In this series, Player Platform, I'm going to take some time to give special considerations for the other side of the table. There is a lot of material out there for tips and tricks from the GM's side of things, but not nearly as much attention is given towards the players and the things they can do to improve their experience of the game. In this first iteration, I'd like to start by bridging the gap between player and GM and focus on how the players can get the GM to work for them.
Players, I'm sure you all know full well that your GM probably spends a good deal of time preparing for the game. If they write their own material for the story, there's a certain amount of worldbuilding, plot planning, and mechanical balancing that goes into setting up the sessions. If they are using published adventure modules, they have to spend that time reading over the adventure book to familiarize themselves with the plot and encounters, as well as make any necessary adjustments to it.
These considerations the GM makes are based around what they think will improve their game and what they think the player will enjoy. But the GM is just guessing. For all the crafting that happens, a fair amount of this is simply guesswork on the GM's part. If you as a player give feedback and suggestions to the GM, this removes a lot of that guesswork. Instead of using their own observations to make assumptions about what the players might enjoy, they can get this information straight from the source.
So if you feel like your last session was too heavy on the combat, you should politely let the GM know, so that way they can design their next adventure in a way that it doesn't lean so much on the hacking and slashing. If you're tired of dealing with demons, a hint about that might get the GM to pit you against bandits instead. Most GMs aren't going to intentionally ignore advice from their players, because the GM wouldn't be running the game if they didn't care about the player's enjoyment.
But players don't always realize this. Because I value player input as a GM, I have made a habit of wrapping up each session with soliciting player feedback. And quite honestly, this is usually like pulling teeth. Players wouldn't show up to the game unless they enjoyed themselves, so they usually just default to saying each session was good or some other form of blanket praise. But what GM's really need to hear is specific praise or criticism. Did you like that one NPC? Great, say so. Did you feel that the plot twist was too obvious, because you knew Elliot Frostmoon was evil from the start? Let your GM know they could have planned that better.
Communicating your likes and preferences with the GM is one of your tasks as a player, and it is ultimately to your benefit. The only way the GM can work to bring you a better experience is if they know what works and what doesn't.
A lot of players have reservations about criticizing the GM, and rightfully so. Rather than doing it in the middle of the game (which is kind of rude,) it's usually best to formalize a process for this. One suggestion I mentioned above is to set a time after the game for evaluation. You could also use comment cards, possibly with a ballot box for anonymity. Another option is to keep a running group chat where players can discuss things as they occur to you. Whatever you decide, this process should be agreed on by the players and the GM so that it works for everyone.
The important thing is that the players take responsibility for helping the GM to improve the game for everyone. It's really easy to sit passively and wait for the GM to make everything, but the more you involve yourselves in the GM's creative process, the more it can be tailored directly to you to create an experience that you will enjoy.
I hope you enjoyed this and the rest of the content by Digital & Dice. For those who are interested in reading further, I suggest checking out the article “Worldbuilding and Player Input” on my personal blog. Until next time…Game on Internets!
- Draconick, Digital and Dice Contributor
I, Nick “Draconick” Johnson, am a writer and roleplaying enthusiast with over ten years of experience in various tabletop roleplaying games both as a player and as a GM. I am also somewhat involved in other forms of tabletop gaming such as wargaming, board games, and card games. It is my hope that by creating and maintaining this website that I can share my unique take on all things within our hobby and to foster a community of like-minded individuals.