Design agency: Dissecting the layers of tabletop role-playing game campaign design
Gasque, Travis M.
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In the field of digital media, the study of interactive narratives holds the aesthetics of agency and dramatic agency as core to digital design. These principles hold that users must reliably be able to navigate the interface and the narrative elements of the artifact in order to have a lasting appeal. However, due to recent academic and critical discussions several digital artifacts are being focused on as possible new ways of engaging users. These artifacts do not adhere to the design aesthetics foundational to digital media, but represent a movement away from the principle of dramatic agency in interactive narratives. In an attempt to understand this separation and offer a solution to this developing issue, another non-digital interactive medium was studied: tabletop role-playing games. The designers of this medium were studied to understand the techniques and methods they employed to create dramatic interactive narratives for their users. These case studies suggested the designers used a third design aesthetic, design agency, to help balance the tension between agency and dramatic agency of the users of their medium. This design aesthetic could provide a balancing force to the current issues arising within interactive narrative.