Opening a session with a recap — a short summary of what happened in the previous session — is pretty standard practice, and it’s a good idea.

I’m sure there are other approaches, but I’ve seen three ways to handle recaps — and two of them have something odd in common: low player interest.

The three approaches I’m thinking of are:

1. The GM does the recap. In my experience, this tends to work the best. As the GM, you’ve taken notes, and because you had to prep for the current session, you’re obviously on top of what happened last time.

2. A player does the recap. Strangely, I’ve rarely seen this have good results. Players start with a handicap: even if they’re excited about the game, they didn’t have to prep for game day — so they’re less likely to have the last session fresh in their minds. (More on this one below.)

3. Session summaries are available online. I tried this a couple of years ago, and between 1/2 and 1/3 of my players read the summaries. As a timesaving measure, this approach wasn’t so hot.

In the first season of the Stargate campaign I’m playing in right now, our GM asked us to do the recaps. I and one other player took extensive notes, and I wrote session summaries for the game. Not only that, but a good recap was worth an Action Point — which, in d20 Modern, isn’t bad for two minutes of “work.”

And as far as I can tell, we all hated doing recaps. I know I didn’t enjoy it, and group enthusiasm for them seemed to go down steadily over time. And you know what? I have no idea why I didn’t enjoy doing them.

Based on that experience, and my experiment with writing summaries that didn’t tend to get read before games, I have to say that approach #1 is the most attractive and most successful option that I’ve seen. It doesn’t require much effort on your part (certainly less than writing session summaries), and it avoids the awkwardness of a lackluster recap.

Do your experiences line up with mine? If I’m right about player disinterest in participating in recaps being a fairly widespread thing, why do you think that is?