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View Full Version : Constructive Criticism for the GM from another GM



scarmiglionne4
2012-12-08, 05:52 PM
When I run a game I ask for feedback after each game session. I usually do not get any and this irritates me. I put perhaps too much effort into my games and would like constructive criticism because I feel like I can always do better. I feel it is a players duty to do this, especially if they are not having as much fun as they could be.

I do this for the only other GM in my group. I honestly often have the same things to say, as do other players. The other players complain to me, though, not to the GM. I am the only one who offers any criticism to the GM.

My GM now refuses to run a game. He says he runs a game to have fun, not to impress people. He says that no GM is going to want to run a game for a bunch of Roger Eberts. He says he knows what is fun and is real good at running a game.

What do you think? Should the GM get to bring mediocrity and everyone is supposed to suffer through it so they can have fun?

nedz
2012-12-08, 05:58 PM
It's difficult, not everyone is open to criticism, and not everyone has anything to say when you do want feedback. Some people hate reading movie reviews etc. and I'm not just talking about the actors.

Maybe you should hold back on your comments when this other guy is DMing ?
Does he even listen ?

Sometimes: you can't tell anyone anything.

scarmiglionne4
2012-12-08, 06:04 PM
He certainly doesn't ever listen. He believes since no one else ever criticizes his GMing that I am simply wrong and being overly critical. He says everyone else compliments his GMing. I too get compliments on my GMing. I never get criticized. I think it is simply because people are afraid to offer criticism for fear I will react the same way my other GM acted.

Aegis013
2012-12-08, 06:21 PM
Should the GM get to bring mediocrity and everyone is supposed to suffer through it so they can have fun?

Suffering through it doesn't sound like fun.

Honestly, I feel your situation. I usually provide critical feedback to GM's I play under and it's a mixed bag on whether or not they appreciate it.

My players never give me constructive criticism. I ask for it after every session, though. (I just assume it means they have no complaints worth mentioning)

demigodus
2012-12-08, 06:28 PM
A certain level of maturity is required to deal with criticism. A lot of people simply don't have this level of maturity. They take any criticism of the methods as an attack on the person, or as an attack on the results. For example, if you have a single criticism, they might believe you are declare the entire session to have been horrible and no fun was had at all.

People are more open to criticism from those they like, and generally less receptive to criticism from those they hate. Sometimes to the degree that they don't listen to anything someone they dislike says, and swallow up everything someone they like says.

If this sounds like a description befitting elementary school kids and not adults, I agree with that. Sadly, this is a description of "adults" (well, college age people mostly) I have had to deal with.

There really is no way to give constructive criticism to these people. MAYBE if you got the entire group to support you, and do so in a very calm and civil manner (a single person making one single attack on him might ruin this or cause it to deteoriate into a yelling match), he might change. However, odds are he would just change his style without mentioning the change, and never actually admit out loud that he was wrong.

This might be why your friends aren't willing to give criticism. If a person sees criticism as a personal attack, and they don't want to make personal attacks against their friends....

tl;dr adults being mature is a myth. Most "adults" can't handle criticism any better then a child (except you can tell the child to stop throwing a tantrum and grow up... adults don't take well to that). There really is nothing you can do to change this. Your best bet would have been to offer clear, objective, and small changes infrequently. As things stand now, might be too late even for that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

EDIT: Might I suggest getting them to give you criticism, say, over facebook? Or by some other means a short bit after the session, when they can think over what to write and how to phrase it? When something can offend people easily, it can be best to step away from the more personal communication mediums, and always wait until you are calm to write anything. It will slow down reply speeds, but might actually make the conversation progress faster.

Quietus
2012-12-08, 06:44 PM
If the game's bad enough that you have to "suffer through it", then perhaps it'd be better if you have someone take over from that GM? Not an easy thing to do, and requires a great deal of diplomacy, but it's an option.

