Design & Development12/25/2006


An Online Year in Review



We're hoping this column becomes your window into roleplaying design and development—or at least the way we approach these things here at Wizards of the Coast. We'll handle a wide range of topics in weeks to come, from frank discussions about over- or underpowered material, to the design goals of a certain supplement, to what we think are the next big ideas for the Dungeons & Dragons game. All of this comes bundled with a healthy look at the people and events that are roleplaying R&D.

And the winner is...


On behalf of the D&D website team (a small but bloodthirsty group), we’d like to wish everyone a very happy holidays!

Here we’ve come to the end of 2006—a good opportunity to look back at this year’s website. Obviously it’s invaluable for us to take stock of what articles you’re reading, what tools you’re using, and what art galleries you’re browsing, since this allows us to plan future content that better meets your interests and needs.

This time, we also thought to share this information with you. Curious about what your fellow gamers have been reading? Here’s a rundown of the website’s hits of 2006:

Most Popular New Feature

Of all the new articles and additions this year, Ask Wizards has generated—by far—more interest than anything else. Modeled after magicthegathering.com’s Ask Wizards, folks have bombarded our inbox with all manner of questions (and we love them!), with over 6000 still waiting answers. So if we field one question/day, we’ll finally get through the current backlog in, oh, 16 years.

What did this tell us? That our players have questions. Lots of them. And that they need to be answered accurately (which is why the bulk of these questions have since been turned over to Sage Advice veteran Andy Collins).

The top three most-viewed questions of the year:

  1. 11/16: I was reading Complete Mage, and I realized that the master specialist's requirements can be achieved by a level 3 wizard. Is that on purpose, or is that a mistake?


  2. 08/23: What do the new Dungeon Tiles look like?


  3. 11/15: I used to have an old miniature named Suul the lich. Who was Suul?

Longest Message Board Thread

Melanie Creel, Online Community Manager, perused her records and found 2006’s longest message board thread: Best Lines Ever. No, not those lines used at your local tavern, but ones delivered in the game and forever remembered by your fellow players; this thread generated over 50 pages of responses and several hundred thousand views.

What other threads gained huge attention? Here’s a roundup:

General
1001 Weapons of Awesomeness Competition

Will D&D Ever Drop Its "Sacred Cows"?

Magic & Spells
1001 Silly Spells

Name That Magical Item

Races
YabaTheWhat's Feature Points

Monsters
Krede's Cafe

What's a DM to Do?
The New Riddle Threat!!!!!

Most Visited Art Galleries

When it comes to individual pages, nothing beats the Art and Map Galleries for traffic… but which galleries have been the most visited throughout the year?

  1. Dragons of Faerun
  2. Players Guide to Eberron
  3. Monster Manual IV

The above rankings are for 2006’s galleries. Past art galleries still generate enormous interest, led by those for the Monster Manual, Savage Species, and Deities and Demigods.

Most Visited D&D Minis Galleries

The same holds true for D&D Minis (the website produced by industry vet Steve Winter)—everyone loves to browse these galleries. The top sets viewed in 2006:

  1. War of the Dragon Queen
  2. War Drums
  3. Blood War

Most Popular Epic Stat Card

In addition to releasing godbooks of all past sets, this year the D&D Minis site continued to release epic stat cards for select miniatures. Which miniature garnered the most interest in its epic version? Three hints: he’s drow, he wields twin scimitars, and he often duels Artemis Entreri’s miniature: Drizzt.

Most Accessed Downloads

After the art galleries, the downloads are the website’s most heavily trafficked feature. Of these, folks head first to PC Portraits. As such, we’ve added a new PC Portrait gallery this year, another early next year, and have plans to continue adding them going forward. Perhaps it would also help to offer a character sheet (third most popular download, after adventures) with a space to add in these portraits. Hmm…

Which portraits generated the most visitors? It’s bad guys 2-1 over the goody-two-shoes (well, perhaps it’s 1-1-1, considering third place went to “dark heroes”).

  1. Rogue Adventurers
  2. Knight Adventurers
  3. Dark Heroes

Most Downloaded Adventures

After PC Portraits, adventures are the next most popular download. Instead of just those published in 2006, we looked at the downloads of all adventures, past and present. Tomb of Horrors we could understand. But the top choice did surprise us.

  1. The Burning Plague
  2. A Dark and Stormy Knight
  3. Tomb of Horrors (revised)

The popularity of this section is pretty straightforward: DMs come to the website looking for adventures to run. We’ve always known that, and so we’ll also aim to increase the adventures the website provides; there should always be a healthy variety for you to run your game at any party level.

Most Popular Tool

Beyond art and adventures, the website hosts a variety of online tools, the vast majority of which are authored by website developer Mark Jindra. Of these tools, most people went to the Character Name Generator. Most popular name for 2006? Sadly, that information we don’t have. (My own meager offering: Sir Lacher, gnome paladin, to rhyme with Chicago Bears’ Urlacher. He’s survived so far in Mike Mearls’ Against the Giants campaign.)

Most Popular List

With all the new gameplay material being added in the library of sourcebooks, the website took it upon itself to organize this information into consolidated lists. This year, the most popular list was for prestige classes, followed by those for feats, monsters, and spells.

