Project Bathwater progress report

So when I returned to game mastering in 2014 after a break I had learned the value of trust in your DM because of the mirror incident.

I took it a step further into a radical transparency of method at the expense of “immersion”. It was more important to me that the players were 100% sure how the game was actually set up, what it was grounded on, where the monsters and dangers come from, what the hard edges are, so that they can then play freely in that space.

After a couple of years of running the game that way I wanted to reclaim some of that thrown-out “immersion bathwater”, hence this project. The first thing I started working on was the Glossary of key phrases while DM:ing. To find tools to help manage time and scene framing without explicitly doing so, in order to help maintain an identifying stance.

The lawsian dialogue system and the finchian exploration system are already plenty immersive and diceless. So it didn’t take much for the game to get a strong quality of presence, when combining the key phrases, the stance glossary, the diceless exploration and the diceless social encounters.

So far it’s been working well! I had a new player compliment me that he found the game very immersive. (Of course I threatened him to find some nice things to say about the game because I’m such a thin-skinned diva. But I’m happy that that was what he chose to highlight, duress or no duress.)

I know the word immersion means so many things that it means nothing. But he explained in more detail what he had liked and I can only attribute that to this project.

In order to maintain some transparency of method, I can post-session or between sessions reveal some of my prep. To keep it grounded.

And also I still never roll any dice behind the screen. I know that would be a big shortcut to hiding some of the “game interface buttons” – I’ve played in a CoC game where the DM made all the player’s rolls behind the screen, the game looked freeform to us but he did skill checks and such with dice behind the screen (and I’ve heard of some DM’s using a sheet of pre-rolled numbers for that purpose) – but it would come at the expense of the tension and danger that the gloracle gives us. There is plenty of “immersive” value in actually being unsure about the consequences for your character, via your own reading of the dice, instead of trusting/distrusting the DM’s judgment/honesty.

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