The Alphastream Game Design Blog

Assessing the D&D Creator Summit

Hallway decorations at Wizards of the Coast

On Monday April 3rd, 2023, about 30 community members visited the Wizards offices for a Creator Summit. Another 100 joined virtually. In many ways, it exceeded my expectations. In others, it fell short… while offering great promise. This is part one of a series, with an eye towards actionable goals for the future!

The Basics

I attended in-person, so I surely won’t properly capture the experience and problems faced by virtual attendees. Most in-person attendees flew in on Sunday and flew out Tuesday or Wednesday. The event took place on Monday. The day was split roughly into the following:

  • PR firm checked us in, staff walked us over to the building.
  • President and CEO Cynthia Williams welcomed all attendees.
  • In-person split into two groups to do either a VTT demo or meet with the D&D Beyond Team, then swapped sessions. Virtual had meetings with the Associate Influencer Manager, then listened in (sort of) to the D&D Beyond Team session.
  • Toured the office seeing lunch area, meeting rooms, cubicles.
  • Returned to hotel for buffet lunch, good small-group discussions at tables.
  • VTT Presentation.
  • Impromptu Open QA Session (unplanned, more on this later).
  • 2024 Core Rules Presentation.
  • Buffet dinner at Mox Boarding House (gaming store) for additional small-group conversations.
The hotel atrium where we stayed and had some meals.
The hotel atrium where we stayed and had some meals.

We were asked not to share any photos prior to noon Pacific on Thursday the 6th, and to get consent from anyone in photos. We could make recordings but not share video during or after the event.

CEO Cynthia Williams made it clear that they wanted to share information with us, but equally importantly to hear from us. This was echoed by other executives and really by all staff. They clearly meant it, though there were issues with how they prepared (more on this below).

Wizards made a significant financial investment by covering flights, hotel costs, rideshare/meal credits, and providing a meaningful per diem. In addition, Wizards rented a large room at the hotel, provided a buffet lunch, and rented a large section of Mox (Seattle gaming store) for a buffet dinner with drinks. WotC provided swag for in-person attendees and will be shipping swag to all the virtual attendees. I have no idea what that cost, but it is beyond what most companies would consider covering in any industry, and beyond what most companies in the RPG industry could afford.

Wizards also made a significant investment in time and resources. Many executives, community reps, designers, tech teams, and other staff devoted all or most of this day to being present with us. They clearly also spent significant time on the logistics and worked with a PR firm for coordination. Staff will have to hold post-event meetings to review and collate all the information they gathered. For our industry, it represents an unprecedented effort. I attend many such corporate events and have organized/led a few, so I know how much work this represents.

Improvement Area – Agenda: Perhaps the biggest mistake WotC made was in not providing an agenda prior to or even during the event! All we knew ahead of time was “Morning Sessions” and “Afternoon Sessions” and then logistics. This led attendees to assume that their issue(s) would be discussed. We were asked a few days prior about our expectations, but I would guess this was not done early enough to collect information properly and act upon it. As we will see, the lack of an agenda really impacted everyone.

Shout-Out: Kudos to WotC for even contemplating an event of this magnitude, let alone actually executing on it. It is unprecedented and, despite the problems, most in-person attendees hope this type of event will be a recurring investment by Wizards.

Serious talk: Is Drizzt’s codpiece canonically this high up? We want answers!

In-Person Attendees

Wizards of the Coast invited creators from a wide variety of backgrounds and creative endeavors. This included YouTube show creators, actual play streamers, podcasters, creators focused on Twitter, and RPG designers. Many were advocates for important causes, including folks who have spoken up over diversity and equity, accessibility, international issues, the recent OGL fiasco, and other issues.

I met folks here primarily interested in networking, some in news, some in providing feedback to help improve WotC or the game, and others looking to advocate important issues. The in-person attendees included critics, but (as Kyle Brink mentioned on one post-OGL interview) critics with whom Wizards feel they can have a productive conversation. And this was seen on-site, with in-person attendees being largely respectful and willing to talk through problems.

Speaking for myself, I was interested primarily in providing feedback and advocating for issues. I came with many notes and many questions, including from my Patreon and designer friends. I knew most of the attendees by name, a few from past events and conventions, and a few were previously unknown to me. Many people did not know me, because I am not in their sphere of attention the way they might be in mine (I cover news for a podcast, for example, and thus often hear about many types of creators).

Attendee diversity was a strength. It provided WotC with varied ideas and questions. The importance of this cannot be overstated. It also enabled WotC to reach and hopefully improve relationships with many different areas of the hobby.

