Blog Archives

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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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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Disclaimer

I’m planning on posting about role-playing games that I’ve participated in in the past (both as a player and as the one herding the cats). Specifically, I’ll be posting about things I enjoyed and didn’t enjoy. As the people I game with are my friends and some of them may wind up reading these posts, I’d just like to make a disclaimer:

With the exception of one disastrous game that I ran myself when I was about 10, I cannot recall a single instance in which I did not enjoy the games I have played. I also cannot recall a game that was perfect (especially the ones I ran myself). Every game had its good points and its bad. In an individual post, I may only mention bad things about a session or campaign. If so, it is because I am writing about a specific quality of the game or of role-playing in general. Please take as written that there were good parts of the game that outweighed the bad. If there hadn’t been, I would have stopped playing. I enjoy thinking and discussing ideas about role-playing, but I don’t want to do it at the expense of the friends I’ve made in this hobby.

Also, while I’ve left character names intact, all player names have been changed in the interest of protecting the privacy of my friends.

Player Agency & the Social Contract

There’s a column on the Escapist that I’ve been following pretty much since it started appearing there: Check for Traps. The guy behind it, Alexander Macris, has some really neat ideas about running a game. I’m currently (very slowly) designing a campaign using a lot of his advice. There is one of his ideas, though, that I think may be a little more complex than he’s made it out to be.

This idea is his Agency Theory of Fun. Don’t worry, I won’t make you follow the link if you don’t want to. This theory is Macris’ answer to the prevailing opinion that the Gamemaster’s job is to make sure everyone has fun. He argues that many GMs are afraid to give their players real choices because, if things go poorly, it could ruin their players’ fun. But that has the unforeseen consequence of making none of the players’ choices matter, which isn’t fun.

In its place, he states the GM should prioritize their role as a judge, arbitrating the rules of the game fairly and consistently. By risking the various catastrophes a bad roll can cause, the players’ choices have meaning, and making meaningful choices leads to fun.

Frankly, this is the type of game I love to play in, but it isn’t for everyone. I’ve met some people who would absolutely hate this style of game. And there are reasons beyond fun maintenance why the other type of game gets run.
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Gaming Credentials

I have a couple of posts about RPGs that I’m working on, but before I got to those, I figured it’d be a good idea to at least touch on my experience with them. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert or to have a wide or encyclopedic knowledge, but I’ve been gaming for more than a few years now, and I’ve come across some things that I think are universal or quirky enough to be interesting.

So, my gaming history:
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Readme: Me

So, for those (as yet hypothetical) folks who have found this blog who don’t know who I am, here’s a little information:

First, my name isn’t actually Bobby Archer. It’s a pseudonym I’ve been using online for a while. The story behind it isn’t terribly long, but it’s kind of an inside joke and I don’t think it’d be all that interesting to someone outside it. In any case, I like the state of near-anonymity that the internet allows and I prefer using a pen name (keyboard name? blogonym?) when going around the internet. I might go into more detail about the whys and wherefores of that, but for now I’ll leave it at that.
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Hello World (because that’s how I roll: with originality)

Yes, this is a blog.

No, I have no idea what I’m doing with it.

Good, I’m glad I got that out of the way.

Basically, starting a blog is something that I’ve been saying I should do for a while now. I have various thoughts and ideas that I feel are best inflicted on a wider audience than I am typically able to reach on a day to day basis.

I haven’t had a blog or a journal or anything in years, and I’ve found it’s kind of hard to tell whether an idea is good when it’s just rattling around in your head. It certainly doesn’t help that my attention span is short enough that I’m not really thinking about these Great Ideas the next time I’m talking to someone who might be interested. Usually I’ve forgotten them by the time my fiancee’s done asking what I’m thinking about. Hopefully, having something like this will encourage me to hold on to these ideas and develop them into something.
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