t Gen Con this past weekend, we announced that the release of the upcoming D&D Next public playtest packet would be our final one. Does that mean that the game is done?
No. Obviously there is still work to do, but the nature of that work is shifting.
In the public playtest, we assume that most groups roll up characters, play through an adventure or two, give us feedback, and move on. We figure that most people pop in and out as they have the time and inclination to test.
This phase of the playtest was all about nailing the feel of D&D. D&D isn't simply a set of rules. It's a tool for creativity. What it does is important, but how it does it is just as critical. I also believe that D&D had wandered away from what players are looking for from it. The public playtest was our way to get back in touch with you in a way that ensured the next generation of D&D tabletop roleplay gaming was relevant to you.
Our playtest emphasis is now changing to the repetitive grind of balancing out the math and finding and dispelling abusive combinations. We'll continue to work with a big list of testers, but our needs are such that we require focused, directed play to drive our results. Frankly, that kind of testing can be fairly boring. It also mandates a level of feedback that is more detailed and demands more work than the testing done so far.
On top of that, it requires that we know a good deal about each group. Is a group more story-based? Are they optimizers? That kind of knowledge on our end is key, and it's something that we can learn best by getting to know a group through their prior, detailed feedback.
In terms of scope, this upcoming phase of the playtest is at least as large as the playtest for 3rd Edition, if not larger.
So, what did we learn from the public playtest? In some cases you confirmed things, in others you dispelled some notions that had become lodged in R&D's view of you.
- You like simplicity. You want to jump into the game quickly, create characters, monsters, NPCs, and adventures with a minimum of fuss, and get down to the business of playing D&D.
- You like that every class has the potential to contribute in most situations, but you're OK with some classes being better at certain things if that fits the class's image. You see balance on a larger, adventure-based or campaign-based scale.
- You want rules that make it easy to build adventures and encounters. You want to think about the story or your setting's details, rather than fiddle with math.
- You value flexibility in rules. You prefer an ability or a rule that's easy to adapt or that leaves space for creative applications, rather than rigidly defined abilities.
- You aren't edition warriors. You want the game to support a variety play styles in equal measure. You're not attached to any specific ways of doing things as long as the game works.
At this stage, our ongoing columns will continue and you will see the same weekly content that we've provided in the past. We're not going anywhere. Now it's time for us to iron out all the details. We'll keep giving you previews and insights into what we're doing and how we're doing.
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He has worked on the Ravenloft board game along with a number of supplements for the D&D RPG.