So this is post is an explication of some ideas I’ve had regarding the Design as Play elements of Oneirokos: Chronicles of the Eternal Cycle. It is also a look into the fun to be had with Gun Bunny and gearhead play. I’ll be casting my mind back a thousand, thousand moons ago to some of the old Alt.rec.games.fantasy.rpg stuff. So lets start with the idea of immersion in RPGs, both as a solo activity as well as in group setting. I’ve identified a few different concepts of Immersion. Experiental Immersion, Explorative Immersion, Reenactment Immersion, Themepark Immersion.
Now, the idea of Immersion and how it is achieved and maintained has seen lots of discussion. I remember Mary Kuhner’s discussions of Immersion, as to how it related to her play back in the alt.rec.games.fantasy.rpg days.
For her immersive/explorative play, it was all about being in the head of the character within the fiction, the characters drives, thoughts and feelings. This is often the focus of Freeform PBF stuff too. A lot of it is invisible to other players, it is in some ways solo play, and there is always an element only the player is aware of/privy too.
There was also an element of ‘First person” immersion, as the player interacts with the fiction. Whether it be through mundane slice of life stuff, or riffing on the sights and sounds of the environment, again even if only in their head. It can include some social interaction, but it is a more stream of consciousness experience that the other players aren’t particularly privy too. Players who favor this play element often eschew mechanical detail, as it ‘takes them out’ of their immersion. So we call this play style Experiential Immersion.
This play relies on tightly coupled characters and a GM who is ready to take on an illusionist role for the players.
The idea of “Explorative Immersion” is that of acting and reacting from the character’s perspective in a first person fashion. It deals with lots of practical eye-level detail. Explorative Immersion if often an element of Dungeon crawling. This eye level play and exploration of the environment can be elaborate “Rube Goldberg” play. In which the GM is privy to all the puzzle elements and unseen action brought about by the players. This is often negatively labeled ‘pixel-bitching’ when the GM and players view/understanding of the Fiction doesn’t match very well. Hex-crawl sandbox play can be a larger scale element of this play tool. Characters moving through a clockwork world.
So this type of Immersion is what I call re-enactment immersion, it is where the players focus on equipment and sundry details. This can be GunBunnies and Gearhead play. The Fun of dealing with equipment and sundries as seeing yourself in the character’s shoes. This “Reenactment Immersion” can be equated to the wide Eyed lets pretend element of eyewitness books. This type of play can skew to “younger’ players as well. Where imagining and immersing themselves in a different ‘reality’ is helped by show and tell elements. This includes your Osprey Men-At-Arms type books, as well as Fighting techniques and many books on warfare. It can also be the feel of re-enactment, imagining yourself as a soldier or whatever dealing with the realities of a particular war, or time etc. This is where Fatigue and survival and exposure rules can become of interest. The player wants to imagine dealing with such a slog.
This type of Immersive play focuses on “Vignette” Play. The players are content to see the sights of a particular setting, enjoying the ride. Even if play is fairly plotless, the idea is to experience the sights and sounds of a game world. Travelogue first sessions and exploration of the world is a good way to look at it. This type of play relies on the GM offering up the ‘money shot’ epic location shots, big action, and general spectacle as players experience the panaroma of the world.
This progression of Immersion experience follows a continuum of tight character coupling to looser coupling, with greater collaboration among the players in terms of game mastering.. Themepark and Re-Enactment immersion can provide a support of design focused play as well. As the players can utilize their design elements to supply the Re-enactment/Theme Park elements in a way all of the other players can enjoy.
DESIGN AS PLAY
Another play concept/element I have been thinking of is the idea of Design As Play. This goes back to the design systems of say Traveller, with both world/creature creation. It can also be for players, using life-path style ‘mini-games’ like character creation in classic Traveller. It includes elements of Re-Enactment Immersion. This can go on at higher levels, such as Covenant creation in Ars Magic. It can also extend to full on world creation, such as in Univeralis, Mystic Empyrean, Other worlds. etc. It is also a major element of Vehicle (GURPS Vehicles, CORPS, VDS, mech design in Battletech, Mekton, Heavy Gear, Starship design) and Weapon Design systems. (Guns GUNS GURNS, Trav Fire, Fusion, & STeel)
So I am currently looking at understanding these role immersion ideas and how they can be combined with design as play elements such that they are engaging for the entire group, with the proper social contract.