Saturday, April 14, 2012

Be A Better Player 11 - You don't know that

GM - “The guard falls to the floor in a dead heap his blood quickly pooling underneath him.”

Player 1 - “Okay now I spin around and shoot Tim in the chest, finishing off the clip, every shot.”

Player 2 - “What...? Why are you shooting me?”

GM - “You're what?”

Player 1 - “He's a spy for the other side, probably leading us all into a trap. I don't deal nicely with people who backstab us.”

Player 3 - “He's what? How do you know this?”

Player 2 - “He doesn't know that.”

GM - “You don't know any of that, your character has no knowledge of what his character has going on on the side.”

Player 1 - “No, I do know that. I heard you two talking before the game when I was getting a soda. So I do know it and you can't deny that it's true.”

GM - “No YOU know it, your character does not.”

Player 1 -”Huh?”

Out of character knowledge, also known in some groups as metagaming, it the topic this time. For those very few of you who may not know this is when you use information in game through your character that they do not know. This could be something as blatantly obvious as the description above or more subtle in the way your character treats or shares information with others. Either way it's still a pretty shitty thing to do and simply shows that you put your having fun above everybody else having fun.

Many times during gaming sessions, especially during long term campaigns, there are other small plot lines and events going on that not all characters are privy to. These can range from small mundane little things that are only of interest to that particular character, or things that will eventually lead to bigger things occurring in game. Used effectively this is a tool of multiple uses that a GM can wield to make things better for everyone. It allows them to take care of things that are only of interest to a single person without having to spending time using up group time at the table. Or they can build up plots to bring in using the characters that are 'in the know' as a way to introduce them.

By using this knowledge you have picked up you risk ruining other peoples fun as they are taking care of smaller things off to the side. Or by messing up things that the GM hopes to bring into the game in a logical fashion using other characters interests rather than just the blatant railroad into it. A lot of the urge to do this probably stems from the idea that somebody is getting off better than the rest or that they are trying to screw everybody else over. When you do this you have failed, at some point, to realize that role-playing is a game but not one of competition between the players, there isn't a single winner or loser.

If you over hear or discover some information out of game that worries you discuss it with the GM. Maybe they can let you in a little bit or let you know if it's something that will have an effect or not. Any GM worth his salt wouldn't let one player screw over all the rest in this manner because it displays the risk of only one person at that table of having fun.

Speaking as a player it really gets under my damn skin when somebody wants to get up in all of the things I have going on. Mainly because when they do they love to go around and tell everybody and then it pretty much ruins everything. Sometimes it's nice to have a few secrets going on, or to pull a bit of data or an item that you picked up they weren't aware of. Or when the captain of the guard greets on a first name basis, things like this. As long as you're not out to screw everybody else over then everything should be fine.

So in the end the way to deal with this is as simple as following the Wheaton Rule of “Don't be a dick”. If your character doesn't know it then that information isn't for them to use. Sometimes it's just funner to know what is going on and just watching to see where the pieces drop in the end.


  1. Solid and on the mark- I haven't had that as a problem in the game for some time. On the other hand, because we've got a group that's pretty good about those things, sometimes I spill more at the table as a GM than I should. A couple of weeks ago in the middle of a fight, one of the players had something significant occur that only they could see. On a later turn, another player acted in response to that. I had to stop and say that they weren't aware of what had happened. In this case, it was actually my fault because I hadn't been clear. So I had to shut down that player's action. I did so and moved on, but I realized later I should have offered some kind of concession, bonus or option given that he'd been acting in good faith and I'd been unclear.

  2. That type of BS playing always pisses me off. I have had one player look at notes when i was out of the room and then get pissed when i threw him out of the game.

  3. Good article, good advice.

    A related topic: Player A getting angry with Player B over something Player B's character did in game. I didn't usually get it myself from the actions of an NPC villain, but I have had people get real-life really angry at a friend, because of something in a game.
    I get it, especially when it's something you're emotionally invested in. But it is still a game. I don't like losing at cards, or any other game, but I try not to get emotional about it.

    1. There are things I get upset about when they happen in the game.
      Like when the party rogue steals loot from the party.
      My character may not know that he did it but it's a dick move and so I get angry.

  4. Every game has its limits so there can be justifiable anger when one of those gamer contracts gets broken. The important thing is to sit down and have a chat above it and figure out where the boundaries lie. If its against the rules to PvP because the rest of the group just want to play a teamwork game, then getting angry at a PvPer is justifiable because they're damaging the game.

    As for the metagaming thing, its amazing how new players sometimes settle down once its been explained to them. Its like how some people think you tap at the computer monitor rather than moving the pointer with the mouse. Its hard to imagine there's some people who don't know that, but there certainly are.

  5. I actually have no constructive criticism for this one. Metas >~< I love having knowledge about what's going on or what's going to happen, and act stupid or surprised when it happens. Most games I just sit back and watch until my character has something worth bringing to the table until then I sit back and stay extremely quit for our groups are never the same and ruining someone else's surprise or game because I went straight for something I knew was there is straight crap. I'm very glad you posted this topic. Thank you.