Well, there's gonna be a few blog posts (Paper Empires stuff coming on Friday...) about things that I've been mulling about. See, I've been thinking about RPGs, noticing trends, and exploring different parts of them. Something that popped out to me was the idea of metagaming, and its place in an RPG. I took that, and then I started to run with it.
The Levels of Metagame
Metagaming is an interesting thing, if you look at the simple example of a player who has the stats of every monster in the manual memorized. Metagaming is an activity which involves any information that the player has which the character can't. It's when the player knows that his once-per-day abilities are running out, or that there's only 1,000 XP to the next level, or that the characters are PCs, and therefore have different rules than other members of this world. It's when he knows just how more likely he is to hit with a ranged attack than with a melee strike. The character really only has vague ideas of all of these things.
Along with these types of metagaming, there's some other ones which play into different aspects of the game. Plot progression, for example. You may know that the party is slated to go through smaller monsters before they square off against the big "boss" monster. Sometimes there's roleplay-rewarding systems. A player knows a specific "mold" that they have chosen for their character, and that their character will get advancement from playing to that mold. The character may realize that sometimes they act certain ways, and these are the ways that they normally act, but not that they get rewards for it. Is this bad? It certainly doesn't help character immersion, and it leads players to game the system sometimes.
Metagaming...What To Do?
Systems generally take three different tacks on the subject of metagaming. One: limit it. There are games...many games, in fact...which seek to limit the scope of knowledge that the players have about the gameworld beyond their characters' knowledge. Paranoia even names knowledge of the rules as a treasonous offense. This can be done well in the proper context, but often trying to limit metagaming is a losing game, and the GM is forced to resort to using his own brain as a source for data, to keep players away from it. Until they can read minds.
The second approach is to permit it. A game may include some level of metagaming, such as having an ability that triggers once per fight. This is done for player convenience. The game accepts that some metagaming will happen, but also makes it clear that this is not the normal course of action.
Finally, there's a handful of games out there that encourage it. The FATE system is one of the poster children of this approach. A large part of the character centers around Aspects, which are major parts of a character's persona. Their "schtick", so to speak. During the game, they accumulate "Fate points" by acting on negative parts of their aspects, and can spend those points to use their aspects for boosts to rolls. In-character action comes from a grand metagame.
Thus concludes the first portion of our discussion. That little bit of thought on metagaming spiraled out into a very interesting tangent about RPGs in general. Tune in next week...
- Good evening, afternoon, or whatever time it happens to be there, ladies and gents! I happen to be Andy, who happens to be a freelance web designer, musician, writer, and whatnot.Roman Catholic, student of tabletop gaming, and someday soon I'll have my own designs in the field!
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