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I am soon starting a new game with a bunch of new people that I have never played with - and some of them I barely spoken to. I am going to be the GM and will introduce them into the setting that they do not know.

I talked to them and they impressed upon me that they would like a more roleplay-oriented game, with less min-maxing and turn-based combat. They apparently want to avoid centering the game around crunch (as they said, they did not like their previous group being much more interested in XP and loot than in the story or drama).

However, I am concerned that they do not want to disclose their expectations too much out of fear of having the story be bespoke smooth sailing, which would spoil the surprise part of the story.

Is there a technique (say, a short test, a questionnaire, survey, don't know) that I could use to get that information out of them? I would especially like to position them correctly on the Threefold System.

I am aware that the most obvious answer is "talk to the players", but as I don't know them that well it might not be as straightforward. Also, I am intending to do a one-off trial session to get them to taste the new system, so that would be a good opportunity to observe their style but that observation might be inaccurate due to everything being new.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 27 down vote accepted

Same Page Tool

There is such a thing. It's called the Same Page Tool. It does require you to talk to the players, but gives you a structured set of questions to work from that can guide that conversation.

There's really no way to do this that doesn't involve talking to them in some way, short of running campaigns and watching what they react to & what they do.

Campaign design can also matter a lot if you don't know what the players want yet. The best thing to do is focus on creating situations that have multiple resolutions (ie: you can solve the problem in a way other than beating things up). Early on in the campaign, see if they choose to talk, sneak, bribe, or do anything other than attack when given the chance. That'll tell you pretty quickly what to expect in the future.

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A million times yes –  Joshua Aslan Smith Jul 22 at 13:59
3  
Don't forget that each player will have different wants and expectations for a given gaming experience. You are never going to bullseye all your players, the best you can hope to get is a good compromise that allows everyone (including you) to have fun. –  Capt.Pantsless Jul 22 at 16:08

I find that the opening session or two tends to center on feeling out the characters in general. The players, once interacting with each other for the first few times and being tossed into how your world and NPCs work might shift from the expectations. Think about almost every TV show you've seen - the pilot is usually more focused on making the characters look awesome and even if it paints a very distinct picture of what anyone should do in a situation, nothing is made in a vacuum. Compare any character half way into the first season of a show to the first episode and watch the changes come to the surface.

Thus my advice comes down to saving a few minutes after each session to ask your players what they enjoyed and found lacking about the session as it went. It's an easy way to find out if they like your style but found the character less fitting than planned, or if you spent too much time in a ballroom and not at an archaeological dig. Doing this at my own games has been a crucial part to my self esteem as a DM/GM/ST because my players are able to tell me if the session was weak and why, or if their head just wasn't in the session which removes a lot of second guessing for the next session's planning.

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I just learned of this today but feel like sharing it immediately:

Metagame rewards survey

http://d7.pipemaze.com/files/metagame-rewards-survey.pdf

Created by member @SevenSidedDie inspired by this blog post (thanks for sharing!). I will definitely print a bunch of them and bring them to our next session. I feel our group can profit quite a bit by just reading the other players/GMs surveys (we normally have rotating GMs), just because this will increase the players awareness to certain issues.

Looking at the metagame rewards which are valued highly (or not at all) by people in your group will definitely give you a good idea of the direction in which you can direct your sessions such as to maximize fun for everybody involved.

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There is one thing you can do, as a DM, that will help you get a feel immediately for what type of game they're hoping to play.

Build Their Characters With Them

Regardless of the system you are using, it pays to be around when you're a new DM inviting new players into a new setting/system to be with them during their character creation. It allows you to do the following things:

  • Teach them how to make a character in the new system
  • Get a feel for what type of character they want to make
  • Help them make a character that will be beneficial to the party as a whole
  • Avoid party-responsibility overlap
  • Keep the setting and tone consistent between characters in the same party

All of this, and it helps you build trust with your new players - showing that you are willing and able to help them into this new campaign, that you know what you are doing as DM, and that you are willing to help them learn what to do as players.

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