Etiquette and Protocol


Gaming etiquette could be the single most important aspect of running a campaign. I will not rehash old stereotypes such as bathing before a game or eating all of the host's food. Instead, I have a slightly different perspective on gaming etiquette. I have discovered a few simple rules which could seriously affect a campaign for ill or good. While some people may grumble about a few of them, a player will respect a firm GM over a weak one no matter how much grumbling happens in the background.

Gaming etiquette could be the single most important aspect of running a campaign. I will not rehash old stereotypes such as bathing before a game or eating all of the host's food. Instead, I have a slightly different perspective on gaming etiquette. I have discovered a few simple rules which could seriously affect a campaign for ill or good. While some people may grumble about a few of them, a player will respect a firm Gamemaster, GM, over a weak one no matter how much grumbling happens in the background. The following rules should apply to any group of role players.

Respect and Patience: I am sure everyone has played with a group who includes a few people who would rather talk among themselves than concentrate on the game. These people usually only get into a session once the combat begins. This can be maddening and distracting to those people who actually show up for more than fighting. Personally, I have found the most effective way to end the problem is to subtract experience from the offending people. I attach a note to the character sheet showing the total experience he would have earned had he paid attention, then I show the negatives for each offense. It works wonders in quieting down the more talkative types. In any event, players should be cautioned before the game begins to respect the people around them. If a character has chosen not to participate, then the player should know enough to read quietly or pay attention to those who are playing. With a little patience, the GM will get back to that character, and if the player did not like sitting there, then that person will choose to participate in the next activity.

On the other hand, a GM should not actively leave out a player. The last time I played a character (a paladin), the GM decided to send a sneaky team into an evil lord's fortress. I was left out due to my clunky armor and forthright manner. Unfortunately, the sneaky team decided to stay there for nearly four hours. I was a good player and paid attention to all that happened, but I did not get to play much that session. Respect goes in both directions and GMs should remember not to have a session which will exclude some of their players.

Nothing But The Law: I have never encountered a role playing game that lack rules, or a group that lacked the holy rules lawyer. The lawyer fights those who do not pay heed to the rules. They champion the weak and challenge the GM when they believe a rule has been misinterpreted. They have purchased every sourcebook, familiarized themselves with all the errata, and makes sure characters fit 100% within the rules, no matter how much more powerful the character appears than all the rest. While a rules lawyer can be helpful, they can also spell doom to a group. I will never say people should stand for a game where the rules are applied badly, or not at all, but a strict rules lawyer can severely hamper a game.

A balance is needed to run a smooth gaming session. While a GM should always have read the spells a player will use, or the feats a fighter has chosen, there is not enough time to become a master with every obscure rule. A GM cannot focus on the rules to the detriment of the story or the game. If a rule takes longer than 60 seconds to find and interpret, then it is best to fall on a side which favors the players. In this way, the group does not have to sit through a 15-minute discussion and lose interest in the game. On the other hand, if a ruling does not need to be immediate, then have someone look it up and deal with it at a later time.

Finally, never argue with a player in front of the group. It erodes the authority in the GM and will cause the entire to group to unravel, especially if you are seen as a weak GM. A player who seriously disagrees with a GM should take them aside at some point and discuss the matter when it will not affect game play. In a worst case scenario, the rules lawyer may become so disruptive that you need to ask him/her to leave the group. This is fine. If one person is stopping an entire group from enjoying themselves, then there is a problem. If all other avenues of compromise are closed, then never hesitate to drop a player.

Meta-gaming? Not again! No discussion about gaming protocol could be complete without covering the tricky topic of meta-gaming. Personally, I never heard the term until a little over a year ago. Before then, my gaming group happily played without this headache. In my opinion the concept came from Live action role-playing, LARPs, which stressed complete immersion into a character. LARPs tend to pit the players against the storytellers who actually become the NPCs. Until this time, players never thought of the GM as an enemy; however, LARPs seem to have carried over into the tabletop world and influenced players to think of GMs in a different light.

Simply put, meta-gaming is an overt attempt to beat the GM. The players want to win and throw down the evil plans the GM has cooked up. Instead of PCs versus NPCs, the game devolves into player versus GM. Meta-gaming has never been about player knowledge versus character knowledge, despite what people insist. The best way to stop meta-gaming is to have a discussion with your players. Talk about the issue and make them feel it is not a contest. I have found it useful to have each player write a brief character history. In this way, both the player and the GM will have a good idea of what the character does know. If a GM works with a player on their character, then a player feels that a GM has an interest in the character, thus making the GM an ally.

