Is Immersion Important to You as a Player?

dytrrnikl

Explorer
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? 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? Do you act, speak and even think as your character for the duration?

If immersion is important to you, how do you react to other players or the GM when it isn't as important to them?
Short answer: No.
Longer answer: My experiences (been gaming since the 80s) with players who went too deep into becoming/experiencing their character have never been enjoyable, especially with how personal they would take their character’s set backs or frequently couldn’t separate tension between characters not being tension between players…guess it’s called
Bleed these days, disturbing title for a disturbing occurrence. To this day, as a GM, if I have a player that’s getting too deep into their character, I naughty word the session down and disinvite them. As a player, I just get up and apologize for cutting and running. But that’s me and by no means indicative of anyone else.
 

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dytrrnikl

Explorer
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? 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? Do you act, speak and even think as your character for the duration?

If immersion is important to you, how do you react to other players or the GM when it isn't as important to them?
Short answer: No.
Longer answer: My experiences (been gaming since the 80s) with players who went too deep into becoming/experiencing their character have never been enjoyable, especially with how personal they would take their character’s set backs or frequently couldn’t separate tension between characters not being tension between players…guess it’s called
Bleed these days, disturbing title for a disturbing occurrence. To this day, as a GM, if I have a player that’s getting too deep into their character, I naughty word the session down and disinvite them. As a player, I just get up and apologize for cutting and running. But that’s me and by no means indicative of anyone else.
 

Ixal

Hero
Well, the widespread disdain for immersion here certainly explains why WotC does not produce any setting books anymore. People just want numbers to minmax.

It certainly explains why the "role" in rpg now means tank or damage dealer and not disinherited dwarven noble.
 




Pedantic

Adventurer
That's strange. I would generally accuse WotC of going light on books in general, but they've definitely done more setting material than player options books.
 

I do think a deep setting can help many players immerse but I don't think immersion was a huge consideration with the move away from one type of book to another (and I am not too plugged into WOTC these days so I can't weigh in on whether they moved away from setting books). But I do remember them moving from 'fluff' to 'crunch' in the 2000s and that having a negative impact on my enthusiasm as a gamemaster (I don't think of this stuff as 'fluff' but that was the term being used at the time). But I think that move was more about realizing they could make more marketing the books to players (whereas most of the books in prior editions, except for the PHB, were marketed towards GMs).

For me, I don't need deep deep setting books (there is a point where setting lore can get overly detailed) but I did like the broad overview many settings provided in the past, and then having books that were inspirational for a GM, and provided tools for a GM (so for example more stuff for making monsters, making traps and locations, less stuff for new PC options).
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Why do you need a setting when you do not care about being immersed in it?

There's a big difference between wanting setting coherence, having a character idea you want to stick to, and immersion. I can play from an authorial perspective and find both the first two important without deeply immersing myself in character, and regularly do.

The idea you have either deep immersion or token play and nothing in between is, frankly, silly.
 

dytrrnikl

Explorer
Well, the widespread disdain for immersion here certainly explains why WotC does not produce any setting books anymore. People just want numbers to minmax.

It certainly explains why the "role" in rpg now means tank or damage dealer and not disinherited dwarven noble.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, when the lines get blurred between a fictional character and the person playing that character, such that they take something that happens to their character personally, creates unhealthy friction between them and other players and the GM. I don’t want that at the table as a GM or have to deal with it as a player. I always thought the players who went that deep into their characters were to be avoided for being borderline unstable. You can role-play a character without blurring the line between your character and you. But that’s me and by no means indicative of anyone else.
 

pemerton

Legend
Why do you need a setting when you do not care about being immersed in it?
Heaps of people use settings without caring about being immersed in them. For instance, they use maps to calculate distances and travel times (which is an important part of classic D&D adjudication of travel). They use setting backstories to construct plot elements in their scenarios (which has been an aspect of mainstream D&D play since some time in the early to mid 1980s). And many RPGers seem to enjoy imagining the activities of their play to be taking place in some or other setting, without that imagination having much to do with immersion.

