As the GM, have you ever thought about what your players want to get out of the game? Have you given any thought to what they actually want to do at the table?
Obviously, they want to have fun, crush their enemies and find shiny things in the process, but I’m talking about something more basic.
There are two essential components of a roleplaying game session:
Some players want to kill everything in sight and view diplomacy as a desperate last resort only to be used when murder has failed. Others love talking to NPCs and would rather navigate a ball or solve a murder mystery than trample upon the corpses of their numberless enemies.
Over a decade ago, I noodled together a simple chart to help me understand my players more. I haven’t used it for some time, as my gaming group has been essentially static for the best part of a decade. However, Session #001 of my new Monday night D&D campaign is imminent, and I thought I’d dust off the chart in a bid to better understand people I have never gamed with before.
The process is simple: each player rates their enjoyment of roleplaying and combat on a scale of one to nine. (Against each criterion, a score of one means they hate it, while a score of nine indicates they love it).
I then plot the results on a scatter chart:
This chart shows me that:
- Five of my six players love roleplay and combat
- One player prefers roleplay to combat.
- One player LOVES roleplay.
- Two players LOVE combat.
That’s really useful information to have. It reminds me that I’ll have to build into the campaign encounters and challenges that suit both ends of the spectrum. As I get a better handle on the characters involved, I can build encounters designed for their specialisations and skill sets.
As a GM striving to deliver an enjoyable experience for everyone at the table, that’s a useful reminder. (And as a GM, if you aren’t trying to run a game that is fun for everyone at the table, you should let someone else have a go.)