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Immersion Therapy: Keeping the In-Game Atmosphere

November 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Hey there, friends. This is JoeFro, with a little friendly advice on gaming in an immersive environment. I have been to my fair share of games, run by all manner of people, in a variety of settings, and with a multitude of rules. And if there is one thing I have noticed, one beast that can turn any game sour like milk under a heat lamp, it is the creature known as immersion.

To explain a little more, Immersion, in a game setting, is going through the motions to make a game feel less like nerds in costumes, and more like a world where Elves, magic, and knights are real. It is the ambiance of a setting, the little touches that make the world seem to come alive, that make some people truly enjoy they experience of crawling through a tunnel to the heart of a dragon’s lair. And this can all be ruined by the person in back, wearing a pair of Adidas and making “That’s what she said,” jokes.

There are some more egregious examples of breaking immersion, like the above example. These are usually offences made by people who either don’t care about the environment, who are only there to swing a boffer and call numbers, or by people who might not know better. First time LARPers may slip up, and make some statements that can break immersion, or might not have the proper costuming or phys-reps for the character or environment. Other times, stress or environmental factors can cause people to begin to lose their character, immersion, or motivation.

He could just be writing at a table, drinking Redbull and talking about football… But that defeats the purpose of LARPing, now, doesn’t it?

It is important, when dealing with situations where somebody is severely breaking the game’s environment, to assess the situation before deciding on a course of action. Is this a first time LARPer, who might only need a little guidance, advice, or a simple push in the right direction? If so, setting the example is the most important step you can take; make your resurrection ceremony have a little extra flair, or  break out the full tool-kit when engineering up some guns. Let the players see you going the extra mile, or take a minute out of your time to tell them where they can get an awesome pair of boots for an affordable price.

Now, let’s say that the person has been coming to the game for a few months, yet is constantly guilty of breaking the game environment. I know, from personal experience, how frustrating it can be when your character is having a great scene, and somebody stumbles up to you and says something as shattering as, “Whaddup, brah?” It’s enough to make you want to scream, and you are completely justified in feeling this. However, it is important that you handle the situation in a civil manner. And if the player still doesn’t get it, approach a member of your game’s staff. They are there to help.

Before I wrap this up, there is one more thing I would like to touch on regarding immersion. It might not seem big, but there are little things that can help make a huge difference. Seeing an empty Red Bull can sitting on a table of the Inn, people making a pop-culture reference to a scene or character, or somebody singing a modern song, while all innocent infractions, are just as removing as the other examples given. Little steps like putting your drink in a cup, or putting duct-tape around the can will help keep an environment just as much as somebody in $300 worth of garb.

Take some time, at your next event, to look around your game, and see if you notice anything that might help immerse your game even more. Something as simple as turning the bic pens floating around the Inn into feather quills with costume feathers and yarn, just helps the game that much more. And the better your game’s environment is, the more likely everyone is to enjoy themselves.

Until next time, friends,

JoeFro

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Categories: Player Advice

When to Clarify, When to Let It Go

November 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Sometimes things go wrong on a mod.  Sometimes, people use the wrong ability to block something, or hit too hard, or call the wrong casting line, whatever.  Sometimes a mod calls for a clarify.

When you are compelled to correct someone on a mod, you have to take into account EVERYONE on the mod.  If it is as simple as saying, “Clarify, only Dodge blocks ranged attacks” and moving on, then sure.

However, if you have to bring the entire mod to a halt to clarify something, you may want to consider whether or not it is worth it.  If someone calls a Dodge when they should have said Parry, but you would stop the entire mod to inform them: let it slide.

You have to remember that you are playing a game where first and foremost people are trying to have fun.  Stopping a mod every couple of minute to clarify rules is not fun.  As an NPC, it shouldn’t matter so much to you if someone uses the wrong ability to block what you have, since you are an NPC, and probably a throw-away character.

People are also in a confrontational mood in the middle of a mod.  They are often fighting, or at least competing in some way.  Trying to correct someone when you are playing their adversary is going to be TOUGH!  Granted, everyone knows that it is a game, but they are still in a certain mindset, and it is hard to switch up.  If you try and correct them more than once a mod, you run the risk of getting into an argument with them in the middle of a mod, and then you have a shouting match between you and one player, while the rest stand around, embarrassed and bored.

After the mod is over, pull the person aside and clarify the rules with them when tempers aren’t high and action is not flowing.  Or you can pull them aside in between action.  Say, after you have died, but before you Respawn, pull them aside quietly and let them know about the rules issue.  This way, you aren’t in combat, and you aren’t slowing everyone else down.

Mods are no fun if they are stopped constantly.  You should attempt to NEVER do something that brings a mod or a scene to a crashing stand-still.  If you think you have ability, but aren’t sure, error on the side of the players, and assume that you don’t have it.  If a player hits you for a lot of damage, you may as well take it: you are an NPC, you have lots of HP, and players have not a lot of abilities.  Let them get the hit in and feel good about it.

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself is “Will this be fun for the players?”  For example:

            This guy started a debate about rules in the middle of a mod.  I could just let it go and deal later.  Do I continuing arguing?  Will this be fun for the players?

No

I forgot some skills I had, can I stop the mod to check my character sheet, will it be fun for the players?

No

            I’ve lost track of my hit points, will dying in a loud way now be fun for the players?

Yes

This guy hit me for holy, but I think he meant lightning… Should I correct him?  Will the pause be fun for the players?

No

That last example brings up the second rule to remember: Does this really matter right now?

For example:

This guy hit me for holy, but I think he meant lightning… Should I correct him?  Does it really matter right now?

No

            I called dodge a second ago, but I meant evade… Dodge is better than evade… I wanted to save it.  Do I bring it up?  Does this really matter right now?

No

This guy should be taking double damage from my swings.  I think he is unaware of this… Does this really matter right now?

Yes

These two questions will help you decide when to correct people and when to just let things slide until you can correct them quietly.  Remember: while you may want to correct someone so things are perfectly right, it slows down play for everyone else.  Sometimes you have to let little things go, so that everyone can have more fun.

Categories: GM Advice, NPC Advice