D&D General My Metagame Rule

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
Taken to its logical conclusion, and as there's no mention as to how this player knowledge is acquired, this would suggest you're fine with players reading the adventure before or as they play through it, or reading up on monsters at the table.

I'll go out on a limb and guess that's not the case...which forces the question: where does the boundary lie?

Also, how do you reconcile this rule with in-game situations where the party is split up; in character neither group could possibly know what the others are doing yet at the table the players know this because you've played each group through? Do characters in group A suddenly realize the two in group B have fallen down a pit in the castle basement and can't get out, even though group A is hiding in the woods outside and isn't expecting group B back for hours?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Taken to its logical conclusion, and as there's no mention as to how this player knowledge is acquired, this would suggest you're fine with players reading the adventure before or as they play through it, or reading up on monsters at the table.

Sure, as long as the players are fine with me changing things around enough that relying solely on what they read is not a great (and is usually a terrible) idea.

I'll go out on a limb and guess that's not the case...which forces the question: where does the boundary lie?
It lies with everyone not being jerks. If the player is taking advantage of a new/inexperienced DM (who just wants to run the module straight) - that player is likely being a jerk by doing what they are doing. As long as everyone remembers to not be a jerk, that's usually enough.

Also, how do you reconcile this rule with in-game situations where the party is split up; in character neither group could possibly know what the others are doing yet at the table the players know this because you've played each group through? Do characters in group A suddenly realize the two in group B have fallen down a pit in the castle basement and can't get out, even though group A is hiding in the woods outside and isn't expecting group B back for hours?

A good reason to not split up the party which generally leads to other issues (such as bored players).

If a situation TRULY depends on players not knowing what other players are doing then it's best to actually segregate. Otherwise you tend to get extremes where players either act like they're in the room OR they act like complete rubes to avoid appearing like they know anything.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Taken to its logical conclusion, and as there's no mention as to how this player knowledge is acquired, this would suggest you're fine with players reading the adventure before or as they play through it, or reading up on monsters at the table.
I'm fine with it. I play online, so they can do it without me even noticing, so I can't be given to care. What they don't know is if I changed elements of the adventure or monsters and how much. So yeah, go right ahead and look up those monsters and rely on what could be bad information. That's your risk to take, player!

Also, how do you reconcile this rule with in-game situations where the party is split up; in character neither group could possibly know what the others are doing yet at the table the players know this because you've played each group through? Do characters in group A suddenly realize the two in group B have fallen down a pit in the castle basement and can't get out, even though group A is hiding in the woods outside and isn't expecting group B back for hours?
It's none of my business as DM what reasoning underpins the decision to do a thing. I just need to know their goal and approach so I can adjudicate the action. Someone in Group A could want to take that action for any number of reasons that don't have to be because the player knows what's happening with Group B. "I got a bad feeling for some reason - I need to make sure they are okay."
 

Cruentus

Adventurer
After 40 years, we still struggle with this, although there is only one player I know who will actually use all the meta knowledge, or pull up the monster stat block while we're playing...

I handle it in a few ways:
1) In my Greyhawk campaign, the players are in Sterich. Anything that ends up on the "random encounter" charts for that area is "known" to the players - whether through rumor, information passed along, things talked about around the fire, folklore. Iconic monsters likewise - vampires, will o the wisps, dragons (though mine aren't color coded), werewolves, mummies (rot), etc.
2) Monsters they may encounter that are super rare, or not common to the area, I usually change things around on the stat block - changing immunities, changing/adding/removing abilities to the monster, so they don't automatically know what it does - or at least they might think they do.
3) I'll always describe the monster, but not name it. This can leave the players guessing, even though it might be 'just' a zombie, or a ghoul, or whatever. Sometimes they'll figure it out in a couple of rounds, or I'll slip and name it. I freaked a party out in a 5e game with a hellhound (it was well within the 'easy' realm for them at the time), but the description, and it rolling well and taking down a player when he got overly confident made the rest of the party panic.

I also try to make sure session zero is clear that the point is not to "win DnD", its to have fun playing the game. Our one player mentioned above is always out to "win" (and that is his fun), but we all know that going in.
 

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.
I've never bought into that myself. if dragons are known to be in the world, then myths and stories of dragons exist.

