How to nail a fantastic session recap

How do your sessions start?

Many groups find it helpful to start with a recap of the previous session. But who should deliver it? The DM – or the players?

Option 1: the player recap

In some groups, summarizing the previous session is a job for one of the players. There’s a lot to be said for this.

Firstly, and most importantly, the players get to be in the driving seat from the start. They get to feel like it’s their voice and their story that matters.

For the DM, a player recap is also a useful opportunity to see what the players enjoy. Did they remember the complex battle with the kobolds but forget the tense negotiation with the baron? Do they describe the session enthusiastically or are they going through the numbers? Do they know what they need to do next? And does their memory of the session match yours? (It doesn’t actually matter if it doesn’t, but it might tell you something interesting about their play style.)

There are some problems with the player-led approach, however. What if the player just isn’t very invested in the game? What if they don’t take notes? What if they’re not very good at describing things? Most DMs want a strong start to their sessions. A poor recap can be confusing, misleading, and maybe a little deflating.

What if the player doesn’t like to be put on the spot? Perhaps they’re shy or anxious. Perhaps they’re more of a lurker or a casual gamer, and they just want to sit back and enjoy the game.

If you’re wary of asking the players to recap, there is, of course, an alternative . . .

Option 2: the DM recap

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You can always do the recap yourself.

If you’re looking for a strong start, this can be a great way to do it. Think about the ‘crawl’ at the start of every Star Wars film: it hooks our attention, sets the stakes, and establishes a mood and atmosphere. Half a minute later, we’re all caught up.

For some DMs, a recap is a moment to perform and feel in control. It’s more prep, though, and you lose that valuable insight into the players’ preferences. You also lose some of the electric spontaneity that comes from winging it on the fly.

Is there a third option that combines the best of both worlds?

Option 3: the player recap, prepped

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Player recaps don’t have to be improvised!

In this approach, the DM tells the player in advance that they are going to do the recap at the start of the next session. The player then prepares a short summary (the Star Wars opening crawl is around 80 words) and delivers it themselves, dramatically. Perhaps they get free inspiration as a reward.

With this approach, the players still get to ‘own’ the story, and the DM still gets an insight into what the players enjoy. No one is put on the spot. However, you do lose some of the spontaneity that comes from an improvised recap, and there might be still be players who lack confidence. Your mileage may vary.

Ultimately, the choice comes down to knowing what works best for your group. Whichever method you choose, though, a session recap can be a great way to energize your game night.

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