Saturday, October 27, 2012

Metagaming in D&D

When I first started playing D&D, I hadn't heard of metagaming.
This quickly changed when I became a DM and had some experienced players.
Metagaming is the use of player knowledge while playing a character.

I've read many sources on handling metagaming, like How to Avoid Metagaming and When is Metagaming acceptable?.

Here is a list of topics that can be metagamed:
"No puppeteer" by potzuyoko on Flickr
  • Monster knowledge: Some players have monster knowledge.
    But they don't have all the monster knowledge, and I create custom-made monsters.
    So if they don't make knowledge checks they are unpleasantly surprised.
  • Battle map: Sometimes I bring out a map when I expect no combat and vice versa. I'm using metagaming to fight metagaming.
  • Miniatures: Similar to the battle map is taking miniatures even though there won't be a fight or reinforcements.
  • Skill checks: I roll skill checks hidden. If players know they rolled an 18 on Insight and detect no lies, the PCs trust someone more.
  • Story: I hide plot information for both players and PCs.
  • Encounter difficulty: Sometimes I throw TPK level encounters at them.
    When an adventure starts I tell players they might stumble into hard or unwinnable fights.
    I leave hints of that: NPCs warning them, bunch of skeletons, etc.
    Just because it's an encounter doesn't mean it should be winnable.
    Doing this is a choice: it's also valid to only throw encounters at PCs that they can handle.
  • Quest Availability: Players something choose to perform a quest later. They think that it is always available and scales with their level.
    Sometimes quests are solved by others, or become redundant after plot-specific events.
    Maybe the quests level faster than the players or become even easier.
  • Dungeon Master: Sometimes players make remarks like "The DM wouldn't do that" or "I'm sure the DM wants us to go there". They metagame DMs, hoping to influence their decisions.
    I counter this by being more unpredictable.

Strategic battle conversions in D&D need metagaming knowledge,
especially if combat mechanics are badly abstracted.

With new players in the group some metagaming is needed to ease them into the group.
Their characters won't be attacked as much as the other characters.
I prefer that other players actively help them in combat situations or when using skills.

If there are ways you discourage or use metagaming, I'd like to hear them.


  1. One of biggest problems is that I have players who write about their exploits. Since we have a forum page for our game, each person can create a thread for their character to do a description and background, and then update after each session with what happened. Since a lot of this is done from the character's perspective, and are not private posts, it does open up a system of metagame abuses. Luckily, my players know that I brook no such crap, and will punish players with in character bad stuff...

  2. Paul, thanks for commenting.
    So if I understand you correctly, the information that is shared about the characters is used by other players to metagame.
    Could you give some examples of those possible metagame abuses?

  3. I especially like the comment about using miniatures and maps more. I do this all the time. I try to give all my NPC's a miniature, even if they are just talking to them, and I try to use Dungeon Tiles all the time to create small areas as needed.

    One of the best examples I've ever done is an adventure where the players met with the Merchant Council of a city. I had miniatures for all the NPC's, plus their guards. I even made a map. I think the players were unsure what was going to happen the whole time.

    Great post.

    1. Karl, thanks for the comment.
      It's nice to read that others use similar techniques to stop metagaming.


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