I realized recently my game announcements and reminders are underwhelming. I’m leaving opportunities to improve the game unfulfilled.
We play every other Thursday night. Games start at 6:30, we’re usually full-on by 7pm, then we wrap up between 11 and 11:30. We confirm the week of the game by email though, just in case schedules change.
Maintaining bi-weekly Thursdays makes things nice and predictable. I think when we all schedule things now there’s a reminder in the back of our heads to check if it’s a D&D Thursday before committing to another activity. That’s helps clear a lot of schedules and prevents double-bookings, which are two banes of getting regular games happening.
Following are a few tips on how to improve session reminders to get more attendees each game.
1. What changes from session to session?
Game sessions share a number of common traits. Note which traits tend to change for your group from session to session. Communicate all the changing session parameters well each time to avoid confusion, frustration, and worst of all, missing players.
Here’s an example list of what you might need to tell everyone before each game to get everything sorted out quick and easy:
- Session date:
- Start time:
- End time:
- Commuting arrangements:
- Food/snack duties:
- Game played:
The last one, game played, is for groups who don’t lock in the game or campaign being played. Sometimes a group plays with multiple GMs, each with his own campaign, so game played would also tell people who’s GMing and what characters are needed.
My group plays my D&D game every session at my place. Except under the most unusual circumstances, these items don’t need to be in my game reminder emails. If something rarely changes, leave it out of your email. This makes the information smaller and easier to scan. If the rare thing does change, everyone will spot the new item in the list and take notice.
This is the perfect time for callouts. Does a player forget his character sheet often? Are there special parking arrangements this time? Was there homework to do? Did PCs need leveling up?
Add any reminders to your session announcement emails – it’s a great service to your group.
Got any news, updates or special announcements? You might not have these often, but asking yourself each time if there are any is a good exercise.
For example, last session reminder I had news that a preferred pizza place now offered delivery to the usual game location.
Another example is player birthdays or special occasions. Noting these might encourage things like congrats emails, bringing the group closer together.
4. Add Session Notes
You might want to include info about what happened last session. Best case for busy GMs is to paste in notes from another source. You don’t want to turn these session notice emails into newsletters here, as my experience is it’s not a sustainable activity. You’ll be pressed for time, and some emails will get notes while others don’t, and inconsistency tends to create apathy.
(If you want to do campaign newsletters, that’s awesome and I heartily recommend it. This is beyond the scope of these tips, but RolepalyingTips.com has a few campaign newsletter articles and tips: Save Time & Get More Planning Done Through Campaign Newsletters, Campaign Newsletter Advice, Campaign Newsletter Example, Lessons Learned from behind the GM Screen.)
Another gotcha is many players do not have the time or inclination to read long campaign summaries.
A great format is 5 Bullets. If you had to condense last session into five points, what would they be? This forces you to be brief, and it serves your group well by reminding them what happened last game so they’ll be ready when the next session starts without a lot of reading required. Use the 5 Bullets method – it’s sustainable.
5. Talk About Open Loops
A great service to your group. Remind everyone about what hooks are still open and what issues are still unresolved. This can help guide focus discussion between sessions too. And add bonus is such reminders keep gamers interested in the campaign.
6. Take Care of Administration
Any admin you can take care of between games gives everyone more session time to roleplay.
- Q&A about rules
- Gathering Information skill checks
- Leveling up questions
- Experience points and other awards
- Skill checks involving appraisals
- Item creation checks
7. Figure out the best timing
When do players make decisions about showing up to your game? Be sure to get your session email reminder in there at just the right time so the game session is top of mind. Sneaky, but effective.
For example, a player might have his work schedule chat with his boss once a month on the 1st. Get your game session email to that player on the last day of each month.
8. Use a distribution list
Use a system that ensures you contact every player for every game every time. Typing in player names in the email To: field each time is going to end up in occasional forgotten players. If they don’t contact you saying they didn’t receive a game notice email, they might not show up to next game because they don’t know it’s on!
Get a foolproof system. I use a Yahoo! Group. My players have all signed up as members. When I email the group, I know everyone is being sent my messages.
Another option is to create an email shortcut on your desktop. For Windows, this is just a normal shortcut you create by right-clicking on your desktop and choosing New > Shortcut. The location will be:
mailto:player 1 email; player 2 email; player 3 email;
A third method is to create a distribution list in your email software.
9. Use A Template
Give your reminder emails a distinctive style that stays consistent with each mailout. This helps everyone identify it’s a game session organization email, and worth spotting and reading every time.
Plus, players will learn where to find the information they need each time rather than trying to figure out a new layout each message.
First, use a consistent subject line that supplies your primary message, usually game date confirmation. “Game session: Aug 15″. If your players only ever read the subject line, then they’ll at least know the game is on and when.
Second, put the session logistics into a template that goes at the top of the email, so players can scan for the information they need, just like a stat block makes NPC and monster reading efficient.
- Session date:
- Start time:
- End time:
- Food/snack duties:
Third, for each other section you have (e.g. session notes, reminders, contact info) create a clear header. This makes your email easy to skim, and if a player only quests for certain information they can find it fast.