Based on Nojo’s comment, which alerted me to the idea of player wish lists, and Matthew’s excellent article, Improve Your Game Guaranteed, talking about treasure and loot, I got to thinking about 4e’s use of player wish lists. Though I’ve never run a 4e game, and I’ve only played in a game or two at conventions, there are a lot of fun elements to it. One of those elements is the use of a Player Loot Wish List.
At the beginning of each level, players write up a list of magic items that they are interested in. The DM (it’s D&D after all) is encouraged to incorporate at least one of the magic items on the list into the loot that is giving out during the adventure.
The idea of a player wish list is something incredibly easy to drift. It is a simple concept. Players write down things they’d like to see happen, the GM (Sorry, I can’t break myself of saying GM.) incorporates some or all. At its core it’s a very simple example of shared narrative. Players influence the game by requesting events beforehand. Here are some places that you can drift wish lists to:
So the thing is, player wish lists aren’t all that unique. I”d say they’re actually a pretty common concept at their core. Martin wrote about player flags on Treasure Tables, and every company tries to get customer feedback to know what direction to take their products next. Comment forms adorn nearly every website, and suggestion pots are common as well. For another gaming example, look at Robin Laws’ player goal chart in Robin’s Laws Of Good Game Mastering.
So the concept isn’t that new, but I’ll definitely say one thing for D&D’s implementation of it. It takes a very abstract thought: “Get feedback from players about what to do next” and makes it into a rule. For some games, like D&D, it is much easier to implement new ideas when they are rules and not just a thought on how to do something. The abstract doesn’t always make the impact that the tangible and cogent does. Sometimes it has to be written out and codified. So next time you’re wondering what your players want to see out of your game, have them write it down on a wish list.
How have you gotten player feedback in your games? Is it always as tangible as player wish lists, or is it easier for you to do it more abstractly? Does it feel more permanent when its written down, or is it less limiting when it isn’t?