During my last session of D&D, metagaming reared its ugly head again. My players were attacked by a couple of black dragons, and one of my players briefed the others on what tactics to use and what kind of breath weapon this particular type of dragon had, in spite of this being a low fantasy setting and the character having no idea what a black dragon was.
I think it’s fair to say that most GMs wouldn’t appreciate that, and I responded by yanking away the Inspiration die that the character had just earned during the previous scene, explaining that metagaming wouldn’t be tolerated at the table. That said, my friend’s “crime” was being overt; I’m sure other players at the table were familiar with black dragons and selectively chose their tactics accordingly. If I’m not interested in changing up monster stat blocks, then I should expect that sort of thing with seasoned players.
One of the things that sprang to mind while reflecting on this incident was that I would have allowed a character to make an appropriate ability check to see if she could recall anything about black dragons. That brought up the possibility of misinformation and how that could be applied at the table. It also brought up the question of what should I do, if anything, as a GM if I notice a player deviating from her character’s usual tactics?
Tackling misinformation first, one thing that I decided to change was how I set difficulty classes. In D&D, typical difficulty classes are set in 5 point increments (e.g. an easy task is DC 10, while a very hard task is DC 25). It’s easy to use the crutch of thinking that way (hmm, this seems like a hard task, so I’ll set it at DC 20). Players tend to think in those terms as well. However, if I randomly add or subtract a point or two then it keeps players guessing.
This enables me to factor in misinformation. Normally, my knee-jerk reaction is to use a “1” or similarly low number to state that the character “recalls” bad information. That said it’s not fooling the player, but if I put that “1” right behind a success (say, a 15 when the character needed to roll a 16) then I can give that player misinformation and she’ll run with it.
This, of course, only works when the players at the table don’t know anything about the monsters or if they suspect that I’m changing stat blocks. Otherwise, I’m left with the question of whether to enforce appropriate behaviors on the characters.
So, I have two “fair or foul” questions for today:
First, if a character always enters combat with a particular tactic, but the player suddenly decides to switch tactics (ostensibly because she’s metagaming and knows that her normal tactics wouldn’t be effective against this particular enemy), then would I be in my rights as a GM to insist that she use her usual tactic until it is evident that it’s not the best choice?
Second, if a character makes an ability check/skill roll to find out something about a creature and botches it, would I as the GM be in my rights to make her use an ineffective tactic? Can I spread that to other characters as well if the affected character was sharing her misinformation?