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Recently I've finished a game with my GM (tips hat) having no problem with answering "most of some questions" about the setting, plot, game etc. but wasn't comfortable with sharing his GM notes. That's perfectly fair and I have no problem with that. On the other hand, I have always been very open about finished game "coulda-woulda-shoulda" and happy to share my notes, provided I made some and they were in a presentable state (excluding ones with unintelligible handwriting or ones that were lost to element exposure or time).

But I never really considered what sort of impact this would have for the group, in terms of their perception of the past scenario and future ones. I guess this does affect how players see me as a GM, but I don't know how and to what extent.

I'm looking for answers that can describe a likely outcome of sharing (or not sharing) the notes at the end of the campaign and revealing the game's "big secrets" and alternate paths the party didn't take. A good answer would point towards experience with sharing scenario details. I appreciate that every group is different and there might not be a definite answer. At my table each scenario sees different players, some of which might never have played with me before, so I would look for generic take on note sharing.

To make the question a bit more specific:

  • The campaigns I run are mostly open-ended, homebrew ones, with a choice of 2-3 plot hooks. The plotline players are most interested in becomes the main one, the rest are sidequests.
  • I prepare one-two sessions in advance and have no set campaign ending. I do prepare additional hooks and complications, some of which players might miss.
  • There is a timeline of in-universe events some of which might be prevented by the players and some not.
  • The games in question are World of Darkness flavours, Fate adventures or PbtA (Dungeon World). I also play/run others but I they are out of scope for this question.
  • I'm not worried about losing material, as I run less content than I create, but loss of immersion or players adjusting to my plot-writing habits is a factor that concerns me.
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closed as primarily opinion-based by Miniman, Oblivious Sage, SevenSidedDie Apr 12 '16 at 18:35

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sharing notes when? You make an allusion to a scenario in which, I think, it was shared after the entire campaign, but are we talking every game or every session or just in general here? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 11 '16 at 10:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ After the entire campaign is over, at the end of the last session, later online, or perhaps at the next meeting where the game is discussed (if at all). \$\endgroup\$ – eimyr Apr 11 '16 at 11:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the game matters quite a bit for this... The difference between a homebrew D&D adventure, a D&D module or a session of something PbtA will very much affect how sharing GM notes should be viewed. \$\endgroup\$ – aslum Apr 11 '16 at 13:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ One more important update: under no circumstances I would be ever sharing the notes with unwilling players. I can't even imagine such a situation... Adam, quick! Hold Bill while I read! \$\endgroup\$ – eimyr Apr 12 '16 at 17:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Having reviewed the answers, the flags on the question, and the close votes, I've thrown in my close vote as well. I suspect this has a hidden kernel of potential for a solid Q&A style question, but as currently written it is going to / has already become an opinion poll. This would be an excellent discussion forum thread, and doesn't appear to be working as-written as a Stack-style question. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 12 '16 at 18:37
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If you're doing a stage play and something goes horribly wrong, but you manage to hide it from the audience then all is fine. However, if you then tell the audience what went wrong and how you managed to hide it the audience will feel cheated. As if they got a sub-par version of the play.

The same can often be said about roleplaying.

If the players go through an adventure and you tell them stuff they missed, cool things that were messed up but workably salvaged and so on you could very well ruin a bit of the experience for the players. If a player asks a specific question I often answer it truthfully, but I seldom divulge information if the players do not ask for it.

Then again, this depends a lot on the players themselves. Some people have a high understanding for stuff not going as planned (especially other GM:s) and do not think of the planned adventure as some kind of optimal version. It's the most frustrating answer in the book: It all depends.

There is another angle though. Many people I have played with have also been GM:s and sometimes it's interesting and beneficial to compare notes. An intellectual discussion after an adventure can be quite rewarding and need not take away anything from the adventure itself. But it could. For some.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Also note that in some kinds of campaigns, players might be able to go back and reclaim the things they 'missed' - which is to say, even if the adventure ends, telling players they missed stuff might lead to disappointment. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Apr 12 '16 at 1:26
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I will break this down into two parts - personal experience and generic effects.


Personal experience

Even though I did not DM much campaigns, in those that I did I shared my notes and ideas for the campaign after it ended and answered questions regarding the player's actions after sessions in case the answer did not affect the story any further.

