Metagame Knowledge is hard to stop


Advice

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This is an issue I've had come up very often while GMing with one particular player. I've talked with him before about it but he is finding it really hard to avoid doing, apparently. He's a great person to have at the table besides this one issue, overall, but it's definitely beginning to bug me.

GM: "You see before you a strange and horrific looking creature. It is humanoid, barely, but emaciated and thin, with rubbery purple flesh. Two beady eyes peer out from a bulbous, alien face with a writhing mass of tentacles where its mouth should be. Its gaze falls upon you, and the tentacles lash the air as a crippling blast of oppressive power assaults your very minds!"

Player: "Mind Flayer. I got a 23, that beats the saving throw DC of 18."

...really takes the immersion out of it, ya know? He's a great guy and I feel it's my job to make sure he, along with all the rest of my players, feels accepted and has a great time at the table, but he's got a strong tendency to repeatedly discuss the monster's stats at the table and divulge detailed information about it with the other players, and gets annoyed if I change any of it. :/


It really is hard to stop. I generally keep it in my head (since I GM & play, the separation is not much...). I would generally say it's a courtesy issue to shut up in those times.


I dunno I have the same issue as a player, I like to guess what the critter is of course I don't have save DCs on the top of my head that's fairly questionable. Does he have a computer or something that he's using to look it up or is he just a walking talking Bestiary book?


I'll admit, I do a little of this too. Though usually if I know what the monster is (or think I do) it'll come out to something like "Okay, a 20. That beats its AC I think, unless you changed it".

YMMV on how annoying that is in and of itself, but maybe ask him to tone it down at least that far?


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You can use meta-game knowledge against the players, too.

In the campaign I'm running now, the party is freaking out because I've described a demonic creature with the lower body of a snake and a multi-armed upper body that looks like a humanoid female that is attacking the next town over. They're nowhere near powerful enough to fight a CR 17 marilith, which is what they're all assuming it is.

Of course, I never SAID it was a marilth. That's just what they all assumed it was. It's actually a lamia.

I re-skin monsters all the time for this very reason.


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he just knows dcs off hand? That's actually kind of impressive. I mean, I could tell it was a mind flayer by what you're describing but I wouldn't know it's save DCs...

Regardless, assuming he isn't blatantly cheating by looking up the monster's stats in the beastiary at the table (in which case you have a different problem) just take him aside, and explain that unless his character has Knowledge [insert appropriate skill here] then he doesn't know jack about the monster, and should keep such comments to himself. If he does have the appropriate knowledge roll and succeeds, then you tell him what he knows, and anything beyond what you tell him, he should assume he doesn't know.

You said you'd talked to him about the issue before. Don't let up. Bring it up every time he does something.

player: "Oh, it's breath weapon is like 9d6"
Gm: "you have no knowledge of that information, please keep it to yourself."

Say it every time, he'll get it eventually. In the mean time, I suggest tricking him. Deliberately create a monster and mess with its stats so that it is something besides the vanilla monster in the bestiary. If you're fighting a Medusa, make it an advanced Medusa so it's stats change a bit. Make a description of a creature that turns out to be another creature of a similar appearance. A skeleton and a Mohrg look awfully similar. Describe things in a way so that he guesses wrong.

Shadow Lodge

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The one point that sticks out to me here (aside from memorising the DCs, wow - possible cheater alert?), is that you said he gets annoyed if you change any of it.

The kind of behaviour he's expressing is a perfectly good reason for a GM to change it on a whim. I don't know if you're changing it in such a way to be unfair (DC 25 for him, DC 18 for everyone else?) but making it out so that his lack of a knowledge check results in lack of knowledge of why his attack failed is self-correcting.


There's a disconnect between you and that player. You each enjoy the game for different reasons and this is expressing itself in this area.

My first suggestion would be to let it go. Figure out a way to not care and just move on with the game anyways. It really is personal preference, open values or obscured values, but I've played with both and GM with both as well. Just let the numbers be public for a while, see if you can tolerate it.

