Sly Flourish's 2016 D&D Dungeon Master Survey Results

Mike Shea, otherwise known as Sly Flourish, held a survey over recent months to look at how Dungeons & Dragons DMs prepare and run their games. The results have now been released, and they make for some interesting reading. For example, most people play weekly for about four hours (as expected) with about an hour to two-hours preparation time. Over half play at home, about 10% in public, and about 20% play online. Over half use their own settings, 38% play in the Realms, and 5% in other D&D settings. Two thirds run their own adventures, with one third running published adventures. Check out Mike's full report (it's long!) for all the data!

Mike Shea, otherwise known as Sly Flourish, held a survey over recent months to look at how Dungeons & Dragons DMs prepare and run their games. The results have now been released, and they make for some interesting reading. For example, most people play weekly for about four hours (as expected) with about an hour to two-hours preparation time. Over half play at home, about 10% in public, and about 20% play online. Over half use their own settings, 38% play in the Realms, and 5% in other D&D settings. Two thirds run their own adventures, with one third running published adventures. Check out Mike's full report (it's long!) for all the data!

Some key points:

  • 6,600 respondents.
  • Most people play weekly for about four hours (as expected) with about an hour to two-hours preparation time.
  • Over half play at home, about 10% in public, and about 20% play online.
  • Over half use their own settings, 38% play in the Realms, and 5% in other D&D settings.
  • Two thirds run their own adventures, with one third running published adventures.
  • The Kobold Fight Club online encounter builder is the most used tool. Ahead of dice, apparently!

If you want to analysis the data yourself, you can do so here (CSV file).


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timbannock

Hero
Supporter
The APs ARE the splatbooks.

By combining adventure + campiagn material + realms they maximize the number of people that might purchase each module.

Remove adventure? Fewer potential buyers
Remove campaign? Fewer potential buyers
Replace realms? Fewer potential buyers

I always assumed splatbook had more of a correlation to player-facing material (classes/feats/powers/options/stuff), but you are not wrong.

Looking at what's been in the releases -- POTA came with new races/spells, we've had some Backgrounds, we've had the Sword Coast book which was nearly half player content and the rest was "player-safe" setting lore -- I think this is a very solid conclusion. Looking deeper: every damn one of the adventures serves as much to fill in setting details about various cities/towns/regions and add wandering monster tables as it does to have an actual linear adventure. Look how many of them include expansive exploration: POTA, STK, and (quite obviously) Curse of Strahd. Hell, STK and SCAG line up as player- and DM-setting books almost perfectly.

You're also seeing them do major templates: war (Tyranny of Dragons), fiends & drow (OOTA), giants & hex-crawling (STK)...Curse even has a major dungeon-crawl. Considering "Labyrinth" is the name of their next project, I think we'll have our blueprint for a megadungeon in 5E there.

I think they are hitting the right notes. They lose me a little bit because there's certain "tighter packages" of info I'd want, and DEFINITELY non-Realms settings, but I betcha they look at their sales figures on non-Realms stuff on DMsGuild and see how many page hits things like the Eberron Wiki gets and they're like, "Yeah, I think that's fine. No reason to change course yet."

As soon as sales hit the wall on FR stuff, you'll see them change gears. But probably not before then.
 

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Mavkatzer

Explorer
Wow, I am SO average! One session a week, for about four hours, with two hours of prep time.
Will my players still think I'm special? Will they still want me as their DM after this, knowing that I am no fine catch?
 

Why we won't see many campaign setting books and non-FR adventures.

Don't confuse correlation and causality. It is possible that so many people are playing in the FR simply because that's where the 5E adventures are set, rather than independently choosing to set their game in the Realms.

Totally anecdotal, but my campaign is currently set in the Forgotten Realms because we're playing the PotA campaign and that is where that campaign is set. For the previous 3 campaigns we were playing in the World of Greyhawk. The sole reason for the world change was because the adventure.
 



Kramodlog

Naked and living in a barrel
Don't confuse correlation and causality. It is possible that so many people are playing in the FR simply because that's where the 5E adventures are set, rather than independently choosing to set their game in the Realms.
The FR was always super popular. In the 90s it helped TSR survice and print other worlds.
 

Kramodlog

Naked and living in a barrel
The APs ARE the splatbooks.

By combining adventure + campiagn material + realms they maximize the number of people that might purchase each module.
Look at SCAG and SKT. The reviews are saying the books are too scattered and do not focus enough on one aspect. It is a bad strategy
 

With splat they ge two thirds and they can be bought more than once by interested players. APs are bought once by DMs.
Not every player is going to buy an accessory, let alone two each year.

Even for groups that do you splatbooks, every player at a table does not buy their own copy of a splatbook. Normally it's one player who buys all the books, very often the DM.
 

Hussar

Legend
And even if only 1/3 run packaged adventures, you've still got some from the 2/3rds crowd who pick up adventures to steal and borrow stuff. I imagine that most home brewers are not above using stat blocks, maps and other goodies from published adventures. So, you're targeting 1/3rd of the audience flat out and leveraging some percentage of the other 2/3rds.

A bird in the hand is worth far, far more than two in the bush. You KNOW that you can sell adventures to 1/3 of your audience? Fantastic.
 

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