I think this approach is heavily dependent on the players themselves. In our group it was something they enjoyed. It was just another piece of our session-wrap-up, where we discuss with DM what we liked or disliked about the session.


General effect

Sharing these ideas is not only group dependent, as mentioned above, but also story dependent. To make note sharing have some effect, the story must have branches that were not explored, ideas that were not used, monsters that were not defeated an so on.

If you have an adventure, which is less open world and more just dungeon crawl / one-already-decided-storyline, there is nothing much to share with players that they would not encounter in the campaign itself. However in case your campaign offers variety of options to do, being prepared for most of them and then using some according to player's actions leaves you with some unused material. There you have to decide if you want to reuse it in the future.

Players might want to know how else could they get in the castle but if you give them the list of possible ways, next time you put castle in your story, they will already know your last options and will probably just take one of them -> you will have to either prepare different ones or deal with it.

I will break possible positive and negative effects down as I see them.

Positive effects

  • Players will be motivated to expore more so they won't miss so much in next campaign
  • It will answer some questions about the story that were unanswered because of the game development (why did that guy give us in to the guards? -because you killed his father in the forest in the very beginning)
  • Players will get new ideas and perhaps try different approach next campaign depending on how their actions affected the current one (for example if they see that you had planned whole section for sneaky approach, they will be more motivated to try doing that next time instead of kicking down doors and killing everyone in the sounds of battle horn from their dwarf bard...)
  • You as a DM can share and talk about things that you could not during the campaign (guys, I have no idea how you were able to miss this, I gave you this hint like 4 times -now that you mention this, he DID look a bit suspicious)
  • Probably many more

Negative effects

  • You lose content (whatever you share, you can't reuse in the near future with the same group and achieve the effect of surprise)
  • You can't easily create mysterious characters appearing in more adventures as if you reveal that the blacksmith was important and in the next campaign, they meet him again, they will probably remember...
  • Some players might not like it because they like the thrill of surprise, of not knowing the "behind the scenes" and even if they retain from reading your notes themselves, if the rest of the group knows these things, it could potentially cause troubles and tension later (oh this guy looks similar to the secret agent that DM had in the last campaign we did not discover, we better be more careful around this guy, just to be sure)
  • New players could be affected. Just like in the previous case, new players that join your group will be in a spot where they would miss some meta information and might feel handicapped by it (oh how was I supposed to know that this trap deals so much damage -well we did avoid this statue in our last encounter and DM had it as a special trap, seems he reused it here...) or alternatively (watch out for this statue, last adventure, these statues contained deadly traps so check them in advance... -great now I missed on a deadly surprise)
  • Probably many more

To sum it up, in general I think it boils down to the players themselves. If you have group that is happy with knowing the ropes and tricks that pull the story and you don't have issues with sharing your notes, I think it is a good way to give players a bit more fun - maybe meta-talk the game after the campaign ends, discover the routes that were cut off and so on...

However, when it comes to new players joining your group, this is something they should be familiar in advance so that you avoid possible misunderstandings later.

Finally, keep in mind that sharing your notes puts much more pressure on you, as a DM, to come up with fresh and original content for the following adventure.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The bottom line (for me as a DM) you summed up in your last sentence. Recycling has its virtues. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 11 '16 at 12:38
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I guess it really depends on your GM style. I would never share my notes with players as they tend to be quite loose and can make it seem like there was no overall plan (there is, it's just a very loose series of events that the PCs influence). The other downsides are that I might want to reuse something the PCs miss later (they miss the necromancer in a dungeon, later they might come across him and he's even more powerful), or that I might have scribbled something they might take issue with or which would influence their future game play (Paladin killed neutral prisoner, possibly on the path to fallen paladin).

Having said all of that, I often talk with players about the session, point out things they did that surprised me and what they did that probably wasn't the best idea (more of the former, it's rare that PCs actually do something wrong per se, the only example I can think of is when my players forgot to search for loot for an entire dungeon).

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Quick Take.

Please don't share your notes as the DM. As a player I'm building a story as well and any "god vision" detracts from that.

Players looking to be DM's are of course a different example. Collaboration is a fast track to success!

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