Stage 2: Research

Velian Pandeliev
May 10, 2017 · 2 min read

(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). Since game masters are hard to pin down and I have such a limited timeframe, I resorted to ad hoc requirements gathering…on Reddit.

Okay, I cheated a bit: since my respondents had not pledged to reply within a day, I stretched out the data collection period over a weekend.

Requirements Gathering Research

Never having conducted research on D&D-specific threads, I did not know how responsive or amenable these communities would be to having a researcher start asking questions. So, I began with a brief prompt.

First, I identified myself (broadly) and the purpose of the post. From an ethics standpoint, I strongly prefer not to ask questions incognito or deceive participants about my purpose for asking them.

“I am a D&D enthusiast and UX researcher trying to understand how DMs find adventures, encounters, and maps suitable to their game. Please take a few minutes to help me design a better adventure database for you.”

The essential components of any research blurb:

  • Who am I
  • What am I doing
  • Why should you care
  • How long will it take

Then I asked my questions:

“Your players stepped off your map/railroad at the end of your last session and you need to prepare some content for them for next week.

- Where do you look for adventures or encounters to include?

- What are the most important things you want to know about a new adventure to determine if it’ll be appropriate?

- How do you get this information about a new adventure now?”

I submitted a version of this post to several D&D-related subreddits, including the one that spawned AdventureLookup, the closest competitor from my last post.

From the original question threads and follow-up discussion, I collected 72 reply comments. The ethical requirements of using reddit data in formative research can be confusing, but I took the following steps when processing the data:

  • Disclosure: my posts started with my introducing the purpose of the research.
  • Anonymity: even though reddit usernames are already one step away from posters’ true identities, I did not include usernames in the analysis.
  • Trends, not individuals: requirements gathering did not single out individual users or try to generalize about types of users.

The results of this research are detailed in the next post.

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