Are You Keeping Too Many Secrets?
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0864
It’s better to give players lots of good information instead of keeping it all behind your screen.
RPT GM Leigh wrote me and said, “The tricky bit is breaking the bad habit of keeping info secret.”
I remember often thinking, “Wow, it’s going to be so cool when I reveal this info. My players are going to be so surprised!”
Feel free to swap surprised with amazed, excited, adulatory.
Yup. For me at least, this type of thinking is a GM ego pit trap.
While I’m thinking to myself how I’m serving my players with such amazing information reveals, what I’m actually feeling is how awesome my players will think my game and I are.
But it’s not all about me. Or you.
It’s about everyone at the table having a good time. And hoarding information for ego-reveals is bad mojo.
This might not apply to you at all. But if it does, even a little, then you can help break the habit of keeping too much secret by recognizing when secrets are serving you instead of the gameplay experience of all.
Here’s a quick trick to break the habit of info-hoarding.
Step 1. Do A Brain Dump
Grab Campaign Logger and create a new Log Entry.
Start writing out all your campaign secrets. One secret per line.
Tag NPCs, plots, locations, and items as you go.
Step 2. What’s Gonna Really Knock Their Dice Off?
Luke, I’m your father.
Wait, I’m the ghost?
That jerk dwarf guiding us all this time is the evil necromancer?
Go through your list of secrets. Be honest. What’s going to actually shock and excite your players? Tag those with your *Plot tag!
Step 3. Start Sharing
For the rest of your list that you haven’t tagged as awesome secrets, start sharing this information ASAP in your games.
Here’s the secret about secrets: they are unlimited.
You have infinite game pieces to talk about and create secrets for.
You’ll never run out of stuff to share.
So start sharing stuff on your list through NPCs and roleplay, clues, player handouts, and your usual fun means.
Step 4. Amplify Those Secrets
Let’s get back to your awesome list of secrets. (Don’t have any? Try these Left Hooks.)
Take your favourite one and amplify it. Surround it with encounters and game pieces that build it up and expose PCs to it.
Don’t hide from the secret, thinking someday it’ll be an awesome reveal.
Embrace it and keeping gaming towards it.
You might try brainstorming a list of downstream signs and effects. Then game those out.
For example, the dwarf guide might ask the PCs to do self-serving jobs that get him more necromantic powers. He might have sketchy friends and contacts. Someone might recognize him but they disappear just before an “urgent” meeting with the PCs.
Keep feeding the trail of cookie crumbs.
If the players figure it out, well congrats! They’re supposed to. 🙂 Celebrate the moment with your friends…. Knowing you’ve got more secrets on your list and more cookies to crumble.