howareyou
 member, 6 posts
 Esperanza en Cristo
Wed 31 Jan 2018
at 12:24
What is metagaming
Hey everyone,

Wanna hear your thoughts on what constitutes meta-gaming. Where are the boundaries. What should be allowed, and what should be discouraged or forbidden.

The thing is, in an actual tabletop game, it is usually ok and even typical for players to discuss and coordinate tactics for a battle, or how they wanna face a challenge. Players can discuss what they want to do right right before the battle, and even throughout the course of the fight. The DM at her own discretion, may decide to speed up or cut short the discussion with penalties like causing players to lose their high initiatives, or take a free blow from an enemy.

However in our PBP games, like here on Rpol, tactics discussion and coordination, right before or during fights, seem to be considered meta-gaming by some DMs. And hence is either discouraged or forbidden.

What do you think?
NeverMage
 member, 4 posts
Wed 31 Jan 2018
at 12:34
What is metagaming
In reply to howareyou (msg # 1):

I think it's just part of the medium.

Table-talk is a lot easier, smoother, and quicker around a table. It feels more "natural," so people probably don't think about it as much. Most GMs that I've played with just kind of fall into that rhythm.

With PbP games, table-talk can actually slow things down drastically- if I can only post at X times, and the person I'm communicating with posts at Y times, it could be days before we come to a decision. Personally, I'd prefer this kind of talk happen in character in these situations, so that the game can keep it's momentum.
DarkLightHitomi
 member, 1270 posts
Wed 31 Jan 2018
at 13:30
What is metagaming
I think it depends on the style. For some, the focus is more on storytelling or "gaming" and  what is meta-gaming there is a bit looser. But for a game more about being in-character with a greater focus on playing the character, there are tighter limits on what makes metagaming.

I think NeverMage has touched a point as well, the feel of the conversation. Around a table it feels natural to coordinate, but that feeling is lost on pbp.

Personally though, I define metagaming as using any, and I mean any, information to make a choice that the character does not have, or doing things the chatacter can't actually do.

That said, I'm fine with certain amounts of metagaming, particularly when used to compensate for lacking information the character has, or similar.

This acceptance actually extends to video games doing weird things, such as really high jumps in a game without climbing. The high jumps allows you to get to places the character would need to climb to get to, but does it faster and easier for the developers to impkement. So I'm good with it, even though I see it as being meta.
Mr_Qwerty
 member, 30 posts
 Tagmar, D&D, oWoD
 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Wed 31 Jan 2018
at 16:34
What is metagaming
Rigorously speaking metagaming means "gaming the game", that is, using out of character (OOC) information of whatever nature as in character (IC) information.

Discussing tactics right before a battle can be considered metagaming if the player characters don't have the time required to have such discussions. Your party has been ambushed? You have to react with your gut; deciding which PC handles which enemy should be impossible in that time frame. If, on the other hand, your party is doing the ambushing, it's not only reasonable but expected that some kind of strategy was discussed beforehand. This extends to other kinds of player knowledge, such as your character "instinctively" knowing a certain monster's weak spots or leveraging system mechanics like knowing the number of uses of a certain power an enemy has and adapting your tactics, even though your current character never experienced said power before.
jpetoh
 member, 368 posts
 As irrational
 as pi.
Wed 31 Jan 2018
at 17:37
What is metagaming
I've been playing in D&D Adventurers' League at my friendly local game shop. It peeves me to no end when I find out one of my fellow players is in a second (or third) session of the same published adventure OR owns a copy of the adventure in which we are playing. That just seems like the height of metagaming to me.
evileeyore
 member, 62 posts
 GURPS GM and Player
Wed 31 Jan 2018
at 19:05
Re: What is metagaming
Mr_Qwerty:
Rigorously speaking metagaming means "gaming the game", that is, using out of character (OOC) information of whatever nature as in character (IC) information.

This is all metagaming is.  Full stop.

Table talk is table talk... and it can be or lead to metagaming.

Personally, I don't care as long as the metaplay doesn't overshadow the gameplay.


I look at it like this:  The Player with the genius mage Character isn't anywhere as a smart as the Character.  The tactical genius warrior Character vastly out thinks and out maneuvers the Player controlling it.  The NASA engineer playing the dumb musclebound barbarian trope likes to get his ideas in, without breaking character.  Let the table talk flow, as long as everyone is enjoying themselves and the game isn't bogged down or overshadowed.

AS for 'cheating', I don't give two rat's tushies.  I change published adventures more than enough that anyone trying to 'cheat' will find themselves with no advantage over those that aren't.  And all rolls are in the open with clean easy to read dice.  Even my rolls as a GM.
engine
 member, 528 posts
Wed 31 Jan 2018
at 19:54
Re: What is metagaming
What metagaming isn't is cheating. Cheating is cheating. Metagaming can be part of cheating, but is not inherently cheating.

