Jump to content
PhilFleischmann

Fantasy Immersion and the Things that Ruin it.

Recommended Posts

What types of things that might come up in a fantasy game* ruin the immersive experience for you?  I'm not asking you to come up with just anything that *would* ruin it, but what actually has ruined it.  What have you actually encountered in play that disrupted your willful suspension of disbelief?

 

*And you can also include things outside of games, such as fantasy literature or movies or TV shows, etc.

 

For me, the main one is anachronisms - which is a very broad category.  It includes all of the following:

 

* Injection of sci-fi elements (Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, anyone?)  I don't like ray guns and robots mixed with my rapiers and rakshasas.

* Magic items and spells that are simply modern-day technologies with a fantasy-colored coat of paint: Dragon-powered railroads, a magic spell that fills the roll of a cell phone, a "magic item" that is essentially a mechanical armored tank, complete with a 105 mm mounted "wand of fireballs".

* Modern-day sensibilities and memes.  In societal structure, government, religion, philosophy, etc.

* Anachronistic words and expressions.  I remember an episode of MST3K, "Quest of the Delta Knights" in which a character says, "This book is a blueprint for the future!"  To which, the other character should have said, "What the heck is a 'blueprint'?"  I've seen another fantasy setting that included a particular type of wizard specializing in mental manipulation called a "Mesmer", as if the word means "a person who mesmerizes others".  When actually "Mesmer" is the name of a 18-19th century doctor whose work led to hypnotism.  His name is where we get the word "mesmerize" - a word which should not exist in a fantasy world where this person never existed.

* References to modern-day scientific knowledge that people in the quasi-historical fantasy setting wouldn't have, such as the germ theory of disease, the fundamental laws of physics, cosmology, etc.

* Evidence of a lost civilization that had modern-day, or future technology.

 

Of course, anachronisms aren't the only category of immersion disruptors, but for me, it covers about 99% of the cases.

 

What are the immersion disruptors for you?  Anachronistic ones, or otherwise.  What things spoil the "fantasy feel"?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm fine with scifi, given that I grew up on Might&Magic games.  It just needs to be integrated.  What I can't stand is modern tech.  No guns please, unless they shoot lasers. 

Magic as modern equivalent is just lazy worldbuilding, and I don't like it.  The things we have today look and work the way they do because of how things work, so replacing technology with magic will result in sweeping changes. 

I am not researching history for my elfgames thank you. 

I am not researching linguistic history for my elfgames either thank you. 

If a player knows a thing to be fact, they're going to have a hard time not using that fact.  The human brain just doesn't do "ignore this piece of information" well.  Either change the way the world works or let the way the world works be known, don't make me waste mental effort pretending to forget things when I should be pretending to be somebody else. 

See first. 

 

My personal "OH GOD NO"s are mainly Earth-things on not-Earth.  References, place-names, nationalities.  Accents is the big one.  When somebody gives their character a, say, German accent all I can think is "He's German!  Wait no there's no Germany." and my immersion shatters. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, Spence said:

Seafaring/Ships.

You don't like seafaring or ships in your fantasy?  Why not?  There's plenty of precedent in the source material.  Granted, I don't want to see submarines and aircraft carriers, but there are plenty of ships and sailors (and pirates) in fantasy literature.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, here's another one for me that has nothing to do with anachronism:

 

Bad names.  If your name is Jim Ward, don't name your wizard character "Drawmij".  If your name is Tom Keogh, don't name your character "Keoghtom".  Don't name the god of insanity "Ssendam".  Don't name your halfling character "Dorfongolf".   You don't have to invent seven languages like Tolkien did, just to name the people and places in your setting, but you should put a little effort into coming up with names that sound reasonable.  There are plenty of fantasy name generators online, and even the worst of these is better than just spelling something backwards.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, PhilFleischmann said:

You don't like seafaring or ships in your fantasy?  Why not?  There's plenty of precedent in the source material.  Granted, I don't want to see submarines and aircraft carriers, but there are plenty of ships and sailors (and pirates) in fantasy literature.

 

I love seafaring and ships, but most of the ones in Fantasy RPG's are abysmal and written by people with 0 understanding.  Most of the Fantasy RPG's are throwing out ships and ship tech that is actually closer to that aircraft carrier than what they would have at the comparable setting. 

God save me from another 18th century tall ship in a 700AD setting, or even worse a 1200BC setting.  Yes, magic adds its elements, but for any small bit of sanity, just f'ing google the names of ship types that may possibly have existed within 500 years of each other.  It isn't hard.

