Why this is so I can't rightly put a finger on. Actual game play, in theory, should be the basis of all our navel-gazing on what makes our hobby tick, so why does so much of our reportage on it come up so painfully short?
My question to you the unwashed masses is: do you read and/or enjoy session reports? If not, why not? If so, what kinds of specific reports to you enjoy? Do you like reports that read more like short stories or ones that break down the so-called “fourth wall” and touch on social interactions, the art of GMing, the success or failures of rules mechanics, etc? A mix of those two? Or some other beast completely?
Inquiring minds want to know.
(For those nudging me behind the scenes, our series finale for Tony Bath's Hyboria is being duly finished today. Look for it tomorrow my ever-so patient brethren.)
I agree with you that session reports are a mixed bag for me. What it really takes for me to read them is a) actual knowledge of the players/characters involved, b) a game system that I'm just learning, c) a story that I was previously following, d) weird ass shit that forces you to pay attention, or e) truly outstanding prose. Almost universally, I prefer in-character reports.ReplyDelete
Of course, I posts my own session reports. Though I know some people read them, I do it mostly to have a record of the session for posterity.
I liked following your orginal writeups for your Castles and Crusades game, not sure why you stopped writing them since this starting as our campaign blog.ReplyDelete
Personally I like it when I can see behind the curtain and hear what a DM wanted to have happen in their game. I want to know if the game "worked" or if it "didn't work".
Also I love seeing photos of people at play in a session. It sure helps to give a human face.ReplyDelete
"Some accounts—like much other bad gaming fiction—make me shift uncomfortably in my chair or have an instant eye-glazing effect."ReplyDelete
I tend to have the same reactions myself (and likewise I'm sure my own write-ups have the same effect on others). On balance, I'd say skip far more write-ups than I read. Occasionally one will grab me, largely for one or more of the reasons outlined by Risus Monkey.
For my own write-ups, I aim for a mix of narrative interpretation of events that took place (but attempting to keep the prose conversational--I have no literary aspirations with these sort of things...not sure if I succeed on that count all the time!) and "behind the scenes" analysis of how a particular scene or event played out or a discussion of a certain element of the system I'm running.
In the end, I think session reports are worth a hoot, since fundamentally an RPG session is a story being created in retrospect and turning a session into a written document--even if it's just a bullet list--is a pretty good way of doing that.
Put me in the category that likes 'session diaries' that break the forth wall and don't take themselves too seriously. I am scribe for two of the games I am involved in and usually end up writing things like, "Galdar the Great swung his mace like a drunk man playing wiffle ball and failed to connect with the hobgoblin who grinned and poked Galdar in the brisket with a glaive-guisarme a second time. Galdar's player shouted, "&*%$#!" and threw the offending d20 across the room as the DM chuckled behind his screen.ReplyDelete
Usually the session diaries we have are really for the amusement of the players (plus if someone can't make it they can 'catch up' by reading, and it is good to review what happened last session when there are weeks between games), but if someone else gets some value out of them, all the better.
There are occasional references to jokes we made in session and other stuff. I usually just scribble down quick notes in session (i.e.: "Jon's PC critted Ogre for 20 points; found ruby and bar of soap in Ogre's pouch; Jon took ruby, I took soap...") and then add humerous 'flourishes' in the recap. I try to remember to write down any good jokes or notable quotes but the more I laugh the less I write.
My favorite session report site is this one:
http://descarte.pbworks.com/w/page/17534748/Hackmaster (I didn't play with theses guys; I just enjoyed their write ups).
I'll third the mixed bag thing. My favorite ones are produced by B/X Blackrazor, where they are unpretentious and often humorous, and James M. of Grognardia.ReplyDelete
From the poll I did a few weeks ago, I'd say most people like them, but I'll let them speak for themselves.
Well, when I started that I was the second commenter, but now I guess I seventh that motion.ReplyDelete
I very seldom read those of other groups. When I do, I usually do find them hard to read as well. I don’t the style really makes much difference either.ReplyDelete
I write mine simply for myself and my group. They are simply a way to keep track of what has happened. It is also a lot of fun to go back and read them later and remember good times. I don’t spend any time thinking about how to write them. I’m simply trying to get the information captured as quickly as possible.
Mixed bag seems to be top dog so far. It probably didn't help that I framed it in a leading way around my own feelings.ReplyDelete
Very helpful though to hear what y'all think about what makes a good one good--especially if I return to this dark road here on the blog.
(BTW the photo above is from our session yesterday. And yes those doughnuts in the background were eaten.)
I like this list, though category a. really can only apply to my own group (and category c. can only exist if one of the others holds true). I think I did to be biased against in-character reports unless they are truly outstanding.
