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I'm currently running a sort of mega-dungeon made of other dungeons cobbled together. I know most of my players browse here frequently so I'll keep the description brief.

At the end of the current section of the dungeon there is a large weakened section of the floor. The floor will crumble, dropping them (harmlessly) deeper into the dungeon.

Does it remove player agency to skip asking for a check when the floor begins crumbling and have them drop through, as the dungeon requires? If it does remove agency, what alternative approaches are available?

I generally don't take away player agency like this and our group is likely fairly new to D&D compared to most people here.

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As a player, what I hate is when I think I have agency, but I don't. If you're obvious that there's no agency at a certain point ("cut scene") then it's usually ok.

If the failure doesn't mean anything, then it's false agency. Just use a cut scene.

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Both options aren't very good

Does it remove player agency to skip asking for a check when the floor begins crumbling and have them drop through

No, skipping the ability check does not remove agency, because there was no agency in the first place.

In social science, agency is the "capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices". Forcing players to make one more roll does not create agency — giving them an ability to make informed decisions does.

A "bad" (pseudo) choice looks like

Roll a die. If the roll succeeds, A happens. If it fails, B happens.

From a player's perspective, all he/she hears is "A happens" or "B happens". Compare with:

You have two options here — A and B. A is safer and has its modest reward. B is more lucrative, but there is a 50% fail chance. What do you do?

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Dropping them into the next level without warning or possibility of avoidance is absolutely denying them agency.

As a possible alternative, One presumes they're in this place for a reason. Simply establish that the goal is below, show them a stairwell long collapsed, and make the floor give way somewhere. Heck, it's not even a trap, just an old dungeon in need of maintenance! Have a roll to avoid losing some important gear, and reveal the drop to be a steep, slippery incline beyond the range of their light source. It'll be nigh impossible to climb out, but their goal waits below. What do they do?

It's risky. I've had players look at my scary one-way and go... "Nah. We retreat. Find another solution." But that's agency for you. :)

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Consider what happens if the characters do not move in a group (someone is scouting, for example), or if they check the floor as they go, or one of them has a sixth sense type ability, or feather fall and a rope with grappling hook, etc.

If your game is about beating challenges by being clever and creative, do not have an automatically collapsing floor that catches everyone and moves them "forward". In this type of game, it absolutely removes agency.

If the game is about a sequence of action scenes and about being a hero in a fantasy story, then removing agency like this might be fine. You might want to roll dice to see how hurt they are or if some of their stuff breaks down as they fall, etc. This still gives meaning to their characters' skills and allows them to show off their feather fall spells and what not.

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Try giving them agency over part of the scene but not all of it.

Have the floor cave in but allow a save to jump/cling to the wall. Force the situation by having the door slam shut behind them. Those who avoided the collapse don't take the falling damage but now have no choice but to proceed downward (possibly to heal their friends that did fall).

Just because this part of the adventure is on rails doesn't mean that you can't find a use for luck, reflexes, and choices. As long as the dice and roll play matter a little, most players will forgive/understand when the story must follow a specific, predetermined arc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that there no fall damage involved. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 1 '18 at 20:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ This could also lead to a fun scene where the half of the party that fell is calling up to the ones still clinging to the wall assuring them that it's fine and they should just jump down. \$\endgroup\$ – Ryan C. Thompson Jul 1 '18 at 22:43

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