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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I get the feeling that most of my readers are somewhat experienced gamers, or at least the ones making comments are.  However, I suspect that there’s a few newbie gamers out there just looking for guidance on how best to approach this game.  So, here’s the Tomcat’s suggestions on how best to make a positive impression on your new group.

The Good

  1. Be on time.  Seriously.  If you’re going to be late, call the DM.  Stuff happens, and no one sweats that, just be courteous and you’ll be fine.
  2. Have your crap.  If you’re always having to borrow dice and a pencil, it’ll get old real quick.  Dice are cheap, so splurge some!
  3. Do your part when it comes to the munchies.  If there’s a rotation, make the most of your turn and bring some good stuff.  If everyone kicks in for pizza or something, make sure you pay your share.
  4. Help with clean up.  You’re never to experienced for this one.  Unless the DM says to not worry about it, worry about it.
  5. Stay in the game.  Save witty banter about your weekend for after the game or for breaks.  No one wants to find out about the beach while you’re hiding from a dragon.

These suggestions are, for the most part, universal.  Now, if your group isn’t a super in character group, the last one may not be to big of a deal for them.  However, I can’t picture a group being upset with a player doing all of these things.

However, there’s always a flipside.  To this I offer:

The Bad

  1. Metagaming.  For any who don’t know, that’s using player knowledge in character.  For example, if you know that the NPC (who used to be the DM’s PC) had a weakness for chocolate, but your character has no way of knowing that, but buys the NPC chocolate anyways just to make a good impression.
  2. Power gaming.  Everyone wants their characters to be great.  However, just raw power doesn’t make them great, it just makes them annoying to many other players.
  3. Cheating.  Fudging dice rolls or saying you’ve got feats that you don’t have.  It doesn’t matter what form it takes, it’s still cheating, and will earn you a quick exit from any group and make it more difficult to find another group down the road.

However, there’s things that you should look out for as well.  If you find yourself in a group like this, you may want to find yourself another group to play with.  Of course, if you’re enjoying yourself, then continue on and ignore this section.

The Ugly

  1. The DM has a girlfriend who always gets uber-cool stuff while you get shafted.  Trust me here.  This one isn’t likely to go away so long as the girlfriend is still around.  However, just because the DM has a girlfriend in the game, doesn’t mean this will be the case.  Many DMs can handle the difference.
  2. The DM has a super cool NPC who bails you out of every jam.  If this is the case, then one of two things are generally happening.  Either he’s setting the encounters as to tough, or he’s just trying to showcase his NPC.  Neither is the sign of a good game master in my opinion.
  3. The group can’t keep members.  Now, if this is a group of military people, then it can be understandable.  People move away, and that’s fine.  However, if people are just leaving the group all the time, there might be a reason.  Check it out.
  4. The group expects you to buy the pizza because you’re the new guy.  Sorry, but that’s just a red flag in my book.  To many times, that’s the way until someone new joins.  Make certain that this is part of a rotation though, and you should be fine.

So, I hope this helps out any new players we have around here.  Just keep in mind that if you’re having fun, and the group is having fun, then it’s all good, regardless of what any blogger on the net says 😉

August 6, 2008 - Posted by | RPG | ,


  1. Not all metagaming is bad. One can metagame to get one’s character involved in interesting (and usually hazardous) situations, for example.

    Good post, all in all.

    Comment by Tommi | August 7, 2008 | Reply

  2. Tommi,

    Fair point. However, I don’t consider it metagaming if your character has a valid reason to enter the situation and doesn’t understand the potential danger.

    Admittedly, it’s a semantics point probably, and I agree with what you say completely 😉

    Comment by Tom | August 7, 2008 | Reply

  3. Characters usually have valid reasons for a wide spectrum of actions. For example: I was playing a man of higher middle class in victorian England and I needed to get home. There were several routes to take, like walking there or paying for a more comfortable means of travel. I decided which way to go by metagaming; I went the way that would lead to a random encounter with another PC, who is pretty hostile to my PC.

    Metagaming: Check. Created an interesting and dangerous situation: Check. Helped my character: All in all, the character’s life was in danger and now his family is in danger. So, nope, not beneficial.

    The character did not know there was danger. I did.

    Comment by Tommi | August 7, 2008 | Reply

  4. Exactly. As I said earlier, your character didn’t know the potential danger. Walking was a choice the character made for various reasons, but you understood the danger. Hence, it’s not what I considered metagaming.

    The character deciding to walk to encounter this other PC, even though he/she couldn’t have known if you yourself didn’t know, on the other hand, IS what I consider metagaming. Using player knowledge in character…not using player knowledge to help your character.

    Subtle difference, but significant in my opinion.

    Comment by Tom | August 7, 2008 | Reply

  5. There’s some kind of disconnect here. Nowadays when I play I have never seen anything you would call metagaming. My character has sometimes acted on whim when I had an OOC reason for the character doing something, which is very similar to what you call metagaming.

    So, let us check if I got this right: If there is a situation where I genuinely don’t know what my character would do and I make that decision by information my character does not have and rationalise it by in-character reasons, I am not metagaming, but if I rationalise the character’s decision by transferring my information to the character, then I am metagaming?

    Example: Say, my char is in a dungeon. There are two doors. Behind the left door there is pie. Behind the right door there is an orc. I, the player, know this; my char does not. Taking the left door because “It looks nicer.” (or other flimsy excuse) is not metagaming, while taking it “Because there is pie there.” is.

    Assuming the above is correct, I think the disconnect comes from it feeling alien for players to vocalise the motivations of their characters all the time. In my games it happens quite rarely.

    Comment by Tommi | August 7, 2008 | Reply

  6. Not quite. Honestly Tommi, metagaming is such a complex issue that, in hindsight, it’s hard to give a hard and fast definition. The example with the pie illustrates to me the flaw in my explanation.

    I had debated about making my next post on what I consider metagaming and hope to explain myself a bit better.

    Thanks for that 😉

    Comment by Tom | August 7, 2008 | Reply

  7. Personally, ‘metagaming’ is anything that breaks immersion. Not that I’m LARP’ing at my game table, far from it. If the players are all ‘in character’ working through good-for-you role playing (aka non-combat) encounter, and then one of them says “I have a +19 to diplomacy. I rolled a 10, so that’s a 29 – what does the king tell me?” that’s metagaming, IMHO. I would much rather have the player use dialog to move the story forward and report the result of his roll “Well, your majesty, we are here to claim the reward for slaying the troll of doom, but we hear that you have given the reward to someone else? (I roll a 29 on diplomacy)” or some such. Anyway my 2¢.

    Comment by jonathan | August 7, 2008 | Reply

  8. I don’t know that I’d call that metagaming either. I’d call that something more like breaking character.

    Of course, it’s important to understand that I don’t consider my definition as the gospel truth. Just my understanding of the term.

    Comment by Tom | August 7, 2008 | Reply

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