Jacques Cousteau was a roleplayer

Myxzplk asked a very important question on rpg.stackexchange yesterday which ties in very nicely with the post on attachment I wrote last week. His question concerns methods of improving immersion in roleplay – otherwise known as ‘playing in character.’ While every group has a certain line concerning the amount and type of dramatic content allowed in their rec rooms, the concept that this is really the core of our hobby is not one which will be disputed by many. Roleplay is really what created the original dividing line between what we do and what a war game requires.

I contributed a somewhat lengthy answer which although not nearly of Brian Ballsun-Stanton lengths, did manage to get most of my personal points out there for review and assessment. After having had a little over a day to think about things, I would like to refine my answer, and distill it down to fewer points, of a less terse, but no less point-form, nature.

If you are reading this, I encourage you to go, read over the question and the current answers, and then contribute. Immersion is something which most of us recognize as being important, all of us note when it is absent, and few of us can codify how to evoke when absent, or facilitate when faltering. At this point in the hobby, it is perhaps time to start spreading the wealth of knowledge of effective approaches farther afield in order to add them to the inherited understanding of the nature of the game for those that follow. While not all evolution is actually progress, some elements do benefit from ongoing refinement, and I am hard-pressed to think of a game group I have encountered which did not have at least one person whose willingness to roleplay did not match that of the others in that group. Learning hard-won tips that work well to promote immersive play is a prime example of increasing the skill of players and game master alike. I feel that sort of development is an essential part of long-term enjoyment of the hobby.

My revised take on tilting the balance from metagame thinking to immersive thinking


Establish ground rules prior to play which include support of, and insistence on an atmosphere conducive to immersion. I think it is important to note I do not think that we should insist on immersion, just that once the group agrees that immersive roleplay is the goal, the group should then set out to ensure it can be achieved. Insisting on the removal of distractions is one such step:

  • no tuning out to wait for your own turn
  • no heckling of ‘performance’
  • no passivity
  • restrict admission to those who accept the goal of immersion

Provide an in-game environment which reinforces the players’ characterizations, and responds to them in an authentic manner. As with most group endeavors, leading from the front is essential.

  • Support in-character play by holding yourself to the same immersion standard when representing the NPC cast
  • Reward in-character play with non-mechanical positive reinforcement in and out of game, because acting, even in the context of an RPG, is work which deserves recognition
  • Provide in-character, in-game feedback about the characterization through the NPCs and scene descriptions.

Set the standard for approaching all problems in the implementation of the game from an in-character point-of-view, so that it becomes second nature to solve questions of mechanics, IC vs. OOC conflicts, and the like from the standpoint of the characters involved.

  • Develop a facility for encapsulating the viewpoint of your own and the other players’ characters
  • Take the time to be conversant with the others’ great achievements in your character’s eyes, as well as from their own perspective;
  • Allow the game world to respond to the characters as if the situation and resulting consequences were of import
And so…

I believe that these things will go a long way toward promoting a self-sustaining environment for immersive roleplay without having to resort to specific mechanics to regiment and regulate it.

What do you believe?
2 Responses to “Jacques Cousteau was a roleplayer”
  1. mxyzplk says:

    Great approach tips, much more profound than the “music and distractions” more trivial stuff. I totally agree. If the answer can always be found “in the game” then that feeds people’s expectations. And it’s the GM’s responsibility to make sure that’s how it goes!

    • Runeslinger says:

      Thank you, good sir~

      I am starting to wonder if there is a label for those who occupy the niche that you and I, and a few others, discuss with some regularity on our blogs…?

      Player Responsibility
      GM Responsibility
      Skill Improvement/Craft Honing
      Rulings over Rules
      Risk vs Reward

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