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Note that this is from the mind of someone who is a little burned out on D&D, and probably not strictly fair. I'm aware that good DMs and GMs, and good groups make all the difference. I just think that some games promote good (cooperative storytelling) play better than others. Also, changing the definition of Meta-gaming is very important for DFRPG.

Dungeons and Dragons (and every other RPG I've played in) does something I've always thought was very strange. They forbid meta-gaming.

Meta-gaming is using your knowledge of how the system works to alter the way the game plays out. Usually this is to give your character an advantage they couldn't possibly know about and take advantage of. I think this is probably a weakness of games complex rule-sets that try to cover all possible game situations, since some actions and choices are always going to be more tactically sound than others, because you can't possibly create enough rules to cover the things that inventive players are going to come up with to overcome challenges.

So, these games spell out the rules in explicit and specific detail, then ask the players to forget the rules and how they work for the sake of roleplaying over rollplaying, and then punish players who don't take every advantage they can. The DM tries to hide all the mechanics, and must zealously watch the players for any hint of insider trading. That's no fun, and it takes away from storytelling. The all knowing GM and clueless players model of gaming is actually really detrimental to crafting stories that make players feel central to the plot. It usually results in a DM that is defensive from having to watch everything they do, and a game that is actively hostile to the PCs. Every time I hear a DM threaten that they don't bend rules to coddle players, I shudder. What's the point of having a DM? Might as well play a computer game.

So DFRPG (and FATE I suspect) deal with meta-gaming very differently. Meta-gaming is required.

Players are asked to share in the "behind the scenes" of almost every aspect of the game. They are asked to come up with original material for the plot, and parts of the characters they make will literally drive the narrative. Players are asked to share in every ruling, to help decide if an action that one of their own is trying to do is appropriate to the spirit of the game. Frequently players suggest things for the villains of the game, plans or actions that will make their own lives harder, but make the story of the game more epic. This is one of the hardest parts for players to grasp. I've had players get angry with me about how long it takes the game to "start" and the amount of work they have to do developing the game, work that is rightfully MY job as GM.

In DFRPG, everything before the game actually starts, all the world building and npc statting, all the basic plot decisions, all of that is handled as a group, and it's fun! As the rulebook says, creation is play. Half of the fun of the game is seeing your stuff, the locations, people, plots, and what-have-you in the game. (Especially if the game is set in a place you know in the real world!) Nothing ever goes quite as you expected of course, or it wouldn't be a game. The GM is in charge of overseeing how these plot points interact, and crafting a story from the elements you give them.

The other side of that, meta-gaming the actual game play, is used to make sure the story is so much more exciting than it could be, by removing a lot of the fear element that drives selfish meta-gaming for personal power. Players have a really good grasp of what they need to do to succeed, and as many options for doing that as they have imagination to come up with. However, success isn't necessarily rewarded, and failure isn't necessarily punished. Instead, players are rewarded for finding their own stumbling blocks, and limiting their own characters power.

There is a mechanic in the game that rewards you for suffering hardship, failure, and defeat. Stories are so much more epic when the hero takes it on the chin and things look grim, but then they get up again, battered and bruised, to ultimately triumph through sheer grit and force of will.

Basically, try not to be frustrated with the creation phase. Trust that it will really pay off in the game, and try to think of meta-gaming as a tool to make the game amazing, instead of a cheat or a path to personal power.

Just relax, try to do it in order (City Creation AND THEN character creation) and resist the urge to stat up before you craft a story. In DFRPG it's about being epic, not having epic stats.

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