Dungeons & Dragons Online

Don’t Assume Everything is Fine (and the Matt Mercer behavior you should emulate)

As DM’s, we get a lot of advice about player feedback. Some along the lines of “Players may not give you feedback directly, ask for their feedback occasionally and otherwise assume everything is fine unless you pick up on body language indicating otherwise.” Well, not to scare you or burst your bubble, but your game and players may not be fine. In fact, you should assume they aren’t and work proactively to prove otherwise.

Players aren’t good at giving feedback about their enjoyment of your game and they suck at being honest about their feelings. FACT. They don’t want to hurt you, especially if they know this is your homebrew world and you’ve worked your ass off to put the game together. If a player has a problem and it goes unaddressed, they usually (outside of a few A+ communicators) would rather make up a lame excuse to leave the game rather than tell you they’re not having fun. So to counteract that, take a cue from Matt Mercer, and check in with your players after each session.

A few reasons why this is critically important:

  1. Any amount of RP can lead to hurt feelings.

Maybe you’re thinking “Our RP is perfect!” or “We don’t do enough RP to cause an issue” but both assume that you’re roleplaying with robots instead of humans. Eventually, your game’s roleplay may drift into territory that could hurt someone. NOT because of an r/RPGhorrorstories moment necessarily, but because people are people and can be sensitive.

Read more:  Most people (me included) often mixes up roleplaying and a good storytelling.

SOLUTION: RP drift into something serious or just go on for long enough that it was significant? Follow up with the players involved immediately after the session. “Hey, great job roleplaying today. Wanted to see how you felt about that moment…did you like it? I know it was a bit more intense / longer than we normally do.”

  1. Your players might be really good at paying attention but having zero fun.

We tend to think of the cell phone as the indicator that fun is not being had, but I know plenty of players who have hated the game they were playing in but still somehow remain engaged. It’s amazing and I don’t know how they do it, but they do. And they’d probably be great at poker.

SOLUTION: Follow up with your players after each game in a casual, non time-consuming way. Not just “Did you have fun?” (Surprise! They’ll say yes no matter what!) but “What would you liked to have seen more or less of that session?” If their answer is “nothing, it was amazing and perfect!” don’t be afraid to ask them to think of some constructive criticism for you over the next week and KEEP ASKING after the next sessions. Heck, send a two question anonymous survey after each session and tell them to rank their play experience out of 10. Whatever gets the message across that sharing feedback is a mundane, boring, everyday thing. Eventually your players will realize you’re serious and use the feedback mechanism when they need to.

  1. Your players won’t realize how important this is until it’s too late.
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Once, as a player, I lost a D&D group because for 2 years, four out of five of our players weren’t having fun. The game was too RP focused, the NPCs weren’t interesting, the world wasn’t very developed and there were no combats and scant dungeons. You know how sad it is for a 2 year D&D game to break up? Extremely. Players hate it too. It hurts them to think they wasted their time or hurt someone’s feelings by leaving. This is all preventable.

TL;DR: Matt Mercer talks to each of his players individually after every game and you should too. Luckily, you don’t need to be a voice actor to have an honest conversation with your players.

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