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In the sci-fi role playing game setting I'm working on, there is a religion, which believes that they actually live in a role playing game. They believe in a single, omnipotent god, the 'Game master', and claim that some people have personal gods, called 'Players'. Others are regarded as less worthy NPC's. They imagine, that in a divine dimension there is a room, where the gods are sitting with notes, between snacks, and are playing the great Game. The Game master is omnipotent, but in-universe causality is not violated. If he says that X happens, it also implies that its Z, Q and F causes also happened in-universe. If the GM says something, that contradicts his previous statements, the Players correct him.

What could this cult use to prove its truth? Could they eventually convince the skeptical in universe scientist?

Could they have fragments of the rule book in their sacred scriptures, making prophecies with them? Or will they claim that some coincidences are not random, but arise because of the cooperation of the players?

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  • $\begingroup$ Do game mechanics bleed over into the world or from a physics standpoint is it indistinguishable from our own? $\endgroup$ – sphennings Apr 4 '17 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings There is no direct bleedover. All physical laws are obeyed. So for example, weapon damage is not discretized in-world. But the RPG-ist cult believes that the 'Game master' is orchestering the NPC-s, while they recieve suggestions and control input from their Players. $\endgroup$ – b.Lorenz Apr 4 '17 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ Does anything continue to happen outside of the GM's view? When all the players are together in a dungeon the GM doesn't bother with the outside world. $\endgroup$ – Lio Elbammalf Apr 4 '17 at 17:31
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    $\begingroup$ Entertaining but as its written this is mostly opinion/author decision. There is no area of expertise to apply to the question. $\endgroup$ – James Apr 4 '17 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ An "offscreen" NPC could repetitively attempt different types of improbable tasks and conclude that everything has at least a 5% chance of occurring. :) $\endgroup$ – Ross Apr 4 '17 at 19:52
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This religious sect documents suspected cases of metagaming.

The practice is basically analogous to Catholic canonization: to be considered for sainthood, evidence of reported miracles should be collected and analyzed. The person in question is probably fairly pious or seen as a vessel of God, and the merit of their case is weighed.

If a "player" evidences some of the omniscience of the "game master," it would appear in-universe to be basically miraculous. Now that's cheating, so the person would probably suffer some sort of catastrophe or hardship soon thereafter, but this is basically in line with the stereotype, and it would make the faithful even more sure of themselves to witness this cause & effect in so many cases of suspected metagaming.

A wizard peered into a dense fog, unable to see anything five feet in front of him. He cast fireball and fifty flaming kobolds fled in terror. To this day, the wizard maintains he didn't know they were there... and that he doesn't know why he cast Fireball.

Naturally, it will rarely be the most convincing evidence in the world, and there are all sorts of built-in logical escape routes for the skeptical, but that's the double-edge of the entire fiasco. I think this scheme would work well narratively. Lots of opportunity for dramatic irony.

EDIT: I Share the sentiment at the top of Sazanami's answer, that real evidence would be impossible, and these cases could be explained in science by coincidence (improbable things happen very regularly in our universe). However, in-universe, a relgion's search for truth would look a lot like any of our religions' searches for truth, whether that be very philosophical or more practical and faith-based, like my example.

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    $\begingroup$ This brings up an interesting question do PCs know they are PCs? I've seen many games where players have put great effort into post hoc rationalizing their megagame actions through dubious in game logic. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Apr 4 '17 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ @sphennings It depends on the temperament of the players I suppose! Our godly D&D session could be pantheonic like the Greek gods with all their flaws. Additionally, I think you can come up with a beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt case of metagaming with no in-game rationale; I've just never GMed and can't give an egregrious example. I'm sure many could. :) $\endgroup$ – Ross Apr 4 '17 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ As an added bonus to play on tropes, have 20% of these documents are somebody acting dickishly, followed by "Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies™". $\endgroup$ – Lawful Lazy Apr 5 '17 at 3:28
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    $\begingroup$ I imagine their holy doctrine would include a poor adventurer who was eaten by a Gazebo. $\endgroup$ – Dan Staley Apr 5 '17 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ Freak accidents (people falling down the stairs and breaking their neck, or being struck by lightning) wouldn't just statistical outliers... it would "obvious" evidence that that person's Player had either rolled poorly for a reflex save, or that the Player had upset the Game Master and the GM subsequently killed the Player's character out of spite. $\endgroup$ – Mage Xy Apr 5 '17 at 19:38
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Proving the existence of a GM is not possible, unless that's what the GM wants.

