Recently a friend told me that it is his birthday in a few days and noting that he expects some kind of birthday event in our next session. After thinking about it I noticed EACH of the players will have had birthday between our last and next session (what not even everyone is aware of everyone) so I decided to make some kind of special event just to see them notify they have to congratz each other ooc. I decided to make a riddle with 2 hints 1 of them the same for each of them "Its not YOU who could solve this" and the other based on some interaction I had with each of them while somehow related to the game. In generell I see this kinda confusing. But since one of the players expected me to trigger an in universe event based on an out of universe situation, I think it is appropiate to just for this sitequest mix it.

What should I consider when trying to avoid the group mixing ooc information with IC information for the future, while making clear this is an exceptional case, where it is encouraged?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think there's the seed of a good question in here, but "Is this a good idea?" questions tend to get closed since we can't read minds nor see the future. Can you rephrase it to something more answerable? How about "How can I signal to my players that an in-game riddle relies on OoC info" - is that what you're after? \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec Jun 7 '16 at 4:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ No Im more after "is this somethink that could be confusing and might tend to mix up in future cases or should it be something a none abusive player would 'recover' from when required even at all.... admited, tgis is kind of a "is it good idea?" Question, but..... no idea how to express it without that subtone \$\endgroup\$ – Zaibis Jun 7 '16 at 4:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ "What are the pitfalls I need to watch out for when doing X" is also a format I've seen answered around here; it's still subjective but can result in experience-based answers where there's some means of choosing the best one, which is what we're all about. \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec Jun 7 '16 at 4:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll edit this as soon I'm at pc again. Thank you, that sounds fine. \$\endgroup\$ – Zaibis Jun 7 '16 at 4:52

It depends on the group.

I've been taking a brief respite from my usual role as a GM by actually playing in a couple games, and it's been interesting to see what happens. One of the things that I've really noticed quite quickly is that my GM, who is quite clever and loves riddles and puzzles, has really inspired some terror in my usual gaming group, who are used to quite straightforward environments (and happily tearing through social circumstances with the finesse of a plasma-chainsaw, but I digress).

Basically, not every group is going to get the riddle.

Second, you have to remember that the speed to which people jump to out-of-character information will vary based on the individual. I'd theorize that some of it depends on veterancy: players who have a lot of knowledge of the setting and their characters when they play games will likely be very slow when searching for solutions to riddles outside of the world they're in, while novices might take a little longer or be less trained to avoid out-of-character knowledge.

There will also be the mood of your game to set context: if you explicitly avoid metagaming and the use of out-of-character knowledge, players will (ostensibly) attempt to avoid it at all times. If you play around with a lot of references to things outside the game and the world of the setting, it might make the riddle a lot easier to solve.

You could always drop a hint, mentioning that the riddle involves out-of-character knowledge. Not really having insight to the group, I can't really speak as to how well it goes over, but I can mention that there was a time in the past when the aforementioned really clever GM I play with attempted to do OOC-related things and it backfired rather handily on him; while there were parts the group enjoyed, there was a gap between how a lot of us perceived things and the result was a lot of miscommunication. The session wound up getting really bogged down, and he had to cut a lot of his prepared content.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The site quest is completly optional and has no direct plot impact. Would this change anything, or is it generally unsatisfing to have a riddle you won't solve? \$\endgroup\$ – Zaibis Jun 7 '16 at 4:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd find it unsatisfying, at least, like a locked door in a dungeon you can't get past. Related to the VRPG concept of Empty Room Syndrome. \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec Jun 7 '16 at 4:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ It also falls under a "wasted time" pitfall. In a video game or other such media, I can choose to disengage with something I can't solve immediately, but with several people and the slower narration of a tabletop RPG, it could be fifteen or thirty minutes of game time before people move on. \$\endgroup\$ – Kyle Willey Jun 7 '16 at 15:20

There are numerous problems with connecting IRL stuff with in-game stuff, but I would say that the largest and deadliest pitfall would be that it breaks all immersion. In order to do it right, you need to be very careful, but it should be possible with good planning.

Think of a TV-show. Now imagine that this show, in only a single episode, breaks the fourth wall. This is essentially what you're doing. In order to keep the immersion tight, a bridge between real life and the game is needed. This could be a magic portal that lets stuff travel between the two realms, but perhaps easier and more appropriate would be a powerful character. In StarTrek there's Q, in Supernatural there's Loki, in Warehouse 13 there's a TV that sucks people into its own reality and so on.

Pitfall #1: Gimmicky expectations

In order to not destroy the campaign, make it clear that this is a one-off, not a thing to expect regularly. You don't want your players to think that the campaign is now a gimmicky campaign or that breaking the fourth wall will be a common theme from now on. In a worst case scenario, this could end the campaign.

More likely though is that the players will become primed to include IRL-information when considering puzzles. This could add confusion, non-active gametime, metagaming and non-immersion to the whole campaign.

Pitfall #2: The players don't get it

Normally, I would never start guessing riddles based on OOC information so unless it is made blatantly clear (that is, spelled out in plain text) for me I would never even start thinking in that direction. You can either have the players gain this knowledge by letting someone tell it to them in-game or simple tell them straight out yourself. But be clear, be abundantly clear, that the players will need OOC knowledge to solve the problem.

Also, make sure that the solution actually tells the players something - that the players can figure out that it's all about their birthdays. And give them a present in-game when they solve it.

Pitfall #3: It adds nothing

An event like this has to add something to the game or it will just be a lot of careful planning for a "meh" response. Give them a present/treat in-game when they solve the riddle, and preferably one IRL too. Don't let the session be just another session, but make it special. You could throw in an old NPC the players like or create a new, memorable one.

Most importantly, keep the spirit up. You're connecting this adventure to their birthdays and that should be a fun thing.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you have any first hand experience with this kind of situation? Are there any sources you can reference to support your answer? \$\endgroup\$ – Ceribia Jun 7 '16 at 14:31

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