One common problem I run into, as a player, is having to feign not-knowing things my character doesn't but I do, be it rules about certain creatures ("Hmm that rock golem sure looks weak against [...]"), or simply some my character did not witness but I did because other players at the table had their characters there and the GM did not split the group.

For example, it can be hard to act like you don't know your friends are in trouble in the next building, and not go over there just to have a "random look" and oh surprise find something you, as a player, already knew you'd find. Finding myself in such a situation can be avoided if the GM splits the group of players or uses other information-control tricks, but that's not always done.

When in such a situation, what are good techniques or things I can do to force myself into an "oblivious" state of mind about those things?

How can I more easily feign ignorance of in-game/in-universe information, and have my character act with more accordance to what he knows and not what I know?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ask yourself this - is it really important that you do? Is the simulationist aspect of the game ("my character doesn't know that X is happening in the other room") more important than the narrative aspect ("story-wise, it's fitting that I show up in the other room now")? \$\endgroup\$
    – lisardggY
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 16:55

6 Answers 6


Don't Let Fear of Metagaming Keep You From Playing The Game

When you have knowledge that your character doesn't, it can be frustrating. You'll often feel like you're helpless to deal with a challenge that would be trivial if your character just knew one stupid thing. If you're frustrated, you're not having fun, so the solution here isn't to just tamp down your out of character knowledge and keep being frustrated. The solution is to find ways to use your out-of-character knowledge in productive ways, without metagaming.

The Knowledge Gap Works Both Ways

Yes, players know things that their characters don't, but characters also know things that the players don't. You might be playing a rogue who knows all about poisons, even though you've never handled a chemical more dangerous than hard cider. Your friend might be playing a wizard, even though literally nobody at your table actually knows magic. Keeping this in mind will help you see yourself less as a video game player saddled with a dumb character to control, and more as a collaborator in a cool story who happens to have total influence over one of the characters.

Giving Advice

In your role as cool story collaborator, you can do more than just say what your guy does. When a character is supposed to know and be great at things that the character's player doesn't know about, that character's ideas can come from anybody sitting at the table, not just the person controlling them. Of course, the controlling player always has the final say on what their character actually does, but that doesn't mean you can't offer ideas.

Maybe your rogue doesn't know what a rock golem is weak against, but your friend's wizard might, and there's no reason you can't pass that info along to the wizard's player out of character so that the wizard can have the idea in character. By advising, brainstorming, or even just enjoying and commenting on the scene in progress, you'll feel less like your lack of in-character knowledge is keeping you from playing the game.

Dramatic Timing

As Jessa said, it's totally legitimate to use your out-of-character knowledge for the sake of telling a more compelling story. Everything you do at the gaming table should be about maximizing fun, not following rules just to follow rules. If trying really hard not to metagame is causing you stress and decreasing your fun, you either need to find a way to make it fun or bend the rule. You'll find that GMs will often bend the metagaming rule for the sake of drama. For example, if you spot a moment in a scene where it would be super dramatic for your character to enter, even though there's not a great reason for them to be there, you can definitely ask the GM if you can be there (or, depending on the system, just be there.)

Bottom Line

My personal feeling is that as long as you aren't using your out-of-character knowledge to gain a numerical advantage or undermine another player's agency, everything else is okay. When you're struggling with how or when to use your player-knowledge, try to think of the knowledge gap as increasing your options rather than decreasing them. Instead of thinking "man, there are all these things I can't do because my character wouldn't know to do them," say to yourself "okay, there are all these things my character can't do, but how can I use this knowledge?" Looking at the knowledge gap as a positive challenge rather than a negative impediment will help you generate more compelling moments with your friends, which is the real point of the whole metagaming rule anyway.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 For the player knowing things the character doesn't, and vice versa. I'm slowly teaching my playerss this (they're smart folk and assume they have to know what their character does), and also +1 for getting feedback from other players. \$\endgroup\$
    – Codeacula
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 18:04

Suspend disbelief, harder

You're already suspending disbelief to buy into your game's setting. You put yourself into another person's mindset to play your character. Extend to techniques farther in order to omit relevant metagame knowledge from your roelplaying.

Ask you self "If I didn't know X, what would my character do here?". That's what you should usually do.

Use the system

If you know something that your character might figure out, make a roll to see if they do. Consult your GM to determine what rolls might be appropriate, and when.


Player: My character might know the this creature's weakness from her training at the Academy

GM: OK, make a Lore roll to see if you did.

- or -

GM: Yes, I think she would. Carry on and use your knowledge.

- or -

GM: Unlikely, this monster hadn't been spotted by the City until after you graduated.

Meta-Game gently

For some stories and situations, you can do some fun things by using meta knowledge judiciously. If you just do it to gain a maximum rules advantage, then it is seldom fun (and feels more like cheating). However, you can instead to it to make the story more interesting.

For example, good timing makes comedies funnier and adventure stories more exciting. When you know what's happening in the next room, and your character doesn't, you can ask yourself "Would it make it more interesting/fun/exciting if my character entering the room now?". If the answer is "yes", then you will be enhancing everyone's experience by doing it.

Be careful about using this technique too much, because it can break down the story if overdone. Also, some situationist-oriented groups might not like this approach. Either talk to your group ahead of time to make sure it's OK, or preface your action with a nod to what you are doing:

"It would be hilarious if my character walked in right now" -pause, see how others react- "I enter the room."

