Rethinking Character Journals
on Nov. 13, 2013, 11:56 a.m.
For years now in my RPG campaigns that I run I have been offering players XP (or the system equivalent) for doing character journals. What this means is that after each session a player can go on the game's wiki and write something about the session for game rewards.
This has worked out fairly well, and it's more popular among some players than others. But after being automatic in campaigns for so long, recently I've been taking a step back and evaluating the process again.
So why character journals? Really, upon reflection, in theory they serve to purposes. For players they are an opportunity to express bits of their character that wouldn't otherwise come out during the session. And this can help role-playing. For the GM, on the other hand, they're an instrument to gauge what parts of the session the players found noteworthy or otherwise gain insight into how the players are viewing the campaign.
And as I said before, it works well enough. But there are also times when it doesn't work so well. Sometimes character journals end up being dry recaps of the series of events from the previous session. And these neither demonstrate characterization nor provide much of a gauge to the GM.
For that reason, I've been thinking about character journals, and if there might be a better way to serve the two purposes the journals: An outside-the-play-session venue to express one's character, and a mechanism to gauge player interest and feedback.
One idea I have been considering is that of character take-aways and session questions. They would work like this:
At the beginning of every session each player can give a character take-away from the previous session. This can be posted on the wiki like a journal, or just given orally before the start of the session proper. In it they can point out one thing their take took away from the events of the last session. This might be a lesson learned, some observation about another character or an event--anything really. This would give a very explicit mechanism for demonstrating something about their character. This might add to the role-playing.
Session questions, on the other hand, would be asked at the end of each session and then answered on the wiki or at the beginning of the next session. Basically the GM would ask two questions for which player feedback would be useful. And then players can answer them, having the time between sessions for thoughts on the matter. This would also allow the GM to more easily direct questions at areas where gauging player feedback would be the most useful.
This also may more easily engage player participation in busy players, since little between-session time is required.