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D&D General DMs: where's your metagaming line?

overgeeked

B/X Known World
For some it's monster stat blocks. For others it's reading the module. Others still it's looking at the DM's notes or peaking at the map.

Some don't mind certain levels of metagaming, others hate every kind.

I don't care if players read the monster books. I homebrew most of my monsters anyway. I keep a lot of the standard monsters, but ones with special weaknesses tend to get left unused or homebrewed. Mostly to keep things interesting. It really bugs me when players read the module. To me, that's straight up cheating. But it's also something you can't really account for, so it's easier to homebrew adventures. But the one that really...really gets me is the "Sudden Rush." That mysterious and sudden need of PCs to rush to the place where something is happening despite not knowing that something is happening there. One PC is talking to an NPC...and miraculously the entire party suddenly and mysteriously needs to be there...for no particular reason. Or some PC spots something interesting...and miraculously the entire party suddenly and mysteriously needs to be there...for no particular reason.

So DMs out there: where's your line on metagaming?
 

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I'm sure that I have a line with metagaming in d&d, but in d&d the characters should know some basic stuff about the world just like I know a grizzly bear is a more dangerous critter than a brown bear & lot of rodents can carry nasty diseases or that google probably knows more about me than I do. If the metagaming can be justified based on that kind of knowldge then I don't really care because it doesn't affect much.

In more shared narrative type games where there are often a lot of reasons that the players will know things their characters have no reason to know (ie because the "city" or whatever was created collaboratively) it drives me bonkers when players metagame their characters off that knowledge
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I dont really have a line, metagaming has more to do with a playstyle, and a campaign depends on what the players are into.

I have my own preferences, of course. But in a game, one needs to work with the people that one is with.

Heh, for me, simply using a grid rather than mind-style is already metagamey.

Obviously, experienced players will be familiar with the ins and outs of D&D, and might even own the adventure a DM is doing or the player might even have been a DM for it..

The only way to surprise players is to homebrew.

We tend to rotate DMs. So our shared world always stays fresh.
 

I don't really have one.

I agree with you about straight up cheating, but that's mostly annoying for the deception, not the actual impact on the game.

I was in a game the other night, as a player, on roll20, and when a monster used it's innate mind control ability on a PC the DM displayed that entry in the group chat so we could all see how it worked, then the player rolled his saving throw and failed. Then a discussion ensued about how the rest of us wouldn't know that yet, so we shouldn't cause damage to our companion to allow him to re-roll the saving throw.

I stayed silent, but was thinking, "THEN WHY ANNOUNCE TO THE WHOLE TABLE WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!?!" On roll20 the DM could have PM'd the player asking for a saving throw, then PM'd "You're charmed. Act it." The rest of us would have genuinely been in the dark about what was happening and chaos would have ensued. It would have been awesome.

Instead we all pretended to not know he was charmed, and then started playing the game of "so....when is it ok for us to figure it out?"

Then the monster used it on my character, and I got to link the entry for "Mindless Rage" in group chat. (Berserker Barbarian, immune to fear and charm while raging.). Psych.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I have no line. Players are free to make decisions for their characters however they want. It's none of my business.

What I caution players about, however, is that I change things from time to time and that it's smart play to verify their assumptions in-game before acting on them. If they just assume that fire will harm a troll only to find out it just makes this troll stronger, that's on them. They were warned.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
No line. I am strongly opposed to policing players’ decision-making processes, so if they make decisions based on player knowledge, that’s their business. I do caution players that I use a lot of custom monsters and when running modules, I modify them, so acting on information you think you know but haven’t taken steps to confirm in-game is risky. Again though, if they want to take that risk, that’s their business.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I don't really have one.

I agree with you about straight up cheating, but that's mostly annoying for the deception, not the actual impact on the game.

I was in a game the other night, as a player, on roll20, and when a monster used it's innate mind control ability on a PC the DM displayed that entry in the group chat so we could all see how it worked, then the player rolled his saving throw and failed. Then a discussion ensued about how the rest of us wouldn't know that yet, so we shouldn't cause damage to our companion to allow him to re-roll the saving throw.

I stayed silent, but was thinking, "THEN WHY ANNOUNCE TO THE WHOLE TABLE WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!?!" On roll20 the DM could have PM'd the player asking for a saving throw, then PM'd "You're charmed. Act it." The rest of us would have genuinely been in the dark about what was happening and chaos would have ensued. It would have been awesome.

Instead we all pretended to not know he was charmed, and then started playing the game of "so....when is it ok for us to figure it out?"

