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Diegesis in TTRPGs, (OR why I don’t oppose meta-gaming or table-talk – any more!)

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  • Diegesis in TTRPGs, (OR why I don’t oppose meta-gaming or table-talk – any more!)

    So, I wrote a thing about narrative and GMing RPGS - it's not strictly Exalted, but you folks have alway sbeen one of the more thoughtful gaming communities when it comes to feedback on ideas of this nature.

    As always, and feedback, criticisms, corrections or dissenting opinions are welcome.

    https://bragrman.com/2017/08/07/diegesis-in-ttrpgs/

  • CapitanTypo
    replied
    I made some extensive changes to the section on meta-gaming following some of the comment shere. Took out any attempt to be 'cheeky' and inserted reference to the Pink Flamingo Players.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read it and give feedback and challenge some of the ideas.

    Leave a comment:


  • Lundgren
    replied
    Different play-styles need different tools, and gives different problems to the table.The text assumes certain play-styles, so a lot of it isn't as much as someone coming with a pink flamingo to a hockey game; but the invite only said skating, and someone showed up prepared for figure skating or to play bandy.

    Yeah, I don't understand the "roleplaying as a gaming challenge", where you are supposed to use your RL knowledge to beat the mission, either. But it is a game-style many seems to like.

    However, there also is the division between people preferring "open secrets" versus "secret secrets". The former tend to be more into "creating a story", where the later are more about "discover things" or "character immersion". Still, even for the later group, there can even be more non-diegetic talk around the table, as there might be a greater need to get clarifications and checking assumptions. "How many successes would I need to manage the jump?" is a non-diegetic question, but it might be less intrusive than a long back and forth in "natural language", as it is something we might be able to estimate with a quick glance (even if the answer is "somewhere around two to four").

    When I play Utpost (Swedish Story-Now game), I know exactly what all of the main characters have for drive and strengths. It is meant for a player to use that knowledge to create interesting scenes and situations. This could be called meta-gaming, but it is well within the social contract of said game.

    When I roleplay in more traditional systems, I want to discover things, but I also want a lot of the "mundane" knowledge of the setting before even starting with creating a character (both mechanical wise and background). That is actually my main gripe with Exalted, as the books mix general setting information with secrets. If I met it for the first time as a player, I would not want to know about Sids, Abyssals, Infernals, and so on. I would want to discover that through play, and then maybe learn about them as playable for a later game.

    In a traditional game, it would really piss me off if another player uses information from my background to trigger "an interesting narrative". What is a necessary part of Utpost would be a deal-breaker for me in another game.

    Then, there is the situation where the character knows a lot more than the player. So there is a need for non-diegetic talk during a game to handle that.

    Leave a comment:


  • nalak42
    replied
    Originally posted by CapitanTypo View Post

    Absolutely, thank you. I'll definitely make some revisions in thst direction.

    Broader than the definition of what meta-gaming is or is not, however, what I shied away from saying directly is that problematic metagaming - a.k.a. cheating - only exists if you have a competitve (which I would argue is an 'incorrect') view of whay it means to play an RPG.

    Hence, in a perspective of RPGs that views them as a collaborative exercise, there can be no metagaming beyond the concept of non diagetic play.
    Okay think of it as the point wherein a players actions would start making the story crap, or they clearly trying to hog all the fun/spotlight. Like the guy in Anubis' story wasn't really playing for the sake of a story apparently he was playing to win, or if he was aiming for a story it was the tale of how his character was the best and smartest hero in the land.

    For a lot part of the point is solving challenges. Sometimes this is a simple matter of talking it out, sometimes figuring out a puzzle, maybe it involves a feat of engineering, and sometimes the challenge is resolved by grouping up and hitting it till it dies. The extreme form of metagaming at this junction is cheating at solitaire yes the problem is solved, but it is not how it's meant to be handled and it's not really that fun for others who might be hear or watch.*

    *Yes the example breaks down a bit there since you can play bloody old maid or something else if you have another person.

    Leave a comment:


  • CapitanTypo
    replied
    Originally posted by Elkovash View Post

    [/hopefully constructive criticism]
    Absolutely, thank you. I'll definitely make some revisions in thst direction.

    Broader than the definition of what meta-gaming is or is not, however, what I shied away from saying directly is that problematic metagaming - a.k.a. cheating - only exists if you have a competitve (which I would argue is an 'incorrect') view of whay it means to play an RPG.

    Hence, in a perspective of RPGs that views them as a collaborative exercise, there can be no metagaming beyond the concept of non diagetic play.

