Is "GM Agency" A Thing?

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aramis erak

Legend
Only for the definition of GM agency that requires them to control everything about the setting and everything about the mechanics too.
No, it also applies to less constrained situations. In a pure narrative situation, the only limit is what doesn't break the table's WSoD/Verisimilitude. The most constricted authority is when the game makes no room for a GM at all - such as the storygames Once Upon a Time, Hobbit Tales from the Green Dragon Inn or Aye, Dark Overlord! OUaT doesn't even meet my expectations of an RPG - as the characters are all shared.

The least agency with a GM I've seen is Cosmic Patrol... GMing rotates each scene. The scenes are prewritten. The GM role simply chooses the actions for the NPCs, rolls for the NPCs, and can assign no more than +3 or -3 to the rolls. Oh, and it's a typical d4-d12 step die. Combat rolls are combat die + range mode + GM chosen diff mod vs combat die. Non-combat, 1d12 +1d (relevant stat) + GM chosen mod vs 1d20.
The GM role also changes at end of scene, and the adventure sets - in plain sight - the goal for ending the scene... It's very much a "play to find out how" not a "play to find out if" type game.

The most with an actual system I've seen is Risus.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
This is not my experience.

As to player authored setting elements, it's common for players to establish some of those elements in creating back stories, and the GM incorporating those elements into play, no?

I'm not sure I've been in a game in the past 30 years where back story hasn't also been accepted between sessions. And players could regularly ask if they could find something in town or in the dungeon (particular shop, particular thing one might find in a dungeon) that the DM hadn't already thought of putting there.
 


clearstream

(He, Him)
I absolutely think it’s taught. When you get new players, particularly younger ones, they will constantly try to author in elements into the game, even in the middle of play.

That kind of behaviour gets beaten out of them pretty quickly by DM’s and advice around gaming where they get told that “it’s the DMs world” or “your dm is responsible for the world” and so on.

The whole “roll up the plot wagon and entertain me” crowd of gamers is imo very much a learned behaviour.
Don't worry dear, they can't help it?
 

Hussar

Legend
That is a different kind of game. As you say, such games exist, so I'm not sure what you're complaining about. If you want to run your campaign this way, you are welcome to do so. Sounds like fun.

What game are you talking about, by the way?
Couple of things. First off, you're missing the point. The discussion is about whether or not the players not engaging in the game is the result of being discouraged from adding things to the game or not. I do strongly believe that trad games have discouraged players from engaging beyond simply reacting to what the DM is putting in front of them. There is very little DMing advice in making players also responsible for how the game works.

As to the game, it's called Dawn of Worlds: http://www.clanwebsite.org/games/rpg/Dawn_of_Worlds_game_1_0Final.pdf Tons of fun.

I'm not sure I've been in a game in the past 30 years where back story hasn't also been accepted between sessions. And players could regularly ask if they could find something in town or in the dungeon (particular shop, particular thing one might find in a dungeon) that the DM hadn't already thought of putting there.
But, that's the thing. If the player says, "Can there be a "particular thing" in a dungeon, that's Player Wishlists and that's WAYYY verboten. The hue and cry over the notion of players being able to influence the game world like that was very, very loud.

And, sure. The player could "ask" if there's something or other in the town. But, the DM certainly doesn't have to say yes. It's still 100% in the hands of the DM. At no point can I turn to the DM and declare that I'm going to go visit my sister that lives in this town off the cuff without first getting the DM's okay.

And, again, frankly, that's what's virtually killed any chance of players actually stepping up most of the time. So, the players, as @Reynard says, are barely engaged in the setting at all.
 

Reynard

Legend
And, again, frankly, that's what's virtually killed any chance of players actually stepping up most of the time. So, the players, as @Reynard says, are barely engaged in the setting at all.
I didn't say that. I was talking about the work involved in running the game. that might include setting development, but isn't limited to it. I think most players that choose to be "forever players" prefer to be entertained in a mostly passive capacity. I think many of them like railroads (or rollercoasters, as I often put it) and I think too much choice and/or responsibilities turns them off. Anyone who has ever seen the concerned and blank looks when you drop players in a sandbox and ask "What do you do?" knows what I mean.

As to the specific issue of setting creation: even in the Book No One Reads, by page 6 the DM is advised to use player background inform to inform the world and let the players define elements of play.
 

Hussar

Legend
I didn't say that. I was talking about the work involved in running the game. that might include setting development, but isn't limited to it. I think most players that choose to be "forever players" prefer to be entertained in a mostly passive capacity. I think many of them like railroads (or rollercoasters, as I often put it) and I think too much choice and/or responsibilities turns them off. Anyone who has ever seen the concerned and blank looks when you drop players in a sandbox and ask "What do you do?" knows what I mean.

As to the specific issue of setting creation: even in the Book No One Reads, by page 6 the DM is advised to use player background inform to inform the world and let the players define elements of play.
But that's my point. The DM is advised. At no point in the DMG (any DMG really) is the notion that maybe we could actually let the players take an active hand in campaign design. It's still 100% (or 99% anyway) from the DM. And, again, IMO, the reason that you get these "forever players" who are very passive is because they've had any inkling of being active beaten out of them very quickly.

And, yes, I totally agree about sandboxes. It's exactly what I'm talking about. The players are taught that everything must come from the DM. If the DM then turns to the players and says, "Well, what do you want to do?" then the players really don't know how to respond. Everything they've been taught since opening the PHB (if you want this, ASK YOUR DM!) is that everything flows in one direction - from the DM to the players.

Which, again, IMO, has been a mistake all the way along. This idea that we're sitting down to play in the DM's setting/campaign. It should never have been that. It should be "let's build this thing together as a group, THEN play".

Take something like The Dirty Dungeon which I alluded to above. Each player makes 5 encounters. A small section of a dungeon with 5 encounters - they don't have to be combat. They are just 5 events. The DM then collects that material, stitches it together, and every time the DM makes a change to what he's been given, you add a d4 to the pot. The players can use those d4's any time they want as a bonus to a roll while exploring the adventure.

I've got 5 players That would be a 25 encounter adventure - that's a seriously meaty adventure. Which you could bang out in an hour or two since all the work is already done for you.

Why is THAT sort of thing not being included in advice? That's how we get around the "forever players" who just passively wait for the plot wagon to show up. Teach the players to work together as a group to build the campaign instead of 5 complete strangers who have zero connection to each other or the campaign and are only adventuring together because they have a "PC" halo hanging over their heads.

We all talk about things like DM burnout or the workload of DMing, but, there's never any actual effort to do anything about it.
 

aramis erak

Legend
GM agency does not have to be traded for. Nor can you lose it or give it up. It automatically exists.
Only if one accepts that there are no rules, only guidelines.
A stance I categorically reject as amongst the worst things ever penned in the industry¹.
Rules are rules.
When I make a change, I make certain my players know about it. And usually get their approval for it.

Lack of informed consent is lack of any consent. I never consent to not using the agreed upon rules. Key element - agreed upon.

¹: not The Worst, because David Nilson gets that for the toxic as hell introduction in Traveller TNE's Hiver & Ithklur introduction, where he basically makes a personal attack on much of Traveller's fanbase...
 


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