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Is Immersion Important to You as a Player?


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niklinna

satisfied?
That's the opposite of immersive, at least how I defined it for the purposes of the discussion. You are engaging the mechanics of the system to produce a result in the fiction. That's the "writer's room" I'm talking about. You're engaged, and you're having fun, but you certainly aren't inhabiting your character.
The way I see it is, I'm engaging in a tradeoff I might very much make in real life, except instead of judging the physics of jumping a wide gap, or shooting a distant target, or how I understand how people respond to flattery, or whatever other real-world mechanics are in play, I am judging the mechanics that simulate/emulate/whatever-hot-button-verb-you-want-to-use those kinds of tradeoffs, and which simulate/etc. them so well that as a result I feel very much embedded and immersed in the situation, and I am absolutely, 100%, totally inhabiting my character's mental and emotional states in doing so. TTRPGs are neither reality nor larps, so something has to substitute for the various real-world systems at play. Otherwise I'd argue that by your standards, immersion in TTRPGs is simply impossible.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
The way I see it is, I'm engaging in a tradeoff I might very much make in real life, except instead of judging the physics of jumping a wide gap, or shooting a distant target, or how I understand how people respond to flattery, or whatever other real-world mechanics are in play, I am judging the mechanics that simulate/emulate/whatever-hot-button-verb-you-want-to-use those kinds of tradeoffs, and which simulate/etc. them so well that as a result I feel very much embedded and immersed in the situation, and I am absolutely, 100%, totally inhabiting my character's mental and emotional states in doing so. TTRPGs are neither reality nor larps, so something has to substitute for the various real-world systems at play. Otherwise I'd argue that by your standards, immersion in TTRPGs is simply impossible.
I mean, it isn't absolute. Nothing is. But let me try and illustrate the difference I am talking about.

The situation: a PC has run into an old rival and after some tense conversation, the player decides to engage in some violence.

Trad Game: Player says, "That's it! Eat steel!" Roll. Hit. Damage. Mechanics are involved, but they are pretty straight forward. GM: "NPC wipes the blood from his mouth, smiles ruefully, and says, 'Just remember, you started this.'"

Narrative Game: Player says, "That's it! Eat steel!" Roll. Dice come up with a success with a complication. The player says, "Okay, I guess I will hit him but he gets to hit me back?" Player 2 says, "Wait, it would be cool if you got your licks in but your sword got stuck in the table!" The GM says, "No, I think you hit him but he gets a chance to hit you back, Take2 harm."

That negotiation is where I think immersion takes the hit. Up until the time to adjudicate the die roll results, the immersion is equivalent. I'll even concede that based on building fiction previously, narrative games might even have better immersion in the lead up. But I think that once you ahve to put on the brakes to go through the process of determining what those dice results mean beyond simple algorithmic outcomes of smooth GM narration, immersion is broken.

Again, I am NOT saying it is any less fun or any less engaging or any less good. I am just asserting that the quality of immersion -- inhabiting the character inhabiting the world -- is reduced when you have to, as players and GMs, negotiate die rolls. As such, i think trad games with strong GM authority actually promote immersion over narrative games.
 

niklinna

satisfied?
I mean, it isn't absolute. Nothing is. But let me try and illustrate the difference I am talking about.

The situation: a PC has run into an old rival and after some tense conversation, the player decides to engage in some violence.

Trad Game: Player says, "That's it! Eat steel!" Roll. Hit. Damage. Mechanics are involved, but they are pretty straight forward. GM: "NPC wipes the blood from his mouth, smiles ruefully, and says, 'Just remember, you started this.'"

