Read Chris Perkins’ great column The Dungeon Master Experience over at the Wizard’s site today. I’m really enjoying both this and Mike Mearl’s column too. They seem to be replacing the blog posts we (very occasionally got from the two of them, but these are free to read, and are thought provoking and illuminating in equal measure.
What was perhaps a little odd about this column was that Chris’ advice directly contradicts that given by James Wyatt in the DMG. Compare and contrast, DMG p19 first:
You can give the recap, but it’s a great task to delegate.When a player or group summarizes the events of the last adventure, you get a glimpse inot the players minds….. it let’s you see what the players remember and what they think is important, shows you their understanding of the story, and can give you ideas for future plot twists
And from Chris:
Some DMs rely on their players to provide the recap. Having tried it as a DM and experienced it as a player, I think that’s a mistake. Left to their own devices, players will often focus on the wrong details, or get the facts wrong, or phrase the recap in a way that doesn’t reinforce the atmosphere you’re trying to evoke. The recap is the DM’s best tool to get the session started on the right foot, and to immerse players in the moment.
Of course they’re both right. I’d been quite happily going along with the DMG for some time, and getting some good results, some of the time. Having said that, I had been finding myself having to take over the recap to make sure everything was covered. I think that might be because we’ve been playing modules rather than home grown adventures. If I were writing more of my own stuff, I think the DMG advice would still stand true. For modules though, I think Chris’ advice would have gotten me out of the hole I found myself in with last night’s game.
Last night we continued Kingdom of the Ghouls, and following last weeks stellar session, I was anticipating great things. Trouble is, the recap showed that the group hadn’t really taken on board the cool plots and hooks that I’d provided, or maybe that they didn’t think much of them. Dan even took notes! The game never really got off to a strong start, partly due to this, and partly due to a lack of direction or impetus. I keep forgetting I don’t have any real ‘instigators’ at my table (myself excluded) and that they really don’t enjoy being given complete freedom of choice. A decent recap, from my side of the screen, could well have helped get the game off and running in a clear direction.
So, note to self, bullet points it is in future.