Maybe that's already clear to most folks. I can explain more what I mean later.
nauthiz
 member, 552 posts
Wed 31 Jan 2018
at 20:43
Re: What is metagaming
I generally classify unwanted metagaming as anything from outside what's happening in character in the game, getting used to influence said events, to negatively affect the level of enjoyment for everyone involved.

Since really that's what the game is all about in the first place, everyone having a good time, so anything that encourages that collective goal should be welcome in my opinion.
Nerwen
 member, 1891 posts
 seek to understand before
 you seek to be understood
Wed 31 Jan 2018
at 21:05
Re: What is metagaming
evileeyore:
AS for 'cheating', I don't give two rat's tushies.  I change published adventures more than enough that anyone trying to 'cheat' will find themselves with no advantage over those that aren't.  And all rolls are in the open with clean easy to read dice.  Even my rolls as a GM.

You still have to watch carefully on RPoL about that. I have my players copy/paste their dice rolls into their IC posts. I had a player once who would change the numbers in the paste so that his character never critical-failed (generally just one of the 1s to a 2). I started getting suspicious when everyone else in the game had botched at one point or another, and he never did...

Metagaming to me is basically just using OOC knowledge while IC. Things the character doesn't know but the player does. Some players are good at keeping these separate, others less so.
GammaBear
 member, 811 posts
 Gaymer
Wed 31 Jan 2018
at 22:42
Re: What is metagaming
I really hate how metagaming has become this buzzword that people like to toss around. When it comes down to it, metagaming is nothing more than making a decision IN a game with knowledge OF the game. Metagaming itself is neither good nor bad. It just is. The problem people have, and for some idiotic reason refuse to admit, is not with metagaming, but with player behavior.
Mr_Qwerty
 member, 31 posts
 Tagmar, D&D, oWoD
 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Thu 1 Feb 2018
at 00:31
Re: What is metagaming
GammaBear:
Metagaming itself is neither good nor bad. It just is.


That depends on your objective... If you're looking to roleplay, metagaming is bad. You should adopt your role and whoever you actually are in real life and the details of any adjudicating systems shouldn't matter for your character's decisions.

If you're just looking to win, metagame away, then!
GammaBear
 member, 812 posts
 Gaymer
Thu 1 Feb 2018
at 00:55
Re: What is metagaming
In reply to Mr_Qwerty (msg # 11):

A perfect example of nothing wrong with the system. The problem lies solely on the player.
engine
 member, 529 posts
Thu 1 Feb 2018
at 00:57
Re: What is metagaming
In reply to Mr_Qwerty (msg # 11):

Metagaming isn't only good for winning, it's also good for deliberately losing. That can be just as annoying, but it can also be really awesome. Players who know what's going on and add dramatic irony or really step hip deep into a bad situation that is likely to make for a cool scene are not necessarily "winnig" and are very likely contributing to the game.

I've seen this done wrong, of course (and have done it wrong myself) but it can really enhance things when done right.
SunRuanEr
 member, 64 posts
Thu 1 Feb 2018
at 14:59
Re: What is metagaming
Mr_Qwerty:
If you're looking to roleplay, metagaming is bad.

This is pretty much 100% my viewpoint.

I don't really care if a group of players wants to OOC-discuss how to handle a combat situation, utilizing knowledge of what each of their own individual characters can do. It just makes sense, and helps expedite what can be a really tedious process when dealing with multiple players that have wildly varying post times. The problem comes when Player A then knows that Player B's character has <whatever> ability, and that colors their RP interactions from that point forward... even when there's no IC basis for Player A's character having that knowledge.

It's not even abilities that matter the most, really, in an RP-heavy game - it's the little things. For example: When the GM has GM-run NPCs scattered throughout the cast, and a player learns that one of the cast members is GM-controlled instead of Player-controlled, and then suddenly alters their way of interaction with said character. I see this happen WAY too much, where people go 'oh, that's an NPC, it doesn't matter'. That's detrimental metagaming, folks. Your character has no idea that the bard over there isn't as "important" as the cleric. *Grr*

Anyhow - there's too many examples to list, but the tl;dr is that I agree 100% with Qwerty up there. Metagaming is bad when it comes to roleplay.
engine
 member, 530 posts
Thu 1 Feb 2018
at 16:01
Re: What is metagaming
I was involved in improvisational theater for a while. It's theater, so you're playing a character, acting like that character, and trying to be convincing at whatever it is. In that sense, you have to be authentic, and you have to separate your own knowledge and preferences from those of the character.

But it's theater so you're also playing a character in a scene that hews to certain dramatic conventions. Some of these are technical, like projecting to the audience and meeting the room's general standard of taste, but some of these are purely narrative and focused on not just reacting realistically, but reacting realistically in a way that lets the scene go somewhere, to have a beginning, middle and end. I'm sure there are avante garde troupes who are happy to get on stage and act out a boring party, or sitting and watching TV, or sleeping, or having a pointless argument, but mostly good scenes go somewhere.