Should meta-gaming remain a problem, there are a few tips for stopping it before it ruins a game. This may include changing the name of any monster you decide to use; forbidding anyone but the GM to bring a Monster Manual to a session; or looking for new creature collections with unique monsters. Of course, my personal favorite remains writing each NPC using only character races. In the event I do use a monster, I always add levels, change the name, or change the description. The final solution is either talking with the offender privately or subtracting experience for each instance a PC meta-games, and keep a log for the player so they know it's not right.

Things such as not showering before a game can be deadly in a confined space; however gaming etiquette goes much farther than some people consider. Some problems can tear groups apart, and I think those are sad days for our hobby. Every time a GM quits in frustration, or a player decides gaming is no longer fun, the hobby diminishes. Gaming should be an evening of fun and excitement and I hope this article helps those who may need it.

I'd despute that the practice of meta-gaming originated in LARPing, although that may be where the term originated. When I started playing D&D in '78, there were players who bought every module TSR sold, even though they never GM'ed themselves, just so they could read them and know all about the special monsters, as well as where all the traps might be, and where the best treasure was hidden.

There were players and GM's back then that took an adversarial rather than co-operative approach. I remember one time, when my friends and I (all in high school at the time) found out that the brother of a friend (a college student) was a GM. We arranged to have a gaming session with him, and were excited to have a game with an experienced GM. We rolled up characters, then started. As our characters approached the entrance to his dungeon, he had several monsters that were well beyond the abilities of 3 first level characters burst out the door, and slaughter us before we had a chance to do anything. It was a real short session.

I have to completely disagree with your definition and explanation of metagaming. Perhaps the _term_ originated with the LARP crowd, but the concept has been around for as long as role-playing. It's not just about trying to 'beat' the GM. And yes, it is about player knowledge vs character knowledge, but it's more complicated than just that.

On the tabletop, an example would be buying sourcebooks so you can know more about the gameworld, as you mentioned.

On the LARP field, it can include roleplaying off the field between events, or doing someone OOG favors for IG benefits.

On the computer, it would include making up a new EQ character and having your older, more experienced character give him a bunch of nifty items 'just to get him started.'

Trying to 'beat' the GM is immature and counterproductive, to be sure, but I wouldn't call it metagaming as such.

By the way, there are plenty of GMs who try to 'beat' the players, as well. Are they metagaming? No.

All the best,


Well, we can agree to disagree in that event. My main point is that meta-gaming is wrong and completely unproductive to running a RPG. It leads to a confrontational atmosphere between GM and players.

I would not say that using downtime would be meta-gaming. If the GM allows you the option of completing tasks outside the game, then great.

However, I would say that meta-gaming is inherently trying to "beat" the GM. By using out of character knowledge to "win, " GMs are forced to either throw higher level creature at the players to add more of a challenge or find some way to offset the PCs advantage in knowledge.

My personal favorite remains throwing only PC races at the characters. It drives them up the way because they cannot look at a opponent and know their strengths or weaknesses. This means that they will usually think before they act in a game.

Meta-gaming is not complicated. It is a matter of cheating like fudging dice rolls.


I might be a teadious for pointing this out but doesn't metagaming infer that you play your character as though THE CHARACTER actually knew he/she was in a game.
ie: We're only 4th level that thing has to be a Gas Spore, a Beholder would have too high a challenge rating.
ie: Well if the GM took the time to write down this extract from the adventurer's journal, it must be important.

A good metagaming test for a game like Shadowrun is to tell the players:
"So your all in the car waiting for the red light, what do you do?"
See how many start making awareness checks, astral checks or even draw guns...

Another good meta-gamer trap is the blank region and the long dead end. Notice that many players are convinced there are secret rooms in some place of the map because there is a blank spot on the map? Build a long corridor with traps and secret doors that lead to empty cubicles. The metagamers will go mad trying to figure that one out.

And Dave, meta-gaming can be very complicated but it isn't necessarily cheating when it affects the way you roleplay your character. If it affects the tactical and puzzle parts of the game, it is cheating.

Well, we certainly agree that metagaming is a Bad Thing, even if we don't agree on exactly what it is.

Sam makes a very good point when he mentions metagaming as "Playing as if the character knew he was in a game," Or else, playing as if the Game Rules were the Laws of Physics, eg:
'I have 30 hit points. If I jump off this cliff, the worst that will happen to me is 5d6 of damage, and the likelihood of 6s coming up on all dice is pretty low. I can jump, soak the damage, and brush myself off.'

