Reading the Playtest Packet: A Constructive Approach

So it's the big day.  Hooo-boy, isn't this exciting!  Shortly we will get all of our grubby little mitts on all the juicy goodness that is in the public playtest.  Whee!  It's an exciting time, but it is also a risky time - this is the first opportunity for many people here to see the material, and it's all too likely that things will be running a bit hot for the near future.  I for one think that the fundamental purpose of this forum is to make Next the best game it can be, and to that end there are some things I hope people do and some things I hope we can agree to try to avoid.

Read the Whole Thing

This may seem like a no-brainer, but every single person participating in the playtest should read every section of it.  Whether you like it, whether you don't, doesn't matter - read the whole thing.  Many aspects undoubtedly will seem strange and bizarre at first glance, but will start to make sense once they're put into larger context.

Don't Panic

Welcome advice for any hitchhiker, but this really is the big one.  There will undoubtedly be feature X that is on your list of "oh god not that worthless drivel."  But if you let that feature get in the way of looking objectively at the rest of the things, or the system as a whole, then the likelihood that your contributions will form constructive feedback will drop drastically.  At worst, you might write Next off completely and stop participating in the playtest.  We need everyone's perspective on this, and the worst thing possible is to hold back on a perspective based on an initial red flag.

Think Beyond Your Game

The easiest sort of feedback to give is "This is how I did it before, this is how I want to do it now, this is how the playtest material does/doesn't let me do it the way I want."  This is valuable.  It's the on-the-ground, real-table sort of feedback that WotC is definitely wanting.  But it's not the only feedback they're going to want, and it's not even necessarily the most helpful.  Another type of feedback steps back from your immediate situation and considers how whatever thing you're taking a closer look at impacts the system as a whole, and how that might affect the games of people who might not play the exact same way you do.  Given Next's focus on inclusion and there not being a "wrong" way to play, this is really important.  Even if you really like a particular feature, being able to say "Well, I really like this, but I can see how other people may have a problem with it, here's how you could tweak it so that it still meets my needs but doesn't shut out others" is the sort of thing that will really help WotC meet that goal.

Play The Game

We're about to get the packet materials, and if there's one thing I've learned about game forums (tabletop, video, and otherwise) it's the tendency to take information that's posted, whether it be a playtest packet or datamined patch notes, and make sweeping claims and judgments on the basis of a read-through of the text but without actually trying it out.  To be sure, the read-through reaction has merit, but it's also the most likely thing to turn into flamewars on the forums.  Posting a strong statement, either positive or negative, based on the text alone leaves the opening for someone to say "Well, we actually tried that out and it's not what it seems because of XYZ."  And if people get their backs up when that happens, then we have a major argument, bad feelings, ORCs, etc. 

Recognize that this is a work in progress

The way things are now are not the way things will be.  Period.  Even if something in the playtest material is a complete and total dealbreaker or a complete and total must-have, don't take that as a given for future rounds.  We're very early in the process still, and any changes will take time.  Respect the developers' efforts in that they will be making changes as fast as they feel is appropriate.  Don't expect everything to change based on your feedback too quickly.  The developers are listening to our feedback.  They do care what we think

Be specific.

The sort of feedback that is most helpful is that which is most specific.  "I don't like Vancian casting" isn't particularly useful.  The response is "Ok, that's great, but now what?"  Instead, be as specific as you can possibly be about what aspects of a given topic are awesome and good or horrible and bad:  what impact does it have on your game, the system as a whole, whether it's confusing or counterintuitive, whether it seems incomplete and missing a key component, how it might first appear to be unimportant but have larger ramifications in other areas, etc.  As specific as you can get, the better.  While general feelings have merit, even if they ask a nebulous and subjective question like "Does the game feel like D&D?" then there's still opportunity to be specific.  Rather than just "Yes/No" you can look to specific game elements that are the thing that really make or break it for you.  Point to those directly, because it gives the development team something they can look at more closely.

Post the positive and the negative

If the nature of the internet is any guide, it will be easier to post about the things you hate rather than the things you love.  But they both need attention.  Sure, fixing problems is a big deal, and one of the most important functions of the playtest, but that doesn't mean that everything else that isn't at the level of "problem" in your opinion isn't worth discussing.  Things that are just kinda 'meh' can slip through the cracks.  The solution to making Next the best game possible is going to be found in all aspects of it, and tweaking something may have impact across the whole system.  Furthermore, the things that are good could possibly be made even better.

Have fun!

Most importantly, this is a game, and the point is to have fun doing it.  I know I have already, and I hope that everyone here can as well.

