Are you a Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master, who is currently running for a group of players, through an adventure? If so, and you’re anything like me, you might end most, if not every, session asking yourself:
- Was that good?
- Did they have fun?
- Did I have fun?
- Do they care about the story?
- Do they like that NPC?
- How do they feel about the villain?
- What adventure should we do next?
It’s a lot of questions, because whether or not this is a prewritten adventure, you are constantly making a lot of decisions about how the game is going, and if your players don’t have fun, you can’t point to the book and say “It’s not my fault, it’s just written that way!”
So you want to know how to get feedback from your players, without them being too nice and saying “Yeah, it’s not bad.” We don’t want “not bad,” we want “awesome.” So here are some ways to get feedback that is actually helpful in knowing what your players want, and what they enjoy.
This is kind of a cheat answer, right off the bat, because the first time you want to check in with your group is before you even start playing. During Session 0, you want to see what your players are looking for in a game. Do they like mowing down monsters in a dungeon, or deep political intrigue, or fantastic settings with interesting people and problems? There are a ton of options. One fun idea I heard, is to ask your players “What is something on your D&D wishlist?” Have they always wanted to fight a Kraken? Do they want to be seen as trustworthy by the king? Are they super interested in the Feywild? Get some cool ideas here, before the game starts, and you can have this list of things to build to, that they will enjoy.
End of the Session
Every session, I always say “I hope you had fun, I know I did,” but most sessions I will have tried something new for the first time, whether it’s a new mechanic, a new NPC, a homebrew monster, or what have you. So, if there is something that I’m not sure about, I’ll ask the party “what did you guys think about X?” Now, most of the time when you ask that, the players will just knee-jerk reaction and say “Yeah, it was cool/fine/interesting,” so if you want to get a more honest answer from them, follow that up with “I wasn’t totally sure, because I hadn’t done X before, and this one part of it seemed like it could be weird,” at which point you have led the way with an open and honest critique, and that makes people more willing to be honest themselves. They might respond with “Yeah, it was cool, this one aspect was a little tricky though.”
For some DMs, that might be enough, they know that that needs a bit of attention, but for others, it would be fair to open it up with “What about it didn’t work for you?” or maybe “Is there another way you would have done it?” Most players aren’t also DMs themselves, so while they might not have a solid answer, it might inspire them to say “it felt like it could have gone faster” or “they were giving me a weird Hannibal Lecter vibe that I don’t know you were trying to do.” If you do it right, you’ll be able to get a bite size of their honest opinion, that can help you make adjustments for next week.
When You Level Up
Every time you level up, part of the game changes, as every PC now has new abilities, or players might even change their characters entirely. Because of this, this is the best time to make rule changes to the game. Want to try a new initiative style, or make Insight checks secret, or introduce Followers, now is the time to do it. The players are already in the headspace that rules are changing, so see if there are any rules you want to change as well.
End of the Adventure/Campaign
After an adventure, or even a whole campaign, the party has just finished an arc of some kind, and a new one is about to start. This is where you ask if they want to make big changes. Perhaps they just finished a dungeon crawl, and they really want to go do some deep roleplay. Perhaps they just saved the town, and now they want to make the town their new home base, and make roots in the community. Once you finish an arc, take a week or two off, ask the players what direction they want to go towards, and plan a new style. In fact, if you really want to open it up, say “we are going to take a break from [previous style], so what do you guys want to do instead.” This push will really help them open up, and talk about it. Worse case, they might say “actually I really liked what we were doing” which then requires the least amount of work from you. But often times, your players want variety just like you do, even if it’s in a different direction than you anticipated.
How do you get helpful feedback from your players? Let me know in the comments below!
**All the art in this article is from MCDM’s magazine Arcadia, and they are worth checking out if you haven’t heard of them before.**