I have a mostly-weekly Pathfinder campaign that’s been going on for a couple of years now; the players have made it to level 14, with a mythic tier of 7, plus some things that aren’t entirely in the rules of the game. They’ve gone from a group that was a pair of orphans, a runaway kobold slave, and an exiled tengu to a trio of demigods who’ve set themselves in opposition to the Last Mother, a goddess who was supposed to birth the next world when the current one dies, only to be corrupted by the Outer Darkness when she tried to go back and see how the current world was made by walking in the timeless void. The player of the tengu left the party, and the group voted to finish the campaign before we try to add a new player.
In the Game Lessons set of posts, I’ll mostly talk about the weekly sessions and how things went, although without spoiling anything. I can usually keep ahead of my players, but sometimes they throw me for a loop. There’s usually something that can help other GMs – and other players – in their own game prep and design, I think, so that’s what we’ll focus on; some of the questions may be prompted by one of my players, who is aiming to start his own campaign soon.
This time, I’m just going to illustrate the importance of getting someone to do a campaign log, something that can be highlighted simply by including the campaign log done by one of my players for the current game. Logs done by players are pure gold for GMs – they tell you what players have figured out, what they’re getting wrong, and what hints you’ve dropped that they’ve either picked up on or missed entirely.
More importantly, they serve to remind you about things you’re going to forget. It doesn’t matter how good your memory is, unless you’re one of the unfortunate people who suffer from eidetic memory, you will forget things – names, plot hooks you threw out that people seemed to ignore until they decide to pursue them a year of real time later, when you’ve let the hint drop off your radar, all sorts of things that you’ll want to look back at and refresh your memory about later.
Best of all, if you have someone who gets into it and provides the log in an in-character fashion, you get a window into how the game is being seen through the eyes of at least one player. If they’re expressing boredom or confusion, you can take steps to fix the problem. If another player is being a problem, the stresses will show up in the journal and give you a warning that you might need to quietly take steps to mitigate it. It’ll also give you a feel for whether or not you seem to be neglecting any players, which can lead to boredom and people falling out of a group.
When you’re GMing, even if you take notes (I am notoriously guilty for only rarely logging things that happen in the game), it can be easy to forget to write something down if you’re busy with an intense scene or while running a combat. Getting a player to log things will do wonders for your own ability to recover and recall things; even if they’re completely off-target, their recounting will help trigger your memory.
So, Game Lesson #1: Logs are your friend. Players who do logs are your friend. Bribing a player to keep a log is worth the trouble. You won’t regret having it available, and the odds are you can find a would-be author in your group willing to take the task on.