The dungeon master’s screen is often used as a physical barrier between player and DM. It serves to hide the Dungeon Master’s secrets: you can roll dice and keep notes away from players’ prying eyes. This physical barrier has its uses, but there is also a virtual barrier that separates player and Dungeon Master. The two are having very different experiences at the same table.
If you want to understand how to improve your game (hint: you do), then you need to find a way to breach this virtual gulf. We can do this using the power of the internet.
A facebook group can help you make sure your D&D game continues to improve. But how?
The Post-session Summary
After each session you should write up a brief summary of the game from your perspective. This will open a dialogue between DM and player that will dramatically improve your game. The players will better understand the game you’re creating, and it’s an opportunity for important feedback. Be sure to include some basic highlights:
- How you expected that particular session to go in general terms.
- Something in particular that enjoyed.
- Something that happened that was unexpected.
- Mention something you had planned which the players never encountered or used.
- Ask for feedback on a particular area of concern from the session.
This doesn’t have to be long and detailed, but if you do this consistently you will improve your game dramatically with just a few minutes of writing.
An example. Let’s imagine I just ran a session where the players tracked some goblin bandits back to their hideout and attacked, eventually doing battle with their hobgoblin leader.
I really enjoyed last night’s session. I expected everyone to do a bit more scouting before charging in, but it made sense that you would try to confront the goblins head on. The water trap was fun for me because it seemed like no one saw it coming and that Lothar was the only one to make his save. I did not expect you to try to instigate a goblin rebellion, that was particularly clever. If you had searched the garbage chute closer you might have found a back entrance to the boss’s room, but the front entrance worked fine for you in the end. I was a bit worried that the boss fight was a bit too straightforward and boring.
Of course you can do a much longer write-up (and I recommend it), but this shows how simple this kind of summary can be. What are we trying to accomplish here:
- Force you to think about what you enjoy about the game. Too often D&D games come to an end because the Dungeon Master gets burned out and wants to take a break. If you spend some time after each session thinking about what you enjoyed will help you identify and incorporate more of those elements into your game.
- Show your players the depth of your world. One of the joys of D&D is that there really is something around every corner. Because the Dungeon Master is creating a dynamic world, there are no dead ends and no areas that are off limits. If you mention a few things your players might have found or could have done, it will really emphasize the options available to them and reinforce the importance of their choice.
- Find out what is fun for your players. The feedback you get from these summaries will help you understand what your players do and don’t enjoy about your games. You might be surprised to learn that elements you thought were dull or flat were actually some players favorite moments.
- Keeps interest in the game high between sessions. Sometimes the demands of the real world can cause delays between gaming sessions. A facebook thread to discuss the session and plan for the future will help to keep people thinking about your game between sessions.
These days it feels like the internet owes us one. So let’s use it to make our D&D games even better. Next time maybe I’ll try to talk about the dreaded dungeon master burnout (or not, I’ve stopped predicting).