[Theory] My Musings on Immersive Roleplay

FAQ | Search | Register | Login
View unanswered posts | View active topics | View your posts
Omnifray:- fantasy roleplay in the mysterious Enshrouded Lands, "a thousand worlds in one", where magic bubbles away beneath the surface, beyond the ken of the common folk, with a unique, detailed, highly flexible rules system

[Theory] My Musings on Immersive Roleplay

Postby Omnifray » 4:23am on 03 Jul 11

Related poll on Big Purple:- http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?582 ... r-if-not...

Some may say that their columns on roleplaying games are dry, but this free-to-download PDF of roleplaying theory is drier than the Sahara Desert, not to mention speculative, subjective, intrinsically biased, slightly partisan and partly made up on the spot.

Still, it may be of some mild or passing interest to some of you or even, possibly, a source of ideas for you to incorporate in the way you play or run your games. Nestled deep inside the layers of overly theoretical and semantic rubbish there are some actual practical tips on gaming (some of which have even been tried out in practice!) from which you might derive some inspiration.

http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/the-a ... y/16185355 (version 1.01)

previous link:- http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/the-a ... y/16183128

I have re-posted this here for a more detailed discussion, if anyone can read their way through all 51 pages including the disclaimer (!)

To those of you who may be embarrassed to know me after I have revealed that I can write 50 pages on the theory of roleplaying games, or in view of the content of the same, I offer my apologies.

Cheers

Matt
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
Omnifray
Omnifray
User avatar
Thanks: 182 given/235 received

Re: [Theory] My Musings on Immersive Roleplay

Postby Omnifray » 4:08pm on 03 Jul 11

The point of all this is probably that I see evidence all the time of the most diverse gamers, experienced and inexperienced alike, roleplaying immersively more or less by instinct or by default. This especially goes for LARP; I have gamed with hundreds of LARPers. But it also goes for tabletop. I do game with some gamers who do not seem to experience any significant level of immersion at all - in the games that I've seen them in, at least. They are a tiny minority of the gamers I have gamed with, though I'm the first to admit that the sample is skewed because I tend to play a lot of LARP and often play tabletop games with people who also LARP. But even so, it seems to me that immersion is a phenomenon experienced at least from time to time by many storygamers, including many people who play "trad games with an indie feel", and even by many people who play for hack-n-slash or just pure combat. That being the case, it would seem counter-intuitive if that experience of immersion did not make some contribution to their enjoyment of the games they play, and it may well be that there is scope for them to enjoy games which enhance their immersion, though that must vary from individual to individual.

Sometimes it really seems to me that the emphasis which some roleplaying products and discussions give to "story", "plot", "narrative", "theme" and "premise" tends to lead people to ignore their own in-character immersion when they think about and discuss what it is they enjoy about roleplaying games. But press them for their most memorable experiences of roleplaying, and many of them (though by no means all) will describe things which can easily, perhaps most easily (Occam's Razor!), be understood in terms of immersion and the "key experiences" (as I term them in the PDF) of immersive roleplay. That's not to say that those roleplaying experiences can only be understood in terms of immersion, but it at least raises the possibility that some of their favourite moments of gaming have been due to or enhanced by immersion, and that a gaming style more focused on immersion might possibly (depending on the individual) unlock untold unforeseen gaming treasures for them.

Hopefully for all its inherent bias and partisanship the PDF should put paid to any notion that any of this is some kind of One-True-Wayism. Immersion is in my view an almost ubiquitous (if intermittent) feature of these sorts of games, even some hardcore storygames such as Montsegur 1244, and even many instances of hack-n-slash. A game can involve immersion alongside other sources of enjoyment; most games probably do to some extent at least, and even the most puristically immersive of all games depend for their enjoyability on key experiences of play some of which are shared with other forms of gaming, such as the excitement of challenge (shared with wargames among other sorts of game) and the poignancy of dilemmas (shared with storygames). What is the right level of focus on immersion as opposed to other things for a gamer's greatest possible enjoyment must vary from gamer to gamer, and for many gamers the answer may be - no particular focus at all. But there is every sign that for many, many gamers there is untapped potential for enjoyment through immersion. All they need is for someone to say - "hey, look! some of what you're enjoying there is already immersive roleplay! maybe we can work on getting you some more of that and see how you like it?".

