Stars & Wishes

Stars & Wishes is the one system agnostic mechanic I advise any GM to deploy. It is really simple: at the end of a session, take five minutes to remember and record what was great about the game, and what wishes everyone has for the next game. You’re basically harvesting for both positive and corrective feedback (not necessarily critical, just things people would like to see).

The Gauntlet’s version is what I originally used, and what our table’s version is based on.

Tabletop with Alien RPG components on it, mid-game.
Alien RPG in progress. Stars & Wishes works with all games, even if you’re not planning on playing any more of it.

At the end of the session, I ask “what was most fun tonight” (that’s stars) and “what do you hope to see next” (that’s wishes).

In a way, stars are for the whole table – it’s feedback from one player to another on what they enjoyed – while wishes are more of a GM tool – things you should consider for the next game. It is more nuanced than that in practice.

Stars tell you what worked the best. They are a reminder of things you should keep doing, in most cases.

In our recent Monsterhearts game, we made it a point to try to use each character’s special powers (moves), and in the stars round people were glad that they got to use their special powers.

Positive reinforcement really works – it tells everyone at the table, GM included, that they did the right thing, and it was enjoyed by everyone involved.

Stars are also precious memories. When players focus an evening’s play into a sentence or two, they become mementos of the hours spent together. I’m sure the “bite me harder!” remark from a recent Monsterhearts game won’t be very enlightening to anyone except the players involved, but to us, it reminds us of a memorable scene under a tree. Not that they always make sense – a note from just two weeks ago saying “body business” under stars no longer tells me anything. But I know that if it were important, I would’ve been more verbose!

Wishes tell you what your next session should include. I look at it as a shopping list: these are the things we should focus on together.

It is gratifying – and sometimes revealing – to review sequential games’ stars and wishes. Did the last game’s wishes make it to the next game’s stars? Often they do, but if they don’t, maybe worth considering if you focused on the right things, after all.

A recent player had said that their Monsterhearts Infernal character would like to communicate more with their Dark Power (a spirit patron), and in the next game’s stars, they were saying how it’s fun when their Dark Power gets involved. That sort of direct feedback is great to see, and reminds you how effective it is to simply give your players what they want.

I have used improvised and slightly different versions of this from an early age, as I’m sure most longtime GMs have. There is power in making this a ritual that you always include.






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