Behind the Screen: Immersion for Dummies…

2007 September 2
by Dante

There are many ways to draw your players into your campaign. Some of my favorite mechanisms involve a little planning, however they can go a long way toward crafting a good player experience.

Giving the character something to do

This one is probably the largest no-brainer in the group. If you want someone to be immersed in your world, give them a role to fulfill or a task that they can achieve. Some of these can grow up organically (such as creating a special random encounter for your fighter, something that I did in our session last night) or require some planning for the less “crunchy” players.

I find that most of my preparation time is ensuring that there are some tailored activities for each player available during the session. It is unwise to attempt to graft too many of these encounters in one night, as it can look forced and stretch your DMing resources rather thin, but used sparingly you can engage even the most despondent player.

Giving the character something to have

The age old lure of something fun… encoded into our DNA when we received our first blanket or stuffed animal as a child. The lure of some fun weapon or item is extremely strong, and for that reason I have continued with a lesson learned from my first DM, Chuck.

Chuck’s method was to create a “Chuck Item” which was a very powerful (yet balanced) item that was put into the world for the sole purpose of giving the character’s player a major dopamine hit. Not everyone would happen across their big item, but when they did… wow. I can still remember the look on Stupid Ranger’s face when her first character Lillian found her Chuck Item, and stories of that victory are still being told. I will leave it to her option to re-tell what that experience was like for her, but suffice it to say it was fantastic. Some of these items were placed in the path of the players, and others were out there in a quest style format that could be pursued at the option of the group. Unfortunately, my character Clegg never found his… it was truly the one that got away.

If you’re not feeling overly creative or are concerned about creating balanced magic items, I suggest you look at the Weapons of Legacy or the Magic Item Compendium for a wellspring of fantastic items. Picking and choosing items from those books to suit your party usually ends up with engaged players eager to use their newfound toys, which provides you with some hooks for future exploration.

Giving the player something to do

This last tip for further immersing your players came as a shock to me. I found, that by really listening and letting your characters explore their world in ways that suit them they will immerse themselves. As previously mentioned, I reward my players with a small experience reward for doing things above and beyond what is established as normal in our group. I found that this small carrot will really have players get involved in ways that continue to shock and amaze me.

A great example of this is during the Evensbrook campaign. The group found some interesting vials in a shop that eFreak’s character took some special interest in. I didn’t think much of it, but the following week eFreak showed up with some actual vials that she created and she was really excited to share with the group.

Immersion is good for everyone

Capturing and focusing on the elements of your campaign that strike chords with individual players in the group is good for the group at large and for you as the DM. By doing your part to provide an immersive campaign, you will cultivate an environment of excitement that will reward you with many opportunities to build upon.

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