she turns out to be the fake after all and kills you. The only way to win this Morton's Fork is to Take a Third Option and stall for time.
  • In Fleuret Blanc, there is one branch point (Tuesday afternoon) where both options have to merge afterwards, thus forcing both to be consistent with the overall storyline despite involving very different events. The result of this is that the two branches apparently occur in two slightly different universes, where prior events were different. If Florentine attends the meeting, the stated reason for Kant's dismissal is that Roland kept his prized possession for over a week, which is corroborated by Roland giving you said prized possession after the meeting. However, if she follows Kant, it will turn out that he has his prized possession on him, contradicting the historical events stated in the other branch.
  • Reflections on the River can easily look like this, since certain facts (regarding the nature and origin of the jewel which the protagonist is pursuing, for example) which are given in one route contradict those given in another. However, there is a coherent truth — but no one route ever shows it to you all at once. The apparent contradictory facts are just lies that didn't happen to get exposed in the path you took, and there will always be some such lies no matter which way you go.
  • The story of Starship Promise always begins with the Player Character making a discovery which draws the Empire to come hunting her, but the nature of that discovery is different in each route. In Orion's storyline, for example, she's decrypted Empire transmissions containing secret battle plans, while in Antares Fairchild's storyline she's created a device which is picking up on alien activity from outside the galaxy.
  • Havenfall Is for Lovers is driven by the disappearance of the player character's younger sister Grace. Who is responsible for abducting Grace and their reasons for doing so vary depending on whose route you follow, as the antagonist always has a connection to the protagonist's chosen love interest.
  • In Machi, the predecessor to 428: Shibuya Scramble, during Keima's scenario, you will have to defuse (several) bombs. Pick the wrong choice, and Shibuya goes kaboom. Pick the right choice, and the bomb is defused... but a little later, forensics determine it was just a dud.
  • In Katawa Shoujo, multiple story aspects that should be the same for each path, regardless of Hisao's choices, are somehow different.
    • Shizune's house is in different locations, as it is a short cab ride away in Lilly's path, while it's a long train ride away in Shizune's path.
    • Iwanako's letter has different words for each girl's story, as well as arriving at different times. In some routes, Hisao glosses over most of its contents, while in others, he reads the entire letter.
    • In Hanako's route, Hisao asks the shopkeeper in the antique shop what his gift will cost (and haggles with him), and he doesn't realize he picked a pricey doll for Lilly. But in Lilly's route, the items in the same antique store have price tags; Hisao immediately knows what each thing he looks at costs, including the dolls.
  • Your Turn to Die: The banquet is a sort of Russian Roulette with people and AI-stuffed dolls inside coffins. The player and the enemy use hints and drill through the coffins in an attempt to hit the opposing team's main challenger. Whoever is in each coffin is determined whenever a hint is used or a coffin without a hint is drilled. While the enemy always hits a specific person or doll during each selection, the player's first two hints and selections affect which one of three dolls is not hit in the end.
  • Root Letter centers around Max seeking the truth behind his penpal, Aya Fumino, and the now-grown high-school friends she had, as well as their reasons for hiding the truth of her. After the common route, the game splits into five routes where everything that happened in the common route turns out to have wildly different explanations depending on the route, and the backstory is also different each time.
    • In Crossing Paths and Bond of Marriage, Shiori pretended to be away to console a grieving Yoko, faking her suicide as a symbolic way of letting go of her away persona, and the others hid their involvement because they felt guilt when Yoko died in a fire, making for a mundane tale.
    • In Cursed Letter, Aya is a malicious spirit who curses anyone who gets her letter and the friends were trying to carry out the ritual to appease/exorcise her, of which the sending of letters and fake suicide was a part, and hid it from Max to keep him from becoming entrapped by the curse.
    • In Princess of Himegamori, Shiori was actually the sister of Aya and is being possessed by her spirit- in addition, Naoki Fumino, who is a benevolent character in most routes, is here a sexually abusive father to the sisters.
    • In A Government Plot, the friends were not trying to hide anything- their memories were erased and they genuinely did not remember who Aya/Shiori was. Also, Aya never existed in this route and was merely an alias used by Shiori, who is an agent along with Naoki, and they are trying to cover up the existence of alien technology they plan on using so Japan can dominate America and Russia.