Then the monster used it on my character, and I got to link the entry for "Mindless Rage" in group chat. (Berserker Barbarian, immune to fear and charm while raging.). Psych.
I always remove that damage-causes-a-save mechanics from monsters (or at least damage from anything other than the monster itself). It's funny to watch an experienced player have their character punch a friend in the face only to find it doesn't break the charm. Hey, I warned them I change things!
 

I always remove that damage-causes-a-save mechanics from monsters (or at least damage from anything other than the monster itself). It's funny to watch an experienced player have their character punch a friend in the face only to find it doesn't break the charm. Hey, I warned them I change things!

Love it.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I always remove that damage-causes-a-save mechanics from monsters (or at least damage from anything other than the monster itself). It's funny to watch an experienced player have their character punch a friend in the face only to find it doesn't break the charm. Hey, I warned them I change things!
Sure. And that’s great. But at what point is having to change how monster after monster, spell after spell, effect after effect, and item after item to prevent metagaming become too much? It’s like saying you know they’re going to cheat so you have to change how everything works so that when they inevitably cheat...because of course they will...your changes catch them out. That’s punishing them for metagaming. Why not just ask them not to? Wouldn’t that be easier? Is it such a common and accepted thing that’s it’s simply easier to change the whole game around them?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Sure. And that’s great. But at what point is having to change how monster after monster, spell after spell, effect after effect, and item after item to prevent metagaming become too much? It’s like saying you know they’re going to cheat so you have to change how everything works so that when they inevitably cheat...because of course they will...your changes catch them out. That’s punishing them for metagaming. Why not just ask them not to? Wouldn’t that be easier? Is it such a common and accepted thing that’s it’s simply easier to change the whole game around them?
Why do you have to change monsters? Serious question. My answer, back when I cared, was that I was relying on the monster's gimmicks to be the important part of the challenge. I stopped doing that, or, rather, stopped relying on people pretending they don't know the gimmick to be the crux of the encounter. I built challenges now that don't rely on people not knowing the gimmick. For me, this was a very simple and easy switch, and solved all of my GM-side issues. Now, I make new stuff up because I want to or because it fits a theme and I can't find an easy fit that already exists. I don't care if the players know about it.

Honestly, I could hand players my game notes, and they'd still most likely screw it up by the numbers.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Sure. And that’s great. But at what point is having to change how monster after monster, spell after spell, effect after effect, and item after item to prevent metagaming become too much? It’s like saying you know they’re going to cheat so you have to change how everything works so that when they inevitably cheat...because of course they will...your changes catch them out. That’s punishing them for metagaming. Why not just ask them not to? Wouldn’t that be easier? Is it such a common and accepted thing that’s it’s simply easier to change the whole game around them?
In fact, that's not what I'm saying at all. Remember, I don't care about "metagaming." I think it's a nonsense concept. I don't care in the slightest how a player arrives at decisions for their own character.

What I do is change things for reasons unrelated to any concerns about "metagaming." To continue with the example, I don't like the aforementioned mechanic because it makes getting out of the condition far too easy in my view. So I remove it. At the same time, I tell players upfront that I change things and that the smart play is to verify their assumptions before acting on them. Because that's the truth and I think being transparent on this score up front aligns everyone's expectations for play.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Sure. And that’s great. But at what point is having to change how monster after monster, spell after spell, effect after effect, and item after item to prevent metagaming become too much?
You don’t have to change monster after monster, spell after spell, or effect after effect. Hell, you don’t even have to change anything if you don’t want to.
It’s like saying you know they’re going to cheat so you have to change how everything works so that when they inevitably cheat...because of course they will...your changes catch them out.
Not at all. I don’t consider it cheating. I make changes because I think they’ll improve the gameplay, not to “catch out cheaters.” Hypothetically, if I came across a module that I thought was absolutely perfect and didn’t need any changes at all, I wouldn’t change it, nor would I change my policy on “metagaming.”
That’s punishing them for metagaming. Why not just ask them not to? Wouldn’t that be easier?
It would be easier, if my goal was to get them to stop “metagaming.” But it isn’t. I don’t care if they “metagame,” so why would I ask them not to?
Is it such a common and accepted thing that’s it’s simply easier to change the whole game around them?
It’s an accepted thing, yes, and so there is no need to change the game around it. I just let players make decisions however they want to. I also make changes to modules and monsters when I think it’ll improve the game. These are separate things motivated by separate preferences, although the latter incidentally happens to make acting on out of character knowledge without taking steps to verify that knowledge risky.
 



overgeeked

B/X Known World
In fact, that's not what I'm saying at all. Remember, I don't care about "metagaming." I think it's a nonsense concept. I don't care in the slightest how a player arrives at decisions for their own character.

