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


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Staffan

Legend
The forums are not necessarily representative of the larger audience. There definitely is a silent majority sometimes. A lot of times people would say something is terrible on forums, that came back with 95% approval on surveys. It was most useful to use forums when the forum views lined up with the survey data, where they could then ask forum people more about that aspect of the game. Also sometimes the thing people would complain about was more a sign something was going wrong in a broader issue, and not what they would specifically complain about. Like for example someone might complain about not hitting enough bad guys, but they'd find that was really a symptom of a cause of lack of sufficient movement for PCs.
I think there are two factors at play here.

One is that satisfied people are generally quiet. I work in customer service, and it's rather uncommon to get a call or an e-mail saying "Thank you for excellent work." When people get in touch with me, it's because something has gone wrong. Forums tend to be the same: a thread about something people like and that isn't controversial isn't going to get very many posts, whereas a thread on fighter complexity, well...

The other is a saying that people complaining are almost always right about something being wrong. They are rarely right about how to solve that problem. For example, say that you get a common complaint that martials, particularly fighters, have little to do outside combat, and that the players want more non-combat abilities in their class. But perhaps the better solution would be a more robust skill system, and changing social/exploration spells to interact more with the skill system instead (note: I'm not trying to put this up for a debate, just using it as an example that perhaps the solution is not what the user/player thinks it should be).
 

Is it a problem if a race/class is popular, with a high degree of satisfaction, but mechanically weaker than less popular options? Making the cool race/class more mechanically equal will result in it being even more popular and over-represented.
Yes and no.

Firstly, don't conflate "high degree of satisfaction" with "popular." They're very different things. Something can be extremely satisfying for the small slice of people who make use of it, while being almost totally ignored or avoided by everyone else. Conversely, something can be extremely popular but not very satisfying; consider a fair amount of fast food out there.

What we end up with is three variables: "popularity" (how common it is to see the option in use), "satisfaction" (how happy users are with their choice), and "strength" (how effective the option is in practice.) The ideal, of course, is to have average to high popularity, high satisfaction, and average strength. Humans (in both WoW and D&D), and blood elves (in WoW), are extremely high in popularity to the point that they crowd out other options, middling in terms of satisfaction, and low in terms of strength. That's not the absolute worst situation to be in (the worst would be sky-high popularity but rock-bottom satisfaction and imbalanced strength, whether dramatically too low or too high), but it isn't a good situation to be in.

You cannot prevent some options ending up being more popular than others; that will always happen. But, by making different options have similar strength, you allow players to make their choices based on what they like, rather than what they feel they must choose. That, in general, is a better state of affairs than one where players feel "forced" into doing something. When players make value-judgments rather than calculations, they will generally be happier and more likely to stay engaged.

Plus, increasing the power level of humans slightly (so they're "average" instead of "slightly weak," which it looks like 5.1e is going to do) isn't going to meaningfully affect the presence of other races. The gravitational pull of "play a human, aka the species all of us actually are" predominates over any other concerns, such that if a player is already willing to play some other option to begin with, it generally won't be because they wanted power. Doubly so because, as noted, it is only standard human that is weak; variant human is as strong as the strongest feats, which makes it strong indeed. Particularly if you're in a game where feats are otherwise inaccessible.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
The other is a saying that people complaining are almost always right about something being wrong. They are rarely right about how to solve that problem. For example, say that you get a common complaint that martials, particularly fighters, have little to do outside combat, and that the players want more non-combat abilities in their class. But perhaps the better solution would be a more robust skill system, and changing social/exploration spells to interact more with the skill system instead (note: I'm not trying to put this up for a debate, just using it as an example that perhaps the solution is not what the user/player thinks it should be).

That's where I say the "don't stray too far" situation in design comes in. There are multiple ways to "fix" some of the "issues" in D&D. For example there are a half dozen or more was to improve martial noncombat satisfaction.. However if one of goals is not to move too far from what the audience expects, you'll avoid great options for "just good enough" ones. This is why you see fans of D&D clones and spinoff laud the "improvement" of their other game due to less baggage or see fans praise the late stage mechanics of many editions when the designers are experimenting in order to sell more books.

If you look at the One D&D playtest so far you see the lessons learned.

They only gave us the origins section of the playtest and a sample of level 1 content. This allows them to throw in big changes in a way everyone can digest and quickly give a reaction of Yes or No to the experiment ideas.
 

Plaguescarred

D&D Playtester for WoTC since 2012
I was an Alpla Playtester under NDA with WoTC during 4th Edition and transitioned to D&D Next and then continued during 5E. I find these post mortem videos of D&D Next R&D interesting and revealing as WoTC are not reporting to us during playtesting but rather the other way around.