This is stupid. Aragorn, for example, has no idea how many hit points he has. He has no idea what level he is. In fact, he has no idea what a "level" is.

And while I further agree with Sam that MG isn't necessarily _cheating_ as such, it is certainly an example of what not to do. It's not always cheating, but it _is_ always cheesing, which is just as bad, if not worse, in a LARP situation.



thecraichead has it right. One of the most annoying instances of metagaming I've run into was in a short term LARP. The party of PC's had just been gathered together and given the mission. Someone mentioned picking a leader, and another PC objected, saying "We've never had a leader before, and that's worked fine." I turned to him in character and said "What are you talking about? We only met five minutes ago."

It can be very difficult to seperate mechanics from game speech. Saying 'she can absorb a lot of punishment' is much less specific than saying 'she has 150 HP'.

It is reasonable to expect a strangely constructed building to have a reason for the strange construction. Unless you want players checking for secret doors every 10 feet, they should have some clue from their context as to why they are there, and where one might expect to find them. A 100 foot long hallway that simply ends with a wall is ample reason for any reasonable to look twice at it. It would be unreasonable NOT to examine such strange construction closely. They are thinking, within the bounds of the game, and I'll reward them for it.

Similarly, the idea of hit points and levels may not have an exact correspondence to the real world, but neither does the very notion of 'turns,' or very much of anything else in the game for that matter. They are abstractions - a game device that is used to consistently portray the notion of skills, talents, and attributes, and a reasonable level of knowledge of one's proficiency in them. Since players can't feel the pain of a sword cut to judge a physical endurance, we rely on these mathematical models as an abstraction.

Clear metagaming occurred when a former DM required a player to roll dice with her elbows and get a certain number, to approximate her character's dexterity (it was a thief). Blatant metagaming because the character was more dexterous than the player. Not only did she need to satisfy a dice requirement, but the player herself had to perform a dexterous trick for the DMs pleasure.

Our DM was awful with metagaming, attempting to integrate it into the game on purpose. If players changed their mind on a course of action during a discussion, the 'time travel' artifact he foisted on us would sputter, and a rift would spit out some kind of monstrosity on us. This would happen even if the turn had not been taken, or if a player simply didn't understand the movement rule.

He also forbade us from 'being suspicious' of an obviously suspicious statue in the middle of a room that was otherwise obliterated, with bodies on the floor. So he 'made' us walk close to it and touch it. We hadn't 'encountered' a living statue yet, you see.

In all cases of metagaming, players and DM are yanked out of the story, and the conflict turns into a very real argument between participants over HOW TO PLAY, rather than WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. In cases like these, if anyone still cares about the game itself, the entire challenge then becomes about outguessing the DM's whims, playing against him or her personally - and that just ain't fun.


Actually, if you were to make the plan of a real antique or mideaval castle, you would notice many "blank spots" that are filled with stone and don't have secret doors leading to them. Sometimes it's the chimney that goes through it, at others it is only structural support.

Also, ever look at the layout of the pyramids? There are corridors to nowhere and empty alcoves. While those could result from tomb raiders...

Strangely constructed doesn't necessarily mean secret door. Maybe the rock was softer in that direction, maybe the architect/king/empress changed his/her mind, maybe the long corridor is in fact unfinished and was walled off to "hide" the bare rock. Maybe, like in Earthdawn (or Feng Shui), the builder believed that the layout of the rooms had mystical/magical properties.

All I am saying is that players are too used to the paper thin walls and the structurally impossible plans that have to fit inside an 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper.

Falling damage has always been a problem in D&D (all of its incarnations) we've always had house rules for them (crits, stat damage, instant death and what not). If a character stupidly jumps down a 50' wall not trying to slide down the wall or aim for something soft, I'll probably get mean.
I mean in AD&D 1st edition, I had a player who, when his character was put to the guillotine just stared at me blankly when (after leaving him many opportunities to flee) I killed him off without rolling the guillotine's to hit and damage.

OK I'll that the long corridor is a poor example of meta-gaming.

As for your awful GM, I'm with you.

Sam, do keep in mind, your examples are from the real world, not from a world in which secret doors are "de rigeur." In a world where normal dungeon engineering includes secret doors, one might be able to deduce where they might be.

It's called playing the game. What good are secret doors at all, if the only place players can find them is from random chance? It doesn't mean that every oddball corner needs to produce a door, but it does mean that if a player is shrewd enough to put the clues together, I'm not going to punish her for her ingenuity.