 

Arrghhhhh,.... sometimes my eyes just want to bleed. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, Ninja-Bear said:

Nothing personal GB(!. It’s that I can’t see them as anything other than shorter Dwarves. Perhaps I saw someone play them, I’d change my mind.  I’ve considered once of making elves into halflings.

Jokes aside, I agree.  I've always felt gnomes were just off-brand halflings desperately trying to find their own niche, and failing horribly. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

What types of things that might come up in a fantasy game* ruin the immersive experience for you?  I'm not asking you to come up with just anything that *would* ruin it, but what actually has ruined it.  What have you actually encountered in play that disrupted your willful suspension of disbelief?

 

*And you can also include things outside of games, such as fantasy literature or movies or TV shows, etc.

 

For me, the main one is anachronisms - which is a very broad category.  It includes all of the following:

 

* Injection of sci-fi elements (Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, anyone?)  I don't like ray guns and robots mixed with my rapiers and rakshasas.

I'm generally fine with that, although other times I am happy not to have that.

5 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

* Magic items and spells that are simply modern-day technologies with a fantasy-colored coat of paint: Dragon-powered railroads, a magic spell that fills the roll of a cell phone, a "magic item" that is essentially a mechanical armored tank, complete with a 105 mm mounted "wand of fireballs".

I'm mostly with you on that. But sometimes I do want to dabble in something different.

5 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

* Modern-day sensibilities and memes.  In societal structure, government, religion, philosophy, etc.

This one gives me pause. I think very often, people believe things are very "modern" that have been present even in antiquity. For instance, there was a popular gladiator, Hercules, who had a brand sponsorship in ancient Rome from an olive oil seller. Republics are ancient, Buddhist religious colleges go back hundreds of years, and so forth.

5 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

* Anachronistic words and expressions.  I remember an episode of MST3K, "Quest of the Delta Knights" in which a character says, "This book is a blueprint for the future!"  To which, the other character should have said, "What the heck is a 'blueprint'?"  I've seen another fantasy setting that included a particular type of wizard specializing in mental manipulation called a "Mesmer", as if the word means "a person who mesmerizes others".  When actually "Mesmer" is the name of a 18-19th century doctor whose work led to hypnotism.  His name is where we get the word "mesmerize" - a word which should not exist in a fantasy world where this person never existed.

I try to avoid obtrusive terms. However, the person Mesmer is not part of everyday conversation and it doesn't bother me. If you avoid any words or names based on real world things, you are going to have challenges. Words like gorgon, emperor, priest, shaman, and rapier all have specific real-world associations that would make them not exist in a fantasy world, in the sense that the English usage comes from a context that would not be present.

5 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

* References to modern-day scientific knowledge that people in the quasi-historical fantasy setting wouldn't have, such as the germ theory of disease, the fundamental laws of physics, cosmology, etc.

Although the germ theory was known in the Middle Ages, discounted by some academics and "physicks" during the Enlightenment, and eventually revived. Friars, nuns, and healers in earlier times just didn't understand much about bacteria or viruses. They understand contagion perfectly well.

5 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

* Evidence of a lost civilization that had modern-day, or future technology.

 

Of course, anachronisms aren't the only category of immersion disruptors, but for me, it covers about 99% of the cases.

I enjoyed Final Fantasy I, so I am often okay with such surprises.

5 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

 

What are the immersion disruptors for you?  Anachronistic ones, or otherwise.  What things spoil the "fantasy feel"?

A world that is too peaceful. To me, fantasy needs to be brimming with conflict.

I also like the social norms to match the milieu. I am fine with a completely original fantasy world having social structures that are extremely progressive and the world being free, largely, of the injustices and prejudices people have to deal with in the everyday world. However, when a world has a Dark Ages or Ancient kind of feel, I expect things like slavery and arranged marriage to exist in some times and places.

I think it's weird when heroes don't get old and retire.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For me: 

  • Fantasy settings that are assumed to be knockoffs of medieval Europe.
  • Fantasy settings built on a medieval Europe model (feudalism) in spite of the fact that there's elves, dwarves, halflings, magic, dragons, quite probably flying mounts, teleportation spells, multiple gods that exist, etc.
  • Fantasy churches that act like the medieval Catholic church despite being polytheistic, including/especially with clerics that follow the D&D model
  • Arcane vs. divine magic divide, including healing magic limited only to divine
  • Horses treated the way we treat cars IRL.  Everyone has one, everyone rides them everywhere they go, the only care they need is an oil change every 3000 miles a vague assumed "stable", they don't poo and pee all over the place, they don't smell like animal, they never get sick or injured or frightened
  • MMO terminology.  (Examples: toon, alt, DPS, mobs, etc.)
  • D&D model description of characters.  (By which I mean: in D&D, your character is a <level> <race descriptor> <class> with <magic items>.  Fantasy Hero would be <point> <race> <profession> with <special abilities, magic items, etc.>)
  • Tolkien or D&D standard races, included without examination.  In other words, assuming that playing a fantasy game means you're figuring out what kind of elf you're playing before you know literally anything else about the game or the world.  (Why does this world have multiple intelligent races?)
  • Fairy tale logic behind... anything, really.  Things like: gatherings of three, seven, or thirteen; monkey's paw wishes; evil wizards are ugly; some flavor of magic called "black" or "dark" is evil; etc.
  • World design by trope checklist
  • Anything that's already been done a million times before.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Spence said:

