[CONAN] Using Meta-game Info

How much, on average, meta-game, or outside-game, info do you let slip or purposefully tell your players?

During our last game session, the players got desperate and finally decided to try these vials of liquid I had placed in the game. These are small tubes, about 2.5 inches long with the diameter of a nickel. They're corked on one end and sealed with wax, and they usually come in a leather koozie to give the vial strength and help keep it from easily breaking.

They found some of these on an alchemists table, in the kitchen of the bad guys' lair, and on the bad guys' themselves. One had them stitched into little loops on his weapon belt, not unlike pistol ammo from the Old West.

The liquid inside was clear. No fiz. It just looked like water in the vial. Uncorking one revealed that it had no smell, like water, also.

It was when the PCs found a couple of vials at a defaced shrine (the PCs had no idea it was a "good" shrine--only that the bad guys had defaced the place), that one of the players got brave and tried it.

Just before the PC tried it, I reminded him that there is no healing potions in this game.

In fact, these small vials did contain a healing water--almost like a holy water. The stuff sprang from a blessed spring in the temple of a god from long ago. I actually used Meta-game information (that there are no healing potions in the Conan RPG) to dissuade my players from thinking that healing is what those vials contained. Since magic like this is so rare in this universe, the characters probably even think in that direction.

Do you do that sort of thing in your game? Actually lie to your players with Meta-game info to guide roleplaying decision making?

Once the PC tried the vial, I told him how fresh the water tasted--that it was the best water he'd ever had in his life. Then, I healed him a few hit points, 1d8+1.

My players were elated. They jumped for joy having found such a boon in a game where magical healing is about unheard of (especially by these characters, which are Cimmerian Barbarians--those who scorn any type of sorcerery).

Another player suggested that another vial be given to the little 5 year old girl they had just rescued (it's a long story--the object of their trek to the bad guys' hidden complex in the blasted lands). You see, when they found her, the bad guys had cut out her tongue, and she was feverish.

My intention with that, as GM, was to have the little girl get feverish, throw some dice rolls, and allow the girl to get deathly ill. I envisioned using this as a "push" to get the PCs back to their village in a hurry.

I thought of it as a win-win, thinking of a desperate trek with the sick girl, bad guys on their heels, with the temperature dropping and the rain setting in. If the girl died, then my players would feel it (because they're really attached to this NPC....I'd made her real friggin' cute in previous game sessions, then had the bad guys kidnap her), which is gold for a GM. I always strive for my players to get emotionally involved in the story. It so much more engrossing that way. I want them to care, and I got lucky with this little NPC girl in that both my players are quite fond of her (it doesn't hurt that both players have little girls of their own in real life).

When they found the girl and she had no tongue, both players were pissed. I saw that, and I knew I had them.

So, if the little girl died from the fever on the trail back, it makes for a great, dramatic story, and I've got two players determined to get revenge--great RPG stuff.

And, if the little girl made it (I'd leave it up to dice throws), then the players, since they care so much for the NPC, would have pulled of an objective that they're real invested in.

It's a win-win, as I said.

Well, once the nature of the vials was discovered, one of the players had the good idea to give one to the little girl. I thought this was a good idea and rewarded it by deciding not to do the feverish bit and just allow the girl to live.

Of course, my player really didn't know what a good idea that was--what an upcoming obstacle he had overcome before the obstacle had even presented itself.

So, I used meta-game info here, again, in telling my player that it was a great move on his part--he probably saved her life.

I told them of my plans to have them face the fever and the sickness as they tried to make their way back to the village, and I did that in order to make the player feel a sense of accomplishment--that he'd over come a major challenge in the game.

Do you ever use Meta-game information in this way?

Then, sometimes, for whatever reason, I'll get soft and tell my players information that they really have no business knowing. For example, I made up a sorcererous creature last game that looked like a twirling tornado of fog. I had decided that I would allow Piercing weapons to do one point of damage per hit, Blunt weapons do half damage, and Slicing weapons do full damage.

I didn't want to tell my players any of that info. That's stuff that they need to discover for themselves. But, there I was, after the game session as we were putting up, talking about the game, out of my mouth it came--all that damage stuff about how to hurt the beasties.

Ever do that? Let Meta-game info slip when you rather you hadn't told your players?

And, another instance of Meta-game info in our last game session also had to do with the fog monsters I had created. One of the players thought the way it spread was of intelligent design. He thought that either the fog itself was sentient or that someone or something was controlling the fog. I know that to be true, so I confirmed it with Meta-game info. But, this, I kinda did on purpose because it progressed my story. I didn't tell the players a lot--just kinda agreed that the fog seemed to be controlling itself or controlled by another force. And, this gets them to wonder about it--which is good for the game. Mystery.

Do you use Meta-game info in that way? To further your story and get your players focussed on the "right things"?