(This post is part of an end-to-end UX design project.)

In tabletop roleplaying games such as Dungeons & Dragons, a game master (GM) or dungeon master (DM) leads 1–6 players on a story-based adventure. Players are free to attempt any action that seems plausible within the world, and the GM evaluates each action based on the player’s characteristics and the rules of the game. Dice are rolled, Mountain Dew is consumed, and everyone has a great time.

However, the GM has the added responsibility of knowing everything about the adventure the players are about to undertake, and of responding to them doing unexpected things throughout. …

(This post is part of an end-to-end UX design project.)

After looking at some direct competitors for an adventure database for tabletop RPG game masters, I designed some research instruments to find out what game masters need from an adventure, how they approach creating content for their games, and which of their unsolved problems could an adventure database help with.

With most user groups, the best way to obtain this kind of insight is by triangulating questionnaires (which yield survey data from a lot of users) and interviews (which elicit more detailed responses from a smaller sample). …

(This post is part of an end-to-end UX design project.)

To analyze the data I collected during my research on tabletop RPG game masters, I printed their comments out (old school, I know) and laid them out on a table. Then I began looking for common themes and patterns.

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The research table

With this research, I hoped to uncover the needs and requirements of DMs with respect to finding adventures. I expected many to be surprising, and some to be unsolvable by a searchable adventure database, but nevertheless this stage is essential to understand one’s users.

Results summary

In the interest of putting the main conclusions up front, here are the main insights I have uncovered that will inform my design in the next…

(This post is part of an end-to-end UX design project.)

In my last post I analyzed the user needs of tabletop RPG game masters with regards to finding, adapting, and keeping track of pre-made adventures.

In this post, I will ideate and create some sketches of a potential solution.


Ideation is the rapid generation of ideas within a particular context. At this stage, ideas are inexpensive to consider and the focus is on quantity and deferred judgment. Outlandish, implausible ideas at this stage may seed great novel solutions at the next.

The job stories we generated for game masters do not presuppose a particular solution, and ideation allows me to explore some of the user needs I uncovered and seed a viable idea pool while the cost of doing so is low. …

Like many user experience designers, I follow a version of the User-Centred Design process in my work. Its central tenets are that understanding user needs is a crucial first step to designing good products, and that users should be involved in all stages of the design process.

An increasing number of companies understand the value of this approach, but not all are convinced that it is possible to follow it properly and still fit within time and budgetary constraints, nor that they can accomplish all this without hiring an army of researchers, designers and graphic artists.

In this series of posts I illustrate this process in action with only one UX professional: myself. I will conduct every step of the process in a particular domain, culminating with a design…

(This post is part of an end-to-end UX design project.)

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In my last post, I sketched a potential solution to the problems that tabletop RPG game masters were having finding and archiving existing adventures. Today, I describe the process of creating the first functional prototype for the solution and testing it with users. The live prototype can be found here:


Initial prototype

A prototype is a design artifact that approximates the final product in some meaningful aspect. Some prototypes have accurate physical dimensions, some use the exact materials of the final to test feel and finish, and some behave exactly as the final would. In UX design, we create prototypes in order to solicit user feedback on the usability and viability of our ideas as early in the process as possible. As such, our initial prototypes are highly interactive while deliberately de-emphasizing visual polish. …

The user-centred design process consists of roughly the following stages:

Requirements gathering

This involves finding a problem domain in which a user group has some unmet need, conducting competitor analysis to determine what current solutions exist and in what ways they are deficient, and gathering research data from users about the problem through observation, questionnaires or interviews. This stage is essential to knowing that we are solving the right problem.

Research interpretation

Data collected from users is summarized and interpreted into a set of artifacts that will be used to guide the design process. These artifacts codify the user needs observed in the previous stage and serve to ensure that their needs are easily accessible to the team and considered with priority. Some artifacts focus on the users and their characteristics (e.g., user segments, personas, user roles), some on the tasks they have to perform (e.g., task analysis), and some on the overall experiences of the users in context (e.g., experience maps, user journeys, jobs-to-be-done). …

In 2012–2014, I published two short gamebook stories in a Bulgarian serial under the penname Peter Vale. This post is about one aspect of that work.

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My first published gamebook story was titled Cordoba’s Skies Glow Red (Зарево над Кордоба). I had grown up with a slew of medieval fantasy gamebooks and the genre called to me. This story was about a young warrior named Ahrin who was stranded in a strange city as it was being besieged and assaulted. His main goal was to escape while the invaders streamed into the city. …

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About 10 years ago, a friend gave me a Kodak Brownie SIX-20 camera to play with. It is a fascinating piece of technology, especially with the utter binary simplicity of its controls.

The Brownie SIX-20 was a mass market, inexpensive, point-and-shoot camera manufactured by Kodak from 1946 to 1952. It was an update to the Brownie line that Kodak had been selling since 1900. It retailed for $3.50 (~$40 in 2016), weighed a pound and used 620 film. The Brownie SIX-20 was released over a decade after the first SLR camera had been brought to market, and was clearly aimed at the casual photographer; it was the Snapchat to 1946’s Hasselblad. …


Velian Pandeliev

I am a UX professional, a trained qualitative researcher, and a seasoned lecturer in HCI and computer science.

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