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D&D General My Metagame Rule

So, on the list of house rules many players hate is my metagame rules. so, I'm tossing it out there.

The basic rule is: Whatever you the player knows the character knows. With the only real exception game mechanical rules. It's simple. But a lot of players dislike it.

So the start of the dislike here is so many players, and more often DMs in their own games, don't like the idea that the character might know "secrets" from the rulebooks. Many a DM will be screaming that the "character" does not know any monster lore in the books. Like that werewolves can be hurt by silver. But too many players also will say they must run over to a werewolf with a mundane weapon as "their character would not know better".

It does not matter much in my game. I don't care much what the books say with the suggestions. And this is where many players trun to hating this house rule. Sure some generic werewolves might have that whole silver thing, but any specific foe, and even more an NPC will like be special in some way. Even if they just have an amulet of protection from silver(oh, sorry that's not in the books).

Of course, I'm also using foes, creatures and monsters from all of D&D and more. So the typical younger 5E player will be clueless no matter how much they flip through the 5E books. Not that 5E even has very much lore. Oh, you never heard of a dharculus? Oh well....

For setting lore, I think it's great when players and characters know things. Of course, for 5E there is very little setting lore anyway. But again I'm not locked into whatever scribbles are on a page. So even when the player try something annoying like "King Bob is only 2nd, lets go kill him and rule the kingdom!", they will find Bob has a 13th level bodyguard(oh, sorry that was not in the books).

If a player just wants to know stuff, that's fine; but I do encourage them to role play knowing the information. A common one is to have it be a story "an uncle Tal" told them. Or they read it in a in-universe book. And I give experience, and other rewards for role playing knowing information.

So started a new 5E game with some younger players. As said, they all hated my metagame rule. And they refused to use it. For example when they first heard about a red dragon nearby, Ken there normal DM, made sure to tell everyone that "Remember our characters DO NOT know that red dragons breathe fire until our characters learn that in game". And, yea, that's what they did...until the characters "learned" a red dragon breathes fire, when it breathed on them.

So a couple weeks ago, Ken, sat in on one of my 3X games. He was blown away by how much each of the players in that game both knew about everything and were constantly using the information in the game. Of course we were using the bulk ton of 2E/3X/PP3 lore. He loved that there were whole books of lore for things: he saw the Von richen guides and some of those 3PP slayer guides. But he loved it. So much that he has now adopted it for his own game. And he thought we should share it....
 

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This certainly benefits players with the money to buy all the books. I assume you allow players to roll knowledge checks to learn things in-game. Like, simple research would let a character know that a red dragon breaths fire.

Some of favorite games were playing in a new setting where I knew nothing. My characters were either naive hicks or from super-reclusive civilizations. I got to learn all the lore as my character learned it. It was pretty cool.

I don't see anything wrong with doing it either way as long as they can learn the real, in game truth through checks or adventuring.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
The real problem is that, especially in older editions, player knowledge was character knowledge. You couldn't survive a world with trolls, werewolves, vampires, mimics, lurkers, wolves in sheep's clothing, nymphs, succubi, hags, dopplegangers (and so much more!) without knowing how to actually fight such things (or knowing to avoid them!).

Now as skills to give the players access to knowledge became more prevalent, leaving these things up to a die roll, it became easier to separate player and character knowledge, and some things, like trolls, were clearly common enough knowledge that a DC 10 or less would suffice, putting such tidbits in the reach of everyone.

But I started seeing a lot of pushback from older DM's who felt it wasn't right that players could roll a die and not fall for a monster's big trick. They really wanted that "gotcha!" moment, without realizing that it was the gaming equivalent of a jump scare. No one is impressed by taking a bunch of damage because their character isn't allowed to be wary of a stone statue, or that the rock they decided to climb was really some kind of elemental.

And sure enough, there are no standard monster knowledge rules in 5e core. It's all up to the DM. Heck even identifying a spell requires a check (and a subsystem that makes counterspell completely pointless, lol).

When I run, I give my players every opportunity to know what they are up against, so that they can make actual strategic decisions. Some might say that takes the surprise and wonder out of the game, but what's the tradeoff? Players feeling like morons because they won initiative and were the first to be embarrassed by finding out what a monster can do the hard way?

"Oh but it's a learning experience, then they know not to do that again." Yeah, except you're probably not going to use a Mimic again once they know to be wary of one. Or keep using Trolls once the party arms themselves with oil flasks. Plus, if the character dies "finding out this information", that doesn't help their next character much, does it?

That having been said, I do have a limit to how much metagaming I will tolerate. If you make actions based on information you have zero way of knowing, then I'll drop the hammer on you. Like say, something you'd only find out from reading the adventure. But knowing who the heck Vecna is, and not wanting to mess with a mummified hand you trip over? That's fine by me (though I'm sure a lot of people would be tempted even if they DO know!).

As an aside, I wish I had players invested in the lore; I'm a huge lore junkie, so if I'm playing a Forgotten Realms adventure and someone randomly mentions Lantan or The Hand of Vaprak, it's a lot of fun for me. Even more so when I can actually amaze the other players with these tidbits.

