Tag Archives: game

Lying about Reality

Malcolm Sheppard’s has a somewhat confusing rant about Actual Play reports and how they present very distorted, partial and lacking images of what really happens in roleplaying sessions. Social interactions and story elements that were prominent in the session vanish from the report, and other aspects get a skewed focus in the retelling. In the comments Fred Hicks throws out the term Story Later, which I think is Forge-terminology for the phenomenon by which the “this happened, and then this happened” of the session inspires a wholy fictional narrative that is created only in the retelling of the events. Sheppard’s complaints are more complicated than that, but Fred’s point struck a chord with me in light of our own games.

I’ve been running roleplaying campaigns for the same folk for years, and I scrupulously avoid the juvenile[1] activity of plotting or planning anything before the campaign starts and before the game happens – what they call on the internet forums “prep”. This means that I rely very heavily on the background generated during play, and for years my group has canonicalized all past story through the simple device of a recap at the beginning of each session, when I summarize the events of the previous session(s) and we all refresh our memories of what’s going on. In the past year, since Israel’s tenure as GM, we’ve started using wikis alot to record the events of past sessions and details of various NPCs and plot points. But since we are lazy and not very diligent, our online recaps often contain vast gaps and sometimes whole fabrications created by a careless recapper to fill in the gap between the events that he does remember. And whenever a single person recaps in the wiki (we used to do it as a group in the beginning of each session, but it really consumes time), he will create this partial and skewed version of the events which can disagree violently with what actually happened in game or with how other players remember things happening.

I’m not saying that recapping or wikis are bad; I think they just make us confront how the issues Malcolm raises with AP aren’t confined to people trying to show others on Internet forums what D&D 4E or their latest Indie sweetheart game is like — they occur in every ongoing roleplaying game when players sit down and remind themselves what reality looked like last time they played in it. Every roleplaying game is an ongoing story being told and re-told by a bunch of unreliable narrators.

[1] – I say prep is “juvenile” because it is a classic adolescent lonely fun activity.