Watching D&D: what stands out to me

Street Musician by John Thomas Smith

Last summer, Steven Lumpkin ran a survey about watching D&D that should inform the efforts of anybody working in or around “Actual Play”-type media. Despite the name, it also covers “listening to D&D” via podcasts and the like. Note that this is a voluntary survey and susceptible to a number of forms of bias (used here in the statistical sense, not the colloquial or cultural sense). But this only means that we should view the results from the perspective of people who, broadly speaking, are in Steven’s social network though not necessarily directly linked to him. That’s still super valuable!

While you should read his review of the results for sure, here are the bits that stood out to me.

  • Podcasts are WAY more popular than I expected: nearly half of respondents prefer to consume the shows in this format, and lots of people listen to the shows even if they’re on Twitch or YouTube.
  • On-demand (VODs or podcasts) are even more popular than live-streaming, which REALLY surprised me.
  • Chat isn’t really popular. It might get lots of attention, but most people find it frustrating or ignore it altogether.
  • The median preferred length (time) comes in right at about 2 hours.
  • Audio quality matters so much. Given how many folks prefer just to listen, this shouldn’t surprise me, but I do feel like most shows don’t really try very hard on this. Or maybe, like me, they just find it supremely challenging.
  • Other visuals can come or go, but visible dice rolls don’t matter.
  • Players do matter! Also the characters and setting (likely because those help define the story.)
  • Don’t cover existing adventures too much – everybody wants at least some original (“homebrew”) material.
  • Rules are not that important, even though they should exist because people want a balance of roleplay with game (dice) mechanics.
  • Player bickering is bad, and distasteful content is almost as bad. (That doesn’t surprise me, but I appreciated seeing it.)
  • Diversity in games and players. You don’t want to limit your audience to, well, fat white bearded dudes like me. (By the way, this points up that Roll20’s lack of desire to sponsor a show with like five white guys is a correct business decision.)

As I’m getting more involved in Variant Roles, these insights really help me make sure that we can share the fun as broadly as possible.

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