Most Widely Read Article Series

Throughout the year, we look to distribute our daily selection of articles across all levels of interest: new and experienced players, DMs, Forgotten Realms, Eberron, D&D Minis… with most articles categorized into weekly or monthly series. For 2006, the most popular series were the following:

  • 1. Save My Game
    “Is your D&D campaign having troubles? Have you set up a situation that you now wish you hadn't? Do your best ideas fall flat? Worry no more, because Jason Nelson-Brown has the answers to save your game.” A resource of campaign advice, the most popular ways to save your game were:
  1. Upgrading Magic Items, part 3
  2. Putting the Prestige Back in Prestige Classes
  3. Players Who Are Too Smart
  • 2. Elite Opponents
    Elite Opponents is all about monsters—and strange, variant monsters at that! Each of these columns presents templated versions of a given creature for use in different types of campaigns—both D&D and d20 Modern.” The monsters most unleashed upon players:
  1. Assassin Golems. Assassins? Golems? What’s not to love!
  2. Variant Dragons
  3. Creatures that Cannot Be. Although scheduled for April Fool’s, the concept of breaking the normal templating rules proved a popular one any time of the year. Players are still writing in, asking for a vampire/lycanthrope hybrid.
  • 3. Design & Development
    “Interested in what goes into the creation of Dungeons & Dragons? Members of R&D offer this behind-the-scenes look at Wizards of the Coast, sharing their insights and philosophies into the making of the game.” The top insights and philosophies:
  1. Here Come the Ponies. Our most popular article was a joke? It’s true. Brainchild of Scott Norris, Director of Online Media, this April Fool’s article took on a life of its own, even referenced in slashdot.
  2. Polymorph Problem
  3. Proud Nails

Fight Club Critters

Cousin to Elite Opponents, Fight Club presents a single opponent across different Challenge Ratings. This year, the top opponents were:

  1. Meepo. Nominated by Previews: In the Works author Mat Smith, this wee kobold gained tremendous support as our first Creature Competition’s resident underdog. So much, in fact, that he later appeared in the D&D Minis War of the Dragon Queen set (rising from Sunless Citadel’s Keeper of Dragons all the way to Dragonlord).


  2. Paladin Assassin. Following the “Creatures That Cannot Be” theme, the challenge here was to create a “good” assassin. Look for further discussion of this them in a future Characters with Prestige article by Creighton Broadhurst.


  3. Succubus Paladin. The winner of the first Creature Competition, Andrew Smith’s nomination proved how Charisma, when sufficiently raised, need not be everyone’s dump stat.

Web Enhancements

When it comes to new releases, the website looks to support the sourcebooks through galleries, interviews—and in some cases, with web enhancements to expand their playability. This past year, the following were the most popular enhancements:

  1. PHB II: Deck of Many Things. By Sean K Reynolds; a later addition included the original deck of many things as well.


  2. Fiendish Codex 1 Aspects. By Robert Wiese; a useful enhancement so that lower level PCs could face FC I’s demon lords. In FC II, the archdevils were outright presented as high level aspects, with a future web enhancement providing lower level versions.


  3. Races of the Dragon: Kobolds of Traps and Perfection. By Kolja Raven Liquette; sequel to his first kobold-themed enhancement: Playing to their Strengths.

Characters with Class

Skip Williams has covered the core classes in this series, but recent sourcebooks introduced yet more classes to try. Players sought the most advice on how to run the following:

  1. Duskblades
  2. Incarnates
  3. Ghouls

Characters with Prestige

At this point there are far more prestige classes than classes, and so we chose to expand the tutorial series to cover them as well. For 2006, the vengeance knight won as most popular PrC; counterpart to the PHB II’s knight, this entry from Champions of Ruin included notes from its original designer, Wil Upchurch.

Tactics & Tips

This column provides a wealth of strategic advice for players, in recent days with author Eric Cagle expanding the knowledge checks to learn more about the creatures you’re facing. The most viewed article concerned the first in his series of facing dragons: Bigger, Tougher and Meaner Than You, part 1 (Black Dragons).

Rules of the Game

For players and DMs alike, this column helps cut through the often complex collection of rules. For 2006, folks wanted to learn most about Two-Handed Fighting, part 1.

Vicious Venues

Offering ready to play encounters, which one did most DMs schedule for their games? Apparently their players are heading to the Courthouse.

Steal This Hook

Looking to get your players involved in the storyline? This series provides the hooks to snag their interest. The sharpest hooks were found in: Dungeoneering Dilemmas.

Sharn Inquisitive

Dave Noonan’s weekly series allows his former journalism experience to play out in the Eberron campaign setting. The most widely read Eberron news article this year: Flamewind Issues Annual Riddle of the Three Stars.

Waterdeep News

While Dave covers Eberron, who else but Ed Greenwood covers events of the Forgotten Realms? This year’s most read FR news article: Treasure Found in Sea Ward Well.

Border Kingdoms

A new series, also authored by Realms’ authority Ed Greenwood, covers each area of the Border Kingdoms, expanding coverage from Power of Faerun. The kingdom most visited by players: Adaerglast: The Land of Mages.

D&D Alumni

Another new series this year, taking a look back at the past editions of the game, for all their quirks and charms. With the release of the PHB II, the most nostalgia was garnered for our Look Back at the Player’s Handbook. Curious about the idol on the PHB and PHB II’s cover? That question we submitted to players, with our favorite reply published in a later Design & Development article: Tales of Summoning, Idols, and Dice.


And there you have it! Our thanks for visiting the D&D website. Knowing your preferences helps us better tailor the website to your interests—and, as always, you can send us your thoughts and opinions directly to dndfeedback@wizards.com. Also be sure to check out the companion piece, 10 Features You Might Have Missed, for a second look at some of the website team’s favorite features throughout the year.

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