 

I love seafaring and ships, but most of the ones in Fantasy RPG's are abysmal and written by people with 0 understanding.  Most of the Fantasy RPG's are throwing out ships and ship tech that is actually closer to that aircraft carrier than what they would have at the comparable setting. 

God save me from another 18th century tall ship in a 700AD setting, or even worse a 1200BC setting.  Yes, magic adds its elements, but for any small bit of sanity, just f'ing google the names of ship types that may possibly have existed within 500 years of each other.  It isn't hard.

 

Arrghhhhh,.... sometimes my eyes just want to bleed. 

 

 

Are you OK with the weapons list in a typical RPG?  These tend to span many centuries, and often many cultures, as well.

 

It can be toughest to suspend disbelief in the areas one has the greatest expertise in.

 

To a couple of others,

 

16 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

* Anachronistic words and expressions.  I remember an episode of MST3K, "Quest of the Delta Knights" in which a character says, "This book is a blueprint for the future!"  To which, the other character should have said, "What the heck is a 'blueprint'?"  I've seen another fantasy setting that included a particular type of wizard specializing in mental manipulation called a "Mesmer", as if the word means "a person who mesmerizes others".  When actually "Mesmer" is the name of a 18-19th century doctor whose work led to hypnotism.  His name is where we get the word "mesmerize" - a word which should not exist in a fantasy world where this person never existed.

 

I often question why we include word-play riddles.  The characters are not speaking modern English, are they?  By the same token, those Mesmers are likely pronounced completely different in the Common Tongue of some magical fantasy world.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 minutes ago, Hugh Neilson said:

It can be toughest to suspend disbelief in the areas one has the greatest expertise in.

 

This is so true it deserves its own thread.

 

My wife and I watch criminal minds and being a software engineer I am constantly spouting things like, "Oh, come on!" or "Bullsh*t! or in 10 seconds??" when Penelope Garcia is doing her data fetching and hacking.

I work with data all day and stuff she does in seconds takes teams of engineers weeks or months when it's even in the realm of possibility.

 

Getting worked up over language issues is probably going to put you on the far side of the geek spectrum from most players.  If you've read old English you'll see that anything older than 15-16th century rapidly becomes unrecognizable to modern English speakers.

Certainly the circa 400-1400 AD range of most medieval games would be complete gibberish to us today.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 minutes ago, Hugh Neilson said:

It can be toughest to suspend disbelief in the areas one has the greatest expertise in.

 

2 minutes ago, ScottishFox said:

This is so true it deserves its own thread.

 

My wife and I watch criminal minds and being a software engineer I am constantly spouting things like, "Oh, come on!" or "Bullsh*t! or in 10 seconds??" when Penelope Garcia is doing her data fetching and hacking.

I work with data all day and stuff she does in seconds takes teams of engineers weeks or months when it's even in the realm of possibility.

 

I'm an IT guy who has been in the military.  I feel your pain.   I've learned over time to let it go; I can now actively enjoy "Hollywood hacking" for what it is, and the US military at least has been working with movie producers to turn their films into recruiting posters reduce the inaccuracies in military portrayals.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

* Injection of sci-fi elements (Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, anyone?)  I don't like ray guns and robots mixed with my rapiers and rakshasas.

 

Yes, if it's just tossed in for no apparent reason beyond "It'll surprise the PCs" or "I want every bit of geek culture I think is cool." This might work if it's part of the setting foundation, and you work out reasons why it exists and what the effects will be.

 

For instance, "Magitech" is an important part of the anime-influenced Exalted setting. But it doesn't exist for no reason. These are the wonders of the First Age, which modern folk struggle to maintain. There's a background of supernatural quasi-science that encompasses ley lines, mystic power sites, and materials that are especially good at channeling and focusing mystic power.

 

Sometimes Exalted still gets it wrong, IMO, as with pistols and rifles powered by a quasi-natural "firedust." Firedust comes from the extreme south of Creation, as congealed power from the elemental Pole of Fire, and it can be used for other things. But... it's all a little too on-the-nose. A lot more so than, say, a massive "lightning ballista" siege engine powered by alchemical reagents, channeled and focused by Air-aspected blue jade.

