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Lets say we have a game. The group playing the game accepts the following modernist1 conventions:

  • GMs control the in-game world, except the PCs. They have final say over what happens (and has happened!) in the game world. Players should accept and respect this as a part of agreeing to play at the table.

  • Players control their own characters. They have final say over what they do and don't do, subject to the rules of the game. Other players should accept and respect that.

How do we tell what is 'their own characters' and what is 'the in-game world' and where one character's stuff stops and another's begins?

For example, let's say the group is discussing whether or not Yilbur was stabbed by Xaratron. It seems to me that Yilbur's player, Xaratron's player, and the GM each have a claim to authority here. Specifically, Yilbur's stabbedness is an aspect of Yilbur's character and thus controlled solely by Yilbur's player. Xaratron's successful stabbing is an aspect of Xaratron's character and thus controlled solely by Xaratron. The object used for stabbing and the space the stabbing moved through are external to the characters and thus the GM has sole control over that. This seems problematic to me, because there's no reason Yilbur might not decide the stabbing wounded their left hind leg, but will heal quickly with rest, whilst Xaratron decides they have successfully slain Yilbur and go to claim a bounty, and the GM decides that no stabbing has occurred because the implement used transformed mid-swing into a fish.

Nevertheless, it seems clear to most people who make frequent use of these conventions which action belongs to who-- for example, the above action would, according to most people, belong to Xaratron. It seems like there must be some system for determining what action belongs to who, since that participant then (it seems) has authority to determine what happened such that contradictory outcomes like the above don't happen. I don't know how to do that. How is that best done within this system?

Some test cases:

John, a PC, casts charm person, a spell with defined but ambiguous mechanical effects including changes to internal states on Sally, also a PC. John, Sally, and the GM all disagree about what happens next in terms of Sally's internal state and resulting action. Sally's player says her character happily stabs John to death. John's player says she can't because the spell makes her treat John as she would a lover and intimate confidant. Sally's player says Sally has trained herself to always immediately stab to death anyone she views as a lover and intimate confidant. The GM says neither thing happens because charm person doesn't do that, to which both players object. Who owns this? What happens?

Inana (PC), is dancing her way into the court of the King of the Underworld, an NPC, with the help of Tiamat the ghost leviathan, a PC. A disagreement occurs when Inana moves to spring their trap on the King-- Inana's player believes Tiamat used their ghost powers to move themselves and Inana into the throne room, past a battalion of guards and magical wards, after which Inana has taken several actions, including a lengthy public dance, in said throne room, and that the plan is for Tiamat to now appear and rescue them from the King's clutches just after the King is forced to award her the Amulet of Yendor but before he inevitably orders his guards to seize her and not let her leave. The GM initially agrees with this position. Tiamat's player says that they never teleported anybody into the throne room and they don't know how Inana got in but they aren't there so they can't do the rescue and besides, that wasn't the plan in the first place, they were supposed to go get the last me from the King's haberdashery first, instead, which is where Tiamat went by themselves. Inana and Tiamat's players argue. The GM, trying to curtail the argument and get back to the game, says that since Tiamat does not appear Inana is captured, deliberately leaving it open whether that is, as in accordance with Inana's player's perception, because Tiamat, after bringing Inana into the room, decided not to appear for some reason or, as in accordance with Tiamat's player's perception, because Tiamat thought the plan was different and never went there in the first place. Inana's player says that Inana feels betrayed by Tiamat for abandoning them in the throne room. Tiamat's player says that's ridiculous because they never went to the throne room in the first place. Inana's player asks how they got in if that was the case. Tiamat's player says they don't know but it's not their problem. Who should own this? What should happen?