And I agree, dungeon walls shouldn't be paper thin. Mine aren't.

Oh sure, I like my players to be smart too. But at times there are empty spaces on the map, and I've had to endure players breaking up every blank spot on their map and what not.

And in old Quebec and the Old English houses there are secret doors where in Quebec City. But, the architecture of the time is often soo quirky that you'll miss them for loss of space.
Some owners discover them bay hapenstance when they renovate.

I loved Old Quebec when I visited there as a child. The Citadel is beautiful. Ah, I miss Canada.

I sometimes hustle the group along if I find them spending too much time searching. "You search for an hour and find nothing." "You hear something soft, shuffling in the hall." Works most of the time, and players appreciate the editing of the time.

In any case, I don't locate important plot points in secret areas, or if I do, I make sure players understand that there could be something strange in the room, even if they can't see the door (you feel a draft).

By the same token, I often like to give clues that there are traps in rooms (ie the tiled floor with holes in the wall). I've always found that the unexploded bomb carries more delicious tension and stakes than the one that just went off.

Based on the above discussion, I wonder if metagaming is more prevalent among tabletoppers or LARPers, or among older or younger gamers. Has anybody noticed a trend in their gaming experiences?



I think metagaming is more common in the tabletop games, mainly because LARP is less actively mediated by a GM, who exists outside of the game, and who can be appealed to by players outside of the game.

In general, LARP has more 'metagaming police' and more time spent 'in character.' In tabletop, other players will often not speak up right away if one of their party metagames, whereas in LARP, it usually means some player is gaining an advantage over another player.

On the other hand, LARP romances in character, almost always either follow or precede a 'real life' romance between the same characters (or at least, a real life fondness of one player over another).

Although I don't have the stats to back my claim (not having bothered to write 'em down) I think metagaming is not determined by gender and age/experience.

I have noticed though that these two factors have an influence on the type metagaming that occurs.
Ie: The more experience you get the more subtle your reading of the genre and theme is, so you infer less obvious clues from your knowledge of RPG's.

I've noticed a trend (not and absolute) for women to use relational elements (friendship, love, etc) more often than men when they get into metagaming. Men tend to twist the rules of the game more than women too.

As far as LARP romances are concerned, they are the main reason for many LARPers to continue the LARPing. At least the Vampire LARPing community HERE, is more or less a version of the singles bar scene with a twist...
Is there more metagaming there? I don't know.
All I know is that I prefer acting to LARPing, because you know that your only play acting on the stage. LARP tends to get confused and confusing about where your character's persona ends and where yours begins, but that's another topic altogether.


It seems to me that we are confusing a characters experiences with the players. For instance - if the character has fought a goblin before then they would know what it could do and how easy it was to defeat.

The same could be said for falling, I know that if in real life I know I can survive a jump of a one story building (it involved a cape and a superman comic, enough said), but I don't know about a five story building. Common sense would say that would probably kill me but if I had common sense I wouldn't be jumping off a five story building (cape or no).

Most of the problems that have come up in this discusion seem to be a problem with the DM's and not the players. If I played with a DM that always put secret doors in obvious places then I would always check those places for a secret door. As a DM we have to find new ways to use old material to keep our players guessing. I love predictable players, if I knew my players were going to spend a lot of time looking for secret doors in a specific location I would have that section of the hall slowly fill with gas, the longer they are there the more likely they are to succumb. Stay too long and awake in the slave mines of Boria. Of course maybe that's metagaming on the DM's part?

The point is it's going to happen one way or the other, and rather than allow it to mess up a game DM's and players should use it to enhance the game.

Interesting discussion. I'd like to address two points- players not paying attention and _urk_ metagaming (first time I've heard the term, but I think I get the gist).

To help keep people paying attention, my game group came up with a set of house rules that helped us greatly. We gave everyone a rotating responsibility for each game. One person mapped, another acted as a "keep us focused on the objective(s)," another acted as scribe of helpful notes. Not everyone had a responsibility, and by rotating them each game it kept people paying attention, because if it was your turn to map and you blew it, everyone knew. I did award extra XPs to players with responsibilities, and that little carrot went a long way towards good game play; better still, it helped take some of the burden off me as DM. They also decided that "s/he who comes late shall be sent out to retrieve beer and snacks." Worked for me.

