Dungeons & Dragons Retrospective

Retrospective meetings are held at the end of our three week sprint to reflect on what happened, and how we can improve for the next sprint. They play a crucial role in team development, and provide a great outlet for celebrating our successes and openly discussing failure.

There are many resources for running different types of retrospectives. Instead of facilitating the same old retrospective format, try different formats in-order to:

  • Keep the meeting fresh and creative
  • Allow people to think about improvements from different angles

I am a member of Baymax brigade @ ACL. The Baymax members really like playing boardgames during breaks, so we figured it would be a great experience to have a retrospective that was centred around the theme of the famous “Dungeons & Dragons” game (in short D&D).

How Do You Turn D&D Into a Retrospective?

The team plays as a group of adventurers looking for treasure (in our case, piles of candy). They venture into monster and trap-infested dungeons, and need to band together to succeed. The ammunition needed to clear the obstacles is their feedback for the retrospective.

Prerequisites

  • Facilitator — A “Dungeon Master” (Ideally an experienced Dungeons & Dragons player)
  • A dungeon map — The map can be one huge level, or multiple smaller levels. You can generate and print a random dungeon map from this website. Tip: Print out a version for the facilitator!
  • Relevant pictures — Pictures of the various monsters, empty dungeon rooms, corridors, doors and treasure chests that the team will encounter. This is completely optional, but definitely builds the ambience. Print them out or project them onto a big TV!
  • Multi-faced dice — Preferably for each character. You can buy 5 or 10 sets of dice for around $15 (search “D&D dice set” on Amazon).
  • Invented characters — Four to five invented characters. This will depend on the number of team members you have. Our retrospective had 15 individuals, so 3 members teamed up to play 1 character. Each character has their own traits, ideals, bonds with other characters, flaws, and a creative special ability that can be used up to 3 times during the game.
  • Nameplate (optional) — A name plate to put on the table to help everyone remember the names of the characters
  • Loot — Buy lots of candy and put them in different “loot sacks“. I was using the sack the dice came in.
  • Cheat sheet — A cheat sheet for the group members to use when determining what information they need to share during an encounter with a monster.
An example cheatsheet
  • Retrospective feedback — It’s best if the team prepares their retro feedback before the meeting, or you will need 10–15 min at the beginning of the meeting. Things to provide feedback on:
     — Things for the group to start / stop / continue
     — Things for the manager to start / stop / continue
     — Things that went well during the sprint
     — Things that did not go well during the sprint
     — Things that you appreciate about individuals on the team
     — Things that others on the team did during the sprint that you liked / helped you

Setup

Prepare the table with the character sheets, cheat sheets and name panels before the team walks into the room, and ask them to break into groups based on the number of characters you prepared.

Game Play

Introduce your team to the context that they are a team of adventurers on a quest to find treasure within this vast dungeon. Give every group a few minutes to read their character sheets and review the rules. Allow each group to present their character quickly to the rest of the team.

Provide the team with the players map of the dungeon and indicate the location of the team. From here, the game begins and you can have the team decide where to explore next (“Let’s go down this corridor” or “Let’s try opening this door”).

As the team explores the dungeon, the facilitator can choose when to introduce certain elements such as monster attacks or triggered traps. Maybe a swarm of rats attacks the entire team, or an axe pendulum suddenly swings across the room to hit one character.

Whenever the team encounters a dangerous situation, the facilitator throws a die. If the character manages to throw a higher number than the facilitator, they “succeed” in evading or overcoming the danger. If their number is lower than the facilitator, they “failed”.

Regardless of the results, the affected character(s) need to share some retrospective feedback (if three team members are playing a character, they collectively provide one feedback item). Success can result in sharing feedback that has a positive connotation (things to continue, things that went well, praise to someone), while failure can result in feedback we can improve on (things to stop doing, things that did not go well during the sprint).

The retrospective finishes when the team arrives to the treasure room and gets the “loot” in the form of candy.

Time Required

  • 15 mins — If the team is not already prepared, to give them a chance to gather retrospective feedback.
  • 15 mins — Breaking the team into different character groups, introducing each character, and explaining the gameplay.
  • 1 hour (or more) — Playing the game and retroing!
  • Overall I would recommend allocating 1.5–2 hours for the exercise.

Tips

  • The facilitator can choose any of the dungeon rooms to be the final “treasure room” — when you run out of time, simply choose the next room.
  • The treasure room can have a special monster that guards it (for example a dragon or an undead beholder).
  • As the Dungeon Master, the facilitator can guide the team in a certain direction by adding impossible obstacles (like a stuck door, or a chasm in the middle of the corridor). Facilitators can invent these on the fly, and get creative!

Resources