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We have a lot of questions on how to prevent metagaming on this tag. But usually the metagaming is something like

Using player's knowledge to optimize your character's actions.

Now, I've experiencing something that is kinda the opposite of the usual - instead of metagaming to make an optimal choice, the player is trying to avoid metagaming and ends up making a choice way too suboptimal - something that even a player without knowledge about that wouldn't probably make.

Some examples of situations I'm talking about:

  • An NPC lies to the character, which rolls an incredible 1 on Insight. He then role-plays believing this NPC. Then a strong evidence that the NPC was lying shows up, and the player role-plays still believing the NPC, because he thinks that the evidence is only strong because he knows he rolled a 1 (when the evidence is actually strong enough).
  • A player has already played an adventure or module before. He knows this hallway has a trap. He doesn't even check for traps, because he thinks he only wants to check due to his knowledge that there is a trap, even though the hallway is suspicious and the character would probably at least check it.
  • The player knows a monster has a specific elemental weakness. He then proceeds to not ever use a spell with that type of damage because he thinks he only would use it because he knows the weakness.
  • The player knows a monster has a specific elemental immunity or resistance. He then proceeds to use a Fireball in the Fire Elemental. You got the idea.

So, basically, the question is: How do I prevent my players from not using their character's knowledge because they think it is only their player's knowledge?

Note: Generally, I feel that the player's knowledge will always inflict some bias on their decisions, but I want ways to reduce this impact.


This might open a more general question: What does my character know? This is a footnote because it is not the main question here, but I feel that answering this easily answers the main question.

As implied, metagaming in order to optimize and have advantages on the campaign are seen as a bad thing on our table

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Apr 24 '18 at 20:28

17 Answers 17

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Make their knowledge uncertain

Tell them: "This my game and my world. I might change some things that you might have read in the books or the module."

Now the player cannot ever be sure that their background knowledge is accurate. It might be and there is a high chance it is, but not 100%. Almost like they just heard a few (possibly tall) tales or myths about the monsters and dungeons. Which is a completely reasonable assumption about a character. Their player knowledge just became character knowledge.

Also note that I did not say to change anything, just to say so. Actually changing anything is not required for this to work, but you might want to at least throw some minor changes in just so they or you can point at them and say "Aha! A difference!".

About the insight roll example

This is not really a metagaming issue, but a problem with communication. You and the player do not have the same understanding of what a nat1 means and/or how certain the evidence gained later is. Do not be afraid to clearly state what you mean. Descriptive and immersive narration has its limits and sometimes you have take a step back to avoid misunderstandings. However, even if you do that, there might be issues. You cannot completely stop a player from just running with a misunderstood idea. Agency over their character gives them the power and right to do that. If they choose not to listen to your descriptions, you can only try to compensate. I would recommend making the same evidence available to other PC-s so they can confront the character in the game.

If the issue persists or reappears, then it is not an in-game problem, but an out-of-game one. As such it should be solved as one, by talking to the player about it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While this solves my problem (actually, solves most metagaming problems) and I've accepted the answer, just as a bonus, how would you deal with, for example, D&D AL plays, where you can't actually change things from the books? That would be an incredible plus on your answer :) \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Apr 29 '18 at 5:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint even in AL, the DM can change how the story unfolds, even changing the encounter (although thematically should be the same). \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Aug 15 '18 at 11:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Vylix Yeap, I meant it for, e.g., changing monster resistances. One thing I'm fairly certain we can't do in AL is to change monster stats \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Aug 15 '18 at 11:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint was going to ping you in the chat but you haven't joined it ;) so I'll leave it here: You can also adjust the adventure on the fly, beyond the guidelines given in the adventure, or make other changes as you see fit in order to insure your players have a good time. If changing orc to bugbear prevents metagaming and cause everyone to have good time, why not? \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Aug 15 '18 at 12:00
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What is the ultimate goal of a TTRPG?

The point of a TTRPG is to have fun. As you have experienced, both metagaming and avoiding metagaming can be un-fun if taken too far.