D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Great prep speech, if it is cool with you i want to print this off so my players can read this before we begin. I can't wait for the packet!! hopefully it comes before noon so i can get everythuing prepped before i have to go to work. Good luck to all!
These are some great tips! I'll admit that I am one of those who bought the core 4e books and tried to play them, but some of the mechanics just didn't jive and I went back to 3.5 for my campaigns. I am looking forward to this playtest and your post helped me to focus my objectivity to I don't just sneer when I see 4e's influence in the system. Happy gaming!
This is a pleasant surprise!  I was here to see all the "DOOOOM!!!" threads full of kneejerk reactions to the playtest.

This thread should be stickied and labelled a MUST READ. 
I have to agree with the sticky request.  Sound advice presented well.  Nicely done. 
Resident Prophet of the OTTer.

Section Six Soldier

Front Door of the House of Trolls

[b]If you're terribly afraid of your character dying, it may be best if you roleplayed something other than an adventurer.[/b]

Great advice.  I'd also like permission to print and share with my players.
Great advice.  I'd also like permission to print and share with my players.

Honestly these responses baffle me, I'm not entirely clear why I have to give permission.  The point is that you use it!
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Hey folks,

I agree that this as an excellent "pre-play" read, so I'm  going to stick it.

Thanks a bunch, Mand12, and have fun everyone!

Monica
glad to see this is stickied. I will get any who play in my test to read the first post.
Umm ... judging from the threads I've seen it doesn't appear many have read this.  Jus' sayin'. 
Resident Prophet of the OTTer.

Section Six Soldier

Front Door of the House of Trolls

[b]If you're terribly afraid of your character dying, it may be best if you roleplayed something other than an adventurer.[/b]

This is good advice, and can I add something: be honest and sincere in your feedback. Don't just form opinions, support them with information and details if possible. Provide solutions, or at least a direction for them to go. If you feel that there is something missing from the game that's vital, speak up. This is the best time to do it. 
This may seem like a stupid question but figured I'd rather be safe, can we post our feedback to the playtest on this forum or is that a violation of the terms?
It's the entire purpose of this forum.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Thanks for the response, I figured as much but wasn't sure about how public this forum might be vs agreeing to the terms and sharing information.  Have been under many NDAs and have learned to be quite careful.
The playtest agreement says that you can share publicly your feedback on it.  It just restricts you from distributing the material itself.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
correct me if i'm worng (didn't play 4E) but didn't the background idea come from D20 Mdoern,they seem very samiliar to D20M's occupations,in which you'd pick one for flavor reasons and get some nice stuff for your character (feats,maybe and extera skill or a +1 to a skill you already have)


Either way they look good,Hope to see more choices on those 
Great Post Mand12!

I want to emphasize the importance of not viewing the playtest in prior edition glasses.  Try to take it on its own merits. 

I know this is difficult, for I had to read through the packet several times to clear the previous editions' notions from my head.  Once I read the packet without previous edition bias or expectation, many things made a lot more sense.
I absolutely love this post. Finally someone who sees.
This is great advice.  I don't think most posters in the last 24 hours have read this.  There's a lot of unnecessary high blood pressure out there.


I want to emphasize the importance of not viewing the playtest in prior edition glasses.  Try to take it on its own merits. 

I know this is difficult, for I had to read through the packet several times to clear the previous editions' notions from my head.  Once I read the packet without previous edition bias or expectation, many things made a lot more sense.



Surely though isnt your'e experience with a previous edition going to determine whether or not you would want to make the switch.  This isnt a completely new company coming to the market this is a company who replaced editions or models with - clearly in their opinion, at the time, better editions or models and now what - we take everything and place it into a pick list and you build your own RPG to build your own adventures....

I absolutely will look at the playtest with a view on what I as a DM and player enjoy the most about the current version I play and if the newer edition doesnt allow me to play the same or BETTER will simply either not upgrade (because thats ultimately what it is) or switch to another ruleset.

The reality is right now you cannot compare this packet to anything else because its not complete.  You need to see everything in its entirety - or at least elements of everything to deterime if this is going to be a good system or not and worthy of future investment....
Thank you, Mand. Your post is an oasis of clear-headed reason in a desert that seems bereft of it.
I give full props to Mand12 for his statements, but I for one cannot look at the playtest without my past edition glasses, and challenge that anyone can.  However, that's not to say i cannot view it objectively like Mand12 goes on to stress.

But, I have played EVERY version of D&D minus 3.0 (missed that at college) and LOVED every single one of them.  If you'd ask me to go play edition X, I'd be happy to.

The ONLY edition that has ever turned me off so much was 4e.  Not because of the new game style, because they constantly kept changing the game mechanics.  I felt like for 4 years or so I was beta testing.  I stopped buying any books and were stright to the DDi, the printed material was usless, in my opinion.

