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Use the GDC 2021 Session Viewer to browse and sort the ever-growing list of sessions by day, time, pass type, topic, and format. All registered attendees will be able to build their personal schedule directly within the event platform, once live early July 2021. All times are listed in Pacific Time.

Board Game Design Summit: Creating Immersion in Tabletop Games

Mike Mearls  (Game Design Director, Wizards of the Coast)

Date: Monday, July 19

Time: 8:30am - 9:30am

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass

Topic: Board Game Design

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

Tabletop games expect players to implement their rules engines, manage their UIs, and track every element of the game state. Without a computer there to manage all of the boring bits, how can players become immersed in a game's story or fictional reality?

This session covers techniques applied to the design of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition that create player immersion. Using 4th edition D&D as a point of contrast, it illustrates the differences between a design that creates immersion and one that foils it and extends them into principles useful to any tabletop genre.


This presentation arms attendees with how to synthesize world building and rules design into a cohesive whole, best practices for creating terms and labels for their game's elements, and an understanding of how to use realism to make tabletop games more intuitive and authentic.

Intended Audience

This presentation is aimed at tabletop game designers and enthusiasts of any skill level who want their games to feel like events in a fictional world and their players to feel like inhabitants of that world.