The essential problem is that it's very difficult to pretend like you don't know something. The classic real-world example is if someone knows that their significant other is cheating on them, but is trying to act like nothing happened. This problem will lead people to over-correct and behave artificially, because they have to constantly ask themselves, "How would I act if I didn't know this?". This question takes up a lot of mental bandwidth, and causes people to do weird things.

The thing is, only some metagaming is bad. One could say that metagaming to keep the group from splitting up is good, for instance, because it keeps the game going even though "my guy" would have left long ago. Given that your players have already agreed that they will try to avoid the bad parts of metagaming, you can make it a little easier on them, by giving them knowledge checks to fill in their knowledge about monsters, for example.

I realize this is kind of like saying "just lighten up!" to your players, which is hard to do, but it really does require some acceptance on the part of your players.

Addressing specific points

The points that you describe in your question seem to have two basic foundations, which I'll address separately.

I would argue that the first one is not a metagaming problem, but simply a roleplaying problem. The natural 1 on the insight check might have meant that the PC believes the NPC at the moment, but it doesn't preclude the character from re-evaluating their beliefs when new evidence shows up. You could have the PC roll a new intelligence check or something to have them realize that the new evidence means the NPC was lying, for instance.

On a related note, such issues are why I rarely let the dice control what PCs think and feel. As an extreme example, if the PCs embark on an entire quest based on information the players know is false, they will get locked into a sort of cognitive dissonance, knowing that they're adventuring on false pretenses. In cases like these, I let the players themselves make the final determination, instead of allowing the dice to force certain beliefs on their characters.

The remaining three cases are problems where the players have information that the PCs do not. The best way to deal with that issue is to make the players actually uncertain: maybe on this playthrough of the quest, the traps are in different places; maybe this particular troll is resistant to fire and weak to ice.

By mixing it up, you turn feigned ignorance into real ignorance. You might know that your new monster has the same stats as a bugbear, but the players just see a strange plant creature. Your players might "recognize" a jewel-encrusted skull as actually being Acerak the demilich, but it's really just a different sort of magic item. As @Szega notes, you don't have to change everything--just enough so that your players are unsure if their metagame knowledge will apply.

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To address individual points.

Failing a roll does not mean the opposite (point 1)

If the player fails a WIS\Insight vs Deception, then you should treat it as "The character doesn't know if the NPC is lying or not," instead of "The character believes the NPC is telling the truth."

This removes a possible source of metagaming as well as increasing the agency of the player (the dice roll does not determine what their character believes - the player does that).

Assume that PCs talk and share knowledge (points 3 and 4)

If the player knows that hitting jellies with slashing weapons splits them, then it is simplest to just rule that the character knows as well.

If trolls are vulnerable to fire then adventurers will discover this and spread the information to other adventurers whenever they can.

Perhaps the PC above was drinking at an inn once while another adventurer told a story about jellies and swords.

If a player in my games ever asks, "Does my character know that trolls are vulnerable to fire?" then my answer is, "It's your character, you tell me."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ As I mentioned in another comment, the main point of the question is to solve the problem once it is created, not exactly "don't create it" - e.g., rolling on secrecy solves the 1st problem by not creating it as well as your answer (and on a side note, this is indeed how I usually rule it - "you can't see any sign of the NPC to be lying"). I am more worried about the players' mindset that leads to the problem once the scenario is created. That's why there were several examples and the question is slightly more broad, but still specific. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Apr 23 '18 at 21:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ By the way, as the question is framed, your answer is completely valid and probably solves the problem, I even upvoted it. I won't edit the question with this extra detail because I want it to be more useful than just for me. Still, I wanted to clarify why the first point from your answer isn't exactly what I am looking for. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Apr 23 '18 at 21:41
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Make them tell you when they are doing it