Just like most people on this forum have probably never eaten haggis, they probably know it exists and tastes horrible :O
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
If one has to resort to the extreme case (e.g. buying the adventure and reading it) in order to argue why metagaming is bad, then the argument is already lost.

"How do you feel about people bringing their own dice to the table?"
"Taken to its logical conclusion, if the entire table is covered with dice there's no room for the minis."
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
A good reason to not split up the party which generally leads to other issues (such as bored players).
It happens - if it's what the characters would do... I've run some parties where keeping them together really is like herding cats. :)
If a situation TRULY depends on players not knowing what other players are doing then it's best to actually segregate.
Completely agree; or do things by note. Happens all the time.
Otherwise you tend to get extremes where players either act like they're in the room OR they act like complete rubes to avoid appearing like they know anything.
The former is IMO far more common.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
"How do you feel about people bringing their own dice to the table?"
"Taken to its logical conclusion, if the entire table is covered with dice there's no room for the minis."
What's scary is that, provided I'm at home, within five minutes I could achieve that condition.

I have way too many dice... :)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I've never bought into that myself. if dragons are known to be in the world, then myths and stories of dragons exist.

Just like most people on this forum have probably never eaten haggis, they probably know it exists and tastes horrible :O
It tastes fine; it’s basically just sausage. It’s just knowing what it’s made of that makes it hard to eat. Much like with sausage.
 



I also don't buy the argument that characters would automatically know the complete details of every creature in D&D because that would be necessary to survival. Yeah, they'd know that some dragons breathe fire. But would they really know the exact details of an aboleth or a green slaad, right down to the spell list?
It's more an average character would have heard a lot about creatures of the world. This would go even more for the typical to be an adventurer, as they would seek out such information. And then again such information would be part of most class training.

And it leads to the kind of meta gaming that makes me want to just switch to a board game, like when players want to spend 20 minutes before combat gaming out the entire encounter, right down to how to counter each of the special abilities or spells that might be used.
I'm fine with this....but would wish the players luck. Not only am I changing things about creatures, but again each foe is often unique. Just knowing a foes races does not equal knowing everything about them.

Even more so, as I'm using hundreds of monsters that they know nothing about.

I admit however, as someone who has played for years, it can be really challenging to intentionally be ignorant, and avoid using meta knowledge.
I enjoy the challenge. It's why my game style is so extreme.

I once heard an argument that a first level character would know about trolls and fire because it's part of the in game world mythology in their stories that would be told to children. Just like in our world where everyone "knows" that you can kill a witch with a bucket of water.
I agree.

Taken to its logical conclusion, and as there's no mention as to how this player knowledge is acquired, this would suggest you're fine with players reading the adventure before or as they play through it, or reading up on monsters at the table.

I'll go out on a limb and guess that's not the case...which forces the question: where does the boundary lie?
I don't care. Does not work in my game. After all this is the big reason many gamers hate my house rule:

Jerk player reading open adventure book-"My character walks over to corner wall where the secret door is an opens it"
DM- "As soon as you touch the wall you trigger the trap..."
Jerk player -"Wait! What! Page 11 of the the Official Adventure has no trap! I demand this game be an OFFICIAL By-the-book game, because I THOUGHT we were all playing the game game here! "
DM-"Yea, don't care...so you trigger the trap..."

Of course nearly EVERY thing in my game world is trapped...so it's not like this is a "new" thing. Clever players always check for traps, or take steps to deal with them always.

And it's not like I don't change a lot of the details of any published adventure....

Also, how do you reconcile this rule with in-game situations where the party is split up; in character neither group could possibly know what the others are doing yet at the table the players know this because you've played each group through? Do characters in group A suddenly realize the two in group B have fallen down a pit in the castle basement and can't get out, even though group A is hiding in the woods outside and isn't expecting group B back for hours?
Much like the above, this is not much of a problem. As an Old School gamer, if I needed to keep things separate, I will have the other players leave the room.
 

gnarlygninja

Explorer
I think this might be a slightly overblown concern. I don’t know the details of an aboleth or a green slaad down to the spell list, and I’m primarily a DM. I don’t think most players are going to have that information memorized, when half the time they can’t even remember their own spells. So unless a player is looking the monster up mid-fight (which is a problem for completely different reasons IMO), I don’t think there’s any need to worry about this. Especially if you make any custom changes to monster stats.
In my experience most arguments about this specific kind of metagaming are overblown, from both sides. But again in my experience, people who will memorize monster books or look them up mid fight (which is the most common ime) are far more common than the DM who won't let players use fire against trolls. And they still don't remember their own spells!
But I seem to be in the weird position of having known way more bad players than bad DMs so my mileage varies a lot from the average.
 

