The Adventurers Journal.. What Is It and Why Should You Bother?

Posted by Andy Lawrence on

Hello again, yep we are back with another RPG article. This time id like to expand a little on a subject i briefly mentioned in my first article, the Player Journal.

First, some of you are going to say, who cares, I want to roll dice and hit things.

That’s great, if that’s your play style, or the play style of your group then that’s awesome, far be it from me to tell you you’re wrong, but I think there is more to an RPG then just smashing the crap out of everyone that you meet, and doing all your diplomatic talking at the business end of your weapons.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s my preferred tactic, I quite often, hit, stab, shoot or explode something before I ask questions when I’m playing in an RPG, but I also love a great story line, and a great storyline will have dips, twists, confusion, deceit, and if your GM is any good, plenty of WTF moments!

Adventurers Journals form the Players Point of View.

A lot of players won’t want to write a journal, it's too much like homework for them. I guess that’s fair enough, but most groups will have one person who makes all the notes, the person that three weeks after something happens, and everyone is scratching their heads as to where they are supposed to go next, pieces together 3 or 4 different links to push them off in the right direction, by reading the pages of their notebook.

Generally, this person gets quite frustrated with the other players, for not remembering something or for not writing down events.

Why not compile that information, in to a form that other people can read, and help them remember the story, and perhaps even get more involved in the story telling aspect of the game, you know the bit where you find out who you have to go and hit, stab, shoot and/or explode, and if there really is a reason for it, or of you need to get information out of them before you end them in an appropriate way!

The best way to do this in my experience is to write the Journal from the perspective of your character and write it to include the information the character knows, or think they know rather than from the information you as a player knows.

This has two different but equally as important effects:

1) You get to tell a story within the story and you get to direct some of the action by revealing what your character has gleaned, and what your character is willing to reveal to the other players, who have obviously not been paying much attention at all.

2) You can keep some information back, if you know it, but your character doesn’t, or if you still want to be able to wow and amaze your fellow players, without having to go over every detail every week.

It never hurts to have multiple journals from different character points of view, who knows what your companions are keeping secret from you!

I played in a Shadowrun game once where the players each kept a public journal, one they shared with each other, and then each player, that was published on the corps “intranet.”  But they also wrote a private journal, that was saved to their personal files, that they shared with just the GM, it worked perfectly, and from all accounts the players whereas distrustful of each other as they were the NPC’s!

Adventurers Journals from the GM's Point of View.

Adventurers Journals are an awesome thing for the GM.

Firstly, it shows your players are invested in the story, and are paying attention enough to want to remember what’s happening. It allows you to see how your story telling is going. If the journal matches where you’re going with the story, great if not, you might need to work on the way you get the information you consider important over to the players.

Of course, you could use that to your advantage and steer events around the players journal thoughts, or even change the story line to fall in line with it if that’s what’s needed.

It can help you understand how your players take in information, and can be an eye opener to the fact that sometimes the story’s we weave are too subtle and that players are not picking up on things, or conversely your too obvious with your information, and the players are piecing together more than you want them to at this point, or not enough, so you can put more information in for them to reach the conclusion you want them to reach.

This allows you to control in the information you are giving out, or put a particular story arc to the back burner for a few sessions till they have moved on to something else, within the game, if you don’t want them finding out secrets too early!

Don’t forget that if a player is writing a journal it means they are taking time out of what, for most of us, is a busy schedule, with family, work and other commitments so make sure you reward them for it, an extra re-roll, a small XP award, or something else that makes it worthwhile doing it for them.

Not that it means that if your group decided to not write a journal, they hate the game and wish you would do something different, every game group handles information gathering and note taking differently.

Just to give you a taste of what I have been talking about I am pleased to be able to share with you a Journal entry from my new D&D group.

Here is the first Journal entry form the new D&D Group, written by Adam March, from Swarley, his Halfling Rouge’s Point of view, have a read and enjoy Swarley’s unique view on events, and as always until next time

See you on the flipside


Swarley Capra: The Saga of One Bad Ass Mother Funkster.

I left Luskan on the river Mirar and have just spent a week on a shitty little boat and am now at some dump of a port called Mirabar, getting supplies before we head out on the trade route to Waterdeep. Not looking forward to going back there especially as it’s supposedly even worse now.         

I have teamed up with some others who are also heading in that direction. Two religious’ types Odwin and Adrem. Redgar a man of the plains and Univari an Eldarin with some talent in the magics. Univari is searching for her lost brother; if he was in Waterdeep it may be too late.

It’s been 3 days since we left port. We have found an abandoned log cabin and decided to investigate. After Redgar started a fire the cabin filled with smoke so Adrem climbed onto the roof to see what was up with the chimney, I don’t know what he was thinking climbing up there in full plate and prating about, he did however solve the smoke problem by falling through the roof. Univari started a proper fire with a small fire spell. Time to get some rest…

Wow what a morning… So, we left the cabin in the morning and after a few minutes some of the party started freaking out and the next thing we knew a 12ft guy is standing in the road demanding that someone gives it to him. Sure, the hell aint gonna be me I don’t swing that way, especially with a 12f freak.                                                                                      

As it turns out he was talking to Odwin. The whole journey he had been holding on to something and turns out that this giant now wants it. As it turns out its something called a Bearded Devil. Odwin confessed that this box is an item intended for Risarr Vacren in Waterdeep, this guy is seriously bad news, what he would want with a religious artefact I have no idea and I sure the hell wouldn’t want to find out.

After this thing throws two bags in the road claiming to be parts of dead bodies Odwin comes to his senses and hands over the box. Once the Devil had the box he vanished and left a nice present in the form of some minions. Imps! Long story short we kicked their asses.

In the bags were some pig heads. The devil tricked us but even so I don’t think we could have taken him on and lived to tell the tale. At least we had something to eat that night other than rations.

Two and a half weeks have passed by with nothing to note. We came upon a caravan this afternoon that had been ransacked by what would appear to be Goblinoids.

In the last few days it’s becoming more evident we are closer to the green bastards. Little shrines signs and broken arrows are showing up more often. 

This evening the skies opened, and it started pouring down with rain. As we only have the one tent between us, we decided to take shelter off the road. We followed a game trail to a cave. Upon entering the cave, we were attacked by a pissed of Rage Drake full of Goblin arrows. Let it be known I’m eating well again tonight.

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