Just tell the players 'when you decide to have your character do something stupid in order to avoid using out-of-character knowledge, tell me so we can avoid having onlookers think they are incredibly stupid when you didn't intend to portray them that way'. Then, when a player does tell you that they think they should use a fireball because they don't know in-character that fire elementals are immune to fire, you can tell them 'I don't think your character is that dumb; you should be able to guess that the fire elemental is probably immune or resistant to fire and vulnerable to the opposite of that'. This makes sure that the party's optimization towards failure doesn't succeed too well. It doesn't take very much table time and it works well, in my experience.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Would you consider this different from the player asking "Would my character know this?" Telling a player not to do something in-game has a bad vibe to it. Even if they do not want to do it. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Apr 23 '18 at 21:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega What part is being replaced by the player asking? If you mean the action that the player takes when they decide they should do something poorly to avoid using out-of-character knowledge, that's fine. If you mean just having them ask whenever they are unsure if their character knows something, that doesn't work. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Apr 23 '18 at 21:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ I meant replacing the IRL action you proposed. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Apr 23 '18 at 21:41
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So, to ultra-condense, there are some things which are good at determining what a character can know, in order of implementation:

  • Backstory
  • Class
  • Race
  • Stats
  • Knowledge Checks

This is a really good question, and the answer is complicated

There are some things that we would be expected to know outright. For example, even a first-level Rogue would know to check for traps, as they would have never made it to "Rogue" status had they never learned this (they would be an inmate or dead).

Another thing one might reasonably assume is that an Ice creature would be vulnerable to Fire, or that the Fire Elemental would not be harmed by Fireball.

Something else that we would be expected to know is that Vampires are vulnerable to sunlight, because legends abound on how Vampires get hurt by sunlight. However, something to note would be that the extent of the Vulnerability might not be known, and this could be where an Arcana check comes in. Someone unexperienced or uneducated might expect a Vampire to just instantly turn to dust when exposed to sunlight, and might be disproven sharply. However, someone who has experience with this or someone who makes a successful Knowledge check would know that Vampires might not die outright in sunlight, but do get severely hurt and can't use their Vampire abilities, depending on the system.

So, how to resolve this

A Knowledge Check can be a great tool for deciding what a character knows if there is a chance that they don't know it, or don't know the extent of it, and these should absolutely be used if there is any doubt as to what a character can know that is not solved by backstory, class, race, or stats.

Instead of just deciding what is playing to what one knows, try to invoke Stats in addition to "knowledge." While some systems, like D&D 5e doesn't have anything to my knowledge that hard-and-fast clarifies how stats translate into character traits, a general system can be decided between the players as to how stats translate to attributes.

For example, RIFTS has a system established in Ultimate Edition where certain stat values are explained to have correlations (RUE 281):

The range of abilities:

Attribute numbers that exceed 30 indicate superhuman ability and bonuses. Even humans who undergo Juicer augmentation, M.O.M. (Crazies) enhancement, bionics or other extraordinary means of human augmentation seldom see their attributes exceed 30.

Attribute numbers that range from 17-30 indicate exceptional ability. This range of power and prowess is achievable by ordinary humans through physical training and/or the luck of the draw in the genetic lottery. Juicers, Crazies, Cyber-Knights and other humans and D-Bees who undergo some form of human augmentation often possess physical attributes in this range. Exceptional attributes always provide bonuses for the character.

Attributes numbers that range from 14-16 are well above average but don't, as a rule, enjoy special bonuses, unless 16. A Note About #16: If the initial attribute roll on 3D6 adds up to 1 6, the player gets to roll an extra I D6 and add it to the total, as noted above. However, the character may start with a lower number and through skills or other bonuses build a physical attribute up to the number "16." Getting to 16 by this fashion does NOT get the extra I D6 die roll, but a 16 does provide a small bonus.

Average attributes range from 10-13. There is nothing wrong with average and the character is strong and capable.

Attributes in the 7-9 range are unimpressive, and a bit below average. The character functions adequately, and is a productive member of society, especially if only one or two attributes are low.

Attributes that are six and under tumble into the category of feeble, puny and disadvantaged.

Human characters are created by rolling three six-sided dice (3D6) to determine attributes, so unless there has been physical damage from injury, torture, disease, magic, psionic attack or other extraordinary means, the lowest attribute number possible is three. 3-6 are pretty lame.

Players who roll several below average attribute numbers may want to scratch those attributes and re-roll them, or scrap the character entirelyand try again.

Of course, the stats we're interested in is Intelligence. A Character with a high intelligence should be able to figure-out things that someone who did not have a good intelligence stat would not be able to figure-out.

