Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Thoughts on metagaming

Recently a two posts popped up on my feed related to metagaming in tabletop roleplaying campaigns.

What a horrible night to have a curse 
Role Playing, Metagaming, and Differing Opinions

The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms 
Is This Metagaming?

Both authors make good points including the individual in the video linked from the first article. I do find conversation bog down in an infinite loop of corner cases and exceptions.

The way I think about stems from my changing views on what constitute "proper" roleplaying. If you would have asked me in the late 1980s I would have said proper roleplaying is making a background and personality for your character and acting as that character.

When I refereed, I encouraged this ideal through how the experience mechanics worked and later by using systems that had mechanics for detailing a character's personality like GURPS. But I learned that not all hobbyist were interested in acting. Whether it was preference or ability, these players would up roleplaying a version of themselves with the abilities of the character.

For the sandbox campaign I ran, I found that was more than adequate. I learned that the all that required is for the player to act as if they are there in the setting as the character. The main thing I needed to do reinforce that was insist on first person roleplaying. A player doesn't have to do funny voices or act in anyway other than as if they were there saying what they are saying.

The reason for this is that first person roleplaying engages most people social sense and helps them be more certain of what they can do in a roleplaying situation.

Thus my definition of metagaming changed. Metagaming became for me acting as your character for reasons other than those as if you are there. Which seems to clarify the corner cases and exceptions for me.

Those damn rules
However there is an important corner case that comes up a lot, players gaming the rules to their character's advantage. I find this a non-issue provided one thing is true, that the rules being use reflect the reality of the setting. They don't have to overly detailed like GURPS vs. Microlite 20. But they do have to be accurate in regards how the setting.

That way it doesn' t matter what approach the players takes. Whether it is pretending you are there, visualizing my description, acting accordingly, and trusting me to use the rules to come up with a ruling. Or knowing the rules forward and backwards and using the mechanics to figure out the best option for the situation. Both players wind up in the same spot in the end if the rules reflects the reality of the setting.

Note the reality of the setting is the not the same as realism.

This was something hammered into me eading the Old School Primer and by my experience running LARP events. The use of live action made certain debates over what you can or can't do physically moot.

The Old School Primer goes into explaining rulings not rules. When coupled with my reading up on the early days of the hobby, I realized that the rulings being made are not arbitrary but rather based on the referee's understanding of history and sometimes sports.

This can be extended to cover the fantastic. The rules of SJ Games Toon are not realistic but they do reflect the reality of Looney Tunes cartoons. The record for a standing long jump is a little over 12 feet but on Barsoom with 1/3 gravity you can leap much further than this.

Tying this back to the metagaming and rules issue if the decision making process and procedures of the mechanic reflect the setting's reality then it not metagaming to think in terms of rules. In fact may make the campaign more fun for some hobbyists as it dovetails better with how they think of things.

Wrapping it up
For me the point of running a tabletop roleplaying campaign is to have fun presenting interesting places and people for the players to interact with. With the campaign being open ended this results in fun surprises happening every session as things unfold. Metagaming gets in the way of this as it introduces distractions from experiencing the campaign.

Some metagaming is necessary due to the limitation of how the campaign is setup. The most important of which is that there is only one referee and many players. But beyond a handful of items, it is a good thing to try to eliminate metagaming and focus on being within the setting as the character doing interesting things.

A unrelated side note
I posted a minor update to the Majestic Wilderlands Basic Rules. I omitted some spell descriptions referenced on the spell list namely Magic Missile, Mirror Image, and Monster Summoning I

3 comments:

Buzzclaw said...

I'm of the opinion that here's no such thing as metagaming in OSR, just player skill.

Dicebro said...

“Metagaming”. Also known as ... Gaming.

Scott Anderson said...

I would not even require someone to play in the first person so long as that player was making his figure behave in the first person.

My own OSR understanding is to push the game into a space where a board game meets a parlor game.

The part where the rules are “tight” you play like a board game. The part where the rules are “loose” you play like a parlor game.

In both cases fair play as defined by the several players is more important than defining corner cases etc.