For me, this question always comes down to the division of labor between players and GMs. On the one hand, taking control of the session recap allows a GM to set the tone for a session and make sure that all the most important plot info is written down. On the other hand, overworked GMs need a break! Letting a player take the reigns as party scribe can lighten the workload. Moreover, in-character journals can be a lot of fun, and you wind up missing out on those when you decide to write all the sessions summaries in the Omniscient GM mode.
So how about it? How do you go about organizing your notes? How do you handle recapping at the beginning of sessions? Give me your best practices, tips, tricks, and you all your finest et ceteras!
As the GM, I use the recap to remind players of what they are doing currently and how to progress, usually trying to end with a question or a call to action. Sometimes, there just isn't anything to say and I keep it short.
I'll throw out 2 examples from the same Hell's Rebels campaign.
Dance of the Damned
"I don't think all of you have met the neighbors. They've been locked out of their apartment. It's a long story. A long, farcical story based on a series of contrived misunderstandings."
-James Roberts, More than Meets the Eye
Gozran 25, 4716 Moonday
Having arrived in Vyre, the Silver Ravens found lodging at The Seven Apples, an adventurer friendly hostel ran by Molly Mayapple, the halfling the party was looking for to return to her deeds to properties stolen from her long ago by a now defunct criminal organization. With her help, the Ravens now have an invitation to a party held by Vyre's Queen of Delights, the city's defacto diplomat. Seeking to create an alliance between the Silver Ravens and Vyre to secure their position it will become important to impress the Queen.
Unfortunately, at the same time, Lyssa has had a troubled family reunion. Her father, Gary Liefinder, was in Vyre trying to sell a fake Thorncrown of Iomedae to some agents of the Glorious Reclamation, a splinter sect of the Iomedaean church that is currently invading Cheliax in the south. He tried to involve Lyssa who turned the tables on him and while he tried to flee the angry revolutionaries he was attacked and arrested by an Agent of House Thrune. Jackdaw dispatched Kit to follow them and the agent explained that if Lyssa and her friends could get the Glorious Reclaimation out of Vyre and Rouvenel, she would release Gary.
Even if they succeed, can they trust the word of the spy?
Song of Silver Episode 57
"I know I should refer to them as "fellow Decepticons", but I don't want to drag the movement into disrepute. They call themselves the Scavangers, but they pronounce it differently everytime they say it, like it's a joke. Everything's a joke to them...a joke with no punchline."
- James Roberts, Lost Light
Desnus 30, 4716
The Silver Ravens met with Field Marshal Trex on the Bleakbridge and convinced the Dottari Commander to have her forces switch sides to the new regime. As a result the dragon Rivozair attacked the bridge and after a difficult battle, she was defeated, breaking the last of Paracount Barzillai Thrune's tenuous hold over the city. All that remains is storming the Temple of Asmodeous where he and his surviving minions and allies have holed up, preparing a dark ritual called the Mephisto Manifestation to turn the tide of this battle back to their favor.
|Darksol the Painbringer|
We put DBZ recap music on and have some fun.
Mostly we the players do it and then the DM tell us something important we may have forgotten. We all take notes mid session so usually we remember everything important.
This is always the running gag I do with my groups.
"On the last episode of PathFinder Z!"
Sadly, we don't manage to hold it together long enough before we just go back to a more simple retelling.
But I will definitely give it a better shot the next time I GM, which should be in a few months or so.
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not going to lie - I bribe them. Hero point for anyone that kept ANY even modest amount of notes during a session.
It works. Some keep better notes than others, and some don't care enough (or need the hero points) enough to try, but most do, and it helps balance out rolls for the people that tend to get screwed by rng/die rolling
|The Shifty Mongoose|
In one adventure, the DM gives out a little extra EXP to the party for a recap of the previous session, and encourages everyone to take turns retelling part of it. Unfortunately, one or two players tend to get carried away and try for the whole thing at once.
In one where I'm the DM, I set up an Adventure Journal thread on the VTT and offered a Hero Point to the last person to post something non-consecutive. It worked until it was the turn for the player who has anxiety or something similar. The player has notes written down and means to post something, and I'm thinking of encouraging one of the other players to post something.
|The Gleeful Grognard|
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"Okay who wants to give a recap of what happened last session?"
"Does anyone have anything else they want to add?"
"What are your current goals?"
"Read out a feat, ability or item you have but haven't used much"
The last one has nothing to do with recaps, but is excelent at getting people to know their characters well.
I play in a group and GM another (though theres a lot of overlap with members)
In the one I play in, it's usually done by a volunteer player. When it's my turn, I usually retell it from the POV of my character. This campaign is a little sandboxy, so it works
That said, the people in the group I DM like it when I DM with a more directed story, so I recap a synopsis, and leave in space for players to speak up and add. The people I DM for are really quiet, and b3ing asked to recap can b4 felt like being put on the spot, so I use it as a chance to serve as like an RP warmup, where I break the ice and let people come in on their own terms
|The Gleeful Grognard|
I like to start by asking players what they remember from the last session. I have some players who keep good notes, which are helpful for recaps, but it helps me to hear what stuck in their memory and what didn't.
This is why I get them to do it rather than doing it by myself. It gets them thinking about what they remember actively, commit more to memory, lets me know what they have gravitated to or potentially missed and gives me a general idea of how invested they are in any one element.
I have also had GMs who give out rewards for recaps, but I personally feel that cheapens the experience and tends to encourage a single recap person who keeps better notes or is a more confident speaker than the rest.
I have had a GM who gave out experience and then reduced the experience given for each bit of information they forgot or got wrong, even if minor or actually inconsequential. That was less fun imo.
I give everyone a hero point for remembering something that someone else didn't (no matter how small), and if they can't think of anything or if someone already covered what they were thinking of, they can instead get a hero point for giving a fun fact about their character. Pretty much anything goes. Could be their favorite color, happiest childhood memory, ect. Helps for when some of my overachiever players give an even more in depth recap than I was thinking of.
In broad strokes, no more than a few sentences worth.
"When last we left our heroes, you were continuing to trawl through the Castle of Doom. Having discovered that the Lich-King could only be slain by Grunthar's magical hammer, you are seeking in out here. Last week, you fought a Pain Slug and Tarren killed it with plenty of fireballs. You have convinced the jailer of the castle dungeon to aid you by helping him romance his troll girlfriend. We cut in on you standing in front of her door, flowers in hand..."
When last we left our heroes... has become sufficiently iconic in the group that it's the GM signal for "Ok, end conversations, game is starting..."