Another thing would be to invoke Class or Background. To be frank, a RIFTS Dead Boy OCC should be able to recongize a SAMAS Power Suit, seeing as they were both developed by and are used by the same nation's army, and an Only War Psyker or Commissar should be able to tell when another Psyker is losing control to the Warp.

Doing all of these sets-up for very strong RP and can lead to a great and involved game.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Apr 23 '18 at 22:24
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Ask them "are you sure"

I don't know what the environment is like at your table, but at least at mine, there's plenty of out of character interaction between everyone all the time, GM included. If your game is similar, a simple question like this one wouldn't be at all disruptive.

All you have to do when your player says they're casting a fireball on the fire elemental, is ask the simple question "are you sure?". In response, the player might say "yes, I'm sure" or they might choose to explain why they selected this particular action. If that explanation is something along the lines of "I'm trying to avoid metagaming" or "I don't think my character would know any better", it's quite easy to respond with a short explanation that you, as the GM, think most reasonable adventurers would probably be aware that you shouldn't cast fire spells on fire elementals.

In the case of the player not doing something that would be normal for them to do, as in your trapped dungeon corridor, you could easily prompt them to consider taking the action by asking "are you sure you don't want to X" (check for traps first) when they don't initiate the expected action at the normal time for doing it, such as when they say that their character will walk down the corridor (and don't mention checking for traps first).

If, after this exchange, the player decides to continue with the sub-optimal action anyway, you've at least made them aware of the fact that they're potentially limiting their character more than necessary and can assume that they've made the choice that they believe will give them the most enjoyment of the game. Doing this only takes a few seconds of time, and can also function as a reminder to other players that avoiding metagaming shouldn't have to require them to completely sabotage their characters' decision making process.

Obviously, this method wouldn't be appropriate for a game where out of character interactions are discouraged for immersion purposes or the relationship between players and GM is more adversarial, but in most other types of games, it's perfectly reasonable for the GM to take a few seconds of game time for a quick reality check when they see something happening at their table that is causing the game to be less fun for everyone.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi DavidT, and welcome to RPG Stack Exchange. Check out our tour to see how we work here. Thanks for sharing your experience in this answer, since grounding answers in direct experience is extremely helpful (and sometimes required). Whenever you reach 20 rep you're also welcome to join us in Role-playing Games Chat. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 24 '18 at 13:38
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How I deal with metagaming

I don’t

As far as I’m concerned there’s a lot goes on that we don’t know about. Your PC lives in the world - they know a lot of stuff by virtue of doing that that you don’t know that they know.

As far as I’m concerned, if you know it, they know it.

I would explain this to the player and then ... I would let them play their PC however they like. If they want to self-censor: I don’t care. If they want to draw on 40 years experience as a player of the game: I don’t care.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've edited the question to specify that metagaming is seen as a "bad thing" by the whole table, not just me. While I obviously believe there are players and DMs that don't care about it and some that even have more fun with it, this is not the case for me or the players I'm currently playing with. This is specially true for the second point I mentioned. I don't really care about metagaming weakness/resistances as I find most of them intuitive or well-known in most systems, my major problem is with the mindset of excessively self-censoring. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Apr 23 '18 at 22:05
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Tell them

If your player wants to fireball the fire elemental make them roll a Wisdom check (DC 2) since the character might be that dumb. If they succeed say your character isn't an idiot, fight fire with fire is a metaphor and won't work here.

Searching for traps? Treat the same way. Say "your character is a hardened adventurer; he wouldn't walk blindly down a suspicious hall or open a door with a tripwire attached, he knows what that means." You can even come straight out and tell them "a reasonable person would find this hallway suspicious and search it. So should you."

If that doesn't work punish the behavior.

Survival of the fittest and all that. If the players try to accuse you of being a killer GM, a rational response is: "If you want to play your characters like mindless drones, they will likely get killed like mindless drones." If you don't want to go that route ...

Discuss the problem with them.

Explain that they are not their characters but they are responsible for arbitrating their characters actions. As such they have to use critical thinking skills to determine what their character would reasonably know or do in any given situation regardless of the players personal knowledge. It is a hard step in gaming to realize that the player's knowledge is not completely divorced from the character's knowledge. There is overlap between the two and acknowledging that overlap is necessary for good roleplaying.

