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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    ° Ignore Doug McCrae
    Good. More playtests should be like this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug McCrae
    Good. More playtests should be like this.
    All playtests should be like this. They're not supposed to be regular games. They're supposed to be tests. If they waste time in character chatting up barmaids, that's two or three rules they didn't put through the paces that day. Over time, I bet that adds up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Awkward
    If they waste time in character chatting up barmaids,
    That would be where you playtest the social encounter/combat/whatever-they-will-call-them rules, no?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Awkward
    All playtests should be like this. They're not supposed to be regular games. They're supposed to be tests. If they waste time in character chatting up barmaids, that's two or three rules they didn't put through the paces that day. Over time, I bet that adds up.
    There are enough playtests happening that various groups can focus on certain aspects of the game. Motsly it is about tuning and balancing and not about big sweeping changes.

    My group is playing through Keep on the Shadowfell. We have been roleplaying, building our charcters by writing back stories out of the game but also looking at crunch, running characters through their paces in the game, sometime facing huge bands of monsters.

    We have a large group with up to 8 players at times. Today we had 5. Sometimes we fight large groups of monsters and while today we only fought 5 (kobolds and goblins). A few weeks ago I was chatting up the barmaid trying to get the quest and weeks prior to that managed to do something that lead to Coup de Grace rules changing somewhat.

    All in all I get the sense that things are going well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Awkward
    All playtests should be like this. They're not supposed to be regular games. They're supposed to be tests. If they waste time in character chatting up barmaids, that's two or three rules they didn't put through the paces that day. Over time, I bet that adds up.
    Playtesting for balance is important.

    But if you don't use the rules in a regular campaign, you might not figure out that the abilities don't work well within an adventure (encounter based abilities are cool, but how does teleport at will or remote viewing within 100 ft work inside an adventure), and you certainly don't learn whether its fun to use th game system as a whole.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Awkward
    If they waste time in character chatting up barmaids, that's two or three rules they didn't put through the paces that day.
    Of course they could be testing the social challenges aspect I've heard spoken of.
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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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