If you find that hard, or the behavior is disruptive, try shifting how the game is talked about at the table. Start and end with the fiction. It sounds like at the very least, you already start with the fiction as the GM.

"Its gaze falls upon you, and the tentacles lash the air as a crippling blast of oppressive power assaults your very minds! You can try to resist, roll a Will save DC 18"
"23!"
"You can't tell for sure, but you almost register an expression of disgust on it's face when it realizes it hasn't overcome you."

If that's the kind of thing you already do, then the hard part is encouraging your players to do the same thing. When they do things like:

"I roll to attack" *grabbing dice*
"Before you roll, what do you do? Describe it."

Hopefully it eventually becomes:

"I charge the tentacle faced thing and see if decapitation works on it"
"Great! Roll to attack"

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Avatar-1 wrote:
The kind of behaviour he's expressing is a perfectly good reason for a GM to change it on a whim. I don't know if you're changing it in such a way to be unfair (DC 25 for him, DC 18 for everyone else?) but making it out so that his lack of a knowledge check results in lack of knowledge of why his attack failed is self-correcting.

So far, I haven't re-skinned any monsters but I know it bothers him (and he expresses confusion and frustration) when he thinks he's fighting one thing and it's doing something else. Case in point - the party was fighting a doppelganger who was just using one of the players' stats instead of the doppelganger stats. He kept on saying how weird it was that the doppelganger could use hexes and cast spells, and would say things like "Wait, if this thing can cast fourth-level spells, there is no way it is an appropriate CR for our group. It's got all those extra racial hit dice, and..."

Etc. He expects everything to very clearly obey RAW, and it throws a wrench in the works for him when it doesn't.

Avatar-1 wrote:

"Its gaze falls upon you, and the tentacles lash the air as a crippling blast of oppressive power assaults your very minds! You can try to resist, roll a Will save DC 18"

"23!"
"You can't tell for sure, but you almost register an expression of disgust on it's face when it realizes it hasn't overcome you."

This is kind of the gold standard I'm trying to achieve here (though I don't tell them DCs). He gets into the fiction too (his characters' backstories tend to be much more elaborate than most and he's a stellar roleplayer outside of combat).

I think I might be at fault a bit too - he knows I'm obsessive about knowing all of the details of the rules, and we both have extremely detailed knowledge of how various rules interact. It's not unreasonable for him to assume I'm bringing that detail into the administration of combat. I think I will try to discuss with him some more, as well as re-skinning things a bit. I'd like to see how he responds to an environment where the stats can't be known ahead of time - I think he will like it more once he realizes I'm not relying on printed stats for things in the rulebooks.


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Maybe your player could incorporate this annoying habit into his RP. Like the character is a scholar of bestiaries and monster lore. That would at least give some kind of in-game justification.

Shadow Lodge

The Morphling wrote:
He expects everything to very clearly obey RAW, and it throws a wrench in the works for him when it doesn't.

Right, this is the fix.

If a character expects something to happen, but has no basis for knowing that information except that the player knows it, there shouldn't be a problem if what the player experiences isn't what they expect.

If he gets upset about this, you can bring up your reasoning about how important knowledge checks are - for this very reason.


If he's a stellar RPer, as you seem to say, tell him to make knowledge checks when he starts spouting out monster stats. If he fails, tell him that he is convinced that it is another monster.

"Aboleth. Look out for the Dominate!"
"Roll a Knowledge: Dungeoneering."
"Um... ok. 18."
"You are convinced that this is an Shoggoth."

If he is a good RPer, he should enjoy the challenge of using tactics suited to the wrong monster.