So, all that said, seeing the playtest is fine for me, but I personally need to judge this based on how solid I feel the game is, and how static it will remain.  Something I won't get from the playtest and frankly, I'm not sure I can ever get. 

So then to fall back on past edition glasses, the only way I can judge this is what parts of old editions did they take and leave behind.  Is that enough to passify me in this new (horridly named) edition?

∴ "Virtus junxit, mors non separabit." 

Excellent advice!  Especially for my group's wary power gamer ;)  Thank you! 

Everyone spread the words here - they're invaluable.
LEONINE ROAR : Amp Up Your D&D Game : Visit my D&D blog :: FASTER COMBAT : Crush Your Combat Grind
I have played every D&D since there has been D&D. I learned to love every edition for its own unique ideas. i admit it took a little longer with 4e. D&D next is off to a good start. I eagerly await the next play test installment.Cool
Ditto, oldgamergeek... I even got my then girlfriend, now wife to play for a few years! Heheh. I know that WotC wants to hear feedback both positive and negative... and we should all say what we like, what we don't but more importantly why.  Say what works, what doesn't.  I've seen some posters on here go all medieval on how much they hate something... um, yeah, great, good for you.  Now why don't you go hate on your own time and try to offer some meaningful contribution to the process.  If you love the game like I do and want to have a hand in making it better, participate, don't hate...

Great Post !
 

Yeah, I think everyone needs to mellow a bit and focus on what's in front of them. We were warned that this would be a very simple core, and that this core would probably look a lot like TSR's D&D. That doesn't mean we have no right to speak up if the game stops there, but we can do a lot more good right now by judging the playtest material in the context of what the rules are intended to do, not what we'd like them to do.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

I think Mand is trying to break the internet with this kind of thinking.  Rational thinking? Considered posting? This is just crazy talk. 

Seriously, though; great post.  I have already found things in my first reading that I like and hope will be retained, and things I don't that I hope get re-worked or ditched.  That said, I know that until I get a few people together and give it whirl I won't really be able to provide feedback.

I am an 30+ year player of D&D - all editions.  My playtest group is hopefully going to consist of another player I have gamed with since the beginning, one who has only played 4e and one who has never played D&D at all.  Should be interesting to see what comes of that. 
Great post, Mand! 
I wish there was a way to make it mandatory that every playtester agree to this... /sigh.
I wish there was a way to make it mandatory that every playtester agree to this... /sigh.



Seconded.
Read the Whole Thing

This may seem like a no-brainer, but every single person participating in the playtest should read every section of it.  Whether you like it, whether you don't, doesn't matter - read the whole thing.  Many aspects undoubtedly will seem strange and bizarre at first glance, but will start to make sense once they're put into larger context.

 I'd like to question this suggestion. I might give DMing a go, but for at least the first two play throughs my group will be doing I'll definitely be wearing a Player hat.

Should I really be reading the Beastiary and Adventure before we play? 


Otherwise, awesome guide. 
In this case no. Just the How to play should suffice until you actually DM.
I have too say this, since the general reaction to the playtest seems possitive, I fell someone who had a negative reaction to it is out numbered, out gunned, so I've been having a hard time. I've been formulating a large, very large list of hang-ups and rules oddities that I've noticed do far, but it's been a long process.

I sincerly hope when I post it it will be taken seriously and listened to, because right now it dosn't.
I actually read a lot of reactions before I got the packet, so I was expecting to see some terrible document. I see a lot of little issues, but the base of the packet seems really sound. I can VERY easily see how I'd sit down and have a fun time with this edition. I hope they improve it a lot before it is released, but my sky is thoroughly not falling.


So far I have found one thing that I like in DnDNext. Failed Death saves do 1d6 damage and you die at negative CON Score +5.


So far it reads like AD&D 3rd Edition.
Yes THAC0 is gone, AC is positives numbers, Skills are gone, Logical Actions are gone.
Powers are gone except for Spells (Clerics & Wizards).
3rd's BAB seems to be back, Weapon Proficiency Bonus are gone.
Stats are standardized (3rd/4th) and all provide the same bonus.
Skills are simply Ability Checks; which isn't bad per se, but so far there is nothing to indicate really training or talent/knack for a skill.
Movement is back in feet increments; so things move at 2.5 feet. So mapping will be interesting again.


Healing is useless again, so everyone will die a lot, which isn't bad, but hey the days of getting 1 HP back are here again.
CON is the primary stat for everyone, well if you want to actually have a chance to NOT die.


*sigh* May the whiny power gamers rejoice now everyone is screwed.


