Every episode, I ask one of the players to provide a recap of the last session. This serves three important purposes that I’ll go over in detail in this post.
For the Listeners
We release episodes weekly, but we cannot assume that our listeners will follow the same schedule. It’s incredibly helpful for a listener to have a sense of where the story left off before we jump back into gameplay. We publish our podcast episodes with chapter markers so that listeners that want to skip to the gameplay can easily do so.
For the Players
We have an amazing group of players that are very good at keeping track of the story, but it’s still helpful for them to all have a reminder at the beginning of an episode. This is particularly important on odd-numbered episodes since we record every other week, and the time between sessions can make it easy to forget certain details. This helps ensure that everyone can drop into their characters immediately and pick up where we left off.
I randomly select a player each episode for the recap so that no one person feels like they have to keep track of it all for the group.
Of course, the GM could simply handle the recap themselves, which brings us to the third reason.
For the GM
The player recap is incredibly important for the GM. Not because the GM doesn’t know what happened— they probably know better than anyone —but because it provides key insights into the campaign as a whole.
By having a player do the recap, the GM can identify which details from previous sessions stood out as important to the players. Often, if the player doing the recap misses something, the other players will chime in. The GM should resist the urge to correct or add details unless asked until after the player finishes their recap.
At the conclusion of the recap, it should be clear to the GM what elements they may need to highlight more in the upcoming gameplay to help guide the players. If the players have leapt to an incorrect conclusion, the GM can use the opportunity to decide whether to provide plot points or NPCs to help the characters course-correct, or, if the player conclusion sounds more interesting, to change the course of the story to align with what the players are already thinking.
Alternative Approach: The Adventure Log
An alternative that I am fond of is having players write adventure logs for the group, which serve as a record that players can use to base their recaps upon, as well as giving the GM deeper insight into what stuck out to the players. You can pull a wealth of insight from this, but it does represent a significantly higher workload on the part of the players, and the responsibility should be rotated among them so that no one burns out on it.
Take It For A Spin
If you are currently doing the recap for your players at the start of each session, I recommend you try switching to player-driven recaps and see what you learn. Make sure you set the expectation in advance though so that players don’t feel cornered. The goal isn’t for the player to fail, but rather to have their memories help the GM tell an even better story.