What I do is change things for reasons unrelated to any concerns about "metagaming." To continue with the example, I don't like the aforementioned mechanic because it makes getting out of the condition far too easy in my view. So I remove it. At the same time, I tell players upfront that I change things and that the smart play is to verify their assumptions before acting on them. Because that's the truth and I think being transparent on this score up front aligns everyone's expectations for play.
Sure. But it also just so happens to prevent any metagaming in that regard. You don’t need to care about metagaming because you’ve changed parts of the game that could be metagamed.

So are there any examples of things players use out of game knowledge to beat that you don’t change?

I ask because it’s hard to tell the difference between “I don’t care about metagaming...oh, and by the way...here are a bunch of changes I make that just so happen to prevent metagaming” and “here are a bunch of changes I make specifically to prevent metagaming”.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Sure. But it also just so happens to prevent any metagaming in that regard. You don’t need to care about metagaming because you’ve changed parts of the game that could be metagamed.

So are there any examples of things players use out of game knowledge to beat that you don’t change?

I ask because it’s hard to tell the difference between “I don’t care about metagaming...oh, and by the way...here are a bunch of changes I make that just so happen to prevent metagaming” and “here are a bunch of changes I make specifically to prevent metagaming”.
I don't change a great deal, just the odd thing on a monster from time to time to suit the challenge or maybe some details in a module because I think it makes the module structure better. It should be noted that neither this, nor my reveal to the players that I do make changes sometimes, actually prevent "metagaming." The players are free to have their characters do whatever they want. Maybe their "metagaming" will pay off. Maybe it won't. So the smart play is to have your character do stuff in the context of the game to verify that assumption. That this is true (and the players know it is) doesn't mean the players will actually engage in smart play though.
 

I ask because it’s hard to tell the difference between “I don’t care about metagaming...oh, and by the way...here are a bunch of changes I make that just so happen to prevent metagaming” and “here are a bunch of changes I make specifically to prevent metagaming”.

Why is it important to be able to tell the difference?
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I don't change a great deal, just the odd thing on a monster from time to time to suit the challenge or maybe some details in a module because I think it makes the module structure better. It should be noted that neither this, nor my reveal to the players that I do make changes sometimes, actually prevent "metagaming." The players are free to have their characters do whatever they want. Maybe their "metagaming" will pay off. Maybe it won't. So the smart play is to have your character do stuff in the context of the game to verify that assumption. That this is true (and the players know it is) doesn't mean the players will actually engage in smart play though.
Right. You add in just enough that’s different to make the players question their assumptions (metagaming) and to keep things interesting. You also explicitly warn them that their assumptions (metagaming) should not be counted on to be accurate. And this also happens to punish them when they rely on their assumptions (metagaming).

It’s a chicken or the egg question. Did you start doing this before you stopped worrying about metagaming or did you stop worrying about metagaming before you started doing this? Because whatever your intentions, it’s a perfect trap for stopping metagaming.
 

But the one that really...really gets me is the "Sudden Rush." That mysterious and sudden need of PCs to rush to the place where something is happening despite not knowing that something is happening there. One PC is talking to an NPC...and miraculously the entire party suddenly and mysteriously needs to be there...for no particular reason. Or some PC spots something interesting...and miraculously the entire party suddenly and mysteriously needs to be there...for no particular reason.

Why does that bother you so much?

If a PC starts talking to an NPC, or if a PC sees something interesting, don't you want the whole party there for the interesting part? Doesn't allowing them to do so just prevent time from being wasted as the PC runs around gathering the party. "I'll go back to the other room and tell everybody that they should join me for this conversation."

And if it's a situation where there's danger (i.e., the lone PC gets into combat), and you think there should be dramatic consequences for splitting the party, interrupt the "sudden rush" by introducing new dangers. I.e., they can't rush down the hallway to join the combat, because a bunch of bad guys just filled the hallway.
 

And if it's a situation where there's danger (i.e., the lone PC gets into combat), and you think there should be dramatic consequences for splitting the party, interrupt the "sudden rush" by introducing new dangers. I.e., they can't rush down the hallway to join the combat, because a bunch of bad guys just filled the hallway.

I think @iserith was pretty clear that they aren't bothered by metagaming...


...AND it can be risky to rely on player knowledge at their table.
 

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