Role Play: Godmoding vs. metagaming
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been roleplaying for years, or you’re a brand new roleplayer — sometimes we slip up. Everyone does it from time to time, and it’s not the end of the world if you happen to do so. But understanding exactly how you slipped up is just as important as correcting the action. By understanding why you’ve made a mistake, you can make sure you don’t repeat it in the future. This week’s email asks about a couple of terms that sometimes confuse roleplayers.
There is definitely a difference between these two terms – but sometimes people get them mixed up. As for knowing if you’re actually doing either one…well that’s a little trickier to diagnose.
You can think of godmoding as “playing god” in terms of roleplay. Typically speaking, this means that you as a player are essentially rewriting the plot to suit your character, regardless of what happens to be going on. To outside observers, it often appears as if your character is invincible – it doesn’t matter what situation they’re in, they can’t be beaten.
In addition to this, godmoding can also refer to the act of taking control of another player’s character. This could be something as major as declaring that the character in question is suddenly severely injured. Or it could be as minor as implying that someone else’s character immediately feels or acts a certain way in response to something your character is doing.
Another example of godmoding involves steering a storyline or situation with no regard or space for anyone else to react or intervene. Say, for instance, you have a group of roleplayers quietly engaging in their own group roleplay at a pre-established storytelling event. Suddenly a character that was not invited or part of the group bursts in and begins roleplaying that it’s raining fire on the heads of the quiet roleplayers.
In each of these scenarios, it’s a case of a roleplayer making a deliberate attempt to dictate exactly how roleplay is going to go. Roleplaying isn’t just about taking action. It’s about reacting to different situations as well. It’s a group activity that’s a constant flux of give and take between the actions and reactions of everyone involved.
Metagaming is a little more subtle, but it’s just as dangerous as godmoding, in its own way. Metagaming is using information that you’re aware of on an out-of-character level, but your character has no means of knowing themselves. This information can be used to give your character an automatic advantage in certain situations.
For example, you talk to your GM all the time, and they let you in on certain details about an upcoming event. You then alter whatever your character is currently doing to instead prepare them for what hasn’t actually happened yet. Alternatively, you suddenly craft a backstory in which your character is an expert in whatever information is needed for that upcoming storyline.
Another much more common example is in the instance that a new expansion is announced. You as a player are aware of what’s coming. Your character doesn’t have that knowledge. Regardless, your character is suddenly fully aware of what’s to come – whether by a sudden flash of brilliance, or a sudden onset of psychic ability.
Not all metagaming is so major in scale – sometimes it’s simply a situation where your character suddenly knows information that’s only available via a roleplaying addon. Things like a character’s name, class, back story, relatives, or any secrets they might be keeping. Sure, you as a player might be aware of all of this stuff because you’ve read it – your character, on the other hand, has no such knowledge.
Identifying the issue
It’s pretty easy to tell if you’ve been godmoding, since it usually requires a conscious decision on the part of the roleplayer in question. If you’re roleplaying and refusing to leave anyone room to react to your actions, it can be construed as godmoding. If you’re repeatedly hurling your character into dangerous situations and refusing to allow them even the chance of injury or harm, that’s godmoding.
Metagaming, on the other hand, is far more subtle and difficult to detect. If someone accuses you of metagaming, listen to what they have to say. Take a step back and ask yourself, “Is this something my character would legitimately know? If I didn’t have advance, out-of-character warning, is this an action my character would have taken?” If the answer is no, then you should offer an apology and correct the situation.
As I said before – sometimes we slip up, regardless if we’re brand-new or experienced roleplayers. Playing god or using out-of-character information to somehow better your character isn’t considered acceptable behavior. But it isn’t the kiss of death to your roleplay, either. Roleplay is about that give and take both in and out of character. Be willing to examine your roleplay, and acknowledge any mistakes you may have inadvertently made. If it’s necessary, be willing to adjust your roleplay accordingly. After all, you wouldn’t want anyone playing your character for you – you shouldn’t expect to be allowed to do the same.
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