Last week, on tips for players, I went over focus in combat situations. This week I want to focus less on combat and more on role play. We’ll take a look at how to take notes during the game, how to keep on track through your own wants and needs as a player vs your character, and how to handle when your GM really wants your group to do one thing.
It can be a daunting task to try and write down every special thing a GM throws at you. You’ve got to keep track of names, locations, plot notes, character notes, track stats, and more. A nice GM will keep notes on names and people for you as your characters would likely remember them if they are mentioned enough.
The trick here, just keep it simple. I tend to remember things from key points. Here is an example of more recent notes from one of my recent game nights.
- Sunstone feeding people/keeping temperate climate.
- Orcs have attacked trade routes, seem frail/hungry.
- People eat/hunt even though being fed by stone.
- Met Dwarf brothers. Names; Heimdallir? and Raegar? Tiefling too, Daffy?
- Helped town watch/spread Torm’s word.
- Stopped barfight with dwarf brothers and some 1/2 Orc.
- Some dude looked strange in bar, kept eye on him.
- Explosion rocked town, dude ran, chased him.
- Orcs attacked, killed several, found big bad orc stealing sun stone.
- Chased him to a cave. It contained weak orcs.
- Found orc who stole stone, got him to turn himself in; in exchange for the safety of the orcs he was trying to protect.
- +800 XP, +2 Fame/Prestige, 150gp
- Sent word to church of Lathander in town to assist in recovering orcs back at cave.
All of that was one entire game night. A lot more went on. Lots of combat, some other names (I don’t care for spelling, I don’t ask people how they spell their names in real life unless I’m actually writing it down.), and more other story points. The trick I used, only write what directly affected my character or what my character was actually interested in. You do not need detailed notes throughout a night; your GM has those at the ready. You must keep in mind, you don’t get to hear and see everything that goes on in a game. As a person you do, that’s outside of the game, that’s meta-game. In the game, if you roll low perception, you miss out on stuff and that stuff shouldn’t be noted right away; not unless picked up on later or told about it.
Even from these quick notes, it’s very easy to tell what happened. All of these things are able to trigger your memory if you would like to write a more detailed journal for later as well, kind of like how I do for my weekly recaps. Keeping your notes short and sweet make combat more manageable. Keeping notes specific to your character makes sure that your decisions later are not affected by meta-game information. Speaking of…
Needs vs Want
My rule of thumb for character decisions, if it’s not in my notes; it’s not important to my character. World events that are widely known are part of my notes, things my character has done are part of the notes. Just like in real life, my character makes choices based on things that have effected him, and by the situation at that point in time. Do I want that hammer of +13 Ogre decapitation? Hell yes. Will I traverse the Dungeon of Deadly Denizens of Dastardly Deeds to get it? Hell yes! Would my character? According to my notes, not a chance. My notes say that my character has to have a curse lifted, invest in his hometown’s army, and take his companion to Silverymoon in the next month. Those are his priorities, those are what he needs to do. Just because my GM dropped a juicy filet mignon wrapped in crunchy bacon as an adventure hook, doesn’t mean that’s what your character is supposed to do. A good GM will drop hooks left and right; let you bite your own choice of bait for the next adventure. In this case, I do not need, or want that, in character.
What if, instead, I had to do the same dungeon, but the reward was a lost item of a Archbishop or disciple of Torm? One infused by the word of Torm himself? Suddenly things change. My character doesn’t need that, but he would want it. Suddenly he has a real choice ahead, risk not making it to Silverymoon in time, or risk this item being forever lost in the Dungeon of Deadly Denizens of Dastardly Deeds. This is mostly on your GM, but do not ever feel forced to go off on random tangents that have nothing to do with your character. Often times, I get so into a character, that I will feel compelled to avoid things that have nothing to do with them. This makes things a little more challenging on your GM, but to me; I’m not there to get bored doing random things. I want to develop a character that has meaning to me; enjoy a story and have fun. It’s boring to go into a random dungeon just for the heck of it. If I want that, I can pickup any hack and slash game. What sets tabletop games apart from that is the ability to really get into your character and do something other than just hack and slash. Though, there is nothing wrong with just hack and slash styles of play, even more so if that’s what your character desires.
But, my GM is only doing this…
Ah, the old GM railroad. A newer, less experienced, or really excited GM will do this a lot. They plan up an adventure and only want to do that one adventure; whether or not your character cares much about what lies ahead for that particular adventure. It’s happened to me a lot. I want to play D&D, but my GM wants us all to do one thing for this session. You get dropped one hook, go slay this monster, get the loot. Go after this guy. Go do that thing. It’s alright if that’s what my character is interested in. But, what if it’s something you or your character doesn’t really want to do?
The best thing to do, bring it up with the GM. Just say “Hey, is what’s in it for my character?” If he lists off random loot, and that’s not anything your character likes, then tell him. “Well my character isn’t really into any of that, he wants to do something that has meaning to him.” This will get the GM to either, let you go do your own thing and split the party (not really that hard to deal with), or add something to the place that will give your character a reason. Yes, it’s still a railroad, but at least now it will be worth your while. The maw of a thousand wurms, that holds treasures of old adventurers… Now becomes the maw of a thousand wurms, that holds treasures of old adventurers, and your old master is rumored to have ventured here right about the time he went missing. Suddenly there has been a real change of plans! Now I really want to see if this is true, and if he died here, or still lives, or has anything to pass on to me, perhaps a final message!?! If your GM doesn’t do something about it, and you don’t want to do it; I hate to say it but there are better ways to spend your time for the night. A GM that stubborn wouldn’t me much fun to play with anyways.
That’s all for Tips for Players this week. I’ll have a new poll up on Thursday, looks like Vecna is the winner of debates according to our last poll! As always, chicken go cluck cluck, cow go moo, piggy go oink oink, how ’bout you? ~Vexar