Managing Metagaming

2007 September 24
by Stupid Ranger

It’s one of the most difficult situations in which to find yourself: possessed with knowledge your character doesn’t have. Maybe you overheard Shadow the Rogue make a deal with a stranger in the middle of the night, but Ceril the Barbarian was asleep and had no clue that anything happened. Or maybe you know that casting a specific sequence of spells at a Prismatic Wall will destroy it, but there’s no way that Ceril knows what those spells are or the order in which they need to be cast.

Applying your personal knowledge to your character is one of those all important you-must-never-do-this taboo’s of D&D: metagaming. It’s also one of the hardest sins to avoid committing. And while I’m by no means infallible, here are some techniques that have helped me manage my metagaming.

#1. Take Notes. For me, the act of taking notes negates my creative (ie. roleplaying) impulses. When I take notes, I am less likely to act on the knowledge contained in them because I’m so focused on writing down everything; I don’t pay attention to how the details would apply to my character, and Ceril remains oblivious. By divorcing yourself from the proceedings, you have less of a chance to assimilate this new information into your character’s knowledge base.

#2. State Your Innocence. When it comes around to you to decide what action to take, reiterate what it is that you don’t know. By stating the absence of this knowledge, you have already eliminated options you might have taken based on this knowledge. Consider this: if you know the goblin is within 30′ and you don’t have the Point-Blank Shot feat, you’re not likely to attack with your ranged weapon. By the same token, if Ceril doesn’t know that the Mummy Lord has damage reduction, Ceril is still likely to make his normal attack.

#3. Remove Yourself from Temptation. If it’s just too much, if you just know that by overhearing this conversation at the table, you will not be able to avoid using this information, physically remove yourself from the environment. Take a quick break. Go get a snack. Let the dog out. If you don’t know it, you can’t use it to metagame.

I’m not promising that these will work for everyone. And I’m definitely not promising that following these techniques will eliminate metagaming; that’s why I titled this “managing” metagaming. But I do feel that if we as players make a personal commitment to manage our metagaming, we will create a better environment for roleplaying.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. ChattyDM permalink
    September 25, 2007

    Funny we should both tackle metagaming from different perspectives.

    I agree that rampant metagaming on plot issues and trying to guess what the DM has in store for you based on ‘his usual style’ can kill the immersing feeling one gets around a RPG table.

    However, with the latest version of D&D going on it’s 8th year and being heavily based on rules that were written in the 70’s I allow some rules and flavor metagaming around the table.

    But I do respect the self imposed challenge of willingly avoiding metagaming.

  2. kanati permalink
    September 25, 2007

    you listening to this vanir? he who is the master metagamer?

  3. Vanir permalink
    September 25, 2007

    Kanati, feel free to kiss my shiny meta-ass. 🙂

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