Is "GM Agency" A Thing?

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
We're norn going to talk about it.

Oh, we narn gonna talk about it!


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Then We are just back to ‘who made the tables’


All ur tablez r belong to Gygax.

The High Gygaxian Table of Tables

Roll to see how many tables you need for your book.

00 – 10 The number of tables you wanted, doubled.
11 – 25 Hyperlinks to even moar tablez.
26 – 35 More tables than Ikea has meatballs, or tables.
36 – 50 A table for every awesome name in Greyhawk. Melf went to Verbobonc. Heh.
51 – 65 Sixteen appendices, full of tables.
66 – 75 Every table has four legs, and each leg is a table. Tables, all the way down.
76 – 85 You know the story by Borges? Library of Babel? Yeah, like that. But tables instead of books.
86 – 90 One table, that is a meta-table, that contains all tables. Godel to the yodel, yo.
91 – 92 Only one table, but that table is actually another copy of the book in its entirety.
93 – 94 Three tables- snow, frost, and ice.
95 – 98 No tables, because they were destroyed by the Scarlet Brotherhood.
99 – 00 Roll twice, add the results.

Thomas Shey

In no particular order:

There are RPGs that certainly fit your first parenthetical remark! But I don't think Apocalypse World is one of them. It's probably one of the most deliberate and careful of RPGs ever put together.

I've also heard things similar to your second parenthetical remark, but I personally don't see it. I think the writing in AW is, overall, crisper and clearer than DW, but I don't think DW is very ambiguous.

To make it perfectly clear, I was not thinking of PbtA when I mentioned that. If anything I was thinking of the first version of the WoD.

On the non-parenthetical part of your post: for the players, I would say not particular important at all, provided that they're not having a bad play experience as a result. That proviso matters, because if someone reports that game such-and-such sucks and then it turns out that they were ignoring the rules, well I have modest sympathy at best.

Well, even then it can be an issue or not; the problem they're having with the game can be associated with the misapplication of intended systems or entirely orthogonal (deciding they don't like at least the version of the genre presented, for example). That's why its kind of a rabbit-hole; it can be very connected or very much not.

But for discussion of a RPG, I think it is helpful to talk about how it was written to be played. In particular, there is a very predominant approach to RPG discussion that assumes that all RPGing involves basically DL-ish procedures of play, with the only differences being minutiae of PC build and action resolution rules. While that assumption is being made, serious discussion about RPGing is pretty much impossible in my view.

Frankly, that can even be true when talking about mostly traditional styles of games. As I've noted before, people who come into discussions of BRP style systems carrying the baggage of D&D style system assumptions can throw the whole thing off pretty hard (I just had to argue with someone who said that you needed D&D style elevating hit points for heroic play to be possible not that long ago). You really need to take a game system under its own assumptions to talk about it usefully, because until you do that even criticism of the game is liable to be carrying all kinds of (often erroneous) baggage.

Thomas Shey

If there is no agency to be found following a script, then no actor could ever make a choice that makes their performance of a part different from any other.

Yes. When the topic of railroading comes up, I've mentioned before that some people just want to find their chalk lines and express their character through play, even if they're following the obvious laid-out path.

You can certainly argue that just the decisions of those expressions have less agency, that more broad decisions, but there's not a completely lack of agency there.

Thomas Shey

Yes. If player agency is maximized, it results in (# of players) different stories, unrelated to each other.

That's only true if the choices the players make do not interact with each other; after all nothing forces them to do that, and it can, in fact, involve more agency than if they were forced to do that.

Thomas Shey

I congratulate your optimism here, but experience tells me the in-the-moment-advantage option will nearly always trump the long-term good of the game option if-when players* (no matter how experienced) are given that choice.

Its not optimism; its observation of reasonably smart players who've watched decisions bite them on the butt before.

* - the exception being those (IME few) who have also done a fair bit of GMing and thus recognize that a long-term view even exists.

That helps, but some of the people I'm referring to have done little or no GMing. They just are capable of learning from experience.

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