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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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The FR was always super popular. In the 90s it helped TSR survice and print other worlds.

Except we don't know if the people that filled in the survey are a representative sample of the D&D playing population.

It could be that Sly Flourish's website tends to attract people that are new to D&D and they didn't play D&D before 5E. Equally, it could be that the website tends to attract grognards that have been playing D&D since the Red Box or earlier.

So maybe the Realms is popular because it's a setting that people love above all others, regardless of when people started playing, or maybe it's popular because it's the default 5E setting.

We simply don't know.

What we do know is that we don't have the information required to know for sure that the data tells us WotC should stick to the Realms above all other settings.
 

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Parmandur

Book-Friend
With splat they ge two thirds and they can be bought more than once by interested players. APs are bought once by DMs.


Interesting theory, but in practice a group tends to pool and buy a book; they tried the player focused strategy with 3E, bit that appears to have been a losing tactic.

This survey has sampling issues, but it does seem to match some of the numbers WotC has provided, so it may be valid data.
 

darjr

I crit!
They tried the spalt route with 4e as well. I think they'll tack if they need to, but right now I very much appreciate their approach. Each book they do put out is of higher quality and has stuff I can steal or run right out, so it's lighter on my pocket book but better for me, and I'll bet better for them. And the DMsGuild is the icing on the cake.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
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
I agree.

Problem is that WotC doesn't care about reviews.

Either enough people buy them anyway or they'll have to find another approach. That other approach will probably still not be what you want, since they will probably only consider approaches that maximize number of sold books.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
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.
WotC sees this as a problem. They don't want rpgs to be a market where only one out of every five customers buy their stuff.

They are working hard to entice all players to buy all books.

The old strategy was content with only targeting the dungeon masters (with books like regional sourcebooks and sourcebooks on desert or frost environments). That strategy seems to be over.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Interesting theory, but in practice a group tends to pool and buy a book; they tried the player focused strategy with 3E, bit that appears to have been a losing tactic.

This survey has sampling issues, but it does seem to match some of the numbers WotC has provided, so it may be valid data.

What makes you say that groups tend to pool and buy a book? You'd need another survey to determine that. Anecdotally, I've personally never seen that.


Sent from my iPhone using EN World mobile app
 

CapnZapp

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.
When I've previously discussed the issue, I've used the numbers 50% homebrew, 25% realms, 25% all other official settings combined.

I've also roughly estimated the market for something like SCAG to be "half the homebrewers" plus the realmsers, for a 50% total (maximum potential.)

In reality your figure (33%) is probably closer to the mark.

Still means any other setting (Dark Sun, Birthright etc) is left far far back in the dust.

The notion that Forgotten Realms attracks ten times as many potential customers still hold.

While I said perhaps 5% (meaning that the second biggest setting probably attracts one fifth of that 25% figure), it's probably not even 3,3% if only a third use published settings Realms included.

Either way, a product targeting another setting than the realms attracts only a tenth as many customers.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Interesting theory, but in practice a group tends to pool and buy a book; they tried the player focused strategy with 3E, bit that appears to have been a losing tactic.

They tried the spalt route with 4e as well.
I'm not saying you two voice this, but here goes.

Many people are asking themselves "why this incessant focus on player-oriented products if it doesn't work and groups still only buy a single copy (most often the DM)?"

The answer isn't to expect them to "change a losing strategy". The answer is to realize that for WotC there is no other strategy.

If and when Hasbro finally are convinced that out of a million roleplayers the maximum market penetration is 1/5th of that or "only" 200000 customers, they will change D&D into something we won't like*.

If only the core three books get these sales, then I predict a new edition every other year, with a new set of PHBs that slightly differ from the last one.

But we're not there yet. WotC will probably still give it a few more tries where they try to sell a single book to all people.


*) What we would like, of course, is for Hasbro to divest itself from D&D and give up on their Marvellian dreams for it. What we need is a small-time player to get the rights to the game. A small time player who does not operate in any "real" market such as collectibles, toys, movie deals or even boardgames. A small time player focused solely on rpgs, that can and will consider it a great deal to make books that appeal only to a fraction of a fraction of the (unrealistic) "complete market".

In other words, pretty much any other rpg company than WotC (while they're owned by Hasbro, that is).

I've said it before and I'll say it again. There is no (big) money in rpgs, and our games would be better off in hands that realize this. :)
 


darjr

I crit!
They've already given up on big money for an RPG. That is the why of the whole strategy and the small group of folks actually working on the game. Would a small company do any different? Not in the long run, not in my opinion, not if they wanted a healthy company.
 

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