Jim, I stopped writing the C&C reports for two simple reasons: 1. they felt like examples of the very things I don't like in others reports and 2. the campaign (and game system) changed when I moved from Austin to San Antonio. I like pictures too for much the same reason as you mention. See forum nay-sayers, we do spend some time playing between blog posts.
I've never been able to get through in-character or narrative session reports. I do like some out of character reports if they focus on the session as a game rather than as a story, and keep it short. Even then it depends on the author, for reasons I'm not quite sure of.ReplyDelete
"I think session reports are worth a hoot, since fundamentally an RPG session is a story being created in retrospect and turning a session into a written document"
Hmm...yes this would jive in my own feelings that the real story is the one that emerges from play. Hadn't thought about the fact that getting it down might reinforce this feeling for those involved.
I think I voted in the "yes" category for your poll. I enjoy reading yours mostly because I've liked following your thinking out loud in preparing for it. Where the real rubber hits the road with all that pre-campaign tinkering is always fascinating.
Almost universally, I prefer in-character reports.
When I read reports of games that I'm involved with, this is the case. Otherwise, out-of-character reports tend to work better for me (especially if they are illustrating a new game system). And even in-character reports can benefit from out-of-character GM asides.
I think session reports are best used to show how you play D&D (or whatever system you use). The actual stories themselves can sometimes be interesting, but usually aren't for people outside of your table. Thinking out loud is a necessary part.ReplyDelete
I do want to add that I like the stories that develop around the table, and I'm always interested to hear about others campaigns. Still, I think these blogs are best used to give other people ideas.
I've written session reports in the past both in and out of character and I definitely prefer in-character. Last campaign I experimented with a journal style focusing on one NPC who was the glue that bound the party together (ok, so he was my plot monkey).ReplyDelete
As DM I look to the reports to log all the on-the-fly NPCs I end up creating between major scenes which I like to think give my world some depth.
I'd like my players to write up their own session reports but if the group splits they may only get one side of the story. Plus there's no guarantee that they can write a coherent narrative from their notes.
I'd be interested in seeing a side-by-side session report, ie: what the PCs thought was going on and how the DM felt he ran the session. On the whole I tend not to read other peoples sessions though.
@tonybro001: I'd be interested in seeing a side-by-side session report, ie: what the PCs thought was going on and how the DM felt he ran the session. On the whole I tend not to read other peoples sessions though.ReplyDelete
Actually doing something like this right now. I'm posting old writeups from a game where I was a player (in character). The DM is posting his thoughts on the sessions on his blog. Kind of interesting to see how they compare. Of course, I'm an interested party so your mileage may vary. :)
"I'd be interested in seeing a side-by-side session report"ReplyDelete
Now that is a truly great idea that would have value both internally to a game group and externally (well at least to the dorky minority like me that enjoy that kind of thing). Gaming sessions can sometimes be like Rashomon with play being perceiving in radically different ways by GM and player(s).
Thanks Risus for sharing your own experiment with this.
I enjoy reading them, but more I like writing them.ReplyDelete
> Why this is so I can't rightly put a finger on. Actual game play, in theory, should be the basis of all our navel-gazing on what makes our hobby tick, so why does so much of our reportage on it come up so painfully short?ReplyDelete
Because D&D uses a fundamentally bottom-up scale paradigm rather than a top-down worldgame approach and thus session reports have a danger of reading more as egoboo rather than thread elements within a shared world that anyone may write for (the manner of such shared world fiction may, or may not interact with actual gaming sessions at whatever "scale"). Compare again with Magira, for the blindingly obvious example... to those who speak German? :p
I've kinda gotten around this "issue" (if issue it is) by utilising a high degree of sociopolitical-ecological simulation in lieu of other RL "GMs" alongside myself within the overarching secondary world creation process.
D&D also inevitably focuses more to the physical rather than the cultural elements of flwff. (see PM on DF ;)
> Session Reports: Are They Worth a Hoot?ReplyDelete
On the plus side, yeah, I can tell you the exact date of the first D&D session in which Bob Bledsaw and Bill Owen participated. Rather useful for piecing together the real-world history, if not so much the secondary in the that particular case since they were over on the Middle Earth map to start with.
Similarly for the hidden-in-plain-sight outlaws out West. :)
Or was that not the question you were asking, either, Chris? :p
verification word: blend
(*g* hopefully you won't be trying to figure out which is being smoked!)
