Perhaps you just ran your first session with a new group of excited Investigators or you’re wrapping up an epic chapter. Or maybe things felt a little stale and subdued at the table during the last game. Whether things appear superlative or sub-par, gathering player feedback allows us Keepers to continue actively improving our campaign and developing our skills. To obtain useful, candid feedback, you will want to rely on some simple, open-ended questions for your players.
After our first Peru session that included an extending roleplaying introduction to Larkin, de Mendoza, and Jackson at Bar Cordano, as well as some high-tension sneaking around the Hotel España while distracting the proprietor and discovering Larkin in his terrifying morphine-induced repose followed by a shocking murder and violent encounter with de Mendoza. As we wrapped up, everybody seemed jazzed and expressed enthusiasm about what would happen next. This offered a great opportunity to ask “What did you enjoy most about today’s session?” followed by “What are you looking forward to next time?”
Rather than assess individual player or Keeper performance, these two questions focus on the positive and point you toward what sort of play and style each of your players prefers. If a certain element yields a group consensus positive, then you know what campaign elements to accentuate. Surprisingly, despite all the vicious excitement at the session’s end, my players all expressed absolute joy about furtively breaking into Larkin’s room while their dilettante John Sloane distracted Cupertina with his broken Spanish. This piece of feedback proved valuable for us as it cemented the decision to stick to classic CoC instead of veering into hard pulp.
When an individual player (and their PC) expresses particular interest in a game element, like combat or mythos secrets, this should be noted, as you can use this information to tailor encounters and set up attractive hooks. This information can be used to anticipate and plan for events in your next session.
By engaging with your players about what they want, it becomes much easier for you to deliver it to them. By seeking their feedback, you are actively collaborating with the players to provide them the most satisfying game experience. Adding this feedback to your session notes allows you to have it on hand for the next session’s prep work.
Seek feedback early and often – while it may not be part of your typical routine, incorporating feedback at the beginning of the campaign will set a precedent. By eliciting feedback through positively-worded questions about each session, players will not feel defensive or reticent to provide answers. Instead, it can be a quick, familiar feature in your session wind-downs. By framing feedback as a mutually beneficial quality improvement effort, rather than an assessment of Keeper or player performance, you may promote more active participation in the process.
Gathering feedback provides us, the Keepers, with valuable information throughout the campaign. We want to be able to take full advantage of it by giving players plenty of room to share without interruptions or rebuttals. Be sure to listen intently to their answers. Continue checking back in during later sessions after making adjustments. Consider modifying the two simple questions to seek focused feedback on certain areas, such as providing a list of three events during the session and asking “which of these did you enjoy most?” Ask thoughtful questions, but avoid turning a brief feedback session into an extended interrogation or formal survey.
Players’ interests may shift throughout their adventures, particularly in such a lengthy campaign. For example, during bouts of intensive investigation in New York, our players revealed a thirst for more unexpected excitement and combat. In response, we began incorporating random events into our session to provide thrilling, but brief diversions. After making such a change, pay attention to your players’ responses, continue to gather feedback, and maintain an open mind. By patiently applying this process, you will likely see gradual changes in your style as it expands and evolves with the help of your players.
How do you like to gather feedback from your players? If you run games at conventions or online, how do you like to gather feedback from one-shot players? Do you ever seek mid-session feedback?