On immersion, from an... interesting perspective

loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
I'll probably won't say anything new (similar ideas were voiced by Mo and Vincent Baker two decades ago), but I'm still gonna say something nonetheless. I have a thing for being showered in praise, y'know?

First, housekeeping:
  1. If you are under 18, first, what are you doing here? Forums are for old people who couldn't adapt to social networks. Second, close the tab. There's nothing explicit, but still.
  2. If the extent of your engagement with the topic is gonna be "haha segs", close the tab too. I'm not interested in proving the similarities and cross-applicability of tools between TTRPGs and ERP, I see that as pretty self-evident.

OK, there's this "common wisdom" idea, that immersion requires that everything the player does closely corresponds to whatever the character does, and the decision-making process is untarnished by all this pesky meta-gaming, director stance and whatnot. That you can't "feel like the character" if you can influence things your character can't. That even if the setting is created here on the spot, it shouldn't be acknowledged.

And... No. I'm going to disagree.

Some games are about overcoming challenges. Some games are about simulating the secondary world in an accurate manner. Some games are about creating gripping stories. And then there's a kind of games that is specifically about immersion and nothing else. They aren't normally discussed when we talk about our imaginary elf games, but I think they should be.

I'm talking about erotic roleplaying (ERP from now on). I'm into that stuff (and this shouldn't be said, but some people are weird: no, it doesn't mean that I'm OK with unsolicited PMs). For those sitting in a tank: ERP to dressing up as a maid is what TTRPGs are to LARP. They are played in a manner pretty much indistinguishable from TTRPGs: two (or more) players are talking, describing what happens in an imaginary world.

ERP isn't concerned with accumulating wealth, conquering enemies and becoming Khan of Khans. ERP isn't concerned with character development or exploration, more than that, it's beneficial when the characters are kinda one-note, having only one or two prominent traits that are never put to test. And if you squint really, really hard, maybe ERP is concerned with accurately simulating a world where everyone is horny all the damn time and every single interaction between two adults always leads to sex, but you'll have to squint so much the only thing you see is your eyelids.

No, ERP is about immersion. The whole point is to feel like you are there, immersed in a fictional situation and to truly facilitate that, ERP breaks all our common wisdom in half.

You can and should control things that your character has no influence over. You decide when your phone rings, or if or when passers-by notice what you're up to, or when you get an award and are invited to speak on TV, or whatever. You can and should build the setting on the fly, and exert control over the world. More than that, you can take control over the other PC and describe what they are doing and feeling, to the point of sometimes switching roles for an extended period of time, which is considered taboo in most TTRPGs circles.

None of this hinders immersion, no, more than that: it is enhanced because it gives the players tools to make themselves more immersed without having to pray that the other person will somehow read your mind. After all, imagination has much less, khm, "graphical fidelity" than a real world, so a situation must be greatly exaggerated to convey the same emotion: in real life, you can have a pretty damn good morning, just sipping coffee and having a smoke while observing a beautiful cherry blossom on your balcony; feeling even remotely the same thing when you are constrained to your mind-prison would require constructing the most perfect morning ever, not just a good one.

I don't really have a definitive closing conclusion, so... Thoughts?
 

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This is really interesting framing. Though I haven't played a lot of GMless games, what little Starforged I've managed to play with a friend definitely had elements of this approach, where in some scenes you aren't asking anyone for permission, but just forging ahead with details and on the fly worldbuilding. The biggest difference, though—aside from using dice rolls every so often—is that you often wind up asking questions of each other, taking a writers room approach rather than taking full control nonstop, and definitely never taking full control of the other PC(s).

But I also think this framing is interesting for thinking about how GMs are so often taking on a kind of one-person ERP role, with the PCs mostly just offering prompts. So a PC might make a decision about what to do (often in the form of a question—can I do X?) and then the GM is off to the races, narrating how that looks, including specific actions the PC is taking related to their decision (you raise your shield just in time, you wait for just the right opportunity to slip between the guards, etc.) and how the world responds. Games where PCs describe their own actions without being prompted, and are explicitly encouraged to contribute to worldbuilding without stopping to ask the GM a battery of questions (see games like The Between, where the PCs are prompted to describe the environment they arrive at), are definitely closer to the ERP mode you're describing.

