New packet too soon

I think Wizards released this new packet way too soon. My group only gets to meet every once in a while (due to things like, you know, real life and work) and we just managed to get characters made and the first adventure started last week. Now they release this new one within the same month. If this is the rate of the playtest, how are they supposed to get full feedback on their packets from people like me and my group that can only play once or twice a month?   

Is this going to be normal from here on out? If so I'm not sure we're going to be able to keep up, which is sad because we just started liking how the game was shaping up and wanted to put our voices in the mix.

 
Updating characters to whatevervthe current packet is on game night is exceedingly simple. My two playtesting groups meet two times a month each, so we're updating regularly.

The trick is to love your character for the concept, and to not get too attached to their mechanics (which are constantly in flux).

Danny

We are in the 3 times per month schedule as well. I think some early and some late surveys before changing packets would help us all. Sometimes you make rush desicions or you changed your mind about something. Every fan is important but we are not game designers.

Not to mention Im pretty sure some people will comment based on preferences and not actual gaming/playtesting that sadly will result to conflincting feedback. Not a bad thing, but fans are fans and balance mechanics and choices sometimes are highly subjective to classes/concepts/dm styles-guidelines etc. Take the healing feedback for example. They had monsters go down too quickly and healing is not enough in the same surveys. This is problematic for game design. Sure optional rules like variant for rests will be helpful to all. But some basic assumption has to be there.

Lets look at the caves of chaos. One cave having 20 or 40 kobolds and all. Some players/dms will go down there thinking its a balanced encounter they can overcome. If you check the guidelines though you'll notice that 200xp is a tough+ encounter, 40? forget about it. It could be deadly especially to inexperienced parties. What about parties that go straight to orcs? Dont get me wrong I love the old modules, they are a big inspiration to me but a more railroady adventure with balanced encounters would help new players/dms more. There could be suggestions for it. Like if its your first time playtesting, please try this small side treck first before using the adventures. Base your surveys based on adventure used or homebrewing specifications. And keep some guidelines clear that making a succesful daring escape from certain doom can be as fun or as heroic as killing a dragon sometimes

 I hope wizards are having some "official" playtests on their own with some groups. Like a group full of new gamers, some dnd casual players and some power gamers staged on low level, mid level and high level adventures for all. Make a reasonable assumption on game time like a 3-4hr session and see how much fun you can get out of next with it.

Playtest feedback is important and I love it. But you need a strong foundation and some playtests on your own before you present something on a wider audience.
@mrpopstar - While I agree with what you are saying in spirit, we still won't get to give Wizards the feedback from our group because we just got characters made and had a single encounter, which is not enough to give them a well-informed opinion let alone a report on things like balance etc. Now I know they have dozens if not hundreds of groups giving them feedback already, but our group which meets only every once in a while (and others like ours) should be just as important as the group that meets twice a week.

@Promitheas - I agree, and they are playtesting in their own groups. I believe that Perkins even ran Next during the last Penny Arcade game. 

Overall I think I'm going to finish running Caves of Chaos and then we'll switch to the new packet and try that, at least so my players can have an idea as to what changed between the rules, classes and such. Playing and seeing it in action is completely different from reading those change son paper after all.  
@mrpopstar - While I agree with what you are saying in spirit, we still won't get to give Wizards the feedback from our group because we just got characters made and had a single encounter, which is not enough to give them a well-informed opinion let alone a report on things like balance etc. Now I know they have dozens if not hundreds of groups giving them feedback already, but our group which meets only every once in a while (and others like ours) should be just as important as the group that meets twice a week.

@Promitheas - I agree, and they are playtesting in their own groups. I believe that Perkins even ran Next during the last Penny Arcade game. 

Overall I think I'm going to finish running Caves of Chaos and then we'll switch to the new packet and try that, at least so my players can have an idea as to what changed between the rules, classes and such. Playing and seeing it in action is completely different from reading those change son paper after all.  


He did indeed run a playtest go of DDN. From what I hear the guys at PA love it.
My two copper.
Really? I must have missed it. Do we have a vid/podcast for that as well?

