My wife, Alysia, got me a fabulous book for my birthday: Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the Star Wars Model Shop (thanks, love!). I’m already about halfway through it, and it’s full of fascinating tidbits on the many, many models involved in the six Star Wars movies.
As a kid, I hated behind the scenes info. I liked to immerse myself in movies (and other imaginary worlds) as fully as possible, and seeing the truth behind the special effects spoiled that for me. As I got older, though, that changed.
These days, I love getting to look under the hood, and finding out weird little details about my favorite movies and TV shows — things like the Hoth snow in the model shots in Empire being baking soda and 3M Microballs.
And even though the analogy is far from perfect, I’ve found that the same thing can be true for some gaming groups.
I’ve touched on different facets of this topic before here on TT. In The Bones in the Soup, I looked at laying bare your approach to a campaign before it begins. And in So, What’d We Miss? I discussed sharing game-world details with your players that their PCs wouldn’t know.
This time, I’d like to examine a third facet — specifically, sharing the physical and metagame things that happen on your side of the screen. Such as:
- Spectacularly good or bad rolls (assuming you don’t roll in the open, of course).
- Course corrections that you made — like dropping a monster’s HP, or adding baddies to a fight that turned out to be too easy.
- Things your players did that came as a complete surprise.
- Alternate paths through the adventure that you thought they might have taken.
In other words, all of the myriad details that you juggle as the GM, but that most players never get a chance to see.
I’ve been on both ends of this approach over the years, generally either giving out or learning about one or two details after the occasional session — nothing formal or systematic. I’ve never tried making it a standard part of post-session discussion, nor played with a group that did.
As a player, I don’t usually want to know about fudged rolls, but hearing about things the party did that surprised our GM is always fun. When I’m GMing, I tend to share those kinds of details more often than the mechanical ones, and I always like it when my players ask about this stuff.
Like any other gaming option, this won’t be for everyone. Pulling aside the curtain isn’t fun for some players, and if you fudge your die rolls, telling your group about it afterwards defeats the purpose.
But if this sounds like something your group might enjoy, I recommend giving it a try. Keep it casual, and don’t share everything all at once. The first time out, you might want to pick just one of the four general categories I mentioned above, and see how it goes.
If your players are inquisitive (wanting to know what they missed) or good at volunteering feedback after the session, then there’s a good chance they’d enjoy hearing some of what went on behind the scenes, too.
Do you do this with your group when you GM? Do you enjoy it as a player? What kinds of details interest you the most?
Have you ever tried this? Does your group do it as a matter of course after every session? Or would you avoid this idea like the plague?
I usually tell my the answer to the twists that had them banging their heads against the walls, players after we’re finished. They usually bang away til they or I figure out a way over, under, around, or through the problem.
On a tangent:
It happens frequently, which has me sometimes wondering why they don’t get the answers I’ve set up for them. Some of my players have known and gamed with me for a very long time (15+ years) and know how I think. Sometimes they see it right away, othertimes it’s worse than pulling teeth. Maybe I’m trying too hard not to be predictable.
I’ll share info after the game passes the “it doesn’t matter anymore” point. Generally, I’ll volunteer things I’m proud of or that the party banged their head on, and I’ll usually answer questions afterwards. If we veer into the “it still matters” point of the conversation, then I’ll get vague again.
Or just lie. 😀
Post-combat, I like telling the players things like “That was ballsy; you were at two hit points the last three rounds” or “His next spell was Disintegration, so it’s a good thing you ganged up on him”.
I am always wary of giving the players too much information about things that their characters wouldn’t know — at least until the campaign is over. Even if they are the best players in the world, it is impossible to not be affected by metagame information, and you cannot “unlearn” it once you know it. If I want them to honestly react the way their characters would, it is best that they do not know the private details until the end.
Now, that being said, I usually have extensive notes on major NPC backgrounds and motivations that I use to guide their behaviours. At the end of the campaign, I am happy to lay those out for the players to read, just to see them go. “So THAT’S why he acted that way in that one session.”
As most of my games have been freeform with only some basic established and permanent plotlines plus others generated while playing, we rarely have any ‘it could have gone this way’ discussions.
