How Do You Prevent Metagaming?
In RPT#520, Sean made this tips request:
I nearly laughed aloud at work over the “One More Tip: Top 10 Ways to Stop Sounding So Damn Metagamey.” I would love to see some tips on handling metagame scenarios in tactful ways.
My group tends to pour through every source book at their disposal (and one in particular has a mountain) to get every little tweak they can. This inevitably ends up with a 3rd level fighter that can waylay a 6th level barbarian and wizard, in ONE TURN.
I resolved this by limiting book choices, but this is only one example of many. How do you prevent (or get the most out of) metagaming?
And here is how RPT readers answered Sean:
From Mark of the Pixie
To get the most out of it, have the best metagamer work out metagame stuff for everyone in the party. I have heard of several groups who have an official rules lawyer. That one person does all the rule checking.
This makes it co-operative not competitive, and that takes the emphasis off it so everyone can get on with the game.
To prevent metagaming, use the hard rule: no books at the table. If you have to look it up…you don’ t.
The GM (or the official rules lawyer) makes an instant ruling and the group uses it till the end of the night. After the session, you look up the rule and make a note on the PC’s character sheet or similar. Knowing this rule will be in effect, the PCs can put any special rules on their sheet in advance.
No matter what I was running, be it D&D, Rolemaster, Traveller or other face-to-face miniatures game, there would always seem to be a meta-gamer, uber-gamer or munchkin.
Let them continue to play. When they finally get bored with their character finding it so easy to continue, they’ll drop out or the other players will cause them to drop out.
In Traveller, I had a male player who always rolled his lucky 2d6, didn’t like female players and kept trying to get psionic abilities. I made it hard for him to find places that would legally test his abilities. Eventually, a request was made by another male player to eliminate this character.
Since the uber-player was a friend, I eventually had him go off into Zhodani space by himself. At that point he dropped off the proverbial map, and he ended up GMing his own campaign. I played in it, and we stayed friends.
With Rolemaster, one player developed an “uber-dwarf in a tin can.” He was the proverbial buzz saw. When the other players complained to me in the middle of a session, I tried to explain to everybody that he was hurting himself more than the group because he really was not getting much in experience points due to his abilities.
Yes, he was able to kill something in a single blow, but it was becoming so easy for him that all he got was base experience. He eventually quit role playing all together because of a disagreement he had with one of the other players and myself.
These types of gamers come and go. You will always have the rules lawyers. I remind players that it’s a game and it’s my world. I also remind myself that while players may think me a god, I’m not. Keep it simple, keep it light, and remember, it’s a game.
Thanks for listening to my two cents’ worth.
Sean posted two situations that aren’t related, IMO.
It’s okay if players pour through the source books in an attempt to tweak as much as they can out of their characters. Tweaking is what some players get into, and is what the source books are for – to build the biggest, baddest dude in the land.
It also means the DM has to work a little harder when designing scenarios, because that tweaked out character will need to be properly challenged. The DM needs to prey upon the weakness of the PC.
I believe it’s the DM’s job to understand what makes his players tick.
For some reason, those tweaked characters should always seem to get separated from the party and have their own encounter to go through…with minimal help from the rest of the party because they’re going through their own thing at the same time.
I’ve kidnapped tweaked characters, tortured them, made them outcasts. Even made one dude go three levels without any armor because he was that badass. It was memorable.
But that isn’t metagaming.
Metagaming is when a player allows his character to have out of game knowledge. Metagaming is cheating.
We play these games for fun. There’s no money on the line, or bragging rights, or anything like that. Just a good time to be had by all. This means there isn’t any reason to cheat…err…metagame.
As DM, I try to keep NPCs from having too much metagaming knowledge, but in a campaign some NPC metagaming is necessary. The DM understands the plot and has to make sure there is a certain amount of tension and anxiety for the PCs to experience to make the game memorable. I just don’t go overboard with it.
If a player in my game begins to metagame during his turn, or suggests someone else do a metagaming action on their turn, then he is warned, and I don’t allow that action to be carried out.
It doesn’t matter how logical of a suggestion it was. If there was no way your character would know the reason for doing an action, then it doesn’t make sense for their character to go through with it.
For example, if you’ve never seen a car before, how would you know it would need fuel to make it go?
