Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Players' Feedback...

Good Evening, All:

As I mentioned last week, I posted a GM Feedback Questionnaire to my gaming group's mailing list, and gathered feedback from my five players over the next few days. The following quote is the body of the email I sent the group including the analysis of their comments.

Here's a brief synopsis of the information you provided via the GM Feedback Questionnaire survey.

In regards to last week's session, everyone seemed to have a good time. The session rating ranged from 5 to 7, with 6 being the average, of course. It seems that you guys enjoyed the coordinated party combat options, as well as Dartanon's sudden efforts to wrangle a wyvern into submission, at least for the moment. Many of you found yourselves distracted somewhat, for various reasons, but no one complained about the quality of the game, simply the distractions. The session could have been improved with a better definition of the group's goals and a greater focus on the game, as well as more moments of cool for more characters.

In regards to overall campaign satisfaction, people seem pretty satisfied. There are plenty of minor quests, but no strong, overarching plot lines as dictated by me, which can lead to some confusion. However, since we are in endgame mode (given that the baby is coming in three or four months), things appear to be going well.

In regards to the other characters in the party, you guys seem to enjoy the diversity of the group, and you all contribute toward the party's success. There are some minor adjustment issues for both Tom and others with integrating a new personality into the mix, but no one seems bent out of shape about it. Those that have mentioned it do not feel it is a huge issue, but it does explain some of the confusion about the direction of the game, as he comes up to speed on the campaign. As an aside, I appreciate you guys taking the time to help him along, and hope that you can continue to do so as we go along.

In regards to what you guys consider to be my strong points as a GM, my portrayal of NPCs wins, hands down. (4 out of 5 of you mentioned that.) Coming in at a close second and third are the depth of the setting and the epic feel of the adventures. Honorable mention is also given to combat and descriptions.

My current weaknesses as a GM appear to be with the lack of focus that comes from the sandbox style of this campaign. In the past, I've always run railroading story arcs that sometimes restricted the players too much. I may have swung too far over into the other side of things. Also, everyone mentioned that I need to help keep the group focused on the game, as opposed to the tangential conversations that distract us on occasion.

Everyone likes the adventures I run, although one person mentioned that he would like to see things just a little bit harder. However, the depth of story is well rated.

I asked specifically about the NPCs in my game, as I know that's the primary means by which the players interact with setting. Everyone enjoys the voices, facial expressions and personalities. There was a request for a campaign level "arch villain", but at this stage in the game, it's hard to whip one up with any true meaning. Next campaign, however, I'll definitely consider it.

And last but not least, you guys felt that I could improve in the following: more action, less talk (aka better pacing); more GM-derived direction, less player-derived direction; and maintain better control of the group for the purposes of improving the speed of the game (i.e. improve my ability to herd cats, er, uh, I mean gamers).

Things I'm Still Doing Okay On: good NPC exchanges and portrayal, strong plot lines with consistent interconnections, good world depth and good adventures. These remains consistent with the past, with world depth being an area I improved in within this arena.

Things I Have Improved On: This campaign, no one has had any issues with downtime. Cities and cultures are distinctive without being overdone. The size of my dungeons, and their general experience, has improved with this campaign. From the feedback, I have overcome my old problem of too many overarching story lines and created more PC-oriented mini-adventures. However, as I'll note below, I may have gone one step too far. (Finding a happy medium here is hard to do.)

Things I Need To Improve On: I need to work on pacing my stories, finding a better balance between overarching plot lines and PC-oriented mini-adventures, and improve the focus of the group during the game session itself.

So, how does that sound to you guys? Any questions or comments?

Thank you, everyone, for your participation. Your feedback is appreciated, and allows me to see what I need to focus on in order to continue to improve my abilities as a GM. Hopefully, that will lead to a greater gaming experience for you guys in the future as I take your feedback and implement it going forward.

As you can tell, I gain a lot of information from the players when I run these surveys. For example, morale overall is pretty high, but I can see that the pressures of ending the campaign in the next few months (my wife is due in late May/early June) is starting to create some tension in regards to the usual diversions that our gaming group is plagued with. Like many other groups, we talk a lot about movies, TV shows and so on, occasionally interrupting the flow of the game for our brief exchanges. I try to keep them minimized without coming off as a jerk, but I think the added tension of wrapping things up satisfactorily means that I haven't been doing the best of jobs in these regards. Add into the mix that we recently gained a new player who is still adjusting to the group and the setting, and it becomes a little more pronounced.

I can also see, from comparing these results to the past, that I've actually gotten better as a GM since my last campaign. In addition, I can see that, while I enjoy shifting to a sandbox style game, perhaps I may need to provide more blatant adventure guidance if I sense things are getting slow. As I would probably have phrased it, I should consider an occasional increase in the use of "clue fairy" musk.

I was really surprised at the level of commentary on both my world depth and my NPC portrayal. I've worked hard on both of them over the years, and apparently I've found a group of players that enjoy and appreciate that effort. It really means a lot to me as a GM to get that kind of feedback.

Now, if you are running a game, you might consider sending out this questionnaire to your players. If you are a player, you might even consider sending these questions and your answers to your GM, if you think he can handle it. If you've got a good GM, I'm sure he can.

Hope This Helps,

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