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5E What are your biggest immersion breakers, rules wise?


For me the experience of immersion is a vivid sense of being there, like getting lost in a book. Pretty much, immersion requires Theater of the Mind playstyle.

Something that distracts me from immersion, is the use of minis. Switching from the first-person perspective of mind style to the third-person ‘fly on the wall’ perspective of minis breaks immersion − particularly when one of those minis is supposed to be me. I guess, if they arent me, and are something that my character in first-person perspective would observe, it doesnt bother me as much. Which is why drawing out a sketch of a new room to visually understand where everything is, usually wont disrupt my immersion.

Relatedly, the micromeasurements such as specific movement, forced movement, spell effect radiuses, and especially opportunity attack distances, all of which force me to think in terms of a ‘chess game’, destroy immersion.

I do enjoy the use of minis periodically − especially for the complex big bad boss fights or similar whose many creatures require minis to keep track of them. These minis completely destroy immersion. But the tactical chess game and the beautiful artwork of the minis and sometimes the use of beautiful dungeon tiles are a joy in their own right.

My favorite play style is mind style with simpler encounters, occasionally punctuated by more complex mini style encounters.

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There are some rules that I find absurd. They dont relate to immersion per se, but they are exasperating during gameplay.

The worst one is how Dexterity can fall really, really, well, yet has somehow never jumped or climbed a day in its life. Relatedly Strength is the best tree climber in the world, but if it tries to walk across a branch it falls and dies. The splitting up of necessarily related functions into separate ability scores is kludgy and distracting. Relatedly, Charisma is social skills, but Wisdom is the ability to understand people. When one function requires an other, for me, it is nonsense and unappealing to split them up into separate ability scores.


With regard to hit points, I love 5e. For me, the visualization feels realistic when hit points are stamina and luck, eventuating in superficial damage, and culminating in the ‘luck runs out’ and going down at 0 hit points. I am glad, they are called ‘hit’ points rather than ‘health’ points. I think of a reallife boxing match. At first it is all stamina, eventually they get bloodied, but press on exhausted and sloppy, until one of them goes down because of the hit at zero hit points. Totally realistic to me. (Oppositely, the idea that a hero is stabbed thru the heart 20 times is ridiculous to me.)

All of that praise said, three things bother me about the hit point system.

When a creature finally does go down, with that proverbial stab thru the heart at zero hit points, the idea of popping back up without any consequences feels impossible. Whenever a character reaches zero hit points they must incur at least a chance of lingering wounds. The Exhaustion mechanic seems designed for the Barbarian class specifically, and it is awkward but serviceable to represent a lingering condition if reaching zero hit points.

There are no broken bones in D&D. People who complain about the Warlord ‘growing back an arm’ are speaking ignorantly. Because in D&D normal combat NEVER results in a broken arm or a lost limb. There are no mechnics for something like this to happen. The Warlord is simply inspiring resolve and facilitating alertness − the way a coach does during a boxing match − and therefore refreshes hit points. The problem of healing someone at zero hit points is because of the wider problem of anyone springing back up from zero without any consequences.

This relates to the third awkwardness of the hit point system. Reaching zero hit points and going unconscious is lethal. Note, this is mitigated by the rules that have the attacker decide whether the final attack causing zero hit points will be lethal or nonlethal. In other words, the boxer could choose to kill an opponent that goes down.

But, I would rather have zero hit points be unconsciousness with a chance of serious injury, and the attack can then hit the incapacitated opponent with a coup-de-grace to kill.

Finally, I would prefer if ‘death’ at zero hit points means: the loss of ‘life or limb’. Thus reaching zero always means unconscious only, but ‘death’ from failed saving throws normally means a broken arm or broken limb or broken nose, and only possibly means the loss of a limb or death from internal bleeding.
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During 3e, I complained bitterly about vancian casting − especially in the context of keeping nonvancian classes underpowered compared to the vancian Wizard.

