Hold onto your haloes and apply your celestial creature templates, because Handbook-World finally has a named deity! Last month we asked our Quest Givers on the Handbook of Heroes Patreon to name Paladin’s big blue goddess. With a divine phonebook’s worth of contenders in the tournament brackets, we then put our sacrosanct sobriquets to the test in a head-to-head battle for the future of the pantheon! You can check out the full results from the poll (and all the ridiculous names) right here. But for now, it is my great pleasure to formally introduce Lady Celestial to the comic! May Her Blue Bodaciousness garner all the worship it so richly deserves.

Truth be told, I could use a goddess’s help right now. That’s because we find ourselves swimming in deep waters for today’s rant. After all, books have been written on the subject of agency in games. Some of us have built academic careers trying to make sense out of railroads and sandboxes and questions of authorship. And that’s to say nothing of the everyday poetics of gamemastering.

Uncertainties and philosophical differences of opinion abound. For example, how much input should your players have into your game world? Are quantum ogres allowed? Who gets to be right if there’s a rules dispute at the table? Can players insert new deities into your pantheon or draw new nations onto your map? (Longtime readers may recall that I did exactly that with my gold-dragon-lawyer-paladin.)

When you’re trying to answer these questions, it’s important to remember that you’re dealing with design. And in design, there are seldom “correct” answers. What’s more important is being able to articulate your rationale. After all, our old pal Rule 0 may be widely cited, but even that is a convention rather than an immutable law. For example, what happens if you’re running a GM-less game? What if you’ve got a co-GM? Or maybe you appointed a more experienced “justiciar of rules” amongst your players to offer system advice? The task before us then is to recognize the division of narrative responsibility, and then to apply it in practice.

This mess ain’t easy. Narrative-by-committee is seldom straightforward. And that’s why, for today’s discussion, I thought it might be smart to start with the fundamentals. To wit: Why is Rule 0 (i.e. “the Game Master is always right”) an important convention? And can you think of a scenario where you would be willing to break that convention? Help us figure out scenarios where the game master is wrong down in the comments!


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