So enjoying or aspiring to immersion is certainly not a necessary condition of wanting to purchase a setting book. And it's obviously not a sufficient one - I aspire to inhabitation of character in my RPG play, but setting has very little to do with that.

This is why I asked, with a degree of scepticism, what setting books have to do with immersion.

There's nothing that aids immersion more for me.
Do you mean when you're reading the book? Or when you're playing the RPG?

To explain the context for these questions: My understanding of GM-world-style immersion is that it is about being swept up in the GM's narration, a bit like reading a novel. So I'm not 100% sure how setting books - with their imaginary geographies, imaginary histories, etc - fit into that. To give a concrete example - I've heard of people getting immersed reading the LotR, but not so much reading its Appendices. Whereas RPG setting books tend to resemble the Appendices to LotR far more than the novel itself.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, when the lines get blurred between a fictional character and the person playing that character, such that they take something that happens to their character personally, creates unhealthy friction between them and other players and the GM. I don’t want that at the table as a GM or have to deal with it as a player. I always thought the players who went that deep into their characters were to be avoided for being borderline unstable. You can role-play a character without blurring the line between your character and you. But that’s me and by no means indicative of anyone else.
Indeed, but one can be deeply immersed in said character and still not take what happens to it personally. It's a matter of compartmentalizing one's real self and one's character self, and to some extent shoving the real self aside for a while.
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
Do you mean when you're reading the book? Or when you're playing the RPG?
When I'm playing the game. If I don't understand the world, it's hard to lose myself in it, especially when I'm confronted with details I should know, as the character. The more I know about the world, the more convincing I can find exploring it.
 

When I'm playing the game. If I don't understand the world, it's hard to lose myself in it, especially when I'm confronted with details I should know, as the character. The more I know about the world, the more convincing I can find exploring it.

Sometimes games aren't about "exploring the setting" though. Sometimes games are about "unearthing character" through a daisy chain of provocative situations. Setting might be integrated with that process of unearthing...or setting might be a (emergent) byproduct of that, or setting might be mostly irrelevant to that (as it just provides background color to anchor or juxtapose provocative situations).
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
Sometimes games aren't about "exploring the setting" though.
Sure, I can totally agree that that's not the focus of every game, but...
Sometimes games are about "unearthing character" through a daisy chain of provocative situations. Setting might be integrated with that process of unearthing...or setting might be a (emergent) byproduct of that, or
Setting is always going to inform my character's existence, who they are and why they are, and I'll admit I struggle to picture a game where the setting doesn't have some impact on the nature what's present and what's possible in the course of pursuing action, and thus have an effect on the character that is being unearthed.
(as it just provides background color to anchor or juxtapose provocative situations).
And I wouldn't call either of these things irrelevant, or unimportant. It might not be the linchpin, but that will still be an important factor in how I approach those situations. Background color is, honestly, another not inaccurate way of describing what I was talking about above, the stuff that helps me inhabit a character so that I can make honest and true decisions that reflect their reality.

Can I ask what you're picturing when you thinking of a "setting [that] might be mostly irrelevant to that"?
 

pemerton

Legend
When I'm playing the game. If I don't understand the world, it's hard to lose myself in it, especially when I'm confronted with details I should know, as the character. The more I know about the world, the more convincing I can find exploring it.
Setting is always going to inform my character's existence, who they are and why they are, and I'll admit I struggle to picture a game where the setting doesn't have some impact on the nature what's present and what's possible in the course of pursuing action, and thus have an effect on the character that is being unearthed.

<snip>

Background color is, honestly, another not inaccurate way of describing what I was talking about above, the stuff that helps me inhabit a character so that I can make honest and true decisions that reflect their reality.

Can I ask what you're picturing when you thinking of a "setting [that] might be mostly irrelevant to that"?
I'm not @Manbearcat, but I can give my answer: the sort of stuff you describe I would typically expect to be supplied by the players as part of their depiction of their PCs.
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
Ah, maybe there's the disconnect. I get more satisfaction out of authored settings (both book and DM) than ones collaboratively built at the table, when I'm a player.
 

pemerton

Legend
Ah, maybe there's the disconnect. I get more satisfaction out of authored settings (both book and DM) than ones collaboratively built at the table, when I'm a player.
The approach I'm describing is not "collaborative authorship". It's just the player depicting their character, including the sorts of background details you describe.

