Monday, March 4, 2013

GM Practices I: Question of the (Every Other) Week

Here's a simple thing that I do that other GMs might find useful in their own games.

I run a GURPS fantasy game every other Sunday, with occasional interruptions. In order to make sure my players know that yes, this is the week we're gaming, I send out a reminder email on Fridays before a game.

And that works, but only up to a point. People have a habit of glancing at routine email and then immediately forgetting about it. So I started including a question about the game with each email. I ask the players to think about it, and then each game we take a few minutes to talk about the subject.

I find that this helps people to remember that they got the reminder email, and also it gives me some idea of how the players are enjoying the game and what I could do to improve it. Here are some of the questions I've asked over the course of the campaign:
  • What do you think is the most important thing you found out last game?
  • What do you think is the best possible outcome for the circus in the current situation? What's the minimum that you would consider a win? What would you consider a loss?
  • (About a caper they had decided to pull just as the last game ended.) For this jailbreak, what do you think your tactical advantages over the Gondans are? What are your disadvantages?
  • Is there anything about the rules we play with that particularly bugs you? If so, do you have a suggestion for how we could change it?
  • How would you feel about adding another player to the group? If I was looking for someone, would you have someone in mind? How would you feel about it if it were a complete stranger?
  • Is there any aspect of the gameworld you would like to see fleshed out more? Geography? History? Religion? Technology? Folk songs? Cuisine? Card games?
  • Which NPCs would you like to meet again? Which ones would you rather never meet again?
  • If your character were to get the chance to have some formal training in something, what would you like it to be?
  • What has been your favorite part of the campaign so far? What has been your least favorite part?
  • What in-game circumstances, positive or negative, would make you want to retire your character? What would make you say, "Okay, this person's story is over. Time for someone new"? If there are any positive outcomes that would make you want to do that, is there one your is character actively working toward that as a goal?
  • Suppose I were to run a short alternate game as a break from the Circus Sophia campaign. What sort of game would you be interested in? Pulp adventure? Buck Rogers-style science fiction? Modern shoot-em-up? Fantasy, but of a different sort? Would you be interested in taking a turn as GM for yourself?
  • The GM says to you, "Okay, I'm going to advance the timeline. X days/months/years pass, and we pick up the story then..." How do you feel about the GM doing this? What amount of time, if any, makes this a fun-killing move by the GM?
 Sometimes I drop in a little bit of background information about a new city the PCs have just traveled to, or a new group that they've encountered. And sometime I can't think of anything and I don't ask a question at all. But I manage to think of something for most of our gaming sessions, and I think it helps to keep me actively thinking about how the game is going.

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