D&D General The History of 'Immersion' in RPGs

D&D historian Jon Peterson has taken a look at the concept of 'immersion' as it related to tabletop roleplaying games, with references to the concept going back to The Wild Hunt (1977), D&D modules like In Search of the Unknown, games like Boot Hill, and Forgotten Realms creator Ed Greenwood speaking in Dragon Magazine.


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Lieslo

Explorer
Part of the fun for me as a DM is in extrapolating the mechanics of the game to what the PCs experience in the world. Sometimes its easy and sometimes a challenge and not every player appreciates it but I'm always striving for immersion
 
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MGibster

Legend
I'm going to have to agree with my esteemed colleague SirGrotius. That is perhaps the best description of immersion that I have ever seen put to writing.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Wow, that's an excellent description of immersion as I understand the concept and aim to achieve in my games. I've taken to heart, in addition, Stephen King's adage of achieving a suspension of disbelief.
That concept is quite a bit older than King... it is from the 1800s, at least.

As a DM, I want my players to feel like there is already an answer to what happens whenever they do something and interact with the world. They make a choice, and the world responds naturally. I don't want them to see me figuring anything out, if possible - I want them to feel like I spent 30,000,000 years planning out every rock, every bug, and every mote of dust that they encounter. I want them to be able to anticipate the reasonable answer, and for it all to make sense.

This is why I usually go with their rulings on novel rules issues. Unless it contradicts, meaningfully, with something I have ruled before and see as important, I'll go with what seems to make sense to them. This is true of how rules work, what their line of sight allows them to see, etc... The more it goes with their instincts, the more easy it is to immerse themselves.
 

prabe

Tension, apprension, and dissension have begun
Supporter
That concept is quite a bit older than King... it is from the 1800s, at least.
The phrase "suspension of disbelief" dates to Samuel Coleridge, in 1817. The idea, according to about 5 minutes of research, goes back to at least ancient Rome (Horace).
 


Reynard

Legend
I am of two minds regarding the idea that players should not necessarily know the rules and just describe what their character wants to accomplish: on the one hand, I totally understand the goal of immersion and do think for some kinds of players some of the time, not worrying about mechanics helps them make decisions in character; on the other hand, nothing ruins immersion quite like having to backpedal because you did not understand the mechanical consequences of a particular fictional action.
 

prabe

Tension, apprension, and dissension have begun
Supporter
I suspect it goes back as far as telling stories which goes back as far as there have been humans.
Sure. Probably since before Homo sapiens sapiens, for that matter. And I'm sure there were some of those people telling stories around campfires in caves who were doing things like three-act structure and/or in medias res, but they (probably) didn't really have any way to talk about what they were doing.

In the same way, it seems probable they didn't have language to talk about the audience's experience, or about what the audience has to do do to enjoy a work of fiction they know is fiction (which ... arguably isn't exactly what was happening around Stone Age campfires). As I said, a little quick research puts the phrase "suspension of disbelief" at 1817 in Coleridge's Biographia Literaria and indicates others wrote about something that was clearly the same idea in antiquity (and specifically mentions Horace, in ancient Rome).

The heart of the point I'm making, though, is that--though I've read and enjoyed most everything Stephen King has written--the phrase isn't Stephen King's.
 

prabe

Tension, apprension, and dissension have begun
Supporter
I am of two minds regarding the idea that players should not necessarily know the rules and just describe what their character wants to accomplish: on the one hand, I totally understand the goal of immersion and do think for some kinds of players some of the time, not worrying about mechanics helps them make decisions in character; on the other hand, nothing ruins immersion quite like having to backpedal because you did not understand the mechanical consequences of a particular fictional action.
To the extent the mechanics reflect the way the world works, it seems the character/s would (should?) have a pretty good understanding. I don't particularly buy into the idea that the players' not knowing the rules makes for better immersion; I actually believe the players' internalizing the rules (at least for their characters) does.

Then it just comes to knowing the situation before you act--which ... might not always be entirely in character, but I think that's a different concern.
 

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