Saturday, March 6, 2010

I'm with Stupid

Or say you're a bartender wearing a shirt that says "I'm with stupid" and you're also saying in a wizard voice "It was the height of youthful folly to engage me in such a manner, young Paladin." And then the Paladin says "Whatever" and throws a nacho at you. This is playing the game.
That pretty well sums up my 30+ years of experience playing roleplaying games. It's also the reason why, despite the fact that I write them and people seem to enjoy reading them, I've always found session recaps -- "actual play reports," in the parlance of the Internet -- to fall almost universally flat. There's simply no way to convey all the little glorious idiocies that emerge at the intersection of friends, dice, miniatures, soft drinks, and a shameless willingness to pretend to be an elf while sitting around the dining room table in full view of the referee's disbelieving wife. That's what roleplaying has pretty much always been for me (minus the wife prior to 1997) and I wouldn't have it any other way.


  1. While I mentioned antecdotes and lines from my games in my blog, I can never bring myself to recap a session for this very reason.

    Our sessions move fast...breakneck, escape velocity, Barry Allen-on-speed fast. I've observed numberous other GMs running sessions over the 30+ years I've been gaming and if what I've seen is any indication, I get in about two or three times the material per session that most GM's do. Some on average one of my games is like two or three of theirs. Try recapping that.

    For one thing its really hard to convey our flow on paper. Second, since the sessions also include as much if not more BSing and screwing around, I can't remember half the session the more than a day or two after I ran it. I keep telling this guys we need to record it as mp3s or something.

    Anyway...keep doing what you're doing. Those who enjoy it and are entertained by it think you're doing the right thing. We far outway those who just don't get it. They can go read the funny pages.

  2. Sorry for the poor grammar and related errors. I just woke up as not sleeping very well. lol

  3. I feel similarly about game recaps. It's hard for me to recap my game anywhere that isn't solely for the benefit of the players, because so much of it falls under the "you had to be there" category.

  4. I've tended to use recaps more as a way of making sure that players in games with often fairly long gaps between sessions know what happened in the campaign before now.

    The best method of capturing everything is the mp3 release like Yog radio does with Call of Cthulhu. So far I've not tried it yet myself though.

  5. That's exactly why I find the line-by-line "play examples" given in some rulebooks so entertaining!

  6. I once started a campaign with the purpose of recording it all on audio tape. With the obvious exception of pure visuals, you get the real deal on what went on that night. All the little side jokes, comments, and general horsing around, in short- all the ambience of a night's particular session of game. And listening again, you will chuckle at those old jokes and comments. Normally, I put the campaign stuff down on journal, as a story-like retelling of what the adventure actually was (somewhat similar to james' post). But man, the 'behind-the-scenes stuff is priceless...

  7. I love the minutia of actual play. From dice tumbling and landing oddly on their corners nestled near a rulebook, to the smack talk the player's engage in character when one of them is on a bio break. This kind of thing is ephemera that is really hard to preserve. Even taking video of a session wouldn't capture all of it.
    Transcribing audio only captures a tiny portion of it.

  8. I agree, I only write my session recaps for the players and they probably don't read them.

    The only recaps I believe they ever read fully were from when I played Feng Shui, and did a couple of session recaps in the breathless voice of a Japanese schoolgirl.

    Session recaps are also long, and come across as either awesomely pretentious (if written in a narrative style) or awesomely nerdy (if they include the actual dice-rolling and rules). A rarified form of literature indeed...

  9. I also find it hard to convey in words all the great fun and things that happened in recap. Now I realize that I have an easier time writing about an interesting type of monster or game play situation, and including some talk about the general game itself.

    It's always more fun to be there than to talk about.