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Name Your Sessions Afterwards

I picked up on a conversation about whether you (the GM) should tell your players the title of the adventure they are entering. Some adventure titles include spoilers.

The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is an adventure title you can tell your players. It's even enticing. They will want to discover what the secret is. Shadows over Bögenhafen is another that does no harm if they players hear it beforehand. Both of these titles just give some setting information and then tell you there's something spooky happening. Night's Dark Terror is one of the great modules, but the name is among the most boring. Still, it's safe to share. (If I was a player and I heard that was the name of my current adventure, I would assume that it was about vampires.)

A title like Shrine of the Kuo-Toa tells them too much. They know there's a shrine and they know the creatures that inhabit it. Dwellers of the Forbidden City tells you exactly what's coming. If you run Mi-Go A-Go-Go for your Call of Cthulhu players, don't tell them the name before you begin. There's not much scary about a monster in a horror game that has been identified at the outset.

I remember back in the '80s and '90s, when I ran published adventures (which was about about half the time), I had to hide the name of the adventure so that it wouldn't give anything away. Sometimes I had to physically hide the book, the title, and the cover art, using a folder to wrap around the outside of the game book. This was often the case for Call of Cthulhu.

Anyway, these days I use my own house rules, my own settings, and my own situations, playgrounds for my players' characters to explore. There is no art for the players to see. I don't even have names for the adventures in mind. There are distinct places and events, not distinct adventures.

There is something nice, though, about naming an adventure. The campaign is not just one continuous collaboratively generated never-ending story. There are memorable sections.

That's what led me to start naming sessions instead of adventures, a practice of my own that I revived from my old days of gaming, in the previous century.

Here's how it works.

At the end of a session, when everybody is exhaling and reflecting, but before they pack up their stuff and their character sheets, I ask the players to propose a name for that session. Players throw some ideas about, suggesting what it should be named. Which one sounded best to the group? As Referee, I'd have final say on what the "official" name would be.

Character sheets for my game have a section for notes. You can have a space on the sheet called "Chapters."  Each character sheet used in that session gets the session name written down. They can write it on the back of the sheet if there is nowhere else to jot it down.

Over time, the session titles build up and serve as a reminder of all that the character has done, like chapter headings for a saga that grows over time.

Best of all, for the GM, is that the names that players suggest for a session reflect what they saw as the most important or outstanding event in that session. Often their chapter title suggestions have given me clues about what engaged them most. It's an easy way to pick up on the preferences of players new to your table. The most memorable events get names, and that's fun, too.

When my kids were in middle school, here are some of the names they suggested for sessions of a campaign they undertook:

  • "The First Big Haul"
  • "A Deal with the Mongrelmen"
  • "The Search for Crabclaw"
  • "Zorg the Maleficent"
  • "Constricted!" 

It was fun to hear what kids about twelve years old thought was most noteworthy.

If your players suggest "Another Delve" as a title for your last session, you might want to do something to change the pace of the campaign or enliven the game.

If you don't use experience points, having a list of session chapters on character sheets can be a way to track "experience" with a view to some kind of advancement system, however you work it out.

It's simple, it takes little time, and it pays off in the long run to name sessions. Get the players involved in naming. Maybe they get to take turns giving the name, so that they feel more of a stake in it.

If you or your players keep session notes, you can use the titles to keep them organized.

Let me know if you try this (or already do it), and what effect it has for your group.


  1. I've been doing the same for the last several years, though as the GM I name the sessions and reveal it to the players in the recap at the beginning of the next session. I've found that naming sessions also helps reinforce the tone of a campaign. The names for my current Degenesis campaign all run along the lines of "Death on the Docks" or "Land of Milk & Honey", while the names for sessions in a recent Star Wars: Edge of the Empire campaign are usually derived from a quote from the session, such as "Always Take the Drugs" and "These People Like Imps?"

  2. Thanks for the reminder, and the recommendation for player input. I had just started doing this on an open table that went into hiatus (fingers crossed) which had a pretty good string of session titles going, if a little longwinded: “A Nice Gnome Massacre Spoiled,” “The Last Door Closure of the Late Bounty Belcher,” “On the Conjugal Habits of Giant Lizards,”
    and “The Many Deaths of Sudsy Magoosh.”

  3. I do this, most of the time - and the names stick. People still talk about "Total Party Teleport" and "Four Entered Felltower." And even if not, when they look at the summary list, it's much easier to pick out where some fun even must have occurred based on the name. Highly recommended practice.

  4. LOVE this idea! I use a "fame" mechanic and this will fit into it nicely. If I run "Battle at the Crossroads" but the players label it "Trapped Like Rats" it'll be MUCH more fun when NPC's refer to it by the name the players gave it!

    1. It hadn't occurred to me that the characters in the game's fiction, whether PCs or NPCs, would use the titles applied by the players to organize and recall adventures that had gone by. If it works for you, though, go with it, I suppose. I think that Arthurian tales included in-fiction references to specific named adventures that the knights had.


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