Things We Find in the Dark
The above is a page from a book that exists in a TTRPG universe. It’s perhaps of moderate interest to the current player group but no one else, unless they just want nightmares. It was not handed out last session. Same goes for the second image which is a handout, but was not handed out. That’s the theme of todays blog.
There’s been an ongoing discussion between myself and several beta groups about player handouts. Some of them may not have been talking about handouts specifically, but it was the general concept of how much information is given to the players written down, versus how much they should remember or write down themselves if need be.
TLDR: It depends on the adventure you are playing and the players you are playing with. If that’s a good enough answer for you then thanks for stopping by and I hope I’ve got something more interesting for you next time…
For those of you who are super nerdy like me and into this stuff, I’ll try and skip across the surface level of the main arguments in a way that is unsatisfying and non-conclusive so that you can argue about it amongst yourselves. Glad you’re still hear, enjoy your hate reading.
When solving a mystery, a large majority of players wanted to have handouts for physical things or important notes or evidence, but absolutely refused the idea of handouts for rumours or snippets of information they had heard/seen. They instead wanted to either write it down, or just remember it. the main argument against handouts for information you gain is that it changes the mystery into a collection quest. In the same manner that a lot of video game RPGs have you collect the right evidence and then the proper dialog appears, without the players ever putting 2 and 2 together… or as I’ve been guilty of, even bothering to the read the dialog. You can only deal with so much bloated drivel before tuning out… hmm. Should I be self-aware here…naaaah.
The counter argument to this is that play sessions can often be a week, or even a month apart, and it’s hard for players to retain everything about a game when they have other things in their lives to deal with between times: the kind involving real world consequences. Many experienced DM’s may poopoo this because that is the whole point of the recap in a complex campaign, but I’d argue not everyone does a recap, and with a complex campaign it still needs the DM to have taken notes or have a very good memory in case there are conflicts between the players as to what actually happened. (Notes go a long way to help that)
The second area this comes up is, ‘things the players character would know’, and you could give out a handout for that in some circumstances. However, if you are giving a player a large sheet of pre-game reading, chances are you’ve already put them off the game and I think most DM’s can tell you a story or 500 of giving something to a player and them just not reading it. The argument against this is that the DM can always butt in and say “Your character already knows X about Y” when it is appropriate. This lets the player build up their character and the world lore as the game progresses… I shouldn’t have mentioned world lore. Discussing world lore is a whole different topic that has been covered by far beardier DM’s than me, so I won’t get into it.
Right! Unless someone has questions or wants to add to the discussion, that’s as much as I’m publicly saying on the matter of handouts. You may leave. Remember to always use social media responsibly because it’s full of children, and some of those are also young people. Bye for now.