El Cid Roy Diaz de Vivar (PC) is in need of some fast cash to buy his peons (NPCs) some actual equipment so they don't, like, immediately die in Moorish country. He's already committed some bank fraud, but that was spent hiring some knights (also NPCs) and buying everybody food. He concocts a plan to ambush a nearby lightly-defended allied town currently occupied by enemy forces and then have the townsfolk outfit his troopers as repayment for liberation. After successfully sneaking into the town and sealing the gates with the occupiers outside distracted by a secondary force, he sets out to do this, but is then informed by the GM that his plan makes no sense because this is an enemy town that was, until El Cid drew them out of the town, ambushed them, and sealed the gates, occupied by allied forces and the King (an NPC) who's already gonna be mad at him for that aforementioned bank fraud (and various other crimes) is probably going to mount an actual campaign against him if he hears he liberated an enemy settlement and looted his treasury. El Cid's player is like "I wouldn't have attacked it, then, so I must not have known" and the GM is like "Ok, fine, you didn't know, but that means you're really dumb because everybody has been telling you that for, like, days" and the player is like "No, they haven't, or you sure didn't mention it if they did". Who owns this? What should happen here?


  1. I'm referring to this as 'modernist' because I don't know the name and that seems appropriate (as opposed to 'traditionalist' conventions that hold that the GM is the final arbiter of all things, including PC actions and internal states, but that PCs have input insomuch as the GM decides, which will be principally over their character but also extend to aspects of the world around said character to a lesser extent). I think a name or signifier of some sort is necessary because this isn't, like, some random set of conventions that maybe no one actually uses-- these conventions hold for probably in excess of 30% of all RPGs right now.
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm struggling to decide if this can be answered (beyond "it depends"). It feels like you're asking "how does the RPG community interpret these two conventions in the absence of system-specific rules", which is super broad. \$\endgroup\$
    – Red Orca
    Jul 15 '20 at 19:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Jul 27 '20 at 23:23
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Follow The Rules

Your description says that players "have final say over what they do and don't do, subject to the rules of the game."

In two of your examples (Xaratron stabbing and John casting), presumably your game system has some sort of mechanic in place for how to resolve an attempted stabbing, or how to resolve the effects of charm person. You should find those rules and follow them.

You've written: "Xaratron's successful stabbing is an aspect of Xaratron's character and thus controlled solely by Xaratron", but that's probably not true. It's true that Xaratron's character attempted to perform a stabbing, but the game likely contains rules that govern whether an attempted stabbing becomes a successful stabbing, and the group needs to follow those rules.

In the case of John casting, this might look sticky because it's trying to affect what Sally wants to do, and that's the domain of Sally's player. But most game system rules will have defined and unambiguous mechanical effects -- for example, in 5e, the "charmed" condition says: "A charmed creature can’t attack the charmer or target the charmer with harmful abilities or magical effects", and those are rules which Sally has to follow. The charm person spell also says that the charmed character "regards [John] as a friendly acquaintance", but that's not a constraint on what Sally can or cannot do, so it only constrains Sally's actions as much as Sally's player wants it to.

You've described this as "a system-agnostic modernist game", so this answer can't guarantee that there will always be rules regarding anything a player character attempts. If you're playing in a rules system that doesn't have rules for resolving PC actions, you might just be playing in a bad rules system.

I'd actually recommend that you rephrase your description: it should say that players "have final say over what their characters attempt to do or don't attempt to do."

The GM Reminds Everyone Of Reality

You've written that the GM: "[has] final say over what happens (and has happened!) in the game world."

It's also the GM's responsibility to remind everyone about things that their character would know. In your Inana example, you've written that: "Inana's player believes Tiamat used their ghost powers to move themselves and Inana into the throne room", and at that point the DM should interrupt Inana's player and make sure the game world is in sync. This might involve reminding Inana's player that they can't make decisions for Tiamat, or it might involve pointing out that Tiamat isn't nearby and therefore didn't do that.

(And, if Tiamat's player agrees that Tiamat performs the teleport, but later denies it, the GM should immediately reconfirm that Tiamat performed the teleport.)

Likewise, in your El Cid example, the player should get as far as to say: "He concocts a plan to ambush a nearby lightly-defended allied town", and then the GM should break in and say: "No it isn't, your character knows that that's an enemy town."

If a player seems to have forgotten something that their character would know, it's the GM's responsibility to correct them; if the GM doesn't correct them, they're not doing a good job of GMing. These corrections should be delivered as soon as possible to prevent the players from wasting their time thinking about wrong assumptions.