Positives:
Weapon damage still standardized and are just 1 die type (except Bastard sword).
AC is standardized and Positive numbers; Expanded Light Armor.
at Nat 1 always a miss; Nat 20 ALWAYS a crit.
Crit still does maximum damage for the attack and no stupid confirm roll for a crit.
HP increase per Level is a standard set number; At least you can't get a 1 HP increase because you die roll sucked.


Negatives:
Healing is a Die Roll w/o bonus; so yep you can drink that expensive potion of healing and get 1 hp back. Same for healing Spells; Go 1 HP.
Healing Spells are mostly useless; better to focus on buffs that prevent damage.
Combat is two things: Move and An Action (Usually an attack or a second move). There is no Charge, No Bull Rush per se or the rules are murky.
Actions will most like be expanded to include confusing variants of Swift and Full Round (vs Minor, Move & Standard and the logical variations there of).
Movement is back in the Feet increment so mapping will be difficult because somethings have odd movements (i.e. 2.5 feet).
So squares will need to be re-defined for maps/tiles, etc. or we go warhammer and start using tape measures. Either way, maps will probably need to become much larger to deal with the smaller movement ranges.


Things that are "Shrugs":
People will need to use their imagination more to make their characters unique from the others of the same class.
This is not a bad or good thing, just it has been a problem for players since 3rd edition came out; 4th used it more to a degree but most people didn't understand how to use their imagination.
Healing Surges are back as Hit Dice, but still a random roll; so go 1s!
Themes and backgrounds; Interesting, but need to see more about them.


Things I will miss:
Different types of attack options: in 4th they were you At Will, Encounter or Daily Powers.
Healing actually being useful; sorry but the chance of getting 1hp back just pisses me off.
Opportunity Actions; There are no OAs / AoO; you have to give up your action to get any.
Action Points (4th Ed Version)


Things I want to see:
I would like to see something closer to the Essentials Idea of a few powers that you can get that increase or work with your standard attack. So it is not a matter of managing encounters or dailies, it is just a small set of enhancements around your class. They were called stances frequently for the martial characters. (This would be eliminate my missing of the Powers, BTW, depending on the implementation.
Minor Actions; Free Actions or more specifically the logical (in most cases) definition of the some actions so that it is easier to make sense of what is going on for things that should not prevent you from attacking or moving, but take up more time than nothing.

So it's the big day.  Hooo-boy, isn't this exciting!  Shortly we will get all of our grubby little mitts on all the juicy goodness that is in the public playtest.  Whee!  It's an exciting time, but it is also a risky time - this is the first opportunity for many people here to see the material, and it's all too likely that things will be running a bit hot for the near future.  I for one think that the fundamental purpose of this forum is to make Next the best game it can be, and to that end there are some things I hope people do and some things I hope we can agree to try to avoid.

Read the Whole Thing

This may seem like a no-brainer, but every single person participating in the playtest should read every section of it.  Whether you like it, whether you don't, doesn't matter - read the whole thing.  Many aspects undoubtedly will seem strange and bizarre at first glance, but will start to make sense once they're put into larger context.

Don't Panic

Welcome advice for any hitchhiker, but this really is the big one.  There will undoubtedly be feature X that is on your list of "oh god not that worthless drivel."  But if you let that feature get in the way of looking objectively at the rest of the things, or the system as a whole, then the likelihood that your contributions will form constructive feedback will drop drastically.  At worst, you might write Next off completely and stop participating in the playtest.  We need everyone's perspective on this, and the worst thing possible is to hold back on a perspective based on an initial red flag.

Think Beyond Your Game

The easiest sort of feedback to give is "This is how I did it before, this is how I want to do it now, this is how the playtest material does/doesn't let me do it the way I want."  This is valuable.  It's the on-the-ground, real-table sort of feedback that WotC is definitely wanting.  But it's not the only feedback they're going to want, and it's not even necessarily the most helpful.  Another type of feedback steps back from your immediate situation and considers how whatever thing you're taking a closer look at impacts the system as a whole, and how that might affect the games of people who might not play the exact same way you do.  Given Next's focus on inclusion and there not being a "wrong" way to play, this is really important.  Even if you really like a particular feature, being able to say "Well, I really like this, but I can see how other people may have a problem with it, here's how you could tweak it so that it still meets my needs but doesn't shut out others" is the sort of thing that will really help WotC meet that goal.

