Metal of the day. Sleep. Listen to it right god damn now.
Let’s get Meta.
I’ve discussed a little bit here about how big well known settings can make it tougher to hook your players narratively into the game, given that different players are bound to have different levels of knowledge. The same is true when in regards to meta-gaming. For instance players whom have intimate knowledge about aspects of the game world are able to and typically do include that knowledge into what their characters know, even if narratively it would make more sense for them to not have that knowledge. The problem with this is that it makes the players have unequal footing when it comes to their ability to perform tasks within the game world. Bobicus the wizard knows that Salamanders are vulnerable to cold, but only because the player who plays Bobicus knows that. Jillius’s character doesn’t know that because Jillius’s player doesn’t know that.
Now this type of issue usually isn’t too bad considering the moment Bobicus does extra damage with cold, he passes that knowledge onto the other players and most likely the characters too. A Good GM will see this coming, especially if he knows his players and sometimes I will prompt knowledge-skill rolls to assist ignorant players to those things assuming that their characters knowledge of something makes fictional sense. It seems like pretty obvious stuff (and maybe it is.) but I see a lot of GM’s missing the opportunity to do this and help bridge the gap a little bit.
The bigger problem with meta-gaming and player knowledge is that breaks the immersion of almost everyone involved. The second Bobicus the Wizard proclaims that Salamanders are vulnerable to cold and attacks it with Cone of Cold without establishing prior why or how he knows that suddenly pulls player’s perspective from inside the minds of their character to the game’s mechanics. As a player and a GM of Dungeons and Dragons I have certain levels of meta-game knowledge. But when I am a player I’m very careful about using it because it ruins my own immersion and more importantly the immersion of others.
Of course most types of meta-game knowledge are not limited to the settings themselves but to the actual systems those settings use. Let’s not beat around the bush here, due to it’s popularity Dungeons and Dragons is the game that lends itself most to the meta-gaming mentality with Pathfinder coming in second. Meta-gaming DnD and Pathfinder is most likely a common trap that players have unwittingly fell into rather than a conscious decision on the part of the player to engage in it.
So what do I do?
So let’s talk solutions. Firstly I’ll discuss the most obvious and preemptive solution then I’ll address what to do if you are playing Forgotten Realms in Dungeons and Dragons.
The Preemptive solution: Homebrew it. Create your own monsters, your own world with its own rules. Or combine it with the players ideas on the fly, or some mixture of both. It also has the added effect of placing a greater importance on non-combat skills, especially knowledge skills. A meta-gamer in Forgotten Realms might as well never bother using Arcana or Nature when it comes to identifying what a monster is, but if you are playing a homebrew he literally has no outside game knowledge to draw upon. That goes double if you aren’t even playing DnD.
The Goddammit I’m Running DnD in the Forgotten Realms setting solution: Here the solutions are a bit more specific. Firstly allow for meta-game knowledge to work in certain situations, but give the setting details an unknown twist to subvert the extent of the players knowledge. It’s probably not a good idea to simply re-write well-known monsters or aspects of the setting wholesale as it’s kind of shitty, and it defeats the purpose of running an established setting in the first place. The Salamander releases an agonized screech as your magical cone of cold rushes over him, but slowly the color of his scales begins to turn blue (The Salamander is now resist cold and vuln fire instead, its resist changes based on the element it was last hit with.)
Secondly, you can just invent your own monsters entirely. This takes a bit more work and in doing this you have to be very detailed about describing the monster and liberal with allowing knowledge checks to give clues on how to defeat the monster. Additionally when the characters pass these knowledge checks it’s an invitation to ask them how they know that, and fill in additional details about the character and their place in the world.
That’s all for now folks..til next time.