    Leave a comment:


  • AnubisXy
    replied
    Originally posted by CapitanTypo View Post
    As I've said elsewhere, I was being a bit cheeky with that phrase, and I will probably go back and edit it to something less provocative, but my broader issue is with the conflation of meta-gaming and cheating. What I'm trying to say is that "meta-gaming" is an essential part of the nondiagetic game experience. You can't not meta-game to some degree. What you're describing is outright cheating - placing a concept of 'winning' above all concepts of actually playing the game and then disrespecting the people you're playing with out of a misguided desire to win, rather than to play.
    There are different ways of cheating in a roleplaying game. You can lie about your dice rolls, you can change the stats on your character sheet when nobody is looking, you can move your miniature around on the map, or you can use your meta-game knowledge to cheat. Or you can bribe the game master with pizza and beer (that's my favorite but only when I'm the game master).

    So when it comes to meta-gaming you can think of it like a scale. There is "surface level" meta-gaming, where a player may make choices because they understand that they're playing in a game and that the Storyteller or GM isn't going to be throwing impossible-to-overcome challenges at them. They might have their character take an action that could seem silly, but they take it knowing that the GM won't just say, "You die," and instead use that action to move the game along. And that sort of meta-gaming isn't necessarily problematic and you probably won't see very many people complaining about that type of meta-gaming since it doesn't really hurt anyone's gaming experience and might even enhance it.

    But there are other ways in which people can meta-game that can be problematic and can cause serious issues at the gaming table when meta-gaming turns into outright cheating or otherwise ruins the fun that other people have. This is the kind of meta-gaming that causes problems and that you'll see people complaining about.

    So when people say something like, "I hate meta-gamers" they're probably not referring to the former type of meta-gamers who aren't really causing a problem or indeed may even make the game more interesting by choosing to take actions to further the game along. Rather, when people vocally note their distaste for meta-gaming they're talking about the people whose meta-gaming is so extreme it causes games to fall apart and ruins the fun for everyone.

    *EDIT* And yeah, I agree with Elkovash I think in your blog it would help if you were to more clearly define exactly what you feel that meta-gaming means, and when exactly you feel that meta-gaming ceases to be meta-gaming and turns into something else (like cheating). Keep in mind that many people consider someone who cheats using meta-game knowledge to still be meta-gaming. If you don't agree with that idea, then you'll need to make it clear, because when you're using one definition of a word, that is different from how many other people define the use of the word, that's going to cause some misunderstandings.
    Last edited by AnubisXy; 08-10-2017, 05:37 PM.

    Leave a comment:


  • Elkovash
    replied
    Originally posted by CapitanTypo View Post

    As I've said elsewhere, I was being a bit cheeky with that phrase, and I will probably go back and edit it to something less provocative, but my broader issue is with the conflation of meta-gaming and cheating. What I'm trying to say is that "meta-gaming" is an essential part of the nondiagetic game experience. You can't not meta-game to some degree. What you're describing is outright cheating - placing a concept of 'winning' above all concepts of actually playing the game and then disrespecting the people you're playing with out of a misguided desire to win, rather than to play.
    I think if you're going to give advice to hobbiests it's best not to be reductive or 'cheeky' with your language.

    Like, it's a no-brainer that the problem with elements of the game like meta-gaming and min-maxing isn't the activity themselves but the nature of the person doing it.

    But to actually help other players and story tellers you need to show how to identify the difference between disruptive play and non-disruptive play. Just laying out writ permission to meta-game and implying that it's never really a bad thing would likely cause confusion as to the message - as evidenced in this thread. The first reaction is to assume you mean that 'cheating' isn't really cheating. That doesn't appear to be your message, but I had to read your posts here to really understand that. If you want to redefine what 'meta-gaming' means to others, you need to be clearer of your intent from the outset.

    I don't think your blog post achieves this.

    [/hopefully constructive criticism]

    Leave a comment:


  • CapitanTypo
    replied
    Originally posted by Drake View Post
    For a long time I've had issues with meta-gaming - not with players at my table doing it, but rather with people using the term in a way that doesn't make any logical sense.

    I've come to the conclusion over the years that there are three main categories of thing going on that people generally lump together under the title "meta-gaming".