(It's sometimes helpful for other players to ask the GM to remind everyone what their characters would know. But, if the GM is doing a good job, they should be issuing these reminders unprompted when the situation requires it.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for sticking with the system-agnostic frame of the question; I really do mean it and 'use the rules you should have for this' is absolutely a real, substantial answer for my purposes. The only thing I think your answer could be improved by would be for it to be more supported by stuff like citations or personal experience. I don't think that's necessarily necessary here, though; your arguments are supported to a certain extent by working out how they apply to the examples provided, but it would make accepting your answer over Novak's also-really-good one easier. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16 '20 at 5:29
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Player Agency

Your bullet points are quoted from my answer on another question.

The intent of those bullets was to highlight that each player and the GM has a specific sphere of influence. Players are able to decide what their characters do, not what happens to their characters. Their choices are limited to what their character does or doesn't do, as well as some meta-game elements such as character options.

Thus, in the case of Xaratron v Yilber it should be clear that Xaratron did stab Yilber. After all, Xaratron's player has the agency to decide that their character did the stabbing. Yilber's player cannot control Xaratron's actions and has agency only over their character's actions, not other things that happen to their character.

And GM Agency

A second aspect to this question lies in a third bullet point that was not quoted here:

The GM is a referee for disagreements between players, or between players and the GM. Everyone at the table should accept and respect that. Once the GM has articulated a decision, move on.

This bullet is necessary to complete the model.

Supposing that the two players continue their disagreement. Perhaps it is due to a factual issue, or perhaps it is because they disagree about their perceived agency and areas of control.

In either case, it is the role of the GM to arbitrate that disagreement. In the case of disagreements about the facts of the in-game world, the GM arbitrates because the game world is within their sphere of control. When the disagreement is predicated on contrasting ideas about agency or players' spheres of control, then the GM arbitrates as a referee to reach a solution that is appropriate for their table.

The Red Line

The question and this answer have focused on in-game choices with little attention to out-of-game effects. However, all tabletop games are played by real human people. In game choices can have significant emotional impact on the humans playing. Even when a player has the agency to make a choice, they are not justified in doing so at the emotional expense of another player.

I personally enjoy Paizo's articulation of this in their Organized Play guide for Pathfinder Society:

Players are responsible for their characters’ actions. A player’s perception of what their character would do in a particular situation is never more important than the experience of other players at the table.

Resolving this kind of conflict is beyond the scope of the question and this answer. However, suffice it to say that that both the GM and other players should be encouraged not to allow character behaviors that trigger other players.

Returning to Xaratron v Yilber:

  • Xaratron's player can decide what Xaratron does. Yilber's player does not have agency over being stabbed, because that is not a part of the game they can legitimately control.
  • If the players continue to disagree, the GM has a legitimate role in arbitrating their disagreement.
  • Regardless, if this becomes a player vs player conflict (rather than a character vs character conflict) both the GM and the table have a responsibility to protect their fellow players from emotional harm.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you tell if something is what you are doing or is what is happening to you? I think that's sort of the same question here and this comes off to me at least as a sort of "it's obvious" answer, that doesn't really explain how you tell. Like, you've decided that living/bleeding/etc aren't actions. How do you decide that? I think your last part is more important, though-- it sounds like what's actually going on has nothing to do with player agency per se but instead player agency is a tool for avoiding player conflict, GM included \$\endgroup\$ Jul 15 '20 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ That would make the limits of the agency obvious because if who has agency becomes unclear we just default to 'what is non-confrontational and not unpleasant?' directly instead of using player agency delineations to solve that beforehand. This would also explain the very common strong negative response to traditional RPGs from people who play this way-- they do not see playing the game as agreeing to a certain amount of possible unpleasantness, and see "..never more important than the experience of other players at the table" as almost a moral stance. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 15 '20 at 19:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil Re: "How do you tell if something is what you are doing or is what is happening to you?" We are discussing role-playing games here, you are taking on the role of a character. You control the character's mind and body in the same way you control your own mind/body in real life. You don't control your living/bleeding/etc., though you could take action to stop it. If someone is stabbing you, you don't get to choose whether they stab you, where they stab you, how they stab you, you get to choose how you act/react to the act of the stabbing. That's how I see it anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – smbailey
    Jul 15 '20 at 19:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil The concept of agency is about choices. A person can't choose to continue bleeding. That is, they don't have conscious control over their circulatory system and can't choose to bleed. They could choose to proactively do something else, which is fully within their agency. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 15 '20 at 19:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting. It sounds like there's a part of this where the player has control not over their character but over their character's decisions. That is, the player's agency is exactly and only over what the player's character has agency over. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 15 '20 at 23:11
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Not only is there no universal answer to these questions, but the fact that there isn't is very significant. A great many problems common to RPGs in general could be solved by answering these open-ended questions, and yet the problems are essentially inevitable. They are fundamentally social problems about people that cannot be regulated.

