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What are some good methods for presenting information to a limited number of players in a gaming group so as to allow them to control when and how that information gets released to the rest of the characters? I want to limit the amount of parroting of the GM the player(s) have to do, and to preserve that player's opportunities to roleplay the use and results of their character's skills.

For instance:

  • A character possesses a detection or tracking skill the others do not
  • A character possesses a specialty or area of refined knowledge such as masonry or architecture
  • A character has reason to not want full disclosure of what they have gleaned

Leaving the room to talk and writing and passing notes both seem to take a lot of time. What other methods are there?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

The way I do it is to turn to the player(s) and stage whisper what their characters know/perceive that the others don't. All the players at the table then know, but it's obvious to everyone which characters know and don't know. It's quick, everyone stays involved in the awesome, and the players of the characters who don't know can have extra fun playing obliviousness instead of just being left out.

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Barring very specific conditions (a highly competitive, player vs. player political maneuvering game where secrets and information control are the focus), I'd just state every piece of information publicly, for everybody to hear. I'd leave it to each player to keep track of what their character does not actually know, and to either act as if ignorant of it or find some a posteriori fictional justification for how they found it out. Most of the time, it doesn't matter at all.

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Something I tried recently with out group is instant messaging/chat. I use it sometimes if the party is talking to an npc/monster and only one of them speaks the language. I like it because it is much faster to type than to write or text, and sometimes I will chat from the other room to simulate that the npc/monster wouldn't be able to understand what the party members are saying to each other or how their words are being translated.

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This is one of the few, if not only, advantage to gaming online. The players can have a chat separate from the GM. The GM can private message private information. – Eric Weilnau Aug 27 '10 at 17:53

While a lot of this will end up being GM-preference and dependant on the people involved, passing notes has worked the best for me. My players are experienced enough to understand that sometimes, I don't want them to know everything. There are other people who will feel slighted or left out, so the use of this tactic is up to your group.

In an online game - or one where everyone has brought their laptops/iPads/what-have-yous to the table, simply opening up a private IM window will do the job discreetly. Just make sure everyone has their sound off before you do.

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I'm not clear why this got a downvote...I'm thinking it's well written. Might help if you gave a reason, so the poster could fix the issue. – Beska Aug 27 '10 at 13:43
I mentioned passing notes and got down voted as well perhaps because it was mentioned in the question and the OP asked for others? – Iain M Norman Aug 27 '10 at 14:58
This is basically a duplicate answer for one that came earlier and could have been handled by a comment. – anon186 Aug 27 '10 at 15:01

Send an SMS?

Not sure I would, notes are quick to write and do the job perfectly well.

If much more needs to be said or a lengthy exchange is in question then it's out of the room.

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As I play a lot of clue driven games, in scenarios where clues are "private" I prepare index cards before-hand with the information. – anon186 Aug 27 '10 at 13:04

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