...to clarify/reduce the former of the two above, the path D&D has taken (by-and-large) is fundamentally a blind alley from the p.o.v. of a secondary shared world creation in which one can role play.ReplyDelete
Do you want session reports or "history", I guess? :)
Poor Tékumel didn't have a chance... :/
(verification: train - as in railroad
Getting better again! ^^ )
Mixed bag tending towards, "got too much to read already." More interested in (non-scenario) play-tests of new games, especially board games, but new RP games that cover new ground rate higher. FRP adventures: Nah. Too many are the same and not very interesting.ReplyDelete
> FRP adventures: Nah. Too many are the same and not very interesting.ReplyDelete
Setting aside such matters as experience points being the fundamental unit of "progression", even in 1e the tendency is towards physical "crunch" and describing achievements against challenges on that level. A good session reporter ( http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=12803&hilit=canuck for example) can try to extract the story but even then the underlying production model mechanics are largely mechanistic and revolve around "action" that is brought to the fore (time distortion within real-time session play) for the actual "roles" being played within that conceptual framework/"production" model.
Not so much a matter of "once you've read one combat" as knowing /that/ is what's underlying matters even if not /explicitly/ stated?
Well, for 90% of dungeon crawls, anyhow. *jk*
(*lol* analogy) - was The Hobbit any less good as a "session report" because Smaug was killed by a single arrow or Tom, Bert, and Bill Huggins did not fall in combat?ReplyDelete
White Wolf's Gamism/Simulationism in Narrativistic sheep's clothing laid bare indeed. :)
word verification: lesson
They are definitely worth a hoot to me.ReplyDelete
Session reports - regardless of how well or how poorly written - serve notice to off-in-wings guys such as myself that the game really is being played and enjoyed and not merely serving time as a marketing platform for yet another yahoo wanting to sell his game-related writing to the OSR. If some writers have artistic pretension that are beyond their talents: [shrugs shoulders].
My own preference is for out of character recaps, which don't have to be dull, and are usually easier on one's inner critic than in-character recaps, unless the character doing the reporting has a sense of humor.
Keep 'em coming - good, bad, whatever - is my opinion.
Oh - and the DM should NOT be the one doing the reporting.ReplyDelete
I want to know how the game is being perceived by those on the receiving end.
Wow , 25 comments already! My 2 cents is that I think they can be used for different purposes. They can be informational to the party members especially if you play infrequently, as is my case, and you need them to remember what the heck is going on. If they are meant to 'showboat' how cool your campaign is then I think they fail. I don't really enjoy reading them/don't have time usually. I like the idea presented earlier though on the dual write-ups so the 2 perspectives can be compared.-ScalyReplyDelete
"Because D&D uses a fundamentally bottom-up scale paradigm rather than a top-down worldgame approach and thus session reports have a danger of reading more as egoboo..."
This doesn't feel right to my gut. I used to spend an inordinate amount of time on a monster wargame Europa Universalis that morphed into a great and addictive series of computer strategy games. The various iterations of the game have much in common with worldgames in their sweep and focus (and can even be played multi-player) and have entire forums dedicated to After Action Reports of their campaigns. The same unevenness applies to those.
Also take Bath's on reports about Hyboria. Some of them are sheer joy to read (ones that talk about the player or the mechanisms of the game and relay some highpoint story) while the full accounts minus those elements turn into snore-fests quite honestly.
@Lord o' the Green DragonsReplyDelete
Rob,a good point I do enjoy reading Boardgamegeek reports on sessions for games I haven't played or am interested in almost unilaterally.
It is telling that you really only see session reports for four of the retro-clones on a regular basis. It does make me wonder if anyone is actually playing some of the others (and not just incorporating them into house rules).
As a player in your game I can say I really appreciate yours (which are 100 percent for our group alone) as they keep my head in the game. They read well too.
I read other peoples' session summaries sometimes. The one I read obsessively is Michael Tresca's but it seems to have gone quiet for a month or so. Too many others are eitherReplyDelete
a) incoherently written - prose is prose, and if the writing sucks then no one will read it.
b) so short that they just provide a factual account of "we went and killed some goblins," which is totally uninteresting. It's like following sports by just hearing sports scores of made up teams.
My group has a proud tradition of long, good, in character session summaries - if you're interested in session summaries at all, give these a try!
Geek Related Session Summaries
I read the session reports of others to see different ways games can be played. For that I prefer a third-person perspective with occassional asides as to what happened at the table to generate the result. I want a general synopsis of the events happening without going into a blow-by-blow retelling. My tolerance for typos is based on how interesting what is happening in-game is - if the game concepts are cool, I'll spot you some typos.ReplyDelete
When writing session reports, I tend to write in 3rd person when I DM and 1st person when I'm a player. Writing in first person helps me define and lock in the character's personality, something that is usually nebulous until a session or two into a game. My reports for our DM-training game using Dyson's Delve have been an exception, but well received.