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Challenging assumptions/tactics while giving hints

Zhaleskra

Explorer
I realize that it is often difficult to pretend your character doesn't know what you as a player know. Even the D&D beat-em up video games lampshade this.

OK, let's assume that everyone in the game world does know that you have to use fire to prevent trolls from regenerating. Fine, but what if the trolls found something to combat this with? For my example, I'm going to use HARP and assume a science fantasy universe.

The party finds a couple trolls who attack then. Predictably, one of the characters uses a fire spell, throws flaming oil, whatever and it hits one of the trolls. Instead of immediately resulting in permanent damage, the troll's skin steams for a little bit, and leaves only a 1st degree burn. The troll who got hit turns to his buddy, nods, smiles, or says something. Troll two does something that seems like approval.

Eventually, each of the trolls runs out of whatever is preventing fire from preventing regeneration, and the party defeats them. In the lair they find empty cans. Assuming they can read the language on the cans, they find out that the cans are Ablative Enhancement sprays.

How did the trolls come by this product? Where did it come from? Where can I get some? How many layers of this stuff did each troll have?

This allows players to use their normal tactics and discover mysteries about the world/universe, and maybe even the monsters, while not nullifying their player knowledge.
 
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Bobble

Villager
I play with adults (no matter their real age) and if they aren't mature enough to not meta-game they are gone. Pretty simple.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
I play with adults (no matter their real age) and if they aren't mature enough to not meta-game they are gone. Pretty simple.
I also play with adults, so we don't waste our time pretending we don't know about trolls the 18th time out and instead focus on interesting encounters that don't have a gimmick that only works if we pretend we don't know. YMMV.
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
I play with adults (no matter their real age) and if they aren't mature enough to not meta-game they are gone. Pretty simple.
Every actual adult I’ve ever gamed with was mature enough that they’d laugh at a statement like this.
 
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Fenris-77

Explorer
You can't really help but have this creep in in spots no matter how courageously players try to dampen their game knowledge. Honestly, I'd rather work with it than against it. INT or Arcana checks or whatever can provided a way to have players transfer that knowledge to their character. Those tidbits about what hurts what monster is the kind of professional knowledge one might expect a professional adventurer to collect to accrue just through talking shop during downtime too, so there's lots of wiggle room there.

I also occasionally change up certain monsters just to keep players honest. "What do you mean it's regenerating after I hit it with my torch?!" Har har.
 

Zhaleskra

Explorer
I also occasionally change up certain monsters just to keep players honest. "What do you mean it's regenerating after I hit it with my torch?!" Har har.
Yes, but even here, there are those who would accuse such and adjustment of being "badwrongfun".

Thankfully, in the system I used the example, regeneration isn't fast at all. At absolute best it's 3 HP a minute, not round, so it's not like the trolls are going to regenerate during combat unless it somehow lasts 30+ rounds.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
They can point all the fingers they like. :D The need to 'edit' monsters really depends on the players. It's not about how metagamey they are either, just how experienced. When the whole group has a more or less encyclopedic knowledge of the MM then you have to mix things up just to keep it fresh. I would also always be upfront with a group about how I'm using the MM - I'll tell 'em before hand to expect twists if that's what I'm doing. Springing it with no warning would be manky. That said, this approach also has the benefit of slapping the hands of metagamers, so it does double duty.
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
I play with adults (no matter their real age) and if they aren't mature enough to not meta-game they are gone. Pretty simple.
Every actual adult I’ve ever faked with was mature enough that they’d laugh at a statement like this.
I love that these posts are right next to each other. I too play with adults, and the snide implication that anyone who metagames is childish is just disgusting on it's face, so lets just put that out there.

My experience tells me players metagame when it's most convenient to them. As long as "not metgaming" is an effective strategy then people won't. As soon as that stops working, the metagaming flys right in.