I still think some side quests/one adventure day or two tops would be a great addition to playtest for some levels, like 1/4/8?. Nothing flashy just to get a feel for typical easy/average/hard encounters for groups who dont get to playtest often or want to give it a short trial/one session shot to see their friend's reactions. Something that could be valuable to people already running existing campaigns as well. (Hey guys, wanna take a small break next session to try next?) Exploration/interaction opportunities are always welcome ofc. Im saying this even if Im a big fan of old modules. But short adventures will see more use, especially if they are interesting.

Jenks, bring back the pony!!
We have a group with three rotating campaigns.  DM#3 runs D&D every third week (the other two are Star Wars D20 Revised).  We've played about six sessions altogether now, and I knew there was a new update coming.  I assumed it was going to primarily be tweaks to the monsters and an expansion of the class levels.

Boy was I wrong.  They made major changes to all of the classes, the backgrounds, the specialties, and the spells.  As far as I can tell the vast majority of the character-side changes were good ideas implemented poorly or just plain bad ideas.

The rogue really did need the advantage/sneak attack damage engine toned down.  In our group of 4 players (halfling rogue, elf wizard, human cleric, and human fighter), the rogue was doing more damage than the fighter and my wizard combined.

However, they have made skills far less useful, screwed up the spell list, and have done their damnedest to outright ruin the wizard.  Minor spells were fine, but 0-level spells are more prep-work for far less benefit.  The wizard's spell slots are laughable, and the wizarding traditions are so underpowered they in no way make up for the loss of spells.  And the spell list is just awful now.  

My wizard character's spell list contained ten 1st-level spells and 6 second-level spells (3rd level, INT bonus of 5, with a sixth spell copied from a scroll).  Five of the 1st-level spells and three of the 2nd-level spells were removed from the lastest spell list.

Let me say that again.  The latest spell list removed HALF of the spells I was using.  I get that this is a playtest, but taking spells off the list doesn't do anything to improve my ability to test spell interaction.

I am upset at the changes they made to the wizard.  I liked the direction of the playtest, and I had very little to complain about until this packet came out.  Now I'm seeing a lot of the tinkering that made the previous edition unpopular among myself and my group.  If they want me to remain enthusiastic about this new product and convince people to buy it when it comes out, they need to get back to the combination of old-school feel and simple modern mechanics that have made the first three iterations of Next enjoyable.

Please fix it now, Mr. Mearls.  I want Next to succeed, but I can always pull my 3.5 books off the shelf, and that doesn't do WotC any favors. 
I honestly mean no offense by this, but the truth is, WotC has to design the game at their pace according to their project schedule; not their playtesters' schedules. They have a LOT of mileage to cover and they can't be held back by playtesters' personal schedules. If you don't have time to playtest the game, then just playtest what you can and learn to expect rapid changes/iterations as the game shapes up.

In other words, think of it like more like a job you volunteered for; and not so much like a "favor" you're doing for a friend.
D&D Next - Basic and Expert Editions

I firmly believe that there should be two editions of the game; the core rules released as a "Basic" set and a more complicated expanded rules edition released as an "Expert" set. These two editions would provide separate entry points to the game; one for new players or players that want a more classic D&D game and another entry point for experienced gamers that want more options and all the other things they have come to expect from previous editions.

Also, they must release several rules modules covering the main elements of the game (i.e., classes, races, combat, magic, monsters, etc.) upon launch to further expand the game for those that still need more complexity in a particular element of the game.


Here's a mockup of the Basic Set I created.



(CLICK HERE TO VIEW LARGER IMAGE)
  

Basic Set

This boxed set contains a simple, "bare bones" edition of the game; the core rules. It's for those that want a rules-light edition of the game that is extremely modifiable or for new players that get intimidated easily by too many rules and/or options. The Basic Set contains everything needed to play with all the "classic" D&D races (i.e., Human, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling) and classes (i.e., Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard) all the way up to maximum level (i.e., 20th Level).

The Basic boxed set contains:

Quick Start Rules
A "choose your own way" adventure intended as an intro to RPGs and basic D&D terms.

Player's Handbook
(Softcover, 125 pages)
Features rules for playing the classic D&D races and classes all the way up to 20th level.

