D&D Creator Summit Quick Recap
In case you missed it, today was the Wizards of the Coast D&D Creator Summit. This was pitched to creators as an opportunity to hear from the team at Wizards about new things coming down the pipeline (ie. the D&D VTT, One D&D updates) and to have conversations and give feedback to the team. Following recent missteps by the team at Wizards, particularly with harmful content in published books (see: Hadozee) and the OGL fiasco in January, not to mention the fact that members of the tabletop community with a bone to pick were stirring up mistrust towards the attendees and Wizards alike in the lead up to the event, tensions were high from the start.
Full disclosure: I was invited to attend in-person, however due to illness I had to change plans last minute and attend virtually. There were approximately 30 attendees in person, and somewhere in the ballpark of 100 virtual attendees (these are rough numbers, based on names I saw in chat. I didn’t count). This was to be the first of a series of conversations about the game, the brand, and what’s coming next for D&D. All attendees were given two basic instructions: 1. You can take photos and videos for note taking/personal use, but do not share them publicly. 2. Anything we tell you, you are free to share publicly. I’m aware that at least one person who attended has already publicly posted pictures of slides from the event, so if there are NDAs tied to future Summit events… well, I’ll let you do the math.
This is just a high level recap of the event. I simply don’t have the time or bandwidth to review everything that happened, but I’m going to try to touch on the things that stood out most to me, things that seem most important for the community, and my takeaways. Several people livetweeted the event, so if you’re looking for more details, that’s the place to look. I highly recommend Daniel Kwan’s Twitter thread for a more comprehensive breakdown, and I’m sure that others will post articles and videos in the coming days that will help fill any gaps that may exist. So let’s begin:
As I already mentioned, going into the event, there was tension. Several kinds of tension, in fact. From the get-go, it felt like there was tension in what Wizards hoped to accomplish with the event. Even though it was billed as a chance to have a discussion with the team, the first presentations were more of a focus group/product feedback for D&D Beyond and a demo for the D&D VTT, followed by a feedback/Q&A session about the D&D VTT. It felt like they tried to squeeze too many different things into one event.
There were technical issues from the beginning, which, combined with a lack of clarity for many of the virtual attendees as to what was happening and when, led to many of the online crew feeling like afterthoughts. This, combined with a lot of questions in the online chat going unanswered, and some dismissive answers to questions with a lot of nuance led to a significant amount of frustration among virtual attendees and in-person attendees alike. After the morning session, I nearly didn’t join for the afternoon session because of how frustrating the technical issues were. Office hours for virtual attendees went well though. And the ASL interpreters were rocks throughout the entire event. Personally, I enjoyed a heartfelt conversation with Todd Kenreck about our love for D&D, and how he wants to create more video content for Wizards that highlights the D&D community. As someone who has been friends with Todd for several years, it was nice to talk with him again, albeit virtually.
Something that was clearly on display at the Summit was the disconnect between the creator relations and community teams and the executive team. Specifically, when creators asked tough questions, the execs seemed unsure of how to handle them, and so the community and creator relations team members stepped in to answer. Of note: much of the executive team at D&D is relatively new. Dan Rawson, the SVP of D&D who spoke alongside Kyle Brink started at Wizards late last year, so really doesn’t have much historical context for the conversations that happened. I would have hoped that they might have been a little more confident in fielding questions from creators, but many of the best answers came from the community and creator relations teams.
To be clear: I think the intentions of the creator relations team in organizing this event was phenomenal, but I feel like the agenda was hijacked to become more of a show and tell event, which the folks involved were not a fan of. The agenda for the event felt completely backwards. Instead of ending with the presentation from Jeremy Crawford and Chris Perkins about One D&D, they should have led with that to lay the groundwork for every other discussion that happened. Instead, starting with nearly four hours of product demos and feedback sessions left many creators feeling like their time was being wasted. However, during the afternoon, once everyone both online and in-person were in the same session, the creators banded together to move the conversation to tough questions, asking about diversity and inclusion, past missteps, and expressed very clearly and frankly the ways in which the D&D community is frustrated with Wizards’s recent missteps. Several great answers from the creator relations and community teams, and several uncertain shrugs from the executive team later, it felt like the conversation was finally making headway, however since that conversation wasn’t on the schedule, it was cut short in order to move on to the next thing.
I won’t share specific names of people who asked questions or pressed Wizards so they can decide whether they want to disclose who they are, but a HUGE kudos to the in-person who asked tough questions, pushed back on assumptions, and made it clear that the voices of this community need to be heard. Several people said some very harsh, and very true things that the executive team needed to hear, and called to account.
It was a long day, with lots of information and a lot to process, so by the end folks were tired and it was hard to focus and properly form sentences, but we did hear about the future of One D&D, or rather, 5e. Because that’s what it is. One D&D will basically be a second Player’s Handbook and a second Dungeon Master’s Guide, both fully compatible with all existing 5e content, but with rules updates, standardization of class progressions, and some really cool new stuff. There will be a glossary in each that helps you identify what things from the 2014 PHB and DMG have been updated in the 2024 one. This was a very exciting presentation, with a lot of things that I’m personally excited about (like weapon masteries, which will make playing martial classes more exciting in combat). Ultimately, while I know things have a lot of room for improvement, I still have hope for the future of D&D. This event had shortcomings, yes. But I hope some pointed feedback will help address those issues for future events where we’ll have more opportunities to provide feedback, both as a community at-large, and in smaller focus groups like this Summit. I’m disappointed that we didn’t have more time to talk to the executive team (at least as a virtual attendee), but I felt like they listened when it mattered and realized that they need to do better at listening to the community. There were some answers I was displeased with and some moments where it was clear their teams weren’t prepared to field tough questions, but on the other hand, there were some truly great answers, the team’s passion for D&D was on display, and I have confidence that we impressed upon the executives that they need to listen to the creator relations and community teams at Wizards. I have more specific feedback about the event that doesn’t make sense to share here, so I’ll close with this thought:
What makes D&D and all tabletop RPGs truly great is not the game publishers, but the people that gather around the table to play. And today, in spite of the attacks on their character over the last few weeks, D&D creators of all backgrounds made a point of demonstrating their commitment to each other and this community. More than anything else, that’s why I have hope for the future of D&D, because there are some damn good people who play it.