Phil’s article made me think about my own GM evaluations over the years. While I’ve always been pretty good at self-criticism, it took me quite a while to realize that, when canvassing players, I was usually looking for affirmation, not criticism.
Let’s face it; as a GM you put in a lot more time and effort than the average player. You’re responsible for bringing an adventure to the table (in many cases also providing that table) and running it for several hours. This can mean quite a lot of prep time plotting, statting, and reviewing adventure elements. It also means dealing with rules disputes, difficult players, and extensive plot rewrites.
In such a situation, it can be quite difficult to hear bad criticism from people that don’t put nearly enough work into the game as you do (the tone is intentional). How dare they say bad things now, after sitting through your campaign for weeks, even months, without complaining? Could they do better? Do they even have the right to criticize you if they’ve never taken the GM chair themselves?
Unfortunately, GMs looking for affirmation unintentionally end up punishing themselves or their players for honest criticisms. She might be crushed and end the campaign prematurely or, worse, make things difficult for the player that honestly criticized her. In the end, though, such a GM usually gets what she’s looking for, as her players will never be honest about how the game runs again.
So today’s hot button is this: Look deep within yourself. When you ask for criticism, are you really asking for affirmation? How have you handled bad criticism of your GMing in the past? And what do you do when your GM asks you for criticism?