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So, What’d We Miss?

When your players finish an adventure, I’m willing to bet they usually want to know what they missed. Should you tell them?

Absolutely! Based on my experience as a GM and a player, here’s why I think this is a good thing to do.

As I usually do, I’m going to assume that you don’t have a dysfunctional group — the kind of group, for example, that would insist on having their PCs return to the things they missed, even if doing so was detrimental to the game.

You should tell your players what they missed because…

As a player, it’s just nice to know. At the most basic level, many players just enjoy knowing what’s going on in the game world.

It conveys an enjoyable impression of complexity. Knowing that there’s stuff in the wings that requires special effort to find tells your players that the game isn’t on rails.

Your players learn what to watch out for. Knowing what they missed may help your players catch more details next time.

It lets your players know where the bar is. Some players really like finding every last morsel of stuff (magic items, clues, bits of info, etc.), and seeing what they missed gives them something to strive for next time.

What other pluses are there to sharing this kind of meta-information with your players? I couldn’t think of any minuses — am I forgetting something?

15 Comments (Open | Close)

15 Comments To "So, What’d We Miss?"

#1 Comment By maikeru On November 21, 2006 @ 6:25 am

I have always shared and the groups are usually pretty good about it. I’v even told them mid adventure and didn’t make a big fuss.

Oh, you passed a secret room back there. 🙂

#2 Comment By VV_GM On November 21, 2006 @ 7:05 am

I disagree with telling players about things that they missed for some genres especially. Conveying the sense that there are undiscovered facets of something like a dungeon is good, but I prefer to keep the players guessing as I tend to run high suspense horror games and I need to keep that curiosity of the unknown alive in the players.

Still I can see how this approach can work if done right. I just don’t hink it is the right approach for what I am trying to accomplish.

#3 Comment By robustyoungsoul On November 21, 2006 @ 7:50 am

I usually don’t tell them because often times you can find a way to use those encounters in future adventures.

#4 Comment By DNAphil On November 21, 2006 @ 8:04 am

I like to at different points in my campaign give them the behind the scenes for how an adventure(s) went. One, they do like to know how close they were to getting ambushed or something like that. Two, they appreciate the level of detail that goes into an adventure. Three, two of my players are also DM’s and for them its a way to share some experiences with them, allowing them to see what I was thinking, and compare it to their experience as a player.

#5 Comment By John Arcadian On November 21, 2006 @ 8:29 am

I’ll give them all the cool stuff that may no longer be relevant to their future adventures. Something like, “oh yeah, the gorgast of the town didn’t actually have the hostage he said he did” but not something like “oh, if you had intercepted that letter then war wouldn’t have broken out between the two factions and when you fight the final boss you wouldn’t have had to wade through a bunch of fights on the battlefield”.

I find revealing the details after the fact makes the players feel more accomplished or understand my GMing style better. They tend to look for different things in the upcoming adventures and get more of the “plot” I had been working up but constantly changing based on their actions.

#6 Comment By Jason On November 21, 2006 @ 8:49 am

My players don’t tend to ask very often, but I don’t tend to give out any information, either. I don’t like to foster a “We have to search every section of the wall in case there is a secret door” mentality, which I have seen in the past….

#7 Comment By Telas On November 21, 2006 @ 10:59 am

I usually tell them what they missed, but not blatantly… “You got most everything from that dungeon, but you never did find that place where they were making all the traps.” It’s not a huge issue, item-wise.

Plot-wise, I occasionally play devil’s advocate or use a Socratic approach to draw them into the proper conclusions, after-the-fact. This usually happens when I’m too subtle for an RPG… “Why do you think these guys attacked when they did? Do you think your stumbling on their outpost (and wiping it off the map) might have triggered that?” or “Yeah, they really seemed to know you were coming; who do you think would benefit the most from your being wiped out in the rescue attempt?”

#8 Comment By Crazy Jerome On November 21, 2006 @ 12:14 pm

I generally like to work such revelations into the game instead of waiting until the end. The exception is when there wasn’t an appropriate time to work it in until the end–usually because it was still relevant right up until the end. Or course, this is obvious metagaming. The group of adventurers returning to town with the famed Whatzit of Whatever and bragging that they got it in dungeon X–where the players had been a month earlier–is hardly subtle.

