If you have actual, paid playtesters whose job is to check for this--in exactly the same way that video games get paid QA people whose job is to poke and prod at every little problem--you could do this quite easily. Every day, have one four-hour gaming session, with two hours of prep beforehand and two hours of review after. A campaign that takes two years of once-a-week sessions takes only three and a half months at this pace, and that's only if you intend to publish the entire two-year adventure all at once. Most stuff is published in individual modules; say you have one every 2 levels (3 for 4e), that's 10 modules, meaning ~10.4 sessions per module, or about two weeks of intensive playtesting to finish. That's perfectly plausible as an actual QA effort, and just like QA, it won't be fun, it will be work, because you're playing through a thing trying to stress test every part of it as much as possible. And that's only if your stress-testing is actually done as real "live play" stuff, rather than accelerated stuff.I suspect WotCs problem is that they simply can't put the time into iterative, complete-campaign playtesting. You'd need to run a bunch of groups through the entire campaign (faithfully as written!), then get all the feedback, synthesise it and make changes accordingly, then run through the same process again, multiple times, and then once you've finally got to a point where you're satisfied, publish the result as is without any further edits for space, word count etc.
Being perfectly honest? Exactly as you've described it--with all the potential for problems--sounds like more playtesting than WotC does.I don't know if this is how it's done. You probably have some groups testing the balance of individual combat encounters with parties of different composition, you might have some groups going all the way through but offering progressive feedback as they go, etc etc. And of course you probably have different authors working on the post-playtesting fixes to different bits of the campaign, and they might not be the same authors who wrote the material in the first place, and this whole process continues all the way up to the day you send the files to the printer. There's lots of places for things o go wrong.
I dunno. Pathfinder APs tend to get pretty much rave reviews. Same for ENWorld. I still want to play the Zeitgeist (the original, 4e, accept no substitutes) at some point.Also to be fair, I suspect that if most 3pp campaigns were played by as many groups as WotC adventures, or were subject to the same level of scrutiny, then the same complaints would be levelled at them a lot more often. Writing campaigns is haaaard.
So that's 100 sessions. At five days a week, that's 20 weeks - so closer to 5 months than three.If you have actual, paid playtesters whose job is to check for this--in exactly the same way that video games get paid QA people whose job is to poke and prod at every little problem--you could do this quite easily. Every day, have one four-hour gaming session, with two hours of prep beforehand and two hours of review after. A campaign that takes two years of once-a-week sessions takes only three and a half months at this pace
So that's 100 sessions. At five days a week, that's 20 weeks - so closer to 5 months than three.
I don't know how much a US playtester would get paid. In Australia, it sounds like a white collar position that requires some skills but for most of the testers not much management or decision-making. In an Australian University a mail clerk gets paid $50,000+ so that sort of role might be paid $60,000+.
Suppose we call it $50,000 to make the maths easy, and suppose we have 6 playtesters (5 players, 1 GM). That's $300,000 pa before on-costs, which I'm used to treating as around 30%. So call it .4 (20 weeks) * 400,000 (+ on-costs) = $160,000 to playtest the campaign, before we get to other costs like infrastructure, communications, editing that follows, etc.
I don't know what the margins are on a D&D AP, and so don't know how feasible your proposal is.
Of course it could be made cheaper by establishing a subsidiary or paying contractors in a lower-wage but educated English-speaking country (eg India, Malaysia, Kenya, Nigeria, etc).
YMMV: we had a good time with Dragon Heist.I can‘t believe how much stuff is obviously poorly presented in the adventures before it even hits the table. The encounters are generally fine, it’s the surrounding adventure that often makes no sense, mostly NPC motivations but also location design.
I remember @pukunui and I trying to make head or tail of Dragon Heist when it came out. Absolute mess.
I guess it depends on what paid properly means and who are the creators. I can see wanting to pay the writers and editors. Some on the artists as well. Then you have people like the layout, printer, distributor and wholesaler or the FLGS who want some and the parent company who I would think most people do not count as much, but they created the game and other support that goes with the one adventure I would be buying, so maybe.I will pay $100 if that's what it takes to get the creators payed properly.