When faced with a conflict of who has agency in any given situation, members of an RPG group will generally handle it the way people do in any social situation - debate until someone gives in. If the GM and a Player are in contention, they will both explain their argument, and then eventually, either through respectful agreement, angry yelling, or begrudging compromise, someone will "win" the discussion. Maybe one of the people is more convincing, or the other is more passive and conflict-averse. Maybe both are very stubborn and they argue for a long time. Ideally, the people involved are friends that are kind and considerate to each other... although plenty of examples of social problems in questions seen right here on this site prove that this is not always the case.

People are all different; they have different priorities, want different things out of the game, and are willing to concede differing amounts of what they want. The answer in any given context is based off of these factors of the specific people involved.

To use your example of El Cid and their GM, they have met at an impasse which cannot be cleared until agreement or compromise is met. Maybe El Cid's player will convince the GM to "rewind time" and make it so that the stuff he says shouldn't have happened, indeed, didn't. Maybe the GM will stand their ground and El Cid's player will accept that answer. Perhaps neither will back down, they'll both get very angry at each other, and stop playing. There is no mandated way even under the blanket philosophy of being "modernist". A functional group will inevitably do one of those first two things; conversely, a group who chooses the third option is now no longer a group playing an RPG.

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Unanswered and Unanswerable

To somewhat amplify, somewhat expand on, and perhaps somewhat disagree with this answer:

  • To my knowledge, there is no universal answer to this question in modern gaming, that I know of;
  • There might be a default or most commonly used answer to this question in modern gaming, but I am not going to offer one here and I think it would be hard to offer one (without a lot of research) that rises above the level of pure assertion;
  • I'm not convinced that there can be a universal answer for a variety of reasons.

One of these reasons has to do with limits on the abilities of the GM and the comprehensivity (terrible word) of the rules. In the real world, there is no GM, there is only the laws of physics. Even in this situation, agency turns out to be shockingly difficult to define (every field has their own jargon, tuned to particular problems of their field) but loosely speaking, no matter what individual people do, or what misunderstandings they have, the laws of physics will determine the results.

In RPGs, the GM is taking the place of the laws of physics, insofar as the rules are (necessarily) incomplete, imprecise, and may lead to absurdity or undesirable results. But no set of rules ever constructed will be as seamless and consistent as the actual laws of physics; human GMs are far more flexible but also have their limits. Even I, in my hubris, know that I can't really simulate an entire game world in my head. (And these are just sort of "first order" effects, without worrying about second order things like differing interpretations of incomplete rules, goal-driven or bad faith interpretations, etc.)

Another main reason is that even if perfectly consistent and adjudicable rules systems existed, they probably wouldn't be fun or produce the desired genre or aesthetic results in all cases. (Real world physics produces a great many undesirable results every day.) And more importantly, not every game has the same aesthetic goals; these aesthetic goals may be, and often are, encoded as different rules. One can argue (and I am arguing) that this is one major reason that different rules sets exist. Backing up the chain of inference, different rules exist because different aesthetic preferences exist; different aesthetic preferences argue against the possibility of a universal answer.