The cult can, however, make it somewhat plausible that a GM exists. The thing with GMs is, they may have the power of gods, but they still have the personality of a human. I invite you to look around on the internet for GM horror stories. There are plenty about, for example, powerplayers that drive the GM crazy, players that keep bending the rules, players that enrage a GM by doing stupid things, and there plenty about horrible GMs doing similar things as well. Bottomline is, as a player, it is fairly easy to trigger a GM response.

A player could try some of the following:

  • Ask the GM for a minor favor. Players often forget to buy basic gear, such as camping supplies and reagents for magic spells. More often than not, those supplies magically appear in the player's inventory as soon as they are remembered. This method usually fails while adventuring. Better try this while in town.

  • Voice corrections for the inconsistencies in the observable world. World's governed by creatures with merely human intellect are imperfect, and even if they are not, a GM may be tricked into thinking that the world is inconsistent and subsequently make some alterations.

  • Make fun of the GMs mother. In a GMless world, nothing happens. In a world where a GM rules, just about anything could happen. The GM may decide to transform the player into a frog if he's in a good mood. He might have rocks fall down on the player (some GMs will even do this if the sky is clear). You're basically looking for signs of karma here.

  • Incessantly invoke rules that are in your favor and conveniently forget those that that aren't. A.k.a. rules lawyering. This requires a lot of experience, especially if any knowledge of the rules is obtained with practical experience, as opposed to rulebook's once could reference. Given enough experience though, rules lawyering has proven to be a great way to get ahead in the world. This is suprising, because the GM has the power to overrule everything. The reason that rules lawyering works, is because GMs don't want to be unfair: Once they have set a rule, they try to stick to it. Additionally, human psychology is such that they don't want to let a player down if the player is expecting something that appears perfectly reasonable. Among other things, rules lawyering can be used to improve the effectiveness of skills beyond their original intention or to gain knowledge you were not supposed to have access to. Invoking rules grants the practitioner more control over the outcome than pointing out inconsistencies (see above), but does so at the risk of frustrating the GM. If a GM is pushed too much, he may become resistant to rules lawyers and invoking rules will subsequently have greatly diminished effect.

What would you do if you're an NPC and don't know any players? They are pretty rare after all. Well, you go and find plot hooks. In a GMed world, there should be plenty. The Players use them to find adventure after all. When you have found a plot hook, make sure that the area or person of interest is observed. You can expect the status quo to hold until a group of people comes along that disturbs it. It might be a coincidence, but you'll know soon enough if you have that particular group of people followed. They'll probably behave a little odd, and are inexplicable magnets to trouble. A word of warning: Follow them around long enough, and it's likely that they'll confront you or your spy, but fear not! As long as the adventures are grouped together, the consensus is probably that they won't kill you if you are good at heart.

Just by following around the players you'll find plenty of support for your theory. Just remember that you'll never find any actual evidence.

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    $\begingroup$ I've never heard of NPCs asking the GM for a favor before. How would they even do that? $\endgroup$ – sphennings Apr 4 '17 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ If you're an NPC, you would need the assistance of a player. I heard they are a curious bunch and are not beyond helping an NPC out on their quest. Just make sure that you present yourself as a plot hook. $\endgroup$ – Sazanami Apr 4 '17 at 19:14
  • $\begingroup$ How would a NPC even know who is a PC or not? What are the signs that an individual is actually controlled by a personal Player? $\endgroup$ – sphennings Apr 4 '17 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ @CM_Dayton I have added a section about rules lawyering. $\endgroup$ – Sazanami Apr 5 '17 at 19:12
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    $\begingroup$ @durron597 The cult having the ambition and capacity is implicitly part of the premise of the question. $\endgroup$ – Sazanami Apr 5 '17 at 19:18
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Look for quantisation

For the sake of argument, I'll assume The Game uses something like the D&D system of levels, skill points, and d20s. That gives us a pretty interesting lever to get into the rules of the universe.

Does an individual's performance in a certain area scale in an analogue progression, getting slowly better as they practice and improve, or is their performance quantised - average ability suddenly jumping from one level to the next? Do people identified as "Players" suddenly become more effective at certain apparently unrelated tasks immediately after a traumatic experience? Do Players lose skills they don't practice with, or are gains effectively permanent? Do people suffer from decreased effectiveness when they're wounded, or do they operate at full strength until they suffer enough damage to kill them?

