Elsewhere on this blog we’ve discussed how much writing outside of game time can add to the experience. In our Karia campaign we ended up with multiple novels worth of original material to add color and flavor to the game. I have no such lofty ambitions for this campaign, but since I was going to be away for almost the entire month of July I wanted something to keep my player’s heads in the game. If there were no contact that entire time I felt we’d have a lot of ground to make up when we did start playing again. Whereas even a couple mental reminders in story form could bridge the gap very well.
So I wrote an email to the entire group giving them one “hook” per character and one bigger “hook” for the entire group. The intent being that they would each reply in character how they will handle their individual situations and then discuss over email as a group how to handle the bigger one. The rules were that they could do nothing in email that altered the main plot or which would be overly challenging and thus require dice or a battlemat to resolve fairly.
So for example one of the characters was led by his pet Pseudodragon to a sunken chest. He told me how he would go about retrieving it by buying a water-breathing potion and diving in the river. He was then faced with a chest with no lock or mechanism to open it. He tried a bunch of different tactics which failed, eventually pouring holy water over it and chanting a prayer which revealed a magical inscription “Rubies from a Steel Heart”. He is now trying to figure out what that means.
There are a lot of advantages to email or blogs or any means of collaborative storytelling about your game in between sessions. When you are all together the game naturally and correctly tends to focus on the main plot and scenes of action or conflict. Telling a good story, though, involves characters that feel fully-rounded which means having side-plots and moments of pure character development. This kind of stuff often has a hard time fitting into a game session and even if you have plenty in your group sessions, you can always add more.