350 RPG Retcon


RPG Retcon, revise. A piece of new information that imposes a different interpretation on previously described events.


I think every game has to do this, at one level or another. Things just happen.

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I definitely spent a good amount of time searching my memory for specific instances that I felt a Retcon was necessary in our games. I was having a hard time coming up with anything. Is it possible that every piece of lore I ever doled out was perfectly in step with the previously established story?…Most likely not the case. Then I thought, maybe the players or I didn’t care much about continuity in our games…That doesn’t make sense.

I then left the topic alone for a few days. I think I figured it out. Most role playing is a continuous ebb and flow of info to the players and back to the GM. I don’t consider it Retcon-ing if the info/lore hasn’t entered the story yet. The things written in my notebook are ideas of what may possibly come to be. I’m not afraid to switch gears or cross out pages of my plan. My players regularly reprimand each other for verbally contemplating about what is in the next room or what is going to happen next. The shout of “Stop it! Don’t give him any ideas!” is music to my ears. Some of the twisted machinations they formulate in their minds are far worse for them…I mean better tales to spin then what I devised the night before. (You know, half asleep at the table with my notebook and a 1/2 eaten package of Vienna Fingers.) Damn right I’m going to make their worst fears a reality.

As for dealing with “facts” that may have changed in a story, most people don’t walk around taking notes. They rely on their memory to recall “facts”. If I refer to a blacksmith they have met before as Charlie, and noone recalls his original name of Dustin. No harm, no foul. But, if a player immediately says “I thought his name was Dustin?”, I use the original name or make up a story why he said his name was Dustin originally. Lastly, if a player looks at his notes 10 minutes later and recalls the name, I simply say you must have been mistaken. Just like believing some fact in reality but you find you are incorrect. (definitely happening more often the older I get)

I personally don’t take great notes while busy weaving the story. That, combined with my players giving NPC’s and places nicknames within 15 seconds of hearing them. Such as; Budris the guard becomes Buddy. The village of Doggeton becomes Doggy town. Lara Soulforger the Paladin of Rittersoon becomes knight girl. I think you’re picking up what I’m puttin’ down. Other GM’s may not have this issue as often as I. So if my solutions are considered Retcon-ing, then I am guilty as charged. “But your honor, I swear I thought his name was Funkin Hoddypeaks.”

Feelin Good about Retcons


I don’t consider it Retcon-ing if the info/lore hasn’t entered the story yet. The things written in my notebook are ideas of what may possibly come to be.

Precisely, I think Brett takes an overly expansive approach to “retconning.” Some of this has been addressed in Discord, but you’re not alone in thinking that retconning can be applied only to established continuity. Anything that the GM has planned is simply part of the quantum soup: it isn’t canon or continuity until it manifests into the (im)material, fictive universe.

I want to point out to no one in particular that this actually is the appropriate definition of “retroactive continuity”: new continuity is written to address a perceived inconsistency in established fiction. Retroactive continuity actually is the act of creating more fiction to address one’s previous errors. But I understand that common usage of retcon has changed to mean also “just changing things.” I don’t want to be that “actually :nerd_face:” guy, but I am.


I like the way the BSers are breaking this down - the idea of a more narrow approach to being only impacting those things that are manifest at the table is solid. The more I read on these posts the more I start to lean in that direction.


Crosslink to the other discussion on this episode’s conent. :slight_smile:

Is All Improv A Retcon?

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@Gabe ,I love the thought of (im)material as the (un)real space we all work/play in for this hobby. (yes I consider GM’ing work, but more of an African safari than breaking rocks)

@Fafhrd ,Hey if the rest of us stand on one side of the boat, you’re bound to at least lean to the middle. :wink: Thanks for having this as a topic. I feel most of us spent some time qualifying our thoughts toward it.

@OldSchoolDM , Appreciate the link. I read that conversation before posting. I should have placed it there. Let’s just call it “new guy syndrome”.

Feelin Good About the (im)material