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Dealing with Logs

I wondered how you guys deal with logs. They are an integral part of the shows, for sure, if only to rep up what happend for those tuning in later/returning after ad breaks.

For the way I play RPGs nowadays (meaning: only a handful of sessions a year, or, only one session per three to four months), keeping logs is essential. The games I run are storys of intrigue with meaningless sidequests becoming integral parts of the main story arch and vice versa. So, keeping note of everything that happens is quite important. I have installed a local wiki at my laptop computer where I keep notes of events, track NPC that show up etc. Some of my players also keep notes on their writing pads (I try to ban every electronics while I can; this might not be suitable for Star Trek, but that’s a different story altogether), and sometimes they appoint someone among themselves to be the chronicler of that evening’s session.

At first, I thought that, because keeping logs is essential for the way Trek is narrated, this would perfectly blend in with the game I hope to run in the hopefully not too distant future. Since the characters on screen often keep logs, an off-game necessity would become an in-game part of the story (while they obviously could, none of my players in my fantasy campaign keeps logs from subjective first-person-perspective but choose an objective third-person narrator instead; with an in-game starlog, this would obviously change), enriching the game.

Another point: The players’ logs are important to me for my own notes are not complete. I am part of the game I run and especially when tension rises, it’s hard for me to keep track of everything happening (most of the time I improvise…). So I award every player who sends me his/her notes with XP, because it really helps seeing whether I missed something in the last game session.

So my first idea was: Hey, just make mandatory log-entries (of three or four sentences) part of the requirements of a spotlight and/or arc milestone and everything will be more than fine.

But then I thought: Logs are a story-telling device usable by DMs, as well. In some missions I read, there is an introductionary log-entry, just like in the show. The game would start with ‘Captain’s log, Stardate…’ – written by the GM instead of the character who plays the captain. For some of my players, this would be a breach of their sovereignty over their own characters. If I was playing the captain, I would certainly ask my GM to refrain from putting words in my chracter’s mouth (does this idiom translate?). So, I am not sure whether I should use logs as a story-telling device, as well.

So, how do you deal with logs? Who writes them? The GM? The players? Both? Are they kept private or do you share them within the group for more character background? Are they a storytelling-device or part of the panorama in background? Are you/your players rewarded for logs? Or is this strictly story and not related to game-mechanics, at all?

And, last but not least, have you ever thought of running an adventure in the style of a story narrated in forms of a letter, or log entry (cf. Voyager 5x09, ‘Thirty Days’)?

Using the character logs seems to me a natural part of the Star Trek universe, so asking / agreeing with the players to keep own in-game logs is actually a great idea and I am for sure planning to use it (thank you for this), in our other games the players had been keeping “meta” notes anyway and used to share it so, make it in game seems like a natural step.

To solve your dilemma however about not putting anything to your players characters mouth or not forcing them to step out from their comfort zone (and let them have their secrets of course) I would suggest to do following:

  • on the end of each mission agree if someone wishes to read their log on the start of the next mission (or do it prior to the mission, but early enough to make your own preparation if no one wishes to)
  • in case no one is willing to do so, you can read a log of someone else - a shipmate (any officer entry would do) or an observer (someone they have met) or even adversary (great samples are the intercepted logs in the STA books)

About the log narrated mission I am not sure if it would be doable, however an interesting twist would be to run a log-driven mission where for instance the crew have solve a mystery of an abandoned station where only the logs are left in different computers, systems, terminals but are accessible or possible to find in a (semi) random way changing the story and the leads with every new log entry discovered…

(…and the possible backgrounds could be an old abandoned Vulcan training station for testing logic of the adepts, or an observation site of an unknown more powerful civilization testing the humanoid intelligence and logic, or an old Romulan intrigue to undermine the integrity of Starfleet Command, long forgotten but still dangerous…)

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For keeping notes of the sessions, I record everything with a digital voice recorder and then transcribe notes from that, sometimes detailed and sometimes summaries depending on how much time I have.

For personal logs or the like, I leave that up to the players. Some are more engaged than others. Some like to write stuff for the game, some prefer to just show up and play. I try to make sure I give the opportunity to open each session with a captain’s log or personal log, asking for volunteers. If no one volunteers, I get on with the session. If someone does volunteer, then they get the moment in the spotlight and I usually give them the first RP scene since on the shows, a personal log is usually followed up by a scene with that character.

I’m hoping to use a wiki of some form for my next campaign, where I’ll encourage players to post stuff there, but knowing my players, one will post reams of content while the others will barely remember how to log in, lol.