    The first, and most rare in my experience, is out-right cheating. This is what is going on when a player knows the adventure plan and is doing things which are genuinely impossible for their character to have thought/guessed to do. I.e. the scenario is that a haunting has overtaken a manor and no one can get out until it is exorcised, but which particular knick knack inside the knick knack-laden home the haunting is tied to is a mystery that is meant to be solved by finding various clues and solving the riddle they form... and yet a player has his character stroll right on into the room with the correct knick knack, pick up said knick knack, and then somehow know exactly what to do to destroy it and end the haunting. I feel this category of activity should be called out as cheating, not labelled as "meta-gaming" because otherwise people get confused and think of all meta-gaming as cheating, which as outrageous as it sounds to some is not actually the case.
    This is basically the broader point I wanted to make about meta-gaming.

    Leave a comment:


  • CapitanTypo
    replied
    Originally posted by AnubisXy View Post
    I tend to find that meta-gaming ruins the verisimilitude of the game, and can cause a lot of friction between players and STs.

    As an example, I'm part of a Pathfinder group at the moment. Last year we had a new guy join us. He was a terrible meta-gamer. I was running an Adventure Path which he was already familiar with (in fact, though I didn't realize it at the time, he had the module open on his laptop and was reading ahead as I was running the game so he'd "know what to do.&quot He'd been using his out of game knowledge throughout the session and it was really pissing off the other players in the group but nobody had said anything. So the players come across a rare monster (I forget which kind) he goes, "Alright everyone, this thing is weak to acid, so pull out any acid weapons weapons or spells you've got."

    I look at him and go, "How does your character know that?" and he just kind of looks at me blankly. "What?"

    So I say, "Go ahead and make a Knowledge: Arcana check to see if your character knows anything about this creature." He gives me a dirty look and rolls a natural 1. "Right, well anyway, my character pulls out an acid vial. Just a lucky guess," he smirked.

    So I changed it up on the fly and decided that the creature in question would be immune to Acid damage and instead take extra damage to Fire. When the guy found out that his acid vial wasn't doing anything, he went off on me and showed me his laptop with the creature's write up - "How can you change the way the creature works? See? It says right here the creature takes extra damage from Acid. This guy is cheating!" He pointed at me and then he turned to the rest of the group looking for vindication. But they just said, "No, you're the one who's cheating."

    He got up and walked out and never played with us again.

    This guy's meta-gaming actions were ruining the play experience of the rest of the players, who felt that what he was doing was cheating, and it made the experience less fun for them. If I was just running a solo game for one guy who was meta-gaming, and who explicitly wanted to play that kind of game, it would not be a problem. But in this case his actions were ruining the experience for the other players, and that was absolutely a problem.

    Personally, I tend to view meta-gaming as being similar to someone using a walkthrough while playing a video game. The walkthrough tells them everything they need to know, so when they get to Room X they know where the secret door is, they know the code for the lock (even though if they were playing normally they would not find that code for another hour), and they know that behind that secret door is a super-weapon that will let them one shot the boss in area 2. Of course, cheating like that in a single player game is no big deal, but cheating in a multiplayer game can be. And using a walkthrough in a game that other people are also playing can be a problem when the other people you're playing with explicitly don't want to use a walkthrough because they don't want to have the game "spoiled."

    So I have to disagree with your idea that, "meta-gaming does not exist."

    That said, there are levels of meta-gaming. For example, someone might (out of character) know that the Grand Duchess is actually a demon in disguise and might have their character be initially suspicious of her, which isn't an unreasonable level of meta-gaming. On the other hand having their character walk up to her out of the blue and throw holy water on her during their first meeting, because they read ahead and know she's a demon who is weak to holy water, is an unreasonable level of meta-gaming - it's using your meta-knowledge about the game to essentially cheat. And that's problematic.
    As I've said elsewhere, I was being a bit cheeky with that phrase, and I will probably go back and edit it to something less provocative, but my broader issue is with the conflation of meta-gaming and cheating. What I'm trying to say is that "meta-gaming" is an essential part of the nondiagetic game experience. You can't not meta-game to some degree. What you're describing is outright cheating - placing a concept of 'winning' above all concepts of actually playing the game and then disrespecting the people you're playing with out of a misguided desire to win, rather than to play.

    Leave a comment:


  • Drake
    replied
    For a long time I've had issues with meta-gaming - not with players at my table doing it, but rather with people using the term in a way that doesn't make any logical sense.

    I've come to the conclusion over the years that there are three main categories of thing going on that people generally lump together under the title "meta-gaming".

