Premature speculation


Um, sorry but I’m not getting how that gives players less agency.

Less agency feels like this to me:
Player: My character punches King Arthur in the face.
GM: Before you can do that, Sir Lancelot throws you out of the throne room.

The various sorts of dice rolls are more like this:
OPTION 1 (where players and GM roll)
Player: My character punches King Arthur in the face.
GM: Make a to hit roll.
Player: I succeed.
GM: Okay, King Arthur needs to get a 9 to dodge… He’s failed. You’ve punched him in the face. Roll damage.

OPTION 2 (only players roll)
Player: My character punches King Arthur in the face.
GM: Make a to hit roll.
Player: I succeed.
GM: Okay, You’ve punched him in the face. Roll damage.

I as GM am not making fewer decisions (unless will I pick up the red d6 or the blue d6 to roll counts). I’m dedicating my mental effort to plot decisions, subplot decisions, reactive decisions on weird shit the PCs have decided to do.

If my brain only has the capacity to make 100 decisions in a game, I’d prefer they were plot/story/character arc ones, rather than taking up a chunk of them to track NPC ammunition or the like.


The pronoun “them” refers to the NPCs. The sentence says that the NPCs have less agency because the GM is spending less time making decisions about their actions. It’s not about how much agency the players have; the players are not referred to anywhere in the entire passage you quote.


Psychologically, we naturally associate “I have agency” with “I moved” or “I moved something,” because using our voluntary muscles is our most basic experience of having agency.


Ah right. It just said “characters”. I never use that term to refer to NPCs. Even tho the C stands for character…


Well, you know, I think of both PCs and NPCs as “characters.” The PCs are both the protagonists (the ones who perform the important actions and have the big conflicts) and the POV characters, and the NPCs are the antagonists, the guest stars, the supporting roles, and the spear carriers, as well as the ones whose POV isn’t explored. But they’re all people in the game world; the NPCs aren’t just part of the setting.

I have to say that some of my favorite moments in GMing have been times when an NPC I’ve been portraying becomes so vivid to the players that they start thinking of the NPC as a person, quoting bits of their dialogue, and remembering their reactions. That happened, for example, when I ran my first Transhuman Space campaign with Constanza, the 11-year-old daughter of one of the PCs—she ended up getting quite a few on-camera moments that had nothing to do with the main plot.


The player does something, something happens, it feels like the two are connected. Agency.


If “does something” includes saying “Heinrich strikes at the wolf’s neck with his sword,” then that could apply just as well to the GM rolling the dice, or simply announcing the outcome. On the other hand, if you’re thinking of things like the player rolling the dice, then yes, exactly. The physical action provides a natural metaphor for the sense of causal efficacy.

Of course it does inspire interesting delusions about telekinetic command over one’s own dice. . . .


Though if I actually thought a particular set of dice rolled unusually well, I’d have to stop using them. It’s an oddly self-defeating superstition.


Only if your goal is to achieve randomization. One of my regular players told me about GMing a campaign where a player made a fuss about wanting to roll their own dice, because they thought they could telekinetically influence the outcome—but only if the dice were thrown from their own hands. They were not receptive to being told that what they thought they were doing was cheating. Which, of course, it would be, if their outcomes were superior to chance.

The demand for laying on of hands seems to assume the magical principle of contagion.