Dungeon Master's Guide

(Softcover, 125 pages)
Includes the basic rules for dungeon masters.

Monster Manual
(Softcover, 100 pages)
Includes all the classic iconic monsters from D&D. 

Introductory Adventure
(Keep on the Borderlands)
An introductory adventure for beginning players and DMs.

Also includes: 

Character Sheets
Reference Sheets
Set of Dice


Expert Set

A set of hardbound rules that contains the core rules plus expanded races and classes, more spells and a large selection of optional rules modules — that is, pretty much everything that experienced players have come to expect. Each expert edition manual may be purchased separately, or in a boxed set. The Expert set includes:

Expert PHB (Hardcover, 225 pages. $35 Includes core rules plus 10 playable races, 10 character classes, expanded selection of spells and rules modules for players.)
Expert DMG (Hardcover, 250 pages. $35 Includes core rules plus expanded rules modules for DMs.)
Expert MM (Hardcover, 225 pages. $35 Includes an expanded list of monsters and creatures to challenge characters)


Expansions

These expansion rules modules can be used with both the Basic and Expert sets. Each expansion covers one specific aspect of the game, such as character creation, combat, spells, monsters, etc.) 

Hall of Heroes (Hardcover, 225 pages. $35 Includes a vast selection of playable character races and classes, new and old all in one book)
Combat and Tactics (Hardcover, 225 pages. $35 Includes dozens of new and old optional rules for combat all in one book)
Creature Compendium (Hardcover, 350 pages.$35 Includes hundreds of monsters, new and old all in one book)
The Grimoire (Hardcover, 225 pages. $35 Includes hundreds of new and old spells all in one book)





A Million Hit Points of Light: Shedding Light on Damage

A Million Hit Points of Light: Shedding Light on Damage and Hit Points

In my personal campaigns, I use the following system for damage and dying. It's a slight modification of the long-standing principles etsablished by the D&D game, only with a new definition of what 0 or less hit points means. I've been using it for years because it works really well. However, I've made some adjustments to take advantage of the D&D Next rules. I've decided to present the first part in a Q&A format for better clarity. So let's begin...

What are hit points?
The premise is very simple, but often misunderstood; hit points are an abstraction that represent the character's ability to avoid serious damage, not necessarily their ability to take serious damage. This is a very important distinction. They represent a combination of skillful maneuvering, toughness, stamina and luck. Some targets have more hit points because they are physically tougher and are harder to injure...others have more because they are experienced combatants and have learned how to turn near fatal blows into mere scratches by skillful maneuvering...and then others are just plain lucky. Once a character runs out of hit points they become vulnerable to serious life-threatening injuries.

So what exactly does it mean to "hit" with a successful attack roll, then?
It means that through your own skill and ability you may have wounded your target if the target lacks the hit points to avoid the full brunt of the attack. That's an important thing to keep in mind; a successful "hit" does not necessarily mean you physically damaged your target. It just means that your attack was well placed and forced the target to exert themselves in such a way as to leave them vulnerable to further attacks. For example, instead of severing the target's arm, the attack merely grazes them leaving a minor cut.

But the attack did 25 points of damage! Why did it only "graze" the target?
Because the target has more than 25 hit points. Your attack forced them to exert a lot of energy to avoid the attack, but because of their combat skill, toughness, stamina and luck, they managed to avoid being seriously injured. However, because of this attack, they may not have the reserves to avoid your next attack. Perhaps you knocked them off balance or the attack left them so fatigued they lack the stamina to evade another attack. It's the DM's call on how they want to narrate the exact reason the blow didn't kill or wound the target.

Yeah, but what about "touch" attacks that rely on physical contact?
Making physical contact with a target is a lot different than striking them, so these types of attacks are the exception. If a touch attack succeeds, the attacker manages to make contact with their target.

If hit points and weapon damage don't always represent actual damage to the target, then what does it represent?
Think of the damage from an attack as more like a "threat level" rather than actual physical damage that transfers directly to the target's body. That is, the more damage an attack does, the harder it is to avoid serious injury. For example, an attack that causes 14 points of damage is more likely to wound the target than 3 points of damage (depending on how many hit points the target has left). The higher the damage, the greater the chance is that the target will become seriously injured. So, an attack that does 34 points of damage could be thought of as a "threat level of 34." If the target doesn't have the hit points to negate that threat, they become seriously injured.

