How Meta is TOO Meta?

How's this for a campaign premise. The PCs are all table-top gamers who stumble upon a way to actually travel to fantastic realms of heroic adventure.

The PCs have regular jobs and lives in the world. Maybe they're students, or professionals, or parents. They might not have much in common except that they regularly meet at their friend Steve's house with beer and pretzels and maybe some medical cannabis to tell stories and roll polyhedral dice. It's a fun way to spend time with friends, have a few laughs, and experience an adventure.
It's all fairly fun and innocent until one stormy night....
Friday Evening..
Steve's House..
Steve has a new book he found in a musty old book store. The rules are really weird and the art is crazy, so he can't wait for you all to create characters. The setting seems like a pretty generic fantasy world, trolls and orcs and dragons to be defeated to rescue princesses or ancient treasures. The game commences as Steve reads from the book, and as you role play your character's introductions, the walls of Steve's living room dissolve around you, and you find yourself in a rustic midlevel tavern!

The Book is some type of Artifact capable of enabling recursions. How did Steve acquire it? And who had it before him? What happens to the PCs when some one catches wind of their actions? Perhaps they'll have to put some of that RPG knowledge into practical application...


  • Sounds a lot like the concept for Doom and Destiny, and having your PCs play people playing a table-top will definitely fall into the realm of 'weird' for them. Plus they are definitely going to know something is up with it from the word go.

    I'd suggest something a little more subtle.

    Introduce the game as if they are really playing a fantasy game, but then reveal to them that they are actually playing Larpers in the real world (google Larp if you've never heard of it). Then you can have one of the other Larp characters want to use a strange object (which just happens to be a recursion key) in a ritual which inadvertently translates them to another recursion, possibly a recursion based on the setting of their Larp.

    As far as what 'too meta' is concerned, I once considered running a game where the players would get actual emails from NPCs outside of the game and I'd pretend to know nothing about it. Those NPCs would be warning the PC through their player of events yet to come. But the logistics of actually pulling it off were way beyond what I'm capable of, plus I think the players would figure it out pretty quick.
  • You could use a 'Dream Park' set-up (based on the series of novels by Larry Niven and Stephen Barnes). Your players KNOW they are simply playing out a fantasy Game set in Dream Park (they are paying $1000 a day for this) and run your first session like this (the various rides, the Haunted House, the Terror Tower etc. Then, it goes horribly wrong (Dream Park: The Barsoom Project, or Westworld (Michael Crichton); only in your case the PC's really ARE in the Ninth World. Their short term goal is to survive; their long term goal is to get back to their own time
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