D&D 5E D&D Next playtest post mortem by Mike Mearls and Rodney Thompson. From seven years ago.

I would never go into the details or share the plethora of materials i got but all i'd say is i would receive various stuff at different stage of development such as material containing races, classes, feats or adventure modules, supplement, etc to playtest with my group and send feedback, some of which got published or never has been released to this date.

I'm proud to have me and my friends frenchies' names with our accent in playtest credits of various 4E/5E products ! ☺
thank you, this insight is already helpful and I am glad you would not breach the trust
 

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Hussar

Legend
I think this is the best phrased way I have seen teh caster/non caster break down... but I think it is a little overblown... sometimes the rogue has expertise in a skill and the bard gives them inspiration and the cleric guidance then it feels like a team effort... just you know with 2 spell casters still involved.
This is, I think, the heart of the point. If the wizard puts an Alter Self (or whatever) effect on the rogue and the rogue goes off and scouts, that's not really the caster hogging the spotlight. Now, if the wizard just drops Arcane Eye and does the scouting, that's the problem - because the wizard is now stepping all over the rogue's toes and stealing the rogue's thunder. If you're playing a rogue, you probably want to do the sneaky stuff (at least sometimes) and having Dave make you pretty much superfluous with a single spell is a bad thing.

But, I think in most cases, most groups will use out of combat spell collaboratively. Even if it's just someone dropping Pass Without a Trace - it's still everyone getting a chance to sneak.

But, in combat, spells are almost never collaborative. There's no real collaboration going on with fireball. And, once you start getting into play, when the caster's turn is taking far longer than the non-caster's turn, it can get frustrating for everyone. For example, had a player drop an Animate Object spell for the first time in my game this week. Now, this caused the game to grind to a freaking halt - needed to get four tokens to represent the animated creatures, add them to the initiative, then the bard player has take move and attack actions for four creatures. This took a few minutes. Fine and dandy. Then the next player drops a Wall of Force and we have to futz about for a few minutes getting the area effect in juuuuust the right square to get the maximum effect. Meanwhile, the warlock rolls three attacks and then moves on to the next player.

IOW, the two or three main casters in the group take about five times more play time than the two or three mostly beatstick characters. I can totally see why the playtest would get the results it did.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
This is, I think, the heart of the point. If the wizard puts an Alter Self (or whatever) effect on the rogue and the rogue goes off and scouts, that's not really the caster hogging the spotlight. Now, if the wizard just drops Arcane Eye and does the scouting, that's the problem - because the wizard is now stepping all over the rogue's toes and stealing the rogue's thunder. If you're playing a rogue, you probably want to do the sneaky stuff (at least sometimes) and having Dave make you pretty much superfluous with a single spell is a bad thing.

But, I think in most cases, most groups will use out of combat spell collaboratively. Even if it's just someone dropping Pass Without a Trace - it's still everyone getting a chance to sneak.

But, in combat, spells are almost never collaborative. There's no real collaboration going on with fireball. And, once you start getting into play, when the caster's turn is taking far longer than the non-caster's turn, it can get frustrating for everyone. For example, had a player drop an Animate Object spell for the first time in my game this week. Now, this caused the game to grind to a freaking halt - needed to get four tokens to represent the animated creatures, add them to the initiative, then the bard player has take move and attack actions for four creatures. This took a few minutes. Fine and dandy. Then the next player drops a Wall of Force and we have to futz about for a few minutes getting the area effect in juuuuust the right square to get the maximum effect. Meanwhile, the warlock rolls three attacks and then moves on to the next player.

IOW, the two or three main casters in the group take about five times more play time than the two or three mostly beatstick characters. I can totally see why the playtest would get the results it did.
After using my Animate Objects one time, the DM asked me very nicely if I could change the spell for something else.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Same but I think part of the problem is it's a contradiction. The game wildly out of its way to hard-link certain stats and skills. Aren't there even a couple of subclass features which allow you to use a skill with a non-standard stat?

They should have never done that. They should from the start said it's stat mod + skill prof, ask you DM which combo to run, here are the defaults. But was never the approach and the optional approach in the DMG was clearly not seriously considered.
It absolutely was seriously considered. It was the default throughout most of the playtest, which is why skills are written “Ability (Skill)”. The thing is, people insisted on having space on the character sheet to pre-calculate the most common Ability (Skill) combinations.
 

Smackpixi

Adventurer
There's no excuse for designing a "three-pillar" approach to gameplay, then making it so the Fighter is largely useless in two of those three pillars. It's not like Wizards are largely useless in combat for example, is it? Something as simple as giving the Fighter 6 skills, and say Expertise in a couple of skills, or some sort of ability to analyze enemy weapons and tactics outside combat
I feel like you and @EzekielRaiden both assumed I, or most people, conflate popular and high degree of satisfaction. I didn’t, though I would assume someone who keeps playing fighters has a high degree of satisfaction with them, though you do point out how, actually, that might not be true.