Not allowing an action is extremely heavy handed, but I’ve found that if metagaming isn’t stamped out immediately it can spiral out of control to where everyone is constantly doing it in and out of combat.
I’m the new guy to my gaming group (8 months) and I recently kicked out someone who had been a member of this group for years simply because he wouldn’t stop metagaming.
No one complained that he was kicked out, which tells me just how much most people hate cheating…err…metagaming too.
A simple tip, that might be a fit for your group, is to switch systems. I too got tired of one or two players knowing much more than the rest, or even more than the GM, about the world, and of power-playing characters that make the party unbalanced.
So, when I started a new campaign, I picked the MicroLite 20 system, which is a re-envisioning and simplification of classic D&D.
After my players found it too simplistic (no character customisation) we switched to Barbarians of Lemuria, which surprised us in its simple elegance! It’s working well for us.
What helped equally as much was, instead of using a pre-made world, we built one together using Dawn of Worlds, which focused the group on creating a story and world together (not to mention ensured that everyone knows equally much about the place).
One other thing you could do: after a session, sit down with the group, and simply discuss what everybody wants from the game. What kind of focus do they want? What would you like to see more? What could be done differently?
Here is how we solved it in our Pathfinder gaming group.
We recently had a problem with metagaming where two characters were so powerful that anything that could have threatened them would instantly slay the rest of the party. This caused an unbalanced game and made it hard for the DM to come up with interesting encounters.
To solve such issues, we have now started a new campaign in the theme of sword and sorcery.
The premise is that the PCs are great heroes – much more powerful than common people. Everyone was asked to make the most cheesed-out character they could think of. The players helped each other with min maxing, giving us a party of equally overpowered PCs.
We started out at level 10 and had extra gold to buy magic items tailored to our characters. The DM required that each weapon has a name, and that every magic item we buy has a history that is included in our background stories.
Between trying to explain the characters we’ve made and how they got their skills and things, we’ve come up with some colourful personalities with solid backgrounds and goals. The general mood has been cheerful and casual, which has helped people go further with their personalities than they usually do, creating a fun and dynamic game.
All in all, metagaming doesn’t have to be all bad, as long as the characters have a personality to go along with it, and the PCs are well balanced in comparison to each other.
From Jeff Siadek
Dave Hargrave’s Aurora Energy Monster
My all-time favorite way of combating an uber-powered character is a twist on the old Arduin Grimoire Aurora Energy Monster from Dave Hargrave.
This monster has no attacks of its own. It can’t actually do anything because it is a creature of pure energy that just looks like a physical creature.
When it would suffer damage, it deals a like amount to whoever dealt the damage.
I like to give a 3 round delay on the damage. Thus, a party could ignore it and be fine, but those who attack will find it laughing. When they decide to up the ante and unleash unholy hell on the beast, it laughs harder. On round 4 or 5, the players start realizing what’s happening as the exact damage they dealt is dealt back to them.
Giving the monsters a choke point or higher ground in an ambush will make even a horde of goblins formidable.
Reversy Magic Zone
Characters burdened with too much magic might enjoy an anti-magic reversy field where plusses become minuses.
When a player does something he’s found in the rules that causes you grief, make a note of it and build an NPC with that same set of abilities.
Let them have their moment in the sun. They are building these cheesy builds because they want to kick ass. Let them. Build enemies that are more formidable, and celebrate along with the party when they paste them. If you don’t want min-maxers, go play an indy rpg.
My group has had their fair share of munchkins, and there are several ways we’ve dealt with them.
First, the book limiting idea is great. Going back to basics is a total refresher course over the monstrous volumes of information out there. Sometimes, a singular book will overbalance the game that’s been carefully crafted.
With respect to this area, the GM has final say as to what information would be allowed within the game they’re running.
Another solution is to turn the tables. This was a favorite of one of our GMs. If the player wants to use a feat, skill, class, etc. then why wouldn’t an NPC be allowed to use it? If tactics are employed by the group, why not the enemy?
A final note to Sean, make sure you are familiar with the rules being employed by your player, and VERIFY those rules are being correctly applied. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had a particular ex-player conveniently forget he couldn’t use a rule that he’d been abusing.
Other than that, remember to sit back, recall that this is only a game, and let the little munchkins have fun with a devious pit trap or monster you’ve concocted on the fly!
Keep the dice on the table.