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Monday, November 25, 2019

Is This Metagaming?

Dennis Laffey has a post on his blog where he responds to a video discussion about metagaming. I’m not going to discuss the video itself, because Dennis has that covered. But the discussion itself got me thinking about that definition given for metagaming: “Using any knowledge the player has instead of knowledge that the character has available.”

I’m surprised Dennis didn’t take exception to that definition, since it seems to depend a lot on the definition of roleplaying as “acting in character” or being an amateur thespian. If you believe the true purpose of an RPG is to pretend to be another person, expressing their feelings and motivations rather than your own, then naturally anything that breaks character is going to seem like a step beyond the game’s intentions.

But what gets me is that people into that kind of roleplaying never seem to see the game rules themselves as a violation of roleplaying. Instead, they frequently try to use game rules to enforce acting in character: dice rolls to see what a character knows, XP awards or penalties for how the player plays their character.

It seems clear to me that a focus on rules is what ruins roleplaying. But maybe that’s just me.

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  1. That's what I've been trying to explain to some people for years with little to no avail. I absolutely agree.

  2. In the late 80s I would have argued good roleplaying means acting as your character. But then as I grew older I realized many hobbyists are not interested in acting.

    I found that it was sufficient to act as if you are there with the abilities of the character. If you choose to do this while acting as a different personality great! But it is optional.

    Thus my definition of metagaming changed. Metagaming became for me acting as your character for reason other than those as if you are there.

    I find issues with the rules when they force the player to consider things that their character wouldn't aware of. Or don't mess well with the setting of the campaign.

    Conversely when the rules do mesh well, I don't have a problem with players thinking of what they do in terms of game rules. It just another way of viewing the situation their character are in. Because the rules reflect the reality of the setting that player and the player who just roleplays will wind up doing similar things for the same in-game reasons.

    The only hard and fast technique that remained was that I insist, gently, that we use first person roleplaying even when it is done in a player's own voice. I find this clarifies situation a lot more than treating character like third person game pieces.

  3. >Thus my definition of metagaming changed. Metagaming became for me acting as your character for reason other than those as if you are there.

    That is *fantastic*.

  4. I don't have any quibbles with the video's definition of role playing because I think that's a perfectly fine perspective to have on what metagaming IS. I just acknowledge that if you have that perspective, it makes metagaming mandatory a LOT of the time.

    My personal definition of metagaming is similar. It's just that I don't think metagaming in and of itself is bad (and Luke in the video also feels that way, we just differ in what areas we think are "good" metagaming). It's actually a good thing a lot of the time.

    Cheating (like secretly reading the module as you're playing through it) is different from metagaming. Knowing from player experience that you need fire to fight trolls even though your PC is meeting trolls for the first time to me means that your PC must have heard some older adventurers telling their "war stories" around the tavern one night. Besides, any good DM is occasionally going to throw ember trolls who regenerate all damage but cold in the mix anyway to surprise the characters (and players).

    And I really like Rob's new definition above (and posted on his blog now).