But you can still get beer and mead with no problem. :)
Have you tried to find a place that delivers mead? Screw 30 minutes or less, I can't even find a place that carries it, no less delivers!
It tastes fine; it’s basically just sausage. It’s just knowing what it’s made of that makes it hard to eat. Much like with sausage.
I built my world view on the fact that haggis tastes terrible, you can't change it now with "alternative facts"!

Oh wait, I meant blood pudding... yeah, I haven't had a good tasting blood pudding. Tolerable, but not good.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
In my experience most arguments about this specific kind of metagaming are overblown, from both sides. But again in my experience, people who will memorize monster books or look them up mid fight (which is the most common ime) are far more common than the DM who won't let players use fire against trolls. And they still don't remember their own spells!
But I seem to be in the weird position of having known way more bad players than bad DMs so my mileage varies a lot from the average.
The fire against trolls thing gets brought up not because that specific scenario is common, but because it illustrates the problem of trying to police “metagaming” very clearly. It doesn’t have to be fire and trolls, it could be anything where the player knows something, the DM doesn’t think their character would know it, and so the DM disallows the player to take some action that they think that knowledge would motivate them to take. It’s requiring the player to act out not knowing something, which just isn’t fun for a lot of players.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I built my world view on the fact that haggis tastes terrible, you can't change it now with "alternative facts"!

Oh wait, I meant blood pudding... yeah, I haven't had a good tasting blood pudding. Tolerable, but not good.
Oh! I’ve never had blood pudding at all, so can’t comment there.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
The fire against trolls thing gets brought up not because that specific scenario is common, but because it illustrates the problem of trying to police “metagaming” very clearly. It doesn’t have to be fire and trolls, it could be anything where the player knows something, the DM doesn’t think their character would know it, and so the DM disallows the player to take some action that they think that knowledge would motivate them to take. It’s requiring the player to act out not knowing something, which just isn’t fun for a lot of players.

The other problematic aspect to that is that it requires the DM to guess the motivation/reasoning of the player, instead of just looking at what is happening in-fiction. If the DM and player are not aligned on the issue, it then creates an incentive for the player to actually be deceptive about what they are thinking. It's just a downward spiral.
 
Last edited:

Clint_L

Hero
We agree up front that players will try to act within the parameters of their character, and if it is ever an issue I just ask, "how would your character know that?" Either they have a good answer, a vaguely plausible answer (lore check!), or no answer, and they try something else.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
We agree up front that players will try to act within the parameters of their character, and if it is ever an issue I just ask, "how would your character know that?" Either they have a good answer, a vaguely plausible answer (lore check!), or no answer, and they try something else.
My problem with this is that it assumes the knowledge in question is prerequisite for taking whatever action is being deemed metagaming. Maybe my character doesn’t know, but is motivated to take the action for some other reason.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
We agree up front that players will try to act within the parameters of their character, and if it is ever an issue I just ask, "how would your character know that?" Either they have a good answer, a vaguely plausible answer (lore check!), or no answer, and they try something else.
I do something similar except that question doesn't effectively occur until a player declares they are attempting to recall lore about something. In order to adjudicate that action, I need to have some kind of understanding about how they might have been exposed to this information, which the player offers as part of the action declaration. I can then decide if the attempt to recall the lore succeeds, fails, or has an uncertain outcome (and thus call for an ability check).

What I won't do is set a limit on what action declarations can be made simply because I erroneously believe that an action necessarily requires particular knowledge to make it possible to attempt. You don't need to know that trolls are vulnerable to fire to decide to hit them with a fire bolt. You just better hope that This Troll Right Here is the same kind of troll you're thinking of. Because if it's not, you just acted on a bad assumption and consequences follow. What's a good way to verify what the character is thinking? Declare an action to recall lore (or make deductions based on clues)!
 

Epic Threats

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top