Monday, February 1, 2016

Game Summaries, Part II

The other day, I posted about what I like about the game session summaries that I like.

A number of people commented, and a couple people blogged about it and made sure to let me know in the comments (and thank you for doing that). Here are those blog posts:

Archon Shiva's What people want in summaries
Douglas Cole's Session Writeups and the DF Criteria

It seems like some of my "likes" could use some more expansion.

Omniscient GM's View:

This doesn't have to include hidden information, reveals of things the players missed, etc. It just means, I want to see it from behind the screen looking out. I want to view it as if I was the GM, recalling the session. Nothing secret needs to be revealed but:

- focus on the group as a whole, not how one character would view everything;

- focus on the game as a whole, not one aspect;

- tell it to me like one GM to another, so I can see how decisions about game structure and GMing method play out.

If I sat as an outside observer on the group, what would I see? That's the basis point of view I want to see. But I also like it when the GM's look feeds into it via rules commentary, reflections on the material, how it fits together with what the PCs know, etc.

Big Reveals?

You don't have to reveal secret things ahead of time. Not even if you're blogging a few sessions in the past. I get that your players might read your summaries. I write mine for my players, and we use them as game resources. I put in notes for myself, and them, and my readers, but if no one read them except my players I'd still write them.

Because of that I don't let out any secrets.

But I try to tell you later on what new development is tied back to previous ones. So I'd suggest this:

If something gets revealed later, link back to it. Pretend I missed the earlier sessions and link to them. This will also give you a feel for which of your own sessions are really linchpins. For me, Total Party Teleport I and II turned out to be very big sessions. Not just because of the casualties, but because events in those two sessions spilled out to many others: the hobgoblins got exterminated root and branch, leaving the area open to the orcs; the flooded prison was discovered; the back way to the lizard men was discovered; the medusa's presence was detected; the teleportor was revealed to be a trap not a transport device, etc. I only realized how much when I'd go back and link and I was there for all of them. As a reader, it's useful to have those links. I'm not likely to keyword search your archive trying to make links.

Plus, like I said, it's nice as a player or a GM to be able to see how it all links up.

After Action Report:

Do I mean a PC-centered AAR of tactics, moves, and decisions and how they went? I don't know, that could be fun. I didn't meant that exactly. I meant a larger AAR approach:

- What went wrong as an adventure? ("I thought this puzzle door would be a fun diversion, instead, it was a three-hour nightmare of annoyance.")

- What went right as an adventure? ("Turns out the combined wandering monster and hazard table was a lot of fun for me as the GM, and the players seemed to keep play moving as a result" or "I didn't think the hints given in this pre-packaged adventure would be sufficient, but the players picked up on them immediately.")

- What went right in terms of GMing? ("The new lighting rules worked as we'd hoped, and made it vastly easier to track things." or "Putting colored rubber bands on the skeletons and color-coding them was better than naming and numbering them")

- What prep or setup errors or correct decisions did you make? ("Turns out that those monsters shouldn't have been so weak, because I forgot to look up "Shadow Form" before play began and just winged it" or "Cheat-sheeting the climbing speed rules took some extra prep but saved a lot of time in play")

You don't need all of that, or really any, to keep my attention. But I love when it's in there. I'm actually less of a fan of "what the players could have done differently." Even as a GM with total knowledge of the PCs and the NPCs, I've had strong disagreements with my players over different outcomes. I find that kind of stuff is more opening old wounds and starting arguments than helpful. What we could do better next time is always good - I bet my players have a different opinions on some recent tactics. But maybe they don't, and unless you're one of the players, probably not worth getting into. Reporting their ideas is interesting, though.

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