Some great thoughts from ***Dave on Game logs: why to keep them, why not to, how to encourage them (both campaign and ‘personal’) from the players… it’s all great stuff.
More thoughts on this as I get two seconds to think about it.
I would say that a game is invariably improved by the creation of game logs, whether they are all-encompassing things for the whole session or personal-angle entries from a particular character’s point of view. I’ve had a lot of experience with both extremes and have had a lot of opportunity to compare and contrast; what it boils down to is (as Dave mentioned) helping refocus the group when you meet the next time, as well as increasing player investment in the campaign, PROVIDED the players are the one’s doing the logs (at least part of the time).
Helping with Focus: This is where the uber-logs come in handy — regardless of format (and I think it’s important to switch up the format regularly, just to keep your interest level up), these things are terribly handy for those pre-game “when we last left our heros” moments. I’ve implemented them a number of different ways and in a number of different systems with varying degrees of success.
– Keys to the Pattern (Amber) — as a general rule, game logs just didn’t get done, though diaries did, by and large — I think this would have dropped of as time progressed, because there was no ongoing system-cookie to reward the effort: once you’re up about two or three 25-point spends, the 10 points you got at the beginning at the game for promising game-logs just kind of pales.
– TiHE (Amber) — I had varying levels of participation in what was a TREMENDOUSLY long-running game (90+ sessions over 2+ years). There were at least two or three players who got stuff in fairly regularly, and I think there were reasonable system-cookies to reward the effort — the method I hit on was (a) a bonus to starting character points (b) a continuing 10% bonus during every spend, provided you’d been doing diaries or game logs since the last spend (if you were doing both, well that’s a very significant 20% bonus to your earned xp… Not a tremendous amount of bookkeeping to worry about, as spends were infrequent enough that tracking the bonus points didn’t become a headache. I liked the result within the game, which was simply that those players that were more involved in the game (via contributions) had more… let’s say potent… characters. In some cases, there was as much as a thirty-point spread between heavily-involved characters and more desultory participants, and that was fine by me.
– DnD, Star Wars, d20 in general — Utter Failure. You’d think that within such an experience-point-based system it would be easy to set up percentage-based bonuses like the one I did with TiHE, but in practice it’s always been an absolute nightmare. The problem is essentially one of book-keeping; with Amber, you have relatively infrequent spends, which means you’re dealing with tracking the bonuses less often; in d20, the XP awards after each session are a pain in the ASS in their own right, made moreso by adding in situational bonuses for ‘did you get your contribution in on time?’ — with all the d20 systems I’ve done, I invariably revert to the simplified “You’ll level after 13+ significant encounters of any kind (combat, whatever)”. This works fine for book-keeping, but makes it pretty much impossible to apply a percentage bonus. Also, groups in d20 are a pain in ass to set up encounters for when folks are different levels. (Is it significant that I use the word ‘ass’ a lot when I’m talking about d20?)
– Nobilis — Success. Well, success on the journal-level, at any rate. After a couple years and four d20 campaigns with no real journal-inducing success, I was pleased to hit on a simple method of encouragement in Nobilis that really kept the contributions and involvement up — in fact, the whole reward system apparently felt so integrated into the actual system that two of my players assumed it WAS part of the rules. (Simply: you get a ‘free’ MP when you turn in a personal journal, and an MP and DynP when you turn in a Game Log.)
– Sorcerer — curiously, failure. I chalk this up to two things: one, advancement is a very very infrequent thing that cannot (and should not) be sped up via journals; two, there is no easily-expendable currency within Sorcerer (as there is in Nobilis) that you can hand out, which means you’re pretty much left with Praise as a reward system, which has wildly variable results. It’s worth considering that a bonus dice pool could be built up as a reward… the question’s really how much to award per contribution (two dice seems about right). Now, while I didn’t get player diaries, I have been pretty reliable in my own GM-oriented logging of game events, simply because I want them recorded and no one else is going to do it — at the very least, this has helped with recounting previous events. (The other problem with journaling for a Sorcerer game is the same reason I don’t like to talk about those games when we’re not playing — with that style of game, if you’re talking about it, you’re potentially ruining scenes you could be playing.)
When have we done so, when have we not?
– Part of it is, I think, the type of game — certain games tend to be much more conducive to journal-writing — the other thing is a good reward system that doesn’t increase bookkeeping tremendously… I’m looking forward to running a game like Heroquest, which has a currency very much like Nobilis and a game that can run very personal stories, which tend to encourage personal contributions. Other games I’m considering on the docket might or might not work.