    The first, and most rare in my experience, is out-right cheating. This is what is going on when a player knows the adventure plan and is doing things which are genuinely impossible for their character to have thought/guessed to do. I.e. the scenario is that a haunting has overtaken a manor and no one can get out until it is exorcised, but which particular knick knack inside the knick knack-laden home the haunting is tied to is a mystery that is meant to be solved by finding various clues and solving the riddle they form... and yet a player has his character stroll right on into the room with the correct knick knack, pick up said knick knack, and then somehow know exactly what to do to destroy it and end the haunting. I feel this category of activity should be called out as cheating, not labelled as "meta-gaming" because otherwise people get confused and think of all meta-gaming as cheating, which as outrageous as it sounds to some is not actually the case.

    The second is thinking of the game as a game when making decisions. This is what is going on when a player assumes, correctly or not, "the GM wouldn't put something in front of us that we can't handle, so we can totally win this fight if we try" or "This door is locked and we don't have anyone that can pick locks - I bet there is a key somewhere nearby!" It's not cheating to do this, but it also isn't as helpful as it might seem. It's the only thing that I actually use the term "meta-gaming" for, and I only discourage my players from doing it because I don't want them getting bit in the ass by it - I like to, for example, put a full-grown dragon in the cave that the locals say "Stay away from that old cave, there's a mean bastard of a dragon that lives in there." so assuming that dragon is one small enough for the party to go kill is likely to lead to one's own unhappiness.

    The final activity that gets called "meta-gaming", and the one that I've seen happen most often (especially when I've tried discussing this topic on D&D-focused forums in the past), is when a player is just playing their character - not doing anything that a brand-new, completely inexperienced player with zero knowledge of the game could not do - and ends up triggering someone else at the table's (faulty) meta-gaming sensor.

    For example, this one time I was playing a fighter in an AD&D game. The party was camped, and my character was tending to the fire getting ready to cook dinner. At that point, a hulking monstrosity of some unknown sort leapt from the bushes to attack - and my fighter reacted by shouting along the lines of "Holy shit!" and swinging the bit of wood he was tending the fire with as an improvised flaming club. I was then stopped by the DM and told that I could not do that because I was meta-gaming. Specifically, I was using my out-of-character knowledge that the monster is a troll and that trolls are basically unkillable unless you use fire (or acid) to make my decision, and my character didn't know that stuff so he couldn't make that attack. And yes, I know what a troll is and about their vulnerability to fire, I'm primarily a DM so I know a lot of stuff... but that's entirely irrelevant because a complete newbie with no idea about either detail could have their character do what I was having mine do. I was being stopped not because I had actually based my character's actions on info that the character didn't have and I did, but because the DM was hyper-vigilant against this sort of "meta-gaming." I call this "thought policing" because it's more that the DM is trying to make sure their players are thinking the right thoughts, than that they are trying to make sure the characters are behaving in believable and reasonable manner.

    And this third category is the use of the phrase "meta-gaming" that makes no logical sense. The goal of preventing this sort of "meta-gaming" is supposedly to stop player knowledge from influencing character actions - but literally the only acceptable way to play is for the player to have their character's actions directly influenced by their player knowledge, but be bad choices like taking the time to find a sword in the above example instead of attacking with the dangerous object already in hand. So "meta-gaming" is being forced to happen as a result of the DM insisting that they don't allow any of this "meta-gaming."

    Leave a comment:


  • AnubisXy
    replied
    I tend to find that meta-gaming ruins the verisimilitude of the game, and can cause a lot of friction between players and STs.

    As an example, I'm part of a Pathfinder group at the moment. Last year we had a new guy join us. He was a terrible meta-gamer. I was running an Adventure Path which he was already familiar with (in fact, though I didn't realize it at the time, he had the module open on his laptop and was reading ahead as I was running the game so he'd "know what to do.") He'd been using his out of game knowledge throughout the session and it was really pissing off the other players in the group but nobody had said anything. So the players come across a rare monster (I forget which kind) he goes, "Alright everyone, this thing is weak to acid, so pull out any acid weapons weapons or spells you've got."

    I look at him and go, "How does your character know that?" and he just kind of looks at me blankly. "What?"

    So I say, "Go ahead and make a Knowledge: Arcana check to see if your character knows anything about this creature." He gives me a dirty look and rolls a natural 1. "Right, well anyway, my character pulls out an acid vial. Just a lucky guess," he smirked.

    So I changed it up on the fly and decided that the creature in question would be immune to Acid damage and instead take extra damage to Fire. When the guy found out that his acid vial wasn't doing anything, he went off on me and showed me his laptop with the creature's write up - "How can you change the way the creature works? See? It says right here the creature takes extra damage from Acid. This guy is cheating!" He pointed at me and then he turned to the rest of the group looking for vindication. But they just said, "No, you're the one who's cheating."

