RPPR Episode 54: Immerse Me!

this is how my players react when I am not immersing themImmersion is a tricky element of tabletop RPGs. In order to achieve it, a GM must first design a good scenario. In this episode, Tom, special guest Caleb and I discuss how we design adventures and other related topics. The effects of a game system on immersion and how to deal with players that lose immersion in a game. Tom also has a letter and of course shout outs and anecdotes.

Shout outs

Podcast Promo: Redline Theatre – radio theater podcast
Other podcasts (I couldn’t find promos to play from you guys): Zero Fortitude, Drunk and Ugly and Booster Pack

Song: Immersed by Allison Crowe

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  1. I don’t know what I loved more, the art piece for this episode or Caleb’s anicdote.

    And you know what? Caleb is the new hotness. Cody..old and bust. Caleb..new hotness.

    Its interesting you guys talked about telling the players their emotional state in games. My players told me the exact thing in my Saga game last weekend. They were in a massive Battle of Yonkers ala WWZ, facing tens of thousands of zombies. During the post-game wrap up they they said it would have added to the game if I said they felt the urge to run or that they felt panicked when the Infected started cresting the barricades.

    Good show!

  2. another great episode. Ross, have you ever considered using your Zoom h2 to record the regular podcast when you two have a guest; might improve sound quality.

  3. I think regarding the immersion-breaking moments, I think the fixation you guys are talking about is something like the Uncanny Valley, where the immersion is close enough that when something slight doesn’t work like it should, people will get extremely turned off by it.

    As far as it applies to RPGs, we were talking in-jest about a Road Trip side adventure in Alaska, where I pointed out that the kids would have to drive through Canada and they don’t have passports. There may be monsters in the schools, but they’re not in the state legislature.

  4. I first want to say that I found the show informative and entertaining as always, which is why I keep coming back to you guys. The anecdotes were funny, and Caleb introduced me to the idea of using a spreadsheet program to mapping out a campaign’s storyline, versus my method of writing ideas down in a notebook and fleshing them out to fit with an overarching storyline.

    As for the stated reason for the theme of the show, I don’t think a real conclusion ever came about on how to handle players who get jarred out of a storyline because of a perceived inconsistency. Caleb expressed what he felt like doing, which was killing the player character outright, but that comes off as a preschooler solution to fixing things – destroy, berate, or ignore what you don’t like. Same thing with Tom’s solution, although with his I was at least able to hear the context behind the decision to punch the professor / Aaron in the face (and I was rooting for him to do it too).

    In my line of business, where I have to approach people on a daily basis who are in critical and dramatic situations, I’ve found that wording plays a really strong role on how you approach the problem. Even though all the objective symptoms are present to give a proper label, the moment you mention the label people get hung up on your wording rather than the immediate problem. An example would be when I approach one of the parties who took part in a domestic violence situation, and I ask them what made them so “angry” during their conversation with their spouse, that they started to push or punch each other. That person will ignore the facts that when I first arrived I saw them screaming and lunging towards their spouse as they bled from their face and say, “We weren’t ‘angry’.” That situation has taught me to use less intrusive wording when I ask my questions, where I asked where their “disagreements” started. There are ways to talk someone down, it just takes a little bit of understanding that may not be available at a game table when there’s a group waiting for their respective turns.

    I understand how awkward it can be for the GM and other players when someone goes on a tangent to prove a point, but there are other ways to steer the conversation to a close other than resorting to in game violence between players. Who knows, perhaps the player who decided to take a stand in the game may have been having a bad week before then and it wasn’t even about the situation on the game table that brought about the discussion.

    Either way, good discussion fodder.

  5. Yay for Tom’s letter. Glad to hear that it’s over.

  6. Please post the diagrams you’ve mentioned in this episode.

  7. Hey, this was a great episode! Very cool to hear the behind-the-scenes stuff on planning Bryson Springs, Andrew’s Fortune, and especially Divine Fire. (Also damn excited to hear that the third part of Divine Fire is in the works!)

    Tom’s letter was really touching. And the song to go with it was borderline poignant.

    Ross is a machine as always (i.e. we love what you do, please keep doing it).

    Caleb – I’m stealing that example to teach people about RPGs at some point. Brilliant.

  8. Ross, you mentioned liking the “big picture” of zombie apocalypses, which my mind instantly jumped to Fido. Don’t know if you’ve seen it, but it’s a lot of fun and a pretty light-hearted view on that regard…

  9. Finally listened to this one, and while I could go into the “habeas corpus” issue, I’d rather not. To tell you the truth, I may not have liked the situation, but even I thought it went on too long. I believe I was eager to move on with the game but dammit I kept getting sucked back into the debate. I couldn’t help it because I felt so strongly about how the law enforcement could be given the authority to inject someone while arresting them, and so I struggled with accepting the construction of Ross’s world. It may seem like a small issue to some, but it’s interesting how easily some small issue can detach you from your willing participation in a game, especially when someone else feels even stronger about the topic. Sure sometimes I purposely like to stir things up, and yet there are those times when you can’t help but get swept up in a discussion…of course it doesn’t help that my character has politics as a passion and was equally appalled at the law enforcement’s actions.

    On a side note I also have to point out that my character had quite a bit of stability from the get go. Not only did it make sense from his powerset but his upbringing. And after all, it’s Ross, and when doesn’t he like to drive his players insane. Cthulhu! F’taghn!

  10. These odd emersion breaking thigns are perhaps because we need these familiar touch stones and life lines to navigate an otherwise fantastical narrative. We don’t know exactly how the FTL drive works, exactly what the gravity is like, or what the food substitute would taste like, but we can still get drawn in to the world because people are people and steam, is steam. Loose that littel life line, and you are left with nothing but watching a story. Probably all the more jarring if you were in to the story, and then you ‘in’ has been robbed from you. You can’t hook on to many things in a sci/fantasy world.

    It probably is worse for a game you are in, because those touch stones actually affect your ability to interact with the world. Sure, there is magic and monsters so you don’t know what will work and what won’t, but you you are sure that wood floats and rocks are sharp and people act a certain way. If somethign that seems to be familiar suddenly isn’t, you loose a valuable touchstone but also RP tool. The gun you know the workings of doesn’t work that way, the police you thought acted one way act oddly, and you’ve lostyour levers to influence this otherwise strange world.

    That’s probably why it happens – it’s not strange it happens in fantastical settings, in fact it’s probably a bad sign of your group’s emersion and caring of the world if it doens’t at these times!

  11. Caleb – you mentioned posting the flowchart you created for your games – is that up? I would love to see how you mapped that out. Really great idea for adventure planning.

  12. Big props for the Thomas Ligotti shout-out! I’ve run two Call of Cthulhu scenarios that I based on his stories. In my opinion, he’s basically the best Lovecraftian horror writer of all time. Including Lovecraft. And sometimes I feel like I’m the only guy who’s ever heard of him.

  13. “I kill the pony and take its horn! I stab something with it!”

    Flash forward to Base Raiders… Caleb gets shanked by a unicorn.


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