View Full Version : Levels of Immersion (DM Question)

2011-03-26, 11:42 AM
More of a DM/GM question than any rules involving 3.5/Pathfinder.

I found a "rate you dungeonmaster" document on the internet and I had one of my 3 groups honestly rate me. Not to boost my ego, so I could give them a better quality of the specific brand of DMing that they want. The group has a hole said I needed to have more immersion/descriptions. So over the past several months I have been working on just that, taking advice from websites like Gnome stew and other forums like this one.

At last night's pathfinder session I realized just why immersion was lacking, the group wasn't really listening to me. Every few minutes, they would start joking about things that had nothing to do with the game. Now I don't want to be the Nazi DM, but I need to immerse myself a bit, so I can communicate it better with my players, so that they can become immersed. We all joke at the gaming table, this is supposed to be a bit of a social event, but I find it taking away from what they are asking for.

I sent them all an email asking if they wanted me to dial the (attempted) immersion back because they seem disinterested in the details of the walls in the dungeon that they are in that would have lead to a spot/perception check to find the hidden door. I was just wondering if any other DM's are having or have had this kind of problem before and if they have any advice or words of wisdom.

Also if any players want to give me their perspective I would appreciate it. Thank you very much for any feedback.

2011-03-26, 02:53 PM
It's really the same as traditional storytelling: the best way to get immersion to work is not to throw a lot of description at them, but to have the description you do throw at them be memorable. Work on getting an engaging hook that makes them want to know more.

2011-03-26, 03:01 PM
Yeah. I had once a DM who once described an NPC for several minutes, with such excitign details as "he has a normal nose, brown eyebrows, an averagely-shaped mouth..."

And yes, I'm serious. No on is interested to hear that. Give a few juicy details, not more.

2011-03-26, 03:15 PM
Personally I prefer general description of the surroundings/people. Details aren't needed. My imagination filling in the details help me with immersion, and 'seeing' the whole surrounding makes it more like you're there.

For example, something I'd like to hear is:

You're in a crowded tavern. You see 2 waitresses in there walking around, serving food to the occupants. The barkeeper stands behind the the bar serving drinks to the few people seated there.

2011-03-26, 07:45 PM
You're not the first DM with this kind of problem (http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=612). There are usually conflicting interests and it can be difficult to find the sweet spot between a DM and the players. I cannot offer great advice, only a slight disagreement with the previous poster: Peoples' imaginations usually "fill in details" more easily, if they are given something to work on. For example you might say instead:

You're in a crowded tavern filled with people from all over the Seven Kingdoms. You see two of the most appalling waitresses you've ever seen, walking around, serving steaming, tasty food to the occupants. The barkeeper, a drow with long, white hair, stands behind the the bar serving drinks to the few people seated there drowning their sorrows in Alterran ale. (I'm not really good at this.)

I appreciate these little details and they help bringing a scene to life. But that much is right: too much unimportant detail can have an opposite effect.

2011-03-27, 11:52 AM
So it's a question of balance, 1 minute is too much time to describe a room in the dungeon. I'll try dialing it back a bit and see what my player's think.

Gamer Girl
2011-03-27, 12:07 PM
1.You can get more Immersion out of spice.

A typical game can be very boring: The tavern is full of a couple farmers, a couple warriors and a gnome...Zzzzzzz.

So try some spice: The tavern has some farmers, some gnomes and Six Drow on the corner having a dart throwing contest and laughing at the locals! What the players get immersed then.

2.Bait works good too. Give the monsters gold rings, and then watch the players greedily try and get them all.

3.Try to avoid boring things. You might think it's fun to hunt down the werewolf for five hours, your players might not. The same is true with things like having the players role play for two hours to meet the king and get a mission.

A good way to pace things is look at TV shows. You don't see stretches of like 20 minutes where nothing happens. When they go to meet the king, they get right to it.

2011-03-27, 01:12 PM
Thanks for the imput:smalltongue:

2011-03-27, 03:30 PM
To use the pacing of TV Shows or Movies is a good idea.

Take any 'action' TV show. They just skip over the boring real life stuff.

Some examples:

House--In just about every show, they give the poor hapless sick person a ton of tests. And they get the results of the tests back in a minuet or two. As anyone in the medical world can tell you....most of the tests take DAYS if not WEEKS. And even if they did have a 'special lab' that did things in a hurry, a lot of tests just take a long time...like 24 hours. Yet the House team always gets the results in time for their to be plenty of drama.

Also, on House, you will note that whatever a sick person has...it's always visible and active. Most things that can go wrong with a person, like 95%, don't have any outward signs. And very few will make you convulse, spit up blood and scream. Yet this happens daily. Why, it makes for good TV. It would be boring for a sick person to just 'lay there'.

CSI(Any)--Not only do they find the most impossible things, like a single hair on a shoe; but they also get their test results back in seconds.

Any cop show--Ever notice how judges and such are always around to give Search Warrants and such? It's nothing like real life, where it can take weeks to get one.

24--the worst offender ever. The idea that the US government can do ANYTHING in less then 24 hours is ludicrous. Really, if there was a bomb in a city it would just go off before the first government meeting on what to do about the bomb was even scheduled.

2011-03-27, 06:21 PM
Wall of text warning.

From OP's initial post, it sounded to me that he's operating under the assumption that OOC jokes and unrelated conversation and in-game immersion are mutually exclusive. I'm not sure I agree with that statement.

First and foremost, tabletop gaming is a social activity. While repeated stops due to OOC, unrelated banter can lessen immersion, that doesn't mean it's your primary problem. I'd be inclined to believe think they're joking around because they don't feel immersed. (It might be a symptom rather than the problem).

As a part-time player, part time DM, some things I've noticed:
If you steal names and plot points from movies/tv shows/video games/etc. expect to get called out on it (in a joking manner). This is going to weaken immersion because players will feel like they already know what's going on. If you've got to steal material, disguise it so won't recognize that you didn't come up with it.
From my personal experiences, the player which is most bored is the one which is most likely to start cracking jokes and bringing the experience to a halt. Try to keep combat short. Give everyone a reason to be involved in the story.
Railroading tends to lead to loss of immersion. Just last session, my DM took us through a series of encounters culminating with us failing to stop a ritual which unleashed a great evil on the world... or something of that nature. While there wasn't anything wrong with his descriptions of the environment, or with the NPCs (which, by all accounts, were very well thought out, and clearly had motivations beyond what we could initially understand). What was wrong was that we were just along for the ride for most of it. He'd designed the session in such a way that we either followed the events he wanted us to, or we'd be killed by one of the extremely powerful BBEG characters that level 3 adventurers had no chance against.

OOC banter might be symptom, not necessarily problem
Blatantly stealing from well known sources is going to ruin immersion
Railroading breaks immersion.

2011-03-27, 07:30 PM
Back in the day a friend of mine took a turn behind the screen. As a player he was mediocre, but he excelled quite a bit as a DM. One thing he did was set some ground rules before the game. To paraphrase "We're all friends here, I'm perfectly happy just hanging out with you guys. But we're at the table to game, and when we're at the table that's what I want to do."

We all had a great time, and the socializing was minimized. Sometimes you have to be a little firm. That's my 2c.