This is a guest post by TT reader Nick Bell (who goes by lebkin in the comments). It’s brilliantly simple, and it speaks for itself.
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Because being a GM is like using a 150 watt bulb, it is easy to get lost in your self-created sea of knowledge where everything seems perfectly clear. To counter this, one needs to build up a set of tools in order to understand the players’ views on what is going on in-game. The best tool is actually the players themselves. Simply put, you can find out what the players remember by stealing their flashlight.
In order to do this, simply wait a few days after a gaming session, and then ask your players what they remember from the prior session. This will tell you where their flashlight is pointed. They will remember the elements that are important to them, and forget the boring ones. Take the things they remember and focus on them in the next session.
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Sound advice — thanks, Nick!
Don’t forget the other side of this tool though– Sometimes you show your players something (or readers, in my case), and then you purposely let it recede both from the metaphorical flashlight-beam and from the player’s main stream of thought. When you bring it back round again a couple sessions later, what seemed liked a minor occurrence can be imbued with new importance, leading to an “ah-ha” or “oh no” moment for your players. There’s nothing like finding out a seemingly minor event or character was crucially important to the bigger story, and it gives you an opportunity to reward or punish your players not just for the larger actions they take, but also for the smallest ones. There’s a nice balance to that– The lives of heroes are made from their largest victories and defeats, but the character of a real person is more often determined by the smallest of choices. Why not give your players opportunities to be both great heroes and great characters?
Cool post, Nick. Thanks for sharing.
I generally start a session by asking the players where they were at the end of the last session. This gives me a chance to make sure they (and I) remembered all the important plot points and I can remind them if there was anything they had forgotten, especially if there was something I’m planning on using as the lead-in to the current session.
Player written campaign logs are a consistent way to see what’s in the flashlight beam. (Well, for the player who writes the log, at least.)
I try to keep good logs of the adventures through the use of a journal. I set up a deadjournal for my players and gave them the password. I give them extra experience, and I try to put up something from one of the NPC’s perspective as well, or at least a bulleted list of the things that happened. The journal has been there through multiple games and has a very interesting mix of stories in it.
It’s been a great resource for going back after a session and seeing what was really in the players flashlight beams.
I can see how player journals would mesh well with this approach — that’s a good idea.
I’ve always had very mixed experiences with getting groups interested in doing journals, so I’m envious when I hear about groups that do them as a matter of course. 😉