A Specific Example Of Aesthetics And Rules

This is a new example, because I think it cuts to the heart of "who controls what" in a specific way, based on two closely related sets of rules, more than your examples do.

Consider the Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game, whose core mechanics are:

  1. An auction for primary statistics (not relevant here)
  2. The opportunity to spend leftover points on abilities (not relevant here)
  3. The opportunity to spend leftover points on powerful objects (very relevant)

The Amber DRPG is quite clear on the idea that spending leftover points on an object is something you can do, but those objects are simply not under the default control of the player. The rules as written explicitly rejoice in the idea that objects so purchased are big targets for the GM to mess with-- to attach undesirable properties or legacies to; to steal from the character; to break; etc. The guidance to GMs is to do the same.

This is an aesthetic preference coded into the rules: Make the player characters suffer, and here is one good way to do it.

This has the not unreasonable side effect that (1) masochists buy objects for their characters, and (2) nobody else.

Now consider a common, but not universal modification to those rules:

Spending points on an object is a contract, of sorts, obliging the GM not to arbitrarily (or at all) remove or destroy the object, precisely because as an investment of permanent character resources, it ought to be permanent. Or at the very least, the character ought to get those points back!

This is an entirely different aesthetic preference, also encoded into the rules.

But circling back to questions of agency and ownership, another way of saying this is that the modified set of rules expands the scope of a player's agency, ownership, action-ownership (whatever term fits a situation) to include the object they paid for.

This relates strongly, I think, to this answer's dictum to Follow The Rules, with the additional insights that:

  1. Different rules exist to encourage different aesthetic preferences, and,
  2. Different aesthetic preferences and the proliferation of multiple set of rules argues powerfully against even the possibility of a universal answer.

Finally, A Note On Agency

I take exception to this formulation:

Players control their own characters. They have final say over what they do and don't do, subject to the rules of the game. Other players should accept and respect that.

It's not technically incorrect (to my way of thinking, or philosophy of GMing) because of the weasel clause, "Subject to the rules of the game," but it's not as useful as it could be, due to a serious imprecision. Consider strongly amending it to:

Players control their own characters' intentions. They have final say over what they do and don't desire and attempt to do, subject to the rules of the game in almost all cases. Other players should accept and respect that.

(Note that, honestly, even "intention" turns out to be hard to define, so I'm using the term loosely, in a way I hope is close to non-jargon-y. And I still have to use a weasel clause ("in almost all cases") because of things like Charm Person.)

Understandably, we almost never talk like that while gaming, because it's bloody cumbersome. "I try to walk across the room and open the door" is almost always shorthanded to "I open the door." But if the character has been hit on the head and shackled to the wall, outcomes may obviously vary:

  • Bludstayne the Barbarian might just have enough strength to snap her chains and knock down the door

  • Flex Mentallo, Man of Muscle Mystery probably has a spell flex for this situation

  • Average McEveryman might get reminded that they are chained to a wall and heard the lock click as the guards left, or even be told they are still unconscious.

The GM's job is to adjudicate all conflicts between the players' (or player characters') intentions, and anything that opposes them. Sometimes that is another character (player- or non-) and sometimes it is just the game world and the rules of the game world, which is when the GM sort of acts like the laws of physics.

And the players, depending on the rules, don't always have a clear cut, iron-rigid agency, but sort of wibbly-wobbly, agency-wagency zones of influence:

  • They almost always control their characters' thoughts and attitudes... unless Charm Person or similar is in play.

  • They very often control their characters' bodies... unless physically restrained or attempting to do something impossible, or are seriously opposed, or acting under time pressure, etc.

  • Their control over possessions is a lot more variable: The extended Amber DRPG is one example chosen because it is very stark; but consider also things like buying wealth levels or allies in GURPS.

  • Even worse, these zones of influence can implicitly overlap in some systems: Consider Covenants in Ars Magica, Chancels in Nobilis, or Lairs (is that the right term?) in Champions.