Some people simply aren't interested in criticism. And that's fine, but they have to remember that their audience still needs to enjoy what's happening. A movie that has no substance and isn't interesting, generally, won't make much money - nor will a game that's boring retain the interest of 4-5ish players.

As far as not getting feedback from your players, it may be better to ask via email instead of right after the game. It could be that they think your games are just fine, or maybe they don't have the roleplaying-related vocabulary to tell you what's on their minds. I know that I've sent out emails to my groups before basically saying "I'd like feedback, I thought X went well and Y went poorly. Do you guys agree, and what do you think could be done to make that better?", and that tends to go over well. Ask about specific things, not the game as a whole in general.

snoopy13a
2012-12-08, 06:59 PM
It's possible that your friend feels that the criticism has gone beyond "constructive." Especially if it is the same thing over and over again. Maybe the points you are criticizing him on are areas in which he has tried to improve but simply cannot. Or perhaps he feels he is criticized in areas when he feels if he makes changes that he'll just be criticized for the changes (for example, criticizing a GM for railroading and then next week criticing him for not providing enough structure). Or perhaps he is unwilling to change his style, period.

Overall, it does sound like the GM doesn't feel appreciated for his efforts and is sick of the criticism. Essentially, he isn't going to change his style, and it also looks like he won't GM again--unless nicely asked. So, if you like his games overall, then ask him to run games again and stop criticizing him. If you don't like like games overall, then don't say anything and take over all GM duties yourself. Either way, it doesn't seem like he'll accept your criticism.

scarmiglionne4
2012-12-08, 07:09 PM
Thanks for the replies all. I like the email idea and asking specific questions. I'll try that.

scarmiglionne4
2012-12-08, 07:17 PM
Thanks for the replies all. I did once hand out blank index cards and had them anonymously write something they liked and something they did not like and put it in a bank bag and I would read them when they left. Everyone said everything is great and they liked everything. One person refused to write and just told me everything was great.

I will try using facebook or email though. Thank you.

Vorr
2012-12-08, 08:33 PM
When I run a game I ask for feedback after each game session.
What do you think? Should the GM get to bring mediocrity and everyone is supposed to suffer through it so they can have fun?

I hate ''criticism''. Most people can't give ''criticism'' and just whine and complain.

The classic example: The game will be 50/50 role-playing and combat. Each player will ask for this and the DM will say the game will be things around and around. So the DM will ask the player how was the game, and the first complaint will be not enough combat. As in a six hour game, the players expected three full hours of combat?

And it only gets worse as the players cause more then half of the things they don't like and complain about. Classic example: on the way to the dungeon of death the players stop at the town of Halpburg. As the Dm you figure they will spend maybe 15 minutes in town and get the adventure hooks, supplies and such. But the players instead take over two hours hanging around town. So that by the time they even make it to the dungeon, it's too late to continue.

Phelix-Mu
2012-12-08, 09:27 PM
Tone counts for a lot. Pretend you are role playing the very-diplomatic bard and use your silver tongue to sweeten your critique. No one likes just having the cold truth thrown at them, though I agree that, ideally, people would be mature enough to recognize truth in things, even if those things are unpleasant.

And in a related vein: I often find that, when I DM, I personally know if anything has gone astray. All DMs are different, though, and knowing precisely where things went wrong is tricky. Careful self-analysis (in which I have max ranks) can throw some light on things in retrospect, but this can also be a honey-trap of self-doubt.

As for eliciting criticism, usually honest critiques are best given by someone that has moved past the social-niceties level of the relationship, e.g. a best friend or member of the session with whom you are closest. Such a person can be honest and understand your appreciation of their true feelings. Such is my two cents, anyway.

Good luck. If you are mindful enough of your performance to want feedback, you are probably attentive enough to know if you are boring people to tears.

nedz
2012-12-08, 09:45 PM
You have a duplicate thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=263784)in another sub-forum.

valadil
2012-12-08, 10:07 PM
I ask for criticism too. Some players give it willingly. With others it's like pulling teeth. I've stopped letting it bother me.