One method to identify this type of overlap might be something like a mental exercise: imagine that the game is a horror movie. They are watching the hapless redshirt walk down the creepy hall and are like "NOOO!!! don't do that you're gonna DIE!!!" It is the first time they ever watched the movie, they don't know redshirt is going to die, they haven't likely experienced a situation in which they personally walked down the creepy hall and got killed, but they are suspicious, everyone is suspicious and reasonably so.

I guess the ability to look at the situation objectively and plop anybody you know into it and ask "Would they do this?" can help determine if the character can be reasonably expected to do it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While I did not specify so in my question (and thus your answer is completely valid), usually interfering with character's actions in game as a DM is not well-seen, certainly it is not in my tables, so (specifically for new DMs interested in this problem and reading this Q&A) I would take alot of care with the first part of your answer. Personally, I find the second part more helpful and I'd appreciate if you could suggest any ways on how to identify that overlap. I would say that it is the player's job, but tips are welcome. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Apr 23 '18 at 18:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint an alternative is something like "your character is a hardened adventurer and knows the risks of walking down a suspicious hall or opening a door with a tripwire attached." This way you are not restricting their actions (they are welcome to be foolish if they want), but are instead telling the player what their character knows. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 23 '18 at 19:00
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Roll a d20

The quick-and-easy solution I've found is to roll a d20 (either with WIS/INT modifiers or without). If I get 1-10, the character doesn't know, or doesn't think of it, and if I get 11-20, the character does.

This IMO removes the metagaming aspect of knowledge, because if (and what) they know isn't necessarily arbitrary/binary (see below). I think of this as rolling to determine part of a character's backstory, similar to how you can roll for certain things when creating a character. I would note that whether or not they should roll (and potential bonuses, detriments and DC's relating to it) should be directly related to/affected by how well acquainted the PC is with the situation. For example: a barbarian who has had little experience with magic, might have a higher DC or a -2 to the roll, or some similar difficulty detecting magical traps. A wizard who is well versed in magic, (and potentially magical traps,) might have a lower DC or a +2 to the roll. If they know nothing about the situation, they shouldn't roll. A character that doesn't believe in magic, or doesn't know it exists, (for some reason,) would neither know nor care to check for a magic trap.

I would also vary the level of success/failure with the value of the roll. For instance - if we may use the example of a trapped hallway - if the player rolls a 9, they may suspect a creature may be hiding down a dark hallway, and decide to proceed cautiously, though they wouldn't be expecting the trap(s). If they roll a 16, they might check for traps, but not know the number or nature of the traps (magic vs. mundane, whether it's a pit or a fireball, etc.). This would likely not leave them completely helpless, though they may be better prepared for one kind of trap vs. the other.

Uses in combat

This applies for fighting a monster as well. Certain features of the monster may indicate potential weaknesses/resistances. For instance, a water elemental is probably not going to be very hurt by fire. I say that with no reference to the Monster Manual. I - and almost certainly all the PC's - have seen what happens when fire meets water. I made that assumption based on logic and experience. There's no reason the characters shouldn't be able to as well. (Note that I can tell you almost nothing about elementals off the top of my head, so this logic could work for almost anyone.) Similarly, a well-armored foe may not be hurt as much by certain kinds of weapons.

If the player doesn't deduce the enemy's strengths and weaknesses, then they can't automatically play around it. If the enemy has a weakness to the player's attack of choice, then they get use the enemy's weakness. Alternatively, if the enemy is immune to the player's attack of choice, then they'd be out of luck. IMO, the roll should only directly affect the first response. The character can act on "new" information on subsequent turns, as they'd be expected to.

The exact level of knowledge would vary upon the roll, (and perhaps your discretion,) but the player wouldn't necessarily be ignoring logic for fear of metagaming.

Ability Checks

For ability checks, the only thing to add is that you may want to talk to your players directly as GM. If you think they are missing information that they should be able to get, maybe you could hint at it. Alternatively, you could also tell them if they should know about something, and what their character might be aware of. I don't know if this will work with your play-style and/or your group, but it worked with mine.

