7 Advantages to Retelling your Adventures

Retelling your adventures can be a lot of fun. You’ll remember things you’d forgotten, laugh at the funny things everyone did, and it makes for a good story in the process.

Some people like to recap all of their adventures at the start of the next one, some like to brag about their exploits just after they’ve accomplished the deeds, others still wait years until they fondly recall what happened on particularly daring quests. All of these methods are fine and serve different purposes. It’s even okay if you never mention your adventures again, but there can be perks to doing so. Outlined below are seven of those advantages.

1. A Reminder for the GM

One of the best advantages to retelling your adventures soon after they’ve happened is that it reminds the GM of what was going on. With all the planning of new adventures, busy lives, and reading rule books it can be easy for a GM to forget a few important points in his previous adventures that the players readily remember.

To maximise the successfulness of this strategy, I’d recommend getting your recaps within a few days of the next adventure, if not directly before the next adventure. The problem with last minute recaps is that they slow down the game before it even gets started. Not only that, but the GM will find it quite tricky to implement anything he’s forgotten in the new adventure he’s already written up.

If you can get your recaps in a couple of days before the next adventure, you’ll have plenty of time to implement key points and you won’t have to delay the start of the game session.

2. A Tool to Develop Characters

The retelling of adventures at any point during the campaign is great for the development of characters. In the retelling, the players will reaffirm the personalities and traits of the characters they play. The other players will be able to give them impressions of their characters, and they’ll remember anything particularly distinct or interesting those characters did.

Sometimes, players won’t even remember which character they were playing in a campaign, or what the name of that character was, much less that character’s personality. Use this strategy to fight that.

A player who constantly retells the stories of his character’s great deeds is hardly likely to forget who that character was. In fact, stories have a way of becoming exaggerated and even more outrageous over time. Soon, the character will take on heroic proportions in the player’s mind. This may lead to the player trying out some stunts which are a bit out of his league, but overall it will have a great effect.

Sometimes, a player will retell the story of what his character did from a completely different angle than anyone else remembers. This can be great to give the GM pointers on what this character is truly about. What everyone remembers as the crazy guy who lit the inn on fire, might be a character the player pictures as honor-bound and seeking revenge for his long lost sister.

The GM should, obviously, watch out for characters who are being ‘over’-developed in the retelling, but for the most part things will become less confusing for everyone involved when everyone is given the opportunity to explain themselves properly. Many a time I’ve wondered at the crazy antics some of the players were enacting in a game I just ran, only to find out afterwards that I’d missed half of what they’d been saying or the logical reasons why they were doing something. I’ve even occasionally misinterpreted what a player says he wanted to do as a completely different sort of action. Hearing the ‘real’ story can help you to avoid future mistakes.

3. An Argument amongst Heroes

Generally, quarrels amongst the players are not a good thing. However, if everyone is fairly reasonable, a little bit of in-game tension between the characters can be a great role-playing opportunity.

One such opportunity is when you have some of the characters retelling their stories in-game. Given the personalities of the characters involved, the stories might vary and some of the debates could get heated. All of this serves to establish the character’s personalities even further.

Many times the players will recall things during the telling of the tale. “Oh yeah, I forgot you owe me money/favors/life, etc.” This can lead to even more arguments about who actually owes who what and if someone had their life saved, or if it was just a little bit of help.

The GM should encourage the players to role-play their tales as their characters would tell them. One character could be boisterous and exaggerate all his deeds, another could be shy and downplay his feats, and a third could be outgoing and leap about the room showing everyone exactly how he did everything. The reactions of any nearby NPCs could add drama to the story as well. They might disbelieve the party, think they’re mad, or come to admire them for their tales.

4. A means to create Rifts and Bonds

Similar to party arguments, the player’s characters can also form rifts and bonds amongst each other based on their role-playing and the tales they tell over a drink in the bar. Some characters may become close comrades while others drift apart or even become rivals.

This kind of thing can just as easily happen at any time during an adventure, but the characters will have plenty of time to banter and relax at their favorite inn which they might not have in the bush or a dungeon while they’re fighting for their lives.

It’s a good time for them to get drunk and spill all their secrets, opinions, and life stories. If the characters don’t drink, that’s fine too, it’s the gist of the thing that’s important.

5. A Spur for the GM’s Imagination

In-game or out-of-game, a creative GM will find no ends of material in the tales of his players. Their opinions, ideas, fears, hopes, and more can all be used in future adventures to great effect. Having the combined creativity of ten people is much better than just one, and a savvy GM will take advantage of that fact.

If the players are talking of a particular NPC they just loath, the GM can develop that character into a villain, adversary, or a thorn in their sides.

If they recall a character who was really funny, you can include that character in special appearances on future quests. You might even flesh out the character more.

If the players all loved a particular magic power or magic item, you might make it a possibility they can claim that power or item in a future adventure. Who gets to keep it could be an entirely different story.

