D&D General Is D&D Survey Feedback Read? [UPDATED!]

If you watch a lot of YouTube videos, you may be aware that there's a narrative going around, with 'anonymous' sources that contain Machievellian quotes about how WotC ignores survey feedback, and uses it as some kind of trap to keep discussion off the internet.

We're all unhappy with WotC and its approach to the current licensing situation, and we're all concerned about the fate of the third-party D&D publishing industry which supports hundreds, if not thousands, of creators and small publishers. I'm worried, and afraid for the fate of my little company and those who rely on me to pay their rent, bills, and mortgages.

But it's important to stay factual.

Ray Winninger, who ran D&D until late 2022, said "I left after the first OneD&D feedback was arriving. I know for certain UA feedback is still read."

He went on to say "This is simply false. Before I left WotC, I personally read UA feedback. So did several others. Many, many changes were made based on UA feedback, both quantitative and written. The entire OneD&D design schedule was built around how and when we could collect feedback."

Winninger previously spoke out in support of the OGL movement, after WotC announced their plans in December.

Another WotC employee tweeted, too -- "I read nearly half a million UA comments my first year working on D&D. I was not the only one reading them. I understand the desire to share information as you get it, but this just feels like muckraking."

It's important to stay on the right side of this OGL issue -- and make no mistake, any attempt to de-authorise the OGL is ethically and legally wrong -- but just making stuff up doesn't help anybody.

Benn Riggs, author of Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons, chimed in with his own suspicions.

Here is why I am growing more and more suspicious of @DnD_Shorts and their purported source in WoTC. Let's call that source "The Rogue."

1) Getting a source on the record takes time. DnD Shorts is getting commentary incredibly quickly. WoTC's statement came out this morning, and by this afternoon, we know "The Rogue's" thoughts. The statement talks about a survey? "The Rogue" tells us no one will read what we write to the company.

Then there is the logistics. Is "The Rogue" contacting DnD Shorts from WoTC HQ? Doing it from the bathroom? On their lunch break? All while knowing they'd be fired if found out? They don't at least wait to contact DnD Shorts from home?

2) The info provided by "The Rogue" is simply too good. They have mentioned where they work in the company, and directly quoted powerful people within the company. All that means that within WoTC, tracking down "The Rogue" and firing them should take about two hours. Frankly, if "The Rogue" exists, the best proof of it will be when they are fired.

I'm upset about the OGL too, and it's easy to cast doubt on anonymous sources. People have done it to me. So I will say upfront I could be totally wrong about this and if DnD Shorts reads this and curses me for a bastard because they're honest & good & true and I am besmirching them, well I'm sorry.

But something here just feels wrong, and I cannot keep my peace.

And of course, all this fracturing of the 'resistance' only weakens the position of those who are working against the de-authorization of the OGL. The more click-bait nonsense out there, the less seriously anybody takes the real issues which affect real people.

UPDATES! WotC designer Makenzie De Armas has weighed in to describe the survey process:

Hi, actual #WotCStaff and D&D Designer here. I am credited on several UA releases—and I’ve made edits to that content based on both qualitative and quantitative survey results. Let’s walk through what happens behind the scenes of a UA, shall we?

1. We design player-facing mechanical elements that we hope to include in a future product. We then place those mechanical elements into a UA document and release it, to see what our player base at large thinks of it.

2. We release a survey about the UA.

3. The survey information is collated by members of the team. It’s broken down into two parts: quantitative satisfaction expressed as a percentage, and a summary of qualitative feedback trends noticed in the comments.

4. That summary is reported back to the product teams. The designers on the product teams then make edits to the mechanical elements based on the feedback summary.

5. If satisfaction doesn’t meet our quality standards, we’ll rerelease mechanical content in a followup UA.

This is a proven process. Take for example the Mages of Strixhaven UA, where we tried to create subclasses that could be taken by multiple classes. (Fun fact: that was my first UA.) Did we, as studio designers, want that to work? Yes! But it didn’t.

And we learned that it didn’t BECAUSE of the UA process. We learned that it wasn’t something a majority of our players wanted; we also learned what small elements of that design DID bring joy. We salvaged those elements, redesigned them, and put that changed design in the book.

If we didn’t read or listen to feedback, we would have put those polyclass subclasses into the final book, and the product would have been worse for it. Yes, of course we want to know if you like something—we’re game designers! We’re creating something that is meant to be FUN!

And yes, sometimes we get frustrated when people tell us how to do our jobs, or use those feedback opportunities to belittle us; we’re human. But despite all that, we’re still going to listen and always strive to improve. That’s the truth.

They went on to say:

When I say ALL the comments, I mean it in the most literal sense. We have team members who have dedicated WEEKS to diligently reading through feedback. It’s honestly incredible, and I applaud my team members’ work!

Gamehome Con director Alex Kammer added:

Hey everyone. I personally know the guy at Wizards whose job in part is to read and organize all the comments from their surveys. Reasonable OGL talk and demanding action is great. Fallacious hit pieces only cause harm.
 