I think my point was that we don’t need to worry about “balance” as much as people are saying, if I can walk on the ceiling, walls, and do flips and drop and deliver 1d8 vs a mechanically superior dude standing still and tossing 1d10 blasts at the same people my bouncing around the room ability allows me to hit is it that big of a deal if I’m happy?

The “high degree of satisfaction” is the important part, and I perhaps naively assumed a “high degree of satisfaction” conflated to ”repeat popularity”. Sure, maybe thematic things will make stuff “initially popular”, but if unsatisfying to play, people would not repeat. Perhaps I underestimate the determination of people to play “cat person rogues” in the face of grinding disappointment. But I also think others underestimate the happiness of cat person rogues going about their day being suboptimal (Was just a made up example, no idea about Tabaxi Rogue parity in D&D, probably great)

You’re right though, probably won’t be an epidemic of cat person rogues if they gain more mechanical parity, but does it rise to importance if cat person rogues are generally happy?

Pillar utility seems like a whole nother thing though. And there’s obviously no reason there shouldn‘t be more class pillar equality. But honestly, to keep up class themes, really requires a robust rethinking of skills altogether, or maybe just assigning multiple abilities to skills. Dunno.

In my games, party skills and spells are a pretty big thing. I want to help Gwendolyn search for herbs, everybody talks at the guar, any check uses the best skill in the party. Everyone can offer ideas, but having the skill proficiency matters for someone, DM just has to moderate party skills and abilities don’t become an Alpha’s personal added skills.

anyway, whatever
 

Staffan

Legend
I don't think a Charisma-based fighter is any more incompatible than a fighter based on Dexterity. In fact, Dexterity is a far more powerful ability score than Charisma, since it's tied to common Dex saves, skills like Stealth and Acrobatics, etc. Having a high Charisma opposed to Strength or Dexterity is already a penalty (in my mind).
IIRC, 4e Essentials had a feat that allowed you to substitute any other stat (except maybe Con?) for basic melee attacks, although you only got half stat bonus to damage. This paired well with the Essentials fighter class which didn't have daily/encounter attacks in the same way the "typical" 4e fighter did, but instead had abilities modifying their basic attack.
 

Staffan

Legend
You wouldn't question that if the skill was the majority of the modifier to the point where the stat wasn't a huge deal.

Which is true in plenty of games, including at the very least 3E D&D.

A lot of the problem is, as you point out, at lower levels, Proficiency ain't much. If Proficiency was larger, I don't think this issue would be as severe.
I note the same stat dependency in Pathfinder 2 where, at least at higher levels, proficiency bonus makes up a significantly bigger chunk of your total. That's probably because high-level challenges in PF2 keep pushing the DC higher and higher, so you still need those extra +2 or +3 from your high stat.

It has really made me appreciate the way the Troubleshooters doesn't even have ability scores in the D&D manner.
 

Staffan

Legend
I am not so sure about that second part. If it was common to see people complaining on message boards about X, and then to find survey satisfaction was at 95% with X, it probably was not that the complaints were right. They only used the forum complaints if those complaints also matched with dissatisfaction with the surveys. Then they felt the forum complaints were in the ball park and were useful to begin the diagnosis for what was at issue, which might be a larger issue than the specific forum complaint.
That would be more about the first part, that people satisfied with a thing generally stay quiet.
 

You’re right though, probably won’t be an epidemic of cat person rogues if they gain more mechanical parity, but does it rise to importance if cat person rogues are generally happy?
My question is: Are they? As we've shown from personal experiences (our own or our players'), sometimes players stick with something because they want it to be good, even when it isn't. Or they stick with it because it's the best thing that matches their desires, even though that match isn't particularly solid. Or the aesthetic value so thoroughly overwhelms the mechanical value that it barely matters whether they're good (like my affection for dragonborn.)

We literally can't know. Would players be more happy if things were tweaked? We don't have the data, and WotC is the only ones who could. It would be foolish to presume that no gain could be had by making changes--if that were true, we wouldn't be getting any changes with "One D&D."
 

I note the same stat dependency in Pathfinder 2 where, at least at higher levels, proficiency bonus makes up a significantly bigger chunk of your total. That's probably because high-level challenges in PF2 keep pushing the DC higher and higher, so you still need those extra +2 or +3 from your high stat.

It has really made me appreciate the way the Troubleshooters doesn't even have ability scores in the D&D manner.
Yeah I didn't mention 4E too for the same reason. Stats matter too much because the actual difference doesn't really change. Which is not great design imho, though understandable.
 

if I’m happy?
This is the issue though, they're not. Or rather, some significant number of them are significantly LESS happy than they SHOULD be.

People stick to certain classes even when they're not very happy with them. Even when they're bored or annoyed. Maybe they shouldn't, but they absolutely do, and not just in TT RPGs, also in any kind of RPG.

