Using a DM diary to foreshadow scenes
Foreshadowing is important but hard to do in tabletop RPGs. Solve this by keeping a diary and back-shadowing.

Back-shadowing the DM’s Diary


The scribbling DM

I seldom take notes while running a game. Taking notes slows things down. And it reveals which details are important enough for me to scribble down. Which can lead to players following the path they perceive to be important instead of choosing their own.

The remembering DM

Instead, I wake up the next morning and walk myself through last night’s session. 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. It helps me remember but it also lets me back-shadow while preparing my next session.


Foreshadowing is a literary device in which a writer gives an advance hint of what is to come later in the story (ref Wikipedia). Proper foreshadowing is important. But as you have noticed, proper foreshadowing is hard. Especially in tabletop RPGs where you have minimal control over the story.
Back-shadowing 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 by finding hooks in scenes already played. This might seem harder but limitation breeds creation. Writing ‘any next scene’ is difficult. Answering how your world reacts to the scene played and using it to write a follow-up scene is easier.

  • 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 or at least engaged with the previous scene. If so it's more likely they'll like this follow-up scene as well.
  • The world reacting to your player's actions will give them a sense of agency. What they do in your world matters, has consequences.


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 part three of a three part article:


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

Author(s): Gregory Vangilbergen - (Updated:Jan 25, 2022)