Player feedback

For a while I have been thinking on the subject of retrieving feedback from the players, after gaming sessions. What went well, and what could have been better. So forth.

Of course, this would be an attempt at tailoring my GM efforts to better suit my group, as I find that I have the most fun, when the players enjoy themselves. I don’t think many GM’s will feel much different.

But how should I ask them for feedback? People are generally polite and wouldn’t want to hurt other peoples’ feelings. I have given this some thought.

My silent thoughts

I’m afraid that asking people directly about what they disliked about a session might backfire. Most people are fairly polite and tries to avoid unnecessary conflict, which might result in less than sincere answers. That’s my fear at least.

So I have come to the conclusion that asking them about what was bad should come after asking them about what was good. At least just to get the conversation going to begin with.

The good…

This is not an attempt to flatter myself, but it can never the less be beneficial to know what the players liked. It will be too difficult to better my efforts steering only by negative input, so to me it seems just as vital as asking about the bad. The following are questions I plan to ask all players to think about for maybe a minute before actually answering.

  1. What was the most interesting single event in the session? And why?
  2. Was there a thing you think I handled particularly well? And why?
  3. Which loose ends do you wish to investigate in the next session?

The point of the first questions is to find out what I should have more of in future sessions.

The second serves to give me a sense of how the players wants me to handle things, be they rules, NPC actions or the story. Anything at all.

The third is a little different since it is essentially the same as asking “where do you want the story to go from here?”. This is a great way to let the players impact the story in a Out Of Character way that doesn’t disrupt the game itself.

… and the bad

Now, this is where it will probably hurt a little. I can take criticism fairly well, at least when I ask directly for it, but it still hurts. In my head I know that I’m not the best GM, but I do so desperately want to be an excellent GM. Now, the painful questions:

  1. What did you find dull about the session?
  2. What did I handle poorly, and why was it bad?
  3. Did I say or do something that made you cringe?
  4. Did I do something that you consider “bad GM practice”?

I expect these questions to deliver a world of pain and shame. The point behind each one should be fairly evident; to ask the players what I should never do again.

Finishing remarks

I expect the answers to be foreseeable, with the occasional surprise of course. After a session I have a few ideas about what went less than perfect, but having people say them out loud might motivate me to actually change my GM’ing practice for the better. I expect the surprises to be the most educational though.

The idea of feedback is not new or original, I know that. I have never been in a game where the GM consistently asked for it though. If you have ever tried requesting some formal feedback after gaming sessions, then I’d love to hear from you. Having more questions would be tremendously helpful.

Either way, feel free to post suggestions and experiences in the comments!

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About Undreren

I'm a university student from Denmark, currently taking my candidate degree in Mathematical-Economics. I have played pen & paper RPG's since 2004, but my interest for the phenomenon sparked about 3 years prior to that. I'm an amateur programmer and knows Java and Haskell as well as some rudimentary HTML, CSS, PHP and Javascript.

4 responses to “Player feedback”

  1. Nifelhein says :

    I tried this in multiple formats over the years, the one thing that worked the most for me though, was to talk tot eh players during the week, I would first talk about how they are liking the game, this generates the polite reply most of the time, but I can then build into what worked well: I share with them something I thought was poor in the last session, something that more often than not is tied to myself.

    By doing that they feel I not only want to improve, but I also am open to criticism, they usually give me a little something to work with then, either by agreeing or giving me something they thought was not satisfying too.

    • Undreren says :

      You suggest that the most important message to convey is that you know you’re not a perfect GM, and you need their help to improve? The formalities are maybe redundant?

      • Nifelhein says :

        Not only that, asking them on the table tends to generate a polite response, asking them separately works best, it is both more personal and also makes it clear that you are seeking them for input. I found out that directly asking is not enough to break the reluctance to share what they disliked. Of course some people are more willing to share their thoughts, but overall I have learned that making them comfortable comes before having the info I need.

  2. Undreren says :

    Ah, of course. Asking them separately might be more beneficial.

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