3 comments on “Meta-knowledge

  1. These meta-objectives reminded me of the LARP-game we had at the LARP-camp (Larppileiri) back in something like 2005 or so. In the game, there were some characters the GMs described as “assistant players” or “NPCs”, that had a certain role within the story and had plenty of meta-information about the game (such as some pre-scripted events and character information). These players were part of the game, but their characters had been written in a way that they didn’t have much action during the game (ie. not many objectives to accomplish), but had plenty of importance to the story and the mood of the game.

    And it is not a separate occasion when I’ve encountered such assistant players. Especially in Cthulhu-LARPs, these assistant players can be very crucial for setting the mood and/or playing the various creatures that the players might encounter. Naturally, these assistant players have to have plenty of meta-knowledge about the game for them to be able to “act their part”.

    Some Tabletop RPGs also have some meta-knowledge written into the game. For example, the Mountain Witch has a mechanic that involves players breaking the trust between the characters. Thus, everybody is aware that eventually, someone is going to end up doing just that. What is interesting is not if this happens or not, but when and what kind of a story it makes.

    These kind of narrative games have been an interest of mine for a few years now, since I have noticed how this kind of meta-knowledge or meta-information can be used to make interesting and different kind of gameplay.

  2. Having played some sessions of OSR D&D and discussed about the campaign even more I’m inclined to disagree about its narrativist side. Deaths of protagonists don’t necessarily take away the story: war stories and certain pulpish fantasy literature (and Lovecraft, of course) have this very same feature. I’m not saying that the original D&D is a story-oriented game, but that it can (and was and is) played with certain narrativist focus. At the very least I’d say that the very presence of a story sets the classic D&D apart from board games.

    Still, I’m not going against your history here. Just pointing out that the play culture of D&D is and has been quite varied.

    Concerning the use of meta-knowledge or more precisely, pre-written plot, find out about Nordic rpg tradition (The Nørwegian Style, Unelma keltaisesta kuninkaasta and jeepen.org). They have used this gimmick quite a lot.

    • Thanks for pointing that out; I only now realized that my own D&D 3.5 campaign was quite a mighty story, despite (or because) that each original character died.

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