A Thought on Player Agency and GM Control

Just a thought I wanted to share: being a GM becomes easier when you think of yourself as a text parser for an adventure game. Players can input commands, but unless you acknowledge and change the game based on those commands, nothing happens. This eliminates BS such as using meta-game knowledge, and acting in a manner that deflates the tone of the game or is disruptive to other players, e.g.:
PLAYER: I shoot [PC] in the face
GM: No you don’t. This action is impossible because there is no PvP in this campaign.
PLAYER: I open the secret door.
GM: No, you don’t. Your character doesn’t know it exists.
Many times I’ve simply said, “I’m sorry, traveler, I cannot accept your input until I’ve finished describing the scene for the viewers at home” (holler if you get the reference) when players are excitedly talking over my description. 
This isn’t a license to run rough shod over player agency, simply a reminder that GM control is more absolute than you might think. The GM’s brain IS the game. I do hear people complain from time to time: “My players did X” (that ruined the game, or that I’m having a hard time managing). You don’t HAVE TO let them.
The tendency is to hold player agency sacrosanct above the spirit of the game, but in reality you ought to balance player agency and group enjoyment, especially if a player’s agency is infringing on the enjoyment of other players. Dont forget, the GM’s enjoyment matters too!

RPG Review: A Red and Pleasant Land

Buy it here

I’ve been wanting to run this setting for some time now, and recently, I finally got the chance. What follows is a review of the most beautiful RPG book I’ve ever encountered in the wild (the book is a true work of art in and of itself), and one of the most bonkers and ridiculously fun settings I’ve ever had the pleasure to run.

Zak Smith is a talented artist (as you’ll see from the illustrations I’ve included) as well as a highly competent game designer. I highly recommend this book if your usual D&D sessions are lagging, and you’d like to inject a healthy dose of random madness.

There are mild spoilers in this review, but only of the very basic kind. If you are a player who absolutely must be completely surprised by the game, do not read this review until you’ve played a handful of sessions. If you are a GM, planning on running this setting, read on.

Continue reading “RPG Review: A Red and Pleasant Land”

Mechanics Vs Immersion: How Aspects Mechanize Narrative


::pokes nose into old, dusty corner of blog::

Oh! I forgot this was here. Maybe… maybe I should post something? Let’s see… what should I talk about? Oh yeah, RPGs!

Today I want to talk about immersion and mechanics. I’ve talked about this before, but my thoughts on the matter have developed over many sessions Gamemastering and playing. More and more, these days, I’m growing a little weary of extraneous mechanics. I’m less and less fascinated by involved dice mechanics that play like mini-games (Fantasy Flight, Modiphius, Cortex Plus, etc…). I’m more interested in getting the check over with, inserting that little bit of randomness that makes the story surprising, and moving on to what really matters: the narrative.

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Flash Fiction: A Moment Captured


The sunset had been going on for over four hours now. At first, it was easy to rationalize. Our perception of time was relative. As the adage goes, time flies when you’re having fun. Similarly, in agony, a moment lasts an eternity.

Somehow, the red-orange halo that spread out over the world at the dying of the light, never quite managed to sink below the horizon. As afternoon became twilight, and evening became midnight, I was starting to regret the offhand remark I’d made as I held my wife’s hand and casually suggested, “I wish this sunset could last forever.”

~100 words

Image by Bikurgurl

Via Bikurgurl 100 Word Wednesday Week #77

Flash Fiction: Alone at Last


It is not foggy at all on the day the world ends. Everyday the fog rolled in off the river, and I drove to work, blinking away sleep, before anyone else was on the road, I hoped today would be the day. With no other living soul in sight, it was easy to pretend.

Instead, as I walk across the river bridge, through a surreal crop of abandoned vehicles, I look up through the beams at a bright, blue sky. I breathe in deep the warm sun, and smile.

I hope there will be zombies. Please, let it be zombies.

~100 words

Image by Bikurgurl

Via Bikurgurl 100 Word Wednesday Week #76


Mechanics Workshop: Player Facing Mechanics


Powered by the Apocalypse games have changed the way that I roleplay. Unlike others, I don’t believe they are the final evolution of roleplaying, or even that they can cure cancer. But GM-ing PBTA games has thoroughly convinced me of two things that have changed the way I GM most other RPGs.

NPCs and PCs do not have to be, and often should not be, symmetrically built.

By this, I mean that a GM shouldn’t have to go through the same painstaking process to make an NPC that players do when they make their PCs. The reason is twofold: NPCs are not the focus of the story, and therefore should not be as intricate, and since the GM has to manage several NPCs at once, and the PCs have to manage only one, NPC stat blocks should be drastically abbreviated.

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Flash Fiction: View from a Red Schwinn


I am Flash Gordon, as I zoom down the sidewalk. The trees are not trees, but spinning, spiral galaxies, their leaves are not leaves, but stars. My rocketship’s wheels grind over concrete, skip over the curb to asphalt. Ming the Merciless’s fleet is hot on my tail.

At the top of the hill, I look out into the void. The slope is daunting; I have crashed and burned here before, skinning my knees and elbows. I hesitate.

They are close behind me now, whooping, hollering taunts and jeers. I breathe deep, lean forward and push off. It feels like flying.

~100 words

Image by Bikurgurl

Via Bikurgul 100 Word Wednesday Week #74