Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Exploring and Adventure Logs

Sometimes, exploration is boring.

Take the last Southern Reaches session as an example. When the session started, barely a sixth of the Edgewood had been explored. This isn’t to say that the PCs had only been in a small portion of the Edgewood, only that they hadn’t done more than wander a line across much of the forest, more often than not lost while doing so. One of the newer players commented on this before the game started last Friday and so, with only three players, it was decided that they would properly explore the forest.

As a result of this, they found the following:
  • A giant ant nest
  • An overgrown orchard (near Drop-off Tower)
  • An impassible area of forest
  • A ruined village
  • More trees than you can shake a stick at

[Two of these are actually adventure locales. As the players read this blog on occasion, I won’t spoil the surprise by stating which two. You’re welcome.]

How do I know this made for a less than exciting gaming session? I started getting bored writing up the adventure report. Now my adventure reports for the Southern Reaches game don’t go into a ton of detail and I do my best to bundle the empty parts into the fewest number of words possible. My goal is to provide a basic narrative and the high points of the session. I gave all the detail and descriptive text during the session and typing it all in again seems a bit…wanker-y to me.

Now if the players want to write it up, that’s worthwhile from several angles. First, it provides a sense of what made an impression on the players and how they see the world connecting together. This is invaluable feedback to a DM. It tells the DM what stuff matters and where they are doing a good job and where they need to do better. It also inspires the DM to keep going. This is something the Verden DM clued me in to as an incidental aside while we were chatting before a game. He reads my adventure logs to see his world through a player’s eyes and to gather encouragement to keep going. This is important to a DM as running a campaign, especially a sandbox exploration game, takes a great deal of effort and player feedback helps greatly to maintain that effort.

In-character adventure logs also help reinforce the player’s memory as to what is going on in the game. This is why I write the Verden adventure log in-character – so I can remember what I was thinking in-character at later sessions. Going through my notes (as sketchy as they sometimes are) triggers my memory as to what happened and reminds me of things I may have forgotten otherwise.

Finally, adventure logs are valuable resources to be mined for later campaigns. What stuff (a very technical term bandied about by DMs everywhere) have you used before? What did the players love? What did they hate? What worked out well and what should never be tried again?

I think that’s all I have on that for the moment. What are your thoughts?

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