I am a DM for 5e who recently gave the team a magical item. Everyone is very excited for it, however the player who chose to keep it in their inventory has been researching it. He has looked up how other people online have used it and ways to make it extremely optimal.

I'm not the biggest fan of this, I worry it will turn into looking up how other players online handled situations in adventures or modules, eventually leading to spoiler like content.

I have mentioned to the team, "Please be cautious with researching anything while we are playing this module" (Curse of Strahd), and think that's probably all I really can do.

Am I worrying about nothing that's pretty normal and harmless? I understand people look up optimal builds for characters and ideas for what they might play in the future, perhaps this is no different and I just need to drop it and change my DM perspective.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you talked to the other players at the table? Are they worried about getting spoilers? \$\endgroup\$
    – RHS
    Feb 8, 2022 at 13:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, they know no meta gaming, no looking up spoilers, Monster Stats, NPC's etc \$\endgroup\$ Feb 8, 2022 at 13:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've removed the question "Do you consider players looking up the best way to use things like weapons, items, abilities online as Metagaming or fair use?", as this is more of an opinion-based discussion prompt. I think the question is fine as written, you present us with a problem we can solve, as one answer has already done nicely. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 8, 2022 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SustyRackleford Sorry, my question was perhaps not clear. What I was wondering about is whether your players are worried that the player in question might stumble across campaign module (Strahd) spoilers, and the other players might then get second-hand spoilered by that player. \$\endgroup\$
    – RHS
    Feb 8, 2022 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ it was something the player told me directly that they were researching, the players have no idea \$\endgroup\$ Feb 8, 2022 at 15:28

3 Answers 3


Always talk to your players in advance

If metagaming is such a worry, the game is not fun for anyone. Bring the matter to the table, and if there is ever a dubious outcome, remember you're the DM and you have the final say.

This doesn't mean to be a tyrant, but an effort to not stall the game in a discussions that's going to take no one to nowhere.

If such an event happens, make a call such as: I'm not sure how this should play out in the future, but in the meantime, let's do it this way and let's discuss it later.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You are correct, while I do not believe the player is doing anything malicious, they are just extremely excited and want the best outcome, perhaps this is something I need to fix at what upsets me as a DM , such as players looking for the most optimal OP paths \$\endgroup\$ Feb 8, 2022 at 13:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I didn't mean your players are malicious, but sometimes the game stalls because of discrepancies on interpretations of the rules. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but maybe you want to keep up the pace, or the game night is running short, or the other players are not interested in a specific topic of conversation. You've got to be aware of your players' (and yours, of course) needs when it comes to having fun. That is way more important than the ruleset :) \$\endgroup\$
    – user75209
    Feb 8, 2022 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you consider players looking up the best way to use things like weapons, items, abilities online as Metagaming or fair use? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 8, 2022 at 13:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think it's a bad thing, but also a good way to keep the players invested in the game. As a DM, it is easy to forget that your players don't have anything else to do while you prep up for the game night. Looking up combos, class builds or original uses for wonderous items is a good bit of fun as well. I even encourage it. If your players find something that you consider too broken for your game it's always ok to say no. Even admiting you do not know how to counter that combo. \$\endgroup\$
    – user75209
    Feb 8, 2022 at 13:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ As a general rule. in any session 0 i give i always specifically say meta-gaming is allowed and give examples where it is useful. going over this issue early on could stop this issue entirely. \$\endgroup\$
    – Reed
    Feb 8, 2022 at 21:18

It's Metagaming, but not in a bad way.

There's a lot of talk in tabletop role-playing games about metagaming and how it always is bad and always ruins things. The issue is, what is metagaming? The definition I hear most often is using out of character knowledge to influence in character decisions and actions. The issue with this definition is it makes a lot of normal things become dubious if you consider all metagaming bad.

Let's say you're running for a group of 5e veterans, or even some newbies who've played a different RPG that includes trolls, including Skyrim, and you throw a troll at them. If they use fire or acid attacks at level 1, you could very well consider that metagaming. Their characters have never encountered a troll before, but they know to use fire or it won't die out of character. They can then justify it in character when prompted, but the original knowledge is OOC.

Returning to your question: Is it metagaming to look up the best way to use a magic item, and then act according to that advice? Yes. But that makes them a min-maxer, which in 5e is fairly normal, as you mentioned, not necessarily a metagamer.

If you feel they aren't taking your request for no spoilers seriously enough, bring it up either after session one-on-one or at the table, and maybe include why for this campaign especially spoilers can ruin parts of the story.

End of the day, you're the GM. If you're worried about potential spoiler accidentally from looking up the magic item, you can change certain parts of the story around to prevent the spoilers, but again, if your players respect you and you made no spoilers clear already, then it'll probably be fine.


Metagaming isn't evil

Online there is a lot of very vocal "anti-meta-gaming" people. It's important to remember that D&D is a game and that talking about D&D is not an inherent evil sin which will send you straight to hell. Metagaming is essentially a required part of the game to be a competent player and to interact with the broader D&D community.

Spoilers should be avoided

I think you have two issues which you have bundled together under the heading of "metagaming" which is causing confusion. One is learning about game mechanics, the second is players learning spoilers to a module.

While both are "metagaming", they are vastly different things. I don't think that's a bad thing for players to research the rules and mechanics, and have never had a problem with players becoming more familiar with the rules. Neither have I heard of this causing a problem for anyone else. As for the latter, I think we all know and agree that learning spoilers is not a good thing.

Focus on specific issues

I think you should shift your thinking from "metagaming is bad" to "looking up spoilers is bad". That may help you more accurately solve your problems.


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