Author Archives: Bobby Archer

Examining the Agency Scale

I’ve devoted a lot of time and space writing about player agency. In several of these posts, I’ve referenced something called the “Agency Scale.” Beyond referring to it as a gradient between strict railroading and sandbox-style freedom, I haven’t said much about it. Mostly I just wanted an easy term to abuse while I talked about roleplaying games.

But the more I include it in posts, the more I think it about it as a concept. Recently, I wanted to see if I could make a visual representation of the Agency Scale. I don’t know if it will have any practical use, but it seemed like fun.
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Obviously, I haven’t posted much here in a while. Honestly, I haven’t felt up to it. Right now, I’ve got too much else to worry about to think about working on things here too. As of now (well, if I’m going to be honest, as of a month ago), I’m on indefinite hiatus from this blog.
I’ll be back if I can get my shit together enough to start up again.

Tonight, I Almost Flew

I realize I haven’t posted – I mean really posted in a while. There are a number of reasons for this and I don’t intend to get into any of them tonight. Tonight I have a totally different impetus for posting. The reasons for this will probably seem flimsy and foolish to everyone else, but even if no one else gets anything out of this, hopefully I will.

I intend to be very frank in this posting. I think the moment necessitates it, and I feel like I need something to shake me out of the rut I’m in, both in the real world and with regards to my blog. If near-live-blogging what just happened can help, so be it. Be warned: below the cut are heretofore unmined levels of at-the-moment, from-the-cuff honesty. There is absolutely no shame in not wanting this from me.

If I am to be entirely honest (and I believe that is the point of at least this post, if not this whole blog): this will involve elements that I would not have revealed in the real world.

Go forth at your own risk/ Here there be dragons:

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Welcome to my new home (pardon the dust)

I’ve just today finished moving all the posts from my old address over to their new home here at WordPress. Each of them has the tag “From Blogger” to indicate that they pre-date the move. I believe everything transferred over nicely, but if there’s anything that didn’t make the move, please let me know. Most likely misses are links that still lead back to posts on the Blogger site, but missing images, mangled text, misaligned formatting are also possible.

Within the next week or so (hopefully), I’ll start posting again here. I have a whole bunch of “seeds” that I’d created either before this whole move started or while I was in the midst of it. All I need to do is take some of those and start spooling them back out into full-fledged posts.

As the title of this post implies, this blog is still a bit of a work in progress. The WordPress tools are more robust than Blogger’s, which means that they’ll take some time for me to get comfortable with. I’ll probably tinker a bit with the theme and the various nuts and bolts of the layout. Any comment, suggestions, or explanations of what I’m doing wrong are welcome.

To let me know what you think, either comment to this post, or e-mail me at BobbyArcher (dot) Zombie4Hire (at) Gmail (dot) com

To Infinity…Or Maybe Not!

I’ve found that what I want to write about is predicated heavily by random confluences of events. I’ll have some thought come at me or present itself in multiple ways during a short period of time. It’ll get into my head and I’ll be compelled to write a post about it. For instance, most of my posts about theatre can be traced back to an experience with a couple clueless theatre patrons and a conversation about a week later with a few other theatrical technicians.

Recently, I’ve come across space travel a few times. The Doctor Who season premiere featured the Moon Landing in a particularly awesome and inspiring (to me, at least) way. Xkcd had a comic graphing the declining population of otherworldly travelers. And as I was idly re-watching old videos on The Escapist, I came across an episode of The Big Picture where Movie Bob laments the death of the space shuttle and the apparent death of caring about going into space.

All this got me thinking, how do we go from this:

“Do you know how many people are watching this live on the telly? Half a billion. And that’s nothing, because the human race will spread out among the stars—you just watch them fly. Billions and billions of them, for billions and billions of years. And every single one of them at some point in their lives will look back at this man taking that very first step and they will never ever forget it.”
The Doctor, about the Moon Landing, Day of the Moon

To this:

“The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there’s no good reason to go into space–each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.”
-XKCD alt text, May 2, 2011

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Player Agency & Pacing

Today I’ll be returning to the well of Player Agency. This week, instead of tracing an issue across the Agency Scale, I’d like to spend some time dissecting one of the hardest parts of running a game where Player Agency is important: Pacing.