I have a problem similar to this and to make up for it I usually play knowledge monkeys or at least an above average intelligence that way if I slip with "Crap it's a Glabrezu!" It can be partially explained away as having heard the description somewhere but I really try not to do the whole "wait shadows only do strength damage thing", when it slips out usually its on accident, it might be the same for your guy. The getting upset when you change things might be frustration from perceived imbalances. I know we had an issue with a purple worm that spread its poison through every attack not just its sting and had a higher DC and die attached to it that caused some grumbling. When I run games I know I regularly reskin monsters so they can't be ID'd by description, my dire wolves in one game were a horse sized beast that looked like a cross between a snake and a mountain lion for example. Same stats under the hood but nothing alike visually. You can also usually get away with adding templates and then just not telling your players that they're present unless they in character start looking for why these guys are different. If you make your changes mechanically similar or based off of existing things and he still gets up set then you might have a whole different issue that isn't going to be solved by anything but some one on one time hashing out expectations.


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Two things here.

If he has enough system mastery to have memorized monster ability DCs and whatnot... he is operating on a different level than you are as a GM.

His understanding of game balance is probably a little finer tuned. When a doppelganger has the ability to copy class powers instead of functioning like the printed version of the critter... he will recognize the inherent mechanical flaws with that, and why that is OP as hell and can/could/should/would be abused.

You are likely more concerned with the story than the mechanics, and there isn't anything wrong with that approach. He however, seems to focus in on the game system and how everything works. Nothing wrong with that either.

My recommendation? You have options... but the happiest ending is going to be this; when you rewrite stuff, do so carefully. Your best bet is to 're-skin' existing creatures, and apply templates. Don't 'make up new abilities on the fly'. That is something that he will pick up on, and reject immediately.

As for his outbursts? Re-skin monsters. What does that mean? That means to use rules for a critter, as written... but use a different description for it. This will throw him off, hardcore. But... he will eventually catch on to what is happening, and be okay with it. Why? Because he will probably recognize what the creature is, or sense the balance inherent in the stats, even if it is unfamiliar to him.

Then, he won't know what things are what he thinks they are or not. His outbursts will likely fall away. And he won't be complaining, because you're not making up new rules that set off his inner 'wtf' sensors.


Remy Balster wrote:

As for his outbursts? Re-skin monsters. What does that mean? That means to use rules for a critter, as written... but use a different description for it. This will throw him off, hardcore. But... he will eventually catch on to what is happening, and be okay with it. Why? Because he will probably recognize what the creature is, or sense the balance inherent in the stats, even if it is unfamiliar to him.

That doesn't happen in my experience with players like this. The player may get a thrill out of being an "expert" of monster stats. He may not like you tweaking monsters because he feels like you're cheating.

If you want to eliminate tweaking and still make it where he doesn't know what they are, a few suggestions:

1. Create entirely new creatures. The books provide you with a enough information to easily create new monsters from scratch. You're still following the RAW when you do this.

2. Apply templates (as someone already mentioned.) You may wish to also create new templates of your own.

3. Add class levels to the monsters (works best with humanoids IME.)

Overall this is just a play style difference. I have a player that every time I describe a monster, he asks to see the picture of the monster, figuring he'll be able to identify it from a combination of both pieces of info.

Sometimes I use the monsters from the book, other times I create entirely new monsters. I may look on the internet for a suitable picture, or may just use a description.


Start your next session with the announcement that out-of-character speaking is not allowed for the next one or two hours. Players are only allowed to speak in character and if they break the rule they have to put 1€ in a box for snacks and drinks. Out-of-character is only allowed directly with the GM and it must be signalized with a rised hand or an other sign.

It can be really funny, it speeds up combats (discussions is minimized) and it stops players from speading metagame knowledge.


Tormsskull wrote:
Remy Balster wrote:

As for his outbursts? Re-skin monsters. What does that mean? That means to use rules for a critter, as written... but use a different description for it. This will throw him off, hardcore. But... he will eventually catch on to what is happening, and be okay with it. Why? Because he will probably recognize what the creature is, or sense the balance inherent in the stats, even if it is unfamiliar to him.

That doesn't happen in my experience with players like this. The player may get a thrill out of being an "expert" of monster stats. He may not like you tweaking monsters because he feels like you're cheating.

If you want to eliminate tweaking and still make it where he doesn't know what they are, a few suggestions:

1. Create entirely new creatures. The books provide you with a enough information to easily create new monsters from scratch. You're still following the RAW when you do this.