However, as I’ve gotten more into detail with game prep, light backhistories and the like, sometimes it is nice to share some details.
A few sessions ago, in my largest prepped adventure to date, all of the planning came crumbling down as not two minutes into the adventure area the PC’s went ballistic on the main NPC’s, disregarding any alternative to fighting their way through the generally (and genuinely) non-combative array of NPC’s. I had actually crafted the adventure as the tale of a tragic (though twisted and somewhat evil) love story/mystery (triangle included), with some valuable input even from my girlfriend.
Normally the group is pretty good about talking first and shooting later, so I was a little shocked when it all went down. Anyway, having created something I thought was pretty cool, I wanted to at least tell them what the whole thing was about.;) Still, they may pass that way again and their actions truly altered things, so it may not end as a total loss, as I’m a big fan of reweaving plot threads.
(And sorry, didn’t know my link was going to auto-create a comment!)
Over the years my plots got less and less complex. By now, there is nothing behind the curtain worth showing anymore.
I definitely release the floodgates of information after a game has ended, whether the players like it or not. 🙂 Usually they’ve got specific questions, and I’ll give them the answers if it won’t affect anything in the future. I’ll also let loose with the behind the scenes when they do something that takes my game in a completely different direction than I had intended.
Case in point: 2 goblins see the party as the party is beginning to infiltrate a cave. The party notices them, but instead of flat out killing, one person starts negotiating with them. The two goblins don’t attack because they are clearly outnumbered and are cowards (rightfully so). Thanks to the one PC’s negotiation, they trade with the goblins and walk past 2 levels of Goblin controlled mines, with much more fearsome creatures, situational traps (blind wyrm-kin waiting below them on at the bottom of ropes they would have had to have climbed down to progress further), the possibility of being tossed in the koarding beetle feeding grounds, etc. not to mention HORDES of goblins out for them. All this I had to reveal to show them exactly how grateful they should be to the negotiator, or how much they should hate him since it was supposed to be a dungeon crawl. They had a level after that and still got some decent combat.
Situations like that, I fell, call for letting them in on what would have happened.
I’m pretty open to discuss whatever my players would like to know (within reason) or doing a “debrief” at the end of a campaign. I prefer to listen rather than talk about my game; I talk enough when running said game.
Within the hobby as a whole there’s a whole lot of talking and very little listening, IMO.
Within the hobby as a whole thereâ€™s a whole lot of talking and very little listening, IMO.
Mea maxima frakking culpa… I think this is the most insightful thing I’ve read in weeks.
I’ll be running a game this weekend, so I’ll see if my group is up for a little “table-talk” after the game.
We’ll typically discuss such metagame issues and alternate paths as they come up during breaks. The GM could bring it up, but it could be a player question or comment, too. We consider these “course correction” discussions. We make sure that everyone sees what happened in some consistent way. Otherwise, you can have people running with a tangent way past the point that it’s fun.
(A little bit of misunderstanding can be amusing. Not so much when it makes you feel like you wasted the whole session.)
(1of3) Over the years my plots got less and less complex. By now, there is nothing behind the curtain worth showing anymore.
Is this a good or bad thing for your games?
(Crazy Jerome) Weâ€™ll typically discuss such metagame issues and alternate paths as they come up during breaks. The GM could bring it up, but it could be a player question or comment, too. We consider these â€œcourse correctionâ€ discussions.
That’s a great idea, especially because you use it during sessions rather than waiting until afterwards. Good tip!
One of my players is the creator of our homebrew world so he knows the lore inside and out while I know the rules. I have a wiki set up so our whole group and contribute session notes, lore and otherwise collaborate on the back end of things.
Part of my session notes I regularly post is “DM Notes” which is behind the scenes stuff.
I post about alternate paths, unplanned encounters, etc. after the session is over. This generally takes the form of “I really though you guys were leaving town but instead you did this…” or “This NPC was supposed to die but you saved him so now I need to do some rewriting…”
They don’t have to know what the rewrite consists of, but they do get a kick out of knowing where they went off the rails.