First of all, what is metagaming?
To put it simply, metagaming is when a player uses real world knowledge that their character wouldn’t know and uses it within a game.
Now, is metagaming bad?
I truly think it depends on your party, but if you’re having a lot of issues surprising your party with new and interesting creatures because your more advanced players know their stat blocks and use that information whether or not their character would know, or maybe you’re having a hard time separating your players strategizing in game vs out of game, then it may be a good idea to have a discussion with your players and address this issue.
Here are a few tips to gain control over metagaming at your table:
- Change up the stat block!
If you have more advanced players or even players that are also Game Masters, it can be difficult to keep things fresh when it comes to what your players are fighting. Similarly, it’s hard for Game Masters to separate the knowledge they hold about creatures while being a player because, if you’re anything like me, you nerd out over this kind of stuff and it’s exciting when you know something. A thing that I do at my table to combat this is altering the stat block. I normally add some fun reactions, different health and AC. I also like to give reason to the changes just in case you have a player who questions the changes. For example, maybe you have a Froghemoth that is normally found in a murky swam, show up in an icy lake. I’d change things like his appearance with a more blue hue, I’d have his tentacle attacks deal cold damage and probably a fun reaction where if it takes more than X damage in one hit it can make one tentacle attack. It deals cold because we’re in an icy environment. See? Easy-peezy.
- Ask for an ability check
If you know your players are going to know the creature they’re going up against but their characters have technically never seen it you can ask for an ability check before the fight to see what they know about the creature. I tend to ask for an intelligence check but if they’re spell casters I’ll ask for their relevant ability i.e. charisma for bards, wisdom for clerics and so on. You can set DCs for how much information to give like 10-14 they know the AC range as well HP and 15-20 they know their primary attack or maybe a weakness.
- Make it clear where everyone is
When you split the party both in and out of combat you’re going to have information split as well. If you have trouble with your players using out of game knowledge of how the other players are doing and then acting on that (you know, metagaming) then simply say “You’re not in the same room as them. You have no idea what’s going on with them.” To give an example, during a combat you have your party in a maze. They split up and one of the party members goes down. The other half of the party has no idea that one of their members is down unless they role play yelling for help which may alert more enemies. Before anyone has a chance to act I would say that half of the party has no idea that one of the members is down. How do you act? This keeps the suspense, adds realism to your story and control over metagaming at your table.
I hope these tips find you well and stay tuned for our podcast which is releasing March 9, 2021 where we talk in length about dealing with experienced players and what we do to keep things exciting!
What are YOUR anti-metagaming tips? Tell us in the comments!