There is a lot of talk on player agency on the net. Looking at my own game mastering style, I have been trying to determine just how much agency I rob from players. After a late night discussion with a player I pondered the ad-hoc nature of role-playing. As a game master, it is nigh impossible to plan for everything, so some portions you must do on the fly.
For example, many adventures do not describe what kind of locks are on a door. So when a party comes to a door, the GM has to determine if the door is locked, then how good the lock is, then if the lock is trapped. If you do this all before the game, everything is fine, player agency is still intact. But what if the players go somewhere you did not plan on, then you must handle it on the fly. The dubious rogue picks the lock and just as it goes ‘click’, you decide that it would probably be trapped. So are you taking away the player’s agency? My contention is no, if you are not doing it in response to the character’s actions. Remember players only have to consider their characters. Should I pick the lock or not? Should I search for traps or not?
GM’s, on the other hand, have to quickly construct a mental slippery slope in reverse. Lock is picked, who owns the lock; thief. Is there something valuable it’s protecting; yes. Does the thief think someone knows he has it; yes: Is thief paranoid; yes. Would he trap the lock; definitely. Yes this is the whim of one player controlling the world, but the whim of the characters force him into this predicament. I do not believe that game masters should be asinine, but I don’t think that if a GM makes the situation difficult for a player, he is being asinine or taking away the player’s agency.
So let’s say for arguments sake, you want to keep it perfectly legit. You you are unsure if the thief would trap the lock to his most treasured magical artifact. Simply roll a die and just let it randomly determine if the concept in question is valid. My suggestion, just use a Fudge die. a ‘+’ indicates something positive for the group, a ‘-’ indicates something negative for the players, and a blank is means nothing changes.
So, as the thief hears the click of the lock opening,
- (+) it is followed by a small metal ping and a needle dripping green ichor pierces his thick leather gloves, narrowly missing his finger inside.
- (blank) the lock falls away allowing the party to continue further on their mission.
- (-) a small glass cylinder shatters inside the lock releasing a bluish cloud of dust. Roll saving throw.
Categorised as: Tips and Tricks