I just watched Rob’s video over at Performance Check (be sure to subscribe– he’s a handsome, witty Brit whose advice drips with delicious charisma and a genuine good nature).
In the video, he mentions something that he calls Reality Crash — essentially, the effect that anachronisms have on the level of immersion in a tabletop roleplaying session.
This is something that James and I have discussed at length (and James just admits to doing often). So here’s the big question: does this help a game, or hurt it?
Sometimes the best way to describe something is to use an immediate, shared frame of reference. I had the pleasure to play in Rob’s Lorekeeper game, so I experienced the description that he’s talking about in his video first hand. (Check out the first session of the Lorekeepers here.)
In Rob’s video, he mentions that the villain’s eye scans our intrepid adventurers, hitting our retinas like a laser pointer. And do you know what? I knew exactly what he meant, and imagined it immediately. There was arguably no quicker way to get me there mentally. So in this case, it was spot on.
So what is an evolution of anachronisms?
We live in a modern time, with plenty of slang dialect. Playing D&D gets us in the mindset of being far flung fantasy adventurers, but sometimes, we just don’t have their exact turns of phrase or vocabulary. So if someone uses a modern phrase to describe something that their character is doing — I just go along with the spirit of what they’re trying to say.
For instance, if the caravan they are guarding is rolling through a dangerous part of the countryside, your player might say “Tell the driver to roll up the windows and lock the doors…” now obviously this is a modern phrase, but I’ve seen that it works best if you just take the spirit of what the player is saying and let it affect the game (Chris Perkins is the master of this). Having the caravan driver ‘be on the lookout’ based on what your players mentioned makes gameplay more fluid.
If done too often however, all of these things can turn a reasonable session into a bog of wasted time and meme slinging, so for my taste I try to keep it cordoned off to an every-once-in-a-while thing.
“I find myself pulling out anachronistic analogies from time to time. It’s not immersion breaking for me within reason” says Matt Click from A Fistful of Dice in the comments of Rob’s video. “I think it’s the opposite. Helping players understand a particular sight or sensation through analogies like this is never a bad thing.”
We tend to agree. But what do you think? Do anachronisms break immersion, or create a solid frame of reference in a game?