Metagaming. I'm migrating away from roleplaying and more towards tabletop games, and after 19 years as a DM I find that rules lawyers and game rules exploits abound in the tabletop realm. My wargaming group really goes for the throat and the rules are set in stone; "this gun does that much damage at that range," end of discussion. It's still fun, just very different. I find that tabletop games with a "campaign" aspect like Necromunda suffer less from this than one-off skirmishes and straight battles.

Excellent article- keep 'em coming.


I don't think in-game romance is as prevalent in the LARP scene as you think it is. At least not in the fantasy LARPs I've played. As for the Vampire/WoD LARPS, yeah, I would imagine that it's more prevalent there. Then again, I think a WoD LARP attracts a different set of folks than a Fantasy LARP does.

When you say tabletop game as opposed to role-playing, do you mean from LARP to D&D, or from D&D to Warhammer? I imagine you mean the latter, but not sure.


In my circle, it's not unusual to find romantic plotlines between characters whose players are not involved. In a science-fantasy LARP I'm playing in, my character and another PC have become romantically involved, but both the other player and I are happily married (not to each other). It was just the right thing for these characters in the situation they're in, to do.


I'll try not to come off too moralistic on that one but, if you are both happily married etc… I guess you don't cheat your respective spouses by making out in LARP right? Then it follows logic that you keep to hugs and hand holding during the game sessions. So basically you romantic involvement in terms of its effect on the actual roleplaying (or acting) is the same as if your characters were very close and affectionate friends. If all this is true, then my next question is: What does it add to the game? How does it make the game more fun for you and the others (beside add background)?

If you do go further than acting like really close friends, then your spouses are very open and I'm glad things don't get confused for you. My personnal experience is that the people I've seen doing this are using it as an excuse to play the seduction game or even cheat, while having the excuse of "play acting".

If it happens every campaign you participate in, then I would question my motivations.
By the way I'm am not judging, I'm just saying that the relationship with my friend (be it a guy or a girl) would have to pe very clear for me to be comfortable playing the role of a paramour (bet it during LARP or when I act on a scene). Tabletop RPG's are less of a problem I find since you can stick to NPC's who aren't people, just figments of the GM'S imagination.

Anyhow, I'm not a fan of LARP to start with, so I guess I'm not the best judge as to what is proper or improper in it (as is in accord with accepted etiquette).


No, it goes no further than holding hands in game. I suppose you could say it's just background, 'though I'd argue the 'just'. I don't want to go into too much detail, as persona stories are only interesting to those involved, but the background of the characters makes them both vunerable in a time of great stress. My reactions to and about a woman I'm involved with, and a woman I'm just friends with, are subtly different. It's not just about sexuality, but it permeates everything I do. My character is a widower, and this is part of his getting over and past that point. It's made for some fun roleplaying. I don't see it as anything different than playing, say Romeo, opposite a Juliet I'm not married to. It's a role, maybe closer to Comedia del 'arte than stage acting, but just a role. In essence it's Method acting techniques brought into gaming practice.

I got into LARPing about 6 years ago. My favorite part of role-playing games had always been, well role-playing. This other player shares the same attitude, and is one of the gamers I like to play opposite, whatever the relationship, because of the depth of characterization and intensity of the portrayal.

Avenel, I'm not going to judge the practice in which you are engaged (each to their own), but I don't really believe it's all in the character. I have never seen a metagame romance that didn't germinate from real attraction on the part of at least one of the parties.

What you described reminds me of a LARP friend who's "character" smoked, though the player had quit. He later admitted that he was enjoying the excuse that the character gave him- giving him an opportinity to smoke again in a controlled setting.

Whether you are married or not has little relevance to it. I've always found that these kinds of romances allow a person to dip their toe in the pool, to have a little 'taste' of what it feels like to be dating someone, without any of the responsibility. But I would still rate it on the same level as, say, going out to dinner or for drinks with someone who is not your wife, and perhaps holding hands or kissing.

Some couples have open relationships that go 'all the way' and are very successful. For others- and I saw more than one in the LARP I was in for only a few months - for those, this kind of dabbling eventually grew into torrid, classless, dramatic public scandals for everyone involved and everyone around them. They started by saying the same thing you are, and the same thing my friend the 'smoker' did. Eventually, they came to a point where they had to reckon with their temptation and decide if they were truly being honest about the source of their enjoyement. Most failed, and their relationships suffered.

In Romeo and Juliet, the actors are doing a script, and even in Comedia del 'arte, they are following a structure that is mapped beforehand. That ain't LARP.


