Highlights and Hopes — How to Get Valuable Feedback From Your Players

From Jonathan Hardin, sojournersawake.com

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #1186

If they are having fun, then you’re doing it right.

With my Highlights & Hopes technique, I can immediately receive feedback on how my players define fun.

I gather these Highlights & Hopes right after the game while they are still fresh in everyone’s mind.


Highlights & Hopes is a post-session debriefing.

The GM goes around the table and asks each player to deliver a highlight of the game, followed by a hope for future sessions.



Highlights can be a moment that made the player laugh, a chance to congratulate another player on their clever thinking, or a chance to *ahem* let the GM know what a great job they did on designing the Five Room Dungeon.

If my players struggle for a highlight moment I ask them:

“What did you see in the game that you want to see more of in the future?”

Thank you, Jonathan, for that really cool magic shield.

Hey Perry, I really liked how your wizard Ignitus negotiated us out of that fight — you really kept us alive.

Oh Sandy, I laughed so hard when Roghan lost the horses. Honestly, the best part of the game!


Hopes are requests from players to allow them to participate in the development of the future sessions.

Players might ask for shorter combats, a chance to reveal their character backstory, or a quest they want to follow next.

If a player struggles with an answer, I will ask them:

“What do you wish was a highlight of the game?”

I love combat for sure, doing a great job, but I was wondering if we could look forward to a chance to parlay with the villain?

I would love it if we took the underworld mission.

I really want to see Sandy’s new character – can’t wait to meet them.


Sometimes a player might have a complaint about the game system.

Hear the player out and respond with, “I can see your point, let’s find a way to satisfy these specific points next session.”

Also note that a player might use this as an opportunity for constructive criticism to the GM.

I’ve had it happen and it feels like an attack. Generally, people are not taught how to deliver criticism gracefully.

Rather than burning your campaign down in anger, receive this “highlight” as proof your players care about the outcome of your game.

Thank the critical player. Then let time be your friend in processing the feedback. After a few days’ cooldown, you can be more objective and respond to the negative comments in constructive fashion to improve your GMing.

Closing Thought

Maximum value is achieved through full participation.

The more often I have my players participate in the game, the more invested they are in the experience and outcome.

Highlights & Hopes brings all of your hard work back to focus on the players at your table. While I can learn from other GMs and hear from other players, using this method reminds me that the most important people in my game are the players.

Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters

Have a roleplaying tip you’d like to share? E-mail it to [email protected] – thanks!

Idea: NPC Updates

From RPT GM Jesse C Cohoon


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

I just did something neat for players of my play-by-post game.

Because the players each have their own interests and contacts, it’s almost like running a completely different game for each of the PCs.

But since it’s not always easy (or even possible!) to get a chance to cover everything that’s going on with them, I thought it would be neat to give a glimpse of what the NPCs were doing when they weren’t interacting with the characters.

Before I posted the information, the players knew all the information was out of character and would have to get the information out of the NPCs somehow.

Here’s a couple of questions that will help your readers see if it would work for their games:

  • Are the NPCs recurring?
  • Have they any emotional attachments to them?
  • Is what they’re doing interesting, useful, or relevant to the plot? Why is it interesting to the PC? What makes it useful? How is it relevant?
  • Does what they’re doing show character growth?
  • Will the PCs keep the out-of-character information out of character?

Here’s a few examples of what I did:

  • Legion, (a being that has 17 souls in a robotic shell) with their ability to make solid illusions, has been asking contractors for quotes for a new building in the location where the PCs found the Hoarfrost coffin.
  • Jase has just gotten a promotion in the police department. With that, he’s able to keep an eye on things behind the scenes without being on the front lines so much.
  • One thing the department is investigating is an increase in violent crimes among people who’ve never had any criminal record before.
  • Robert has gotten an undercover job at Omnicorp Pharma-medics division. They are doing research on next year’s flu vaccine. He’s given reports that he’s concerned regarding its safety.

XP For Solving Problems

From RPT GM Colubris

For me, it wasn’t milestone XP, it was problem-based XP that disincentivised shoot-first encounters.

