The Importance, As a Player, in Writing Post-Game Session Recaps

During the series of Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons campaigns I played with fellow authors Jinx, Ness, and our other friends, one of the most valuable tasks we were asked to do was write our own post-game session recaps. For the Upheaval campaign (which we’ve written about several times on 3-Sided Die), we were asked by Jinx, our Dungeon Master, to write these recaps in the voice of our characters. I can’t stress enough how important these were to the richness of our campaign.

Medieval Scribe

“Medieval Scribe,” accessed at “The Middle Ages Online” website, hosted by Louisiana State University

First and foremost, doing the recaps helps everyone remember what happened. While the DM builds the story, its locations, and its inhabitants, it can be a hefty challenge for them to recall all the actions and deviations that occurred in each game. Also, our group only got the chance to meet in person every six to eight weeks, so having a record of what happened in the last session gave us more time to play the active encounter instead of slogging through the “when we last left our heroes” prologue.

Second, it gave us a creative outlet to deepen and express the personalities, beliefs, and motivations of our characters. I was able to take the decisions I made in each session and flesh out how those actions either validated my character’s convictions or questioned them. Putting those feelings in writing gave Jinx new insight into how our characters were seeing and experiencing the world and allowed him to craft changes to the campaign. We could see the changes we made to the world as a result of what we chose to do in each session, rather than having to stick to the rails of a more inflexible campaign.

Third, it gave our group a unique way to work together in character. Everyone has that moment at the start of a campaign where the group simply assumes that their characters either all know each other or have zero concerns or inhibitions about working together for a goal that probably wouldn’t matter to each of them in the same way in a real situation. What ended up happening with the Upheaval campaign was almost a fan fiction: one of us would write the first recap, and then another member would talk about their character’s perspective of the same events. These stories threaded together a neat “side story” that we wouldn’t normally think of while slogging through combat. Also, our particular group didn’t have super-strong role-playing or story-telling talents, so having the time after each game to think about what transpired and plotting out the motivations behind them worked really well to keep the story alive.

Lastly, the recaps helped with world-building. Further into our campaign, our write-ups began to include memories or thoughts the characters had about their past or others they encountered during the session. Perhaps it was a place one of us had visited earlier in our adventuring lives, or, in the case of Lu, my deva swordmage, one of her past lives. As with character motivations, this gave Jinx more food for thought as he created our next objectives and challenges.

For Upheaval, Jinx awarded us bonuses and benefits for supplying the write-ups. He chose a “party points” method, where the recaps, especially ones that deftly explored a character’s thoughts and decisions, added points to a pool that we could all share. These points could be used to either re-roll a skill check or attack, convince a non-player character, or give the entire party a initiative or healing bonus. The more points we accrued with our recaps, the more heroic actions we could take in the next session.

I had a great deal of fun writing about Lu and how she saw the world, and would enjoy doing so again for any future campaigns in which I played.

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.

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