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Since I helped spread this rumor I feel compelled to make a statement to the forum. A lot has gone on and has been said and taken back etc. I honestly don't know which side to believe. I do firmly believe WotC/Hasbro is making a huge mistake. When I saw this particular rumor I hoped it wasn't true but a lot of the things I honestly believed wasn't legit turned out to be very much legit. I shared this info to inform others. I was never under the illusion that WotC read every single survey written response. What I do believe is they look into responses on really negative options or really positive options. I still have questions because somethings they seem very determined to push (Ardlings, I don't think has been a popular option with the majority but I could be wrong). I love D&D and I love 5e, I don't like to see it get so much negative publicity especially since it's been super popular over the last several years. So, do I believe they read them? Do I believe they don't? I don't know but I am going to keep reading and responding to all the surveys.
 

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Again: I am not, at all, talking about the actual process of writing this thing. Any such writing is going to be a complex process. I get that. That's the nature of the beast. You need weeks or even months to nail down the legalese.

But making a press release wherein you say, "We hear you, we understand that we've done wrong, and we are committed to respecting your demands. We will not revoke the OGL 1.0a, and we will prepare a legal statement to that effect as soon as we can."? That's not complex. That's not difficult. There are a million ways to do that, and it takes all of a couple days for the person-in-charge for this subject to make a determination and prepare a statement.

Telling us "we will not revoke the OGL and we will make that promise legally-binding with all due speed" is trivial. Do you seriously mean to say that a statement to the public is some horribly difficult thing that takes three weeks to happen?
As one who deals with lawyers regularly, that statement would never pass muster even if they wanted to state it.
 


OTHG

Explorer
I have played D&D since 1979 including significant hours logged in every edition and still play. I have pretty much bought every official book in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th editions. I have read the OGL-Gate coverage with rapt attention. However, I have NEVER responded to a survey of any kind or participated in a free playtest. Why? I guess I am just not interested enough to do that. However, I will ABSOLUTELY participate in the OGL survey if permitted.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
"I won't do the actual effective way of expressing my feelings as a way of sticking it to the man" is counterproductive.
You’re trusting a dishonest corporation to be honest. They won’t. You’re assuming it will be productive. It won’t.

Just like every other call to “use proper channels” it’s meant to channel and funnel outrage so it can be ignored. That’s literally why they exist.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Just like every other call to “use proper channels” it’s meant to channel and funnel outrage so it can be ignored. That’s literally why they exist.
If you think every request to do things in a more efficient and productive manner is inherently dishonest and pointless, I'm not sure why you'd want to be part of anything resembling modern society.

At some point, it's worth downshifting from the Incredible Hulk back into Bruce Banner.

Fight the good fight, but don't do so in a way that means your goals are less likely to be accomplished.
 

OTHG

Explorer
You’re trusting a dishonest corporation to be honest. They won’t. You’re assuming it will be productive. It won’t.

Just like every other call to “use proper channels” it’s meant to channel and funnel outrage so it can be ignored. That’s literally why they exist.
I believe corporations listen to their customers and corporations like wizards, who are so closely tied to their fan base, especially so. They may totally ignore their customers but they listen. The executives will look at important survey results, at least the topline tabulations. How they respond depends on how bad the numbers are.

It's clear the leadership at wizards is having a PR meltdown. Future business schools will have a nice case study on how not to deal with a corporate crisis. The leadership is clearly not ready for prime time on the PR front, at least.

However, surveys are only as good as the people you survey. If all you do is survey the "amen chorus," then everything looks rosy. A few months ago, wizards surveyed its players and found out that some outrageously high percentage loved everything about the game with very few exceptions. That survey probably doesn't have much value, either the questions were poorly written or the respondents are just a self-selecting sample of hardcore fans. You won't get casual players or others who for various reasons might have issues with the game. But those opinions are invaluable to bringing them back and growing the game. So please respond to this survey. Let wizards know your true feelings. It might not help but if the only people who respond are from the "amen chorus" then they will continue wearing their rose-colored glasses because the survey tells them everything is fine.
 

Most of the comments are going to be similar.

I used to do quality analysis for a background screening company.

I would be given huge stacks of forms for police screening checks. My job was to look for errors from data entry. Mostly typos, sometimes unclear writing, and rarely invalid requests.

I went through them far quicker than you would probably guess. Once I was in the zone I could scan entire documents in seconds.

I bet I could read 100 comments a minute for the short ones.
If you’re spending half a second per comment, you’re not reading them. And you’re not doing that for 8 hours per day for a year.
 

Again: I am not, at all, talking about the actual process of writing this thing. Any such writing is going to be a complex process. I get that. That's the nature of the beast. You need weeks or even months to nail down the legalese.

But making a press release wherein you say, "We hear you, we understand that we've done wrong, and we are committed to respecting your demands. We will not revoke the OGL 1.0a, and we will prepare a legal statement to that effect as soon as we can."? That's not complex. That's not difficult.

This is where you go astray. Making a press release comitting you to something you have bot really thought through couls make you look twice as bad, because you might be forced to take that back later.

I'd rather have a well founded answer that just some reactionary statement what we just want to hear.
I mean, if WotC would state that right now and tell us, we should wait 6 month until they finish the legalese... who would believe them now?
 

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