A couple of weeks ago, one of the players in our Mystamyr campaign shared three images of the maps and notes they have been making during the game sessions. In short, these are great!
Having asked and received permission to share them, jotted down these quick notes on why they are great.
Big thanks to Wolfchild for the images.
Proof of Engagement
Look at these notes and tell me this isn’t evidence of a player engaging with the game.
To my mind, there is no greater honour and better reward for being the Game Master than to see evidence that your players are engaging with the game. That’s not to say there are not other means of gauging engagement, or that notes are the highest expression of such. I am simply acknowledging that seeing a player share notes with the other players – in this case digitally via our Discord – was a moment of much-needed clarity for me.
I could see that what I am offering is engaging. And that inspires me to keep creating.
Glimpsing the Player Mind’s Eye
The problem with exploration games is that you don’t know how well you are describing the locations and scenes in play. The question lingers: are they able to glimpse what you are trying to show them?
This map is delicious because it shows me the way in which this particular player has managed to organise the descriptions given into not just a cognitive map (the locations and their relationship in their mind) but a literal hand-drawn map.
This is a glimpse into the way in which the player is imagining the locations in the “dungeon” – the place that my notes call the “The Lair of The Banshee”.
Little annotations tell me the pertinent facts and discoveries that were interesting enough to note down. The whole set of notes helps me to pin-point which elements were felt (by the player) to be potentially significant.
More of the “dungeon” caves are mapped out on this page. Notations about equipment and treasure found reveal the unfolding story, even though you might not fully understand the sequence the map was experienced in play. Stuff like this fascinates me as a Game Master because it helps me to sense what is being valued and recorded as valuable.
There are clues to others things too in these notes. One example is the little table to track combat rounds and turn cycles as they arise in a game of Mythras Classic Fantasy – the rules in use in the Mystamyr game. But whereas I spend so much time concerned with mechanisms of the rules and worrying about getting them right, in truth the player records much more of the description and unfolding exploration than I realise.
These are insights given freely and which I treasure whenever I glimpse them.
Other Players Appreciate It
It was very telling when another player took the time to thank Wolfchild for the maps and notes during the most recent session of play. There was an emphatic agreement from the group as a whole echoing that appreciation.
I know that it’s not every player’s cup of tea to make notes and draw maps, but those kinds of players are very often deeply appreciated by the group. I think we underestimate the value of notes and maps at our peril. This is especially true in a longer-running game in which deep World exploration and recurring interactions with non-player characters are common.
Overall, I was truly grateful for these three simple photographs taken from the notebook of a player. It made my experience of Game Mastering richer. I suspect it made the other player’s experience of play easier and deeper too.