Narrative Game: Player says, "That's it! Eat steel!" Roll. Dice come up with a success with a complication. The player says, "Okay, I guess I will hit him but he gets to hit me back?" Player 2 says, "Wait, it would be cool if you got your licks in but your sword got stuck in the table!" The GM says, "No, I think you hit him but he gets a chance to hit you back, Take2 harm."
Oh, hm, that's a rare scenario in my games with @Manbearcat (and some other GMs, but they aren't on enworld so I can't tag them!). Sometimes another player will chime in about a devil's bargain. But when an action comes up, I'll describe what I want to do and achieve, and the GM will say, okay, if you succeed this is what you'll get, and but here are the likely complications/consequences (which can include "you don't know"). From there I'll decide if I want to trade position for effect, just like I would in evaluating a real-life decision to act in risky situations. Or not! I might be in a frame of mind where I just want to get things done and take the situation as presented. Either way I am inhabiting my character's state of mind in the situation. But, there's little dithering about what the specific outcome is once the dice fall.

I have been in games where the situation devolves into a protracted back-and-forth negotation, and yes, that definitely breaks immersion. But I've actually seen it more often in traditional games than games like Blades in the Dark. For example, I've been in a number of traditional games where there's that one player who's like, "Can I do X and get result Y?" and the GM says no that won't really work like you want. "Well how about if I do A to get result B?" And the GM says, "No, that would make C happen." And so on. Such players tend to do it frequently enough that it gets really tiresome.

So I guess it's more about how the group handles situations than the system being used.

That negotiation is where I think immersion takes the hit. Up until the time to adjudicate the die roll results, the immersion is equivalent. I'll even concede that based on building fiction previously, narrative games might even have better immersion in the lead up. But I think that once you ahve to put on the brakes to go through the process of determining what those dice results mean beyond simple algorithmic outcomes of smooth GM narration, immersion is broken.
Working out tradeoffs is more immersive to me than just jumping into a situation, or having an action result in either success or nada. The latter I particularly find to be immersion-breaking.

Again, I am NOT saying it is any less fun or any less engaging or any less good. I am just asserting that the quality of immersion -- inhabiting the character inhabiting the world -- is reduced when you have to, as players and GMs, negotiate die rolls. As such, i think trad games with strong GM authority actually promote immersion over narrative games.
I've played both types of games, and generally had the opposite experience, so here we are!
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
When playing in a TTRPG, how important is immersion -- defined vaguely as "inhabiting your character inhabiting the world" -- to your enjoyment of the game?

Do you endeavor to experience the world of the game through your character and only your character?
When possible, yes; though those times are infrequent and all-too-often fleeting.
Do the rules matter for this, or is it more about the nature of play at the table? Are you okay seeing the sets and strings as it were?
Far too often I find rules and mechanics get in the way, particularly when it comes to rules that try to over-write or ignore what's been role-played in-character at the table.
Do you act, speak and even think as your character for the duration?
Act? Not really, as I'm sitting at a table rather than doing whatever my character is doing. Speak? Yes, when I can. Think? Very much so, unless pulled out by rules considerations or off-topic table talk.
If immersion is important to you, how do you react to other players or the GM when it isn't as important to them?
Situationally dependent; could be anything from 'grin and bear it' to 'grumble a bit' to 'yell at someone'.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Sure I suppose. What I found is the XP made it a great limiter of the game. "Should we do X?" always came down to whether it netted XP or not.
That's an issue with those specific players, I think.
If it didn't, they wouldn't engage. "Are we high enough level to do that?"
"Are we high enough level to do that?" is a perfectly valid in-character question to ask if rephrased as something like "Do we have the chops to pull that off?".
Wont engage unless they think they got enough XP to do it. Eventually, it leads to whats on the character sheet and if its off, then it cant/shouldnt be done type thinking.

Not for everyone mind you, but for many a folk I have played with. So, I stopped using it and an entire world opened up to me. YMMV.
This comes back to a drum I beat now and then: what is a player's main reason for playing the game.

For some, it's the thrill of levelling up on a frequent and regular basis, and doing whatever it takes to accomplish this.
For some, it's the pleasure of being someone else in a different environment/world; level-ups etc. are only mildly or not at all important.
For some, it's similar to reading a book: they just want to see what comes next in the story and maybe help push it along a bit.
Etc.