Shout-Out: I want to thank Wizards and encourage them to keep working with such a wide variety of creators, and for other companies to take note.

Improvement Area – Know Your Audience: BUT… it is worth noting that this many people, with such wide divergence in agendas, is hard. Super hard. WotC invited some wide-ranging and challenging voices, which is brave. But it also requires planning. WotC did not properly prepare for what the attendees would want to discuss, and this was a huge negative for attendees.

Improvement Area – Prepare for Actionable Feedback: Truth to Power is superb. But, also, ensuring that the truth can be acted upon. WotC seemed surprised when two virtual attendees asked questions that likely came across as rude unprofessional attacks. Those two questions provided no real actionable feedback. WotC could have set better ground rules and set up sessions that guided the tougher conversations that folks wanted to have, so that actions can come from them. Or, to ask for most questions up front and choose from them. This is hard work, and worth doing well.

Virtual Attendees

The online attendees were more numerous and represented an even wider diversity. 100 people is a lot of people to have online. Being in-person, I could only see a few screen names but not the whole list of virtual attendees.

Virtual attendees were often frustrated. WotC used Microsoft Teams to share the in-person events with virtual attendees. There were connection issues, sound issues, chat question issues, you name it. While the virtual folks were far more impacted, the in-person attendees were also impacted, because the delays and problems took away from the time we expected to have. We sat around as online issues were resolved, and encouraged speakers to call on the virtual folks even though it meant not being able to ask the questions we wanted to ask.

Improvement Area – Separate Virtual from In-Person: The in-person and virtual events should have taken place separately (either on different days or on the same day but handled by separate WotC groups). It almost never works to have people in a room with questions and answers, and to expect that sound to all be heard online. It almost never works to have hundreds in a Teams room unless you very carefully manage that experience with trained folks handling it.

Improvement Area – Fewer Attendees: I understand the desire to not leave folks out. But I can argue that both the in-person and virtual attendees were too numerous. Smaller groups would have been easier to handle and allow for more nuanced conversations, particularly online.

Hallway art depicting an archer in a forest, firing her bow.
The inspirational hallway art is amazing!

Visiting the Building

This is one of two Wizards offices. I have been to the other one in 2011, and this one has been in use since about 2019. Both offices will be moving to the new larger office (as we reported on Mastering Dungeons a while back).

It’s an awesome building, with amazing art in hallways and meeting rooms, cool statues, games everywhere, and employees decorating cubes with all types of geekery. The showcase meeting rooms are gorgeously decorated so they can be used to record interviews, and the VTT demo room was outfitted with Alienware laptops and lots of snazzy equipment.


Each session had a reasonable allocation of time. I expected to be rushed during the VTT demo, but it was actually plenty of time to test it thoroughly. The sessions had a good amount of Q&A, and even when the presentation portion was essentially PR, the staff had many good questions prepared that reflected how they wanted our feedback. I’ll discuss the VTT in detail in this blog series.

Improvement Area – Agenda and Audience Factor: WotC not sharing the agenda beforehand led to very heated (and necessary) discussion and a pivot by WotC (kudos to them for doing that) to then have difficult (and needed) conversations. I’ll discuss this all in a future post. WotC should have thought through the audience and actually asked them for desired topics earlier.

Improvement Area – Executive Knowledge Gap: During the sessions, and particularly the heated ones, there was often a gap between what executives understood and what other staff understood. That’s not unusual for corporations, and since there was no agenda communication, these executives were not prepared for hard discussions. But, also, it shows that the executives don’t grasp the root of many of the community issues, including longstanding historic ones. They really should grasp the fundamentals of these issues. I will discuss this further in another article.

Shout-Out: Fortunately, other WotC staff could often speak to the questions and issues. Community/Influence managers and the Director of Diversity did an amazing job of stepping in and handling questions. They did so both very capably and with passion for the issues.

Three goblin statues in the rec room, each with nametags as if they were employees.
Statues in the Rec Room


These were in-person only, but very valuable for those present. Even breakfast was an opportunity for attendees to make introductions, shake off nerves, and bond. Lunch and dinner were both fun and afforded a great opportunity to ask staff questions in a more casual environment.

I should note that for in-person attendees there were other opportunities during the day, in between and around sessions, to have side conversations with staff. This was invaluable time for me to get questions answered and try to provide feedback or follow-up on previous discussions. I really appreciated this.