One of my improv teachers called this "puppet and puppet master." One has to be immersed, but one also has to know what's going on at a "meta" level. Most acting is like this: actors want to be believable, but they've also probably read the whole script. They know what's going to come next and not only do they have to react realistically when it happens, they have to work it make it happen in a realistic way. They can work out kinks along the way, such as pointing out that the audience would think that the character would know something that they appear not to, or vice versa, but the goal isn't to "win," it's to make a good story.

I know that a lot of people who roleplay do so to become completely immersed, to not have to think in terms of being a "puppet master." They don't want to have to consider the rules, or the existence of the other players, or real-life interpersonal relationships or social norms, or anything. For them, the most important thing is that a choice be not just plausibly what the character would do, but undeniably what that character would do. Anything out of character feels jarring to them, because it forces them to see the unreality of the situation.

Some GMs rely on this, which they can do because they know the players want it. The GM can then set up a situation that anyone might see right through, and the players walk into it (or don't) not because it's dramatically appropriate, but because it's in-character.

So, given the aforementioned, "meta" thinking of any kind becomes almost a breach of contract, and a hardship on those involved, especially if the meta-thinking stems from out-of-game desires like benefitting one's own character, getting back at someone for a slight, or trying to avoid looking dumb. It forces everyone to be aware of the meta level, and have to counter such tactics. Metagaming is, in this setting, bad.

At least, that's my understanding. I don't play that way myself, but I've met some people who have. I was once almost reported to the moderators on a forum because I pointed out to someone that the game wasn't real. Having that thrown in their face was, to this person, harassment, in that it ruined their ability to enjoy the game. I'm not even saying that they're wrong for thinking that way. They have what I've heard called "the right to dream," and if I insist that they not "dream," or do things to hinder it, then I'm the jerk.

That's a somewhat extreme perspective on the game, though. Maybe it's the ideal for many people, but I know that a lot of people play it on a different level. Lots of people don't play it to emulate reality, or react realistically, but to emulate movies or stories. This approach almost requires metagaming. If one is playing a silver-age-of-comics-type game, then the when the good guys win, they hand the bad guys over to the cops, even though the last five times they did that, the bad guys later got away and terrorized the city again. An immersed player would act as a rational person would, and do something different this time or, heck, probably the second time.

A player in more of a "puppet puppetmaster" mode would let their character do the irrational thing, because they know it's part of the convention of the genre they're in. And maybe that's a big part of it: immersed characters, whose players aren't metagaming, are "genre blind." They don't know they're in a hard-boiled detective story, because they're in whatever story they make it to be. Maybe they ignore the central crime entirely; maybe there is no "central crime," just one of a large number of events going on, and maybe the character has a clear imperative to do something else.

(Another analogy is with model train makers. The trains don't necessarily "do" anything, the point is that they are accurate to minute levels of detail.)

Players who are more interested in the meta-story, and of emulating a certain genre, might have to metagame, to bring that about. If a game is "about" going into dungeons and fighting dragons, then that's what the players have to arrange for their characters to do, even if, based on everything one might learn from the NPCs and history books of the setting, that's a really, really bad idea. Players who are keen on getting as much plausibility as possible into their situations might have to come up with reasons why doing this really foolhardy thing is at least plausible, if not truly justifiable.

Oddly, metagaming can amount to its own form of immersion. I find this is the case whenever I decide not to look too closely at a character's motivations. Informing me that my character wouldn't do the thing I want him to be doing becomes the jerk move, because I have a different motivation that just faithful emulation of my character as a real person. I know and embrace the fact that my character isn't real. I can gleefully send them into danger or let them be killed - or kill them myself. The character is there for my amusement. I'm still "roleplaying" because I'm having the character do things they'd do, but at another level I'm working with the others at the table to ensure that my character wants to do things that I'm interested in.

(The "model train"-type analogy there might be people who, for instance, make drones that look like Star Wars vehicles and have dogfights in the style of the movies.)

On the far end, are people who are purely in the mindset of the game as a game. Playing it like a modern cooperative boardgame, which can be a lot of fun. The jerk move at a table like that is to tell someone that they can't make a great move, even though it's entirely legal, because it's against the theme of the game, or out of character.

("Model train" analogy: people who make RC vehicles that are souped up to win something or do something well, not designed around real vehicle specifications.)