But this business of casually taking control of other PCs...that seems like the real break with RPGs, even storygames, right? Are there games that do that today? My experience with Monsterhearts and Thirsty Sword Lesbians is basically non-existent, but can you use Strings, or a similar mechanic in some other game to just say what someone else at the table is doing, without it being a contested roll or immersion-halting metagame negotiation?
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I don't really have a definitive closing conclusion, so... Thoughts?

I think that there are ways in which we are not in control of things in our real world... we're subject to all kinds of outside influences and forces that shape our lives. When we play RPGs, there seems to be the expectation that this lack of control absolutely must be portrayed, and done so by the GM. That doing anything in some other way... by having more control over a situation than an actual person in the actual situation would have will snap immersion.

But I agree with you, I don't think that's the case.

Looking at other media... with a good book or movie, I can feel very immersed. Yet I'm not making any decisions for the characters. And with some video games, I can feel immersed... and that doesn't snap when I check my inventory and realize I'm carrying a lot more than I could actually feasibly carry.

I don't think there's one way for immersion to work. I don't think that thinking of things outside of the perspective of the character automatically lessens immersion.
 

niklinna

satisfied?
This reminds me of the Thieve's World series of books, in which a number of authors wrote stories in a shared world. They wrote stories about their own characters, but had permission to use the characters of others. Presumably they had some agreement to limits on what any author could have somebody's elses character do (or what could happen to them), and the results were interesting at the very least. My enjoyment of the series fell off pretty rapidly after the first book, but it went on for a number of volumes. It's almost a play-by-post game.
 

loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
But this business of casually taking control of other PCs...that seems like the real break with RPGs, even storygames, right?
Yeah, I don't think I know any examples that codify such things.

Like, you can ask the other player for their character do something and they can agree, but in ERP it's normally goes the other way — by default you can take control, and the other person can stop you if they don't like your idea.
 

bloodtide

Legend
Well...

I'd start of with that I am a ERP that uses RPG for some such activities. They really work well together. The average gamer will insist on a "PG-13" game. But not everyone. And there are tons of "Big E" stories to tell, in a RPG. One of my current games is a solo runway princess who has to 'live on the streets' to survive and often "do whatever it takes" to get by, and oh yea avoid all the bounty hunters, criminals, and her own npc sister all trying to 'bring her back'.

But for the pure role play E game......saying "immersion" is taking control of the other persons character? I'd say no. The whole point of an ERPG is to have another perspective: someone else point of view. They won't be exactly like you and won't do exactly what you want them to do.

Though this is much more a common role play problem. People simply don't immerse themselves in a character. The character is just them and they self insert into the RP. You can type "the prince grabs the warewolf by the hair on the back of it's head", but all the will read is "he grabs ME".

If you really want something in any Role Play, it's much better to ask for it. Others should be open to it. You don't need to take control of the world and force things. Though this should also be about picking the right people too.
 

I'll probably won't say anything new (similar ideas were voiced by Mo and Vincent Baker two decades ago), but I'm still gonna say something nonetheless. I have a thing for being showered in praise, y'know?

First, housekeeping:
  1. If you are under 18, first, what are you doing here? Forums are for old people who couldn't adapt to social networks. Second, close the tab. There's nothing explicit, but still.
  2. If the extent of your engagement with the topic is gonna be "haha segs", close the tab too. I'm not interested in proving the similarities and cross-applicability of tools between TTRPGs and ERP, I see that as pretty self-evident.

OK, there's this "common wisdom" idea, that immersion requires that everything the player does closely corresponds to whatever the character does, and the decision-making process is untarnished by all this pesky meta-gaming, director stance and whatnot. That you can't "feel like the character" if you can influence things your character can't. That even if the setting is created here on the spot, it shouldn't be acknowledged.

And... No. I'm going to disagree.

