Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mentzer Basic Cover to Cover: Players are not characters!

The next section is a half page or so section titled "Players are not characters!"

Looking at the title, and considering the "Satanic Panic" and BADD and steam tunnels and what not, you'd think it would be yet another place where the game tries to allay the fears of any parents who might be looking over their children's books.  Got to keep your head straight about the game.  Right, Marcie?

What we actually get is a brief reminder that you are not your character, and that while you know all about the game mechanics and other stuff going on, you shouldn't use that player knowledge to metagame advantages for your PC.

Try to get into your character's head, and think like your character would, rather than making all your decisions based on game factors that your character might not know about.  You may even want to make a bad decision if you have a mentally weak character or are playing a Chaotic.  And the other players should remember to be cool with that as players, although it's perfectly fine for them to have their characters be upset with the stupid or untrustworthy character.

Dungeon Masters should also keep an eye on things, and remind players from time to time that their character wouldn't know certain things that the player does, to help keep them from taking advantage of metagame knowledge.

So, not what you'd think when you read the title.

Of course, I actually have some concerns about a game in which no metagaming takes place at all.  Part of the fun is meeting the challenges in the game and outwitting them through your own keen thinking as a player.  Or at least it is for me.  To an extent, metagaming is necessary for an RPG to be a game.


  1. "You may even want to make a bad decision if you have a mentally weak character or are playing a Chaotic."

    Great point, and one that starkly outlines something unique about roleplaying as a hobby: in what other game would you ever consider making a bad decision/move?!

  2. OK, let me qualify my statement above: yes, in games like chess, you often make moves that may seem "bad" to your opponent, for the purpose of deception, with such deception serving as a gambit to potentially gain an advantage over the foe.

    With making bad decisions in RPGs, it usually means you're doing it in order to add flavor the story you're telling with the other folks around the table, as well as the potential advantage of getting "roleplaying XP" from the DM. BUT this last is never truly guaranteed, especially the older the version of D&D you are playing: if the DM is adhering to the rules as written, you're only getting XP from treasure in some that roleplaying is all gravy!

  3. That point, actually, is why I never got into "narrative" story games. Whenever I tried to play them, I'd go ahead and allow bad things to happen to my character because it seemed to be in the interest of the narrative (following standard narrative structure such as the five act play or three act film).

    Other players were playing to "win." So I'd end up in a hole so big I couldn't dig my way out without some amazing luck with whatever mechanical system the game had, and the story would fall flat, while they were practically Mary Sues due to gaming the narrativist (supposedly non-gamist) system.

    But that's another story for another day.