Maturity doesn't mean players won't metagame. It means they'll metagame better. They won't vocalize their metagaming. It means they'll simply see the troll and shoot fire at it. If the DM prompts them as to why they chose fire they'll say something like "I shoot everything with fire!". Or if they use acid they'll say something like "Well I wasn't sure fire would work, so acid!" Maybe fire and acid really are their go-to solutions for everything (which would be fitting for adventurers), or maybe they're not.

The bad metagamer likes to brag about their metagaming. The good metagamer keeps their mouth shut and metagames in silence.

And quite frankly, I really wish DMs would stop assuming adventurers are complete idiots. Insane? Goofballs? Murderhobos? But you go out adventuring, money's on you've heard a story once or twice about trolls not liking fire, or maybe you have a druid or a ranger or a class with a skill in the subject who can figure it out on the fly.

Want to cut down the metagaming? Throw some twists at players! Throw a "Bog troll" covered in peat who's immune to acid and protected from fire, but cold serves the same function on it. Throw a smart kobold at them, throw a dragon who doesn't engage in fisticuffs.

Players metagame because they know and the DM is expecting them to pretend their characters are idiots. If you don't want your players to know something, throw something new at them! Even a little twist on an old idea can be enough to throw people off. Just don't expect players to throw away their resources on pretending to be stupid. Heck, dragons even come color-coded! No metagaming needed!
 
This sounds like it could be fun to play with. Dropping a "Little did they know, this new character would lead to their downfall." Then watch the players squirm to protect themselves without breaking character.

My players tend to be good about meta-gaming. They even go so far as to narrate: "I know that this is a trap, but my character doesn't, so I walk right in!"
 

Zhaleskra

Explorer
Don't even get me started on running goblin and kobolds as suicidal idiots. 3.x they had average Int and Wis at base, in HARP both goblins and kobolds are noted as being quite smart.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
The troll who got hit turns to his buddy, nods, smiles, or says something. Troll two does something that seems like approval.
There's an important consideration here, at least for the characters who aren't complete idiots: trolls that are capable of speech are probably smart enough to know that fire-prevention is a good idea.

This allows players to use their normal tactics and discover mysteries about the world/universe, and maybe even the monsters, while not nullifying their player knowledge.
Are you defending metagaming?

And quite frankly, I really wish DMs would stop assuming adventurers are complete idiots. Insane? Goofballs? Murderhobos? But you go out adventuring, money's on you've heard a story once or twice about trolls not liking fire, or maybe you have a druid or a ranger or a class with a skill in the subject who can figure it out on the fly. . .

Players metagame because they know and the DM is expecting them to pretend their characters are idiots. If you don't want your players to know something, throw something new at them! Even a little twist on an old idea can be enough to throw people off. Just don't expect players to throw away their resources on pretending to be stupid. Heck, dragons even come color-coded! No metagaming needed!
That's not assuming that adventurers are complete idiots. That's assuming that adventurers don't exist. Because, really, what's the life expectancy of someone who intentionally goes into lairs with the intent to kill magical creatures, steal someone's treasure, or both?

From a different perspective, it is a "role-playing game." Using player knowledge is the breakdown of role-playing. Maybe the DM was assuming role-players would role-play? But yes, if you're any type of D&D druid or ranger who wasn't raised by wolves, you probably know that some trolls have a bit of a fire-aversion. Oddly, so do animals and humans. Tieflings, not so much...
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
There's an important consideration here, at least for the characters who aren't complete idiots: trolls that are capable of speech are probably smart enough to know that fire-prevention is a good idea.


Are you defending metagaming?


That's not assuming that adventurers are complete idiots. That's assuming that adventurers don't exist. Because, really, what's the life expectancy of someone who intentionally goes into lairs with the intent to kill magical creatures, steal someone's treasure, or both?