Final Note

One thing to always keep in mind: Try to keep things fun! Try to balance what the characters know with the environment. I'm not advising you to not punish poor decision-making, I feel you definitely should to some degree. Just make sure you don't overly punish it either. The game is meant to be enjoyed, and that's harder to do if a character dies because of a poor roll. (I assume you're well aware of this based on the phrasing of your question, but I think it's important enough to restate.)

One way to potentially balance this, as well as clue the characters in to the nature of their situation, is if you have an NPC suffer dire consequences for poor decisions. An NPC death is likely to be less detrimental to the experience of the players, and in some cases it can even greatly enhance a sense of seriousness, urgency or danger of a situation. I know this is harder to do, and will not work for everyone or for every situation, but I have seen it done to great effect. (One time it was done specifically to save a PC from death, thus saving the player's experience and causing the loss of a teammate.)

TL;DR

Roll a d20, and use that to decide if the PC's should actually know/deduce something, and how much info they should have. I personally feel it lessens the meta-gaming feel because it can be made similar to character development, and seems less arbitrary. Note: Only (allow a player to) roll if the character might have some in-game way to know/deduce info.

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Roll for a decision

In cases where the player is concerned about whether making the "right" decision would constitute metagaming, they can roll for a decision. This is similar to @SeraphsWrath 's Knowledge Check suggestion, but there's a difference. Instead of doing a Knowledge Check and then making a decision based on how the character would interpret the result, weigh the available options based on a table of probability and let the dice directly choose the character's decision. This can help neutralize the internal conflict within the player. They may know that since the left passage and the right passage look more or less identical, they would have had a 50% chance of picking the left one if they had not previously read the adventure (and found out that it actually goes to Something Very Bad (TM)), so they roll a DC 10 check to take the right passage. If the passage to the left looks worse than the right one, but not seriously so (and the player might have made a gut feeling decision had they not already known the answer), they might need only a DC 7 check to take the right passage that leads to the treasure.

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This is a common issue for our group, as well. We've got 29 years of RPG experience, so it can be a tough call on what is and isn't meta-gaming. As you've said, going out of your way to avoid meta-gaming can often be as damaging to the group/night/adventure as meta-gaming would be.

As a GM, I handle it by either saying outright, "Look, your character is perfectly aware of X, Y, and Z. It seems logical they would react by doing 1, 2, or 3."

Or I have them make some kind of knowledge-based roll. "Give me a quick Spellcraft check to see if your character makes the connection between elemental fire and the fact that your elemental water spell would be more effective."

The second method is gives the player a mechanic they can hang their conscience on.

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I have had reasonably good luck with sometimes telling the truth despite what the dice say. I have used this successfully in Exalted, D&D 3e/3.5, and Call of Cthulhu.

So, on a low sense motive check (or high psychology roll, or low perception + socialize) if you occasionally say something true (ideally true but misleading), you will catch out both metagamers and atemgamers. I find this makes both metagamers and atemgamers approach the game more honestly. Coincidentally, it also better aligns with the way those games work, in that they are rarely supposed to feed you misinformation, just tell you that you can spot any lies.

Also, it's a lot of fun when you tell your players what is going to happen, and they don't believe you.

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To address failed insight rolls affecting your players, consider making some rolls hidden. Keep notes on the characters' perception, insight, etc. When they want to make a roll, roll it for them, and tell them the in-game result (You get the feeling she's not telling you something), without telling them the result of the die roll.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi! Welcome to the RPG Stack Exchange. While I understand this is your first answer, this seems more like combatting the opposite type of Metagaming, Metagaming for Optimization, than what is mentioned in the Question, which is more like Metagaming to Weaken themselves. Thus, we aren't trying to limit the information available, but rather make it more clear to the player that their character knows some of the same information that they do. I hope this helps! \$\endgroup\$ – SeraphsWrath Apr 24 '18 at 22:31
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Phone a Friend

A problem arises because your player knows something that their character might or might not know.

The player can contact a third party who doesn't have the metagaming knowledge, brief them on the situation, and ask that other person what they would do. It helps if that other person is somewhat familiar with the game system you are playing, but it's not truly required, as there are some common sense scenarios, as others have mentioned. The player could then do what the friend advises, even if it is the best move given the metagaming information. The fact that the friend advised the player to do that indicates that that move probably isn't such a bad move at all and probably could, or even would, have been thought up by the character.