For me, I find the spontaneous 5e Wizard satisfying. It is everything I asked for. And I love it.

I think of leveled spell-slots as a convenience − as amounts of arcane energy that can be harnessed. I want to give the player the option to split a high level slot into one or more low level slots or viceversa. But the 5e spell point system is kludgy and awkward to use, and doubtful in balance. An excellent spell point system that is balanced and simple would be ideal to convert spell slots up or down for those few times it might be useful.

I feel the 5e Wizard is slightly underpowered. But then again, Rogue fans feel the Rogue is underpowered, and Fighter fans feel the Fighter is underpowered. So, I want to be more cautious before getting enthusiastic about any fixes, even if a class honestly needs a boost. The thing is, each class is frustrating in a different way, and there is a feeling of comparing apples to oranges. So sobriety and clear thinking are a priority.
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For me, ‘immersion’ and ‘suspension of disbelief’ are two different things.

Immersion refers to a vivid first-person experience of an encounter.

Suspension of disbelief is what the awkward rules might violate.



1) "You slept...POOF! Everyone's healed". The VERY first game in the FIRST 20 MINUTES of play when we checked healing and saw this. "Nope! First house rule is...you heal 1/2 of your normal Healing HD, rounding up, for free after a nice, solid 8+ hour sleep". So a 5th level fighter would heal 'naturally' 3d10 each morning. Still fast, but not insta-heal.

2) Level Advancement Speed. TOO DANG FAST!

3) Skill + Ability Pairing. I get the reason, but a lot of the time it just makes no dang sense. In particular, Perception. Clerics? CLERICS are the most eagle-eyed, rabbit-eared masters of perception? And Fighter types can climb walls like nobody's business...but a Thief can barely get over a 3' fence. o_O Another rule that I modified right quick (basically the listed Stats for Skills are 'defaults', but if the situation warrants it, other Stats will be used...same with if the Player gives a description of HOW they are going about doing something and/or tools and items they are using).

4) Potentially Ridiculously High HP Totals. I would have much rather WotC designers went with some sort of 'damage reduction' as the baseline. So an Ogre might still only have 30hp, but all weapon attacks against it is reduced by 5 points with 0 damage being entirely possible. Something like that

^ _^

Paul L. Ming


In 5e, a character is not even visibly wounded until they’re at half-HP. And at that point they’re not necessarily seriously injured, they’re just visibly battered, bruised, and bloody. It’s not until hitting 0 HP that a character takes a potentially life-threatening wound.

If that paradigm of HP breaks your immersion, I understand. Personally, the idea that a human(oid) can take six arrows to the chest and survive to even take an 8-hour rest is far more immersion-breaking than the idea that those six successful longbow attacks were not actually direct hits, but narrow grazes and glancing blows that left you harried and worn down but not injured badly enough that a night’s rest won’t have you back on your feet. But to each their own.
AnyOne that takes an arrow in the chest in my game is dead barring some magical restoration.


Magic Wordsmith

What I find either hilarious or annoying (annarious?) is the people arguing that something CAN'T break someone else's immersion, because rules, or something.

I would say that there's a part of this where the person whose "immersion is breaking" is allowing that to happen. One can change the channel, change the rules, and change oneself. Rarely do I see anyone doing the latter which is unfortunate in my view. Even more unfortunate as I see it is trying to change others because of an unwillingness to change oneself. It's very liberating in my experience to be able to just set these issues aside and never let them bother me again.


2) Level Advancement Speed. TOO DANG FAST!

It is very easy to finetune the speed of level advancement.

Count the number of encounters, rather than the number of creatures.

On average, it takes roughly 10 ‘routine’ encounters to reach the next level.

There are many benefits to counting encounters instead of xp.
• You decide if an encounter turned out to be unexpectedly easy or hard AFTER THE FACT. Always accurate.
• As a DM, you can put in difficult or easy encounters − per the story − and it works out fine.
• Your encounter can easily be noncombat, and still count fully toward leveling.
• You completely control the speed of advancement by deciding how many encounters you prefer to level.

