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Q&A

How do I ensure a game is immersive when playing remotely?

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I was planning on DMing a RPG - specifically, D&D 5e, although this question applies to a broader audience - in person for at least the first session, after which the plan was to switch to a remote format, probably through a Google Hangouts chat.

For this first session, I had picked out background music, ambiance, and practiced a few different voices / accents for the NPCs, to at least establish a general atmosphere and immersiveness that would help to keep the game immersive for the non-in-person parts of it.

However, due to changing circumstances, it looks like that first session as well will have to be done in a remote format.

How do I set that "tone" with the ambiance and feel of a game in a remote setting? How do I establish that immersive factor when I can't rely on tools such as background sounds and voices?

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Be very descriptive, in whatever medium you use.

Detailed description of the environment, NPCs and scene make the game come alive.

Engage multiple senses when you describe the scenario. The sights, sounds and smells the player characters perceive can contribute to their immersion. This can be oratory or even just in text.

Instead of:

You enter the tavern. There are three tables in the room, with two commoners playing a dice game at one. A lantern on the counter provides the room with dim light. A bartender stands behind the counter.

Try:

You walk into a small, wood-walled tavern smelling of cheap ale and stale bread. Three table are spread haphazardly through the room. Two old men are gambling at one of the tables, intently watching their dice clacking loudly as they clatter on the rough wooden table. Dim light from a single dusty lantern bounces off the walls. A bartender behind the counter sees you enter and mutters quietly to himself.


Consider using images, maps, or (rarely) linked video.

Even in a primarily text-based format you can use images to increase immersion. A small town at sunset A little can go a long way. Even just an introductory graphic of a setting or place can make a big difference. Players can easily visualize their surroundings when they can actually see an example. Images representing monsters or important NPCs make useful tools, even at an in person tabletop game.


You may still be able to use audio effects remotely.

Google Hangouts is deprecated, consider using Google Chat for text, or Google Meet for voice or video chat. Other options for audio or video chat include Discord, Zoom or built in chat systems in a virtual tabletop like Roll20.

You can include sound effects or music in most virtual tabletop apps, or using a sound mixer like Voicemeeter Banana or KXStudio's Carla you can mix music and sound effects in with you microphone audio.


Even without mixing in prerecorded effects, you can still use accents over audio chat.

The practice you've put into different voices and accents for your NPCs could be conveyed over voice chat, or video chat. Video also gives you the ability to use gestures and facial expressions, but does require more hardware and setup. Depending on your needs it may be worth the investment though.

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Do long and detailed descriptions add to things on the player side? The advice is often given, but do... (2 comments)

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