 

Dean Shomshak

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, DShomshak said:

Yes, if it's just tossed in for no apparent reason beyond "It'll surprise the PCs" or "I want every bit of geek culture I think is cool." This might work if it's part of the setting foundation, and you work out reasons why it exists and what the effects will be.

 

For instance, "Magitech" is an important part of the anime-influenced Exalted setting. But it doesn't exist for no reason. These are the wonders of the First Age, which modern folk struggle to maintain. There's a background of supernatural quasi-science that encompasses ley lines, mystic power sites, and materials that are especially good at channeling and focusing mystic power.

 

Right.  I wouldn't want to see it thrown in for no reason either, but I do actually enjoy seeing it.  

 

14 minutes ago, DShomshak said:

Sometimes Exalted still gets it wrong, IMO, as with pistols and rifles powered by a quasi-natural "firedust." Firedust comes from the extreme south of Creation, as congealed power from the elemental Pole of Fire, and it can be used for other things. But... it's all a little too on-the-nose. A lot more so than, say, a massive "lightning ballista" siege engine powered by alchemical reagents, channeled and focused by Air-aspected blue jade.

 

I came up with a spell called Lightning Speech.  A senior member of the Guild of Lightning Wizards, whose remit includes reducing or preventing city fires caused by lightning strikes, came up with a spell for detecting lightning strikes.  He needed a spell that could be cast from within his lab, without necessarily having line of sight, so he came up with one that would let him "hear" the lightning without seeing it.  One day while listening for lightning, he heard voices.  He stopped and started the spell, and the voices were definitely coming across his spell.  He tracked the voices down to his guildhall; some apprentices were playing around with Altes' Coruscating Display, which creates impressive though harmless displays of sparks and lightning.  The apprentices were playing the spell across their faces, then talking through it, to warp their natural voices (the lightning wizards' equivalent to breathing in helium and talking with squeaky-voice). 

 

"Do that again," the senior member said.  They did, and he confirmed that it was in fact their voices he was hearing.  

 

The rest was history. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Chris Goodwin said:
  • Fantasy churches that act like the medieval Catholic church despite being polytheistic, including/especially with clerics that follow the D&D model

THIS!  So much this!  Ancient polytheistic religions were not organized like medieval Christianity.  And their places of worship were not called "cathedrals" or "churches" AFAIK.

 

I like the standard fantasy races:  elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes.  However:

 

* I really don't like the D&D proliferation of "subraces".  I don't want a half-dozen different types of elves.  Or any other race.  This does not serve any purpose in a game that isn't already served by having different races, nations, and cultures.  Any story arc involving the differences between Valley Elves and Dale Elves can just as easily be done between Elves and Humans, or between Elves of Northern Vithnaklia, and Elves of Southern Vithnaklia.

 

* And speaking of races, there is no need for each race to have it's own "dark" "evil" subrace.  We already have evil races: Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, or whatever else.  (I've never found Drow Elves to be at all an impressive idea, despite how proud of them the deendee folks are.  And I never saw any definitive answer as to whether it rhymes with "blow" or with "cow".)

 

* And speaking a little more of races, I also never liked another thing in D&D that I call, "The Star Trek School of Reproductive Biology" - that any two races can make a cross-breed, and that cross-breed constitutes an entire separate race.  That any two sentient creatures can have sex and make a viable offspring.  And if the father has pointed ears and the mother has forehead ridges, then the child will have pointed ears and forehead ridges.

 

It's as if the D&D plan was that no two PCs would ever be the same race.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, PhilFleischmann said:

Bad names.  If your name is Jim Ward, don't name your wizard character "Drawmij".  If your name is Tom Keogh, don't name your character "Keoghtom".  Don't name the god of insanity "Ssendam".  Don't name your halfling character "Dorfongolf".   You don't have to invent seven languages like Tolkien did, just to name the people and places in your setting, but you should put a little effort into coming up with names that sound reasonable.  There are plenty of fantasy name generators online, and even the worst of these is better than just spelling something backwards.

I never realised the first three. Thanks.

 

But I don't get the halfling character problem specifically.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I thought Franz Mesmer was common knowledge.  IIRC, he was one of the predecessors of Freud.

 

In any event, I hope we can all agree that there are certain words and phrases that should not be used in a quasi-medieval fantasy setting.  Like:

 

blueprint

electricity

virus

firing an arrow (unless you mean setting it on fire.  No one ever said, "fire!" meaning to shoot a weapon if it wasn't a firearm.)

 

I'm sure there are plenty of others we can think of.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...