GM Tips: Nothing is universally right

After I posted my GM Tips: 5 Tips to Help Describe a Scene article a few days ago I was sent some feedback (I love constructive feedback) from Dave Sherohman via Google+, I was pleased to hear that David agreed with some of my offerings, however he did take issue (as I suspected a number of people might) with tip #4:

Original article:

When you’re describing a scene, if possible ask the players some questions to have them fill in some of the finer details, this can take a bit of getting used to if you are accustomed to a more GM-heavy style of game, but it not only saves you some work, it also gets the players more invested in the scene. That said, if the player seems to be struggling for an idea, don’t hold up the game waiting for them, tell them not to worry about it and move on, either throwing it open to the group or making up a detail for yourself.

David’s response was:


I was right there with you up until #4.  While asking players to fill in details may increase investment for some players, there are those of us who will be violently torn out of the game by it.  “What does the sign say?  Why are you asking me?  My character didn’t put the sign there and has absolutely no control over what it says.”  Asking me to help you create the game world during play destroys any sense that the world already existed before I got there.

I’m not saying that technique is universally wrong, but it is not universally right, either.

This isn’t an article to get at David, like I say I love feedback and his point was very well made, but rather to point out that he was absolutely right to bring this very valid point up, something I agree with wholeheartedly.

There is no absolutely right way to GM

There I said it, what may work for one people may be no good for others, and what doesn’t work for someone else might be just the thing that your own game needs, you may hear some people on the internet bang on about secret-techniques of GM-ing or running games the right way, and TBH I think that’s absolutely rubbish.

My GM Tips articles are not designed to provide you with a 100% foolproof way of GM-ing your games, how on earth could I do that? I have no insider information on how your games run or what works for you in particular?

So you might ask yourself why I make GM Tips videos or blog posts if this is the case? Well it’s because over my years of GM-ing I’ve picked up a lot of techniques and tricks that I find work for me in my games, and I’m picking up new ones all the time from talking to other GMs, getting feedback from players, trying out new systems, running one-shots and campaigns, etc. All I can do is tell you what works for me, in my games, and hope that some of the techniques will maybe work for you or at least inspire you to think slightly differently about your own games; if one of my tips isn’t working for you then feel free to discard it, it’s not like I’m hiding in the bushes waiting to whack your hand with the back of a ruler.

That said I will be altering the intro to my GM Tips videos to make it clearer that I’m presenting you with techniques that work for me, experiment with them, test them out, if they work great, if not then either change them to work with your game or discard them.

Thanks again for bringing up a very valid point David 🙂

Picture is part of a Doré wood engraving illustration from The Divine Comedy labeled for reuse on Google Image Search, the original image can be found here.

The Importance of Feedback in RPGs

No-one starts off as the world’s best GM, when I think of how truly shocking that very first game of WFRP I ran was I give a little shudder, but at the time we all had fun and we learned a lot from that first game; I always say to people that there’s nothing wrong with not being a perfect GM as long as you’re always trying to improve and you’re putting that effort in.

One of the best ways to improve you games is to solicit feedback from your players, now you can ask players for feedback in the aftermath of a game session but some people don’t feel comfortable giving feedback in-front of others or need a bit of time to reflect on the session and get their thoughts in order; I find it best to ask for feedback a day or two after a session has completed. One other issue with feedback is that it can be difficult for players to know where to start or what sort of feedback you are looking for, after all someone just saying “the session was crap” might be accurate in their eyes but it’s not particularly helpful from the perspective of a GM seeking to improve their game.

So what can I do?

The best way that I have found to get feedback is to make a feedback form available to players shortly after the session that asks them to rate various facets of the game and also asks specific questions, this not only makes it easier on the players but also ensures that you get the sort of feedback that will be useful to you as a GM.

You can find an example of the feedback sheet that I use for my Jadepunk game by clicking on the link below:

Click here for Jadepunk Player Feedback Form