That is essentially what I described... except without creating new anything mechanical.

Make new monster, make monster description, and use existing monster stats.

Making new critter whole cloth is not for everybody. Many people do it... erm, less than perfectly. But re-skinning existing monsters can be done on the fly without ever risking imbalances or mechanical weirdness.


I personally hate this kind of commentary during a game. I and most of my group enjoy the immersive element of role play. I have no problem when a player Knows these details but I insist that they do not talk about them at the game table.

As a GM I factor this kind of Metagaming into my Roleplay XP rewards. Players who remain in character and interact more authentically recieve an XP bonus which is significant. Not getting it sends a message to players that my scowling disapproval never will.


The Morphling wrote:

This is an issue I've had come up very often while GMing with one particular player. I've talked with him before about it but he is finding it really hard to avoid doing, apparently. He's a great person to have at the table besides this one issue, overall, but it's definitely beginning to bug me.

GM: "You see before you a strange and horrific looking creature. It is humanoid, barely, but emaciated and thin, with rubbery purple flesh. Two beady eyes peer out from a bulbous, alien face with a writhing mass of tentacles where its mouth should be. Its gaze falls upon you, and the tentacles lash the air as a crippling blast of oppressive power assaults your very minds!"

Player: "Mind Flayer. I got a 23, that beats the saving throw DC of 18."

...really takes the immersion out of it, ya know? He's a great guy and I feel it's my job to make sure he, along with all the rest of my players, feels accepted and has a great time at the table, but he's got a strong tendency to repeatedly discuss the monster's stats at the table and divulge detailed information about it with the other players, and gets annoyed if I change any of it. :/

When I was a Teen I also knew most Monster stats and had a player, who knew most of them.

1) Have him do Knowledge checks and distinguish beetween player and character knowledge.

2.) I would go with a lot of reskinning. How about a Giant Owl, that look like a shadowy Drake.

3.) Adjust their stats. The advanced and or young template will throw his DCs off. Modify some basic abilities: This dragon breathes Poison instead of Fire. Do a saving throw!

4. ) You get get some 3rd Party Monsters, he doesn't know.


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I re-skin monsters sometimes, but it is generally as an easy way to provide a new, balanced monster without a lot of work. My interest is in having a cool monster which fits the scene though, not in keeping monster abilities super secret. A lot of parties seem to have a Knowledge specialist who knows everything anyhow.

As far as the player getting annoyed with changes goes, that sounds like a tough situation. On the one hand the GM should have creative freedom. On the other a lot of players don't like to feel that the GM is changing stuff arbitrarily to counter the PCs. I'm trying to imagine how stuff like this might play out at a table somewhere...

GM: "You cast Fireball? Well, these blue skinned giants who live in the distant North are immune to fire!"
Mr. Bestiary: "Do they have Communal Protection from Fire? If so that's only good for 120 damage, so you'd better track it."
GM: "No, I was just tired of Bob's half-everything 3 bloodline caster doing 80 damage with Fireball, so they're immune."
Mr. Bestiary: "Not fair! You Changed the Monster! Not fair!"
GM: "Ok, ok, they're reskinned Fire Giants!"
Bard: "My Knowledge check of 47 would have known that!"
GM: "No, Knowledge doesn't help against these because nobody has ever seen one before. This race was recently invented by the ancient Thassilonian lich Efyu in an effort to surprise and confound adventurers."
Bob: "Ok, I cast a quickened Cold Ball!"
GM: "Sorry, they're also half white dragon!"
Bard: "Knowledge check 47, dude, 47!"
GM: "They were wearing lots of furs, so you couldn't see the scales!"
Mr. Bestiary: "I guess it was my metagame knowledge which got us into this..."
Paladin: "While these guys prattle I charge forward and Smite Evil!"
GM: "Surprise, they're not Evil! Efyu also mixed in the blood of lawful Good archons, adjusting alignment to Neutral!"
Players: "Efyu!!!"

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