I take the slant that important stuff happens “off screen” and sometimes that is right place for it. Not every important thing is exciting enough to spend play time upon. You’d hardly want to play out a financial audit, for example, but the players might want to hear about it later. I treat “missed” things the same way.

Other than that, I’ll answer any questions the players have.

#9 Comment By DM T. On November 22, 2006 @ 12:15 am

Once a campaign is over, I reveal all the plots that went during the campaign.
The players might have found out about them (which gives them great satisfaction) or missed them by a long shot (which helps them understand some of the events that they might had difficulty with).

Some might say that this may help the players ‘understand’ their DM better and learn what to expect in future campaigns, but in my opinion, if the players understand me better, it would only serve any future campaign I design as they would do their best not to miss out on things.

#10 Comment By Martin On November 22, 2006 @ 9:13 pm

So far, it sounds like the list of cons includes:

– Genre concerns
– No option to reuse material
– Fostering a search, search, search mentality

On the pros side, offering a different perspective on a shared experience is an excellent point — I hadn’t thought of it that way.

#11 Comment By Stephen On November 23, 2006 @ 8:47 am

I usually do let them know what they missed. So when I won’t tell them, it signals an open plot line. They love that too.

#12 Comment By sirus On November 24, 2006 @ 2:35 am

if think it’s a very bad idea.
telling the players what they missed is very detrimental to the whole illusion of roleplaying. i really can’t think of any good things about this method. i hate the idea of sharing gm info with players. not knowing what things they missed adds a certain aura of mysteri which i by far prefer and keeps the players more on their toes.
last but not least i think it’s kinda demoralizing for players to know the things they’ve missed.

#13 Comment By Cliff Nickerson On November 25, 2006 @ 9:07 pm

I don’t reveal important plot info, but often I’ll let them know when they stumped me or explain the reason behind something that resulted from an off-screen event.
An example: a Priest character tried to convert the evil goblins to his religion rather than killing 90 percent of them and running the rest into the frozen swamp. As a result of an incredible critical success / critical failure combination, he succeeded (the goblin leader critically failed his leadership roll and the Priest critically succeeded on his attempt at conversion). The “party” was suddenly bolstered by a rather large number of cannon-fodder soldiers, which greatly aided in an attack on a Necromancer’s laboratory. Obviously not part of my planning, and we talked about it for over an hour after the battle had finally ended. What I’d intended as a party-trimming event went the other way completely, and it’s going to require a bunch of new planning on my part and theirs for the next several adventures.
You’ve got to talk it over when something fundamental changes about the campaign, especially if it’s unintentional. Does everybody want to change styles now that the event happened? Should we try to agree on a plausible reason for things to go back the way they were?

#14 Comment By Frank Filz On November 27, 2006 @ 3:55 pm

While I have been spotty on revealing stuff, I think it is a good idea.

One interesting educational data point is running Dogs in the Vinyard. After a good DitV game, there should be almost nothing left to reveal. If there is, the GM didn’t do his job (which is to “actively reveal the town in play”).

If you are worried about the search and search again mode of play, make sure players DON’T miss things. Also, you can let them know when there is nothing else to find (I actually had to do this in DitV). The search and search again mode of play is a valid old school gamist mode of play. If it’s not what you want, make sure your setup doesn’t encourage it.

Now alternate plot threads are a different situation, and obviously wouldn’t engender a search and search again mentality. However, for certain games, keeping them tight is valid. On the other hand, if (when) you can reveal them, it will give the players a sense they actually made a difference (“yea, the outlaws could totally have sacked the kingdom”, or even better, “my plan was that there really wasn’t a way to stop the outlaws from sacking the kingdom, but your brilliance at bringing the bannished prince back was an unexpected twist that forced me to change my plot”).


#15 Comment By Martin On November 30, 2006 @ 8:46 pm

sirus, your comment made me realize something: In video games, I get demoralized when I know I missed something that I can’t go back to (this is why I’ve never gotten into the Final Fantasy series — sacrelige, I know ;)).

In RPGs, though, it doesn’t bother me. For me, they feel so much more fluid that I’m happy to move on — chances are my character developed in some way, and I don’t mind if that involved missing something.