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Gamemaster University

Mid-Campaign Retrospective Guide

During all campaigns, you will want to collect feedback from your players to gauge how things are going. If there are any problems you want to know to be able to nip them in the bud. We have pulled together some resources to help you get the feedback you need.

Explanation

So I am writing up this as a bit of advice for holding retrospectives for your on-going campaigns. I wrote these questions to get feedback from the players in my Pathfinder game, where we are playing through the Hell’s Rebels AP and just finished the first book.

Post-session feedback is often raw and useful for catching pain points, but often turns into a quick ‘thank you and it was fine’ as people depart, which isn’t as helpful. A retrospective has a more significant time commitment where you dedicate more time or even the entire session to focused question to see how everyone is going.

Implementation Advice

A couple of key points here, this is designed to be GM-directed but player-led. You want to find out what they are thinking about how it is going. Hence the targeted questions looking for specifics. When you ask a question, you want to be recording everything your players say, and listening actively. If they say something that isn’t clear or asks for clarification, feel free to add additional comments, but you want their sincere thoughts. If you start offering comments or points when they are speaking, to explain your justifications, you may cause them to shut-down and withdraw from the conversation.

I ran these questions, in a group setting, asking the players each question in turn, randomising which player went first each time. I let them each have an opportunity to speak then let the players discuss their thoughts around each other’s answers before explaining my thought process. It took approximately 3.5 hours with my four players to go through all the questions.

You could also run this one-on-one with your players. Some of the questions, especially 10 and 11, maybe harder for some shyer players to feel like they can contribute. That being said, I felt like as a group we all got a lot out of getting to hear each other reactions around the table. In a couple of instances, it allowed people to realise they missed things in their answers they wanted to add.

It may also be possible to use a google form to get responses anonymously, but it does make it harder to go back for clarifications if you need more details to be able to implement meaningful changes.

Final Comments

I used the numbered questions during my usage of the framework, but have added the lettered ones after the retrospective I ran, using what worked well for my players. If you have any suggestions for additional questions, let me know at noddsoc@sheffield.ac.uk.

Now all of these questions will be for nought if they don’t result in any changes. In the end, you are all players on the same table; if they aren’t having fun, it makes it hard to have fun yourself. After you finish with each question, try to ensure you have something actionable to improve on. It would be good to tell your players about these, but in some cases, you may want to withhold the info, for story reasons.

Finally, it is worth stressing that just because this is called a mid-campaign retrospective; it doesn’t have to happen in the middle or even just once. It is a good idea to regularly check in with your players and see how they are doing.

 

Questions

 

  1. What is something your character particularly happy about achieving?
    1. Anything in the recent few sessions, that in-game, your character cares about.
  2. What is something you as a player particularly pleased about achieving?
    1. Have you achieved any personal goals or victories?
    2. Are there any themes or story beats you have particularly enjoyed?
  3. What is something that your character is unhappy about?
    1. What story beats, are current drivers and motivation for your characters.
  4. Are there elements of play you think are used too much? Not often enough?
    1. The core elements of play, (in my opinion, feel free to add more), are mechanical combat, social combat, intra-party RP, RP with NPCs.
  5. Are there points where you feel yourself losing interest or takes you out of the moment? When is this usually?
    1. Stuff you want to look for here are; are their mechanics that bog stuff down, or do people not like a specific thing that comes up (squicks).
  6. What is something your character wants to do?
    1. Look for a short-term, medium-term and long-term goal. 1-3 Sessions for short, Within 10 sessions for medium-term and long-term references goals for the end of the campaign.
    2. Note those values are calibrating off playing between once a week or fortnight. With longer session games, you will likely want to compress the numbers.
  7. What is something you as a player want to do/achieve?
    1. Examples could be improving the skill at talking in character or getting faster at deciding actions in combat.
  8. Do you feel your character is over/under-powered?
    1. You want to have your players consider their characters holistically. That is to say as a whole. Let them explain where they are experiencing pain points.
  9. Do you think encounters are challenging enough?
    1. Encounters here refers to straight fights, puzzles, and traps — any kind of conflict you raise as a part of the story.
  10. Where do you see other characters’ strengths & weaknesses?
    1. This question may be harder for shyer players to say in a group setting, consider a side-bar? You will need to evaluate on a group by group basis.
  11. Do you think every one is getting equal time in the spotlight?
    1. This question may be harder for shyer players to say in a group setting, consider a side-bar? You will need to evaluate on a group by group basis.
  12. Anything else, you think we haven’t covered?
    1. They should be warmed up that if there is anything that has been missed, you should hear about it here.

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