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Immersion: a scale from D&D Encounters to Mazes & Monsters

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  • Immersion: a scale from D&D Encounters to Mazes & Monsters

    I don't know how many of you have seen Mazes & Monsters. It is a moral panic film from the 80's about the dangers of roleplaying, where a young Tom Hanks and his friends play a game called Mazes & Monsters, but take it so far that the Hanks character can no longer distinguish fantasy from reality and ends up doing something terrible. At the other end of immersion you have D&D Encounters. There might be a pretense of roleplaying, some NPC scripts for the DM to read out, but for the most part it's an elaborate board game. So let's say immersion can be described as a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is Encounters and 10 is M&M.

    Why are so many people playing at a 2 or 3? At least where I live, everyone in the hobby seems way too casual. It's like they're genuinely afraid of that fearmongered outcome. People get uneasy if you want to get too much into character. At a game store a guy got furious at me when he realized the game we were playing (Fiasco)is entirely story and character-driven with no stats. Granted, on the immersion scale 10 is definitely worse than a 1. The worst possible (let's face it, the only) outcome of D&D Encounters is mediocrity and potato chip crumbs, whereas a 10 can mean real-life death. But how likely is tipping over into a 10, really? Why not emphasize improv acting and storytelling--is anyone really going to argue that dice and simple numbers are more interesting than that?

    I'm not just criticizing other people. I can be lazy, and my roleplaying tends to be around a 4 or a 5. My ideal is about a 7. My question to you all is, where does your ideal fall on the scale?

  • #2
    Gimme nothing lower than a 6, but ideally around an 8.5.


    Just call me Lex.

    Female pronouns for me, please.

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    • #3
      lvl 10 it's having a mental disorder. No sane person should confuse fantasy with real life. And those who have a tendency to do so shouldn't play these games (and should search professional help).

      Roleplaying it's not about blending fantasy and real life, it's about acting. Acting it's OK. I'm too timid to go further than a 6 or so, but a good act it's always enjoyable. I enjoy random moments at the table when I get to interpret my character, talking about conspirations and supernatural stuff with other players in character. Dice can take from it if used all the time, but I also enjoy the risk involved in dice, and the fact that your character may end taking a path you didn't intended because of that (and the need of roleplay trough it). I've found that Botches are a great opportunity for interpretation and improvisation, both for players and for Storytellers (who may find that a Botch takes the story to unexpected places)

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      • #4
        I think my group likes to think that we play at like a 7-8, but realistically we probably don't hit those numbers very often. We're probably running like a 5 on average. I would be interested in REAL 8.5-9, but it would have to be a really solid group.


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        • #5
          I'll add an additiinal question for people--what is the RPG culture like where you live? Does it promote good roleplaying?

          CaptOtter I hope that your group's game can be elevated--the same hope I have for my own group.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Faradn View Post

            Why are so many people playing at a 2 or 3?
            I suspect that's because not everyone sees rpgs as improvisational theater.

            Also, going into deep immersion, while it could be very rewarding, it's also could be very exhausting mentally and emotionally and not everyone likes or wants that. Sometimes people just want to do some fun entertainment, something more close to a computer game, but more personal, with their friends and with more open "interface" than a crpg could provide. They don't necessarily want (or not always) the emotional rollercoaster, PC collision and things like that, they just want some beer and pretzels and some good laugh with friends while solving an interesting quest or just bashing goblin heads.

            And nothing's wrong with that.


            If nothing worked, then let's think!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by PMárk View Post
              And nothing's wrong with that.
              It's not that it's wrong per se, it's just so predominant that people who are into the more immersive style are hard to find.

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              • #8
                I hear you.

                It's pure guesswork from my part from there, but it might be, that with the success of dnd 5e and Pathfinder and the wider acceptance of role playing, more casual gamers came into the hobby, who just want to have fun one evening, weekly.

                I also suspect that acting and immersion-focused gamers are simply less numerous (because that requires a lot more energy and player buy-in) and they might also tend to cater to LARPing, but again, it's pure speculation.

                On the other hand, it might depends on the actual scene you're living in and which games are preferred, or available there. For example, in the past, a big part of the Hungarian rpg scene had a rather elitist approach, when you were almost frowned upon, if you didn't play a physically and mentally struggling character and wrote a 6 page backstory. Part of it that the M.A.G.U.S. rpg (which was the first native and even today, the most widespread rpg here) and it's writers somewhat favored a rather similar approach than WW (despite being a dnd clone), as "you have those cool classes, groups and nations, but shame on you if you want to play any of them, because they're too strong and you're a filthy powergamer!". Oh, and the other game widely played game was and is revised Masquerade. I suspect a majority of gamers here, especially those who started playing during the '90s and early 2000s are tending toward 5-6 on your scale.


