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How about pre-briefings?

Imagine a campaign with a "common" system.
Imagine having settled themes in the first session (aka session 0).
Imagine having de-briefings used to leave impressions about what you played. 

Why pre-briefings? 
My impressions: a campaign is not a continuous play; weeks can run between a session and the next one. Themes could be partially forgotten, people could wish for a more relaxed play or a speed up one, they surely have different moods. However themes were decided: they can't be changed, and it's better to not change them. 
What about micro-themes? 

Why not pre-briefings:
They could lead to pre-narration... 

In conclusion, i ask:
Can we organize those pre-briefings in a simple and functional way? 

P.S: my impressions are based on true events I'm not going to elaborate. The reason lies in the simple fact they all lead to those conclusions and I think it's better to keep this post readable.

Actual Play


Sean_RDP's picture

I am going to assume you mean before each new session of an ongoing play? I think briefings / pre-briefs happen often in an unplanned or ad-hoc way. A group will spend 5 minutes catching up on the events of the previous session. Much of that gets done in the 'settling in' period of a new game session and in fact, many (most) groups do their de-brief there. 

So I can see a process where, say you set aside 15 minutes after the settling in period to reconnect to themes, events, and other memories in the game. This would be done as a more formal aspect of play. And it would or could be more in depth than "...last week on Campaign X..." which is how some folks handle it, for good or ill.

Ron Edwards's picture

Some games have this function built-in, whether as a designated step, as an assigned player role, or even an in-fiction character role. Ram Hull's The Path of Journeys (published only as an ashcan) combines the latter two - each character has a "May Court" role, and the one called the Advocate both challenges other player-characters in the fiction and (as player) summarizes the previous session at the start of each new one.

Elil 50's picture

Probably my concerns were too focused on looking for a formal way to set up the pre-briefing. Other than recap it should touch themes and player moods.

I experienced few times, during the little more times I played as a player, the discomfort to run a character in a not entertaining way for myself. As I hinted in the post, last session I enjoyed, all the players forgot the system themes: it was Solar System and the game didn't run well.

From this last experience I felt the need to write formally pre-briefings and use them when I play. However someone told me they could lead to pre-narration, so I was quite unsure how to develop them. Your little answers enlightened the fact I was worrying about anything, so thanks the time: I think, and hope, to have found the simple way which was already in front of my eyes. 

Talking to the table, cause the table is made up of sentient creatures who want to enjoy the game. It should be written on capital letters cause it's easy to forget it sometimes. 

Ron Edwards's picture

Let's consider what "briefing" means in two different ways, regarding a previous session of play (X) and the one about to start (X+1):

  • Description and reminders about what happened in session X, possibly with a little clarification or informal description of what might have happened since if that applies, i.e., "what we did." To be pedantic, this is debriefing.
  • Negotiation or planning regarding session X+1, i.e., "what we're about to do."

Your post emphasizes the former topic, but some of the latter is apparent too, especially in your mention of pre-narration. I think that the second meaning will almost always get dragged into the process at the table if the chance arises, partly because casual speech uses "briefing" for both of them.

A related issue is opening the window for "play without play," in which people start specifying what they could have done or must have done since the previous session.

So let's nail this down. First, I do think you should mention one game experience for which this was relevant to you. In agreement with what you stated, I don't want a description of play, but I want you merely to name the game title and any particular context of play (part of a long-term series, part of a short series, or whatever).

Second, let us know whether you want to consider debriefing, briefing (sensu stricto), or both. That lets anyone bring in examples of play and textual rules for ready and useful comparison.

Third, I ask that you reconsider the phrase "what about," not because of the internet-scuffle issue of whataboutery, but for simple clarity, and to avoid a barrage of "well I think" type responses that cross one another and go nowhere. I'm sure that you can phrase it (here, in the comments) with a real subject and verb that allows anyone to share their thought effectively.

Elil 50's picture

Let's start from terms.
If I understand what you said:
Debriefing is a brief recap or some reminds to previous session.
Briefing (should) be planning for next session.

I used those terms with different meanings in the initial post:
Briefing is what happens just before the session, the action of "inhaling air".
Debriefing is what happens after it, the action of "exhaling air".
These action can regard previous or next session and I didn't specified it.

