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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Because WotC has already ruined my trust with their opening salvo and their blatantly disingenuous non-pologies?

Because WotC (and, more importantly, Hasbro) is a corporation, and corporations have an extremely serious problem with becoming collusions against the customer?

Because, with something this important on the line, with something where one poorly-phrased line can result in the collapse of the entire effort, I need an extremely high degree of certainty?

Because I paid attention during the D&D Next Playtest, and noticed the incredible lack of nuance, the dogged insistence on certain efforts until it became clear those efforts simply would never be popular (e.g. Mearls' love of slinging fistfuls of dice, only to eventually cave to negative feedback, or the months wasted on "Specialties" that then had to be abandoned and replaced very late in the process), while denying or burying anything that was more popular than expected if it didn't fit their intentions (e.g. their continued refusal to even consider a Warlord class, despite it being more popular than Druid in the one publicly-visible poll they did)?

Because I know how the Paizo PF1e public playtests worked, where they said pretty much exactly the same things, and then literally actually banned people for giving in-depth feedback that showed how flawed the Gunslinger was?

This ain't my first rodeo.
OGL is not done by the designers. Unless you expect them to resign working on something they love about this, I don’t blame them for this.

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Do you actually trust them to make one,..

I don't have to trust them. I just need to wait 1 day and look what they want to do instead of jumping to conclusions.

That is the point. I don't think pressuring them to make statements just to jump on them if they do does not help.

If you do, all you get is hollow words, because if you run a billion dollar company, you just can't just make up stuff on the fly.

So speaking up is very good. Wanting clarity is good. But you need to give them a few days to sort their mess.

There is only one :mad:ing thing I want, and that's for them to affirm they cannot deauthorize or revoke the OGL 1.0a! That's it. That's all. They can make whatever :poop: change they want as a new license. But I want them to STOP with the Orwellian word games and just follow the :mad:ing law!

Which is not clear, going by the various comments here and elswere by actual lawyers.
So the least the need to do is add a OGL 1.0b that adds "irrevocable".
OGL 1.0a is dead.

Also, you need to be a bit patient, if you want something good. I am impatient too, but so is life.


Seems odd to be concerned about the truth of whether the D&D staff read UA feedback if your trust in WotC is already irrevocably broken.

It gives the impression that you still desperately want D&D to succeed.

It's been pretty common knowledge that UA surveys are an imperfect system, Mike Mearls (back before he got rightly stuffed in a drawer in a cubicle somewhere in the offices never to see the light of day again) once said in a tweet that while Surveys are invaluable for gathering data, the way the data is formatted when it arrives to them makes it impossible to truly read every single word of a response, be it a few characters or really pushing the limits of the 2/500 word limit that they normally impose.
Funny you should mention Mike Mearls—the man broke a three-and-a-half-year Twitter silence yesterday to retweet two of the tweets denying the “feedback isn’t read” rumor.

One thing especially didn't sit with me (besides the overall OGL-gate elephant in the room):

“And yes, sometimes we get frustrated when people tell us how to do our jobs”

Well, ya know, in D&D we are literally all designers and peers—that’s part of the game, and is foundational to the culture.

We’re not coin-doling chumps.

There are other lines of work if WOTC’s feedback staff don’t actually want creative peer-like feedback.


Follower of the Way
Also, you need to be a bit patient, if you want something good. I am impatient too, but so is life.
I don't think two weeks is an excessively long time for them to come out and say, "Whatever license we make, it will not, under any circumstances, revoke or invalidate the existing OGL. You can continue to use that license for new products forever, because we recognize that we don't have the ability to revoke it."

That's not a complicated thing to say. They have chosen not to say it. I consider that a serious issue.

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