LESSON Meta Knowledge (or '"Sensing" things')

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY MECHANICS' started by Minibit, Feb 19, 2015.

  1. An uncanny number of roleplay characters seem to possess a sixth sense which allows them knowledge of things they should be clueless about.

    When ESP is a thing in the roleplay, or when there are subtle clues that the character could feasibly pick up on unconsciously which would make them feel like something is off but not be sure exactly what, this is fine! It can even create a dramatic conflict if one character has a feeling something's up, but no one believes them. There are times when "just knowing" or "sensing" something is appropriate, but there's many more times when it isn't.

    Say you read that there are robbers watching your characters from the trees; they are described as perfectly concealed as they prepare to ambush your characters. It can be tempting to have your character sense something is off so they can be prepared and possibly avoid injury and loss of their stuff, but this is unrealistic. Let your character be surprised; reflexes are a thing, after all, and things don't always go well for people in real life, it's a bit sue-ish if "sensing" things keeps your character out of every sticky situation that comes up.

    This phenomenon can be especially frustrating when you're trying to reveal something to the other player, so that you can surprise your characters, organically reveal backstory, or even just build suspense. When someone takes information that their characters weren't supposed to pick up on, and have them get it anyway, it messes with your intentions. Even if the character keeps the things they've "just know" to themselves, or they don't get the details, it's still knowledge they realistically shouldn't have, and it affects the story for them to have it.

    Guys, sit down and take a note

    It is okay for your characters to not know things

    No really, it is! In fact, it can be a very good thing. It gives your character a chance to be surprised, making for more dynamic scenes.

    To prevent metaknowledge, it helps to look at the post you're responding to from the perspective of your character; what parts of the post do they pick up with their five senses? Never mind what the other character is thinking, what did your character hear them say? Never mind how they're feeling, what does your character get from their tone and body language? People don't always say what they mean or act in a way that reflects their true feelings. It's even easier to avoid metaknowledge when it's things like an ambush up ahead or a new tattoo under someone's sweater. If your character has no way of knowing something, it's likely because they're not supposed to know it yet, so go ahead and leave them in the dark; it's okay.
     
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  2. I like my characters getting surprised, or making mistakes. Sometimes when I'm writing a big post that has my character trying to navigate a difficult situation I'll realize that I forgot something while they were planning it out mentally, or that there actions would have unintended consequences, and instead of erasing and fixing I'll roll with the mistake and the scene will get much harder for my character. An example would be when a mage character of mine was trying to infiltrate a slaver camp. She became so obsessed with finding a way to take out a guard quietly that she forgot to check for magical defenses and tripped an enemy mage's ward.
     
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  3. I've been practicing writing out the visible and audible emotional cues. It's been very fun and helpful for avoiding 6th sense stuff.
     
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  4. I guess it's a little too late now due to the age of the games, but honestly, seriously try to play and become a better player in a good Neverwinter Nights roleplay server.

    I learned about the importance of having characters not know things in those games, based on my interactions with the DMs who ran the servers I played at. The biggest thing was how characters react when they don't know something. Sure, you know that your character ultimately can escape from any battle alive due to how the server rules work, and you know the limits and strengths of your character, but your character doesn't necessarily know that. They don't know a mindflayer's HP, level, possible spells, attacks and so on. They might not even know what kind of equipment it's loaded with, nor do they know about the EXP reward at the end of the DM event. If all you knew was you're face-to-face with some crazy tentacle-faced thing of the unknown depths, it's a reasonable thought that you might not feel all that inclined to actually fight it. I'm not saying you should make your character a coward and run way from everything, but instead just use actual logic when deciding how they react to threats. And not OOC knowledge.

    So with all that in mind, I'd just like to add for those who play in more stat-driven roleplays or anything like that. It's also very good for the story and the three-dimensional nature of your character if you don't focus so entirely on just making your own character better. Sure, you know that if you do z y and z your character's stats may go up, but your character doesn't know that (Usually). You may inadvertently metagame in the pursuit of improving your own character, so be careful!
     
  5. I think people underestimate how much they're short-changing themselves with meta-knowledge as well. A bunch of conflict comes out of people not knowing things or not understanding each other.

    One of my characters is about to be betrayed by his lover in the worst way. He's a smart guy, and good at reading people.

    He still doesn't suspect a thing, and it will be horrible and glorious when it goes down. If I was a metagamer I would miss out on what will hopefully be a really emotional and memorable moment.
     
  6. I'm actually about to have a talk with one of my partners about meta knowledge and stuff because his character did something like a magical x-ray to learn about my character. Yay, communication!