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I am part of a social board games group that meets most weekends to play short (max one session) games that usually involve role playing of some kind.

Recently someone invited a friend from another, more "serious" gaming group. Since then, all of our games have become so stilted. In particular, this person is heavily against "metagaming", and frequently stops the game to point out examples, makes us replay moves that shouldn't have been allowed, etc.

For example, player A prematurely attacks a monster that he wouldn't be able to defeat alone, making a joke that "Jim won't bear the thought of not getting xp from this kill, so he'll save me". Players deliberately play pranks on other people's characters when the player goes to the bathroom, even though technically their character is there and would stop it if the player were there. Real-life relationships are exploited even when not mirrored by the characters: "better give Sally your share of the loot or you'll be sleeping on the couch tonight!" And so on. We usually come up with flimsy excuses in-game for these actions, but they are transparently made for out-of-game reasons.

Since the new player joined, all of that has stopped. We are all a bit intimidated because they are a more "serious" gamer than most of us, and they gave such firm reasons for why metagaming was the worst thing that could happen in role-playing. Well, we tried it, and it completely ruined our dynamic. Other players don't want to come any more when the new player is coming. Is there anything we can do, or is disinviting this player the only option?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The answers to this question may be tangentially helpful, as your question has a lot to do with group cohesion and unified goals: How to transform a bunch of strangers into a friendly group? \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Apr 18 '16 at 2:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried saying to this person "metagaming is encouraged in this group?" \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Apr 18 '16 at 4:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ GMJoe, I've thought about that (and after reading the answers it's definitely what we should/will do), it's just that at first we assumed he must know better than us and now we've settled into the current awkward position... Our group is quite casual and mostly friends who know each other outside games, so this is the first time we've had to resolve an issue like this (BESW's link and others were good to read for this). \$\endgroup\$ – sunshinekebabs Apr 18 '16 at 8:55
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There are so many ways to enjoy roleplaying games that we sometimes — often, actually — forget that fact and just assume that how we play is the way.

Unsurprisingly, this results in unpleasant things when different ways to play collide and nobody notices that hey, maybe these are different and don't mix well!

What you (personally or as a group) need to do is talk to the guy outside of a game and apologise. Tell him that you're a beer & pretzels* kind of RPG group, and that you're really not enjoying the games anymore. Reassure him that you don't think there's anything wrong with more serious roleplaying that avoids metagaming. It's just not what the group wants when they get together, and you're sorry that you'd all invited him in without realising that there was going to be such a drastic conflict of play preferences.

And then sit down and ask “so what do we want to do about this?”

The result of that discussion will hopefully give you all a way forward. It might involve firmly but apologetically saying that you're not interested in the “serious” roleplaying thing anymore. It might involve the new guy experiencing a lightbulb moment where he understands the disconnect and decides he's OK playing a different way. It might involve a few of you unexpectedly speaking up and saying they actually like this way of playing, and maybe what happens is your group turns into two different, possibly overlapping groups that play different campaigns on different nights.

The only thing it shouldn't involve is continuing with the status quo, where you all just avoid firm honesty and end up continuing to play this game that most people are not enjoying. It shouldn't involve that since that ends in slow, dramatic collapse of the group and possibly being unable to even get the original members back together afterwards.

* Most serious RPGers have heard the term “beer & pretzels” roleplaying, so this will probably communicate the basic incompatibility problem fairly loudly right up-front. The rest is all details.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Accepting mostly because you introduced me to the term "beer and pretzels", which I think sums up our group pretty well. It's nice to know that our style is just a different style and not being "bad at roleplaying" which a lot of us (others more than me) have been feeling. \$\endgroup\$ – sunshinekebabs Apr 18 '16 at 8:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe it's so obvious as to go without saying, but the "might involve" list could include that it might involve the serious player quitting the game on grounds that they have no interest in playing that way. They probably really hate Deadpool ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Jessop Apr 18 '16 at 12:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting that, as this is a friend of a friend, he may not fit the dynamic of the games you already have - as your character interactions are heavily based upon your real-life friendships. If he's an outsider, coming in, that could be difficult. After you talk to him, maybe try going out and grabbing beer and pretzels as a group so that you guys can bond a little more. \$\endgroup\$ – jedd.ahyoung Apr 18 '16 at 13:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ This problem can surface in many social activities: An example is watching movies - some groups meet to watch trash-movies, make fun of them all the way and talk and laugh through many "serious" scenes. If someone who really wants to watch the movie seriously comes into this group and tries to shush everyone because he wants to watch in silence, it is just not compatible. Two different styles to enjoy something, none of which is better or worse than the other! \$\endgroup\$ – Falco Apr 19 '16 at 9:20
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metagaming was the worst thing that could happen in role-playing

Well, this is just plain wrong; not having fun is the worst thing that can happen. It sounds like you're finding this out.