I've been close friends with the other player for nearly a decade. We played romantically involved major recurring NPC's in a fantasy LARP 6 years ago. It was just acting then, it's just acting now. What do you mean by a 'metagame romance'? The term 'metagame' to me usually means outside the game.

You're falling into the 'Arguement from Ignorance' fallacy, "I've never seen it, therefore it can't happen." Comedia del'arte is not LARP because of having a structure for the story, but because it is a performance for an audience. A LARP is a performance for the performers. A LARP can, in fact, have a structure, depending on the genre. I've played in several that did. I'm sure this one does, although I probably won't see it until much more of the story arc is revealed. Techniques of improvizational theater are perfectly applicable to LARPing.

I mean just that - a romance that exists outside of the game, but is expressed in the language, moves, decisions, and actions within the game. Call it whatever you like though.

True on all counts with your 2nd paragraph, though I wouldn't say I'm 'arguing' anything. I don't have a prescription for what you should or shouldn't do, though my limited perspective based on what you said is filtered through my more extensive experience as a married man and a former LARPer. You may well have everything under control. But then, so did those other LARPers in my groups. If you and your wife are comfortable with how you play, then that should be good enough for anyone.

Metagaming for me is an intriguing subject. Anything that is so hard even to define has to be a challenge. Thecraichead wrote: "... it is about player knowledge vs character knowledge, but it's more complicated than just that." Too right. Sam from Quebec put it this way: "I might be tedious for pointing this out but doesn't metagaming infer that you play your character as though THE CHARACTER actually knew he/she was in a game." I've got to agree here too. But I reckon we have to mix up these two definitions and stir in the GM too: Metagaming is when everyone involved is playing a game more to do with rules and the real world than to do with characters and the fictional game world. Early on in this discussion someone mentioned roleplayers reading up on the modules before playing sessions. That's about as clear an example as you can get - but there are more subtle manifestations of meta-gaming. If the players know their GM well, for example, how he/she builds scenarios, what kind of situations the GM enjoys playing out, then they might make decisions which their PCs have no 'in-character' reason to make. [This latter example might be scuppered by the kind of GM who loves surprises. It's pretty hard to prepare for the unexpected, especially when the GM starts playing around with the concept itself - 'I knew you'd prepare for the unexpected at this point so I thought I'd surprise you with the entirely expected'. Ho hum.]

Before I get to my point, I want to quote another contributor. Nephandus wrote: "Clear metagaming occurred when a former DM required a player to roll dice with her elbows and get a certain number, to approximate her character's dexterity ... Blatant metagaming because the character was more dexterous than the player." And later added: "In all cases of metagaming, players and DM are yanked out of the story, and the conflict turns into a very real argument between participants over HOW TO PLAY..."

Now here we get close to the dilema as I see it. I think most folk would agree that metagaming is bad, something to be avoided. It would be like an artist concentrating on the brushes and the stool he's sitting on and forgetting about the painting. Yet the artist needs his brush, and the stool comes in handy too. Let's forget metaphors. I'll use examples from RP experience.

We gamers cannot concentrate exclusively on our characters and the story. The game experience, having our friends around to play and the social interaction, surely has to be enjoyable also? If one player's character, for reasons and motives which make perfect sense in the game world, has to go off on their own, then the player risks having a rather boring, passive experience as the GM continues play with the majority of the group. So, understandably, the GM might come up with ways of making this easier - allowing big chunks of game-time to pass quickly, or tweaking the story, world and NPCs so that the other PCs don't actually have to spend as much time as they otherwise would have done away from the lone PC. But what if the lone PC has been locked in a dungeon cell, chained and battered, and can realistically do little else but lie down and recover, moaning quietly, while the other PCs have to fight their way through the denizens of the castle above to reach their poor comrade? It would surely be hard for the GM to 'fiddle' things here.

You see, such manipulations by GMs concerned with the gaming experience in its entirety rather than the story alone, smack of metagaming as defined above. Yet I believe most roleplayers would agree that such GM considerations and methods are entirely acceptable, in fact necessary.

Let's take another quote from this debate as an example. Stephan wrote, when discussing how to keep players' attention on the game (a different strand to the metagaming topic): "To help keep people paying attention, my game group came up with a set of house rules that helped us greatly. We gave everyone a rotating responsibility for each game. One person mapped, another acted as a "keep us focused on the objective(s)," another acted as scribe of helpful notes. Not everyone had a responsibility, and by rotating them each game it kept people paying attention, because if it was your turn to map and you blew it, everyone knew. I did award extra XPs to players with responsibilities, and that little carrot went a long way towards good game play; better still, it helped take some of the burden off me as DM."