                If nothing worked, then let's think!

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                • #9
                  It sounds like I should go to Hungary! From what I understand the LARP scene here in the U.S. has collapsed, and with it a penumbra of immersive tabletop roleplaying. I'm not too interested in LARP, but I think its existence tends to raise the ceiling in terms of people's expectations for roleplaying immersion.

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                  • #10
                    Come, come! Budapest is always lovely, but especially in spring and on summer nights!

                    If i understand correctly we'll have a rather big and high-end WoD LARP rather soon: https://budapestbynight.live/

                    I might add that the point on the scale which I prefer to play is not fix, it entirely depends on the game, the group, the story, Gm and other factors. I like immersion, but I'm okay with bashing goblins too, from time-to-time, so it fluctuates between 3 and 7-8, probably.


                    If nothing worked, then let's think!

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                    • #11
                      For me it depends on a lot of things and floats up and down the scale by several numbers probably.
                      Part of it is that I do 3 different versions of roleplaying: pen and paper, online (chat based) and LARP.

                      In P&P the immersion level varies based on my own mood and condition when gaming as well as those of the other players and storyteller. I'm a better roleplayer when I'm not tired or distracted by something else and I also come up with better ideas then.

                      My skills as an actor being limited (probably also by me being more of an introvert), I find I can go into more detail and sometimes deeper character-play/immersion in text-based games though its just... different than a P&P. More like writing a book together I'd say.

                      When I play LARP that can be a whole different level of immersion of course but similar to how it is in the other cases the level of immersion also depends on a lot of factors. If you're really in character and everyone around you is, too, it can be great.
                      For example I once went to a Fantasy LARP as an NPC and had great fun with the other NPCs and also taking on different roles and slipping in and out of character several times over the days. I guess if you're not forced to stay IC all day it can be easier to put more energy into the times you DO actually play. I had the fun of a lifetime when some other guy came up with the idea that it would be much cooler to put me into his armor than himself because I'm just taller and bigger than him so we did just that for the final battle where we basically played a demon horde breaking through a portal and battling the players. I ended up looking by far the most massive of all the demons (in full armor and fur, armed with a demonic looking axe and shield) and had great fun acting out the part roaring across the battlefield (I used to be a Deathmetal vocalist), quite literally throwing lesser demons at those shining knights, battling them myself and even managing to make my foes ridicule their own mage who tried to kill me with a fireball of all things.

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                      • #12
                        An elaboration of my scale. I've decided Encounters would actually be a 2.


                        1. An actual board game with fantasy elements, like Arkham Horror

                        2. D&D Encounters played with randos in a game store

                        3. Game where the concern is mostly with stats and powergaming--likely a module

                        4. Mostly powergaming from the players, some sporadic creativity from the GM

                        5. Lethargic roleplaying with occasional surges of inspiration. Many chips are eaten. Many jokes are told.

                        6. Good roleplaying, but with fairly frequent jokes and other OOC comments

                        7. Top of the line tabletop roleplaying with almost no breaks in character

                        8. High-end LARP

                        9. Professional actor level

                        10. One or more players believes it is really happening. Requires an Axis 1 disorder

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                        • #13
                          In this case, for P&P roleplaying I guess the groups I play in usually move on a 6, sometimes 5 depending on the day
                          I feel there would be parallel scales for other styles of RP like LARP though.

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                          • #14
                            In that case, it's mostly 5-6 around there, based on mostly the tiredness of the group.

                            Also, I won't necessarily tie powergaming with the quality of roleplay. I'm on the firm opinion that you could play strong, even "epic" characters with excellent roleplay and likewise, underpowered and boring ones with bad or uninterested roleplay.

                            If you meant "powergaming" as playing mostly for "beating the game" and mostly approaching every situation and problem as purely tactical combat, in that case I agree with your evaluation.


                            If nothing worked, then let's think!

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Faradn View Post
                              An elaboration of my scale. I've decided Encounters would actually be a 2.


                              1. An actual board game with fantasy elements, like Arkham Horror

                              2. D&D Encounters played with randos in a game store

                              3. Game where the concern is mostly with stats and powergaming--likely a module

                              4. Mostly powergaming from the players, some sporadic creativity from the GM

                              5. Lethargic roleplaying with occasional surges of inspiration. Many chips are eaten. Many jokes are told.

                              6. Good roleplaying, but with fairly frequent jokes and other OOC comments

                              7. Top of the line tabletop roleplaying with almost no breaks in character

                              8. High-end LARP

                              9. Professional actor level

                              10. One or more players believes it is really happening. Requires an Axis 1 disorder
                              My group tends to vary from 5 to 7, usually a 6. I'm the ST and if we're all on point and I'm telling a really good story we hit a seven maybe even an 8 on our greatest of nights but usually 6.

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