Monday, September 18, 2023

The Business: Your Product Deals In Agency, So It Is Not Allowed To Suck

Taken from one of Macris' posts on Twitter is this image:

Agency is a very fancy way of saying "It's on you to make things happen, not someone else." This is beyond "choices matter"; this is "No fate but what we make" territory.

Agency is fundamental to fantastic adventure wargaming because, as a wargame, the player is required to exercise agency to win. He can be forced to contend with all sorts of disfavorable circumstances, but it is his decisions in dealing with them that matter and those consequences have permanent impacts upon the campaign's milieu- forcing other players to deal with that in turn. (e.g. If Bob creates the T-Virus and lets it loose, he exercised agency.)

A hobby product whose rules and procedures do not answer questions that someone exercising agency needs answered is a shit product that has no right to exist.

What questions? They include:

  • "How fast can (X) move upon/communicate with (Y)?"
  • "How long does it take to recover/heal/repair/build (X)?"
  • "What do I encounter if I go into this unknown area?"
  • "Can I surprise/evade/pursue/escape (X)?"
  • "How many can I lead, and how strong is their morale?"

All of those questions are as applicable to the tactical as to the strategic, to the individual as to the institutional, from dudes throwing rocks and swinging clubs to vast intergalactic empires chucking black holes at each other, and from literal warfare involving lethal force delivered nose-to-nose to metaphorical warfare fought with financial fuckery and cultural subversion campaigns- including everyone's favorite Deadly Decadent Court Intrigue Melodramas straight ouf history and myth.

Oh, and all of those questions matter because Player vs. Player conflict is always on the table. It's a wargame; that's presumed.

It's one thing to act like Siembieda, Colville, or some other Cargo Cultist (or Boomer) and just go "LOL make it up!" when it's just the One True Party doing what the Referee wants of them. Retards objecting to the entire subject (as seen in Jeffro's recent exchanges) fail to grok that proper products have to account for this PVP dynamic- and no one in PVP accepts "LOL just make it up" because that becomes the Referee picking winners and losers and that violates agency.

It's what those objecting to the Bros do not comprehend; the opposition to your man's adventuring can--and, in time, will--be the direct or indirect result of another player's actions. This includes that other player directly confronting your man in the field. No one accepts "LOL just make it up!" when that goes down. Yet agency demands that this be on the table at all times.

And that means facing the possibility that what otherwise can be taken as the Referee just shitting on you for no good reason turns out to be the result of another player's damn good gameplay in setting up an ambush that results in your man getting ganked with no possibility of reprisal- or even escape. (Assassins are dangerous for a reason.)

Because that's on the table, the rules under which that agency gets exercised has to be complete, comprehensive, and competently-done or there's going to be needless acrimony as a result of the Referee having to do the designer's job for him. If players can't show receipts demonstrating that the rules of the game allowed for that outcome, and that all of them were properly executed (and thus force the player with a dead man to admit that he got outplayed fair and square), that leaves room for resentment to poison the well- and it will happen.

This is why I shit on bad hobby products now. Life is too short to tolerate tools that are unfit for purpose and, like some Mainlander Tofu-Dreg project, fall apart under intended use.

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