March 26, 2021

Agency


For this insightful episode I am joined by Scott, a.k.a @optionalrule, and we talk about the incredibly important topic of agency. It's a term that gets bandied around a lot, carrying with it an awful lot of weight. In this hour, Scott and I begin to unpack some of that weight and how it can drastically and dramatically impact the gameplay experience. Starting by clarifying some common misconceptions and misinterpretations, we define what "agency" really is within the TTRPG experience. When you have so many options on the table, where do you draw the line? Indeed, the GM is player too with their own pool of agency, and it's that trading of agency which leads to interesting and dynamic games. We finish on the importance of trust, something not always directly associated with agency, but the two are often intrinsically linked. The more you trust each other, the more you're willing to part with to increase the enjoyment of everyone at the table, and I can't think of a more poetic explanation than that!

  • 02:30 - Nobody puts agency in the the corner - the common misconceptions
  • 13:33 - What constitutes "meaningful" actions
  • 24:16 - Taking player agency away through in-game mechanics
  • 42:04 - An ethical tug of war - sacrificing agency for others
  • 52:43 - Railroading versus sandbox - the analysis paralysis of too much agency

Follow Scott (@optionalrule) on:

Follow me on:

References:

Intro Music: 'Local Forecast' by Kevin MacLeod
Intermission Music: 'Chill' by Kevin MacLeod
Outro Music: 'Local Forecast - Elevator' by Kevin MacLeod

Scott (Optional Rule)

Content Creator

Scott is a veteran table top gamer who publishes RPG content of all kinds under Optional Rule Games. He focuses on building flexible content that enables actual play in a fun and exciting way for players and Game Masters alike.

A TTRPG fan for over 40 years, Scott has play-tested or published under a variety of titles including Rolemaster, Harnmaster, and many others including a few official D&D modules. Additionally, he’s created and published fan mods for a number of video games, including Neverwinter Nights.

In addition to his time as a Game Master, he publishes TTRPG content at optionalrule.com, produces a weekly twitch livestream discussing game theory and design, and is very active on Twitter. You can find him across most platforms as @OptionalRule.

All of his content is focused on games at play. Acknowledging the messy nature of running real games and fostering an honest dialog about how to make them better.

As his motto says, “always remember, fun… isn’t optional.”