Obviously there's some overlap, but in general the immersionists would mostly be in the second group above. The first group are the sorts you've encounted in the past, it seems. The third group are at one extreme the "passenger" players who do nothing other than ride the GM's railroad, and at the other extreme are the players who maybe don't even need a GM (these can also be hard-core immersionists, of course).
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
That's an issue with those specific players, I think.

"Are we high enough level to do that?" is a perfectly valid in-character question to ask if rephrased as something like "Do we have the chops to pull that off?".
Sure, if you have any reasonable information to decide that. I've had players assume an interesting hook was just beyond them and/or not worth pursuing and looking for a bigger fish. If there was in game reasons for doing so, I wouldn't begrudge them.
This comes back to a drum I beat now and then: what is a player's main reason for playing the game.

For some, it's the thrill of levelling up on a frequent and regular basis, and doing whatever it takes to accomplish this.
For some, it's the pleasure of being someone else in a different environment/world; level-ups etc. are only mildly or not at all important.
For some, it's similar to reading a book: they just want to see what comes next in the story and maybe help push it along a bit.
Etc.

Obviously there's some overlap, but in general the immersionists would mostly be in the second group above. The first group are the sorts you've encounted in the past, it seems. The third group are at one extreme the "passenger" players who do nothing other than ride the GM's railroad, and at the other extreme are the players who maybe don't even need a GM (these can also be hard-core immersionists, of course).
I think most tables are some mix of reasons, playstyles, etc... For myself, ditching XP allows me to dial back some of the game side engagement and refocus on the immersion piece. Though, I am certainly aware how difficult some players find a game that doesn't lead them around. They tend to do much better in adventure paths than open sandboxes. YMMV.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I've played both types of games, and generally had the opposite experience, so here we are!
And I should say that my experiences with FitD games are limited compared to my trad game experience and it is totally possible that with different groups or different FitD game things might have been different. My trad game experience is really broad and I consider myself really well practiced at getting a specific experience using a trad system I know well. I admit it is entirely possible that with similar experience with "play to find out" fiction first games i would get similar results.

Ultimately it probably has more to do with the GM and player buy in than the system, but those have been my experiences thus far.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Speaking as a player, immersion happens when what the GM is saying does not force me to ignore inhabiting - "being" - my character.

The paradigm of this is the plot hook or the "breadcrumb". Because that requires me to think purely as a participant in the game - OK, at this moment it's my job to decide that I as my character make this choice in order for the game to keep going
Well, first off, if the GM presents the hook such as to cause you-as-player to stop and think way this then IMO the GM did a poor job of presenting said hook. :)

More importantly, IMO, with full immersion metagame considerations like that simply don't enter into the equation. If your character is someone who would turn her nose up at the presented hook and do something else instead, then that should be exactly what she does; GM's prep be damned - unless you've a GM who is simply incapable of winging it.

Put another way, the social contract at the table takes a distant second place to the social contract among the characters (if there is one). The only important bit is "what happens in character stays in character".

This is in large part why I support "do what the character would do" as a (or even the) foundation of play, even if it results in PvP or a split party or whatever; as these metagame* concerns are awful for immersion and, as you note, sometimes lead to stark inconsistencies in roleplaying.

* - I keep mistyping that word as 'meatgame'... :)
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
But I think that once you ahve to put on the brakes to go through the process of determining what those dice results mean beyond simple algorithmic outcomes of smooth GM narration, immersion is broken.

So, it might be. If it is broken, it might be broken for a second, or an hour.

We can agree that immersion is a state of mind, right? So, unless someone is born immersed, and stays immersed for their entire life, it is a state people can enter and leave.

As a matter of personal experience, breaking immersion comes in degrees, it isn't all or nothing. So, a quick diversion into mechanics or meta-discussion may not really ruin the experience.

Heck, I've had D&D sessions with pretty decent immersion, and I could go through an entire combat, with all the pauses when I have nothing to do but wait for others to go through their actions, and with all the mechanical discussion, and had immersion each round when it came back around to me, when I'd gotten up and gone to the bathroom again as the combat round went by.
 

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