Metagaming (role-playing games)

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Not to be confused with Metagaming Concepts.

In role-playing games, metagaming is an "out of character" action where a player's character makes use of knowledge that the player is aware of but that the character is not meant to be aware of. Metagaming while taking part in relatively competitive games, or those with a more serious tone, is typically not well received, because a character played by a metagamer does not act in a way that reflects the character's in-game experiences and back-story.

Historically, metagaming in RPGs referred to the traditional military use of metagaming where players applied out-of-game information to gain an unfair advantage in a game.


Examples of metagaming include:

  • Adjusting a character's actions based on foreknowledge of the long-term intentions of the gamemaster.
  • Gaining knowledge from Out-Of Character.
  • Using knowledge from a previously played or dead character.
  • Using certain types of attack or defense based on the strengths and weaknesses of an opponent that the player's character is unaware of.
  • Acting on any knowledge that the character is not aware of (such as creating gunpowder in a Dark Ages or Middle Ages setting).
  • Adjusting a character's behavior towards other player characters based on real-life relationships with other players.
  • Using knowledge of the game's mechanics to gain an advantage in the game by having the character do something incompatible with that character's personality.
  • Assuming that something that appears to be wrong or unlikely in the game world is a mistake of the gamemaster rather than something that could be investigated. (This does not apply to situations where the mistake appears in the gamemaster's depiction of the world rather than in the world itself, which can cause a player to become aware of something which their character is not aware of.)
  • Deciding on a character's course of action based on how the game's mechanics will affect the outcome.
  • Any action that is based upon the knowledge that one is playing a game.
  • Another form of metagaming occurs as a form of powergaming during character creation, when a player takes flaws or liabilities that they know the gamemaster is unlikely to fully exploit, thereby acquiring extra creation options without paying a corresponding penalty.
  • In split-screen games, using another player's viewpoint to gather information that one's own character doesn't have access to.
  • Assuming that if an item (often a chest, desk or book-case) is mentioned by the gamemaster during the initial description of an area, it must have some relevance to the storyline, and immediately searching or examining it. (while ignoring other furnishings or objects that are most likely there as well).

Traditionally, metagaming is generally frowned upon in role-playing communities, as it upsets the suspension of disbelief and affects game balance. However, some narrativist indie role-playing games deliberately support metagaming in "Director stance"[vague] and encourage shared storytelling among players.[1]

In addition, live action roleplaying games with a more cinematic style may use metagame references to specific books and films, either before the game or during play, to prompt the players as to the atmosphere the organisers are aiming to create.

More broadly, metagaming can refer to those aspects of play that exist outside the gameworld, such as out of character discussions between players and the gamemaster.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Edwards, Ron (2001). "Chapter Three: Stance". GNS and Other Matters of Role-Playing Theory. The Forge. Retrieved 2006-06-27. 


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