While pacing can be a problem even in the most railroaded games, the problem compounds itself when the shape of the plot is largely out of the GM’s hands. Even if a GM has filled in enough detail and concepts into a world and is nimble enough on their storytelling feet to fill in anything that he hasn’t thought of such that the players can move through it however they want, it’s a simple fact that all elements of a campaign are not going to be equally interesting.
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How Much is a Free Lunch?

I’ve been playing the game TowerMadness pretty much since I got an iPod touch, or around the beginning of 2010. The object of the game is to use various weapons towers to stop waves of invading aliens from stealing your sheep (they want their wool for scarves).

Originally, it was supported by ads, with the option of buying an ad-free version for a dollar or two. Before too long, alongside one of their periodic updates and releases of new levels, they began offering extra level packs for a buck apiece. Not something I personally felt like paying for, but I wasn’t about to begrudge Limbic Software every chance to make a profit off of their (very fun) game.

Limbic still puts out periodic updates with new free maps as well as offering more level packs. They also offer special weapons for the same prices ($0.99 each). Two of them, flash bait and mines offer different strategies and options. Like the level packs, I find them interesting, but not worth paying for.

The other weapon is the flamethrower. I don’t like the flamethrower.

The question I find myself asking now is whether I really have a right to not like the flamethrower.
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Lighting Design Simplified: Reading the Script

So, last week, I started my epic depiction of a lighting designer’s process with a basic introduction of the goals that a good lighting design should satisfy. Now we’re going to start in with how I proceed from Point A – the script – and end up at Point B – the finished lighting design.

And I would like to stress that this is how *I* proceed…usually. Every production is different and every designer is different. Other designers may go about this process differently, sometimes very differently. I go about it differently on some shows. This is not intended as an ironclad list of steps that I believe must be followed, but as an introduction to the craft intended for those who have little or no idea of how it’s done.

As I said in the introduction, I’ll be using a production of An Enemy of the People (by Henrik Ibsen, as adapted by Arthur Miller) that I recently worked on as an example. Reading the play isn’t necessary; I’ll be filling in necessary details as I go. So let’s go.

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The Night the PCs Stole Plotmas

I’ve written a fair bit on the subject of player agency. I suspect I find it more interesting than the topic probably warrants. There is a reason for this. It has to do with a situation in which I set out to respect player agency as much as possible, and the players took advantage of that fact. As I mentioned before, I once was one of the Storytellers for a vampire LARP. This experience resulted in the third and – thus far – final time I pledged to myself that I would never ST a LARP again.

That’s not to say that it was a bad experience, or that it was a bad game. On the whole, I think it was successful. Some people seem to still hold the events of that year in high esteem. Others refuse to ever speak of it again. I suspect a lot of my fascination with player agency comes from all the times I’ve thought about how things went that year.
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Cheated or Spoiled?

About a week ago, a friend linked to a New Yorker article about George RR Martin and all of the “fans” who vilify him for the delays of A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in his “Song of Ice and Fire” saga. While I read all of the previous books in this series and was aware of the increasing discontent with how long the new book was taking, I had no idea things were this bad.

Like a picture of Bigfoot

For those who are unfamiliar, “A Song of Ice and Fire” is a series of fantasy novels set in a low-magic, medieval world. It had drawn a lot of attention for both the intricacies of its politics, and the fact that Martin is unafraid of killing off characters, even beloved main characters. A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in the series – which had also been long delayed – came out in 2005, but only contained story about half the characters and the world. Dragons was meant to be the companion to that, detailing the adventures of the other people and places concurrent to Crows. Over the last several years, fans have gone from eager, to impatient, to angry.

As I read the article, I kept looking for a reason why people feel this way. Why they feel entitled to this book to such a great degree that some angrily and publicly begrudge any time Martin spends on any other pursuit.
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