Here's the thing. Being analytical enough to criticize something requires effort. You have to pay a lot more attention if you're going to figure out why the kobold fight was less fun than the zombie fight. And analyzing things takes the fun out of them. Ever have someone explain a joke to you and have the explanation ruin the joke? Asking your players to analyze the game session may well ruin the game session. If all the players want is to sit back and enjoy it, you should let them

(Incidentally, I find that the players most willing to talk about GMing as a craft are the other GMs. Pure players are usually happiest as long as someone else is willing to GM.)

Anyway I did succeed in getting criticism out of my entire group last campaign by giving them a mid game survey. I set it up in such a way that they could be reactive instead of proactive with their answers. Basically, I listed a dozen NPCs, plots, and game elements. I asked them to circle the items they wanted to see more of and to cross out the ones they wouldn't miss. I also asked a few questions like what was their favorite session, worst thing about the campaign, etc. The whole thing was just one sheet of paper. It's shared on Google Docs if you're interested: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qLAvhgbA7uyK2iTF7jYvYXIIWP-zPAiu5Nt6vEW4dYg/edit

It gave me a good idea of what were the plots the players were interested in and what was forgettable, although TBH I could have predicted most of it. The one problem with this approach was I didn't figure out how to handle extreme reactions. For instance, if nobody responded to an NPC, his score was 0. If two people favored the NPC and two disliked him, he still got a 0. For NPCs this meant I could have that NPC favor certain players and ignore the rest, but for elements that affected the whole party it didn't give a lot of guidance.

Water_Bear
2012-12-08, 10:21 PM
If things aren't working, it's your responsibility as a player to speak up. But it's also your responsibility as a friend to make sure your GM understands that running a mediocre game doesn't make them a bad person. Unfortunately, both of those are fairly tall orders and there really isn't an easy way out.

I've been in some mediocre games, though luckily I haven't run one yet, and it seems like this is a situation where you need to switch GMs (since this one seems titchy about criticism) or find your own fun. You have your character and you know what you like, so taking a boring situation and turning it into something awesome through your character's actions shouldn't be too difficult. Be like Raul Julia in Street Fighter; he was given a silly 1-D villain cliche in a brainless action movie but, with sheer ham, turned that performance into something which actually redeems the film as a whole.

My 2cp.

Winter_Wolf
2012-12-09, 03:47 PM
Some people just can't cope with reality. Including being unwilling to listen to criticism. But I have a question of my own: is it truly constructive criticism, or is it just criticism? There's a big difference.

I'm not going to say I love constructive criticism, because it still hurts when the flaws in your pet project are pointed out, but when I ask it's because I want to make it better. If I don't ask, then I'm really not taking input at this time. But I don't worry about that too much, because some people are going to offer advice whether they're asked for it or not.

"I don't like it" is worthless criticism.
"I don't like it because" is heading in the right direction.
"I don't like it because (reason). I'd like to see this happen" is really about where we get into being helpful.
Anything beyond that is just phrasing things in ways that make it easier for the listener to accept your pitch/ideas/constructive criticisms.

The other GM might just be all about "shut up, I know best", but something that works on most people it seems is to lead with a positive, then address the thing you want changed, then to end with a positive.

"We really liked (this thing) in that last adventure. Just, you know, about (negative thing, then at least try to offer a hint of where you'd prefer to go). But you know, we also liked when (some other positive thing)." Some people will get the hint, some will just happily ignore the negative.

Carrot-stick-carrot seems to work a lot better than any of: stick, carrot-stick, or stick-carrot. People are just so sensitive! :smalltongue:

Although if I see you coming toward me with two carrots and a stick, you'd better at least have a bottle of mead for me in your pocket!

*crickets*
Eh? Eh?

Wow, tough crowd.

scarmiglionne4
2012-12-09, 05:09 PM
Sorry to everyone about the duplicate posting of this thread. I put it there first and thought that was the wrong place so I posted it here. Can you delete a thread that you create if you put it in the wrong place?

