Article Header Image
Wrapping Up
By James Wyatt

W ell, it's been about twenty months, and it's time to wrap up our monstrous wanderings. We've discussed a lot of monsters (and a few other topics), I've gathered a ton of feedback, and we're busy putting all that feedback to good use. So I figured this would be a good time to look back at some of the ways you—yes, you—have made a difference in the design of the next iteration of D&D.

Raw Numbers

Throughout the run of this column, I maintained a spreadsheet where I tracked the poll results each week. The first page of the spreadsheet gives a record of every case where I asked for a 1–5 rating about a monster or concept, and it generates this wonderful graph.

Click for Larger Image

The highest rating is at the bottom of the graph, so the 5 rankings are blue, the 4 rankings are red, the 3 rankings are green, and so on. This graph helped me look for the places where the top colors dipped down lower than I would like. Any time the green dipped below the 70 percent line, that was a clear signal that something needed more thought and discussion. (By the way, consistently having at least 70 percent of you giving 4 or 5 on the surveys told us that we were on the right track overall.)

The lowest the green ever dipped was just below the 50 percent mark for the good-aligned beast-monsters (baku, couatl, hollyphant, ki-rin, lammasu, moon dog, opinicus, phoenix, and shedu). In that case, the largest response was a 3, "So-so: it makes sense, but it doesn't grab me." I suspect that has a lot to do with a general lack of enthusiasm for these monsters and their place in the game (more than half of you also said you've never used any of them in your game). But it meant that when we did a more extensive description for the couatl, we put more thought into giving it some hooks that made it a lot more exciting (I think) than what we've had before.

Multiple Choice

In addition to the 1–5 rankings, I asked a lot of multiple-choice questions to help us decide on story directions. I tracked these on the second page of the spreadsheet, listing the questions and options, and highlighting the answers that got the most responses. Most often, those answers gave us confirmation that we were heading in the right direction. Often, after presenting a sort of compromise story in the article (one that allowed the stories from previous editions to coexist), I'd ask if that was the right approach—and most of you almost always said yes. Sometimes resoundingly!

Sometimes, though, a mandate was less clear.

And once in a while, you pointed out that we were going in the wrong direction.

(The lighter red highlight there indicates that 35 percent of responses liked one of the four variations of the 4th Edition origin story.) Only 9 percent of you liked the story we'd come up with about unsanctioned dragon eggs, so we threw that story out.


Polls aren't everything. We learned a lot from your comments as well. A good example from early on was the discussion of the various savage humanoid races, which I revisited after processing your feedback. In your comments, you told us that gnolls aren't cowardly, that goblins are too weak, that bugbears should be stealthier, and that some of you like more advanced lizardfolk and some of you don't. And just last week, one comment on my article on campaign themes made me rethink the way I'm presenting them right now.

So all of this is to say thank you! Each week, through seventy-four columns, an average of over 1,200 of you took the time not just to read these columns but also to give feedback through our surveys and comments. That's a phenomenal amount of input, and it's made a big difference.


Previous Poll Results

Do you give conscious thought to a theme for your campaign?
Yes, I think about themes in a literary sense, like in the last section of the article. 516 29%
Yes, I think about themes as described in the 4th Edition DMG. 313 18%
Yes, I think about themes as described in the 4th Edition DMG, but only to think about fantasy subgenres. 64 4%
Yes, I give some thought to the kinds of villains and monsters that will run through my campaign. 427 24%
No, but themes tend to emerge on their own. 186 11%
No, I’m more focused on providing a world for the players to explore. 168 9%
No, I make it up as I go along. 81 5%
Total 1755 100%

If you were starting a new campaign right now, would you give it a clear theme?
Yes, I’d try to give it a theme in a literary sense, like in the last section of the article. 582 33%
Yes, I’d choose a theme like those described in the 4th Edition DMG. 309 17%
Yes, I’d focus on a fantasy subgenre as described in the 4th Edition DMG. 95 5%
Yes, I’d give some thought to the kinds of villains and monsters that will run through my campaign. 409 23%
No, I would focus on providing a world for the players to explore. 271 15%
No, I’d make it up as I go along. 83 5%
Total 1749 100%

What kind of advice regarding campaign themes would you like to see in future campaign-building advice aimed at DMs?
I think the advice should focus on themes in a literary sense, like in the last section of the article. 467 26%
I think the advice should focus on themes as described in the 4th Edition DMG. 366 21%
I think the advice should focus on fantasy subgenres more than themes as such. 212 12%
I think the advice should focus on the kinds of villains and monsters that will run through a campaign. 195 11%
I think the advice should focus on building a world for the players to explore. 441 25%
I don’t think any advice about campaign themes is useful or necessary. 51 3%
Total 1732 100%

