Every game master wants to do their best and knows their table enjoys their efforts for the game.
But with feedback, it can be hard to wrap your mind around gathering criticism, even if it helps you improve. I know I have a lot of anxiety about this.
Oftentimes, it comes down to shifting strategies. Making the negativity around criticism a positive vibe for everyone at the party.
I’m going to share a feedback safety tool that you can use. You can connect to your players and improve your game without getting overwhelmed.
We’re talking about Stars and Wishes, how it works, and how you can get started.
Keep reading for more details.
What Are Stars and Wishes?
Stars and Wishes encourages sharing encouraging feedback and constructive criticism.
You can use Stars and Wishes several ways, including feedback forms, face-to-face, or discussion spaces.
It’s an incredible table management safety tool for game masters with anxiety, ADHD, or a high level of introversion. It reduces Game Master Burnout, encourages communication, and supports table organization.
Stars: Acknowledging the Positives
Stars refer to the positive aspects of the session that players found enjoyable.
Which shining moments of your game made the players’ hearts sing?
What did you absolutely nail like the boss we all know you are?
Examples include captivating storytelling, a memorable non-player character (NPC), or skillful improvisation.
Acknowledging these positive aspects boost GM confidence and reinforces effective table management methods.
The Organized Game Master
Your Toolbox for Tabletop Mastery!
Wishes: Constructive Feedback for Improvement
Wishes are valuable suggestions for improvement that players provide to the GM.
Examples include pacing, balancing encounters, allowing player agency, or enhancing story flow.
Something I used to struggle with as a game master is giving each player a proper moment to do what they need to do in exploration encounters.
Someone would say, “I’d like to do this thing over here.” And another player would go in a different direction. I couldn’t manage going back and forth between their activities while managing the rest of the party.
But here’s the thing, I didn’t know I struggled with this until one of my players pointed it out in my feedback form. My anxiety would’ve shot through the roof to hear that I wasn’t doing with this GM task.
Applying the Stars and Wishes safety tool changed the framing of the feedback for me. Instead they would say, “I wish there was a solid way to spend time on each character’s activities to help you out but also give us more opportunity.”
I was like, “Hell, yes! Me too!” And that’s when I started using what I call Roleplay Initiative in my 5E games.
(Roleplay Initiative is an approach I use to manage character activities. It’s helpful while players are getting warmed up for a session or during in-game downtime.)
Session Feedback Fosters Inclusive Table Dynamics
The Stars and Wishes safety tool promotes collaboration. It cultivates a sense of shared ownership and trust between game master and players.
By seeking feedback, GMs create a safe space to express opinions. It encourages players to contribute to the game’s evolution.
This collaborative approach strengthens the bond between the GM and players.
Session Feedback Improves Your Game Mastering Skills
A study published in the Journal Review of Educational Research in 2016 found that students who received feedback on their work performed significantly better than those who did not. [SOURCE]
What are we if not students of roleplay gaming? Students of time and resource management? Students of business and carving our space in the community?
Some of the tips offered in correlation with this study were:
Be specific and provide examples.
Don’t just say, “Good job” or “This needs improvement.” Instead, point out specific things considered done well or needing improvement.
Be constructive and helpful.
The goal of feedback is improvement, so focus on providing suggestions in that way.
Don’t wait too long to provide feedback. Do it regularly so that changes can happen as the activity progresses.
How does this translate to game mastering?
Being specific, being constructive and helpful, and doing this regularly. Simple enough. It’s pretty much an exact crossover!
The best part about using Stars and Wishes is the removal of negative words like criticism. It provides a positive perspective on crucial feedback that feels constructive.
By implementing Stars and Wishes, you’ll be able to get the benefits of criticism improvement in a way that’s gentle and encouraging.
This will push you forward as a game master. Period.
Applying Stars and Wishes to Table Management
GMs should choose a specific time to apply Stars and Wishes. Great examples include a few minutes after a game or during a special feedback session.
You should encourage your players to share their Stars and Wishes. Providing an atmosphere of mutual respect and growth is essential. So it is best to keep discussions respectful and focused on improvement.
You can then analyze feedback, identify patterns, and make informed decisions. This only proves to aid in enhancing your table management and player satisfaction.