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Re-Using Secrets and Clues

by Mike on 4 September 2023

In Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master, I recommend writing down ten fresh secrets and clues during your prep for your next session. In Chapter 6, I state:

Sometimes your unrevealed secrets will make their way to your next session’s list. Other times, they simply fade away. You might be tempted to keep a huge list of past secrets, but that can end up being unwieldy. The world is a dynamic place, and it’s fine if you throw away old secrets. Just make sure you come up with a fresh list of ten new secrets and clues for every session.

I've often recommended that GMs not keep a big list of previous secrets and clues, but often during my Lazy RPG Prep shows, I find myself copying secrets and clues over from a previous session to a next session. I initially considered this reuse a violation of the rule, but now I think it's better to amend the rule.

Transferring relevant secrets from a previous session to the next session is a practical, lazy trick to speed up prep.

There are some caveats. We should keep certain things in mind to ensure we're maximizing the true value of secrets and clues.

First, make sure the secrets you transfer are still relevant. Do they still matter to the characters? Are they still something that could be true?

Second, confirm you haven't already revealed a secret you're considering moving forward. It's worth the time to review your previous notes and see which secrets you revealed. I typically reveal about half of the ten secrets I prepare for a session. It's fine to reinforce a secret already given if you think the players forgot it or it wasn't as clear as it could have been. Don't fill up your ten secrets with things the characters already know.

Third, avoid stockpiling secrets and clues. At some point, a massive list of unused secrets becomes a burden. You won't want to read through a list of 200 previously unreleased secrets before each game. It's simpler to start fresh. Assess the current situation in the game and determine what secrets are relevant for the upcoming session. Cluttering up our GM toolkit makes it more difficult to find what we need when we need it. Instead, stick to just reviewing and moving unused and relevant secrets from your last session to this one.

Moving secrets forward isn't a violation of the ways of the Lazy Dungeon Master – it's a shortcut that helps us more easily prep for our game.

Review your previous notes, identify unused relevant secrets, and carry them forward.

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This work includes material taken from by Michael E. Shea available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.

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