ell, it's been about twenty months, and it's time to wrap up our monstrous wanderings. We've discussed a lot of monsters (and a few other topics), I've gathered a ton of feedback, and we're busy putting all that feedback to good use. So I figured this would be a good time to look back at some of the ways you—yes, you—have made a difference in the design of the next iteration of D&D.
Throughout the run of this column, I maintained a spreadsheet where I tracked the poll results each week. The first page of the spreadsheet gives a record of every case where I asked for a 1–5 rating about a monster or concept, and it generates this wonderful graph.
Click for Larger Image
The highest rating is at the bottom of the graph, so the 5 rankings are blue, the 4 rankings are red, the 3 rankings are green, and so on. This graph helped me look for the places where the top colors dipped down lower than I would like. Any time the green dipped below the 70 percent line, that was a clear signal that something needed more thought and discussion. (By the way, consistently having at least 70 percent of you giving 4 or 5 on the surveys told us that we were on the right track overall.)
The lowest the green ever dipped was just below the 50 percent mark for the good-aligned beast-monsters (baku, couatl, hollyphant, ki-rin, lammasu, moon dog, opinicus, phoenix, and shedu). In that case, the largest response was a 3, "So-so: it makes sense, but it doesn't grab me." I suspect that has a lot to do with a general lack of enthusiasm for these monsters and their place in the game (more than half of you also said you've never used any of them in your game). But it meant that when we did a more extensive description for the couatl, we put more thought into giving it some hooks that made it a lot more exciting (I think) than what we've had before.
In addition to the 1–5 rankings, I asked a lot of multiple-choice questions to help us decide on story directions. I tracked these on the second page of the spreadsheet, listing the questions and options, and highlighting the answers that got the most responses. Most often, those answers gave us confirmation that we were heading in the right direction. Often, after presenting a sort of compromise story in the article (one that allowed the stories from previous editions to coexist), I'd ask if that was the right approach—and most of you almost always said yes. Sometimes resoundingly!
Sometimes, though, a mandate was less clear.
And once in a while, you pointed out that we were going in the wrong direction.
(The lighter red highlight there indicates that 35 percent of responses liked one of the four variations of the 4th Edition origin story.) Only 9 percent of you liked the story we'd come up with about unsanctioned dragon eggs, so we threw that story out.
Polls aren't everything. We learned a lot from your comments as well. A good example from early on was the discussion of the various savage humanoid races, which I revisited after processing your feedback. In your comments, you told us that gnolls aren't cowardly, that goblins are too weak, that bugbears should be stealthier, and that some of you like more advanced lizardfolk and some of you don't. And just last week, one comment on my article on campaign themes made me rethink the way I'm presenting them right now.
So all of this is to say thank you! Each week, through seventy-four columns, an average of over 1,200 of you took the time not just to read these columns but also to give feedback through our surveys and comments. That's a phenomenal amount of input, and it's made a big difference.
Previous Poll Results
Do you give conscious thought to a theme for your campaign?
|Yes, I think about themes in a literary sense, like in the last section of the article.
|Yes, I think about themes as described in the 4th Edition DMG.
|Yes, I think about themes as described in the 4th Edition DMG, but only to think about fantasy subgenres.
|Yes, I give some thought to the kinds of villains and monsters that will run through my campaign.
|No, but themes tend to emerge on their own.
|No, I’m more focused on providing a world for the players to explore.
|No, I make it up as I go along.
If you were starting a new campaign right now, would you give it a clear theme?
|Yes, I’d try to give it a theme in a literary sense, like in the last section of the article.
|Yes, I’d choose a theme like those described in the 4th Edition DMG.
|Yes, I’d focus on a fantasy subgenre as described in the 4th Edition DMG.
|Yes, I’d give some thought to the kinds of villains and monsters that will run through my campaign.
|No, I would focus on providing a world for the players to explore.
|No, I’d make it up as I go along.
What kind of advice regarding campaign themes would you like to see in future campaign-building advice aimed at DMs?
|I think the advice should focus on themes in a literary sense, like in the last section of the article.
|I think the advice should focus on themes as described in the 4th Edition DMG.
|I think the advice should focus on fantasy subgenres more than themes as such.
|I think the advice should focus on the kinds of villains and monsters that will run through a campaign.
|I think the advice should focus on building a world for the players to explore.
|I don’t think any advice about campaign themes is useful or necessary.
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.