Where We Go From Here

There was a strong commitment by WotC to continue conversations. This includes Gen Con and other conventions having some kind of opportunity for community feedback/discussion, and other future opportunities. Attendees can also reach out to WotC. Staff have been seen online post-summit saying they look forward to future meetings.

This is great, because the meetings could have been seen by WotC as unsuccessful, expensive, or difficult. WotC seems to believe in improving relationships with the varied creator community.

Improvement Area – Dedicated Email Line: WotC should have a dedicated email address for attendees to provide continued feedback.

Action – Provide Summary and Update: WotC has said they will update the public on what took place. I hope this communicates their specific areas of action resulting from the summit.

Improvement Area – Reach Out to Us: WotC has some blind spots on issues. WotC should reach out to community members who are experts when they find these. For example, when it comes to localization and products, there is a wealth of information in the community. That should not replace WotC gathering internal expertise, but it can help guide the company’s efforts and identifying where internal knowledge gaps exist. Many of us are glad to help, if only Wizards will reach out to us.

Next Time

We will look at specific sessions and the information Wizards presented, the feedback we provided, and actionable items Wizards could take. If you have (constructive, respectful) questions, post them below!

Click to preorder the Forge of Foes on BackerKit!

12 comments on “Assessing the D&D Creator Summit

  1. Yomatius
    April 6, 2023

    Thanks for the update, I was looking forward to receiving some information about the results of the summit, so I am glad to get them from you. I read there is more specific discussion to come here, and more details about specific topics. I am interested on those too. Appreciated your tone and actionable comments, your professionalism shows here too.

    • Alphastream
      April 6, 2023

      Thanks so much for saying that. I spent a couple of days thinking through this, and I’m still thinking through the sessions. There is so much to be appreciative of, while also so much to want to see improved. As events go, this was a monumental effort by WotC and I greatly appreciated it.

  2. Bryan Blumklotz
    April 6, 2023

    Thank you for the very cogent summary of your experience. The few peeks at this event that I have seen so far were from the online crowd who really had a lot of difficulty connecting (in all senses of the word) with the folks at WotC. This colors the experience.
    As an aside, Microsoft Teams is terrible and the Oregon Legislature uses it for their virtual testimony, I hate it with the passion of 1000 dying suns.
    I loved your very professional assessment and more importantly suggestions for making the next summit better. I agree that mixing in person and virtual attendees is extremely difficult to pull off, even by those that do it professionally.
    I look forward to your more in depth assessment and impression of the individual sessions. I also hope you can speak about some of the side conversations you had (if appropriate).
    Again, thank you.

    • Alphastream
      April 6, 2023

      Thanks, Bryan! I did once attend a surprisingly well-done Teams meeting with many people participating. Otherwise, it has been other tools more appropriate to the task. It’s super hard to do well. And this… yeah… did not go well virtually.

  3. Eric L
    April 6, 2023

    Always appreciate your insight.

    • Alphastream
      April 6, 2023

      Thanks, Eric! For sure it isn’t the only perspective from folks who attended, but I hope it helps.

  4. OldSchoolDM/Randy Farmer
    April 6, 2023

    Thanks for the detailed overview. Your action oriented approach is greatly appreciated.

    • Alphastream
      April 6, 2023

      Thanks so much, Randy!

  5. Filippo
    April 7, 2023

    Thanks a lot Teos. By far the most preventable mistake to me was having groups both online and offline, I did It with many different platforms and it has always ended with communication problems, even with less than 20 attendees for side. Besides, having break times and food with other people, together makes for a very different experience rather than processing (irating on?) what you just heard alone.

    Well, let’s hope WotC will improve in future events.Thanks for your objective and passionate report, as always. I hope we’ll hear more in Mastering Dungeons as well.

    • Alphastream
      April 7, 2023

      Agreed, and thank you!

  6. X
    April 8, 2023

    “I have no idea what that cost, but it is beyond what most companies would consider covering in any industry”

    It’s out of scope for board games or ttrpgs, but it’s not unheard of for console/mobile game dev, Twitch, and Mixer when it was active.

    I will say it sounds like a better deal than I heard content creators got for performing at dndlive 2019.

    • Alphastream
      April 8, 2023

      That was also a mixed bag event, with for sure an incredible price tag. One of the hard parts of being a creator is that what you get paid for writing or designing or performing is always smaller than what they paid for catering, or the event site, or almost everything else.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This entry was posted on April 6, 2023 by and tagged , , , .


Follow me on

Mastodon logo Mastodon


Follow me on

BlueSky logo BlueSky

Privacy Policy