Long story short, sit at a table that's right for you. People who want deep immersion have to know that that's what everyone else wants - or at least that everyone there is dedicated to enabling that immersion (people get immersed in movies, even though no one actually involved in making the movie was immersed). People who want cool stories need to know that everyone wants cool stories, of approximately the same kind. People who want to make ideal logical choices based on a high-level view of the situation, need to sit with like-minded people. All of those are reasonable and fun ways to play, but mixing them can result in one set of people thinking the other sets are jerks and vice versa. True jerks are actually pretty rare, I find.
howareyou
 member, 8 posts
 Esperanza en Cristo
Thu 1 Feb 2018
at 16:48
Re: What is metagaming
Thank you everyone, for the generous contribution of thoughts on the matter.

I refer to the original intent of the post, which is about whether player discussions on tactics, strategies, and problem solving during a PBP RPG game, amounts to unhealthy and undesirable meta-gaming, and hence should be restricted, discouraged, or even outright forbidden.

One perspective that has been raised is fun. That if these player discussions do not compromise the fun element in the game for everyone, including the GM and players, then perhaps it is alright not to be too restrictive in the definition and policing of meta-gaming and IC/OOC rules.

After reading what you all have to say, I guess at the end of the day, what to do depends on what kind of game the GM and the players are having. There are certainly games that have players meta-gaming the sh** out of every situation. And if everybody enjoys it tremendously, why not? Of course there will be players who are bothered by this. And perhaps such players will and should eventually leave the game graciously to find other games more agreeable to their preferences. Similarly, I am personally quite appreciative of GMs who make the effort to state clearly their rules for the game - how the game will be run, how players should interact with each other and the game, etc.

The balance between defining and enforcing strict IC/OOC rules, and completely laissez faire gaming, is something that needs to be found and struck by the players and the GM.

This message was last edited by the user at 16:49, Thu 01 Feb.

Brianna
 member, 2144 posts
Thu 1 Feb 2018
at 22:02
Re: What is metagaming
Whether table top or play by post, the GM can set limits if s/he chooses.  If the table top group carries on planning too long, the opponents or NPCs take advantage of their inaction.  And in PbP the GM can say 'I'm going to post on Thursday' or 'the next time I come online' and if you haven't post what your character is doing, the GM gets to move you or just work around you.  This is especially important in combat; even in FtF battles can take more time than they need to, online they can kill a game!
horus
 member, 369 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Fri 2 Feb 2018
at 05:45
Re: What is metagaming
One thing I've seen fairly often, and that I also do in games I run is that meta traffic is generally confined to a different topic or set of topics than the game itself.  That can help keep things separated and organized.
C-h Freese
 member, 270 posts
 Survive - Love - Live
Fri 2 Feb 2018
at 09:14
Re: What is metagaming
An actual useful form of metagaming is Players working out together what what the Characters know about each other making long bouts of in game exposition unnecessary.
Wyrm
 member, 645 posts
Fri 2 Feb 2018
at 12:17
Re: What is metagaming
jpetoh:
I've been playing in D&D Adventurers' League at my friendly local game shop. It peeves me to no end when I find out one of my fellow players is in a second (or third) session of the same published adventure OR owns a copy of the adventure in which we are playing. That just seems like the height of metagaming to me.


I had an experience like this, but it was I who had played it before. Knowing one of the encounters was essentially a death trap, I know what had to be done. Now the first time I played it (with the same DM, actually), one of the more veteran players had metagamed a bit when we as a party were intending to stand and fight. It was almost a TPK (I actually went down 5 times in that encounter), but he was essentially doing things to make sure he herded us.
When it was my turn to be "That guy" I actually spoke to the gm ahead of time and he told me he would let me know when my character would be able to act appropriately. He even made sure to write in that I could infer what was going on with a roll. We still almost died, but I think it was a more satisfying resolution and the impression we were being screwed didn't seem apparent. Everyone seemed to actually enjoy it as opposed to the first time I played it.
NeverMage
 member, 8 posts
Fri 2 Feb 2018
at 14:11
Re: What is metagaming
Wyrm:
When it was my turn to be "That guy" I actually spoke to the gm ahead of time and he told me he would let me know when my character would be able to act appropriately. He even made sure to write in that I could infer what was going on with a roll. We still almost died, but I think it was a more satisfying resolution and the impression we were being screwed didn't seem apparent. Everyone seemed to actually enjoy it as opposed to the first time I played it.


I feel like this is a really good use of metagaming. A GM working with a player, and giving that player cues that can help enhance the storytelling and experiences of a game, can make for some really fun scenes. Some of the most enjoyable storytelling moments I can remember were scenes that one player and the GM had orchestrated together. One player knowing what's coming and helping to guide the other PCs into the moment can have really great results.
horus
 member, 372 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Fri 2 Feb 2018
at 15:44
Re: What is metagaming
C-h Freese:
An actual useful form of metagaming is Players working out together what what the Characters know about each other making long bouts of in game exposition unnecessary.


Some game systems (Fate comes to mind) build in this kind of metagaming during character and game creation.  It helps forge existing conditions in a party, and get over that hump without a "we all met in a tavern" kind of scenario.