Being open to feedback is a good thing. Whether it’s GMing, fiction writing, underwater basket-weaving, or any other craft, striving to improve yourself is a mark of humility and maturity. However, asking for feedback is easier said than done.

Way back in “Boredom” we talked about the fine art of constructive criticism. There our advice was all about compliment sandwiches, tact, and preserving the feelings of your hardworking GM. If you happen to be that hardworking GM, however, you might be surprised to learn that fishing for feedback is every bit as hard. That’s because GMs risk turning their fun game into a fraught seminar when they overemphasize critique.

I ran into this problem myself a few years back. It was a homebrew campaign, and it was going through a rough patch. There’d been a bit of railroading the previous session, and I knew that my players had some valid complaints to make. I decided to drop the following message into the group forum:

I’m not the best GM in the world. I’m not sure I’m even a terribly good one. But I do want to get better. I already know there are some things last session that I would have liked to do differently, but I want to make sure I’m addressing your concerns as well.

Hit the link for the “Campaign Suggestion Box.” There you can leave anonymous feedback about what you liked, what you didn’t, and what you’d like to see change.

I recall feeling very proud of myself when I posted that message. I’d taken the bull by the horns, and we would come out the other end a stronger party. The link pointed to a little app called Suggestion Ox, but I’m sure any anonymizing service could have worked as well. Which is to say, not at all.

You see, by setting up an anonymous suggestion box, I was telling my players that any reasoned discussion would descend into argument. By waiting until a poor session to implement the thing, I was tainting it with bad vibes from the outset. And by making the process so formal and impersonal, I’d managed to transform high adventure into Human Resources.

So when it’s time for feedback, I hope you’ll be slightly less forceful than me (or Miss Gestalt). Keep things light and conversational. Make sure that your players are ready to have the conversation. And above all, make sure that you’re not dragging a confession from your otherwise contented players. Because focusing on the negative isn’t exactly the fastest way to fun and happiness.

Question of the day then! When you’re GMing, how do you go about soliciting feedback? Do you ask for it after every session? Wait until your can have a one-on-one with each player? Or do you create an anonymous forum where your players feel awkwardly compelled to list out all your least attractive qualities? Let’s hear all about the right (and wrong) ways to do for feedback down in the comments!

 

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