On the constructive criticism. He used to do much better at DMing so I am forever comparing his current work with the types of stuff he used to do. He used to welcome thinking-outside-the-box problem-solving. Now he perceives that type of play as an attempt to derail the game, and will try to counter it so that we are pigeon-holed into just bashing more brains in.

This is how I criticize him. I have a substantial amount of game time as a player to his DM where he was just much better. I use this to remind him that he can do better.

And to Vorr: That is pretty much the sort of thing that happens when I have previously been able to get criticism from players no longer in my group. Even then, they whine to each other. I have to hear about their complaints through the player grapevine. I have even had players complain when I don't give everyone equal XP when one or more players did something that added to them game. I had a player quit because they did not get 50xp for roleplaying when everyone who roleplayed did. I had another complain that roleplaying should be worth more XP since the game 2/3 roleplaying after I had told them I wanted them to level slowly until the initial laying the story foundation was done. I didn't want them to "role-play grind" into mowing down the few fights they were going to encounter. I did try to fix the XP problem, despite the manner in which I received the criticism, even though I thought it was going to endanger my campaign later on.

prufock
2012-12-09, 10:55 PM
Asking for feedback is something I've done for a while now, and I rarely get anything useful. Then months later we're talking about a game that wrapped up long ago and it comes out that everyone thought it sucked. And no one will explain why. GAH!

scarmiglionne4
2012-12-10, 03:31 AM
Asking for feedback is something I've done for a while now, and I rarely get anything useful. Then months later we're talking about a game that wrapped up long ago and it comes out that everyone thought it sucked. And no one will explain why. GAH!

That would frustrate the hell out of me. The most feedback I ever got was when the guy who was playing the Rogue took damage from a trap he quit. His complaint was essentially the game was too difficult and too open-ended.

Iceforge
2012-12-10, 03:53 AM
Such a shame that so many people are closed to offering criticism.

In my old group, the ones I played with around the area I grew up in, we had this standard procedure, that after each session, each player in turn said one thing they really enjoyed about the session, and also one thing they did not enjoy.

Sometimes it could be very vague or not really useable for the GM of a specific game to use to improve his gaming, sometimes it would be stuff like "I really enjoyed when I landed that massive critical, but I did not enjoy when my character nearly died from being hit by a critical"
That gives little to work with, to be honest.
But sometimes you'd get golden stuff "I really disliked having put a high stat in Charisma and a lot of skill points into charisma skills and then never getting to use it, as we just 'roleplay' that out", then you, as a GM, can go about reading the rules, reading online or just thinking about it yourself, so in the future, people can get something out of putting charisma as a high stat and use their cha-skills.

Jay R
2012-12-10, 10:36 AM
Most people will not give criticism. When I was running a game for 12 people, I asked for critiques, and received it from 3, one of whom said everything was fun, and another said what he thought was the point of the session. So that's one critique from 12 players. Which was one more than I had expected.

Having said that, the legal maxim is qui tacet consentire videtur (Silence gives consent). If you asked for critique, and they said nothing, they have implicitly said that you're doing all right.

But the crucial thing to realize is that critique is an intellectual exercise with emotional consequences. Many people won't be willing (or able) to do the intellectual exercise, and many more aren't willing to accept the emotional burden. Live with it.

prufock
2012-12-10, 11:06 AM
That would frustrate the hell out of me. The most feedback I ever got was when the guy who was playing the Rogue took damage from a trap he quit. His complaint was essentially the game was too difficult and too open-ended.

It's not like they hate every game I run, but when they don't like something they just don't tell me at the time so that I can adjust the game to better suit what they want.

Examples:
1) I had just finished running a superhero game where they were involved in tryouts to join an established team. They helped the NPC heroes defeat the big bad, and were on the team now full time. That was more or less the end of the game. They wanted to revisit it, so I crafted a storyline about an alien invasion. We never got to finish it because some of our players left.

