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A Guide to Immersive Role Playing

Tags: #Role Play Guide 
  • Member
    August 3, 2015

    What is real? How do you define 'real'? If you're talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.

    - Morpheus, The Matrix

    Our brains are not specialized for 21st-century media. There's no switch that says, 'Process this differently because it's on a screen.'

     - Byron Reeves, a professor of communication at Stanford University


    - Me, as 3 Ice Wraiths fly out at Dovahkiin Idesto from behind a standing stone

    Immersive Role Playing? What do you mean?

    'Immersion' literally means "deep mental involvement in something".

    In gaming terms it's feeling that the game you're playing is more than just a game, that it's in some sense real to you. Going from 'playing a game' to 'being in a game'.

    I've been gaming since the 1980s and there was one game that introduced me to RPGs and first gave this immersive experience. It's still my most fondly remembered game: Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny. By today's standards graphically it's terrible; the sound even worse .  

    But you could customise your own character, he had to eat and sleep or his health decreased, there was weather and day-night cycles, you could increase your abilities as you levelled up and you could quest with NPCs of your choice. It was open world and huge, and the story was compelling. For the first time I was drawn into an exciting virtual world and I've been hooked ever since. It felt real.

    It was in Ultima IV in fact that the term 'Avatar' was first used in computing: it was your character's in-game title. It is originally a Hindu word meaning "manifestation".  

    This is probably what most attracts me and what I primarily look for in a CRPG: that feeling that you're not just sitting playing a game on a screen, but that instead you are playing a role in an alternative reality. That's what I call Immersion.

    For me Skyrim has that in spades, with its flexible character creation and many skills options, its huge open world, realistic 3D graphics and animation with full movement, accurate ambient sounds, great voice acting and great stories  - in not only the main quests but also the many side-quests. You're not reading the stories, you're in the stories.

    But it's still limited by our available technology. You can't feel, touch, taste or smell.  You may not even want to!

    So until Holodecks or that virtual gaming full bodysuit with haptic feedback and 3D visor is in the shops (I have mine on order) what can we do to increase a feeling of immersion into Skyrim in our roleplay?

    So for those of you who want to maybe take your roleplay to another level here are some ideas:

    Character Creation

    Some may not agree but I see how we come to be as people in real life as random, a product of our parents plus random variations (I think). In any case we don't choose who we are, so unless I'm playing a specific build or role I try to replicate this randomness in making a character. I use the Integer Generator function on an Android app called Randomizer. For every option available I punch in the number of choices (usually 10 or 21) then hit 'Randomize'. The results are often surprising and I love to see what Random Fate chooses for my avatar! Shinbira, my avatar here and the subject of my Tamriel Tale, was chosen that way. Even his skills: I used a very simple process in Excel for that. I also choose names randomly with the help of Wikis, but that's a bit more involved.


    My discussion about music in role play is what started this ball rolling. I turn it Off. I also have no external music. In the real world when I walk around my home, town, shops, outside I don't hear choirs and orchestras everywhere I go, so why would I expect to in my virtual world? It's not real, and I want it to feel real. I think you pick up on a lot of ambient sounds, which in Skyrim are terrific and greatly add to a feeling of 'being there', as well as distant dialogue. Which brings me to:


    Off. See above. I will switch them on if I've had a particular conversation many times before and I want to flick through and get the quest or whatever, but generally it's Off.


    Skyrim is vast. The landscape and weather is harsh. Not even a supercharged Dragonborn hero is fit enough to run everywhere, so mine don't. I walk everywhere, only running or sprinting in combat or in short bursts. You can ride on horseback of course; I just prefer walking most of the time. I don't like cart travel as you miss the journey, and I can't justify fast travel  - although I've seen it done. Exploration is part of the fun in a game like this, and finding your way from A to B is often part of the challenge. With cart or fast travel you also miss out on the many random encounters, combat, ingredient collecting, ore mining, and chance discoveries of new and interesting locations. Don't forget too that if you fast travel the game saves up your dragon attacks for when you've landed! There is no escaping the Dovah!

    Eating , Sleeping and Drinking


    If I'm anywhere near a bed at night I'll sleep in it until morning, although not underground as you never know what might be waiting to eat you or chop you up as you sleep! I always keep a small supply of food and drink and consume some roughly at meal times when I can.  If I'm at an Inn I'll sit down with my meal, and catch up on reading any books I've found in my adventures, and sometimes also chat to the locals in case they have anything interesting to say.

    It's not quite Skyrim Sims (Skysims? Now there's an idea!) so I don't take toilet breaks, although I suppose I could if I wanted to. (You know that's what those pots by the beds are for, right? What do you mean, you put in them in your pack?! Just keep it away from me, alright?!)

    Which brings me to:

    Carrying Stuff

    I have to admit I haven't done anything in terms of role playing for this. I'm a Hoarder! Yes, I need help! There should be a Skyrim edition of that TV show I think. A Traveler's Backpack here is an excellent guide for this and I've starting paying more attention to more realistic carrying.

    One For My XBox Brothers and Sisters

    I love the Kinect voice commands. Yes, they sometimes don't work, and can even get you into trouble (funny story, actually...). But aside from being really useful you can actually shout Dragon Shouts! In either your native language or Dovah! How cool is that?

    Probably best to do that when there's no-one else about though. Your family and friends may start to worry....

    Taking it to the Limit? Let's Get Physical!

    If you really want to go all out for role-playing there is more! For instance you could keep the doors and windows open when it's chilly, or turn a fan or air-con up to simulate Skyrim's cold climate. Or play by the 'fridge with its door open. (On second thought....). 

    I'm told turning off all the lights during a thunderstorm then going into the Soul Cairn is quite an experience too: thanks Edana. 

    Or you could dress up in whatever most resembles your character's clothing, although I think chucking around anything fiery, sharp or otherwise dangerous is probably a Very Bad Idea. 

    I actually do dress in leather sometimes, but that's nothing to do with Skyrim. Another discussion maybe? 

    Another way you can try add your own physical sensations to that of your character's is by exercising as you play! Yes, killing 2 dragons with 1 Shout! If you're like me you don't get enough exercise, so why not walk when your character walks, and run when they do? You could use an exercise bike or if you're short of space you could use a stepper: that's what I will be doing. Thanks to feld for this suggestion. 


    So there you have it: have fun role playing in Skyrim, and I hope I might have even if in some small way been able to enhance your gaming experience!

    If anyone has any further ideas for enhancing role play, just add them in a comment below:  I'd love to see them. 

  • Member
    August 3, 2015

    Nice work on this, Idesto! Excellent guide!

  • Member
    August 3, 2015

    Thanks! It took much longer than I expected, of course!

  • Member
    August 3, 2015
    Happy to see this came to fruition. Great job dude. :)
  • Member
    August 3, 2015

    Thanks. See anything you like? 

  • August 3, 2015

    I was hoping you would do this.  Well done suh.  

  • Member
    August 3, 2015

    I seem to remember it was your idea mate! Thanks

  • Member
    August 3, 2015

    A great deal, ser. You and I may differ in how we play, but I respect all of the above. Who knows, maybe this will make me change my ways. :P

  • Member
    August 3, 2015

    Pretty cool serjo, good work.

  • August 3, 2015

    Your dude looks pretty badass to be randomized.