James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
Sort Items By: Newest First Oldest First Top Rated
Unfortunately, poll results like these are only as good as the questions. And many if not most of the questions were weighted and excluded reasonable logical alternatives, making these results basically worthless. The perfect example is the umpteen million questions asking "How close is this to the classic DnD [insert here]," but not "how can we evolve this concept to make it better."
Posted By: Fuzzypaws (3/14/2014 3:11:02 PM)


This was also my biggest beef with the polls. You rarely asked, "is this good?" and all too frequently asked merely "is this familiar?" It was more saddening than frustrating, really.
Posted By: RadioKen (4/28/2014 6:09:50 PM)


Validity, particularly construct validity, are my primary concerns with your claims and the instrument you're using. I simply can't have the same faith as you do in your claims because many of your criteria, and the item constructs in your instrument, simply don't measure what you claim they do. A nice idea, but overall the design of your survey, instrument - what have you, is too flawed to produce really significant data from which you can make verifiable claims.
Posted By: Kevtar (3/14/2014 5:38:45 AM)


I'm curious if this article or something like it will be re-opened when it comes time to playtest/release future campaign setting supplements. Will we be able to weigh in on which and how monsters from Athas, Planescape, Eberron, Dragonlance, etc. will be conceptualized and implemented? I think continuing audience feedback would help boost sales of what are usually more niche products.
Posted By: OskarOisinson (3/13/2014 4:42:31 PM)


Thanks, James. Ever since Chris's column ended, this has been my favorite one to read and participate in.
Posted By: alienux (3/13/2014 1:03:34 PM)


I also want to extend my thanks to James. I have really enjoyed these articles and the chance to make my opinion known. I look forward to getting my hands on the Monster Manual and other products that will benefit from James' world-building work.
Posted By: GilbertMDH (3/13/2014 11:36:33 AM)


The sanctioning of Dragon eggs has been revoked! Huzzah!

Oh, and good work on the polls in general, I guess. :D
Posted By: Khilkhameth (3/12/2014 6:10:13 PM)


Thanks James, for all the hard work and putting up with us highly opinionated forum goers. I'm grateful for the dedication I can see towards making us a more inclusive, flavorful, and comprehensive setting experience than we otherwise could have.
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (3/12/2014 3:57:41 PM)


Thanks James, this column was always the highlight of the DnD website articles. I could tell that you were always carefully considering the feedback and now its nice to hear that the fans ideas were taken into consideration. I really enjoyed the 4e DMG and greatly look forward to all of the new DnD books you've got in the pipeline. Keep up the good work, and thanks for the column. I'll miss it!
Posted By: Style75 (3/12/2014 3:23:35 PM)


Thank you, James! I will miss this column!
Posted By: StrikerGreen (3/12/2014 12:00:09 PM)


How to Read the Graph:
The leftmost color (blue) represents the responses that agreed the most with the question on a 1-5 scale. These are 5s, or something like "strongly agree".
The next color (red) represents the responses that mostly agreed with the question. These are 4s, or something like "mostly agree".
The Green line is a score of 3, or "somewhat agree".
Purple is a score of 2, or "disagree".
Light blue is a score of 1, or "strongly disagree".

Take a look at the first line next to Orc. ~20% of us strongly agreed that the Orc described in the article was the Orc they like. ~70% of us mostly agreed with the Orc. The remaining 10% of the votes were indifferent or opposed.

This means 90% of the people that voted on the Orc questions liked and agreed with the article's content.

This method of presenting data is useful to see trends in the dat... (see all)
Posted By: Ramzour (3/12/2014 4:40:43 AM)


While I'd have to go back to the results of the Sahuagin survey to see why its 2 lines are so split, I'm happy you're showing us something to help us see what data and decision processes are at your end.
Posted By: Dreamstryder (3/12/2014 1:42:47 AM)


That's another weekly article gone. The data means nothing to me, as I can't understand or read it.
Posted By: Prom (3/12/2014 1:20:23 AM)


Why are there two rows per monster in the chart? There must be a more intuitive way to present that data.
Posted By: Gerrard-s_Mom (3/12/2014 12:57:57 AM)



Create Comment
Follow Us
Find a place to get together with friends or gear up for adventure at a store near you
Please enter a city or zip code