Metagame Rewards, or the Different Kinds of Fun

During the discussion on Rewards in the previous article, we touched on the idea of Metagame Rewards.  To put it simply, metagame rewards are a form of reward that encourages the players to keep coming back.  These aren’t things “in-game” that boost character stats, or represent new gear, these are the rewards that make the player himself lean back with a grin, look the GM in the eye and say, “Great Game!”

So, what constitutes Metagame Rewards?  For this, I’ll paraphrase from Amagi Games’ excellent article “What-I-Like Glossary” which goes on to discuss the different types of fun that motivate players:

  • AGON is the thrill of winning against another person at the table.
  • ALEA is the gambler’s thrill, the fun of taking a big risk, the tension that comes with it, win or lose.
  • CATHARSIS is a feeling of release that follows an intense or overwhelming experience.
  • CLOSURE is the feeling that there’s nothing more that needs to be done, and the thing is finished.
  • EXPRESSION is the simple desire to be creative at the table.
  • FIERO is the feeling of triumph, or winning, of defeating a challenge, or overcoming adversity.
  • HUMOR is fairly self explanatory, and is essentially gaming for laughs.
  • KAIROSIS is the feeling that of fulfilment that comes from change and development
  • KENOSIS is the feeling of being deeply engaged in their character or in the fiction at a whole.
  • KINESIS is tactile fun, fiddling with maps, handouts, dice, etc.
  • LUDUS is fun from working the system and optimizing performance within the rules.
  • NACHES is the enjoyment of seeing someone that you have taught, or are responsible for, go on to do well with that knowledge.
  • PAIDA fun is free-wheeling player fun, where rules are a convenience.
  • SCHADENFREUDE is delight in the suffering of another – the thrill of seeing the villain get what they deserve is a pretty common expression.
  • SOCIABILITY is the fun of being able to spend time with other people and enjoy their company.
  • VENTING is, simply, the desire to work out player frustrations or other emotions, using the game as a means.

Each of these is a specific form of fun and enjoyment that acts as a reward.  The key point of being a GM in this case is to make sure that you know your players and know what they enjoy the most.  By being able to match the type of fun the player wants to what’s happening in the game, you heighten their enjoyment of the experience.

The key to making this happen is to go back to Rule Number One.  Talk to your players and find out what their expectations are with the game and what they want out of it.  I’ve seen some GMs who never seem to realize this, and end up with games that don’t take off as well simply because they’re giving the wrong kind of metagame reward to the players.  For example, players who enjoy PAIDA and HUMOR, would be better served with a lighthearted game where the GM doesn’t slap them down with “No, you can’t do that because it’s not in the rules.


  1. This is just plain shiny, and worth bookmarking; well done!

    I’d like to add another source of metagame fun: Asabiyah, or group-feeling. This is when someone’s getting their kicks in the game from teamwork, usually with the rest of the group but occasionally from coordinating with the GM outside the game, or some of the NPCs within it.

    (Myself, I’m an Asabiyah gamer, with heavy elements of Kairosis and Kenosis and a decent smattering of Expression.)

  2. Hi Ravyn,

    Thanks for the kind words! Amagi Games’ article was a fascinating look at a glossary for describing the kinds of fun that drive roleplaying.

    My personal assessment is that I’m actually more for Expression, Naches and your own contribution, Asabiyah.

    Which ties in well to my being a GM, it gives me an outlet to be creative and expressive, allows me to give my players a challenge and see them use what they’ve learned, and contribute to the entire game as a whole as a positive participant.

  3. This makes a very good checklist. I’m downloading the pdf file for storage and future reference.

    My question is how do you try to fit a reward to a party with so many different kinds of interest?

  4. I’d say there are three main strategies for that.

    First is just seeing which categories the largest segment of the group has in common. It doesn’t always work–when you’ve got a Kai/Ke in a group of Fieros, the former’s going to feel a bit left out unless dealt with elsewhere–but it does get the most metagame reward across in the smallest amount of time.

    Another strategy is stringing together the reward types as much as possible. Venting and Schadenfreude are pretty easy to combine, and I don’t know too many people for whom Kenosis and Kairosis aren’t practically linked. Or if you’ve got a group with a Naches-oriented experienced player and the Ludus-oriented newbie whom he’s taken under his wing, a victory on the part of the newbie should be highly pleasing for both of them. It doesn’t always work–I’m not sure Agon and Asabiyah can even fit into the same game without some serious creativity, much less the same encounter–but it helps.

    When that fails, alternate. This doesn’t necessarily need to be all onstage, either–one of my friends ran a very combat-heavy game (satisfying the Fiero/Alea crowd dominantly), but managed to satisfy my Kai/Ke interests and provide a bit more Closure by a number of conversations run between my character and whoever was handy during the break. Nobody else really wanted to deal with the situation micromanagement, it gave me a chance to get to know the other characters, and after a few false starts I made sure I shared the acquired information with the group as soon after I finished as possible, so everyone won.

    My two coppers, anyway.

  5. I agree with Ravyn,

    The key to this is to actually find out what interests your players share first. See how many times you can hit two (or more) birds with one stone. With that resolved, take note of that and make it an element of your games.

    For those players who don’t share a common interest with the others, then take some time out to address their own enjoyment by spinning off a scene or two where they take the spotlight and enjoy their kind of fun. By keeping your pacing quick, and getting a feel for keeping the spotlight moving from one player to the other, you’ll be able to keep them happy.

  6. This is one of the best things I’ve read. I may have to repost this on several other venus. I will take this and remember it when I run and design my games.

  7. Great list, but I’m not sure of the SCHADENFREUDE example. Seeing a villain get what they deserve seems more like a desire for JUSTICE (dikaiosune?), whereas SCHADENFREUDE (I think) is more about delighting in the suffering of others, whether it is deserved or not. As Homer Simpson says when bad things happen to people, “It’s funny because it’s not me.”

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