One of the biggest challenges of tabletop RPG playing is “metagaming”.
Metagaming – using knowledge you have as a player to influence the actions or knowledge of your character who would not have access to that information.
It’s generally easy to identify and avoid when it’s obvious or intentional. When the person across the room does something you shouldn’t know about, and your character acts to counter – that’s metagaming. But it comes in more insidious forms, harder to guard against forms.
It becomes hard when you know about the world your character is playing in – sometimes you meet an unusual monster, but knowing that a Hydra is going to re-grow it’s heads when your character has never heard of it can be tricky. What would the character really have done in that moment?
I’m watching back episodes of Critical Role currently (http://geekandsundry.com/shows/critical-role/) , what’s impressive to me is that the name “Vecna” keeps being thrown around as an opponent – and I happen to know this famous Dungeons and Dragons creation. Vecna the Lich, Vecna the Demi-god, Vecna the source of the “Eye of Vecna” and “Hand of Vecna” as powerful artifacts. And then there’s the fantastic “artifact” known as the “Head of Vecna”.
To gain the power of the eye or hand, one must remove one’s own left eye or hand respectively to install the artifact. So in one legendary campaign a rumor reached the party of the “Head of Vecna” and it’s amazing power. Reasonably, once it was acquired, there was an assumed decapitation in order to replace one’s head with the epic HEAD OF VECNA. The party in question fought for the right to be the bearer of the head…
And if failed. Dead party member, and something went wrong. This didn’t stop the party from trying again with another party member, of course…
And that failed, too. That’s right, the “Head of Vecna” was one of the great D&D based practical jokes! These fools are now famous for cutting of their own heads for the dream of the power foretold in a fake artifact.
This is the only thing I can think of when I hear Vecna, it gives me the absolute giggles. If a Dungeon Master even whispered the word Vecna I would utterly lose my mind with giggles and glee. I know some of the players here are experienced tabletop gamers, and yet no reference to the knowledge of Vecna – even his eye, hand, or infamous head – in or out of character has been made. Not in the cross talk, banter, or actions of the characters that seem to be racing headlong into trouble at the potential hands of Vecna and his followers.
The Critical Role crew impressively remains impassive, or appropriately passionate in character only, about the looming threat of Vecna. That’s really great to see, encourages me to hold myself to a high standard of avoiding even unintentional meta-gaming. To think deeply and thoroughly as my character.
So for you gamers out there, I challenge you to hold yourself to that magical high standard. If they can do it every week on camera, we can do it in the dens, living rooms, gaming stores, and on all tables we find our fun atop.