Giving Back – What Do Your Players Want?

Quite often, when reading about RPG games that people are running, and when thinking about my own games, I see a lot of GMs talking about their game and their world or worse, complaining about how the players are messing up their game or world. Like I said, I have this mindset quite often as well. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what I’m going to do in my game, and not enough time thinking about what my players might want.

Mike talked about saying yes to your players, and how that can change your game. I agree completely. Having that flexibility while running your game is key. I found that it is also really helpful to take that flexibility and extend it to your planning outside of the game session as well.

I wrote about my new zombie campaign recently, and I am really happy with how it is going. To be completely honest, though, when I first asked my group what they wanted in their next game, and they said “zombies,” I was not prepared to deliver what they asked for. You see, I have long had the idea to explore the possible return of Bhaal, the Lord of Murder to the world of the Forgotten Realms. I loved the Baldur’s Gate games on PC, and have always thought that type of story would be a lot of fun to explore in-game. I even planned to run that as my next game. It took a lot of thought, and a conversation with a very smart person who asked why I couldn’t just do the zombie game, to realize that I should just roll with it and see where it took us.

Now, I’m not suggesting that if you’ve put in months and months of planning to prep for your next game that you should drop all of those plans if your players shout “we wanna play zombies!” After all, communication is a two-way street, and I hope you play with a group that is sensitive to all of the time you put into getting the game ready for them. After all, if you don’t like what you’re running, then there’s little point to playing a tabletop RPG. That having been said, before you even begin the long-term planning, maybe ask your players what they want to play and see where it takes you. It’s good to be stretched creatively, and there is nothing better than to have 4-6 other minds pushing and pulling you in directions you never thought you would go.

So, take some time, ask some questions and give the players what they want. They’re the ones who let us GMs engage in the wonderful, creative ego-trip of crafting and populating a living world; without them, we’d just be talking to a room full of dice and paper.

[tags]rpgs, rpg, GMing, Tabletop[/tags]

4 thoughts on “Giving Back – What Do Your Players Want?

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  1. Question. How do you give the players what they want if they won’t tell you? I’ve got one PC who sits through game scowling at me or plays with his iPhone. I’d like to make the game better for him, but whenever I ask for feedback all I get is a “yeah, it was a good game, whatever,” type of response. I’m trying to push more for feedback, but I wondered if you had any suggestions for reading unncommunicative players.

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  2. I would say that it’s time for you to talk with that player outside of the game, on a different night than the game night and away from the group. I would *not* make a big deal out of it, but it’s possible that player has something else going on outside of the game that’s bothering them; maybe they would rather be doing something else besides playing.

    Tell them that you’re wanting to make the game better for everyone and they’re included in that group. Just keep trying to talk and see what happens. Whatever you do, don’t blow up at them during a session; that breaks games.

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  3. “maybe ask your players what they want to play and see where it takes you.”

    I wouldn’t even make “maybe” a part of that statement. I think it’s absolutely essential that before any campaign begins, the players (this includes the GM) should all sit down and discuss what they want to do: setting, themes, even general plot elements. Do they want to play a political game set in a steampunk setting, or a dungeon-crawl in a post-apocalyptic wasteland? Brainstorm, generate ideas, and find something that makes everyone say “Cool!” Build the world together. Get everyone involved in the prep process, and they’ll all be involved in the game itself.

    This is a force of habit in my current gaming group, as we play new games every few months. We often devote entire short sessions just to discussing what our next game is going to be about. Remember, the game belongs to all of the players, not just the gamemaster. Everyone is there to have fun, so make sure everyone has a say in the direction the game is headed.

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