The Rule of Meta

A lot of people don’t like metagaming in their games because they feel it takes everyone out of the RPG environment, and it makes their games worse because of it. Some complain that Players’ metagamed knowledge impacts game play in a negative way.

I understand their concerns, but metagaming has its uses and the rationale for using it, in my mind, far outshines its negative impacts… especially if the players and the DM are fucking grown-ups about it. So be an adult.

For me, one of the things to understand about the need for metagaming is the notion that the players may experience weeks or months of their characters’ lives through the fogged-up lens of imagination and storytelling in a few hours of real-world time during a gaming session, and then they may not get to experience that flawed view for a week, weeks, or even months sometimes.

But their characters, on the other hand, inhabit the game world 24×7 (24×6 in Erldworn). The characters see so many details, learn and experience so many subtle things that a meta-analysis, by the players, of their characters’ world, needs to happen in order to have the fullest, richest, most complete experience possible for everyone.

To that end we will use meta-gaming to our advantage. We’ll use the “meta” tag to label discussions as players and DM so that we can cover in 10 seconds what their characters may have taken an hour or more to learn.

There are some DMs who like to play subtle games with PC vs NPC interactions… if the player says something wrong, they penalize the character who would never have made such a mistake. I fucking hate that shit.

In our game play, I’ll use the “meta” tag to explain things their character know that might not be clear from my creative, flowery, poetic storytelling style, and the players will use it to tell me what their intention is behind their characters actions or speech. For example in a social encounter, we’ll be going along with some in-character dialog, and the player may get confused or I may get confused… the player can just say, “Meta… I’m just trying to smooth talk this guy into giving us the key, but without letting him know I don’t have a right to it,” or “Meta… does Sir Jamie know what the right thing to do here is when this person claiming to be a knight challenges him to a duel/joust?”

This clarifying of intention or seeking of character knowledge… actually saying the word, “Meta,” will make for shorter breaks for discussion, quick clarifications of actual intention, and a speedy jump back into the fray.

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