Want to know how your campaign is? Ask your players.
Something I've done at least once per major campaign is hand out player questionnaires. That's how I find out how many campaign is being received, even by those who don't normally give me a lot of feedback.
I generally split these up into three general categories of questions:
- Player Centric
- Character Centric
- Play Centric
These questions are the real heart of my questionnaire. What do the players like, dislike, want, and need from the game? Not their characters - the players. I try to find out what the players enjoyed so I can maximize that. I can also minimize the things they don't like.
Sometimes what one player likes, another doesn't. For example, in one game the #1 dislike of one player was the NPCs the other players had accumulated - spouses, hirelings, friends. Another player listed that as one of the best parts. So I knew I needed to keep them in, but not to spend too much time on them. I also needed to minimize the interacts between them and that player that disliked them.
These questions allow me to better identify the "awesome" in my game from a player perspective. I've added chances to get forbidden advantages people wanted. I've taken out monsters I like but players hated. I've added in events that tie into the kind of things the players enjoy.
These questions are aimed at getting the players to tell me what their character likes, dislikes, wants, and needs. This gives me a better idea of how the character fits into the campaign, and the motivating factors of the character. Even with a full set of disadvantages and quirks, I can't always see how it all fits in with the campaign. Sometimes these questions elicit changes to PCs, as players realize different things about their characters.
These often contradict the player questions, and that's fine. One case in point, we had a campaign period where the PCs were slave-soldiers in service to an ambitious military officer in a border war. One player loved it - he enjoyed the emerging story, the Mass Combat rolls, the challenges of the environment in general. But he noted that his character hated it - it was exactly what his character disliked. So he'd roleplay being a shirker, complaining, trying to get out of the situation, etc. Had I taken the player's actions in game as a guide, I'd have cut the story short, and ruined the player's fun to spare the character.
I've used these to determine quest offers, rewards, what magic items need to be sprinkled into the game, what monsters the players love despite their characters clearly hating, etc.
These questions are trying elicit opinions about how I run the game. How many rules, and how I apply them. How much I can tinker. How I run game (or how game runs). Rules people think are broken. General ways the game could be better.
My "No Rules Lookups" rule partly springs from the feedback I got in my last campaign from a questionnaire.
You might say an observant GM will just spot this stuff. That might be true. You might not need these. But sometimes the players don't even know the answers to these until you ask them. And I've never failed to learn something that changes my game for the better from doing these.
Here is a cut-and-paste of a blank questionnaire I used in my last campaign set in the Known Worlds of D&D aka Mystara. I've lightly edited this to remove player names. Feel free to use this as the basis of your own questionnaires.
Q:In order, list the three advantages you would most like to acquire for your character. It is not important if they are normally acquirable in play or not (for example, Magery). #1 is the one you want the most, #3 the least.
Q:What do you think was the best adventure or episode in the campaign so far?
q:What made this especially memorable, enjoyable, or exciting?
Q:What do you think was the worst adventure or episode in the campaign so far?
q:What made this especially forgettable, aggravating, or boring?
Q:Who is your most favorite NPC in the game world?
Q:Who is your least favorite NPC in the game world?
Q:What monster(s) or enemy(s) did you like encountering the most?
Q:What monster(s) or enemy(s) did you like encountering the least? Keep it short. ;)
Q:Do you like having your PCs work for a Big Important Guy?
Q:What do you like most about your character?
Q:What do you like least about your character?
Q:Is there anything you especially like or dislike about the game world in general, or you would like to see in the game world?
Q:What is your character’s biggest long-term goal? You can also answer this as “If I did one thing before I died, it would be…”
Q:What place would your character most like to go to, or go back to?
Q:What is your character’s favorite adventure or episode?
Q:What is your character’s least favorite adventure or episode?
Q:Who is your character’s most favorite NPC in the game world?
Q:Who is your character’s least favorite NPC in the game world?
Q:If your character could meet one “famous” NPC, who would it be?
Q:What monster(s) or enemy(s) did your character most fear or respect?
Now, for some technical questions:
Q:Are you satisfied with level of magic – in terms of items, enemy and friendly magic, access to scrolls, the public Beacon in Glantri, ease of learning new spells etc. – in the campaign, or should it be higher or lower?
Q:Are you satisfied with the growth rate of the PCs, in terms of experience points? Should it be faster, slower, or is it about right?
Q:Are you satisfied with the amount of combat we have in the game, or should we have more or less? The ferocity of the fighting is not likely to change, though.
Q:We have a lot of people playing – 7 players. Do you feel like you get enough “spotlight” time for your character, or do I give you short shrift when it comes to paying attention and giving you plot elements centered on your character?
Q:I have been using relatively few monsters, compared to human/humanoid opponents. Do you like the ratio, or would you prefer more monsters? (Less is unlikely)
Q:The campaign was designed with an over-arching plotline in mind – basically, a Big Event that will involve the PCs. Do you like this approach, or do you prefer a more basic “wander around and do stuff” kind of game? Do you think the plot is too opaque, or too obvious?
Q:Rules-wise, I am a tinkerer. I suspect this bothers people somewhat….but how much? Does it bother you a lot (please don’t change anything), a little (change stuff that is broken, but otherwise leave it alone), or not at all (whatever you think is a good idea, go ahead and do)?
Q:Rules-wise, we use a lot of rules. Back when (name deleted) was playing the first time, we played very fast-and-loose. Do you prefer playing “tight”, where we use rules for everything, or “loose”, where we have a basic core of rules and wing everything else?
Q:Speaking of rules, any rules you think really need to be changed, no matter what? Rules you hate, rules you think are broken or abusive, or rules that just annoy you because I enforce them.
Q:Any general comments about things I do that annoy people? Go ahead and tell me…I may not change what I am doing but I would like to know.
Q:If there was one thing I could do (or the others could do, even) that would improve the game for you, what would it be? Assume “You buy all the beer and soda” is not happening.
Q:If there is one thing you could do to make the game better for yourself and others, what would that be?