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Springboarding from the "Use the system" section, sometimes the problem resolves itself in unexpected ways if you just point it out. Sometimes I'll say, eg, "well I wouldn't try to catch and eat the fish because it resembles [incredibly poisonous fish] but my character doesn't know that." Sometimes it turns out the DM didn't mean to describe a deathpuffer and will retcon the description. Sometimes one of the other players makes a case that my character would know that, and everybody wins. In any case, it shows an effort to not metagame, making folks more willing to be flexible. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 17:29

One tip that can be useful, when this is important, is to give up some of the control.

This is especially useful for situations where your character might know/figure out the information that you know, or might randomly decide to do the advantageous thing.

Assign a probability to either figuring out the information, or doing the beneficial thing. "Yeah, there's a one in ten chance my character would do that/figure that out." Then roll the dice, and follow what they say. When they get more information, do the roll again if you feel it's appropriate.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't a bad solution to the problem of knowing information that would influence a decision. Could you perhaps go into more detail about how to set the odds for such checks? \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 1:22

This same problem often comes up in the campaign I'm currently a part of. Some of us (including me) are more used to roleplaying in general, while others are newer and have difficulty not using meta-knowledge or assuming that just because one player knows something, everyone does.

The way I personally deal with it is that I try to think in terms of my character. What does my character want? Is he good at gathering random information from passersby? Does he regularly wander around? Would he even care if one of his companions were in danger (we're all evil or at best neutral)? If I can justify my knowledge with what my character knows or would naturally do, then I might use it, otherwise I just act in my characters best interests. And you know, sometimes PCs die if they get separated from the group.

One exception to this is sometimes if we are facing a real hard puzzle or TPK, I might try using perception/knowledge-type skills (whatever your system has) to allow my character to get a feeling about whatever I (as a player) know, subject to GM discretion.


Sometimes it's funny to lampshade the problem: make a joke out of how your character has no idea what's going on. "This rock golem isn't taking damage from my sword! Clearly my sword is too much like a scissors to damage the rock. As everyone knows, to truly defeat rock we must use paper! I start whacking the rock golem with its one weakness: a rolled-up newspaper!"

Done well, this might also remind your teammates that one of them should give your character some strategy advice.

As to your second example: if a combat happens when the party is split, many DMs will try to make up an excuse to get you back together with the group, so you don't have to sit out the combat and be bored. Spontaneously walking over to investigate the building might be too much, but it might be worth asking your DM: "Do I hear sounds of battle and realize something's wrong and come running?"

In fact, let me make that a general rule: if you know something your character doesn't, ask if your character can make a skill check to figure it out.


"Don't" is my answer. You know all sorts of things your character doesn't (how to make electricity from spinning a spool of copper wire around a magnet and then using it to make another piece of wire glow to make light, for instance) and you don't let your characters behave based on that. You have to run your character like, make it act like it doesn't know the piece of information.

Addendum in light of comments below:

I'll be more specific about the question I am asking back of you to illustrate my answer (which I did not mean to look the same as the original question): how do you avoid presenting your knowledge of modern day solutions to in-game problems where it is inappropriate to that setting? You already do that, I would imagine, or you would not be asking the question.

Introspection is a very useful tool. Everyone makes "mistakes" and lets prior knowledge affect their character's actions and it's part of the game for everyone to move past it with as little disturbance as possible - much like actors do if someone fluffs their lines: they ad lib your way back onto the script. Introspection, deliberate self-analysis, gives you tools to use to limit this. Its the same for GM's.

By "Don't" I am responding to the example situation you give: "For example, it can be hard to act like you don't know your friends are in trouble in the next building, and not go over there just to have a "random look" and oh surprise find something you, as a player, already knew you'd find. Finding myself in such a situation can be avoided if the GM splits the group of players or uses other information-control tricks, but that's not always done."

It's not the GM's job to enforce your roleplaying, that's no fun for anyone. It's your responsibility to play your part, even if it is hard, even if the character in the example dies as a result. That's the story. That's the "risk".

So my advice is if you know a fellow character is in trouble and your character does not, then "don't" make your character go over to check it out by accident unless it really is reasonable that they do so. It's effectively role-play cheating, as much as using your knowledge of maths to solve the angle at which your character should loose a crossbow bolt at to hit the target to save the other character's life would be. They probably don't know the maths and so you just "Don't" do it.

That's what I mean by "Don't". There is no magic pill that makes it ok to act on meta knowledge. If you do then it's your problem if you feel bad about it.

But then again don't worry about it too much (which is why my initial answer was comparatively short), it's the story that's most important to having fun and if it's best for the story to save the other character then actually don't feel too bad. Also to consider is that characters die. It's part of the game, part of the fun, part of the risk. Took me years to figure that one out.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel this is not really a productive answer to the question. OP is asking for techniques to aid in the task of... "intentional ignorance". That is, the question isn't, "Should I metagame?" but rather, "How can I get more comfortable not metagaming?". You're either answering the unasked question or are essentially saying you don't know any such techniques, and that's a bit underwhelming because other answers -are- offering some. \$\endgroup\$
    – Corrodias
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 17:52

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