Launching games like Dungeons and Dragons sometimes a thankless job. Dungeon Masters (DMs) have to spend hours preparing for play sessions and then be ready to drop everything and improvise when players decide to grab some random, loose string and tug on it like they’re in this tug of war scene. in Squid games. Players, on the other hand, just have to show up and know how to play their character, while the DM has to give voice to the world and is often expected to master the rules of the game from start to finish. The DM’s job is hard, so we can give them a break.
However, DMs can sometimes benefit from constructive feedback. They may not be good at their job, or they may know what they are doing, but what they are doing is not to the liking of the rest of the group. For example, playing D&D primarily as a tactical combat sim with meat grinder rules is a completely messy way to run the game, but it’s a poor choice if all gamers want more RPG and story.
So someone has to talk to the Master, right? But… that might be weird. And players may worry about hurting relationships, appearing grouse, or sounding like ungrateful malcontents. Fortunately, one topic that industrial-organizational psychology has been studying for decades is how to give employees feedback on their performance in a way that makes them more likely to improve their performance. This is not a perfect analogy for a DM, as this role is not a job, DMs are not employees, and players are not their managers. But still, I think we can still find some good ideas in the literature on how best to give DM feedback.
Tip 1: Give specific feedback
General feedback is much less valuable and less likely to get attention than specific feedback. Telling your Master “You could do better” or “I’m not having much fun” is far less helpful than anything more specific. For example:
|“Fight is boring”||“It would be more fun if you included the environment more in combat so we have more tactical and creative options.”|
|“I’m bored.”||“In my last session, I spent two hours and my character didn’t say anything or roll a single die.”|
|“Things are moving too slowly.”||“You’re letting the party spin the wheels too much instead of forcing us to make a decision and move on.”|
|“You follow the rules too zealously.||“We have to accept the ‘cool rule’ and break other rules if that means we’re all going to laugh and talk about it later.”|
You get the idea. People want to know exactly what they are doing that is not a fit so they can figure out how to change it. Because DMs tend to have the same goals as players: have a good time and have fun stories to tell later.
Tip 2: Focus on the behavior, not the person
People tend to reject or discount feedback if it threatens their self-esteem. No Master likes to hear something that comes close to being attacked as a person. So it’s much easier to convince the DM to change his behavior than it is to change his idea of what kind of person he is. So if you are giving feedback to DMs, focus on what they are does and avoid language that sounds like you’re picking on who or what they are.
|You don’t know the rules.||“You stopped me abruptly when I tried to clarify the rules for flanking.”|
|“You look like one of those masters who wants to kill the players.”||“You don’t seem to have balanced the last combat encounter very well.”|
|“You don’t know much about NPCs.”||“Could you describe the mannerisms and voices of key NPCs so we can better track them?”|
Tip 3: Leave feedback quickly and often
One of my D&D friends not only asked for feedback on his private messages, but did so after almost every session. He just emailed us a quick Google Forms survey with simple questions like “What didn’t you like?” and “What do you want more?” This was great because research has shown that the faster feedback comes in, the more likely we are to tie it to our work and act on it. This is why many companies are moving from annual performance reviews to weekly or even daily performance management feedback.
If your DM doesn’t send out surveys, it’s best to leave your feedback shortly after the session – a side conversation at the exit, a quick Discord or Zoom chat if you’re playing remotely, or even a quick email. or chat (although see personal and asynchronous feedback below). Of course, don’t wait until the end of the campaign to try and look back at everything at once.
Are you one of my suave and sophisticated Patreon supporters? If so, you will receive this and other articles as mini podcasts. Reading text is so old-fashioned!
Tip 4: Help the Master See Progress
One of the earliest performance feedback theories is known as control feedback theory. He states that people typically accept a goal and then use the feedback to determine if they are getting closer to the goal. If I try to get my score up to 5,000 followers on Twitter, for example, feedback showing new followers helps me understand how I’m doing. Or, if I’m trying to create more memorable characters in my D&D game, having players remember them, talk about them, and want to interact with them helps me measure my progress.
So it helps a lot if the DM is really It has goals, and it helps even more if the players know who they are. This can be an important item on the campaign’s “session 0” agenda, where the entire group discusses and agrees on expectations. As a player, you can directly ask the DM: “What are your goals in the game? How do you want to tense and stretch your muscles as a master?” These questions are often asked playersbut I don’t usually hear them asked about DM. If you don’t talk about it in session 0, no problem. You can ask a DM a question at any time. Then, when you offer your feedback, it can make it much more attractive to the Master if it is framed in terms of progress (or not) towards his goals.
Tip 5: Leave reviews in the right place
Generally speaking, people enjoy receiving positive feedback in front of others and negative or constructive feedback in private. Don’t make the mistake of giving negative feedback at the moment in front of other players. This is a great time for praise, but constructive feedback will be most welcome if the Master doesn’t feel the need to defend their reputation or save face.
However, don’t take the easy way out by sending an email or message if you can help. Research has shown that face-to-face feedback is better, if only because it allows for two-way communication and clarification. Some players may find this awkward, especially if your relationship with the person is new or hasn’t yet evolved into a friendship of convenience, but it’s the most effective way to do it.
Here you go! I hope these tips help.