I hope they also do such post-mortem for 1D&D...
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
So, no growth in HP, no growth in damage, no growth in AC, no growth in features, no growth in skills...

It sounds like you want people to play 1st level characters from the word "go" until the campaign ends. What's the point of that?
Huh. So when I said "I think that if every PC had hit points within a range of like 20 to 35"... you read this not as referring to hit points, but rather referring to hit points, damage, AC, features, and skills. Interesting. I wonder what other posts I have made in the past that apparently had more buried in them than the actual words I used. ;)
 

Huh. So when I said "I think that if every PC had hit points within a range of like 20 to 35"... you read this not as referring to hit points, but rather referring to hit points, damage, AC, features, and skills. Interesting. I wonder what other posts I have made in the past that apparently had more buried in them than the actual words I used. ;)
I assumed, given you did not mention anything else, that you didn't want to add any growth not present in 5e currently. Which, yes, means essentially no growth (3, perhaps 4 points at most) in AC and a bunch of other things besides.

The designers specifically and explicitly said that HP and damage growth were intended to be one of the only forms of statistical growth in 5e. If you remove that, what is left? Skills. Perhaps features (though, frankly, unless you have spellcasting, most of those features suck.) That's about it. Hence why I said what I said.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I assumed, given you did not mention anything else, that you didn't want to add any growth not present in 5e currently. Which, yes, means essentially no growth (3, perhaps 4 points at most) in AC and a bunch of other things besides.

The designers specifically and explicitly said that HP and damage growth were intended to be one of the only forms of statistical growth in 5e. If you remove that, what is left? Skills. Perhaps features (though, frankly, unless you have spellcasting, most of those features suck.) That's about it. Hence why I said what I said.
Nope, it was merely the growth of hit points that I was talking about. :)

Mostly everyone seems to say that monster damage in the MM just don't hit hard enough (and that was true in both 4E and 5E). And thus having massive HP counts just make combats longer... especially when coupled with all the healing features and spells that can appear during a fight. Cut down everyone's HP and dangerous enemies become more dangerous, and you don't have to dedicate as many features/sources to healing because you aren't needing to replenish nearly as many total HP across the party after every fight. And in addition... the hit point range between classes at high levels can be so disparate, any one monster could be a juggernaut of death against certain PCs and a complete pushover to other ones. So how can you hope to balance the threats in any of these combats when you never know which PC is going to engage with the monster first?

If every PC has a lower and narrower band of hit points... you can look at any creature and their average damage for each attack and know at a glance "this one will need to hit probably four times against any PC to knock them out" and "that one can one-shot any and all of the PCs with a solid damage roll". And that's when armor class and higher defenses and the like come more into play.

This might not sit well with some players, but it's not like WotC's changing the rules to match my preferences anyway. So in the end it doesn't matter.
 

J-H

Hero
I have considered copying 2e(?) and cutting HP growth to 1/2 speed after 10th level in my next campaign. 1st level goblins may still hit an 18th level character, but it's going to take a LOT of hits from those goblins to do meaningful damage.
 

Their data showed that the Wizard's spells were seen as a party resource in nonombat situations.

However once the game was published, many non-spellcaster players realized that the group was always point to the caster's character sheet for resources and options in noncombat situations but never theirs.
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.
And I think that more or less lines up with another thing they mentioned: Playtesters had to constantly relearn the system dueto the big changes. So it is likely that the 100% combat 0% Noncombat classes like fighter and barbarian got playtested long enough in any single form to realize how little they brought in noncombat. There is the other point that every class had noncombat features in the August playtest but didn't in the September one. Which matches to something they also said, the packets were so big that paytesters were zoomed in on the actual changes because it was so big.
 

Retreater

Legend
And for someone who wants "a warrior class with more flexibility or different flavor" and doesn't want to use magic, what are we supposed to do?
5e doesn't answer questions like this. It places the responsibility for encounter balance, combat options, and skill usage in the hands of the DM (for better or worse).

So if I were the DM for that player, I'd ask them what kind of flexibility they'd want. Do they like the idea of being a charming swashbuckler? It wouldn't concern me to replace Athletics with Persuasion or Deception as class skills. Let them use Charisma for attack and damage rolls.
For flexibility, I let characters try different approaches for skill checks. An Athletics roll can work like a Thieves Tools roll to get through a locked door. Anyone who grew up in the culture can attempt History checks to remember legends and such (maybe not 100% factual).

The 5e PHB is the baseline. Even if it's unstated, a DM is expected to expand and alter the game to suit their players. In the past WotC created an edition that attempted to answer all questions with codified rules (3.x); then they tried to distil it to a unified experience and answer all the questions that could come up with that (4e). Now they are going back to a previous version of the game that requires DMs to extrapolate their own rulings (B/X).
 