Play The Game

We're about to get the packet materials, and if there's one thing I've learned about game forums (tabletop, video, and otherwise) it's the tendency to take information that's posted, whether it be a playtest packet or datamined patch notes, and make sweeping claims and judgments on the basis of a read-through of the text but without actually trying it out.  To be sure, the read-through reaction has merit, but it's also the most likely thing to turn into flamewars on the forums.  Posting a strong statement, either positive or negative, based on the text alone leaves the opening for someone to say "Well, we actually tried that out and it's not what it seems because of XYZ."  And if people get their backs up when that happens, then we have a major argument, bad feelings, ORCs, etc. 

Recognize that this is a work in progress

The way things are now are not the way things will be.  Period.  Even if something in the playtest material is a complete and total dealbreaker or a complete and total must-have, don't take that as a given for future rounds.  We're very early in the process still, and any changes will take time.  Respect the developers' efforts in that they will be making changes as fast as they feel is appropriate.  Don't expect everything to change based on your feedback too quickly.  The developers are listening to our feedback.  They do care what we think

Be specific.

The sort of feedback that is most helpful is that which is most specific.  "I don't like Vancian casting" isn't particularly useful.  The response is "Ok, that's great, but now what?"  Instead, be as specific as you can possibly be about what aspects of a given topic are awesome and good or horrible and bad:  what impact does it have on your game, the system as a whole, whether it's confusing or counterintuitive, whether it seems incomplete and missing a key component, how it might first appear to be unimportant but have larger ramifications in other areas, etc.  As specific as you can get, the better.  While general feelings have merit, even if they ask a nebulous and subjective question like "Does the game feel like D&D?" then there's still opportunity to be specific.  Rather than just "Yes/No" you can look to specific game elements that are the thing that really make or break it for you.  Point to those directly, because it gives the development team something they can look at more closely.

Post the positive and the negative

If the nature of the internet is any guide, it will be easier to post about the things you hate rather than the things you love.  But they both need attention.  Sure, fixing problems is a big deal, and one of the most important functions of the playtest, but that doesn't mean that everything else that isn't at the level of "problem" in your opinion isn't worth discussing.  Things that are just kinda 'meh' can slip through the cracks.  The solution to making Next the best game possible is going to be found in all aspects of it, and tweaking something may have impact across the whole system.  Furthermore, the things that are good could possibly be made even better.

Have fun!

Most importantly, this is a game, and the point is to have fun doing it.  I know I have already, and I hope that everyone here can as well.

I really like what you have to say I know my first reaction was...oh goodness not vance magic, but I listened to what Mike M. said the conference that there would be options and if most of the opitions that I like are going to be in it, or maybe they will be in it because of what my group as to say in our survey, then I can get behind this. I still like my 4th and will still continuing getting the  books and collecting them but I will not freak out and give up on 5th. 
    I've removed content from this thread because inappropriate language is a violation of the Code of Conduct.  You can review the Code of Conduct here www.wizards.com/Company/About.aspx?x=wz_...

Please keep your posts polite, respectful, and on-topic, and refrain from making personal attacks.
Only one defense was very shocking for me. I was happy it was passive, mostly. 

I have customization concerns, but I also liked that I didn't see a situation where someone was using a melee weapon for an aoe and not getting bonuses associated with their melee weapon as I see in 4e.

Also, I really liked the optional ignore the dice rule.

I do not like that spells vanish from character's minds. I don't think it makes sense, and I don't like the mechanical implications either. Where is the survery at to say that?

The Reasearcher background feature was awesome. 

It felt like a 3.5 clone a bit with the vance magic. It did have some saving grace at-will spells though. I am concerned how many attacks the fighters and rogues will get in a single turn later on. I had read that Cook left this project, but it did not look like it mechanically. 

I really liked that the fighter had range and melee weapons.


I would really like the design team to play some 3rd edition shadowrun to get a feel for one method of character  growth. Players put points into the things they want to be better at. So if you want to be better at crossbow, you put points in to account for the practice you do with it.  

Concisely: I want a system where players don't have to pick between mechanics and roleplaying. I hope 5E fails asap so a better system can be made asap.

( I can't believe what they did to the forums. The sterile lack or color is rather depressing. )

 

I’m sorry that this took so long. It has been very difficult to write because I want so badly for Next to be awesome and I simply don’t believe it is. I don’t think the developers are evil or stupid; I just think that they have very different priorities from me and the people I game with.
In My Humble Opinion, I Think The Map Should Have More Detail Put Into The Topography Of The Caves Of Chaos. My DM (Dragon Master) Had No Idea What Altitude The Caves Were At. This Negatively Impacted Our Campaign. For Example, Our Human Cleric Kept Dying Because We Weren't Sure How Much His Equillibrium Was Thrown Off By The Rapid Elevation Change Because He Was Born At Sea Level. Please Fix For Next Version!!!!
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