RPG Optimization Key Variables Summary

by Hawke Robinson published 2018/09/10 11:50:00 GMT-7, last modified 2018-09-10T12:53:41-07:00
Key RPG-related Variables to Optimize Immersion and Increase Likelihood of Flow Experience


The list of variables is quite lengthy. If there are just a little "off" the participants can still have good notable immersive experiences experiences but less likely to achieve full flow state.

If these variables are considerably outside of recommended parameters, then it can completely prevent anyone from experiencing flow in the game.

Again these experiments focused primarily on tabletop RPG, but are to various degrees applicable to LARP as well.


Game Master (GM) Variables

  • Experience
  • Overall competence
  • Verbal skills
  • Cognitive skills
  • Social/empathic skills
  • Narrative style
  • Acting style
  • "Voicing"
  • NPC richness
  • World richness
  • Multiple sensory adjectives


Adventure/Campaign Variables

  • Background depth
  • Sensory richness
  • Sense of connectedness
  • Logic of environment
  • Physics

Players Variables

  • Cooperative attitude
  • Willingness to suspend disbelief
  • Kinds of sensory "visualization" tendencies (some people can't visualize, but experience immersion through other senses)
  • Interest in genre
  • Interest in setting
  • Interest in game complexity
  • Interest in game style (combat vs. narrative vs. exploration, etc (Bartle))
  • Group/Camaraderie Building Tools


The above is so subjective and difficult to specify (many papers unto themselves), but assuming a qualified GM, and cooperative players (though that wasn't always the case during these experiments, there was a little bit of a "weeding out" process of the most disruptive players that were unwilling to follow the code of conduct consistently), most of the experiments focused on environmental factors to increase the likelihood of flow experiences, that is what the majority of this document covers.


Environment & Game Variables

  • Group Size
  • Game Session Length
  • Game Session Frequency
  • Keeping party together vs. splitting up the groups
  • One-shots (1 session to completion), short-shots (a few sessions to completion), campaigns (many/unlimited sessions).
  • Game Setting
  • Game System
  • "Alignment" of characters
  • "Alignment" of campaign
  • Sandbox vs. semi-structured vs. "rail-roaded"
  • Camaraderie building techniques
  • Technology use/misuse
  • Facility temperature
  • Facility lighting
  • Facility walls (color, maps, posters, etc.)
  • Facility cleanliness
  • Facility noise levels
  • Public vs. private settings
  • As above, but specific considerations for convention settings
  • Other facility distractions (people coming-going, street traffic, sunlight beaming in, etc.)
  • RPG Accessories
  • Sound effects & music
  • Costumes & props
  • Pre and post game processing


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