  • The idea is brought up in this Irregular Webcomic! strip. Fittingly enough, the characters are players in a Deep-Immersion Gaming RPG, and they actually mention Schrödinger. Not only does the trope appear in that particular strip, but also in the writing process behind the strip. In the earlier draft of the comic, David Morgan-Mar kept flip-flopping on whether the punchline should reference Heisenberg or Schrödinger. He decided on Heisenberg and wrote a long note below the comic, explaining Heisenberg and the Uncertainty Principle, before realizing that Schrödinger worked better as a punchline and changing it. He left the note below mostly unchanged, presumably as a record of the uncertainty in the writing process.
  • "Chainmail Bikini: The Nightmarish Legend of Deuse Baaj":
    • The players are sent to retrieve a farmer's pigs in return for a sword. Instead of fighting the goblins that have stolen the pigs, they set a siege and wait until the goblins have run out of food and surrender, thus totally ruining the adventure the GM had written. (And then they go and slaughter the goblins anyway.) The GM gets back at them by having the farmer's village been attacked and razed by the minions of the Big Bad Diabolical Mastermind by the time the characters return.
    • Not to mention, a player thoughtlessly wonders why the starving goblins didn't simply eat the stolen pigs; at which point the rescued pigs suddenly transform into a pile of bones as the gamemaster quickly retcons the situation.
  • Used by the GM during the Rogue One adaptation in Darths & Droids. An NPC, Bria (a.k.a. Jyn), instictively shoots an Imperial combat droid, implicitly Sally's character K-2SO and rolls high enough to instantly destroy it. Not wanting to kill off a PC so suddenly, the GM quickly declares that Bria shot a different combat droid, and K-2SO is really standing behind it.
  • DM of the Rings:
    • During a dice roll for an enemy attack, the dice accidentally drops beneath the table to an inconvenient spot. The player who the attack was targeted towards then calls himself an "Uncertainty Lich" between life and death (though the issue is quickly cleared up).
    • There's also this example, because the GM is railroading the plot and he and Legolas had already set up Legolas taking a shot at Saruman.
      Legolas: ...I rolled a 1.
      GM: In that case, you miss Saruman...and hit Grima.
  • Hilariously occurred in Gold Digger Tangent. The comic had a forum right beneath it, where people often speculated. One person yelled out, without spoiler tags. "Ooh! That one guy we saw taking a bath is going to swoop in and pull a Big Damn Heroes, making him a Chekhov's gun!" The artist's response? "Great, now I need a new way to bail them out!" He figured it out.
  • Every single thing in MS Paint Adventures. Since the various series use fan-submitted suggestions to drive much of the plot, seemingly non-sequitur commands like "Build a fort out of your desk" can lead to larger developments in the in-game universe. Or just be one-off non-sequiter gags.
    • Although Hussie has officially closed the suggestion boxes, and they won't be opened again until Homestuck is over and the next story has begun, he's taking cues from the fans; he's said that "ninety percent of 'calling it' is actually suggesting it in disguise."
    • Also used in-story in Homestuck: If you confront the Denizen before it awakens, it will already be awake anyway.
  • If somebody who read through Bob and George somehow managed to be oblivious to the heavy Leaning on the Fourth Wall, they might get the impression that the comic had a complex, carefully planned, intricately connected plot. However, by his own admission, Dave was just really good at making crap up on the fly, and then making up more crap to explain why the previous crap was significant.
  • In Questionable Content, Faye once found a box of condoms in the couch. Marten says it's Pintsize's, and Pintsize says it's not his. The author's notes at the bottom read: "So who does the box in question belong to? [...] I haven't decided yet."
  • Used in this Something*Positive where Davan, Peejee and friends play a tabletop RPG: The GM changes who the BBEG is after a player becomes suspicious.
  • Elan, Genre Savvy that he is, invokes this trope in this strip of The Order of the Stick, asking Haley not to reveal to the audience what kind of wands she has so they can turn out to be exactly what she needs later.

    Web Original 
  • In The Spoony Experiment's Let's Play of the FMV game Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh, Spoony mocks how the game tries to get around this—that the protagonist Curtis could experience the various supernatural death threats in a different order—by having him seem newly surprised in each clip, as though every one was the first (which it could be, depending on what the player does). In the finale of the Let's Play, Spoony is trapped in a similar setting and actually gets more exaggeratedly shocked every time something supernatural happens.
  • Discussed during the Super Best Friends second LP of Detroit: Become Human. Seeing for the second time that a major character was an android all along, Pat wonders how crazy it would be if that character wasn't a robot in some game endings, depending on your choices.
  • In A Heist With Markiplier what's in the box depends on what route you take, it's most likely the box is space time anomaly

    Western Animation 
  • The Season Two premiere of The Venture Brothers is a veritable Schrödinger's machine gun. The writers deliberately took all the fan speculation about how the cliffhanger at the end of the Season One finale would be resolved, and made it all true. A partial list follows.
    • With Hank and Dean dead, the title would now refer to brothers Rusty and Jonas Junior — as seen in the episode's opening credits.
    • The boys would be raised from the dead by Doctor Orpheus.
    • Dr. Venture would clone the boys.
    • It would be revealed that the boys were always clones.
  • Total Drama has an alternate ending each season where the runner-up (in slightly different circumstances) actually won the prize. In fact, for the second season, it was declared that both endings were the possible "real ending", since each country voted differently on which of that final two they wanted to win. Unfortunately, the first and third season endings ended up very contrived by comparison.

