Immersion: Is this blog getting deep enough for you?
Is this blog getting deep enough for you? Let’s go deeper. Let’s talk about Immersion. Yes, that hippie word for roleplaying. Some people think it’s annoying, others are scarred by it, while still others see it as the goal of their gaming experience. While roleplaying is important, it’s linked to the mechanics of the game, so it’s a hard topic to discuss in general terms. Later we can talk about group tactics and other roleplaying aspects of gaming, but before we get down to business: Why are we talking about this stuff? Because immersion means being involved - in this case involved in the story - so completely that it occupies your energy and concentration.
Your GM works hard every session to bring you a setting, a campaign and an adventure to play in, and you should at least respect them and the other players by being present and in the moment with your character. This doesn’t mean stopping and smelling every flower and asking its name, nor does it mean killing an ally and saying “I’m roleplaying, get over it.” To me it’s about being present and attentive, to both the other people in the group and to the characters in the story. It’s about having enough presence to read the situation your character is in, to see your cue, which will tell you when and how to move the story forward in a way that’s consistent with the background and the moment.
In order to tell the story, the characters, group and setting must have consistency. Consistency comes from establishing knowledge early on. If a player isn’t familiar with the setting, they can’t very well create a background that makes sense for their character. This is why players should have access to the setting books - or even help create them (in the case of collaborative worlds). Their available knowledge should include everything their characters would have learned up to the start of their first adventure - including local geography, history, legends, and the moods and themes the GM is establishing - enabling them to create characters who fit logically within the world. Note that with access to all this information, players must also draw a line between character knowledge and player information. The former is important for consistency; the latter is metagaming.
Next, the formation of the group and the reasons for their continued cooperation should make sense. With many different backgrounds and objectives, it can be hard to create a reason for a group of characters to exist, and at times even harder to keep them together. So when the game starts, players should work together to create a logical reason for the group to band together, even if it’s just choosing sides in a bar brawl. Players should also work to keep the group moving within the setting by recognizing and respecting each other’s backgrounds. There may be times when the group faces challenges to their cohesion – just like groups in the real world - and players should be consistent about this situation.
We’ll talk much more about character backgrounds when we get deeper into character creation, but here it’s consistency that I want to stress. If your background is tied logically into the setting and you’re part of a functional group, your character’s actions should fit the situation - even if you play a chaotic character. This is good roleplaying: your established knowledge informs your reactions so that your character’s actions and decisions are consistent - almost predictable. They require no hesitation, there is no question about them. This is where you reach immersion!