All of which supports my basic thesis that no universal answer exists, or is even possible.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is an excellent answer. My biggest problem with it is that I'm not sure it's addressing moderist RPGs as opposed to all RPGs ever, because after having read the various answers I've gotten I have the feeling modernist RPGs limit player agency to correspond to their player character's agency as opposed to traditionalist RPGs where player agency is centered around but not limited to their character's agency. I think Amber falls into the Traditional category there, but I don't actually know and this deliniation isn't well-understood by me anyways so I don't think it's a very big deal. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16 '20 at 5:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pleasestopbeingevil, I will admit that after I came back to my answer a few hours after I'd typed it all in, I wondered if I hadn't missed the point of your definition of modernist game, and/or perhaps I'm rejecting the whole idea. I will leave a comment to that effect on the question itself, shortly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Jul 16 '20 at 7:33
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The main point comes down to agency. Most notable events that happen are directly caused by an in-game creature choosing to do something. If the creature that made that choice is a PC, then the choice - but not its results - belong to the character's player. Otherwise, the choice is the GM's.

The results of an action are usually dictated by the game's rules, not by any creature's choice. Determining the results is a cooperative group activity, often with different people doing different parts of the process, but it is arbitrated by the GM.

Things get trickier when disputes come up after the fact, but the GM is also arbitrator of continuity and consistency in the game. If a player claims something about their character's actions in the past that blatantly contradict statements made at the time, in most cases the GM should remind the player of the previous statements and rule that the original stated actions stand. If the GM isn't sure about remembering the original statements correctly, this is more of a gray area and often should involve group discussion.


For example, let's say the group is discussing whether or not Yilbur was stabbed by Xaratron. It seems to me that Yilbur's player, Xaratron's player, and the GM each have a claim to authority here. Specifically, Yilbur's stabbedness is an aspect of Yilbur's character and thus controlled solely by Yilbur's player. Xaratron's successful stabbing is an aspect of Xaratron's character and thus controlled solely by Xaratron. The object used for stabbing and the space the stabbing moved through are external to the characters and thus the GM has sole control over that. This seems problematic to me, because there's no reason Yilbur might not decide the stabbing wounded their left hind leg, but will heal quickly with rest, whilst Xaratron decides they have successfully slain Yilbur and go to claim a bounty, and the GM decides that no stabbing has occurred because the implement used transformed mid-swing into a fish.

The choice that caused this event to happen was made by Xaratron, and therefore belongs to Xaratron's player. Whether Yilbur lives or dies, and how bad the wound is, are results, not chosen actions, and therefore are governed by the game's rules. Typically, one or both of the players involved will roll dice, do some math, counting, and/or comparing using the numbers rolled, and find what the rules say about what those numbers mean happened. If the players have different understandings of what the rules for the situation are or how they work, the GM should arbitrate the dispute and make a ruling.

John, a PC, casts charm person, a spell with defined but ambiguous mechanical effects including changes to internal states on Sally, also a PC. John, Sally, and the GM all disagree about what happens next in terms of Sally's internal state and resulting action. Sally's player says her character happily stabs John to death. John's player says she can't because the spell makes her treat John as she would a lover and intimate confidant. Sally's player says Sally has trained herself to always immediately stab to death anyone she views as a lover and intimate confidant. The GM says neither thing happens because charm person doesn't do that, to which both players object. Who owns this? What happens?

Casting charm person is the direct result of John's choice, and belongs to John's player. The effect of charm person is declared in the game's rules, but is vague and qualitative, so it requires interpretation. John's player and Sally's player disagree about exactly what the result should be, and both of them disagree with the GM's interpretation, so the GM needs to arbitrate the dispute. Whatever ruling the GM makes, both players should accept it.

Side note: Personally, I would immediately reject Sally's player's claim without a second thought unless Sally (the character) has an established history of being utterly psychotic, and even then I'd only consider it if she had already established something specific related to this behavior.