From a different perspective, it is a "role-playing game." Using player knowledge is the breakdown of role-playing. Maybe the DM was assuming role-players would role-play? But yes, if you're any type of D&D druid or ranger who wasn't raised by wolves, you probably know that some trolls have a bit of a fire-aversion. Oddly, so do animals and humans. Tieflings, not so much...
Who says what a character knows? So long as the play involves the PC, I don't care if they heard it at the tavern or from old Uncle Bob. If the game depends on players pretending they don't know, I consider that a GM failure, not a player one.

I used to be really big about "metagaming" until I realized my job as GM isn't to play thought police, it's to present interesting situations.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Who says what a character knows? So long as the play involves the PC, I don't care if they heard it at the tavern or from old Uncle Bob. If the game depends on players pretending they don't know, I consider that a GM failure, not a player one.
There's this large swath of territory between, "this has no impact" and "the game depends on". Maybe we can consider what happens in that in-between, rather than driving to extreme strawmen used to assign "failure" to a GM, hey what?
 

Satyrn

Villager
I realize that it is often difficult to pretend your character doesn't know what you as a player know. Even the D&D beat-em up video games lampshade this.

OK, let's assume that everyone in the game world does know that you have to use fire to prevent trolls from regenerating. Fine, but what if the trolls found something to combat this with? For my example, I'm going to use HARP and assume a science fantasy universe.

The party finds a couple trolls who attack then. Predictably, one of the characters uses a fire spell, throws flaming oil, whatever and it hits one of the trolls. Instead of immediately resulting in permanent damage, the troll's skin steams for a little bit, and leaves only a 1st degree burn. The troll who got hit turns to his buddy, nods, smiles, or says something. Troll two does something that seems like approval.

Eventually, each of the trolls runs out of whatever is preventing fire from preventing regeneration, and the party defeats them. In the lair they find empty cans. Assuming they can read the language on the cans, they find out that the cans are Ablative Enhancement sprays.

How did the trolls come by this product? Where did it come from? Where can I get some? How many layers of this stuff did each troll have?

This allows players to use their normal tactics and discover mysteries about the world/universe, and maybe even the monsters, while not nullifying their player knowledge.
I'm going to ignore the whole metagaming conversation, because I've been in others before, and I know how they go . . . I'm metaforuming, you could say. :heh:

I just want to say that I love the idea of trolls using fire repellent. For my own use, I think it's going to be fire repellent deodorant with a distinctive scent . . . and I'm sure I'll have the can reference Axe Body Spray.
 

Jer

Explorer
I just want to say that I love the idea of trolls using fire repellent. For my own use, I think it's going to be fire repellent deodorant with a distinctive scent . . . and I'm sure I'll have the can reference Axe Body Spray.
I have run a few scenarios where the trolls have figured out that if they build their lairs in water, the threats of both fire and acid are reduced. The first time a group of experienced players encounters a group of trolls in a half-submerged room with waterfalls pouring in and a drain going out is always exciting (first as they quickly figure out that their fires aren't going to work and the acid is going to wash right down the drain - then as the lightbulbs light up over their heads as they realize they're fighting smart trolls and not the dumb ones I've hit them with in the past).

I honestly have no problems with the players using their knowledge of D&D-isms in the worlds I run - I figure if the characters know it then it's common knowledge in the world. And it gives me license to play with their expectations - once they've defeated a few trolls with fire or acid, throwing a new breed of troll at them that is immune to fire and acid (but has some other weakness) is a whole different kind of fun.
 

Ovinomancer

Explorer
There's this large swath of territory between, "this has no impact" and "the game depends on". Maybe we can consider what happens in that in-between, rather than driving to extreme strawmen used to assign "failure" to a GM, hey what?
Then, by all means, explore it. It's fine to drop by and say that there's a lot of territory, but that's a bit easy. Are you advocating for an encounter where, say, half the players pretending they know you use fire against trolls and the other half doesn't, and this makes the pretending have impact between 'no' and 'I, as GM, built my encounter based on players pretending they don't know about trolls and fire?' I'm curious as to where in my premises you actually have a dispute, or is it just rhetoric about rhetoric?

