Episode 478 - Taking away agency

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Penguinsushi
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Re: Episode 478 - Taking away agency

Postby Penguinsushi » Thu Mar 15, 2018 9:48 am

From the sound of it, I likely(?) agree with the hosts on this, but I think I might look at it a different way. Or "splitting hairs".

There's a difference between "taking away agency" and "entering a restrictive situation". Just because you're captured doesn't mean you don't have agency or that it's been "take away" from you. Player agency is simply the freedom to have your character take any action your character is able to do in the present situation.

If you're KO'd, mind-controlled, dead, etc - sure, you might not be able to do anything, but neither can your character. The GM isn't "taking away" agency - something happened in the fiction as a result of unfolding events that resulted in a restriction on what your character is able to do. In my opinion, thinking about this as if someone is "taking something away" from you seems an unnecessarily adversarial position. (which is really the crux of the reason for this post)

Sometimes restrictive situations are less fun - and the GM should definitely be mindful of that (see: Chad's "payback with interest") - but the simple occurrence of those situations don't indicate the GM is doing anything incorrectly or arbitrarily "taking something away" from the player. Like Wayne said early on, if you avoid all this entirely, you really can't have any "consequences" in the game - and I don't even mean "consequences" in a punitive sense.

Something ALWAYS restricts what your character can do. Everything from gravity, to the city watch, to your character's stats and abilities restrict what you can do. As you've mentioned several times, the favorite lie of RPGs is "you can do anything".

To me, it's only "taking away agency" if the GM just arbitrarily says a character can't do something - or that something happens to this character - by fiat (circumventing mechanics/"fairness") and without regard to player input.

Starting a game in a restrictive situation (captured, etc) isn't really "taking away agency" either - it's setting up the story. The story has to start somewhere, and at some point on the "restricted options" continuum. It may or may not be a good idea, but that's kind of a different thing.

You can, of course, debate the finer points here - i.e., is it "taking away agency" if the GM sets the DC for the save-or-suck to an impossible number? Yeah, probably. What if the GM repeatedly puts the characters into situations where their options are severely limited? That's basically a railroad. Is it "taking away agency" if the GM ambushes you and says you're captured without giving you the chance to fight back or avoid it? Yes - because you as a player were prevented from doing something the narrative and mechanics suggest you should be able to. "Taking away agency" or not, there are any number dick moves GMs can make. They shouldn't do that stuff.

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Re: Episode 478 - Taking away agency

Postby Azhrei Vep » Thu Mar 15, 2018 10:08 am

I'm going to split a hair even further, because fuck your forest, let's poke at a tree! Made of hair? I kinda got lost somewhere.


Chad, Charm Person is a bad example for losing control of your character. Because you don't. Not since AD&D, anyway, apparently pre-AD&D was full-on mind control, but since then, it's just made you view the caster and their words in a favorable light. Still plenty of room to control your character there, and any GM saying otherwise is fucking you.

Do a 'find-and-replace' on Charm Person with "Dominate Person" and 'first-level spell' with 'fifth-level spell' though, and your points are (potentially) valid, depending on the GM. Most I've gamed with will just give you your character's orders and trust you to follow them.

Especially if the orders involve murdering the party. Double especially if the orders involve me ordering the party. Preeeetty sure I get targeted by stuff like that more than anyone else just to make me happy.
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Re: Episode 478 - Taking away agency

Postby Hal » Thu Mar 15, 2018 11:22 am

It occurs to me to ask:

How did this entire discussion transpire without anyone mentioning "But thou must!"?

Which, I suppose, cuts to the heart of the matter. There's three ways of removing player agency:

-In which the player gets no choice, the GM tells him what is happening
-In which the player gets a choice, but it's an illusion, because the outcome is the same either way
-In which the player gets choices, but they are limited by the circumstances in some way

I don't think any of these are inherently wrong, but there will be wrong ways to use each of those and some are certainly more prone to abuse than others; or perhaps I should say, some are used more than others by abusive GMs.
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Re: Episode 478 - Taking away agency

Postby Borborygmus » Fri Mar 16, 2018 3:36 am

I miss Brodeur already.

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Re: Episode 478 - Taking away agency

Postby Triggerhappy938 » Sun Apr 01, 2018 3:59 am

Am I the only player who doesn't blow a gasket over not getting to act on initiative? I've spent 3.75 hours of a 4 hour session literally doing nothing because I wanted my character to be in the right place at the right time (with the ship, making sure it didn't get stolen, ready to pick up the rest of the group).
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Re: Episode 478 - Taking away agency

Postby Azhrei Vep » Sun Apr 01, 2018 6:18 am

Triggerhappy938 wrote:Am I the only player who doesn't blow a gasket over not getting to act on initiative? I've spent 3.75 hours of a 4 hour session literally doing nothing because I wanted my character to be in the right place at the right time (with the ship, making sure it didn't get stolen, ready to pick up the rest of the group).

It's different if it's by choice.

It's frustrating when it's forced on you. Not gasket-blow-worthy frustrating, but still pretty damn frustrating.
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Re: Episode 478 - Taking away agency

Postby John » Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:15 am

I don't really care if the action isn't particularly about me on any given day. I don't blow a gasket.

The only time I've blown a gasket in these circumstances was in a PF game George ran when I played a ridiculous munchkin rogue/alchemist created with the help of some people back here that was doing 40 damage a turn in a game where everyone else was trying to do 10 or 12. To salvage his intended difficulty curve he just hit me with save-or-sucks tailored to my vulnerabilities at the beginning of every combat until one stuck. Once he realized he was doing this consistently though he apologized and stopped so no big deal.

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Re: Episode 478 - Taking away agency

Postby Azhrei Vep » Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:36 am

John wrote:I don't really care if the action isn't particularly about me on any given day. I don't blow a gasket.

The only time I've blown a gasket in these circumstances was in a PF game George ran when I played a ridiculous munchkin rogue/alchemist created with the help of some people back here that was doing 40 damage a turn in a game where everyone else was trying to do 10 or 12. To salvage his intended difficulty curve he just hit me with save-or-sucks tailored to my vulnerabilities at the beginning of every combat until one stuck. Once he realized he was doing this consistently though he apologized and stopped so no big deal.

Look on the bright side: Y'all got a pretty solid episode out of that, at least.
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Re: Episode 478 - Taking away agency

Postby John » Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:53 am

That's true.

A game where you can catch a bad habit and fix it is never a waste even if it's briefly annoying. Especially if you get an episode out of it.


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