For the Living Campaign, captain’s logs are provided… they’re also in These are the Voyages Vol 1. I use a VTT so I scan them in and put them on the VTT for the Captain player to read them. I also have the captain provide recap captain’s logs to set each session in motion.
Garrett

Haven’t played for a good few months now, but because I do a post-game “Captains Log” - my players are the senior bridge/departmental heads, but NOT the captain at this time - it gives the players a recap of the session, as well as pointers or hints what to look for next time. I also ask them to do a Log Entry, although its optional - in this way, I use it to gauge their involvement and interest; for example, one of the Log Entries detailed how their Medic Supporting Character had saved one of their lives. Due to this, the SC has became a regular, recurring NPC and has even been given a field promotion.

I use Microsoft OneNote ( great for integrating text with images ) to keep track of story ideas and changes and also to create PDF files for the players. I use it for my GM log but I like the original poster’s idea of having the players create Log entries after each play session as well.
See attached examples:

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One of our players keeps notes per session and writes up a summary between sessions. Sometimes he’ll also write a log from the POV of his captain character.

I’ve found it worth having players write a log entry on a 4x6" index card… it keeps them from writing a book, but also provides a good (relatively permanent) log entry.

If one wants to have them type it, it’s about 150-300 words, depending upon text size.

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For a campaign intro along the lines of “Captain’s Log, we’ve been assigned to transport a dignitary to a Starbase through dangerous space, we just hope we won’t encounter any trouble”, in my opinion this is perfectly fine to “put words in the player’s mouth”.

When writing such a log to introduce a mission, I’d avoid editorializing about the state of the Captain’s emotions, like “I’m nervous because the dignitary and I were in love once, I don’t know if she still remembers me” or something like.

But writing a log which is basically a restatement of “here are the orders I’ve received from Star Fleet Command. We’re carrying them out.” is fine, and doesn’t affect “player agency” in any way.

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I disagree. It is still saying something through the character that the player may have worded differently or chosen to elaborate or withhold some information on. Most of the time when a GM has said something through my character, or claimed that my character has said something, even as simple as what you just said has made me tempted to respond with the following after handing them my character sheet: “Ok, here you go. Obviously you wanted my character, so I need a bit to create a new character now.”

Ask if they would have an issue with it, and if they do, give them a small printout of the orders they would have received and ask them to include that in a quick intro log. If your players are fine with you doing that, then fine. Do not just assume, you may end up angering a player and causing resentment over a small matter of asking permission.

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I keep pretty exhaustive notes, but from my characters perspective. That way I am not violating any one else’s sphere in the game. But I record everything I can concerning my character. My GM is really good at weaving story events together, small details revealed over several sessions hinting at the end of the arc, or conclusion.

@SSiron makes a key point - for such players, it has almost always been enough for my pre-STA games to allow them to rephrase the key points.

Not that I’ve not had players who balked at restatement… the two also balked at orders, and at a large number of other issues, so them walking was a net positive for the group. (Not everyone is cut out for playing paramilitary characters.)

I had one who balked at writing logs… Right up until a court martial episode.

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My friend Mike’s been trying to get me on One Note. Just haven’t taken the time to play with it.
Garrett

That’s why the Lifepath system is fun. It gives chances to see backstory elements, some the player elaborated on, some you can take liberty with, to add those elements. But I’d consult with the player before announcing to the group he has a past lover that’s about to be part of the story.
Garrett

For me it depends on the type of session I am running.

In my campaign I ask a player to write a log each week either recapping the previous session, or referencing some information I have given them in advance. This doesn’t tend to be a effect in terms of driving narrative as it can be in the shows, but it at least seems to set the tone fairly well.

In a oneshot however, I am more than happy to write a log for whoever ends up playing the captain that provides a lot of the mission set up for them. A combination of this, and a staff briefing for them to edge into the RP can be pretty good at setting tone and breaking the ice.

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In STA games that I run, I discuss this up front with the players so they know that sometimes it is a necessity of the narrative that I give them things to say in logs. That is how the show provides exposition, and the game is designed to emulate the episodes of the various series. I don’t think that is unreasonable. If possible, I give the players the contents of the logs and let them phrase everything however they want to, adding in perceptions and emotions if they want. Perceptions and emotions probably belong in a personal log anyway, and not a Captain’s log or Personal log.

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All good ideas - but it doesn’t even always have to be the captain. On the screen, it’s not at all uncommon for other characters to voice over log entries where the information fits their specialties.

In my group we also use the logs every session. Sometimes it’s a recap from one of the crew, if we are mid-adventure, to get us rolling again, other times I provide the outlines and the players fill them with their few and thoughts, bevore an new adventure.

In the campaign where I am the Captain, I try and provide a paragraph of recap, salted with my own reactions, as in a Personal Log from an episode. In the campaign I am planning to run, I hope my Captain will create a log entry for recitation before each adventure. I will try to have for her, a log entry which quasi-introduces what we are about to do. My plan, is to have it suitable to hand to the First Officer to read when they (Player, not as yet chosen) can.

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