The most important part: We had a talk first.

I wasn’t having fun with the murder-hobo style, but I needed to make sure I wouldn’t be destroying their fun by changing it.

I wanted slightly more nuanced & creative play. They thought that would be fun, but wanted to keep fairly simple morality with very clear bad guys they didn’t have to feel bad about killing.

We settled on a system where not all XP could be reached by killing.

Instead, I award full XP for solving a problem.

If killing things solves the problem, so be it. If not, they get partial award:

50% for bypassing a problem

10% for failing to address the problem

The rest of the XP is available if they successfully solve the problem.

I also award double XP for creative solutions, like killing nobody and negotiating a peace between the uplifted wolves and the local shepherding community.

10% is also used for random encounters where there is no problem to solve:

“You see a bear in the distance.”

“We kill it”

“You now have a bear carcass & 120 XP. That’s 30 each.”

With this method, it’s important to tell them what they’re getting and why.

It feels good to get double reward for hard work.

It feels bad to get partial reward for shoddy work.

The incentives match the style of play. Hope this helps!

Keeping Talkers & Smashers Engaged

From RPT GM Bronson

re: How To Handle Hack & Slash and Plot-Breaking Character Powers

Hey Johnn,

I enjoyed your email today that spoke a little bit on the Hack and Slash and thought I might have a couple of opinions and methods that could be useful.

The first thing that I would encourage any DM who is facing this situation to do is to take stock of their players.

Is Hack and Slash all that they want out of their time with you?

For some players, this opportunity to vent without the threat of reprisal may be exactly what they are after and that’s OK.

There are plenty of things that we can do to make combat unique and engaging for these players.

But I think the problem comes to the table when we have a couple of players that “split the party” in this preference.

A couple just want to hack n slash through the nights entertaining combat sequences, while a couple are looking to flex their creativity through engaging roleplay and plot development without the threat of the murder hobo edgelord killing that prisoner the roleplayers want to interrogate.

So the real question I think becomes, “How do we engage our Roleplayers during combat and how do we engage or Hack-n-Slashers during roleplay?”

Here are a couple of things I do to help each of these groups.

Roleplayers During Combat

My favorite thing to do for these players is have roleplay “voice lines” ready and waiting for them.

This gives roleplayers something to grasp onto if they do want to take any non-combat actions.

Voice lines can take the form of special bonus actions or reactions that I have programmed for the villain of the moment.

As an example, the evil Paladin Nu’min has led his henchman against the party. But during combat we want to do things that help develop Nu’min’s character more than “he hits you for 15 slashing damage”.

But if we say, “Nu’min the evil Paladin gazes upon you in righteous fury. ‘My blade will devour your blood in holy sacrament to Rakal!’ He hits you for 15 slashing damage.”

This instantly ramped up the roleplaying potential a counter quip about false righteousness.

Having 4-5 voice lines ready to roll will make it easier for you to accommodate the roleplayer and maybe even progress the plot, all during that hack n slash combat.

Hack-n-Slasher Out Of Initiative

This player just wants to “DO SOMETHING! TOO MUCH TALK!”

So allow them opportunities to be heroic without drawing their blade.

Before you know it they will be LOOKING for ways to be heroic without drawing their blade.

For example, I had a party meeting with their local fence, and the Barbarian was getting bored as the high charisma players bantered with the shopkeeper.

Out of nowhere, “Barbarian what’s your passive perception?!…”

“Uh um uh 13.”

“You see an unattended baby carriage rolling down the hill past the shop window! What do you do?!”

The quick and simple series of checks led to the Barbarian finding a long and fulfilling side plot with the single mother whose darling child he rescued.

Cheesy? perhaps.

Did it work? Dang straight it did.

As a DM, we have to facilitate opportunities for all players to enjoy what they like most about the game that you play.

Wanna Roleplay?

Give them dynamic dialog and drama-filled combat.

Wanna smash? Give them the opportunity to be the hero in ways that don’t involve them rolling initiative.

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