Black and White Fallacies

  • ‘The black-or-white fallacy occurs in arguments that have a disjunctive premiss―that is, one that gives alternatives―when one or more alternatives is incorrectly omitted. The fallacy tries to force you to choose either black or white when gray is an available alternative.’  –

I know its weird, but I have found that intentionally presenting fallacious problems to my players greatly enriches the experience. My favorite one to use is the Black and White fallacy and here’s why.

What it looks Like in Game

Every time you present a ‘this or that’ situation to your players you have room to use this fun tool. In Star Wars there is the assumed choice between the rebels and the empire. In LOTR Merry and Pippin could either accept the ents decision and go back to the shire, or seek out their allies when the ents rejected them. In Hunger Games Katniss is presented with the choice to shoot President Snow or not.

My favorite thing to do to my players is present them with two bad options; either accept the demons help for a steep cost or be without the mcguffin, ally themselves with either the fascist empire or the barbarous natives, save the king or let the enemy escape. The players may decide to go with one of the two bad options, but when they don’t it’s magic.

Player Agency

You should have material prepared if they pick either of the bad options, but if they decide they don’t like either and set out to find a different path to victory that is where the magic happens. This not only reminds them that this is a creative game and they aren’t on rails, but it reminds them that their choices matter.

This emboldens them to think outside the box, consider their character’s actions more deeply, and reminds the player that their actions have consequences. Giving the player not just a choice between options, but the freedom to write in their own path permits them to paint outside the lines so-to-speak.

In Star Wars you don’t have to be a rebel or some empirical trooper. There are bounty hunters, smugglers, bystanders, and countless other factions who are trying to find a place in the galaxy. In LOTR Merry and Pippin decided to have Treebeard take them to Isengard which changed the ents allegiance. Katniss decided to kill President Alma Coin since she saw her as equally evil as Snow who was already dying. When characters see the logical fallacy and make a surprising choice cool things happen.

So, in summary, present your players the choice between two bad options and let them surprise you with an epic story.