When I say that, leaving aside purely tactical and strategic games of challenge, immersive roleplay and storygaming are the major styles of tabletop gaming, I say that because in my view there is very little conceptual space left to be occupied by psychologically committed (as opposed to casual/social) gaming which goes beyond tactics and strategy, does not involve imagining being your character to any significant extent (which is at least the rudiments of immersion) and does not involve influencing the course of the story to any significant extent (storygaming). All that is left, if neither of those two last features is present, as a form of psychologically committed gaming which goes beyond pure tactics and strategy, would seem to be being told a story without imagining being your character, and that must be a very rare and marginal style of play indeed - no-one, or almost no-one, actually regularly games that way, and if people do game that way, it's usually because the ref is trying and failing to provide a more immersive experience (I've probably been there myself on the odd occasion to be perfectly honest - hopefully confined to the failures of the dim and distant past!).

[Aside:- the reason why immersive roleplayers who are not also storygaming are not generally simply "being told a story" while "imagining being their characters" is that they ARE influencing the "story", but because they are doing so "as the characters they imagine themselves to be" in a sense, they are not consciously influencing the story, and as a matter of definition (on my definition anyway) it is for that reason alone (namely that they are not doing so consciously) not storygaming. If they were influencing the story by simulating their character's reasoning but without imagining being their character, they would necessarily be doing so consciously, so would be storygaming. Therefore, in other words, anyone who is influencing the story in this way and is not doing so in a state of at least light immersion is, while they are not in a state of at least light immersion, storygaming. So, you see, that doesn't leave a lot of room for someone to avoid both immersive roleplay and storygaming at the same time... only if they are not influencing the story (or if there is no storylike story), AND if they are also not immersed, can they be seen to fall through the gaps in the net.]

You see, what I'm interested in is what makes games enjoyable for individual gamers. And trying to split the diverse sources of enjoyment up conceptually, I arrive at:-

* the social experience of playing a game (covering comedy as well as conviviality);
* tactical / strategic challenge and the excitement of gaining or losing by skill or chance;
* actively creative imagination in influencing the course of the "story";
* a vivid experience of the fiction of the game.

I think that most of what gamers enjoy can probably be understood in terms of one or other of these categories. The two things which most obviously make roleplaying games and storygames stand out from other games are:-

* storygaming
(i.e. emphasising actively creative imagination in consciously or deliberately influencing the course of the "story")

* in-character immersion
(i.e. emphasising a vivid experience of the fiction of the game through identifying with a character).

The only kind of psychologically committed (as opposed to light-hearted or casual) gaming which goes beyond tactics, strategy and gaining or lose by skill or chance but which does not provide opportunities for storygaming or in-character immersion would be... well, frankly, it is hard to imagine such a game, since storygaming is even possible through the vector of your character, and in-character immersion is so easy to achieve. But a heavily railroaded game where the players have no influence on the course of the "story" and feel that the ref is playing their characters for them - to the extent that they can't identify with them - might fail to provide either of those two experiences. If despising that level of railroading in psychologically committed as opposed to casual games makes me a One-True-Wayist, then I think I'm in very good company - because out of literally hundreds of gamers that I have met and either gamed or discussed games with (or often both), I have never met a gamer who games in a psychologically committed (as opposed to casual or light-hearted) fashion and does not hate being even moderately railroaded (let alone heavily enough to eclipse both any sense of ownership of his character that he might have and any opportunity he might have to influence the "story"), as a player, while playing a roleplaying game or storygame in a psychologically committed fashion. If you are such a gamer, or know such a gamer, please speak up.
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
Omnifray
Omnifray
User avatar
Thanks: 182 given/235 received

Re: [Theory] My Musings on Immersive Roleplay

Postby Omnifray » 12:29am on 04 Jul 11

This was originally going to be an appendix for my new game, but when it hit 40 pages I realised it was totally out of control, and when it hit 50 I decided there was no question of it. But I've been stripping the theory-rubbish out of the document and fleshing out some of the practical tips and might have around 30 pages of viable material which doesn't read like an essay on semantic philosophy. OK, 30 is still probably far too much. But at least it's a start.

Damn though it feels cathartic to have stated my position. Even if I only have to open the document again and start editing it to see incoherencies.
Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
Omnifray
Omnifray
User avatar
Thanks: 182 given/235 received

Re: [Theory] My Musings on Immersive Roleplay

Postby Omnifray » 8:29pm on 04 Jul 11

Looking for playtesters for the Implodarc Tabletop RPG. If you'd like to playtest it and post public feedback or an AP thread, ask me for the private link to download it, or I can e-mail it to you. At least compared to my usual stuff, it's meant to be simple and quick to play with quick CharGen.
Omnifray
Omnifray
User avatar
Thanks: 182 given/235 received


Return to Omnifray



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

The team | Delete all board cookies | All times are UTC [ DST ]