Right, I’m putting together an old-school D&D campaign. I’ve already said I’m interested in exploring data visualisation and D&D, but in order to actually visualise data I’m going to need a campaign to generate the bloody data in the first place.
I’m still finding my way in the world of data, so this campaign is partly a way for me to learn through play. I want to explore tools such as AI and machine learning, Python scripting, automatic transcription, qualitative data analysis software, virtual tabletops, wikis, yadda yadda. The geekiest toys I can find, basically.
I’ll need to capture and store my campaign’s data in a systematic manner, thinking carefully about how I actually want to exploit the data in a useful way that enriches the campaign.
Here’s some of the data I want to record:
Game System Data – This is nice, structured data, but it’s also among the least interesting for me personally. Stuff like dice logs, gold and XP collected, HP lost, levels gained, monsters defeated, miles travelled, rations consumed, etc.
Setting Data – Marginally more interesting. This would mean recording hex terrain types, settlement and kingdom demographics, randomly-generated weather, output from various generators (e.g. Wilderness Hexplore and Wizardawn). I don’t really want to go full-on ACKS for this particular campaign, so I’m much more interested in generating and recording data than in ensuring it’s internally coherent and “realistic” in terms of accurately simulating a fantasy milieu.
AI Data – Ok, this is interesting. I plan on working with AI Dungeon to help flesh out the campaign world by feeding the AI “seed” details from my campaign to riff off and then interrogating it to see what kind of madness it comes out with. I guess the logs from these sessions would be machine-generated qualitative data?
Player Profile Data – There are clearly ethical, privacy, and legal (e.g. GDPR) issues to consider when harvesting certain data. So, while I could easily gather basic demographic data about my players (e.g. age, race, gender identity, education), I’m not going to do that. In fact, I’m aiming for data anonymisation. Nevertheless, it might be interesting to profile my players in terms of the game elements they enjoy most in RPGs (e.g. exploration, investigation, combat, social encounters, etc.). Having players complete a short survey on their game preferences at the beginning of the campaign might be a good idea. These forms would be optional but incentivised with some sort of in-game bonus, such as extra XP or a free re-roll.
Feedback Data – After each session, I would like my players to fill in simple feedback forms tracking which game elements they particularly enjoyed in a given session, what they didn’t enjoy so much, and asking about goals (e.g. what do they want to accomplish next session?). As with the player profile survey, I would make completing feedback forms optional but offer small in-game incentives.
Transcript Data – This is definitely the most interesting data for me personally. I’d like to use audio recording and automatic transcription for each session. Obviously, I would need explicit permission from each of the players (and I would anonymise the data). Transcripts can then be fed into qualitative data analysis software such as Atlas.ti for coding and analysis. I would develop an appropriate coding frame tied into the game system and setting.
WhatsApp Data – Again, there are clearly privacy issues involved when it comes to capturing a WhatsApp group’s chat history for recording and analysis. Therefore, I’m thinking of setting up two WhatsApp groups for this particular campaign. One would be for general chat, sharing memes, etc., which I will never harvest data from. Another would be a kind of Play-by-Post group, for player actions that are important but perhaps less exciting to actually play out during a session (e.g. spell research, equipment shopping, running downtime activities, etc.). Players would be aware that the chat history for this group would be regularly exported for analysis.
There’s probably more data I could be capturing, but this will do for now.
Image from Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior, Palace Software, 1987.