Sadly, my players are usually clueless about such things.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
How strange that your players don’t like this rule… I mean, I guess if you DM for younger players they might be annoyed by the fact that you’re using custom material so they can’t rely on looking up monster stats…? Personally, I don’t even see this as a house rule; it’s just best DMing practices.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I use a mix. If one of the players knows something, I’ll allow a character proficient in the relevant skill make a check. On a success, the player can share his knowledge with the group. Also, if the knowledge is fairly common - say, werewolves are hurt by silver, I don’t require a roll at all.

on the other hand, if a player does act on meta knowledge they shouldn’t - having failed the knowledge roll, I’m apt to reduce the XP from any such encounters- possibly down to 0 For the offending player. That does expand beyond mere monster lore as well, including NPCS, world lore, mechanics and such that should be beyond the characters bounds of knowledge.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I prefer to leave it as "You establish what your characters think," which leaves it up to the player to decide if they think, for example, red dragons breathe fire. If they want to portray their character as not knowing this, they're free to do so. I also let players know in advance that I do change things from time to time, both stats and lore, so the smart play is to try to verify their assumptions before acting on them. They might well be right, but if they are wrong, that can be catastrophic!

I find this is more inclusive of most player's preferences. The only players put off by it in my experience are those that insist on other players portraying their characters as knowing or not knowing particiular things. And those players don't get invited back.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I prefer to leave it as "You establish what your characters think," which leaves it up to the player to decide if they think, for example, red dragons breathe fire. If they want to portray their character as not knowing this, they're free to do so. I also let players know in advance that I do change things from time to time, both stats and lore, so the smart play is to try to verify their assumptions before acting on them. They might well be right, but if they are wrong, that can be catastrophic!

I find this is more inclusive of most player's preferences.

This is exactly how I handle it.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
So, on the list of house rules many players hate is my metagame rules. so, I'm tossing it out there.

The basic rule is: Whatever you the player knows the character knows. With the only real exception game mechanical rules. It's simple. But a lot of players dislike it.

So the start of the dislike here is so many players, and more often DMs in their own games, don't like the idea that the character might know "secrets" from the rulebooks. Many a DM will be screaming that the "character" does not know any monster lore in the books. Like that werewolves can be hurt by silver. But too many players also will say they must run over to a werewolf with a mundane weapon as "their character would not know better".

It does not matter much in my game. I don't care much what the books say with the suggestions. And this is where many players trun to hating this house rule. Sure some generic werewolves might have that whole silver thing, but any specific foe, and even more an NPC will like be special in some way. Even if they just have an amulet of protection from silver(oh, sorry that's not in the books).

Of course, I'm also using foes, creatures and monsters from all of D&D and more. So the typical younger 5E player will be clueless no matter how much they flip through the 5E books. Not that 5E even has very much lore. Oh, you never heard of a dharculus? Oh well....

For setting lore, I think it's great when players and characters know things. Of course, for 5E there is very little setting lore anyway. But again I'm not locked into whatever scribbles are on a page. So even when the player try something annoying like "King Bob is only 2nd, lets go kill him and rule the kingdom!", they will find Bob has a 13th level bodyguard(oh, sorry that was not in the books).

If a player just wants to know stuff, that's fine; but I do encourage them to role play knowing the information. A common one is to have it be a story "an uncle Tal" told them. Or they read it in a in-universe book. And I give experience, and other rewards for role playing knowing information.

So started a new 5E game with some younger players. As said, they all hated my metagame rule. And they refused to use it. For example when they first heard about a red dragon nearby, Ken there normal DM, made sure to tell everyone that "Remember our characters DO NOT know that red dragons breathe fire until our characters learn that in game". And, yea, that's what they did...until the characters "learned" a red dragon breathes fire, when it breathed on them.

So a couple weeks ago, Ken, sat in on one of my 3X games. He was blown away by how much each of the players in that game both knew about everything and were constantly using the information in the game. Of course we were using the bulk ton of 2E/3X/PP3 lore. He loved that there were whole books of lore for things: he saw the Von richen guides and some of those 3PP slayer guides. But he loved it. So much that he has now adopted it for his own game. And he thought we should share it....

I fully support this, but it doesn't seem to me it's a "rule". It's more like an absence of a rule.

Or it's like the fight scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. "The first rule is...there are no rules."

Unless, of course, you take it to the symmetric extreme of the anti-metagaming Don Quixotes of the world and use it to play their characters for them. "No, you MUST burn the trolls. I know you know about trolls, Eugene, therefore your character does, too, and since she has an Int score of 11 she would choose burn the trolls. Here, I'll even roll for you..." That would qualify as a "rule".
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
The only players put off by it in my experience are those that insist on other players portraying their characters as knowing or not knowing particiular things.

In general, across so many of these topics, I find that the positions I disagree with the most are the ones based on fear of how other people will play the game.
 

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