I know. My point is that they felt it was fine that the low complexity classes had low noncombat satisfaction because the Fighter player could point to the Wizard's player's or Rogue player's character sheet however because the playtest packets were so big that the playtesters had to relearn rules constantly, they didn't realize that the Wizard and Rogue player never pointed to the Fighter Player's character sheet..
yup this is better still... it is a SUPER weird outlier day when the fighter is saving the day with something on there sheet.
A lot of what Mearls and Thomspon said in this post-mortem hints that a large percentage of playtesters had to constantly retrain themselves to get system mastery over and over with each packet and that many did not. So it is likely they didn't get a lot of feedback from people with high system mastery. They mentioned that they gave out too much information without enough communication a few times.
I hope this time they fix that
 

ut perhaps the better solution would be a more robust skill system, and changing social/exploration spells to interact more with the skill system instead (note: I'm not trying to put this up for a debate, just using it as an example that perhaps the solution is not what the user/player thinks it should be).
both of these would benfit the non casters... better skills and less auto win spells
 

I was an Alpla Playtester under NDA with WoTC during 4th Edition and transitioned to D&D Next and then continued during 5E. I find these post mortem videos of D&D Next R&D interesting and revealing as WoTC are not reporting to us during playtesting but rather the other way around.

I hope they also do such post-mortem for 1D&D...
is there anything you can share with us (without breaking any long lasting NDA or burning bridges)
 

I have considered copying 2e(?) and cutting HP growth to 1/2 speed after 10th level in my next campaign. 1st level goblins may still hit an 18th level character, but it's going to take a LOT of hits from those goblins to do meaningful damage.
I think the 2e model would be great for 1D&D but instead of being post 10th I keep recomending even/odd levels...

have a fighter start with 3d10 (1 maxed) hps at 2nd level get +3 at 3rd level get +1d10, at 4th level another +3... don't give con bonus (maybe just at 1st level) but when spending HD let you add con bonus to hp restored. Then remake healing like 4e were most (not all) works off hd... Healing word being spend a HD get a bonus equal to caster stat (so a cleric casting on a fighter would have the fighter spend a HD to heal 1d10+con mod +caster wis mod) and cure wounds heal as if you spent a hd + caster stat mod, have both scale by letting it count as extra HD (spent for word and as if spent for cure)

this would make a 20th level fighter 12d10+30 for an average of 10+66+30=106 even if we give a con bonus for 1st hd you end up with 111.

in current you could have 10d10+40 at level 10 and be at 10+54+40= 104
 

5e doesn't answer questions like this. It places the responsibility for encounter balance, combat options, and skill usage in the hands of the DM (for better or worse).

So if I were the DM for that player, I'd ask them what kind of flexibility they'd want. Do they like the idea of being a charming swashbuckler? It wouldn't concern me to replace Athletics with Persuasion or Deception as class skills. Let them use Charisma for attack and damage rolls.
For flexibility, I let characters try different approaches for skill checks. An Athletics roll can work like a Thieves Tools roll to get through a locked door. Anyone who grew up in the culture can attempt History checks to remember legends and such (maybe not 100% factual).

The 5e PHB is the baseline. Even if it's unstated, a DM is expected to expand and alter the game to suit their players. In the past WotC created an edition that attempted to answer all questions with codified rules (3.x); then they tried to distil it to a unified experience and answer all the questions that could come up with that (4e). Now they are going back to a previous version of the game that requires DMs to extrapolate their own rulings (B/X).
This is, without a doubt, far more generous than literally any 5e DM I've ever spoken with, period. Soooooo...yeah. I've literally never heard of anyone considering stuff like this. People complain enough as it is with Hexblades officially getting Cha to hit with melee weapons.

Doesn't exactly inspire much confidence when the thing the game is alleged to tacitly expect effectively never happens.
 

Retreater

Legend
This is, without a doubt, far more generous than literally any 5e DM I've ever spoken with, period. Soooooo...yeah. I've literally never heard of anyone considering stuff like this.
Well, now you've spoken to "one" DM who is this generous. Please use this idea if it would help you make a more flexible game to fit your tastes.

People complain enough as it is with Hexblades officially getting Cha to hit with melee weapons.
I don't see why. Charisma to attack can represent catching an opponent off-guard or distracting them with flourishes and fake-outs.

The core game of 5e already gives you guidelines for using other Ability Score modifiers to apply to skill rolls when appropriate. As we've seen in the playtest for D&D One, attack rolls and skill rolls are both going to be considered "Tests" with the same rules. Why not apply this to your game right now - especially when it allows a player to make the character they envision and everyone has more fun?
After all, the only people who will be complaining are the dead NPCs.
 