Let's be frank. Most people that complain about metagaming are talking about players using knowledge of monster mechanics to secure success in encounters, to which my complaint stands fully on it's own and I disagree there's any middle ground. If, however, you're talking about something else, then I may moderate depending on your points. I can see an argument for acting on information given only to one players, but, again, those situations can usually be engineered such that the information flow isn't that way. Most of the pain points that are usually sited in metagaming discussions are easily alleviated by altering the crux of the situation to not depend on pretending you don't know information. And, as the GM has exclusive authority over the scene framing (in D&D, at least), then this kind of problem rests on the GM's shoulders. Either the GM is engaging in thought policing his players for unapproved knowledge leaks or they just build scenes and encounters that do not rely on such knowledge being pretended away. If you build situations such that they require the players to pretend to not have knowledge they do have, then that's on you.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
People always complain about the difficulty in getting players to a world knowledge level even approaching what a PC would have. Then, in some instances when that does happen, their knees jerk so hard they're a danger to themselves and others. So long as the players are being moderate and in character, there's nothing wrong with a PC knowing about trolls and fire. Now, there's a line there, obviously, but that line is not all or nothing.

Hands up how many people here know about, say, vampires and crosses, werewolves and silver, and, say faeries and iron from sources outside gaming? I bet it's a lot of hands. And those monsters aren't even real. People tell stories about monsters and lots of people know 'stuff' about their habits, appearance, diet, and vulnerabilities. Adventurers can very reasonably be expected to know 'stuff+' regardless of stats, skills, class or anything else.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Hands up how many people here know about, say, vampires and crosses, werewolves and silver, and, say faeries and iron from sources outside gaming? I bet it's a lot of hands. And those monsters aren't even real. People tell stories about monsters and lots of people know 'stuff' about their habits, appearance, diet, and vulnerabilities. Adventurers can very reasonably be expected to know 'stuff+' regardless of stats, skills, class or anything else.
Of course, sometimes what “everybody knows” is wrong or missing a few details. And, IMHO, it’s perfectly fine to alter a critter from its published version to make things more challenging for the players...so the world’s mythologies- and thus, the PCs- can be just as wrong.

Take Being Human for example. Mitchell (and all the other vampires) can walk around in broad daylight. And the only time he cringed from the presentation of a cross in his whole existence was when it was brandished by someone whose faith was actually genuine. Nonbelievers got no protection.

In another piece of modern vampire fiction (a movie whose name escapes me), the protagonists had done their homework and found an old legend about how vampires had to count grains of rice or seed that had been scattered* before doing anything else. To this end, they had equipped their vampire capture facility with huge drop bags of rice: hit the alarm button, and the bags would empty, scattering thousands of pounds of rice everywhere. When the vampire they captured began to bust out of his shackles, someone hit the button, and the system worked as intended.

The vampire paused for a brief moment as he looked around, then uttered a line like (I paraphrase), “2,475,032,632 grains of rice.”

The legend was right, but it lacked the detail of how fast a vampire could actually count...






* Probably part of the inspiration behind Sesame Street’s The Count.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
Who says what a character knows?
The player, until she makes the game less fun for other players.

So long as the play involves the PC, I don't care if they heard it at the tavern or from old Uncle Bob. If the game depends on players pretending they don't know, I consider that a GM failure, not a player one.
Then, by all means, explore it. It's fine to drop by and say that there's a lot of territory, but that's a bit easy. Are you advocating for an encounter where, say, half the players pretending they know you use fire against trolls and the other half doesn't, and this makes the pretending have impact between 'no' and 'I, as GM, built my encounter based on players pretending they don't know about trolls and fire?'
The point was that I didn't refer to player failure, and I didn't say that the game depends on players pretending that they don't know.

I'm sure part of the point was that some of these posts use extreme examples, unnecessarily. Although I did enjoy recycling "complete idiot" to more useful ends.
 

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