First, for those who aren't familiar with my situation, this stems from the same environment as this previous question and its predecessors -- an online persistent world/proto-MMO used largely as an augmented play-by-chat in a mostly freeform style, in other words.

That environment (like others of its type) attracted quite a few narrativist, immersion-in-the-story focused players that are comfortable using narrative management tools (e.g. managing which character is at the center of the action, controlling how fast or slowly the story is reaching key points, varying detail level depending on the importance of the scene to the story, and matching the key themes being emphasized by the plot to what a given player or group is interested in at any given time), or in other words, they operate in an Author Stance, using their characters as a means for story-building.

I find that trying to invoke those tools myself without breaking my own immersion is difficult at best and near-impossible much of the time -- or in other words, I find myself in a Character Stance at some times, and when I'm not, the character is a means for building the world, not any given story. Furthermore, I find that my own immersion can be disrupted by other players utilizing narrative-management tools (for instance, glossing over the technical details in a scene where, in my mind at least, the outcome depends on said technical details of the scene), as I find that such actions strike me in much the same way as many narrativist players find character optimization disruptive to their game -- i.e. as an out of character impingement on the story. In their mode of play their character is doing something because it moves the story in a desired direction vs. because it is what the character would do in that situation. I prefer the opposite.

How can I use and/or witness the use of narrative controls without them breaking my simulation-based immersion/"knocking" me out of Character Stance?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure that I understand the details well enough to make suggestions. Some more background might well help. For example, you talk about the zoom knob, and it's not immediately obvious how this manifests in play-by-chat. The best guess I have is that it might be a switch from speaking in first person, as a character, to third person, describing the scene and character actions, with a summary of what the character says. Clarifying that kind of thing might well help people answer. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 14, 2016 at 19:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Clarified enough to reopen, but I agree with @JohnDallman that things like "the zoom knob" are not generally understood terms and examples might help illustrate. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Oct 15, 2016 at 23:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think what you're talking about is two different style of "immersion". You seem to be focussed specifically on your character, thinking and acting as them. The players who are disrupting your immersion seem to be focussed on the narrative, and on shaping it, using their characters more as tools than being them. Or have I misunderstood the situation? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 16, 2016 at 8:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JohnDallman -- no, you're more or less correct \$\endgroup\$
    – Shalvenay
    Oct 16, 2016 at 13:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Since immersion means many things to many people, might it be worth rewriting (or perhaps just annotating) parts of the question using Stance terminology? If I had to guess, an alternative title could be “How can I manage narrative considerations without leaving Character Stance?”, perhaps? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 16, 2016 at 18:55

2 Answers 2


You can't, but...

There's a reason that there are three opposed gaming creative agendas/experiences (gamism, narrativism, simulationism). Making decisions based on one of them invalidates decisions made based on the other agendas.

I am a sim/immersion preferring player, though I'm a mature gamer so I can play other types of games promoting other agendas and enjoy it. I have found the same thing that you have - that too much either gamism/rules intrusion or meta/narrative intrusion can't help but disrupt character/sim immersion (used to be just immersion, at some point someone said "but you can be immersed in the story so there's such a thing as narrative immersion" - I think that's a misuse of the word by people who don't understand sim, but whatever).

So making a decision based on meta concerns instead of "what my character would do" hurts my immersion (though I do try to self-justify it, just like real people do, to mitigate that). FATE point style narrative techniques like "that guy there is my cousin now!" or "that didn't happen!" are more damaging, I just avoid games like that or content myself with low-immersion play in them. Or things like Fiasco on the far side - it's a fun party game to me but doesn't scratch my RPG itch at all.

However, some (all?) of the techniques you are describing have nothing to do with that. Or, at least, should not be intrusive enough to hurt sim.

Even in sim immersion there's no expectation you're playing out every second of your character's life and in every single scene in the game. Spotlight time, whether you play out each day of a two week journey or not, etc. might be narrative moves in some sense but those you should probably just get over.

Even in full sim you gloss over levels of detail, that is unless you track your character's every BM. I'm reading between the lines but I don't think your problem is narrativism hurting sim immersion, it's not playing well with others.

There's always speed-ups and level of detail changes and taking turns in any game. Apparently what's going on here is your expectations around these differ from the other players. I'm not saying that's not a problem, but that's not a narrative/sim problem. It's also not clear to me in this 'freeform' system how people fiat this (can other people just hit fast-forward on any scene they're not interested in regardless of what the others say? How is this supposed to work?). Apparently the expectations of the other players among themselves doesn't differ (you don't mention others having these complaints) so in the end I'm not sure there's a meaningful answer we can give, given the level of information, except "figure out what it is they're doing and negotiate it with them."


Try some pre-planning. Not in terms of "I want the session to go like this", which won't work, but in terms of a few things your character would like to have happen. Essentially, this is daydreaming about things that might happen, plus a degree of cynicism about overly grand schemes.

Once you have a few such events more or less formed as ideas, it should be easier to work out how to make them happen at the meta level. The objective is that these become things you can do without braking character immersion, because you've pre-prepared them.

That's one thing you can do. Another thing you might try is letting the other players know that the meta level is being used a bit unsubtly from the point of view of the characters. In-character remarks like "That was unexpected!" may seem excessively sarcastic, or may not even be noticed - it depends on the players. You need to talk to them about that.


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