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Player vs Character Knowledge

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One of the key aspects to roleplaying is that what you know isn’t necessarily what your character knows. There are times where things can become a bit vague, and possibly confuse someone who’s new. So why don’t we take a bit of a deeper look at this?
Shared Knowledge
There are definitely times when the knowledge you gain in-character easily translates into real-life knowledge. For example, both you and your character are going to know how much gold you’re lugging around . And of course, both of you will be aware of what equipment you have on you.
However, you may also have times when you know of something for sure, but are not sure if your character would share the same kind of knowledge. Perhaps you know a lot about architecture, but the character you’re playing knows very little about it. When you enter a building that you know for sure isn’t structurally sound, and even unsafe, your real-world self would of course think to get the heck out of that building. However, if your characters doesn’t share that same knowledge, then he wouldn’t be having those same thoughts. On the other hand, if your character had extensive knowledge in architecture, then he or she would definitely be sharing the very same thoughts as your real-world self.
Meta Gaming
This is generally considered a very big no-no when it comes to roleplaying. Basically, it refers to using real-world knowledge to help out your fictional character, particularly when your character would otherwise be oblivious to such knowledge.
For example, you’d probably know about how many hit-points a goblin would have. You’d also know about how much damage your weapons and spells are capable of doing. However, your character wouldn’t always know if that goblin might be in better shape than other goblins, or perhaps even in worse. And your character isn’t going to know the exact amount of damage that a weapon or spell is going to do. More likely, your character will only know an approximation of the extent of damage that can be done, especially after more experience with using such things.
Perhaps a slightly better example of this would be spotting a trap, and knowing for sure that your character cannot disarm it, without the character itself even examining it. Perhaps the trap is so good that even trying to examine it to determine how hard it would be to disarm could trigger it and possibly kill your character. So, logically, you’d want to keep your character as far away from that trap as possible. Unfortunately, that right there is meta-gaming right down to the core. How would your character know that the trap she just spotted would be so deadly that even trying to examine it could trigger it and kill her?
She probably wouldn’t.
So now you might be wondering, “How the heck do I figure out what kind of knowledge my character should and should not have?”
An Analogy Of Knowledge
So, your character knows a certain set of things. You, of course, are going to know much more than that character. However, what you know isn’t going to neccessarily be what your character knows.
Let’s take the theory that all living things are a part of a singular consciousness. This consciousness knows everything that was, is, and will be. And even though we all share this same consciousness, we are pretty much only aware of our own knowledge, and our own thoughts. We do not know everything that the universal consciousness knows.
So, in respect with roleplaying a character, your real-world self become that consciousness. You basically know everything, from the past of the world you’re playing in, the present form of it, and what it can become. You probably know a lot about the politics of that fantasy world, wars that are on the brink of happening on different continents, what underground groups are doing, and maybe just even those underground groups themselves.
However, your character is probably not even aware of even a tenth of what you’re aware of, despite both being of the same source. Just as we are each a small part of the universal consciousness, our characters are each a small part of our consciousness.

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  1. Zenvis's Avatar
    I know as a GM that there has been times where I have run into this some times. I usually have to bring it to terms with the player who goes there by comparing their knowledge to the players knowledge to, for example, people in Montana, just because Montana is known for its cowboys and cattle does not mean that everyone in Montana knows how to ride a horse; not everyone that lives on the docks knows how to swim, and the son/daughter of a doctor doesn't necessarily know how to do basic CPR.

    I haven't had that fight in a long while, thank goodness but I do know what you are talking about.