Fast forward like 2 years. We were discussing revisiting this campaign, because the players liked their characters, the setting, and the story, with one condition: no aliens. They had all HATED the alien storyline. We still haven't done the revisit, but I have planned a 1-shot where I'm negating that the alien thing ever happened. Hope to run this after the holidays.

2) I'm currently taking a break from a long-term 3.5 game, where they are searching out and closing rifts to various planes. It's planned to reach epic levels by the end. It's a bit sandboxy, pretty open for them to explore and take on the challenges in whatever order they come up. Some are more likely to be discovered before others, but I've set it up so that, for the most part, the next likely rift is level-appropriate.

I think they've enjoyed the game for the most part, but I just recently found out that the first few sessions were... not hated, I guess, but not as well-liked as I would want. Two of my players were left with the impression of "what the heck was that" and weren't really sure if they wanted to keep the campaign going.

Maybe it was because I didn't actually bring in the overarching "close the planar rifts" story until the 3rd or 4th session; they could have been sort of lost, not really being accustomed to an open campaign. But there was plenty for them to do.

We're taking a break right now so I can run a Star Wars short campaign in parallel with A New Hope (planning to do the other two episodes eventually as well), after which we'll go back to the long-term game. We'll be picking this one back up in the new year for another 4-6 levels (average about a level a month or so). Hopefully the next arcs will hold their interest.

They haven't had any criticism of the SW game... yet.

scarmiglionne4
2012-12-10, 09:27 PM
qui tacet consentire videtur[/I] (Silence gives consent). If you asked for critique, and they said nothing, they have implicitly said that you're doing all right.


That is pretty much the attitude I had taken about my own DMing. I started telling them I will assume I am the greatest DM they have ever played under as long as I do not get any feedback to the contrary.

Jay R
2012-12-10, 11:41 PM
That is pretty much the attitude I had taken about my own DMing. I started telling them I will assume I am the greatest DM they have ever played under as long as I do not get any feedback to the contrary.

It means that you can keep doing what you're doing, but not necessarily that nobody else ever did it better.

Silence gives consent; it does not give extreme praise.

[There. You have now been given feedback to the contrary.]

scarmiglionne4
2012-12-11, 04:57 AM
I was sort of trying to irritate them into wanting to knock me down a peg or two for being arrogant. It didn't work.

Jay R
2012-12-11, 10:54 AM
I was sort of trying to irritate them into wanting to knock me down a peg or two for being arrogant. It didn't work.

That's because of a general rule, which, once you understand it, will make the situation (a little bit) easier to take. The rule is this:

People who aren't going to critique, aren't going to critique.

nedz
2012-12-11, 01:27 PM
That's because of a general rule, which, once you understand it, will make the situation (a little bit) easier to take. The rule is this:

People who aren't going to critique, aren't going to critique.

The corollary is also true:
People who are going to critique, are going to critique.

Which about sums up the entire thread.

demigodus
2012-12-11, 03:29 PM
The corollary is also true:
People who are going to critique, are going to critique.

Which about sums up the entire thread.

There is one more:

People who don't want to be critiqued, can't take critiques.

nedz
2012-12-11, 03:31 PM
There is one more:

People who don't want to be critiqued, can't take critiques.

And it's corollary:

People who want to be critiqued, but can't get no critique.

Winter_Wolf
2012-12-11, 08:55 PM
And it's corollary:

People who want to be critiqued, but can't get no critique.


I can't get no critique action
I can't get no critique action
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can't get no, I can't get no....

I can't get no, I can't get no
I can't get no critique action
no critique action, no critique action, no critique action
:biggrin:

Yes I just butchered a great Rolling Stones song.

nedz
2012-12-11, 09:13 PM
I can't get no critique action
I can't get no critique action
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can't get no, I can't get no....

I can't get no, I can't get no
I can't get no critique action
no critique action, no critique action, no critique action
:biggrin:

Yes I just butchered a great Rolling Stones song.

LOL I did think of that song when I typed the previous line.