I think you recognise that there is no right way to role-play or, more precisely, there are as many wrong ways as there are gaming groups because no group is consistent in the way they play anyway.

Personally, I hate the term metagaming because no one agrees on just what it is and so people use it as a catch-all derogatory term for anything they don't like. In a role playing context, metagaiming 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.

and more generally:

Metagaming is any strategy, action or method used in a game which transcends a prescribed ruleset, uses external factors to affect the game, or goes beyond the supposed limits or environment set by the game.

What you describe doesn't strike me as (definitively) metagaming. A player saying "Jim won't bear the thought of not getting xp from this kill, so he'll save me" is not metagaming, its joking around. There is a legitimate in-game reason for the action which goes like this: "Jim's character is my character's friend, so he'll save me"; which is independent of the out of game joke.

At worst, this is breaking character, not metagaming; I actually think that this is deliberately breaking the fourth wall, a legitimate dramatic or comedic technique (Deadpool: A fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break? That's like, sixteen walls!). The distinction is important because its possible that you agree that metagaming is bad but disagree that breaking character is. The first step in dispute resolution is working out what the actual dispute is!

The next step is talking it through. Explain to this player, as a group or 1 on 1, what you like in your game, acknowledge that this is not the way that he plays and that this does not invalidate his way; it just invalidates it at this table. Try and be reasonable and have a sense of humour about it, perhaps you can give him little signs on sticks with "Metagaming", "Character break" and "Fourth wall" that he can hold up as a silent protest when you do it. Let his character earn XP for this when he gets it right, that will really warp his mind. By the way, this is definitively metagaming.

You have to take this step even if it means losing him to the group because the alternative seems to be losing the group as a whole.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would up-vote twice if I could. \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Apr 18 '16 at 5:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Absolutely agree about the fun, thank you :) \$\endgroup\$ – sunshinekebabs Apr 18 '16 at 8:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Explaining as a group could feel like a bunch of people ganging up on the new guy, better to explain it 1 to 1. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim B Apr 18 '16 at 14:19
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"Hi Pete and welcome to our group. We play differently here and metagaming is encouraged here. I hope you won't have much problem with it. I am sorry if this is not what you were looking for, but I'd encourage you to give it a try anyway"

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It's very important to remember, above all, IT IS A GAME. The worst possible thing you could every do is take "totally fun and awesome Friday night game night" and turn it into "forced, no fun, role play night"

First explain that in this group meta-gaming is part of the fun. You want to throw cheesie-poofs, laugh out loud, and make silly decisions based on out of game reasons. You find that fun, and you shouldn't give it up. There is no right way to have fun.

Second, for a while play games that are close to what you normally do, but take you out of your context. Play some Munchkin for example. It's kinda of like role play (not really) but it encourages "meta-gaming". The general idea is to create a totally different experience and "shock the system". Heck, if you really need to, break out Monopoly. It's about the social gathering, not the Role playing. Obviously, you want to get back to role play, but when this new person is more accustomed to the group they may be more open to adapting their play style. Don't fear other games, to break the ice (or to insert a pause).

Finally, if all else fails, ditch the new guy. Sucky social interactions suck, but you have a good group, that group is having fun, protect that connection. It's what it's all about. Nobody (well not many any way) buys 20 sided die, and massive tomes of rules, and pre-printed character sheets because they think they're going to be able to sell their epic D&D loots to pay the rent. They do it because it's fun, it's social, and it's entertaining. Don't lose that. It's (the social connection) the most important thing in the world.

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During my long experience of RPG (around 20 years) I have had such problems time to time. It was actually the reverse: a couple of "Beer & Pretzel" gamers would join the group and spoil the atmosphere by playing too "lightly".

It is all a matter of being in sync with the rest of the group, so it is the new "orthodox" gamer to be out of place in your light-hearted group since there is no such thing as an universal rpg orthodoxy.

What we used to do in this case, for good or for bad, was to avoid inviting people that were not in sync with our mood: too often people accept an invitation just out of boredom and not for real interest. Your first "responsibility" is towards your group, if the guy is not willing to "comply" and he's ruining your experience, just cut him off. Also tell him the "golden rule" of RPG: the Game Master is always right. If he is half as experienced as he appears to be that would suffice.

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