This relates to @Manbearcat's description of setting as (sometimes) mere backdrop and colour. If that's the role being played by the setting, the player can just stipulate it as they go (eg who their friends or family are, what their clothes are like, what their ritual practices are like, etc). This stuff won't be contentious, and so doesn't need collaboration: the player stipulates it, and it becomes part of the shared fiction.
 

Sure, I can totally agree that that's not the focus of every game, but...

Setting is always going to inform my character's existence, who they are and why they are, and I'll admit I struggle to picture a game where the setting doesn't have some impact on the nature what's present and what's possible in the course of pursuing action, and thus have an effect on the character that is being unearthed.

And I wouldn't call either of these things irrelevant, or unimportant. It might not be the linchpin, but that will still be an important factor in how I approach those situations. Background color is, honestly, another not inaccurate way of describing what I was talking about above, the stuff that helps me inhabit a character so that I can make honest and true decisions that reflect their reality.

Can I ask what you're picturing when you thinking of a "setting [that] might be mostly irrelevant to that"?

Let me paint you a picture of one such type of scenario.

You're a 14 year old in pre-state Utah in a Wild West That Never Was. You're being initiated as one of "God's Watchdogs." You will go out amongst the Towns, amongst The King of Life's flock. You will perform ceremony. You will deliver mail. You will arbitrate disputes. You will mete out justice.

But that is later. You're here. Now.

Are you hoping that you accomplish something during initiation? Maybe you exorcised a demon? Maybe you showed yourself to be a crack shot? Maybe you exhibited knowledge of scripture and doctrine that set you apart from your peers?

Great. You're you. I'm the terrible demon. I'm the breech-loading rifle's tendency to recoil violently and the winds tendency to foil. I'm the inscrutable doctrine and your peers' scrutiny.

Or are you looking for growth, learning, a changing of troublesome habits?

Ok. Now you're playing your character's foul temper that you have a tendency to succumb to or the fear of galloping at full speed in your horse's saddle. I play your teacher in their attempt to disabuse you of your worse nature.

We determine the pivotal moment of such a situation, and we take up our respective dice pools. You roll your relevant Stats and later (or not) bring in your Traits, Belongings, and Relationships as they become (or not) applicable. I roll 4d6 + 4d10. We launch into conflict that is akin to poker.

We Raise and we See those Raises as we say what we're doing and we select dice to represent that. We Take a Blow (when we can't See with 2 or less dice) or we Reverse a Blow (when we can See with only 1 die).

By the end of it, your character has a new d6 Trait which represents the outcome of this conflict. You also almost surely have Fallout which is short term (eg change a Relationship die size to d4 for the next conflict) or long term change/impact to your character (eg change the die size of an existing Trait to d4 or remove a Belonging).




Regardless, what happens in that scene isn't informed by high resolution setting material. Everything is very nascent. We don't need to know the name of your teacher. We don't need to know the name of the Steward of Red River Rock or if Red River Rock is even a Town. We don't need to know if an oil baron or the railroad via the Fed is trying to move in on the territory. We don't need to know your relationship to the Sin of False Doctrine (although maybe we'll learn about it if its related to the coming conflict or the stuff you bring into it via PC build and the conflict resolution mechanics). We don't need to know much. What we need to know we know. You have a temper that gets the best of you and an aspiration to defeat it. You've got Stats, Relationships, Traits, Belongings and a situation in front of you. We'll find out more about who you are, maybe more about one or more of those Relationships or Traits if they come into play and what you say about them when you use them. And we'll find out "what's what" in the end (and your character will change as a result).

That is what I'm talking about. A situation pregnant with aspiration, emotion, immediacy and a character with means and baggage. And a resolution (mechanically and the consequential fiction that accompanies it).
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
The approach I'm describing is not "collaborative authorship". It's just the player depicting their character, including the sorts of background details you describe.

To at least some extent, you're having a sematic argument. To some people allowing a player to do some of that is collaborative authorship. You don't have to agree with that, but its absolutely how they see that.
 

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