How do you read your players interest during a game session

A friend of me asked this recently. How do you figure out if the players are enjoying what is going on in the current session? How do you do it over multiple sessions?

Between games, it might be easy to just ask "what do you like". Though I actually don't do this, at least not regularly or enough, I worry.

With some players, you know when they are bored or disappointed with what's going on. Some sessions might be so bad they outright complain during it. (Thankfully,the latter happened to me so far... ;) )

I try to adapt either during the session and later when I see it, but often enough, it's hard to read the players - and you can't just ask every time "Hey, are you still having fun?" or "Hey, did you find this twist as cool as I did when I came up with it"? How do you react when things aren't working out? How do you react when something is working better than expected?

Do you gather feedback between sessions? How do you do so? How do you incorporate it?
 

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EnochSeven

Explorer
This is a really interesting question and am curious to hear responses.

I do not want to be a high-maintenance DM. I've had enough of them; always watching you and asking you how things are and if you happen to yawn....OMG you've committed a sin. People yawn sometimes. It happens. You can't hit a home run every session. I try my best, but I was trying TOO hard for a while and was burning myself out.

Unsolicited feedback is the only kind that is worthwhile, in my opinion. If you have to ask I think you can't trust the response because folks want to be nice, for the most part. I have asked specific questions about things such as combat length, but I try not to ask general 'how's it going' questions.

A few things that I'm paying attention to:

1. Are people paying attention to you?
2. Is there lots of cross talk? Obviously that might be a bad sign, especially if it is not about the game.
3. What's going on between sessions via email? I found out that there were a few emails exchanged concerning possible courses of action - that made me happy.
4. Do you ever get unsolicited feedback? It's rare for me. But I do not need much. To me one unsolicited comment is worth quite a bit.
5. How is your attendance? Are people on time? When they sit, do they turn to you when you begin?
6. When a session is canceled, are people bummed? For example, we aren't gaming this Sunday because I want to watch Lost live. I got some mild complaints, and I think that was a good thing.
7. Are people laughing? Are folks having fun? I ask my wife sometimes how loud we are. Laughter = good.

There are some things that I'm thinking about.

My DM in my other game requires almost NO feedback. It's great. I give it to him periodically, with specific praise, but he has a nice thick skin. He's gonna run the game he wants to run.

I'm not saying he isn't mindful of what we want, he just seems to be able to gauge us without much direct input.
 

ProtoClone

First Post
I was actually just talking about this to a friend about a home brewed game I will be running. When I sent out an info packet on the game half of the group seemed kind of squeamish about playing in it. I still plan on going through with it but I know now that some are not expecting much from it.

My suggestion:

As previously stated, have thick skin. You want people to have fun so open yourself up for communications but be prepared to hear things you don't like. Yes you may have spent a lot of time on this and preparing for it but people don't always like the end results...like movies.
 

wedgeski

Adventurer
Unless it's clear they're engrossed, or painfully obvious that they're not, I'm a notoriously bad judge of player enjoyment levels. Sessions which I think have fallen flat are recalled with fondness on the discussion list, and sessions where I thought I hit every ball for six are barely discussed at all.

IMO there are very few reliable indicators, and a DM, like most creative souls, is his own worst critic.
 

The Shaman

First Post
Player stacking dice? No problem.

Players pooling their dice to build a scale replica of Caernarfon Castle? Need to pick up the pace.
 

TheYeti1775

Adventurer
As a player, if my attention is waning my mind really begins wandering. I tend to pick up a game book for no good reason browsing something I thought of.
When I'm paying attention, I tend to be moving my pencil a lot. Either in writing or doodling.
 

Raven Crowking

First Post
1. Do players call you between sessions to discuss the game? You have their attention.

2. Do players discuss their plans between sessions? You have their attention.

3. Are the players anxious to figure out just what that thing on the chapel roof was? You have their attention.


RC
 


Depends on who's in the group. Is [Player A] literally falling asleep at the table or [Player B] making jokes about looking for Exps deeper in the dungeon are two good clues. (Different groups). Certain jokes/recurrent interruptions are a sign of boredom. (If people are texting a lot then they aren't paying attention to the table - and there's normally a reason). And asking for feedback is always good.
 

Benimoto

First Post
1. Do players call you between sessions to discuss the game? You have their attention.

2. Do players discuss their plans between sessions? You have their attention.

3. Are the players anxious to figure out just what that thing on the chapel roof was? You have their attention.

Some of this, though my players are more likely to IM me.

I also try to ask the group as we're wrapping up for the night what their favorite encounter/part of the session was. It can be a little bit of an awkward question sometimes, and around 50% of the time I don't really get an answer. But, the times I do get an answer and I can tell that a player or the whole group really liked something, I try to make notes in my book for later.

Sometimes even the answers that aren't completely positive could be helpful. From time to time players will mention that they were hoping that a certain section would play out one way, but it ended up totally differently. That can be something to include in the future, to give the players another chance.
 

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