Some games are about overcoming challenges. Some games are about simulating the secondary world in an accurate manner. Some games are about creating gripping stories. And then there's a kind of games that is specifically about immersion and nothing else. They aren't normally discussed when we talk about our imaginary elf games, but I think they should be.

I'm talking about erotic roleplaying (ERP from now on). I'm into that stuff (and this shouldn't be said, but some people are weird: no, it doesn't mean that I'm OK with unsolicited PMs). For those sitting in a tank: ERP to dressing up as a maid is what TTRPGs are to LARP. They are played in a manner pretty much indistinguishable from TTRPGs: two (or more) players are talking, describing what happens in an imaginary world.

ERP isn't concerned with accumulating wealth, conquering enemies and becoming Khan of Khans. ERP isn't concerned with character development or exploration, more than that, it's beneficial when the characters are kinda one-note, having only one or two prominent traits that are never put to test. And if you squint really, really hard, maybe ERP is concerned with accurately simulating a world where everyone is horny all the damn time and every single interaction between two adults always leads to sex, but you'll have to squint so much the only thing you see is your eyelids.

No, ERP is about immersion. The whole point is to feel like you are there, immersed in a fictional situation and to truly facilitate that, ERP breaks all our common wisdom in half.

You can and should control things that your character has no influence over. You decide when your phone rings, or if or when passers-by notice what you're up to, or when you get an award and are invited to speak on TV, or whatever. You can and should build the setting on the fly, and exert control over the world. More than that, you can take control over the other PC and describe what they are doing and feeling, to the point of sometimes switching roles for an extended period of time, which is considered taboo in most TTRPGs circles.

None of this hinders immersion, no, more than that: it is enhanced because it gives the players tools to make themselves more immersed without having to pray that the other person will somehow read your mind. After all, imagination has much less, khm, "graphical fidelity" than a real world, so a situation must be greatly exaggerated to convey the same emotion: in real life, you can have a pretty damn good morning, just sipping coffee and having a smoke while observing a beautiful cherry blossom on your balcony; feeling even remotely the same thing when you are constrained to your mind-prison would require constructing the most perfect morning ever, not just a good one.

I don't really have a definitive closing conclusion, so... Thoughts?
Well, I'd be speaking from a point of ignorance to say anything about this as a formal activity, but I did have the experience of inventing an imaginary setting in which to spend time together with a partner who was not physically present for extended periods of time. It's a much more limited form of what you are describing, but similar. Certainly the goal is immersion! Mostly I would note there's a lot of description going on, and just making stuff up. I don't see any of that being anti-immersive.
 

niklinna

satisfied?
This is now reminding me of the early days on multiplayer RPGs—text based! Sure there were hack-and-slash games like DikuMUD but you had a variety of mushes, mucks, and moos that were much more about sheer creativity. You could program a new object, drop it in the world, and others could interact with it (and you of course). I do not recall any character-switching going on, but then my time in this world was brief and limited (and did not involve any ERP, though I knew it was going on! behind closed (virtual) doors). When graphical stuff came along, then you got your Second Life and such.


 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
This reminds me of the Thieve's World series of books, in which a number of authors wrote stories in a shared world. They wrote stories about their own characters, but had permission to use the characters of others. Presumably they had some agreement to limits on what any author could have somebody's elses character do (or what could happen to them), and the results were interesting at the very least. My enjoyment of the series fell off pretty rapidly after the first book, but it went on for a number of volumes. It's almost a play-by-post game.

I read those as a kid. Loved them.

There was an RPG setting based on the books, too.
 

Cordwainer Fish

Imp. Int. Scout Svc. (Dishon. Ret.)
This reminds me of the Thieve's World series of books, in which a number of authors wrote stories in a shared world. They wrote stories about their own characters, but had permission to use the characters of others. Presumably they had some agreement to limits on what any author could have somebody's elses character do (or what could happen to them), and the results were interesting at the very least. My enjoyment of the series fell off pretty rapidly after the first book, but it went on for a number of volumes. It's almost a play-by-post game.
The rule was, "you may use other writers' characters but you may not use them up".

C. J. Cherryh once said you wrote your first Thieves' World story for money and your second for revenge.
 

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