Part of it is like, for a lot of people, just playing a TT RPG is huge fun, and that obscures issues mechanical issues that aren't crippling.
Perhaps I underestimate the determination of people to play “cat person rogues” in the face of grinding disappointment.
You do. You absolutely do. And that's actually a good example! If cat people (esp. kemonomimi - i.e. human-ish face, but catlike ears/tail, rather than straight-up furry-ish cat people like Tabaxi) are in the game, there is a certain kind of player who is going to play them come hell or high water (Tieflings also show this, but luckily have been pretty good for a long time, only in 3E were they a disaster because they had +1 LA and bad stat mods - a penalty to Charisma! On Tieflings! The devil not known for his charm to 3E writers, I guess). And yeah I know from personal experience there are people who play Rogues because they play Rogues.

But its like when you pile bonuses and penalties, if people are getting +10 happiness from "Playing D&D", and +2 from "Getting to roleplay a Cat person" and +2 from "Getting to roleplay a Rogue", even if they're getting -6 happiness from "My character sucks mechanically", they're still on +8 happiness.

Compare that maybe to the wizard who only gets +8 happiness from "Playing D&D", doesn't gain any particular thrill from roleplaying a specific class/race (so +0), but gets +4 happiness "being able to push the hell out of Wizard mechanics" and he's clearly happier.

Both are still in the positive and it's not like one is weeping at the table. It's just that, if their class didn't suck, they'd be a lot happier. This isn't theoretical for me, I've played with the same people, many of whom stuck to the same classes for decades, and seen it happen.
Pillar utility seems like a whole nother thing though.
The reason I feel it's not is because a lot of the boredom/unhappiness comes from the lack of pillar utility, in my experience anywa
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
For example, had a player drop an Animate Object spell for the first time in my game this week. Now, this caused the game to grind to a freaking halt - needed to get four tokens to represent the animated creatures, add them to the initiative, then the bard player has take move and attack actions for four creatures.
After using my Animate Objects one time, the DM asked me very nicely if I could change the spell for something else.

LOL! And yet even despite this... there are players out there who insist that a Summoner class is a necessary addition to the game. :)
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
LOL! And yet even despite this... there are players out there who insist that a Summoner class is a necessary addition to the game. :)
There's a certain itch that can be scratched by playing a character who has minions at their command, or can summon up a powerful entity to fight for them.

The issues are generally that, unless you're very conservative about this (the minion is no stronger than you are, you have to use your actions to control it), this becomes a very effective strategy, simply due to action economy.

My gang of tiny objects didn't do a lot of damage singly, but they had a great bonus to hit, and the damage they did each turn in aggregate was noticeable enough that my DM asked me to stop- and he felt bad, since I'd gone to a lot of effort to make custom things to animate (I went to a local dollmaker and had them make fairy dolls out of sturdy materials so I could reuse them), and I'd been struggling with my spell list as a Sorcerer, plus it was obvious I was having fun. But this tactic was so effective Animate Objects was the only spell I'd needed to cast for a major encounter!

I didn't fully agree with this assessment, but I could see his point. Personally, I think it had more to do with him being loath to "waste" attacks on my doll minions, which has always been another issue with minion-mancy; extra bodies to suck up attacks.

It's a shame, because summoner would be a fun archetype, but the additional complexity can be detrimental to the game. You can't just add more bodies to a fight because a guy has minions he can add with a class feature!

Unless you turn it around and have an enemy summoner, at which point, the encounter might take a very long time...
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
LOL! And yet even despite this... there are players out there who insist that a Summoner class is a necessary addition to the game. :)
Of course. It's not an unreasonable fantasy archetype to include in a role playing game. The question is whether every table is well-equipped or willing to handle it. For those who aren't, they should omit the options whether a summoner class, or spells that summon/animate minions. But for tables that are well-equipped or willing to handle them, is there a reason they shouldn't have those options?
 

Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
Of course. It's not an unreasonable fantasy archetype to include in a role playing game. The question is whether every table is well-equipped or willing to handle it. For those who aren't, they should omit the options whether a summoner class, or spells that summon/animate minions. But for tables that are well-equipped or willing to handle them, is there a reason they shouldn't have those options?
Now I'm just thinking about the turmoil that would ensure with a class included in the core book explicitly labeled as variant/optional.
 



Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
LOL! And yet even despite this... there are players out there who insist that a Summoner class is a necessary addition to the game. :)
The problem isn't Summoning but how Summoning spells work and are designed.

It's a case where "Everything not swordswing nor daggerstabbing is a spell" doesn't work. A new idea is need and you as a design have to actively fight tradition to make it work.
 


IIRC, 4e Essentials had a feat that allowed you to substitute any other stat (except maybe Con?) for basic melee attacks, although you only got half stat bonus to damage. This paired well with the Essentials fighter class which didn't have daily/encounter attacks in the same way the "typical" 4e fighter did, but instead had abilities modifying their basic attack.
I am 100% behind 5.5/1D&D makeing attacks all based on ANY stat you would like.
 

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