I agree on the importance of what you call debriefings. I agree that planning next session leads, and probably is, pre-narration too. However I'm not referring to "play without playing" or plot decisions, instead i was talking about players' mood.

Let's talk about Solar System, just to pick up last one I tried. Themes are settled in first session, character keys are picked up during all the game. We had problems, as in "Problems in Solar Town" topic was described, but this in not my point. Different topics should have different problems. My mood changed, I felt different and I realized last two sessions were not only different sessions, but different campaigns too. We players wanted a more dialogic and chill session. This ended in playing a different game from the master.

Here the reason of this post: I felt briefings, as I called them, should not only concern previous session but involve a sort of "mood discussion" too, which can't lead to planning of any sort. 

Ron Edwards's picture

Excellent! This is an understandable and useful point. Fortunately, I can agree with confidence because I am editing the final two videos of our Undiscovered game, with the second having been played just last night. The time slot we've been forced to use is tough for me and I'm usually a lot more tired for this game than for any other I've been involved with lately.

It so happens, then, that the videos actually show me saying at the outset about how I'm feeling this particular time and how that might affect play. I haven't really been paying attention to it as a social thing, but now that I think about it, one of the players in the Spelens Hus games (leaving this vague for anonymity) also clued us in, every time, about how their energy and stress levels before play. It's a good habit and basically just good personal practice, I think.

Whether that contributes to the mood of the upcoming session, in terms of fictional content, I suppose is a slightly different topic, but they're related to some extent. I do find myself wary of talking about "how we're going to do this," or "what it's going to be like." ... so let me think about that for a moment.

(moment) OK, so my take on this jumps across to Claudio's post about this same game experience, and some of my feedback to him that he requested. I mentioned that as far as I could tell, the people playing did not really share any inspiration among one another, i.e., what excited or spoke to them about the setting and situations as presented so far. For example, Claudio was interested in the Key mechanics and in the book's advice about using them, but not in the fictional content of the situations in which that might happen. Or if he was, it's not evident in his account and (as I see it) contra-indicated based on how he talks about it.

Using the same Undiscovered game as my example, the fact that we played at all stemmed from a little video I'd made about the game, at which time I wasn't even expecting to play it any time soon, and certainly not soliciting players in an active fashion. But due to the points I brought up and my apparent enthusiasm about them, three people basically accosted me and said, "So, when are we playing?" and the game began. The only reason we played is that specific elements of the fictional content were exciting us individually and were acknowledged to be exciting socially. Game procedures ("rules") happen to be very important to each of the four of us, but "trying out the mechanics" was a means to enjoying what excited us, not an end.

With that excitement in mind, I think mood gets established rather more definitely and consistently through play, with less chance of expecting different things or inadvertently bumping different moods up against each other. So I don't think talking about the upcoming mood of play is a bad thing at all, but I also see it as most effective, and least vulnerable to the overly-planned "this is how we are going to play" effect, when it's more like a reminder of what we already know, feel, or value in terms of mood.

Important: if you want to reply to this comment, then scroll up to the first box that includes a "Reply" option. Ignore any reluctance you may have to click it, then click it, type or paste your reply, and then post. Your reply will appear in the correct place.


Elil 50's picture

The next reply I'm tempted to write falls in "I think territory", therefore I should try some experiences with a little "mood discussion" and find out if it only assigns the initial value or tend to influence all the session. 

FroggyC's picture

Claudio was interested in the Key mechanics and in the book's advice about using them, but not in the fictional content of the situations in which that might happen.

I just want to state for the sake of clarity that this is not the case at all -- we were all quite excited about the fictional content, spent some time discussing it beforehand, and three of the group (everyone but Elil) are actually big fans of this particular world which is very much the furthest you can get from 'your default medieval fantasy'. I just failed to describe it in the post because I didn't think it was that relevant. I will respond more in detail under "Troubles in Solar Town".

Ron Edwards's picture

I'm happy to be corrected about that. It means that "mood" checks and sharing about that will have the right context and probably not turn into any playing before play.

I definitely don't see anything about it in either of the posts, so I'll look forward to more content. At the risk of being over-skeptical and over-critical, I am not at all interested in discussions or enthusiasm about it you may have shared outside of play. I'm talking about during play, as expressed in situtions, actions, dialogues, and outcomes.

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