Netflyer Oxford University Role Playing Games Society
Netflyer 31

Back to the Main Page Back to Netflyer Back to Contents

Why the Pen is Mightier than the Sword

So your GM has asked you for turn sheets, but one question fills your mind: what is a turn sheet anyway?

Memories of last night floated around her mind, everything had been perfect, the costume was great, her character was fun to play, the evening had gone perfectly. Until that upstart young Wilamina, played by her best friend, had ruined her chances of capturing control of the entire eastern seaboard. So revenge must be plotted. But how would she get her cunning master plan to take over the world to the GMs, a group of people known for their ability to forget their own plot let alone the actions of their players?

This is what turn sheets are for. Although they're not just there for the nasty things in life like destroying a rival through a complicated course of political dealings, or obliterating planets that have upset you. They can also help with little things like sending wedding presents to other characters, or spending time learning the ancient secrets of the power of Mu. They are the tool that allows a player to communicate their plans for the next few `in game' weeks, months or years to a GM.

In many games, such as the Society Game or Vampire, a meeting of the characters occurs only once every few weeks or sometimes even longer in game time. As your will probably want your characters to do something the best way to let the GMs know is by giving them a piece of paper /e-mail/back of an envelope with your plans for that time period. That piece of paper is a turn sheet.

There are as many turn sheet styles as there are players, ranging from the straight listing of priorities and how long the characters wants to spend on them, to bizarre existential in-character poetry or porn. Basic things to include are what your character is going to do and how much time they spend on it. Some idea of why they are doing these things can be useful to GMs, as can feedback. Standing orders can also be helpful, describing actions that take place every turn and any number of other bizarre requests designed to help your GM out of their difficult and highly pressured existence.

Little things can make a big difference to how turn sheets are considered. Many GMs reserve the right to make up anything they can't read easily, so legibility is a must if you want your character to spend the turn practising magical arts and not flower arranging. As turn sheets all have to be read and considered, any that come in past a deadline are often only partly thought about, or sometimes burnt. Finally, turn sheets that come wrapped in 5 notes are often more speedily considered and might be given special bonuses.

Once the turn sheet has been submitted the GMs read it, lose it, panic about it, find it at the last minute in their fridge and then try to work out what happens in the game on the strength of twenty, thirty or fifty different players all trying to make sure that their dreams become reality. Responses will then turn up. Different games respond differently. Some try and offer fast turnaround, some have a turn sheeting period before the next game session begins. Responses can vary: some GMs like to offer descriptive results, some prefer to run whole sessions based on the characters actions, others just like to list the results of the players choices. Time is often the major determining factor as GMs may have upwards of thirty players requiring feedback before starting the game.

The other type of turn sheeting is the verbal turn sheet. This consists of a player telling the GM their plans and the GM trying to remember it despite having work/life/ lectures etc to deal with. Verbal turn sheeting is an exercise in playing a cross between Russian Roulette and Chinese Whispers, you might get what you asked for but then again you might get a verbal bullet somewhere unpleasant as your carefully laid plans are utterly distorted beyond recognition by forgetful GMs. Still this doesn't stop many players, many of whom are too lazy to be bothered to write a normal turn sheet.

Turn sheets are simple things really, but extremely vital to several games, and also characters' existences. Sending in turn sheets doesn't deprive players of the right to send the GMs questions, queries, bribes or other stuff. It is merely meant to represent their main actions. Without sending the GMs a turn sheet by the deadline you have little say in what happens to your character and can miss out on fun parts of the game. For example:

Norton the Mighty is conversing with his friend Delor the Vastly Hard in the bimonthly meeting of the Dragon Slayers Guild.
Norton: "So Delor what have you been up to? Since last meeting I've slain three dragons, rescued four princesses and spent countless hours wooing the love of my life in a deadly game of courtly intrigue, as well as researching a cure for cancer."
Delor: "Erm . well I, I, erm, I, spent some time monging in front of the TV. Neighbours was excellent this month."

So unless your character really does want to turn sheet watching Australian soaps, send in a turn sheet.
Daniel Singer