Now is this metagaming? If it was done badly, the players would probably say it was - especially rewarding xps to players for their game work rather than for their character's actions and victories. If it was done well, however, I don't think anyone would even notice and the game/story would move all the better for it.

Here's the crunch. [Finally, I make a point.] I think metagaming is on one end of a sliding scale. We've got to play the game to create the story. We need rules of some sort to create consistency and believability in the world, as well as to make it challenging. We've got to have a real world player and GM experience to make the story flow and the characters live and breath. But if we lay too much stress on any of these things, slide that little bit too far along the scale, we end up forgetting the story and our characters and seeing only the players, the rule-book, the experience points columns and the NPCs' stats. There's a happy medium somewhere. A balanced point at which all these things come together neatly to support each other. That's what we ought to strive for.

Metagaming, in other words, is a wrong emphasis. It is built out of entirely acceptable game elements, but they've been piled to high. Metagaming is simply focussing too much on one aspect of the game.

Interestingly, I believe that we can play around with the balance point to create different gaming experiences rather in the way that different story genres create different experiences. D&D isn't quite like SW isn't like CoC etc. Wargamers playing military characters in a tactical roleplaying game can find themselves quite happily immersed in weapons' stats and such - maybe because that's the way their characters think too - and they might also get out the figures and rulers and turn the story into a tabletop toys experience rather than an imagined story. Non-contact LRPers might forget there are any rules or GMs and wholly immerse themselves in the imagined fiction. (As for the 'romantic' dangers perhaps inherent in this you wouyld have to read certain other sections of this debate). The balance is quite different in these two examples.

When running my own games I have found myself worrying about the balance, and whether or not the players will be happy with it. If I'm running space opera style Star Wars adventures (is there any other kind) then I think my players know that I will tweak all over the place, 'guesstimate' rules and stats all the time to keep up the pace (rather than start poring through the books), and I'm always bringing the PCs back together through coincidences and fate so that the story flows excitingly and all get to contribute as often as possible. But in my own designed roleplaying game set in a world almost exactly like this one (the details of which I won't go into), the players have long since come to understand (first accepting, then uinderstanding) that all sorts of reasons might make me take long time-outs to work out what happens as a consequence of their actions, or to find information in the small library of stuff which has built up over the campaign. They know also that their characters, if they so choose, might end up away from the others for very lengthy periods of time. You see, we've moved to a different point on the scale, further away from the metagaming end. It means a slower, more detailed game, incredibly more realistic, and great fun in its own way. The conversations the players have (i.e. which the PCs have also) can take two hours or more. When it comes to a fight, which is admittedly rare, the players really don't have any clue as to stats and rules. I tell them what they see, hear, fell etc, they tell what they want to do, I describe what happens. I might roll dice, but the players need have no idea what I'm actually rolling for.

You'd think that this would mean less rules and work on my part. It doesn't. If the police get involved in the game world, I try to do my research and find out exactly how they would do so. If a post-mortem report is to be written then I try to find what form that report should take. I don't mean I copy real reports or take courses in such things, but I at least take advice from doctor friends and get the general shape and terminology right. It's like the real world has become my rule book. I'll admit, there's a certain aspect of the game which truly is fantasy, but even that is heavily researched in books on the occult and history. We couldn't play every game like this (I don't have the time to put in the preparation - and the campaign is currently having a two year real-time break) but it works.

Why do I think this game counts as being further from the metagaming end of the scale than most roleplaying games. Well, the players know that I won't do things simply to make the story move or because they'd be fun or because a player hasn't done much in a while. Rather, I let the PCs, the game-world and it's NPCs fuel the story and decide what happens next. I know it is a dangerous method (it could make for a boring game) but so far it's worked. The players can't even rely on a knowledge of rules or stats to help their PCs out of trouble, or even to inform their PCs' actions. They have no knowledge of such things. There are no game accessories or supplements for them to peruse. They must go on what their PCs learn and know.

It's an exception to the rule which has proved interesting and very involving. But you couldn't do it every game. Most games need a more central balance.

When a player is out of commission or not involved with the game, I don't really see why it matter whether or not he's paying attention. In my games, if a character somehow gets left out, I flat out encourage the player to read comics, check out the TV, etc.

As a DM I use it too Mark, but only if the player gets left out for more than 10 minutes, otherwise it breaks up the game when you have to get him/her back and explain to them what they missed...

