Is Immersion Important to You as a Player?

pemerton

Legend
I may be misunderstanding the term as it is being used here, but when I think of GM world style immersion, I generally think of groups who have very little interest in the GMs narration but rather are focused on exploring the setting and feeling like they are there as characters. There are definitely people who play in a way where the GM's narration is important and colorful, and supposed to pull you in, but where I've encountered immersion focused on world, players are pretty skeptical of GM narration as a tool and tend to want the GM to be as brief with descriptions as possible. The idea being the GM simply narratives outcomes, things around them etc, but always avoids something like narrative past decision points the players might make. I.E. "I walk into the room", "In the room you see x, y and z; what do you want to do?" I would say in these kinds of games, players are generally not looking for something that feels like Lord of the Rings as a book, but allows them explore Middle Earth as characters.
This description of play makes sense in itself - it makes me think of a certain sort of classic D&D play, and also of the sort of approach to play that a hardened Diplomacy player might adopt.

But it doesn't strike me as immersive at all.
 

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pemerton

Legend
I totally agree that I don't need to know this level of things to make a character driven choice. The name of the town doesn't influence that scenario, sure. If I'm doing a test of character about emotion, then niche details about religion are unlikely to come up. I understand how you've set up a scenario that is almost exclusively about the character's conception of self, and not related to doing something in the world, thus eschewing the need for questions like who is the ruling authority of the town closest to me.

But, whether my teacher is expected as a part of God's Watchdogs, or a separate secular entity that I'm lucky to have would be a salient point. If my decision to join the Watchdogs comes out of the lack of any civilization, so clinging to this one source of authority, or if it's reactionary and holding onto the past in light of the encroaching presence of industry and government.

These, and all the other questions I asked above, are why I can't see the setting as something on the level of "background color". Any answer I get to any of them informs how I approach the situation.

I want to be clear: I'm not trying argue that I couldn't conceive of a character with wants and flaws and problems, and then do my best to confront a situation that puts any of those to the test. Nor do I think that that could not be fully engaging and exciting on its own merits.

But, an understanding of the world gives me so much more confidence to make choices, as I know why I've come to them, and what they mean, and so I'll always be grateful when there's information that will allow me to experience the world through my character's eyes in a more complete way, even if that information isn't necessarily reflective or vital to my character's personal state.

<snip>

you gave base setting details in your opening paragraph, but I have no clue how much is preset in player facing material, or that the players would be expected to know. I understand if that would resolve a fair amount of questions I'm positing. However, that wouldn't change any of my desire for it in the first place.
It's a while since I've read the rules for DitV, and I've never played it, but a good chunk of what you're asking about is there in the player-facing material that establishes the basics of the game.

That said, I do think the game is premised on an approach closer to what I've described upthread - the player filling in details where they feel they need them to help make sense of their PC - and less on an approach in which the player seeks and received input from outside. Because the latter tends to disrupt the player's focus on the "internal" and dramatic, and rather shifts the focus of play onto processing someone else's storytelling and building up a picture of that.

There is a crucial role for GM narration in DitV, namely, in revealing new towns - which are the focus of a session's activity - to the players. But the point of that narration isn't to provide the players with new information about the setting that will help them further contextualise their PCs. It's to provide problems that the PCs have to deal with, and which - in the course of being dealt with - will require more engagement by the PCs with the "internal" and dramatic that they, via their PCs, are bringing to the situation.
 

This description of play makes sense in itself - it makes me think of a certain sort of classic D&D play, and also of the sort of approach to play that a hardened Diplomacy player might adopt.

But it doesn't strike me as immersive at all.

I think everyone finds different things immersive. I can say people who play this way often invoke immersion as a reason why they like it. But that stuff varies. Some people get highly immersed in documentaries, some people get highly immersed in action movies.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I think everyone finds different things immersive. I can say people who play this way often invoke immersion as a reason why they like it. But that stuff varies. Some people get highly immersed in documentaries, some people get highly immersed in action movies.

I've gotten pretty immersed in the color bars that appear on the tv when a station stops broadcasting at 3 am.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Even when its a good faith effort, it can be easy to fall into very polarized positions in these discussions, because someone states A and you tend to take up position B.

There is also often a succession of small strawmen that get created, but not rejected.

Add that to the issue that humans have a behavior that supporting a position puts a perceived emotional and social status stake in the ground that makes it difficult for us to accept disagreement.