Use the ‘routine’ medium difficulty as the base line. Count a trivial encounter as a ½-encounter, a hard encounter as a 1½-encounter, and an encounter that almost ended in a TPK as 2 encounters.


Magic Wordsmith
I'm not sure that this is easily, or ever, possible. Pet peeves, or immersion breaking, is by definition idiosyncratic.

You can always change the channel or (with a TTRPG) change the rules. But it is really, really hard to simply "change oneself" in terms of things that you don't like, or that bug you, or that take you out of the moment. You might know that it's just a pet peeve, but you it's still really hard to stop the way you feel, especially when feelings are inextricably intertwined with immersion and suspension of disbelief.

To use an example I am familiar with- it is almost impossible for me to watch a traditional three-camera, laugh-track sitcom today. It just ... it's like nails on a chalkboard, the falsity of it. I'd like to "rise above it" and liberate myself, but I can't.

I didn't say it was easy, but I think it's worthwhile to try to make oneself more resilient against such distractions both for D&D and in other areas of life.


Magic Wordsmith
Well, I think there's a difference between things people don't like, and things that break immersion.

For example, maybe I don't like bards. Maybe when I think of bard in D&D, I feel vaguely like Bluto in Animal House, and I just want to take that lute from his hands and smash it. But that's my choice; if someone else really wants to play a bard, so be it. That's a question of taste (I think you would call it distractions) that I can easily deal with.

Immersion (or suspension of disbelief) is a different beast, IMO. Because it's very much not about opinions- I can be immersed in something that is, for example, unpleasant or even something I don't like. By the same token, something I really enjoy can have a part of it that keeps breaking me out, no matter how much I want to love it.

I think that there is a salient distinction between telling people to suck it up when it comes to life in general (be more resilient), as opposed to saying that people can naturally get immersed in things that feel wrong to them.

It's really about creating coping mechanisms and buy-in to make the things that feel wrong feel fine to a level where it can't distract you. It can be done. I've done it and I'm not anyone special (though my mom disagrees). I rarely get XP for suggesting people suck it up and change their own behaviors, but it's a solution to this problem even if folks don't want to try it. I think it's self-defeating to rationalize it being impossible.


Magic Wordsmith
Well, I'm not trying to mischaracterize your posts. I happen to agree that people complain about things that, more often than not, they would be better of learning to deal with (as I put it, people really should suck it up sometimes). And I think that the nature of a comment thread allows people to easily hyperbolize the nature of their complaint. "Oh noes, hit points totes destroy any immersion every. How can I ever play this game that I am currently playing and talk about?" ;)

I think that it is both useful and helpful to delineate between standard likes/dislikes/opinions, as opposed to issues of immersion. "I like chocolate ice cream, and I don't like vanilla ice cream" is just an opinion, and it would be weird for someone to say, "Vanilla causes me to lose my suspension of disbelief in the yumminess of ice cream!"

But while someone can suck it up with normal likes and dislikes, that usually doesn't work with matters of immersion or suspension of disbelief. If something takes you "out of it," you can't just "suck it up" to get back in. Sure, you can suck it up and keep playing, but that does nothing for the immersion.

It's a different issue entirely.

I think you point out a distinction which exists but I am talking specifically about dealing with issues of immersion not likes or dislikes. One can become more resilient to distraction which is essentially what is pulling someone out of that state. There are ways to do that, just like there's ways to improve one's ability to stay focused.


Victoria Rules
Something that distracts me from immersion, is the use of minis. Switching from the first-person perspective of mind style to the third-person ‘fly on the wall’ perspective of minis breaks immersion − particularly when one of those minis is supposed to be me.
I find the opposite: having the mini on the board during exploration allows me to know what my character can-cannot see from where it's standing, and in combat makes it much easier to visualize how it has to move in order to see or affect something.

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