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!