D&D General [Poll] Metagame justifications for in-character behavior

When is it acceptable to use metagame justifications for in-character behavior?

  • Always

  • Often

  • Sometimes

  • Rarely

  • Never


Results are only viewable after voting.
Pretty straightforward: when is it okay to use a metagame justification for an in-character behavior? Since I was asked by another user to avoid true/false polling, this is a five-option poll. And since my efforts to add some color to the choices in the past have gotten rather harsh criticism, I've kept it to single-word answers, zero embellishment.

Since "often" and "sometimes" might be ambiguous, if you feel you need further specificity:
"Often" means the significant majority of the time it's fine, but meaningful exceptions exist (e.g. much more than 50% of the time, but shy of 100% of the time.)
"Sometimes" means either there is no pattern (every case has to be judged individually), or the pattern is that it's about equally likely that a given situation is acceptable or not.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Just to clarify, when you say “use a metagame justification for an in-character behavior,” you mean like using a particular tactic because you’re familiar with the monster’s stats? That kind of thing?
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
So we had a discussion about metagaming back in March. Here's what I had to say about it then.


I feel this kind of metagaming is perfectly justifiable.

In case anyone is curious, here's my definitions of metagaming.

 

Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
I will always play a character who wants to be part of a team and am working to have fun together and not at the expense of one another, and I expect that of other players. For that reason, I have said "always": my metagame expectation of supportive fun trumps any in-world justification for crappy behaviour to one another.
 

Just to clarify, when you say “use a metagame justification for an in-character behavior,” you mean like using a particular tactic because you’re familiar with the monster’s stats? That kind of thing?
If your reason for doing so is because you're familiar with those stats, and not because the character has any reason to know, that would be an example. On the other hand, if the party has fought trolls before, or been taught by an old troll-hunting expert, etc., then there's clearly an in-character reason for them to know that certain tactics work and others don't.

Another example, as referenced in that other thread, would be a character preparing for their new wizard employer to betray them, because they know their DM likes "sudden face-heel turn" drama. A third example would be a spellcaster preparing a whole bunch of undead-fighting spells (out of the many other spells they could prepare) solely because they overheard the DM telling a non-player observer that there would be undead in the next adventure.

Point being: the reason for the behavior is not grounded in the thoughts or knowledge of the characters, but rather in the thoughts or knowledge of the players, regardless of origin.
 

Always. The metagame level is the actual world, where all character decisions are ultimately made.
That's....an interesting defintion of "metagame." As in, I've never heard that definition before. So you do not distinguish between the thoughts of the characters as they exist within the fiction and the thoughts of the players as they exist on Earth?
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
In my view, why a player makes a decision for their character is nobody's business but that player's. They can do it because they think that's what their character would do, based on established characterization. Or they can do it because they are trying to exploit some kind of game information. Now, if the actual action undertaken is itself not fun for everyone and doesn't contribute to an exciting, memorable tale, then a discussion should be had about it.

Ultimately, any action taken can be justified in some reasonable manner that suits the fictional situation. To suggest otherwise is to admit to a failure of imagination in a game based on make-believe.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
If your reason for doing so is because you're familiar with those stats, and not because the character has any reason to know, that would be an example. On the other hand, if the party has fought trolls before, or been taught by an old troll-hunting expert, etc., then there's clearly an in-character reason for them to know that certain tactics work and others don't.

Another example, as referenced in that other thread, would be a character preparing for their new wizard employer to betray them, because they know their DM likes "sudden face-heel turn" drama. A third example would be a spellcaster preparing a whole bunch of undead-fighting spells (out of the many other spells they could prepare) solely because they overheard the DM telling a non-player observer that there would be undead in the next adventure.

Point being: the reason for the behavior is not grounded in the thoughts or knowledge of the characters, but rather in the thoughts or knowledge of the players, regardless of origin.
Ok, I get you. I would probably have phrased it as not having an in-character justification rather than having a metagame justification, but I think I understand the intent of the question. I answered “always.”
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
That's....an interesting defintion of "metagame." As in, I've never heard that definition before. So you do not distinguish between the thoughts of the characters as they exist within the fiction and the thoughts of the players as they exist on Earth?
I think it would be more accurate to say that, since the players make all decisions for the characters and exist outside the game world, all actions the character takes are ultimately motivated by out-of-game (“metagame”) factors. Some actions the character takes also have in-fiction justifications, and others do not.
 

Mallus

Legend
That's....an interesting defintion of "metagame." As in, I've never heard that definition before. So you do not distinguish between the thoughts of the characters as they exist within the fiction and the thoughts of the players as they exist on Earth?
The thoughts of a character are a fiction the player authors. Characters exist within the fiction as their players ‘write’ them and as their actions are ratified & reified by the DM and other players.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
So we had a discussion about metagaming back in March. Here's what I had to say about it then.


I feel this kind of metagaming is perfectly justifiable.

In case anyone is curious, here's my definitions of metagaming.

Funny, I do generally require the Identify spell to be used to learn a magic item’s properties, but if a player did your “I hit this AC, plus or minus the sword’s modifier” and “I do this much damage, plus or minus the sword’s damage modifier,” I would give the player that info not out of exhasperation like the DM in your example, but because their approach of testing the sword in combat has no chance of failing to achieve their goal of learning its accuracy and damage modifying properties. It’s a pretty clever way to deduce those properties by way of experimentation.
 


Intradiegetic criticism is a species of fan fiction. Sometimes entertaining, sometimes… not.
Okay....it honestly seems like you're actively trying to dodge the question here.

I grant, obviously, that authors and players are different from characters, and that characters aren't "real" in the sense that players (or authors) are real. Do you genuinely see absolutely no difference whatsoever between "thoughts/behaviors that a character could logically have/do, given the information available to them within the fiction," and "thoughts/behaviors that a player could desire to have their character have/do, given the information available to them as humans playing a game"?

Because, as I said, that's a pretty unusual stance to take. I haven't seen or heard anyone who genuinely classifies absolutely all actions of players, no matter what, purely on the basis "a player is thinking/doing them, therefore they're all the same."
 



aia_2

Custom title
My vote goes to never for a simple reason: it is not metagaming if a player talks to the GM by using words referred to game mechanics such as THAC0 or similar... To my eyes metagaming is bringing on the other side of the game (i.e. the world where the PC are acting) concepts or logics which do not belong to that world. The best example is player's knowledge of the monster manual vs PC knowledge of a creature never met beforehand. If a PC meets for the very first time a basilisk, he is not in the position to decide not to look at it... i am well aware of the fact that some "good" GM asks to roll a die to see whether or not the PC has found a description of this creature in a book, this should not be considered stictly metagaming, but usually the actions defined by the players are affected by knowledge which should not be part of the decision. This is the main reason for my "never".
 

I'm not a big fan of using out of character knowledge to gain advantages in combat (or worse: people reading a module to know which dangers lie ahead).
Yet, once in a while, there will be situations where from a strict in character perspective it would make sense for the character to not partake or abandon the adventure, offend a major NPC or similar things that conflict with RPGs being a group activity where everyone should have fun. In those situations, I find it acceptable, even advised, to find in character reasons/excuses based on meta gaming considerations.
 

Tallifer

Hero
This poll seems backwards to me: I generally use and see others using in-character justifications for gamey decisions. (For example, writing a backstory to justify a paladin multi-classing as a warlock.)

I do not even understand why someone would need to use a rule to justify roleplaying.
 

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