And you find yourself having personally started with the idea that it is perfectly fine for some folks to have pineapple on pizza, if that's what they want, and end up arguing whether food without pineapple on it can even be called "pizza".
 
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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Fundamentally we are talking about at least 3 distinct elements:
  1. Does the setting feel like a real place that I (if transported there) could walk around in, explore and investigate?
  2. Does the character feel like a real person who is genuinely connected into the setting. Someone who lives there, has meaningful social connections and like responsibilities, desires, goals, etc. If we were to stop playing them, does it feel like they would have their own personal animus. A good test here is if I were to switch character sheets with another player at the table would the characters still feel fundamentally like the same character.
  3. Do situations the characters find themselves in feel organic to the setting and the characters? Does it feel like the characters are naturally pursuing their aims? How contrived does it feel? Is the antagonism fundamentally honest? Do the relationships between characters feel like real human relationships?
Well to a certain extent these things can support one another we often have to make tradeoffs on where to focus our efforts on a cognitive level. Most games will feature some degree of all three, but our focus and attention will tend to be more specialized. It's not really that a game must be all one thing. Rather a game will not be all things maximally at any given time and we must choose what we wish to prioritize, not including any tradeoffs were making to like play a damn game.
 

Aldarc

Legend
More and more, I have come to value in-game immersion more than in-character roleplay immersion. By the former I mean that I enjoy being immersed in gameplay. It doesn't matter what player stances I may be juggling with my character - actor, author, pawn, etc. - so long as I am immersed in the game, everyone else is on the same page, and we are enjoying playing the game together. Because sometimes I want to check out of roleplaying my character because it can be mentally taxing and I don't want to deal with that on that day or maybe I want to sit back and enjoy other players' performances and actions as an audience member rather than a fellow actor on the stage.
 

First off, let me say thank you for responding with such a detailed example. I hope my lack of experience and familiarity with DitV doesn't hurt my response, and arguably, given the conversation, is hopefully apt.

Well, I'll start by assuming that being a part of God's Watchdogs is a given for playing the game, but even so, is this a choice I made? Did my family? Is this rare, or anticipated? Is this a position that is respected? Feared? Tolerated? Hated? How impressive is exorcising a demon? Am I matching the bare minimum and dealing with imposter syndrome, or do I have a full head already as a prodigy? Do I ever think I'm likely to encounter another one? Is scripture something everyone is expected to know, or is a simple basic understanding enough to set me apart? Does the vast majority agree and understand the tenets of The King of Life? Have I ever run into someone who would contradict these teachings, or am I confident due to never learning of anything else?

Is the player in charge of choosing drawing the conflict to the forefront, or is it inflicted upon them? Because if I'm the one staging it, at what level does a temper become so foul as to draw attention from an elder? Is it swearing in polite company or even rough individuals think twice about crossing my path? Is proficient horse riding a requirement for basic life that I have no choice but to deal with, or am I wrestling with fear because it's holding me back from achieving my own voluntary goals that I could give up should they prove too troublesome?

This is obviously a lot of mechanics talk, and I've not played poker, so it's a bit over my head. However, if I'm saying what I'm doing, that feels like it has to come out of an understanding of my character's position in the world, and what is expected or unusual, safe or risky.

Maybe here's the rub. I totally agree that I don't need to know this level of things to make a character driven choice. The name of the town doesn't influence that scenario, sure. If I'm doing a test of character about emotion, then niche details about religion are unlikely to come up. I understand how you've set up a scenario that is almost exclusively about the character's conception of self, and not related to doing something in the world, thus eschewing the need for questions like who is the ruling authority of the town closest to me.

But, whether my teacher is expected as a part of God's Watchdogs, or a separate secular entity that I'm lucky to have would be a salient point. If my decision to join the Watchdogs comes out of the lack of any civilization, so clinging to this one source of authority, or if it's reactionary and holding onto the past in light of the encroaching presence of industry and government.

These, and all the other questions I asked above, are why I can't see the setting as something on the level of "background color". Any answer I get to any of them informs how I approach the situation.

I want to be clear: I'm not trying argue that I couldn't conceive of a character with wants and flaws and problems, and then do my best to confront a situation that puts any of those to the test. Nor do I think that that could not be fully engaging and exciting on its own merits.

But, an understanding of the world gives me so much more confidence to make choices, as I know why I've come to them, and what they mean, and so I'll always be grateful when there's information that will allow me to experience the world through my character's eyes in a more complete way, even if that information isn't necessarily reflective or vital to my character's personal state.


I truly hope I haven't missed your aim with how I have responded.

Edit: And, a caveat, you gave base setting details in your opening paragraph, but I have no clue how much is preset in player facing material, or that the players would be expected to know. I understand if that would resolve a fair amount of questions I'm positing. However, that wouldn't change any of my desire for it in the first place.

Great post!

I think what we're (you and I and perhaps @Bedrockgames ) getting at is what I was outlining earlier in the thread; immersion isn't (and cannot be really) one thing with hard-coded parameters.

So another way to engage with what I wrote and what you replied to is this:

To some folks, "less is more" or "addition by subtraction, while to others "more is more" and "subtraction is just plain subtraction."

I'll give a few personal examples here:

* If you increase the parameters of a social system or you increase the parameters of my mental processing (particularly certain parameters), I will tend toward becoming distracted such that the experiencing of the social system or performing the mental processing (and all that comes downstream of activating my central nervous system) will be diminished in multiple ways. My "presence" will be diminished. My perception and understanding will be diminished. My appreciation will be diminished. My performance will be diminished.

Once I have some very particular, focused parameters, everything else becomes "noise." I'm rather confident that my threshold for this is considerably less than your own.

* Are you familiar with the opening scene of Super Eight and "the elevator scene" in Ghostbusters? These scenes are both incredibly short. 15-30 seconds. We are working from a huge information deficit in totality but an information-rich environment experientially due to how incredibly well-constructed these two short scenes are. It isn't just what is said and put before us...it is what is left unsaid...that invites us (demands us) to viscerally put the pieces together about the nature of what is before us (setting, situation, characters).

Simply put, by my reckoning of it, the more you add to those scenes ("tell rather than show"), the less impactful they become and the level of storycraft decreases (with the arrow pointing toward inelegant, clumsy ham-fistedness). Despite the unbelievably abbreviated nature of those scenes, "they are perfect" in terms of both information-richness, and intensity of connection.




I feel similarly about Cormac McCarthy's works. Minimalism (reduction of information in specific areas), when executed deftly, is always vastly preferable to me when I'm running a game, reading a novel, watching a move, physically grappling, climbing a wall, exercising/playing sport, or engaged in a social environment.

I'm assuming you might feel differently about any of the bullet points above, about Cormac McCarthy's works or about some or all of the endeavors I've listed directly above?

(Interestingly, I appreciate complex, layered musical pieces just as much as I do more simplified arrangements. And when it comes to proofs/refutations, I obviously prefer abundance over scarcity!)

EDIT - @pemerton answered your questions about DitV. Like the scenes in Super 8 and Ghostbusters above, DitV intentionally eschews focus on various things (any ephemera or color that isn't absolutely necessary to engage with the premise of the present situation) in order to demand that exact type (inherent to those two movie scenes depicted above) of focus by the participants on resolving the internal dynamics of character and situation.
 
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Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
I think what we're (you and I and perhaps @Bedrockgames ) is what I was outlining earlier in the thread; immersion isn't (and cannot be really) one thing with hard-coded parameters.

So another way to engage with what I wrote and what you replied to is this:

To some folks, "less is more" or "addition by subtraction, while to others "more is more" and "subtraction is just plain subtraction."
Stated that way, I absolutely understand and can agree. I think put too much emphasis on 'mostly' (or maybe 'might') in "setting might be mostly irrelevant" as opposed to considering the improved weight of details when they stand alone. Subtraction is absolutely valuable tool for creation. I also know that it can go too far for me.
I'll give a few personal examples here:

* If you increase the parameters of a social system or you increase the parameters of my mental processing (particularly certain parameters), I will tend toward becoming distracted such that the experiencing of the social system or performing the mental processing (and all that comes downstream of activating my central nervous system) will be diminished in multiple ways. My "presence" will be diminished. My perception and understanding will be diminished. My appreciation will be diminished. My performance will be diminished.

Once I have some very particular, focused parameters, everything else becomes "noise." I'm rather confident that my threshold for this is considerably less than your own.
I think that's a fair assumption. I tend that way with complex mechanical systems, things that ask me to be processing decisions constantly (this will come back up), but keeping contextual information at the ready is a much more background process, so it doesn't increase my cognitive load nearly as much. Reading, comprehending, storing, and recalling details has always been something I have seemingly had an easier time with than others. I've seen friends at the table with much more of your approach, so what you're saying here makes a lot of sense.
* Are you familiar with the opening scene of Super Eight and "the elevator scene" in Ghostbusters? These scenes are both incredibly short. 15-30 seconds. We are working from a huge information deficit in totality but an information-rich environment experientially due to how incredibly well-constructed these two short scenes are. It isn't just what is said and put before us...it is what is left unsaid...that invites us (demands us) to viscerally put the pieces together about the nature of what is before us (setting, situation, characters).

Simply put, by my reckoning of it, the more you add to those scenes ("tell rather than show"), the less impactful they become and the level of storycraft decreases (with the arrow pointing toward inelegant, clumsy ham-fistedness). Despite the unbelievably abbreviated nature of those scenes, "they are perfect" in terms of both information-richness, and intensity of connection.

I feel similarly about Cormac McCarthy's works. Minimalism (reduction of information in specific areas), when executed deftly, is always vastly preferable to me when I'm running a game, reading a novel, watching a move, physically grappling, climbing a wall, exercising/playing sport, or engaged in a social environment.

I'm assuming you might feel differently about any of the bullet points above, about Cormac McCarthy's works or about some or all of the endeavors I've listed directly above?
I've not seen Super Eight, but yes to Ghostbusters, and both read and watched No Country. Now, here, I'd say I'd actually place myself much closer to you! I love films that can imbue very small moments with great weight, and as you mention, showing rather than telling is a aphorism with a lot of truth to it. Artful direction that doesn't waste time on needless exposition or set-up and trusts the audience to be invested and active in the watching process is a treat.

However, I'd say that's true for me specifically in the context of movies (and as another example, video games), as opposed to ttrpgs, and if I had to answer why, I'd say there are two reasons for that. First, they are providing enough ambient sensory detail that I do feel weighted in the world. While I wouldn't characterize it as full aphantasia (as I've learned one of my players does have), visualizing things has always been a struggle for me. When I read, I rarely have a picture in my head of what any given character looks like unless it is plot relevant. So, for example, in a western, things like the remoteness of a town, how lively it is, how strangers are treated, are all baked in to a much greater degree. It's hard to not show that ancillarily in the process of detailing the important.

Second, and I think this carries more weight in regards to this discussion, when in the process of viewing and interpreting someone else's fiction, my job is to pay attention and interpret. I can devote my full mental energy towards understanding, and thinking about what necessarily must be true for the scene to exist, and what it implies about the situation, characters, and world. However, in the context of playing a game, and I'll state this intentionally hyperbolically, I am always worried about what choice I need to make next, and if it's the wrong one. This is a pattern throughout a lot of my life, and I'm not surprised to see it play out here. With this activity, my actions both determine the course of the game, and to some degree the engagement and fun of everyone else at the table (not even to mention my own). I'm juggling trying to be mechanically sound, narratively appropriate, tonally fitting, and do it with the speed the scene demands, while respecting the desires of the rest of the table, and worst of all, trying to come up with something interesting.

Now, I know, I don't need to make the "right" choice. The game will carry on, there are other players who are also responsible for steering it, what different players want will occasionally be in conflict through no fault, sometimes the "wrong" choice can end up being more interesting, sometimes/in some games there's not really any such thing as a wrong choice, and the point here is to have fun more than it is being successful. But as much as I know that, and it's something I'm trying to work on in several arenas, something that actively helps me when confronted with this stress is the ability to think "Well, at least I have the relevant information to make it." In games, what that readily available relevant information is, to me, is the setting details. One less unknown factor to complicate the decision making process. Even better if it's the sort of thing I can gather on my own time, away from the table. Hence, my favor for setting books.
EDIT - @pemerton answered your questions about DitV. Like the scenes in Super 8 and Ghostbusters above, DitV intentionally eschews focus on various things (any ephemera or color that isn't absolutely necessary to engage with the premise of the present situation) in order to demand that exact type (inherent to those two movie scenes depicted above) of focus by the participants on resolving the internal dynamics of character and situation.
That makes sense. I always want to engage with a game as it desires, so as to best showcase its strengths or unique qualities. DitV does sound like one I might struggle with a bit initially, but given its history and influence in the hobby, it's one that I want to give a fair and honest shot. I'm sincerely hoping that as I grow, both as roleplayer and more generally as a person, the concerns above are ones I'm able to move away from.

Thank you for the stimulating response!
 

pemerton

Legend
in the context of playing a game, and I'll state this intentionally hyperbolically, I am always worried about what choice I need to make next, and if it's the wrong one.