    He got up and walked out and never played with us again.

    This guy's meta-gaming actions were ruining the play experience of the rest of the players, who felt that what he was doing was cheating, and it made the experience less fun for them. If I was just running a solo game for one guy who was meta-gaming, and who explicitly wanted to play that kind of game, it would not be a problem. But in this case his actions were ruining the experience for the other players, and that was absolutely a problem.

    Personally, I tend to view meta-gaming as being similar to someone using a walkthrough while playing a video game. The walkthrough tells them everything they need to know, so when they get to Room X they know where the secret door is, they know the code for the lock (even though if they were playing normally they would not find that code for another hour), and they know that behind that secret door is a super-weapon that will let them one shot the boss in area 2. Of course, cheating like that in a single player game is no big deal, but cheating in a multiplayer game can be. And using a walkthrough in a game that other people are also playing can be a problem when the other people you're playing with explicitly don't want to use a walkthrough because they don't want to have the game "spoiled."

    So I have to disagree with your idea that, "meta-gaming does not exist."

    That said, there are levels of meta-gaming. For example, someone might (out of character) know that the Grand Duchess is actually a demon in disguise and might have their character be initially suspicious of her, which isn't an unreasonable level of meta-gaming. On the other hand having their character walk up to her out of the blue and throw holy water on her during their first meeting, because they read ahead and know she's a demon who is weak to holy water, is an unreasonable level of meta-gaming - it's using your meta-knowledge about the game to essentially cheat. And that's problematic.

    Leave a comment:


  • LadyLens
    replied
    In a Changeling game I was in, I, as a player, knew there was a Nosferatu in the area, and that he was using Obfuscate to hide from my character. I also knew he had Banality 8, which is nauseating for a changeling to be near, and I was playing a sluagh, who can see through any illusion, reflexively if I recall correctly. So I used a lot of OOC information to have my character look for the invisible vampire that she didn't know was there, yet it was a perfectly sound IC action. Sometimes using OOC knowledge isn't just acceptable, it's essential.

    Leave a comment:


  • Elfive
    replied
    If I were faced with players trying to assassinate Manosque Cyan for being an infernal, I'd just have her turn out not to be an infernal.

    "You just murdered an innocent woman for no reason. What do?"

    Leave a comment:


  • Lang_Dao_Ming
    replied
    Originally posted by CapitanTypo View Post

    One thing I do have a problem with, however, is the use of a term like metagsming in such a way that it effectively normalises and makes space for the 'pink flamingo players' (I want that term in common use by Christmas...) By simply saying "stop metagaming" to the player who starts the curse of strahd module by eliminating a few key npcs and walking straight over to the hiding place of the useful artifacts you're creating a place for the behaviour, when in fact the correct response might actually be to say 'no'. Harsh as it sounds, in a social activity, social exclusion may be the only response to those who refuse to play... socially?

    To some extent, I think this does happen. People do just say no, or stop inviting them to games. From my experience Pink Flamingo Players or PFP's (yup, I am totally going to use it), tend to be group hoppers, or they find a group with other PFP's and a GM who likes the challenge of making the hardest possible game for PFP's to 'win'... Which I guess means they are not playing the same game as you or I.

    Maybe there should be a PFP intervention... and a recovery group.

    Leave a comment:


  • CapitanTypo
    replied
    Originally posted by Lang_Dao_Ming View Post



    Cheeky? Noooo... lol. I get why you said it, and I agree to some extent with your point. To my reasoning the term 'meta-gaming' was made for just those instances of players using a flamingo... I really like that analogy btw... and some people have taken the term and used it on all manner of things related to it, while maybe not actually using it in the precise context and way it was originally intended. but that's just the evolution of language. Words get generalised, misinterpreted, turned upside down, re-imagined. There are plenty of words in any language that many people use in a completely different manner to what they were originally intended. But can you claim that they don't exist? :P
    Well... you can when using shitty click bait strategies to try and generate interaction/traffic ;-)

    But I take your point. I might revise and tone down the rhetoric somewhat.

    One thing I do have a problem with, however, is the use of a term like metagsming in such a way that it effectively normalises and makes space for the 'pink flamingo players' (I want that term in common use by Christmas...) By simply saying "stop metagaming" to the player who starts the curse of strahd module by eliminating a few key npcs and walking straight over to the hiding place of the useful artifacts you're creating a place for the behaviour, when in fact the correct response might actually be to say 'no'. Harsh as it sounds, in a social activity, social exclusion may be the only response to those who refuse to play... socially?

    Leave a comment:

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