Ok, but shouldn't armor reduce the amount of damage delivered from an attack?
It does reduce damage; by making it harder for an attack to cause serious injury. A successful hit against an armored target suggests that the attack may have circumvented the target's armor by striking in a vulnerable area.

What about poison and other types of non-combat damage?
Hit point loss from non-physical forms of damage represents the character spitting the poison out just in time before it takes full strength or perhaps the poison just wasn't strong enough to affect them drastically, but still weakens them. Again, it's the DMs call on how to narrate the reasons why the character avoids serious harm from the damage.

If hit points don't don't represent actual damage then how does that make sense with spells like Cure Serious Wounds and other forms of healing like healer kits with bandages?
Hit points do represent some physical damage, just not serious physical damage. Healing magic and other forms of healing still affect these minor wounds just as well as more serious wounds. For example, bandaging up minor cuts and abrasions helps the character rejuvenate and relieve the pain and/or fatigue of hit point loss. The key thing to remember is that it's an abstraction that allows the DM freedom to interpret and narrate it as they see fit.

What if my attack reduces the target to 0 or less hit points?
If a player is reduced to 0 or less hit points they are wounded. If a monster or NPC is reduce to 0 or less hit points they are killed.

Why are monsters killed immediately and not players?
Because unless the monsters are crucial to the story, it makes combat resolution much faster. It is assumed that players immediately execute a coup de grace on wounded monsters as a finishing move.

What if a character is wounded by poison or other types of non-physical damage?
If a character becomes wounded from non-combat damage they still receive the effects of being wounded, regardless if they show any physical signs of injury (i.e., internal injuries are still considered injuries).

Ok. I get it...but what happens once a character is wounded?
See below.
 

Damage and Dying

Once a character is reduced to 0 or less hit points, they start taking real damage. In other words, their reserves have run out and they can no longer avoid taking serious damage.

  1. Characters are fully operational as long as they have 1 hit point or more. They may have minor cuts, bruises, and superficial wounds, but they are are not impaired significantly. 
  2. Once they reach 0 or less hit points, they become Wounded (see below).That is, they have sustained a wound that impairs their ability to perform actions.
  3. If they reach a negative amount of hit points equal or greater than their Constitution score, they are Incapacitated. This means they are in critical condition and could possibly die.
  4. Characters will die if their hit points reach a negative amount greater than their Constitution score, plus their current level.

Unharmed: 1 hp or more
Wounded: 0 hp or less
Incapacitated: -(Constitution) to -(Constitution+Level)
Dead: Less than -(Constitution +Level)

Wounded
When the character reaches 0 or less hit points they become wounded. Wounded characters receive disadvantage on all attacks and saving throws until they heal back up to 1 hit point or more. This allows for a transitory stage between healthy and dying, without having to mess around with impairment rules while the character still has hit points left.

Incapacitated
Characters begin dying when they reach a negative amount of hit points equal to their Constitution score. At which point, they must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw on each of their following turns (the disadvantage from being wounded does not apply for these saving throws).

If successful, the character remains dying, but their condition does not worsen.

If the saving throw fails, another DC 10 Constitution saving throw must be made. If that one fails, the character succumbs to their wounds and dies. If successful, the character stabilizes and is no longer dying.

Finally, if a dying character receives first aid or healing at any point, they immediately stabilize.

Dead
Characters will die if they reach a negative amount of hit points equal to their Constitution, plus their current level. Thus, if an 8th level character with a Constitution score of 12 is down to 4 hit points then takes 24 points of damage (reducing their hit points to -20) the attack kills them outright.

I dont disagree with you bhaelfire. But what's wrong with some short adventures thrown in the mix for folks who volunteered to help but dont have the time to do it properly? Why is that a bad thing?

Nobody asked to slow their pace. Just to give us some tools/adventures to follow it.
I honestly mean no offense by this, but the truth is, WotC has to design the game at their pace according to their project schedule; not their playtesters' schedules. They have a LOT of mileage to cover and they can't be held back by playtesters' personal schedules. If you don't have time to playtest the game, then just playtest what you can and learn to expect rapid changes/iterations as the game shapes up.

