On the Most Important Thing in a Good Campaign
Agency is Key.
There is an excellent post over at The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms on player agency, called "Where and How to Search" that discusses many of the same issues with player agency that the Thursday Trick series attempts to address.
Agency is Old School play.
When we talk about player skill, when we talk about sandbox design, when we talk about rotating DM's, and all the rest - what we are all describing is Player Agency.
If there is any question to what Player Agency, it simply means that the players can make choices, and the choices they make matter - All The Time. This covers a lot of ground, but a short list includes not fudging dice, not pallet switching when the party goes "off track" (as if that's a thing), and their being an objective reality they interact with, instead of one that changes from moment to moment on the whims of a single person.
My series focuses mostly on the specific skills the DM needs to allow agency in certain traps without automatically giving anything away. Talysmin wrote his article in reference to an article by Mike Mearls regarding player versus character skill (and although I respect Mearls as a person, his polls are the most unscientific loaded statistically irrelevant pieces of crap in the universe.)
The Point is, Talysmin talks about why the old style fell out of fashion.
It's because people are dicks.
And instead of, you know, being like "Hey, don't be such a dick" people thought the solution was to make more and more rules, until one day, no one could ever be a dick again!
As the trip-chain fighter, or pun-pun how that worked out for them.
More rules just mean that the jerks who were being dicks, use the rules to be dicks. They take agency not only away from the player (because the player's skills are unimportant, just his characters) but the DM, who is being 'unfair' if he doesn't allow the broken things in the rules to stand.
So what he says is helpful - it's general advice for how to handle agency, without being a dick. Relying on player skill is explicitly not forcing the players how to read your mind, or screwing them over because they forget to ask one specific thing.
It's presenting an outline of the situation in broad strokes, and letting them engage in your world, not just the numbers on their character sheet.
What advice do I have (outside of specific traps) for increasing player agency in a game? Follow or google reader my site and tune in after the holliday weekend for a bunch of examples.