As a player, when I'm not involved I like to stay, just to watch the story as it unfolds, it's like books on tapes or watching improv.

The comments about metagaming have been fascinating. I'd be interested in seeing a full article on metagaming from this site.

I'm gonna avoid the metagaming discussion, since I don't really have anything to add.

FWIW, I kinda like rules lawyers. As a GM, I find it handy to have a ready source of information about game rules.. especially if they're obscure rules that I'd otherwise have to stop the game to look up (or make some arbitrary ruling on to keep things running). Occasionally I've had them correct me on fine rule points or point out modifiers I'd forgotten, or something like that, and since I prefer to play games by the rules when possible, I'm usually grateful for the help.

(Other players tend to appreciate this too, I find; after all, the whole point of *having* rules is to make gameplay consistent and keep players' actions from being resolved unfairly. When you appear fair and consistent as a GM, it puts greater responsibility on the players not to do stupid things, because if their characters get slaughtered/robbed/embarrassed/whatever, it's probably their fault.)

You also know that if the rules lawyers know the rules well enough to quote them, they're probably "into" the game, and not just there because they're bored or someone dragged them along and made them play (the dreaded "I brought my disinterested girlfriend" scenario). By the same token, they won't need you to keep reminding them how to do things, because they already know how to play! They can also help new players, if the need arises.

The main thing about rules lawyers is that you make sure they know that the books aren't running the game, *you* are, and while their contributions are appreciated, they aren't binding. This is the point where rules lawyers will tend to divide. Some will insist that they're right and you're "cheating"; eject these from your game (if they don't storm off in disgust first.. good riddance!).

Of course, if this thing tends to happen to you a lot, it could be because you're one of those GMs who freely fudges rules and railroads PCs every time things don't always go according to plan. A little of that will turn nearly any player into a disgusted rules lawyer!

The rest either won't need to be told what their place is, or will accept it once you explain it to them (maybe they've been playing with a bunch of rabid rules lawyers, or maybe no GM ever took them aside before and worked things out). In my experience, most rules lawyers will fall on this side if you run a decent game, and a *good* rules lawyer is a worthy addition to any group.

Maybe the good ones need a different name. Rules minister? Rules advisor? I dunno.

True Xplo.

I appreciate it when the people at the table are well versed in the procedures of the game, and I appreciate it when they point out if we have gone off track.

I don't appreciate the kind of rules lawyer that attempts to exploit loopholes and errors in the rules to gain advantages that are not in the spirit of the game.

Closely related to that, I am annoyed by participants who attempt to 'technobabble' their way into advantages. By that, I mean calling something 'heat vision' instead of dark vision (as the new rules state), and then figuring out a range of additional powers that would result from the way 'heat vision' works, such as footprint tracking, or seeing through thin walls.

Claiming to be able to see heat with heat vision is hardly technobabble.. more like common sense. As a player I'd be annoyed if I made that claim and a GM came back with an excuse no better than "it doesn't say you can do THAT in the book" or "well, I'm changing the laws of physics, so there." What's the point of being creative with my use of the resources available to me if the GM just shuts me down when I come up with a clever idea? Geez, I'll just go watch TV. Let me know when I'm supposed to swing my sword.

(IIRC, this is *exactly* why D&D 3e switched to "dark vision".. a change, incidentally, that I fully approve of, since the description finally matches the intended effect.)

I do see what you're saying, though, and to a certain point I agree with you. People who insist on using typos as written or try to invent advanced technology in fantasy campaigns tend to get on my nerves, as do the ones who abuse character creation systems to create technically-legal characters which just happen to be min-maxed to the point of munchkin-ness. There's a difference between being clever and being abusive. One I can accept, but not the other.

Here here!

But what happens when one person's creativity becomes another's abusiveness?

It's a tricky line to walk.

Xplo, we agree completely that the switch to 'dark vision' is a welcome one. It represents a general shift away from the technobabble explanations for how things work, focusing more on the result. The moment we get tripped up in the how's and why's we begin a game of speculation about how to play, rather than what happens next, and that isn't fun.

Try to remind players that RPGs are not about GM versus Players.
(Though they can be, but this is just me)
The GM is doing what is best and what is for the benifit of the game and if they can't trust them they need to find another GM or another game for that matter.

I once was going to have a player who thought Tabletop RPGs were something that you "win" or "lose".
Thank what ever god those clerics worship for avoiding that player.