<snip>

I'm juggling trying to be mechanically sound, narratively appropriate, tonally fitting, and do it with the speed the scene demands, while respecting the desires of the rest of the table, and worst of all, trying to come up with something interesting.

Now, I know, I don't need to make the "right" choice. The game will carry on, there are other players who are also responsible for steering it, what different players want will occasionally be in conflict through no fault, sometimes the "wrong" choice can end up being more interesting, sometimes/in some games there's not really any such thing as a wrong choice, and the point here is to have fun more than it is being successful. But as much as I know that, and it's something I'm trying to work on in several arenas, something that actively helps me when confronted with this stress is the ability to think "Well, at least I have the relevant information to make it." In games, what that readily available relevant information is, to me, is the setting details. One less unknown factor to complicate the decision making process.
One feature of those RPGs that I tend to enjoy more, or at least find more serious (and hence more immersive, as per my first post in this thread), is that they don't have a notion of the right choice or the mechanically sound choice that is independent of what should I (as my character) do.

A reduction in setting details helps with this - rather than fit my decision to the setting as authored by someone else, the setting will unfold in a way that fits the decisions my character is called upon to make.
 
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Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
One feature of RPGs that I tend to enjoy more, or at least find more serious (and hence more immersive, as per my first post in this thread), is that they don't have a notion of the right choice or the mechanically sound choice that is independent of what should I (as my character) do.

A reduction in setting details helps with this - rather than fit my decision to the setting as authored by someone else, the setting will unfold in a way that fits the decisions my character is called upon to make.
Mechanical optimization is the easiest thing for me to give a backseat, thankfully, and why I tend to shy away crunchy games, or tables that enjoy and expect optimization. However, similarly to setting details, with games at the level of 5e, rules aren't too hard for me to internalize, and the not-bad option usually doesn't require much meta-level thought.

When I say "right choice", it's a fairly direction function of "what I as my character should do". The biggest component. If I'm a character that belongs to the world and table, hopefully tonality/genre appropriateness comes as a given. Setting details are what give me confidence in crafting that character, and in knowing what my character would do. Lack of confidence creates stress*, and that stress brings me right back to an awareness of playing a game rather than being the character, which rips me out of any state of immersion.

If I know the setting will actively fold to endorse the choices I make, then I can be confident, but I'll also be much more aware of my author-state, and that likewise pulls me out. Not that that is not its own type of engaging, but there, immersion is worlds harder for me to experience.


*In a situation where I as character should have some degree of confidence, but I as player don't. Not referring to where my character and I should have an equal lack of knowledge. There's stress there, but that's the good kind, of taking the world seriously.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I'm using illusionism here to criticize the idea players should not know the rules of the game they are playing. It sounds like you're proposing that TTRPGs with less rules provide a greater sense of immersion, which I'm not totally sure interacts with my proposed definition.
I really hate when people do that. Here you've usurped a definition used in discussions of D&D and other RPG play and just decided to give it an all new definition. Illusionism is the removal of player agency by giving the illusion of choice, and is a form of railroading. It's not at all about immersion.

When someone does this, theyjust end up derailing threads and causing confusion as people don't understand what they are talking about.
It would all come down to how you are resolving conflicts in the shared fiction. If everyone generally agrees about character capabilities then you might never actually need to roll out a resolution mechanic other than the default "collectively decide what happens" and no one will ever encounter dissonance, which I would absolutely agree is an immersive state of affairs. I'm generally skeptical that such a state can be maintained by adults in an open-ended roleplaying situation, especially one that focuses on combat, and especially when you're in a fantasy or sci-fi or other setting that deviates significantly from normally experienced reality.
Immersion is helped by minimizing the rolling of the dice or having to stop and look up a rule. I've been in many games were rolls don't happen nearly as often than what the default game assumes. Rolling, though, is pretty much inevitable in D&D. All you can do is minimize it so that immersion is not disrupted too much and it's easy to flow back into character and re-immerse yourself.

And yes, combat in D&D, ruins immersion. There's far too much rolling and looking at sheets and such to immerse yourself.
I think we're just quibbling over how much information about risk is necessary. I think D&D's 5% increments are about as fine-grained as I'd want software running on my brain to go, and I could probably be comfortably with a 10% standard, but I would side-eye anyone who didn't evaluate a 70% and an 80% chance of success differently. After that, we're just asking about which adjectives should indicate which DCs, and I generally think that's improved by putting them down in manuals.
I just pulled that number out of the air. Put it at 75% if you want it to happen in increments of 5%. That wasn't the point. The point is that if the DM is correctly describing the environment, the player has a very good idea of what his chances are.
 
