View Full Version : Metagame consideration - some game preference thoughts

Totally Guy
2011-06-26, 04:16 AM
Through reading some more systems recently I've noticed a trend in design philosophy which has in the past confused me.

There is a scale of viewpoints along which games are designed. On the one end there are games where the rules are made to encourage a particular kind of play. On the other end there are the games which do not try to encourage or discourage a players actions through use of the rules.

In the former class of games the player does well by understanding the game and interacting with the rules to get what they want and interacting with any reward or advancement mechanics. An example of this D&D character optimisation - the designers say that they knew the sample builds were bad to reward those who strive for system mastery. Another example is when a player in Mouse Guard hinders their own character with a trait (like the character having a bad sense of direction) for the metagame reward in the next segment of the game.

In the latter the player plays well by interacting with the world as their character would and without consideration for how the rules act around them. Of course the degree of skills or whatever is allowed to feedback to the character's confidence in their abilities. An example of this when a GM says to the player "You don't need to know the rules, just tell me what you do and I'll interpret it for you". This is how my first session of D&D pretty much was.

D&D borrows from each - you do well to consider your build outside of the game so you know what items to attempt to acquire and which class to take your next level in. But in play you can have a very successful session infiltrating the castle, navigating the wilds or crawling the dungeon even if you don't personally know the rules beyond using the numbers on your sheet as a measure of confidence in those abilities.

I was reading through Basic Role Playing and Savage worlds and I was frustrated that the game seemed to be obfuscating the behaviours that it intended to bring to the table. I now realise that it wasn't hiding anything, they were simply designed from a point closer to the philosophy that the players act better when not being influenced by the metagame.

I presented an array of games to friend as a proposal to GM a game for him but each of the games I brought along were designed very much from a viewpoint that you are rewarded for interacting with the rules to help you point the game in directions that you find interesting. But my friend has no interest in that element. :(

Every game that he showed me, (and the reason I have done this additional reading,) has been primarily designed from the other side. I have no interest in GMing a system that does that. (But I still enjoy playing! :p)

2011-06-26, 04:28 AM
Erm... Yes?

It's true and has been noted by many people before. What's the confusion about this?

Totally Guy
2011-06-26, 04:35 AM
Ok, so you got there first.

This post is about overcoming the confusion. And to help others do so too.

2011-06-26, 06:33 AM
Some games try to fit somewhere in that gap, too. I'd say that the FATE system rewards both in-character planning and player system mastery, with the creation and invoking of aspects through various skills.

2011-06-26, 06:53 AM
That's simply because the gap isn't fixed. There's a distinction between in-game and out-of-game knowledge, but the line is different from game to game and system to system. RISUS, for example, works on trope logic. Knowledge of genres and tropes is what shapes your character and you play your character by invoking those same things. Meta-level understanding becomes mechanics and in-character actions.