    Real Life 
  • Many of a stage magician's illusions rely on some form of this. The Other Wiki has more details.
  • Politicians facing elections usually have their victory and concession speeches prepared well in advance. Similarly, newspapers pre-write articles and obituaries. Hilarity Ensues if they jump the gun and publish a wrong article.
  • Similarly, Nixon had a speech ready in case something happened to Neil Armstrong and crew during their lunar soujourn that stranded them on the moon. It's quite the haunting read.
  • The items (from newspapers with banner headlines to caps and T-shirts) that get waved around during post-game celebrations at the Super Bowl, World Series, and other championship sports events featuring the team that was just victorious seconds earlier are also prepared in advance in versions for both teams. The merchandise/items proclaiming victory for the losing team are quietly disposed of or donated to charity programs in third-world countries so they'll never see the light of day in the US.
    • A notable showing of this occured when retailers jumped the gun before Super Bowl XLII. When it looked like the New England Patriots would become the first NFL team to go 19-0 in a season, a number of merchants allowed customers to pre-order corresponding commemorative merchandise. They sheepishly had to backtrack/refund all that money at the last minute when the Patriots lost the game to the New York Giants, 17-14.
  • To avoid a portrait subject having to spend weeks sitting still, portrait painters used to do a subject's body, clothing, and furniture before the customer actually paid for a picture. Then they'd just add on the appropriate head (which is why some portrait figures have oddly long necks).
  • The creators of South Park create each episode within six days in order to keep turnaround times for major events and trends quick and stay as current as possible. In fact, they completed an episode on the 2008 Presidential Election the day after the event by making some tactical assumptions on the outcome.
    • This is not always the case however. Throughout season 20, the overarching plot following the 2016 Presidential Election assumed Hillary Clinton would win. Following Donald Trump's upset victory, the plot had to be scrapped as the writers could not come up with a feasible continuation, and they had to basically start from scratch with a turnaround of only one day.
  • Reportedly, General Eisenhower late in 1944 found a note in his jacket pocket which was the speech he had written regarding the failure of Operation Overlord (i.e. the Normandy Invasion).
  • Newspapers often keep obituaries on hand for celebrities who are sick or seem to be going off the rails.
    • Bob Hope outlived the writer of his obituary in the New York Times.
  • Some university professors use a variation of this in-class. The class plays a game of 20 questions. A subject is selected and sent out of the classroom while the other students ostensibly pick a person, place or thing that the subject must guess. The subject is brought back into the room and can pick students to ask a single question to each of them. After the 20 questions, whatever the subject's guess, they are told they are correct. At least, they should be "correct". The students in the class were actually instructed to not pick anything, and give any answer they like as long as it could be consistent with all previously answered questions for at least one thing.
  • In a word-game example, a player writes a letter on a piece of paper. The other player writes another letter either before or after the first letter. Play continues with each player being allowed to play or challenge. If they play, they write an additional letter either in front of or after the previous letters. If they challenge, they win if the other player cannot add additional letters to make a word from from a previously agreed upon dictionary. They lose if the other player can make a word.
  • On November 5, 1996 (Election day in the US, with Bill Clinton and Bob Dole as the presidential candidates), the New York Times Crossword Puzzle's key phrase was two words, each seven letters long, with the clue "Lead story in tomorrow's newspaper(!)" More details. The words that crossed the first word (specified below along with their clues) were such that either "CLINTON ELECTED" or "BOBDOLE ELECTED" could have been valid solutions.
    • "Black Halloween animal" (CAT or BAT)
    • "French 101 word" (LUI or OUI)
    • "Provider of support, for short" (IRA or BRA)
    • "Sewing shop purchase" (YARN or YARD)
    • "Short writings" (BITS or BIOS)
    • "Trumpet" (BOAST or BLAST)
    • "Much debated political inits." (NRA or ERA)
    • This crossword was parodied 20 years later (but not published in the Times) by a professional crossword constructor using the exact same grid shape. This time, the middle row would either read "CLINTON ELECTED" or "ASSHOLE ELECTED".note  As a bonus, because the Clinton in this election was a woman, there was another line that had some alternate answers — where the original 1996 crossword had "MISTER PRESIDENT", the revised grid had either "MADAME PRESIDENT" or "MADMAN PRESIDENT".

Alternative Title(s): Schrodingers Rails, Schroedingers Gun