Here’s one quick way to fix this common problem every GM and playgroup faces, while keeping your story and characters brilliant and alive: use story glue.
Remember, Remember the Last Session
Life outside of gaming exists, so small and helpful reminders go a long way. You need a sort of glue that connects the space between sessions. A glue that reflects and celebrates last game’s best moments yet also previews your next game, generating excitement for your upcoming game night.
Think of this glue as quick, simple, character-focused story summary to help your players remember and relate again to the game and setting in two critical ways: the story you’re creating together, and the characters who lead and grow throughout that story.
After all, it’s all about the characters – who they are and what they do – when it comes to a great story, right? Just ask Game of Thrones.
Here’s an example of the glue posts I use on our current campaign’s message board. No later than one or two days following our weekly game night, I post something like this:
Seascape Cast of Characters & Memorable Moments
Recent Moments of Greatness
“Don’t worry, I have something powerful – a compass!” — Thorvald, in reference to sailing into the fog of the Cauldron’s Heart, after recovering Witch Hazel’s floating hand
“It burns, but thank you master!” — thought to be the last words of a zombie gnoll dancing in a fire made by Morngrim after he seized control of the zombie gnoll’s mind
“I’m going after Leopold!” — Ashram’s last words before jumping on The Jackal’s cog, in hot pursuit of the The Sea Titan – before his friends grappling hooked him back
“Oh! You want to go on a date with me?” — Lillian to the mute elf sailor, who smelled her deeply before he attempted to mime that he, like her, was also a skilled cook
in reverse order of appearance, following player characters
Ashram – security, deckhand (Ryan)
Lillian – security, deckhand, ship’s cook (Lexy)
Morngrim of the Drazhalhar Clan - security, deckhand, ship’s priest (Dave)
Thorvald Rimehammer - security, deckhand (Bouche)
Mad Witch Hazel - head, hand and teaset!
(unknown) – elf sailor rescued from Jackal ship, cook, mute w/ 3 even white streaks in black hair
Wil Awlings - nervous deckhand, nephew to Aemes
Jon Crimley – shady deckhand
Kaetlyn “Kaet” Leurey - flirtatious deckhand
Aemes – ship’s cook
Mullens – ship’s carpenter
Ferris – ship’s surgeon
Leopold – captain of navy ship Sea Titan
Kinsing – captain of The Jackal, quartermaster/bosun of Sea Titan
Select the Best Moments
As you play, make a note (mental or written) of the very best lines you hear from your players – or from yourself when you roleplay NPCs! What are some signals that a memorable moment just happened? One worthy of posting as story glue for its creativity and impact? If everyone’s having a great laugh or has an expression of jaw-dropping wonder or amazement, that’s your cue.
Sometimes it’s more subtle, such as when your quieter players are suddenly excited and engaged, having a rare, lively conversation with a monstrous NPC they captured. Maybe a halfling paladin and a fugitive gnoll ranger named Slurg (this happened in last Saturday’s game!).
Keep Up with the Cast
Keeping your cast of characters up to date is easy – 80% of the time, a copy/paste from your last glue post works fine. Add in a few tweaks, such as a rare new party members, or a few new NPCs from last session at the top of the list, and presto, you’re done! This simple maintenance task doubles as a useful name list for both you and your players. No more wondering who’s who or how to spell this or that character’s or NPC’s name.
Remember, characters drive an adventure, story and campaign more than any other element, so there is no more important list to maintain than a list of your story’s most influential personalities.
Finish Strong to Start Strong
Story glue is a fast, simple way to communicate with your playgroup between games. Whether you post, email, text or read it aloud at game start, it helps you finish strong with your last game’s best moments and most impactful characters. And this simple, artful summary prepares everyone mentally for the next chapter in the unfolding story of your game. It helps set the story’s tone and rekindle the curiosity surrounding its mysteries and secrets. It’s a natural preview or teaser for all of the unanswered questions from last session.
So next time you feel like summarizing last session and opening the next with a classic prose or narrated intro, try a few memorable quotes and scenes and a prioritized list of major characters instead. This simple twist on the classic adventure summary saves you time and keeps the focus on the best things of all in tabletop RPGs: the characters and all the incredible (and hilarious) things they say and do.
If you liked this article you might also like:
- Adding Character to Your Character
- What is Atmosphere? Not What, but Whom
- How to: Write Great In-Character Posts
- Fear of Death: Creating Unforgettable Character Death Scenes
- Reward Moments of Greatness: ‘I Attack the Darkness!’