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DM Advice: Try using a Living Recap document!

I don't know why it took me over two years to figure this out, but life is full of mysteries. Creating and maintaining a "living" session recap document is a great idea. It's simple, organized, and readily available to the players anytime they want to check in. In the world of software development and beyond a "living document" is a dynamic document that provides information that is current, accurate, and easy to understand. More relevant to our uses: it's a document that is continually edited and updated.

I use Google Docs. Any online note taking tool will do. After every session simply add a new heading with the session number and date at the top. Write in the recap under the heading. Once the document is established go ahead and send the URL to the party. Keep it up to date, add in whatever other information is important: reoccurring NPCs, visited locations, level ups, or current objectives. To promote engagement players can be allowed to comment on or contribute to the document.

Updating this document is yet-another task for the Dungeon Master. But it comes with a number of benefits, well worth the effort:

  1. Allows players to pick up on info they, as a player, may have missed that their character definitely wouldn't have missed.

  2. Helps everyone remember what happened in the last few sessions, even if that was three weeks ago.

  3. Helps the DM keep track of character decisions, information already uncovered, and branching plot points.

  4. Self-documents the campaign story as it unfolds, chronicling the smaller moments that may otherwise be forgotten a year later.

Curse of Strahd Recaps

Players have the easy job of showing up and playing the game. Yet, even the most astute player may not jot down all the key info, pick up on the subtle hints, or remember that particular NPC's name. Dungeon Masters have a special, intimate insight into their own world, notes, and plot points. It sometimes blinds us to the information overload and fatigue players may have to navigate. Therefor, having a living recap document can help the DM share critical information players may have missed.

Alternatively, if maintaining a document is too much effort there is also the Accidental DM's approach. Ask the players to recap last session to verify what they learned in their own words and clarify inconsistencies. As an extension of this, the Dungeon Master could ask their players to maintain the living recap document, putting the effort on them and freeing up more time to plan their demise.


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