Continuity and Memory

When I am at full burn creative improvisational mode, my memory is even worse than usual. Since I started running games, that’s been an issue. I believe strongly that continuity in a game setting brings its own pleasures and rewards, and they are worth the effort.

I tried recording sessions with a cassette recorder in the 90s. It didn’t work. It was too distracting, the tapes weren’t long enough, the sound they picked up was muddy at best, etc. etc. etc.

In the second decade of the new millennium I tried again, with a digital recorder a friend discarded. The sound was not so good, the battery was not so good. My good friend Paul bought me a new digital recorder–long battery life, great microphones. I’ve been using it to record game sessions since I got it, and I’m very happy with it.

Sometimes I can go back and wing it as I write a session report, especially in a dungeon crawl. In a complex game with lots of people doing totally different things to manage their own networks of contacts and subplots, that’s too much for me to remember considering there’s a potent blend of pre-prepared material and improvising on the spot.

It takes time, and it’s not much fun, but going back through and taking notes of my own game sessions gives me awesome play reports. I have sketchy ones I post here on the blog, and much longer ones that I keep for my reference. So if I need to know when something happened, I can skim the text and find it. If I need to know the last time they met someone, I can find that too. It is searchable. I can remind myself of stuff that happened nine months ago with a skim through the game record. This is valuable.

So, I make game summaries for me, and for my players. Mostly for me. As useful as they are as resources for continuity in my games, they are even more useful for nostalgia. I go back and look at adventure reports I have elsewhere from a decade ago, and I can read through and get far more out of it than I do from my sketchy notes heavily supplemented by improvisation and shorthand for things I would surely remember forever.

If you want to see my notes, they are here. I add to it as we go. That’s cool and all… but it just gets cooler as time passes and I can still go back and see the reports. I have all the games from 2012 and 2013. And in 10 years I will be able to look back and see what I was playing then. As I get older, that becomes more valuable.

So here’s some advice along similiar lines. If you make art, date it. If you make game notes, dungeons, whatever–date it. Put dates on things so when you look back you know how it fits into your life. You know what came when. The years fly faster as you get older, and you may someday be grateful for a jotted note in a margin as you wonder which version of you sketched out the scrap of imagination you hold in your hand.

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