Some of us are huge fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of The Rings” and the legendarium. In these works we enter a richly built fantasy World – arguably the richest fictional Otherworld ever created – and get taken along in a story which emerges from that place.
Some of us are into fantasy stories, novels, and novellas which tell a good adventure story. We enjoy the characters and their actions which are set within a fantastic World that serves as a backdrop to the unfolding story. We show up for the action and adventure.
I enjoy both.
Getting into the richly detailed fantasy World of Tolkien, which has a story constructed so that we can experience the depth of World Building that the Professor embarked upon, has been fascinating to me. There are many more words, maps, pictures, poems, and songs that the author wrote than are contained in the text of “The Lord of The Rings” and I am slowly learning to understand the whole.
On the other hand, I also love great fantasy novels that have Otherworlds which are pale shadows of Middle-earth but which deliver a wonderful adventure story and fascinating characters. Over many stories the World grows, but it is an iterative product of storytelling.
I think my gaming suffers when I am not clear about the difference between World Building and Adventure Gaming as separate goals for roleplaying. While you can do adventure gaming within a deeply rendered fantasy Otherworld, the latter comes over time and with iteration. You cannot conjure a Middle-earth over the weekend.
I am starting to recognise the need to begin my adventure gaming and not worry quite so deeply about the richness of my Otherworld. That will come, over time, when we commit to an ongoing game that keeps getting played. To imagine otherwise is folly.
Of course, the corollary may also be true: if we were to play in Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth, treating it with the respect that such a rich realm would expect, then perhaps we can more quickly reach the depths of Otherworld-immersion that I am seeking.
Yet I suspect this depth of Middle-earth will only emerge if all the players are able to bring deep knowledge to the table. Without it, we are still going to need to play over an extended period of time to feel our way into Middle-earth. The main difference would be that you don’t have to create it; rather you get to discover it, to unearth it.
All this to say: take your time. If you want to deepen your Otherworld-immersion then you will need to commit to playing in a World for a goodly long while. You need time to breathe life into the place. You need to iterate and keep the co-creation alive. You need to be, perhaps, a little more Entish and a great deal less hasty.