Context: My D&D group, this past year, has made the transition from AD&D to 5e. This has been helpful for a number of things, but particularly for taking full advantage of modern resources like Roll20. We switched to the virtual tabletop when meeting in person regularly become increasingly difficult. Now we are able to meet bi-weekly, despite living in a few different states across the US.

One of those modern resources I've personally been hung up on, however, is recording. I'm the resident DM of my group, and although we occasionally have other campaigns, mine is the go-to. We probably stayed with AD&D so long because it was what I knew, and I am admittedly a bit of a traditionalist. Change has been good thus far!

Still, I favour note-taking a great deal. I like the engagement it creates, and that it creates a way for my players to refer to things they should know in-character despite perhaps having forgotten details over the weeks. I have a pretty solid grip on what goes on in my sessions, but it also lets my players catch something that maybe I have missed that they deem important, and want to investigate, despite my forgetting it.

On the other hand, I have found a resource that would allow me to simply record everything that happened in our roughly 4-5 hour sessions, and play it back perfectly as it was. This is fantastic! I have toyed around with it (GeForce Experience is the overlay) and used it already to create instant replays of boss fights, or something funny that transpired.

There are a few reasons I see recording particualry helpful:

  • It gives a "frozen-in-amber" snapshot of a session, which can be great for memories

  • it makes it easy for us to go back and check exactly what happened

  • it provides a way to let others watch what they missed in a session if they have to leave, or can't make it

  • It could be a substitute for note-taking, so players can focus on the now and worry about notes later

  • my players could record the sessions anyway without my knowing, if they wanted their own recordings, so even if I personally don't record they may still happen (I trust my players, but feel this is a valid point for anyone having this debate)

  • even with a recording, you capture everything, not merely the points you deem important. This may require note-taking anyway, because you can't look at an mp4 file and know at-a-glance what you feel the important things that happened were

  • importantly, many of my players do not favour taking notes anyway, and their opinion is as valid as mine here

I have my concerns:

  • it could discourage note-taking, something that shows a willful intention to be engaged. I worry having recordings of exactly what happened may create less of a drive for this engagement, and I shouldn't be punishing the players who are trying harder to stay on top of what is going on in the campaign

  • this program shows exactly what is happening on my screen, so players would see my notes (there are workarounds such as ripping out the video, which isn't ideal but possible. Having another player record, which is less consistent. Keeping my notes on another monitor, which only partly works with Roll20--some info kept from them is inevitably visible on my end of the tabletop)

  • I like the traditional feeling of D&D, where everyone gets together, has a fun time, and is free to act how they want. I worry that with a recording, there will be less authenticity to that spontaneity. This could be good or bad--players may consider their wording more, their actions may be more deliberated over--but that might take away from some of the freedom that comes with playing with a group of close friends, not worrying about whoever else would hear you in the recording. (I have some shy roleplayers)

This last point is probably trickiest. The simplest solution would be to ask my players, but while the player in my group who DMs second-most intends to record his next campaign, the rest haven't shared a strong opinion. I am familiar with the research that says people perform better when their recorded, and that's fine, but I don't want anything to feel forced. Authenticity is important to me.

A disclaimer: I have not watched any D&D podcasts, so this has not influenced my opinion for better-or-worse. I also suspect that playing for an audience deliberately is its own matter, and should be addressed in its own breadth. I would consider it off-topic for my question, where we have no intention at present of sharing these recordings beyond our group. I merely mention people may be shy or conscientious because there is a "camera" at all.

For those of you who have tried recording either in-person meets, or sessions held over virtual tabletops with programs to record your sessions, how do you feel it has affected your campaign and your players? Are my concerns valid, or am I stuck in the past?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Be aware that recording people without their knowledge can be illegal. Not that I imagine any lawsuits from this but you never know. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Nov 29 '19 at 22:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaleM of course! Thank you for this tidbit. We are all on the same page about it, but others need to know too. \$\endgroup\$ – DVNO Nov 29 '19 at 22:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! I took the liberty and removed your title from the body (it really isn't needed), but a solid question otherwise. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Nov 29 '19 at 22:36
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