Before your next gaming session, grab a pad and write three things across the top of the page: Loved, Blah, Hated, in that order. Draw a line down the page between each one to make three columns.

During the session, keep that pad handy and watch your players — are they jazzed about what they’re doing? Do they look bored? Are they sighing, or flipping through books? Do they only look excited during certain parts of the scene?

After every scene, jot down a couple of notes in the appropriate column (or columns). That’s the “Loved, Blah, Hated” (LBH) list, and it’s a powerful tool.

I generally take notes about what went well and poorly in my sessions, but I’ve always been pretty haphazard about it. I decided that I wanted a process to follow, and the Loved, Blah, Hated list is that process. I’ve never tried it before in exactly this way, but I know that the concept is sound.


So what counts as a scene?

It depends on your game, but as a rule of thumb if it involves most (or all) of the group and takes more than a few minutes to play through, it’s worth making a note about it on your list.

As a rough baseline, think of a chapter in a novel or a scene in a movie — and err on the side of too many notes, not too few (at least at first).

Here are a few examples that are common to many games:

  • A battle
  • A car chase
  • Exploring an area
  • Shopping for gear
  • Planning a raid

Picking a lock wouldn’t count as a scene. Neither would one round of combat. Once you’ve started using the LBH list, you’ll get a feel for what qualifies as a scene and what doesn’t.

Taking Notes

After each scene, make a note in the appropriate column (if everyone had similar reactions) or columns (if players had different reactions to the scene).

Often, your players will react differently to the same scene — so always include player names (not PC names) with your notes. If you’re short on time, use their initials instead.

After the Session

After the game, look over your LBH list. If you took sketchy notes, flesh them out a bit so you’ll remember what you were talking about later on.

What does the list tell you? Are there things that that surprise you? Did certain scenes go better or worse than you expected?

The goal is to have a lot of notes in the Loved column, and as few as possible in the Blah and Hated columns. All three columns are important for improving your GMing, though — and for making sure everyone has more fun at the next session.

Loved: Take what’s in this column and do it as often as possible. Look for commonalities between the things you wrote down.

For example, if you wrote “clifftop chase” and “underwater battle” in your Loved column, the common elements might be dramatic setting, fast paced and action.

Blah: It’s easy to do more of what your group loves, and avoid what they hate, but figuring out why their reaction was blah can be tricky.

Sometimes it’s a matter of taste — a lot of folks don’t like item management in D&D, for example. Usually you can minimize these elements in future games without making things less fun for the rest of the group.

If your whole group is blah about something, it probably didn’t go as you intended it to. Maybe something that you were excited about when you wrote it down fell flat in the game, or just wasn’t a good fit for your group. These elements are worth reworking and trying again in a future session.

A blah reaction can also be a symptom of abused player syndrome, or similar issues.

Hated: Things you wrote down in this column should be avoided in the future, with very few exceptions.

More often than not, if something might have worked had it gone differently, it’d wind up in the Blah column, not the Hated column.

Eliminate the Guesswork

The easiest way to avoid misreading your players is to share your list with them after the session. That way you can confirm your assessments of their reactions to different scenes — and you might get other useful feedback at the same time.

Consider following the “cuddling after sex” rule with this: Don’t ask how things went right away — instead, send out an email or otherwise follow up a bit later on.

Edit: As Roger pointed out in the comments, the LBH list is a supplemental tool — you should definitely be getting feedback directly from your players as well. Getting Player Feedback covers this topic. (It’s linked above, too, but I should have made this point more clearly. Thanks, Roger!)

That’s the Loved, Blah, Hated list in a nutshell — let me know what you think of it! And if you give it a shot at your next session, I’d love to see your actual list in the comments.