There are 3 stories to any Actual Play thread:
The Fiction, a.k.a. The Dragons and shit: This is where the cool fictional bits are, the cool stuff that happened in game, the let-me-tell-you-about-my-character stuff is. This is where you write about the bullets possessed by the ghosts of god-killers, the demi-gods of fire and sorcery and the sorcerer-kings seeking to ascend into heaven.
The People a.k.a. The People: These are the little details about the people playing that might have an impact on play. “The paladin was being played by my girlfriend and my best buddy, her ex, was playing the rogue who kept getting into arguments with the paladin all night.”
I’m not looking for a dramatic story at the table every time we play but part of the reason I write AP threads is to have a digital relic, an artifact of play to remember it by. Remembering that I played one game with Aaron and Pete when they both got back into town or that I played in a game with Bret and Christine before we all moved away is relevant to me and adds some personal context to the whole shindig for those following along at home.
When I write an AP thread, I see the thread as belonging to everyone who played in the game.
Mechanics a.k.a. The Game: If we had fun, I want to note the techniques that got us there and how the game helped and/or hindered us. This becomes more important if the game is in development and our playing it was a kind of playtest. Then I really want to think about what worked and what did not, giving the game designer solid feedback.
Actual Play threads are not marking and remembering only the awesome times we have had. Marking difficulties and stutter-steps are just as, if not more important. They are not meant to be some kind of perfect recollection of what happened at the detail, marking down each detail into memory. They are not a place to show how much you know GNS or GDS or Cheetoism or whatever.
At best, AP threads are a place to discuss a game you played, a way to think about what worked for you and what did not, a tool for reflection and remembrance. Most of all, a tool for dialog and discussion. Threads and blog posts are best when they bring about discussion, when there is something there that you are wrestling with. The games that are smooth and hunky-dory don’t really generate many responses. The games that raise an interesting question or two are the ones that become solid threads.
But Judd, what about advertising?
People read AP threads, get excited and go buy games. It happens, no doubt. People have come up to me at cons and told me that they bought X game because of Y thread and game designers have marked sales jumps when a hot thread hits RPG.net.
What does this mean to you, the writer of an AP thread?
It doesn’t mean a damned thing. Just play the game, note the friends who were at the table with ya, think about something that stuck out to you in play, something cool in the fiction and write about it.
P.S. If it is an effort, a chore or feels like a job that you aren’t getting paid to do, then stop. It is okay to not write up an AP thread. The game, the fun and the experience happened anyway. You still get to keep it.