Plaguescarred

D&D Playtester for WoTC since 2012
is there anything you can share with us (without breaking any long lasting NDA or burning bridges)
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 ! ☺
 
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Is it a problem if a race/class is popular, with a high degree of satisfaction, but mechanically weaker than less popular options? Making the cool race/class more mechanically equal will result in it being even more popular and over-represented.
That doesn't actually track/work logically, sorry.

As I've said, the reason Fighters (and as @EzekielRaiden pointe out, Humans) are popular even when they're mechanically weak is essentially the aesthetics/concept. When they're mechanically strong, they're not significantly more popular, because they're already popular. As I noted in my post:
Whereas if they're mechanically great, whilst it clearly improves their representation by a some percentage, it's not going to make an unpopular race or class, popular.
The percentage increase I'm describing is typically very small. A class in WoW that's popular due to concept/style but mediocre but then becomes strong might go from 10% of all characters to 10.8% of all characters, or at an extreme, an class that's been weak for years and suddenly becomes outright overpowered might go from 8% of all characters to 11%. Whilst that's a large percentage increase in a sense (like 40% I think), in real terms it's not meaningfully pushing aside other options.

So no, it won't become meaningfully "more over-represented". It's not worth worrying about. Making the class better-designed will be much better for the long-term health of the game than keeping it poorly-designed solely for the sake of

Also, as @EzekielRaiden points out, popularity and satisfaction are extremely different metrics. If you've played RPGs for a long time, and with a variety of people, I have no doubt you've come across players who play classes even though they don't satisfy them mechanically/gameplay-wise, because they like the concept. I had a player who played Thieves/Rogues solidly through from the beginning to 2E to the end of 3E, and it was only 4E, when Rogues became total badasses, that he realized what he was missing, that a class could truly be fun to play.

That changed him as a player. Have realized classes could actually be fun, he rapidly got bored with the 5E Rogue (which is a fine but "meh" class, at least it's not as hugely lacking outside combat as the Fighter, it's just a little dull - though I feel like some recent subclasses help), and finally broke out and started playing other classes.

But I have another player, one who only plays Fighters, basically. He'd always prefer to play a Fighter, but again, after 4E, he couldn't "go back" to the simplistic design. He played a Fighter in 5E for a long time, but his satisfaction with it, even trying different subclasses, has been low. Right now, I'm not running 5E (I am playing it though), and he's playing a Barbarian. Not because he wants to, but because at least it's not just a Fighter that's a disappointment. I don't think his satisfaction is all that high with that either, but...

Now, I realize someone is probably thinking "this is awfully convenient to Ruin's argument", but it's actually kind of the inverse. I'm arguing this because my players showed it to be true. Because they don't like how much they lost in their favoured classes just to make fit the "apology edition" criteria. It wasn't really an issue I hugely cared about in 3E (where the gross imbalance of LFQW and the problems caused by PrCs and an oversufficiency of Feats - particularly tax-like ones - were my main concerns, as ENworlders from back then may remember).
5e doesn't answer questions like this. It places the responsibility for encounter balance, combat options, and skill usage in the hands of the DM (for better or worse).
Sure it does. It just doesn't give an attractive answer. Fighters, for example, are fundamentally badly-designed. There's no "DM's responsibility" to fix that. This is an extremely popular and extremely expensive RPG, with reasonably well-paid full-time professional designers. It's one of the very few in the world (and my understanding is it pays drastically more than other RPGs with full-time designers, perhaps even videogame money). 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 would have been huge. But instead, Fighters just get to be objectively worse than other classes.

And what you're suggesting is far, far beyond even the wildest stuff the (admittedly terrible) 5E DMG suggests. That's not something a normal DM is likely to come up with.
 

Retreater

Legend
Sure it does. It just doesn't give an attractive answer. Fighters, for example, are fundamentally badly-designed. There's no "DM's responsibility" to fix that.
My suggestions were for those DMs and groups who are not satisfied with D&D 5e but still want to stick with that system. 5e "is what it is" - so you'll have to tinker with it or find 3rd party materials to make it what you want.

No matter how much someone doesn't like 5e, it is printed and well established. It's not going to change at this point. So it's either grin and bear it, adapt it to what you want, or find another system.

The DM certainly has responsibility if they choose to run 5e to make it the game the group wants. Otherwise, it's yelling at clouds.

Yes, there is bad design in 5e. I'd say there's a lot of bad design. It's not my favorite edition of D&D or my favorite system on the market currently. But when you're a DM, the obligation falls to you to find a system that works for your group or to adapt the system to your group.

So if a Charisma-based fighter works for your group - do it! Jeremy Crawford isn't going to come to your table to stop you.
 

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