Inana, a PC, is dancing her way into the court of the King of the Underworld, an NPC, with the help of Tiamat the ghost leviathan, a PC. A disagreement occurs when Inana moves to spring their trap on the King-- Inana's player believes Tiamat used their ghost powers to move themselves and Inana into the throne room, past a battalion of guards and magical wards, after which Inana has taken several actions, including a lengthy public dance, in said throne room, and that the plan is for Tiamat to now appear and rescue them from the King's clutches just after the King is forced to award her the Amulet of Yendor but before he inevitably orders his guards to seize her and not let her leave. Tiamat's player says that they never teleported anybody into the throne room and they don't know how Inana got in but they aren't there so they can't do the rescue and besides, that wasn't the plan in the first place, they were supposed to go get the last me from the King's haberdashery first, instead, which is where Tiamat went by themselves. The GM says that since Tiamat does not appear Inana is captured. Inana's player says that Inana feels betrayed by Tiamat for abandoning them in the throne room. Tiamat's player says that's ridiculous because they never went to the throne room in the first place. Inana's player asks how they got in if that was the case. Inana's player says they don't know but it's not their problem. Who should own this? What should happen?

The teleport to get into the throne room would be Tiamat's choice, so that belongs to Tiamat's player, but this claim comes after the fact so the GM needs to arbitrate. Inana's choices are predicated on the teleport having happened. The moment Tiamat's player declares she didn't teleport Inana, the game needs to pause while the group figures out the consequences. Either Tiamat actually did teleport Inana, or Inana didn't actually get to the throne room and therefore none of the actions that followed it actually happened.

It really shouldn't have even gotten that far in the first place, however, so either Tiamat's player is contradicting earlier statements or there was a major misunderstanding. The group may discuss the issue, but ultimately this is something that should be decided by the GM's arbitration. The GM could decide differently, but I think the most reasonable options are a) declaring that Tiamat actually did teleport Inana and is following the plan as Inana understood it, or b) the events following the teleport-that-didn't-happen are retroactively undone, the game is rewound to that point, and the players will proceed from there (likely after re-discussing the plan).

El Cid Roy Diaz de Vivar (a PC) is in need of some fast cash to buy his peons (NPCs) some actual equipment so they don't, like, immediately die in Moorish country. He's already committed some bank fraud, but that was spent hiring some knights (also NPCs) and buying everybody food. He concocts a plan to ambush a nearby lightly-defended allied town currently occupied by enemy forces and then have the townsfolk outfit his troopers as repayment for liberation. After successfully sneaking into the town and sealing the gates with the occupiers outside distracted by a secondary force, he sets out to do this, but is then informed by the GM that his plan makes no sense because this is an enemy town that was, until El Cid drew them out of the town, ambushed them, and sealed the gates, occupied by allied forces and the King (an NPC) who's already gonna be mad at him for that aforementioned bank fraud (and various other crimes) is probably going to mount an actual campaign against him if he hears he liberated an enemy settlement and looted his treasury. El Cid's player is like "I wouldn't have attacked it, then, so I must not have known" and the GM is like "Ok, fine, you didn't know, but that means you're really dumb because everybody has been telling you that for, like, days" and the player is like "No, they haven't, or you sure didn't mention it if they did". Who own this? What should happen here?

The GM made serious mistakes that denied El Cid's player access to critical information that El Cid knew, and El Cid made major choices predicated on that lack of information. It is the GM's responsibility to provide the players with appropriate information, and this GM screwed that up.

First, it shouldn't have gotten this far. When El Cid's plan was first described, the GM should have realized that it may be based on mistaken information, and should have proactively told the player the relevant information that the character would know. Having failed to do that, the GM should now own up to it and fix the mistake. This will require retconning something. The obvious options are to rewind back to before El Cid started the plan, or to declare that the player's understanding was actually correct and the town really was allied and occupied by enemy forces.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer. I completely agree, these situations wouldn't have occurred in a vacuum, the answer for each situation should be obvious from the context that lead to the situation. Sally and needing to have that on her character sheet, Tiamat and the conversations about planning the heist (unless she secretly told the GM she would betray Inana) and finally, El Cid and "everybody has been telling you for days". \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16 '20 at 3:18

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