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I currently lead a Diaspora group. Diaspora is a hard science fiction Fate-based RPG which allows and basically depends on the generation of content like worlds, cultures, NPCs etc. by the players.

I noticed in the last few session that often someone mentioned some cool aspect of the world but due to the flow of the narrative we (myself in particular) forgot to write it down. We have a wiki to put such stuff in, but that doesn't help if no one adds it.

Are there any techniques or table rules that have been proven to be helpful to preserve ad hoc made up aspects of the game world? As in, "someone who creates something has to write it down," or more technical aids like recording the session?

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3 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

In my games I have created and use Player Logs. They are sheets with areas for player to make quick notes, record treasure, NPC interactions, ideas and character condition. Every player character gets a fresh one at the start of each game session. I collect and read them after each session. This way I can transfer relevant information and ideas over to my notes.

They are not fancy, and are not game specific to a system. They have large blank areas that organize the information so it easy to record and read.

When I first started using them I had to continually remind the players to write stuff down. Now I find that they do it automatically. No more lost ideas or NPC interactions. Since each player has a differing perspective and each character persona has a different perspective I get a lot of really good information.

The player also can review these logs at the begin of each session and quickly get back into the mind set they left off with.

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That's a cool idea. I wish I'd thought of something similar towards the start of the module I'm running now. Now that we're on the last chapter or two it would kinda be pointless though. Have to remember that for next time. –  BBlake Nov 21 '10 at 12:59
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Being a webmaster, I've tried a number of 'digital things' and they all have the same problem. They need an electronic device. While most of use are plugged in now, I've found that everyone at the table gets distracted when the devices come out. A piece of paper is not a distraction. I can transfer data after the game session to whatever digital environment I or the players want. Keep the players focused. –  Acedrummer_CLB Nov 21 '10 at 19:07
    
Thank You, Simple is always the best. –  Acedrummer_CLB Feb 4 '11 at 15:07
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I am fortunate to have two players who like to take notes. It hasn't always been that way. I also find I get too busy while GMing and do not end up taking good notes myself.

Some ideas:

  • We use right now a Google Doc. Multiple users can open and edit a Google Doc at the same time. The service is free. The Doc can be shared. If you have players with laptops or iPads at the game table, this is a great way to go. Everybody can contribute a note or two during a session, and by the end you have a pretty good raw log.

  • Index cards. Games generally need four main categories of notes: people, places, items and rules (house rules, frequent tricky rules). Get four colours of cards, one for each category. Anytime a new entity gets mentioned you create a card for it. Anybody can look through the cards at any time and update them with extra details. Just make annotations on the cards as you play.

  • Rotating Sage. The group Sage is responsible for logging session details. In the past this has been an assigned position based on a volunteer or a rotating duty depending on if the task is considered fun by players.

  • Campaign Newsletter. I think this is my favourite option. Break it out into sections and create a new edition between games. Session details (date, who played, location), NPCs Met, Encounters/Events, Admin.

    It's great to write this as GM yourself, because it forces you to think back through each session. Writing details out in a fast point form or bare bones fashion means you are more likely to remember them and not have to reference notes in the future, a nice irony.

    You can also push the newsletter out to your players and post them on your wiki. A search function on the wiki gives you fast reference. If your wiki allows WikiWords then use them in your notes for instance linkage.

  • Previous session review. Start each session with a verbal review of what happened last time. Assign this task to a player. While the player recounts, you listen and take notes.

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I do something very simple. I bribe the players to write it down by offering them XP bonuses (which I use to end every session) - it goes like this

  1. Player says something amazingly clever that I hadn't thought of and wanted to make sure gets recorded for later followup.
  2. I say "Wow! That was great! Write that down and read it back to me at the end of the session, when I allow petition experience point bonus."
  3. Player smiles and starts writing furiously.
  4. Other players get more engaged and start being more creative
  5. At session end I say "...OK that it for normal XP, who has any petitions for bonuses?"
  6. I always grant at least a small amount of XP for things I requested they write down. I collect any critical notes at this time.
  7. It is pretty amazing how many other things they write down as we go along on the off chance I'll grant them the bonus.
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