In other words, think of it like more like a job you volunteered for; and not so much like a "favor" you're doing for a friend.



It's basically this.  I'm assuming they have testers who are basically doing this as their day job.  I'm sure they have specific deadlines to meet for material to be ready.  

If they set the playtest to the average gamer's schedule - I'm thinking we wouldn't see DDN until 2021 
Welcome to ZomboniLand - My D&D Blog http://zomboniland.blogspot.com/
Another thing to look at, is the 10-8-12 packet had very little to test.  Magic items and some monster adjustments, but for most of us (or at least my groups) we'd playtested the 8-17-12 packet 3 or more times 1-5. 

When 10-8-12 came out with nothing that new, no new levels, same adventures, my groups said no to running it again.  We did not test it.

So for us, the 10-29-12 packet really is the first thing out since 8-17-12 (2 months delay).    10-8-12 and 10-29-12 should have been a single packet.

"The turning of the tide always begins with one soldier's decision to head back into the fray"

On one hand I agree, yes they have a schedule to keep. I understand that. That doesn't mean that we are supposed to work at their pace. The playtest pace and their internal pace have absolutely nothing to do with one another. To be flat out honest about this, the very last playtest packet (whenever that happens to be) will look very little like the finished product. There will be similarities, yes, but for the most part we will see new things in there that they didn't bother having us test or tweaks that we didn't see in the playtest.

If they want feedback they need to give us time so we can have the capability to give it to them, otherwise what's the point? A good portion of their current testing base probably have lives outside of the game. These are also their future customers, the ones that will be able to afford their products because they have jobs and lives and therefore money to buy things with. If we're shut out because we can't even have our voices heard due to the fact that they won't even give us the time to test so we can answer the surveys then why bother with this at all?

A heads up - they are probably several iterations ahead of us already, all they are looking for from us is feedback and opinions. If you really think they aren't well past us in the design process then you have obviously never worked on a beta/playtest before. Thier internal schedules have nothing to do with us. They are testing things their own way in house. The playtest is a chance to hear from us on what we think. Giving us less than a month to even try out the last iteration to give feedback on just doesn't work. How are we now going to be able to tell them that, hey, maybe we liked some of the things in the 10/08/12 packet? We didn't even get a real chance to test them. There could have been ideas in that that they have now decided to toss out without getting real feedback on so that they can rework them into the game in a future packet with whatever else they have lined for then, with the knowledge that we liked whatever it was we liked. 

 
Another thing to look at, is the 10-8-12 packet had very little to test.  Magic items and some monster adjustments, but for most of us (or at least my groups) we'd playtested the 8-17-12 packet 3 or more times 1-5. 

When 10-8-12 came out with nothing that new, no new levels, same adventures, my groups said no to running it again.  We did not test it.

So for us, the 10-29-12 packet really is the first thing out since 8-17-12 (2 months delay).    10-8-12 and 10-29-12 should have been a single packet.




Well at least by the dates you give, it seems that this isn't going to be the normal release pattern for them, which is good. 
maybe we liked some of the things in the 10/08/12 packet? We didn't even get a real chance to test them.



Unless this was your first playtest, in which I can see your point, there was nothing new in this packet to test.  It ONLY included magic items and monster adjustments, and these same items are in the new packet.  One of the many reasons why so many were ticked when the 10-8-12 packet came out after two months. 

"The turning of the tide always begins with one soldier's decision to head back into the fray"

maybe we liked some of the things in the 10/08/12 packet? We didn't even get a real chance to test them.



Unless this was your first playtest, in which I can see your point, there was nothing new in this packet to test.  It ONLY included magic items and monster adjustments, and these same items are in the new packet.  One of the many reasons why so many were ticked when the 10-8-12 packet came out after two months. 



Yeah it was actually the first one we tried, but now I see the reason for two packets in one month, so my previous arguements are rendered pretty much moot. Thanks for clearing that up for me. 
Any individual playtester's available schedule is completely irrelevant to their development timeline.

Sucks for you, but thems the breaks.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition