Dealing with agency and retcon (in semi sandbox)

TheSword

Legend
If the players have no more influence over the premise of the game than that their PCs are "adventurers", I think we are probably looking at low-player-agency RPGing.
Generally players get a total veto on what the premise of the game is. They also get complete autonomy in deciding who and what their characters are. I think this statement is disingenuous.
 

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TheSword

Legend
Why not? Why should the players not know what is at stake in their decision-making?

Also, by even framing this as "the DM should provide information and clues", you are pre-supposing low-player-agency RPGing.

In high-player-agency RPGing, the "information and clues" that provide the context for more local and particular consequences to be determined come from the players as much as from the GM.
Because omniscience destroys mystery and mystery is good. We don’t have enough of it in roleplaying games. In a world where every player can look up the monster manual on google I like things to be a little secret (as both a player and DM).

As I have said, you have a very narrow definition of agency if for agency to exist at all one has to have direct control over the world and other peoples actions/thoughts/goals. IRL I feel like I have a great deal of agency. Yet I don’t have any say in the world beyond my actions ability to affect it.

It seems you have arbitrarily decided that this is the definition of low agency… your call of course in your world view. It’s clearly not shared by everyone.
 

pemerton

Legend
That’s because you’re looking at things in discreet individual choice rather than one of many choices that go on over time. What makes things interesting is what happens next. How do the PCs respond and act on the effect their actions had.
A choose-your-own-adventure or fighting fantasy gamebook can be interesting. That doesn't mean that I have any agency, though!

I repeat: if all the players are doing is pressing buttons on the GM's black box, they are not exercising agency.

For the record these weren’t my elements they were from an article about good use of agency in the game. I didn’t say they were the only things relevant. Just 4 that I found interesting. Do you disagree that they are all part of allowing agency in decision making?
I don't think they're terribly salient, other than the awareness of a decision which I think is a pretty low threshold to get over.

Player agency consists in the capacity to shape the shared fiction in ways that reflect the players' visions and aspirations for that fiction. Given that the main way players impact the fiction is by declaring actions for their PCs, if the players are to have that capacity then they must be able to establish what is at stake in those action declarations. And as @chaochou has posted, this also requires stable and transparent rules: otherwise what might seem to be at stake isn't really at stake.

There are a variety of ways to achieve player agency, because there are a variety of ways to enable the players to establish what is at stake, and a variety of ways of resolving action declarations in stable and transparent ways.

But some common approaches to RPGing - "quest givers", consequences established by reference to GM's secret backstory, the resulting blind choices, etc - are obviously at odds with player agency. These are techniques for low-player-agency RPGing, and they generate a different set of demands on the GM.
 

pemerton

Legend
Generally players get a total veto on what the premise of the game is. They also get complete autonomy in deciding who and what their characters are. I think this statement is disingenuous.
"Disingenuous" means insincere. What makes you think I'm being insincere?

In any event, I have played and observed and heard about many RPGs in which the players don't get a "total veto" over the premise of the game. In this very thread, you have posted about a "social contract" that extends to the players taking up the GM's "hooks".
 


pemerton

Legend
you have a very narrow definition of agency if for agency to exist at all one has to have direct control over the world and other peoples actions/thoughts/goals.
I have not said what you attribute to me.

I have said that agency in RPGing is about the capacity to shape the shared fiction; that the main medium for this is action declarations; and hence that agency requires that players be able to establish what is at stake in action declarations.
 

TheSword

Legend
A choose-your-own-adventure or fighting fantasy gamebook can be interesting. That doesn't mean that I have any agency, though!

I repeat: if all the players are doing is pressing buttons on the GM's black box, they are not exercising agency.

I don't think they're terribly salient, other than the awareness of a decision which I think is a pretty low threshold to get over.

Player agency consists in the capacity to shape the shared fiction in ways that reflect the players' visions and aspirations for that fiction. Given that the main way players impact the fiction is by declaring actions for their PCs, if the players are to have that capacity then they must be able to establish what is at stake in those action declarations. And as @chaochou has posted, this also requires stable and transparent rules: otherwise what might seem to be at stake isn't really at stake.

There are a variety of ways to achieve player agency, because there are a variety of ways to enable the players to establish what is at stake, and a variety of ways of resolving action declarations in stable and transparent ways.

But some common approaches to RPGing - "quest givers", consequences established by reference to GM's secret backstory, the resulting blind choices, etc - are obviously at odds with player agency. These are techniques for low-player-agency RPGing, and they generate a different set of demands on the GM.
Your continued reference to anything created by a DM as ‘low agency’ is starting to wear. So I’m going to describe things in terms of moderate agency and extreme agency.

In the kind of moderate agency situations I advocate, there are many ways for PCs to set goals. Of which quest givers are probably the clumsiest. I’m not a fan of big yellow exclamation marks over NPCs heads. I’m not sure what I ever said that makes you think I did. It was Rob Starks own choice to cross the Trident because of his own motivations and goals. He wasn’t following a quest giver.
 
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TheSword

Legend
This is a conjecture. I know it's false.

I play in, and GM, high-player-agency RPGs. And there is ample mystery.
Can you give an example to elaborate the point of a mystery in one of your extreme agency games which didn’t come about through GM making decisions. Maybe a murder mystery or a mysterious intrigue? I’m genuinely interested because the posts I’ve seen on the subject seem to say games like dungeon world and burning wheel don’t handle mysteries well at all.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
The different judgements are purely the product of people wanting to (mis)represent minimal agency play as high agency play.

Mod Note:
If your staunch position is that all opinions other than your own are wrongity-wrong, with wrong sauce, by way of personal accusations about their motives, there is no need for you to continue in the discussion. There is nothing more for you to say, and nothing for you to gain.

So, either soften that stance, or step away and make space for folks to exchange ideas. Thanks.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
There can be unforeseen costs. Particularly in the future. I don’t think anyone disagrees that DMs should provide information and clues to allow players to make decisions comparing cost to benefit, but that information about cost shouldn’t be omniscient.

And if there's unforeseen (or more important, unforeseeable) costs, that is an example of minimal agency.

Again, there can be reasons for doing that; I don't consider agency the end-all and be-all of everything that happens in a game. But I will still insist if someone tells themselves that blind decisions don't reduce agency, they're either using a largely meaningless definition of agency, or they're kidding themselves.
 

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