WotC_PeterS talks about his "aggresive playtest" (with Le Rouse, SKR, & Noonan)




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    WotC_PeterS talks about his "aggresive playtest" (with Le Rouse, SKR, & Noonan)

    WotC_PeterS talks here about some playtesting, but reveals little on mechanics:

    http://www.gleemax.com/Comms/Pages/C...=2&blogid=2126

    OK, I promised I would discuss my so-called Aggressive Playtests. They were born from the idea that by gosh we have a lot of monsters in the Monster Manual, and goodness if some of them might not work out as well in play as they looked on paper. I want to see more monsters in play! It also won't hurt to see more variations of PC at more levels.

    This was a couple months ago. At the time, I was participating in about three ongoing playtests, "about three" because two were regular, and two more were off and on and worth a half mark. All of them involved some degree of story. You may recall the Prophecy of the Priestess, with a much more involved plotline than I anticipated. We ran into an average of 1-2 encounters per session, which wasn't enough for my data-gathering hungers. More, the characters were advancing at standard rate, which gave me all the information about level 1 I needed but not much more (that has since changed, as Greg adopted a more rapid advancement rate to expose the group to a greater range of levels).

    So, I arranged my AP series of meetings. The intent was to play through combat encounters unburdened by background or flavor. Not something I would ever do for a campaign, but ideal for putting a broad range of monsters on the field with a range of PCs. Drop a map on the table, put the PCs and monsters on the map, and let them go until one side or the other is dead.

    I was also testing the DMG's guidelines to appropriate encounters of various types for a group of level N. That is, if it suggests that one elite controller and four soldiers of various levels are a match for a standard group of level N... well, is it?

    Finally, I was examining for myself the claims that D&D 4E is easier to DM than 3E. I have never liked DMing because of the hours of preparation involved, especially when I could run Exalted within five minutes of being asked. I needed to see how well 4E lived up to its promise.

    I found volunteers and schdeuled each Aggressive Playtest (numbered 01+) for an hour in one of the larger conference rooms. Because anytime can be crunch time here at Wizards, I scheduled seven to eight participants, expecting four to five. Sometimes I got more, which was a stress test on the game's and encounter types' abilities to scale up. Sometimes I got less, which I used as opportunities to see how much harder the standard encounter would be for an undersized party.

    One unique facet of the APs is that the participants filled out action reports for me. These described, blow-by-blow, the actions each character took, the damage or conditions inflicted as a result of those actions, and the damage and conditions those characters suffered. With these records, I can tally the total damage each character took and dealt in an encounter, any daily and encounter resources spent, the length of each encounter in rounds. The notes I take tell me how many hits it took to drop a monster. I also take notes on aspects of the monsters I think are fun, confusing, broken-bad and broken-good, and otherwise off.

    Honorable Mention goes to Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, who (I believe) has attended every single AP to date. Thank you for your help!
    Last edited by TerraDave; Friday, 21st December, 2007 at 02:33 PM.
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    Hmm. They should do more of these.

    In fact, this should have been the default playtesting method from the start. Playing through campaigns is nice and all, but proper playtesting involves bashing the rules hard, over and over again to see if they break.

    It also won't hurt to see more variations of PC at more levels.
    Again, this should be standard and systematic. Even if they couldn't have done *all* possible variations of PCs, the most likely ability suites should have been rigourously tested at every single level. Against other PCs and monsters within about 10 levels on either side.

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    You say "should have" like you're assuming that they don't.

    They did for 3rd ed, and internal playtests probably do this, too. I think the difference here is that he's doing them continually, at a grueling pace.

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    Good. More playtests should be like this.

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    I'm glad they're putting the monsters and classes through the wringer. That's what I think of when I think of playtest.

    But more importantly, I'm glad they're doing different combos like 'Elite controller + soldiers' or mixing and matching.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lackhand
    You say "should have" like you're assuming that they don't.
    No, he's telling us they don't. He had this 'idea' a couple months ago. It took time to implement, and got sandwiched into one hour sessions when people weren't busy. He tells us this. Instead they were doing prophecy of the priestess type stuff, which is spends a lot of time in fluff, not rules (I'm sure its fun, but its not the type of hardcore playtesting they should be doing to make sure the rules actually work and are well-balanced.)

    They did for 3rd ed, and internal playtests probably do this, too. I think the difference here is that he's doing them continually, at a grueling pace.
    Third edition was *not* well tested at higher levels. This is very obvious from the way the game breaks down in the upper levels and folks in and out of wotc have admitted they didn't put a lot of effort testing the upper levels.

    And one hour a day, not even every day, isn't a grueling pace.

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    This is exactly how I would playtest a new set of rules. Ideally enough volunteers would exist to give each a unique race/class mix and then stat out the characters for every level. Go through the Monster Manual in CR, or whatever they're using, order. Most combats won't take any time at all I should imagine, and those that take a while might obviously turn out one way or another. Hell, you could write a simulation for low levels (since there are fewer choices to make, following very simple role-based AI) and just concentrate on high-level play.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_Nightwing
    This is exactly how I would playtest a new set of rules. Ideally enough volunteers would exist to give each a unique race/class mix and then stat out the characters for every level. Go through the Monster Manual in CR, or whatever they're using, order. Most combats won't take any time at all I should imagine, and those that take a while might obviously turn out one way or another. Hell, you could write a simulation for low levels (since there are fewer choices to make, following very simple role-based AI) and just concentrate on high-level play.
    Absolutely. I really can't believe he thought this was some kind of new idea. Running campaigns to test how the game plays out is all very well, but if you want anything resembling balance, you have to really push the system to the limits--you have to have people actively trying to break it, and you have to see what happens in a whole variety of scenarios.
    Last edited by Dausuul; Wednesday, 19th December, 2007 at 01:13 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Voss
    No, he's telling us they don't. He had this 'idea' a couple months ago. It took time to implement, and got sandwiched into one hour sessions when people weren't busy. He tells us this. Instead they were doing prophecy of the priestess type stuff, which is spends a lot of time in fluff, not rules (I'm sure its fun, but its not the type of hardcore playtesting they should be doing to make sure the rules actually work and are well-balanced.)



    Third edition was *not* well tested at higher levels. This is very obvious from the way the game breaks down in the upper levels and folks in and out of wotc have admitted they didn't put a lot of effort testing the upper levels.

    And one hour a day, not even every day, isn't a grueling pace.
    Yeah, thats how I read it.

    I haven't been following 4e news that closely. But it seems to have been tested less than 3e.
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    Quote Originally Posted by WotC_PeterS
    Finally, I was examining for myself the claims that D&D 4E is easier to DM than 3E. I have never liked DMing because of the hours of preparation involved, especially when I could run Exalted within five minutes of being asked. I needed to see how well 4E lived up to its promise.
    This makes me feel glad that they are thinking about this stuff
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