Not All Metagaming Is Bad

I roll almost everything out in the open for my Swords And Wizardry game. That includes monster hit points, monster to hit rolls, monster saves and random encounter rolls.

The random encounter roll is one that my players metagame all the time. If they make noise trying to break down a door in a monster infested dungeon, I roll the random encounter die and they pick up on it immediately. I tell my players what their rate of travel is overland or through a dungeon and roll the random encounter die as we go along. This is information the players know but their characters may not. It is valuable information for the player.

As I am always going on about, RPG’s are games not stories so the people playing the game may have information that their characters do not and as far as I’m concerned, that’s perfectly reasonable. The frequency of random encounter rolls tells the players just how dangerous a given area is and this is information that they can use to make decisions. I am providing them agency over their character by giving them information and not even speaking.


3 thoughts on “Not All Metagaming Is Bad

  1. ericscheid

    Another bit of metagaming commonly accepted is the frequent advice of “don’t split the party”. No one complains about that advice being bandied about.

    There’s also an inverse form of metagaming where the GM says a PC doesn’t remember something just because the player concerned doesn’t remember the detail (e.g. wizard witn 18 INT forgetting the name of some important sage NPC they went to school with). Player knowledge isn’t PC knowledge cuts both ways.


    1. Hi Eric! Thanks for your comment. I don’t know that I would necessarily call that metagaming. It’s a fairly well known small unit military principle from way back not to split your force unless you absolutely have to. I would reason that a person who had some experience as an adventurer would have figured that out or heard that advice from the one-armed guy down at the tavern.

      There is a school of thought that D&D being a game, player skill is what matters. In that approach, if the players aren’t paying attention and keeping good notes as they go along, they get what they get. If the group is into that then I can see the point.

      The way I run D&D is the basic assumption of character competence. I assume that a character is at least competent at their job of being an adventurer. Also, a consideration is that my friends and I are busy adults with careers, families and all the responsibilities that go along with that. We don’t always get to play every week so the players aren’t always going to remember the name of the local lord’s steward. I remind them and we move on. It’s not so important to bog down the pace of the game.


      1. ericscheid

        While often true, there are also advantages to splitting a force (tactical, or even resource efficiency). The general advice against it in RPGs though is more often because it’s a pain to split the _players_ – there is no resource/time efficiency if the two parallel time periods need to be resolved in a serial manner; plus it leads to the classic “you don’t know that, you’re not there” metagaming arguments.

        I’m very much in that school of thought .. but I apply it to problem solving. Not remembering the name of the horse I rented and other trivialities.

        To be clear though (as I realise my earlier comment wasn’t) .. this isn’t a form of metagaming I’d want to see a DM enforce. It’s boring, bogs down the game, and is just an opportunity for the DM to punish the player. Boo, hiss!

        (No, I’m not bitter. Why do you ask?)

        Liked by 1 person

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