Episode Two: Metagaming and Immersion

In this episode, Nicky and Joe talk about the difference between metagaming and immersion. We tend to focus on the mechanical side of the phenomena, but we give examples of games that facilitate either. Mostly, we’re giving you our perspective of the perennial debate!

We can be reached via email, at our Forums, on Facebook, or you can follow us on Twitter.

Episode Two: Metagaming and Immersion

Favorite Games of the Week

Promethean: The Created
The Shab-al-Hiri Roach
Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition

Currently Playing

Nothing. We haven’t had a roleplaying session of Dresden and we hadn’t selected a new game by the time we recorded.


Deadlands Classic was released at Origins 1996.

Everyone is welcome to join our bowling team.


Ali! You should totally listen to the show!

AL Bruno III! Your old RPG.net threads are fantastic. For our listeners the relevent threads are collected here. Enjoy the insanity.

The Forge can be found here. It’s a really neato community that has a ton of archived stuff on roleplaying theory.

Music Section

“Roll the Dice, Make my Day [Stick Jones Remix]” (Stick Jones)
“U Spin me Round [Remix]” (DJ Markski)
“Think About The Two Of Us” (Tim and Nicki Bluhm)
“Piano & String Epic Beat” (foxik0169)

Games Mentioned

GURPS 4th Edition
Dungeons & Dragons
Savage Worlds
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition
Castles & Crusades
Deadlands Classic
Deadlands: Reloaded
Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering
Dogs in the Vineyard
World of Darkness
Wraith: The Oblivion
D&D Rules Cyclopedia
Demon: The Fallen
Laws of the Night
Dresden Files RPG
GURPS Black Ops
Strands of Fate
In Nomine
Sorcery & Super Science!
All Flesh Must Be Eaten
Terra Primate


About joewolz

I am a co-host of 2 Gms, 1 Mic.
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3 Responses to Episode Two: Metagaming and Immersion

  1. Joe says:

    You guys should really add your podcast to iTunes. It’s free and essentially adding an XML/RSS feed to a form in iTunes.

  2. joewolz says:

    We are in iTunes, but the name is goofy, we’re under 2GMS1MIC all caps for some reason.

  3. @RA_Whipple says:

    Meta Gaming and immersion.

    The problem with the discussions that compare and contrast meta-gaming and immersive games is the expectation that there is a conclusive answer what is better on a cost-benefit type scale. The answer is whatever floats your boat. The friction chaffs when a player tries to meta-game other players around the tabletop into a validation of his or her definition of RPG joy. If the players, and the DM is also a player, are fine with immersion or meta-game or both styles at the table then there is no worry.

    If the style of play goes against the gaming contract (or “player expectations” if it is implicit and not part of a session 1 explicit out-of-character discussion panel), then big problems will arise within the group. Either style can result in player engrossment but together, at the same table with different player expectations, the clash of these styles can destroy the shared fantasy and personal joy of tabletop.

    It also depends on how extreme the players enforce one style over another. Is character generation that has players roll 3D6 six times and allows them to arrange the rolls to their taste on the character sheet meta-gaming? It could be if you want to max Dexterity for character win. A clumsy thief could be just as successfully immersive to play as a min-max build. Few people would think meta-gaming occurs on the initial dice roll however.

    Essentially meta-gaming takes Bob the character sheet and makes him into Aragorn the last king because a player wants to play Aragorn. Bob may not want (or have the ability) to go adventuring. It is the player who wants to go raiding and equips and outfits Bob as Aragorn. This may sound ridiculous because Bob is not a real person with free will and Aragorn is an imaginary character built upon an illusion of the player but this is just the tone of the discussion I observe surrounding the meta-gaming vs immersion arguments.

    When Gygax wrote the AD&D DMG, 1978, there was no separation between player and player character. Thus, no meta-gaming! Bob, Aragorn and the player were all one and the same person. Player knowledge was player character knowledge. The Preface to the DMG is paraphrased: do not let the players read this book and penalize them for bringing it to the table. Gygax admonishes DMs to avoid building a meta-game-able wall between player and player character through the management of information at the table… but then indiscriminately sells rulebooks to unlicensed DMs at retail outlets across the country. It is ironic.

    But “Rule 0” means is the game is the DM’s creation not the creation of Gary Gygax. And when Gary DM’d, the game was the creation of Gary Gygax and not the writing in his own rulebooks. This occult gaming of hidden knowledge fosters immersion.

    Many factors stack onto an immersion style that satisfies its players, which do not appear in successful meta-gaming: a higher degree of tabletop communication, inter-player trust, the rule of consistency, the permission to learn as you go/playtest, and collaborative fantasy. The meta-game relies on rules over player initiatives (to make rulings) and the game within the game is how to manipulate the rules (including House Rules).

    This returns me to my original observation that meta-gaming can occur at character generation and that many of us, both meta-gamers and immersion enthusiasts, may not be entirely pure in our practice of either style. The fact we are aware changes it, kind of like the uncertainty principle.

    Besides, who doesn’t like a good Monty Python joke in game?

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