For example,

Hey, John, I'm in a DnD 5e session right now, and I'm up against some sort of slime mold creature. I have access to fire, electric, and ice spell attacks, and I could also try to shoot it with a crossbow. We are in the middle of an underground tunnel and can hear what sounds like running water in the distance ahead, but we can't see it. What do you think I should do?

If the friend wants to ask for further information about the scenario, let them! Give them only the information that the character knows or can observe (making Knowledge Check, Perception, etc. rolls as necessary).

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You've got some solid answers here, but I do think that I have one insight to add.

New Players

You know what a sign of a new player is? They want to roll. All the time. I want to roll to see if I know he's lying! I want to roll to seduce the waitress! I want to roll my religious knowledge to see if I know anything about this obviously not religious topic!

They want dice to determine everything, and want to roll as often as possible.

The Grizzled Vets

You know what it sounds like? It sounds like your players have swung too far in the opposite direction. They want to role-play the solution when a roll might be more appropriate. This is totally fine (and for sure a sign of an experienced player), but they are sacrificing fun for the sake of fairness. Fairness is the vehicle gaming uses, not the destination. There's a couple ways you can deal with this.

One, you can limit their meta-knowledge. Time to roll an Insight check? Well, sorry, I'm going to roll that for you behind this DM screen. You only have to act based on what I tell you, with no knowledge of the roll. This works perfectly from a functional standpoint. Even though it works, though, players often feel like this solution takes away their agency (it doesn't, but feelings matter - again, fun is more important than fair).

So your solution is to make them roll more often. Someone else tells you information that opposes what you already think, but are stubbornly standing by it so to not meta-game? Let's roll to see if that's true. Not checking for traps in this hallway because you know it's trapped? Have them roll anyway (or use passive perception, whichever supports your gaming system better). Bonus points for not telling them what the roll is even for.

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Meta-Meta-Metagame

So you've decided Metagaming is bad (which maybe isn't true?!) and don't want it at your table. This is a collective decision, and now you are all trying to Meta-metagame to avoid using any of your meta knowledge. Might as well go deeper, and do what would be fun/entertaining for as many people as possible without worrying about your character would know/do or how what you as a player knows would affect the situation.

  • Would it be more entertaining if that Insight 1 meant he bought the lie 'hook, line and sinker'? Or would role-playing the slow realization that he'd been hoodwinked be more fun?
  • Your player who has gone through the module before would probably be best served either creating a character whose focus wasn't on traps/puzzles. If they've played the module through before, theoretically they can pick a class that the spoilers won't matter too much... Your typical barbarian for example probably isn't so hot at finding traps.
  • Monster Manual knowledge (whether resistances or weaknesses) seems tough, but to some extent this is on the DM... Everyone knows trolls are "weak" to fire and acid, but if the DM sends a Magma Troll at the party... well, fire probably isn't going to be as effective. Even just describing the monsters without specifically naming them can help a heap here: "This rocky skinned creature looks kind of like a troll, but heat seems to roll off its skin, the air of the room smelling like charred wood and flesh as it turns its gaze on you, fire seeming to flicker in its eyes." When the PC tries an elemental attack that is stymied by resistance or immunity, there should be some indication that it had little or no effect. "Your firebolt hits the monster's shoulder solidly, burning the accumulated dirt and filth away but not doing appreciable damage."
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The key to this like most Meta-gaming issues is to draw a really hard line between "player knowledge", which can be a problem not just because of excessive information about the game world but also because of things like modern chemical engineering, or even basic physics, being applied in medieval settings where the concepts are foreign, and "character knowledge" what someone born in the game world should know.

There are problems with this

  1. character knowledge is by definition player knowledge.
  2. the aforementioned line seems, in my experience, to get blurrier the longer most people play.
  3. in an unfamiliar setting there is no player knowledge to inform character knowledge and blunders can be deadly.

I don't know a hard and fast solution that works for all players all the time but pointing out when an obvious lapse of character knowledge has occurred is as important as pointing out when players are exceeding their characters' knowledge base.

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