If the players have forgotten all of the adventure except for certain parts, pay attention to those parts! They’re the parts the players enjoyed or hated the most and you should take cues on that for your future adventures. Sometimes the players just remember the parts where they were being awesome, but even that’s a lesson in what the players enjoy and you can figure out how to work more of it into future adventures without making your campaign a complete giveaway. Even better, if they really enjoyed some part of the adventure which didn’t involve power or stealing loads of gold, you can build on that without ruining your game.

6. A Record of the Game

Some players may even go so far as the chronicle their quests in an epic logbook of the entire campaign. This is great. You can go back on the log at any time and see what was going on in the past story of the campaign. Some GMs do this out of habit because it’s so effective and handy. As long as the player doesn’t have a skewed view of what was happening, you could get some really good information out of these logs for future adventures.

Players will often create pictures of important characters and events and possibly maps or other devices as well. All of these can be really handy to help people remember what was going on and further define the campaign’s characters and events.

7. Having Fun

For all the great things retelling adventures can do, the number one advantage is that it’s great fun. Some players have said they enjoy the tales of their great adventures more than the games themselves. If you have a great game that’s a lot of fun, and telling the story is even ‘more’ fun, what’s stopping you?

How do you use the retelling of adventures in your campaigns? Are the players fond of any particular kinds of stories? Are there some stories which have become famous or distorted in the retelling and get told over and over again? Please feel free to let us know in the comments.

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Chaotic Looseleaf
I once read an interview with Gary Gygax in which he expressed confusion and disappointment with the amount of "acting" that was going on at roleplaying tables. I don't remember his exact words, but it was clear that he saw a clear delineation between games like Dungeons & Dragons and games like the World of Darkness (and in classic Gygax fashion was not circumspect about his value judgement between them).

I was somewhat dismayed at this initially, being first a storytelling dungeon master, but as the interview went on it was clear that he simply had a different perspective on the way the narrative should play out: the table was for rolling dice and resolving encounters. The pub after the game was for tale embellishment and character development.

The more I have thought about this approach, the more it appeals to me. I find that most players' attempts at being "in character" on the fly are stymied by either too much or too little self-consciousness. Given time to think about the events of the game, everyone gains some perspective and some distance, and the story is only improved as a result.


Games aren't narratives like life isn't a narrative, but we can create a story about life just as we can create them about games. Reporting on games accurately is just as important as embellishing for enjoyable reading. If you watch any game as a viewer, a sport, card games, board games, you will find that they are not built for entertainment of the audience. In many cases they aren't even designed for the enjoyment of the actual participants. There are blow outs, agonizingly long waiting periods, and other elements not suited for a viewing audience and not fun to play through either. However, games can and do present challenges for the players. Their actions affect the game, while the audiences responses might affect the players.

As DMZ2112 mentions, Gygax didn't design D&D for character portrayals, but rather for role playing, which is uniquely tied to game play rather than storytelling.

I think D&D players for decades have bragged on and on about their characters and their games just like any sports athlete might brag about their field and their games. Those stories entice others to join their group, to want to play in their games, and test themselves too. In D&D each player's story is single perspective, the story is a journal rather than a narrated account. She tells others about what she and others did, not what the others did that she doesn't know about. She might pass on rumors of what happened, but that's still her perspective.

Challenger RPG

First Post
@DMZ2112 : I couldn't agree with you more. I never read that particular interview with Gary Gygax (sounds really interesting) but it's something he would say. Also, it makes a lot of sense.

I'm also, first and foremost, a storytelling GM. I really enjoy writing, creating adventures, and the retelling of tales of adventure. I think the embellishment of the game after the fact is just as important as the role-playing going on during the game. In fact, I'm sure many times the game was just played as the players themselves would act naturally, but many things developed afterwards in the retelling.

It's interesting you should mention it because I recall one game I ran at a convention where a few people were really 'forcing' themselves to act as their characters and the whole effect was a little bit odd. You almost get better game-play when people don't quite worry so much about properly portraying their characters and let the characters develop naturally as part fictions and part reflections of their own play-style.

@howandwhy99 : I can see what you're saying, but I'm not sure I totally agree. I think one of the best things about D&D was that it was what you wanted to make out of it. You could run it strictly as a game of challenges (like an athletic competition) or you could add in more story-telling elements and fluid narrative (as the players play a key part).

I tend to a more story-telling approach and I know one extremely competent GM who used to run games so full of story that everyone forgot they were playing a game and had an absolute blast. Some of these adventures were so good that I recall them vividly to this day (years later).

I'm not saying one way is better than another. Also, I definitely agree with you about the long agonizing waits, the challenges, the bragging, and the fact sometimes it's not fun to watch or play through. I'd like to think that most of the games I've run have been enjoyable at the time as well as after the fact.

I also agree about the single perspective. It's kind of human nature to do that. However, I do recall sometimes when people just started winging it and making up things not to brag, but to create a good story for the entertainment of all. I know some people who just like to brag about everything: cars, athletics, hunting, etc. On the other hand, I also know some people who focus more on the entertainment of others and just enjoying a good conversation with friends.

I think one of the great things about D&D is that it's part story and part game. Some people play it solely as a game, others solely as a story. Most of us, I think, do something in-between.

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