Metagaming is using OOC knowledge in roleplay thoughts, actions, or behavior. Metagaming is a frequent issue in forum roleplaying games. It often occurs with new players who do not know to keep player knowledge out of IC interactions. However, seasoned players do sometimes intentionally use OOC information to give their character an advantage. When intentional, metagaming is definitely bad roleplay.
- Metagaming (verb)
- The use of out of character knowledge in character.
- Metagamer (noun)
- One who has metagamed or metagames.
Metagaming is a form of bad roleplay that can be quite difficult to police. This is especially true if the metagamer is smart and stubborn. They can argue about how a character obtained information, how sensible it is for them to act one way or the other, and so forth — and sometimes, they’re quite right! Metagaming is rarely so cut-and-dry as the examples provided herein. See Wikipedia’s metagaming article for a wider array of examples.
Types of Metagaming
The OOC knowledge in Forum Metagaming is obtained by reading forum names, profiles, announcements, and other information.
Examples of Forum Metagaming
WRONG: Azazel is brand new to the city. In an RPG post, Azazel identifies Baphomet as a member of the local vampire clan. Azazel also verbally states the clan’s name.
WHY: There is no way Azazel can know the vampire clan’s name or that Baphomet is a member.
WRONG: The RPG admins announce an upcoming plot to flood part of the valley. The River Wolves live in this part of the valley, and have done so for hundreds of years. Territory and culture are important to the pack. The leader abruptly removes the pack from this vicinity, offering a weak IC reason of “explorative leadership.”
WHY: The leader has used their OOC knowledge of the upcoming plot to move their pack out of danger.
Avoiding Forum Metagaming
- What you read on the forum is not what your character knows. Forum markers such as group membership, area names, and other information that pertains to the IC world exists for organizational purposes only. Your newcomer character will still need to learn his or her way around.
The OOC knowledge in Roleplayer Metagaming is information the roleplayer has, but the character does not have. This is very similar to skill-based godmodding, but specificially deals with information that could not exist in the RPG’s setting.
Examples of Roleplayer Metagaming
WRONG: Alice knows electricity. Her Ancient Greek character corrects another character, using an advanced electricity theory.
WHY: Alice’s character has no way of knowing electricity. It hasn’t been invented yet and is nonsensical in the time setting.
Avoiding Roleplayer Metagaming
- Remember what your character knows is separate from your knowledge.
- Pay close attention to your game’s setting to determine the appropriate knowledge level.
This is a more active form of metagaming. The OOC knowledge in this case is not merely written into roleplay passively, but impacts decisions the character makes. The essential element is that the character makes a decision they would not normally make due to the roleplayer’s information.
Examples of Decision Metagaming
WRONG: Azazel and Baphomet get into a fight. Baphomet’s player, Alice, reads in Azazel’s forum profile that Azazel is a very brute-force fighter. Prior to this, Baphomet’s style was similar. For this fight, however, Alice immediately roleplays Baphomet as a highly defensive fighter.
WHY: This is metagaming because the change in Azazel’s fighting style takes without apparent IC reason. If Baphomet and Azazel were already fighting and Azazel’s tactic changed, or if Azazel and Baphomet fought before — Alice may not be metagaming.
Avoiding Decision Metagaming
- Re-read your own character profile and adhere to its information.
Post Metagaming would literally require mind reading. This is the most obvious type of metagaming and is severe bad roleplay; there is no reasonable explanation for this in most roleplaying games (excepting RPGs where mind-reading is allowed).
Examples of Post Metagaming
Azazel: Azazel really disliked Baphomet already. But — the wolf was alpha, and Azazel was required to show respect. The pale wolf could only smile and nod his head as the darker canine prattled about how awesome he was. There was nothing in Azazel demeanor to suggest he wanted to go home and sleep. For his duty of appearing a respectful subject, he played the part excellently.
Baphomet: “Well, jeez, what crawled up your ass? You know what, just get the hell out of my pack,” Baphomet growled. He stamped his foot petulantly at the other wolf. Baphomet could have handled being told to just shut up. He knew he tended to go on and on about how awesome the pack was, but he didn’t like Azazel’s attitude. As far as he was concerned, newcomers who were that full of themselves could die as loners.
WHY: Baphomet has no way of knowing Azazel’s feelings. Baphomet’s player is using their knowledge, gained by reading Azazel’s post, to influence Baphomet’s actions.
Avoiding Post Metagaming
- Pay careful attention to instances where the character’s stated appearance differs from their inner feelings. These may be instances where the thought is vastly different from the presentation.