Backshadowing the DMs Diary
Running the world
"Part 1 of a diary, a cat and a gun"

Back-shadowing the DM’s Diary


The scribbling DM

I seldom take notes while running a game. I feel taking notes slows things down and often reveals which details are important enough for me to scribble down. Possibly steering some in my direction rather than choosing their own turn.

The remembering DM

Instead I wake up the next morning and walk myself through last night’s adventure. Starting from the beginning all the way to the end. Some details might get lost. But if they’re so easily forgotten they were probably not that important to start with.This results in a bullet point diary. Not only for sentimental reasons or even for remembering last night correctly but to allow for easier back-shadowing.


Foreshadowing is a literary device in which a writer gives an advance hint of what is to come later in the story (ref Wikipedia). The importance of proper foreshadowing and [exploratory scenes](blog/Steal my notes Brandon Sanderson on World Building) is something we already discussed. But as you probably have noticed, proper foreshadowing is hard. Back-shadowing however is significantly easier and produces the same results when playing tabletop RPGs. Back-shadowing is a literary device in which an author shows how an event that already occurred affects the future (ref Wikipedia). You back-shadow when you find hooks in scenes already played. This might seem harder but limitation breeds creation. Write ‘any next scene’ is more difficult than answering the question how your world would react to the scene played and use it to write a follow-up scene.

  • This ensures that they actually chose to play the scene that led to this scene.
  • They’re tricked into thinking the previous scene foreshadowed this scene.
  • You know whether they liked the previous scene (include this in your diary too) and therefore whether you should pursue or abandon this story-line.
  • The world reacting to your players actions will give them a sense of agency. What they do in your world matters, has consequences.

Not all gold that blinks

I hope I got you all excited in trying this but as with all techniques this one too has it’s back-draws which we’ll discuss in ‘Schrodinger's cat and Chekhov's gun’.


Here you can find an actual example. It's a real one, written only for me so please ignore spelling errors and the like.

3 Parts

This is one part of a three part article:


Art is by Lluis the LizArt who you can find on twitter