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pemerton

Legend
You don't need to know that success is 78% to make a good, informed decision and have agency, though. You just need to know that it's more likely than not, but with a decent chance for failure. That much should be evident to you by the situation, assuming the DM has described the environment correctly.
I just pulled that number out of the air. Put it at 75% if you want it to happen in increments of 5%. That wasn't the point. The point is that if the DM is correctly describing the environment, the player has a very good idea of what his chances are.
These claims don't strike me as very plausible.

Suppose I know my PC is clever and learned (INT 16, level 5, trained in a knowledge skill). The GM tells me that I have heard rumour of an ancient legend about a mysterious whatever-it-is, to whih my knowledge skill is relevant. The GM has also, in some previous narration, mentioned that such-and-such a place has the greatest library in the known world. How likely is it that I can learn more about this thing by visiting that library?

The GM tells me that a chasm is close to 20' wide. I know that m PC is strong and fit (STR 16, level 5, trained in Athletics). How likely is it that I can jump the cavern?

The GM tells us all that we're shipwrecked, on a shore that looks pretty barren, with only dunes and some stunted grass and shrubs as far as the eye can sea. My PC is a perceptive outdoors type (WIS 16, level 5, trained in Survival). How likely is it that I can find food and water for me and my companions?

Those are just the first three examples that I thought of. I think many more could be generated. They all turn on the fact that D&D does not establish any particular correlation between a stat/skill bonus and some measurable level of human ability, nor between reasonably general descriptions of various situations and concrete DCs.
 

Pedantic

Adventurer
Those are just the first three examples that I thought of. I think many more could be generated. They all turn on the fact that D&D does not establish any particular correlation between a stat/skill bonus and some measurable level of human ability, nor between reasonably general descriptions of various situations and concrete DCs.
It doesn't now. There were definitely times in the past it did (with varying degrees of usefulness/specificity for different tasks), though the game has definitely been moving away from defined skill DCs for a while. It's my single biggest frustration in RPG design trends. Objective, specified, player/GM transparent DCs are what I most desperately want from a tabletop RPG system.
 

pemerton

Legend
It doesn't now. There were definitely times in the past it did (with varying degrees of usefulness/specificity for different tasks), though the game has definitely been moving away from defined skill DCs for a while. It's my single biggest frustration in RPG design trends. Objective, specified, player/GM transparent DCs are what I most desperately want from a tabletop RPG system.
HARP, and the RM clone Against the Darkmaster, probably give you what you want. And RM unified is on its way too!

EDIT: So do Burning Wheel and Torchbearer, but I have a vague recollection from other threads that these aren't appealing to you.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
These claims don't strike me as very plausible.

Suppose I know my PC is clever and learned (INT 16, level 5, trained in a knowledge skill). The GM tells me that I have heard rumour of an ancient legend about a mysterious whatever-it-is, to whih my knowledge skill is relevant. The GM has also, in some previous narration, mentioned that such-and-such a place has the greatest library in the known world. How likely is it that I can learn more about this thing by visiting that library?
Why would you know? You've never been to this library, so you don't know anything other than it has the greatest library in the world. This isn't even a skill check.
The GM tells me that a chasm is close to 20' wide. I know that m PC is strong and fit (STR 16, level 5, trained in Athletics). How likely is it that I can jump the cavern?
You can jump farther with athletics. Presumably you've talked to the DM prior to this and know how he determines the extra distance from the rolls. This should not vary, so you would know what your chances are. So if this particular DM sets the base DC at 10 for an extra foot, and you get one more foot for every 2 you beat the base DC by, you can figure it out.
The GM tells us all that we're shipwrecked, on a shore that looks pretty barren, with only dunes and some stunted grass and shrubs as far as the eye can sea. My PC is a perceptive outdoors type (WIS 16, level 5, trained in Survival). How likely is it that I can find food and water for me and my companions?
That doesn't sound like it has been described very well. Perhaps you should investigate further to see if you can get more details from the DM. The chances should be fairly high for you, though. Lots of roots are edible and there will be insects, snakes, etc. to catch.
 

Yes, immersion (logical consistency) is important me.
What is being communicated to me by the DMs and players is usually visualised in my mind. If some of it does not make logical sense immersion is broken and the game starts becoming more mechanical in nature and if not seen to could be reduced to a boardgame. At that point no one is engrossed by their characters, story becomes a tertiary objective or even worse a by-product.
 

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