Once you have the rules figured out, you can start making predictions. Person A has no attack bonus; his chance of hitting this target, which has an AC of 10, is exactly 50-50. Person B's ability to charm the opposite sex was measured before and after going into combat; their success spiked 25% after combat, suggesting they leveled up and put skills into Seduction.

Essentially, you're looking for digital or quantised effects in situations you would expect to be analogue. Sudden changes instead of steady progression.

Of course, if your players are sufficiently god-like, they may be playing with rules far too complex for mere humans to understand, rules which would effectively mimic analogue change. Which means...

Look for Plots

Does the world appear to run on Narrativium? Even if the players' actions don't produce quantised effects in the universe, they're still going to need compelling storylines to keep people playing.

So find out - do people identified as "Players" keep finding themselves in unusual and challenging situations with a defined plot that they can follow? And, more importantly, does this happen to a statistically significant degree? Are they regularly put in situations where they need to kill large numbers of people single-handed, without apparent remorse?

In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, there's actually an element that causes storylines to happen - Narrativium. It's the element or property that all things have that tells them what they are, and what they are supposed to be. You can look for a similar element, and demonstrate that it favours some individuals (the Players) over others.

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If a GMless world is indistinguishable from one ruled by a GM. By definition there is no way to distinguish between the two.

This makes the question of the existence of a GM unproveable.

It is an interesting theory, but it is equally possible that instead of a tabletop game the world is the dream of a butterfly, a story told by an invisible pink unicorn, was brought into existence by the noodly appendage of the flying spaghetti monster, or that what we observe is all there is.

They could certainly have fragments of a rulebook, or claim that things happened by DM fiat instead of some other phenomena. There are similar books and claims in this world. Often these claims are contradicted by other similar claims.

Your cult could use any of the existing arguments for the existence of god however like in the real world the skeptical would probably remain skeptical.

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    $\begingroup$ I vote pink unicorn. $\endgroup$ – James Apr 4 '17 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure whether it's indistinguishable. Energy is conserved, entrophy increases, there is no time travel... But for example the GM can say to the players at some point of the game that X star is going supernova. But in-universe it does not manifest as a miracle suddenly destroying the star, but as the fact that the star was destined from it's formation to go nova on that particular moment. However, if the heroes visit 100 stars (for example, there is no FTL.), and all decides to go nova, it can indicate that there is some cause behind it. (Since it hasa very low probability to happen.) $\endgroup$ – b.Lorenz Apr 4 '17 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ I think the general conceit of a roleplaying game is that the things that happen are plausible. If the GM says "X star is going supernova" that implies that there exists a physically plausible reason for that start to have gone supernova that will be explained if the players decide to investigate. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Apr 4 '17 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ @sphennings Yes, it ran out of fusion fuel after some billion years. What I have tried to illustrate is, that although the happenings are all plausible, statistics can point into directions. If it has 10**-87 probability that 100 given stars would go nova in 10 years in a given order when calculated from the current in-universe scientific model of star formation, but 10**-10 when derived from the theory that the GM (who has little imagination) wants to make trouble to the Players, Bayes' theorem tells us, that the GM's existence is quite probable. $\endgroup$ – b.Lorenz Apr 4 '17 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ @b.Lorenz Anything can be explained by "The GM chose for it to happen, because reasons." This is a bad hypothesis because there is no possibility that it could be proven false. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Apr 4 '17 at 18:12
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Any coincidence can be considered as a "proof" retroactively

We can find many "evidences" that Players exist, but all of them will be based on the Texas sharpshooter fallacy. Since there is no way to determine if a person has or has not their Player god, you can always find a convenient coincidence, and then say "that happened because they were special people". Now that they are special, all that things happened to them actually were the Player (or the GM) intervention.

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I doubt this would be fun. Sorry op that I had to break it to you.

Could they convince scientists?

How high is their charisma?

Proof?

It's religion.

You are the game master though if you want this to be a PITA for your players then nothing is stopping you at all. You can give them whatever you want, however you want. I just doubt that it will be fun.

There's also a stack exchange site for this sort of thing specifically. You might get better answers on how to be GM of your own game there.

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