Here follow my notes on the Playtest 8 video
that Wizards of the Coast released with
the Playtest 8 packet.
For more context and my Standard Disclaimer,
check out the introduction to this series.
Please note (haha) that this is just to catalog what was in the video and my
initial thoughts. I haven’t had a chance to read any of it in depth yet.
This is a bonus (early?) release featuring the first DMG-specific content, the Bastion system. It’s the first of many new or reimagined tools for DMs. It’s a framework for creating a home base.
A Bastion can be created just for a single character or joined with those of other party members for a bigger setup. It’s highly customizable — guidance is provided for layout, the number of rooms, and various “facilities” which provide both aesthetic as well as mechanical enhancements. Facilities provide special abilities to the Bastion and to the characters that dwell there. Examples include a gaming space that can make you money, a work space where you can craft magic items, a facility that helps you recruit defenders, a teleportation circle, and many more. The Bastion system comes online for players at level 5 and facility choices unlock as you progress in levels. Not all options are available for all classes; the prerequisites are gated by class features.
To give the sense of time passing, Bastions can “take a turn” once every seven days where they can be given an Order (much like an Action). Sounds like you need to be “at home” to issue an Order/change an Order. The Bastion defaults to a maintenance order, but while you’re away there are also random things that can occur. Besides other results of orders, you also earn Bastion Points, which can be used to purchase magic items, extend your influence in the surrounding area, or even revive your character at home if you die while adventuring (with enough points).
This release contains everything you need for the Bastion system, and it can be dropped into existing campaigns using the 2014 rulebooks. On that note, Crawford encourages playing the new things. Internally, WotC is playing using the 2014 rules with whatever new thing they’re testing layered in.
A major goal of this system is to let downtime rules still happen while you’re away adventuring, because many campaigns don’t have breathing room to let the PCs engage in downtime. (Too busy saving the world or whatever!) It’s also meant to give players a taste of being a DM, being responsible for the creation, mapping, and NPCs that will be there.
In the 2021 survey, some cantrips didn’t score very well. They’re putting out some revised cantrips now so that we don’t have to wait for a future PHB-oriented release. They’re focusing on making things more fun, providing a diverse selection, and filing off the rough spots. Some have small but important quality of life improvements. Acid Splash, for example, is now “your first AoE” spell. Others have been totally redesigned, like True Strike, which includes the weapon strike itself in the cantrip. Blade Ward is now a Reaction, imposing Disadvantage on a strike against you. Friends now briefly charms a target without making them hostile to you.
Cantrips are “fallback options”. They’re what you cast when you can’t or don’t want to cast a leveled spell.
Survey Feedback: Playtest 6
The team reads some online discourse, but surveys remain the main focus for receiving feedback from the community. Three members of the design team are focused on going through all the survey feedback.
We’re told that things will feel increasingly “seamless” as we transition out of the public playtest process and get the updated books in order. Next year we’ll start getting previews of the shape things will take in the published form. We’re reminded that the playtest releases don’t represent the final published form, but a snapshot that the team wants to get feedback on, and we should expect changes between what’s in the playtest releases and the final, printed version.
As always, scores and written feedback have been closely considered.
Most classes are meeting with strong satisfaction — Rogue, Paladin, Cleric, Bard, and Druid all scored in the 70s and 80s. Rogue got 89%!
Of those classes, the Druid was the lowest but still in the 70s, with many features in the 80s. Circle of the Land got 86%! Circle of the Sea got 80%. Wild Shape and Circle of the Moon were the main pain points. Circle of the Moon improved, but it needs more work, so we should see it in the next player-focused UA release. Sounds like Archdruid also need some tweaks. They see both the fans of Wild Shape templates and the (larger number of) fans of using stat blocks; they’re listening to both groups but ultimately will go in a direction that’s “solid for the class and healthy for the game”.
Monk will also be returning in a future UA. They “always planned” to present it at least twice. A number of things scored really well, but other things were significant pain points. Most notably painful were the constraints of Discipline Points. They are working on adjusting the class so that there’s still a resource pool to be managed, but that this constraint doesn’t limit your class fantasy or mechanical effectiveness. They’re combing through Monk features now to find places where there’s both a usage limit and a Discipline Point cost — it should have only one of these. They’re also looking into places where they can lower or eliminate Discipline Point cost. The only subclass that will be included in the next UA is Warrior of the Hand, because the others scored well enough that they don’t need to go back out for more public testing. Warrior of the Elements, for example, went from 11% satisfaction on the 2021 survey to scoring in the 70s — a massive jump.
Rogue, Ranger, Paladin, Cleric, and Bard are done in UA for now and are moving into internal development for the book.
Ranger had some pain points in the UA6 survey — concerns about Favored Enemy, Foe Slayer, and Deft Explorer. Those brought down the satisfaction scores for the class overall. Since they A/B tested two versions of these features, and prior versions scored well, they plan to create a synthesis that combines their best elements. The Beast Master subclass, which previously scored quite poorly, reached 78% in the UA6 survey.
The Rogue’s Cunning Strike got 94% satisfaction, and Improved Cunning Strike got ~90%. This is exquisitely rare! Cunning Strike is therefore definitely staying.
In the Paladin, the revised Lay on Hands is approaching 90% satisfaction as well.
After the UA7 feedback is processed, they’ll find out what else is going to graduate to book prep work and what’s going to go out again for public testing. The next player-focused UA release will include all the classes that still need public attention, ending the “leapfrog” approach we’ve had thus far.
The video concludes with an interesting look into the logic behind subclass selection for the UAs. Crawford acknowledged the “where’s the Necromancer” controversy and owned that he caused it by bringing it up in a previous video. It apparently was being worked on internally but didn’t make the cut due to low levels of actual enjoyment and play. While Ranger had low satisfaction, it had high actual use; Druid had low actual use, but high satisfaction. The Necromancer, unfortunately, had bad numbers on both counts. They subbed in the Abjurer instead — it’s consistently highly rated, has healthy play numbers, and has a properly distinct identity from the Evoker. For the subclasses in the core rules, they chose the “quartets” to express the “corners” of the class. Evoker and Abjurer are opposites, and so are Illusionist and Diviner. In the Sorcerer, Clockwork was included because it’s the opposite of Wild Magic — Order vs. Chaos. Crawford suggests that it’d be fun to do a future video where they walk through all the quartets. The new PHB will be explicit about these quartets in the character creation process. Some “hooks” for subclasses are more aesthetic and some are more mechanical. Fighter is a class where the subclass hooks are mechanical.
- I’m eager to check out the Bastion system and see if it’s all that. It sounds pretty great from the high level stuff mentioned here, and it reminds me a lot of some of my favorite bits from 1E, the stuff I never got to use but always wanted to.
- I’m also eager to check out the revised cantrips. Everybody’s been saying “we need revised spells please” for a while, so good, we finally get a chunk of them. Bring it on!
- I’m cautiously optimistic about the Druid and Monk. I wish they’d tell us exactly how poorly the Monk was received, but maybe it won’t matter if the forthcoming improvements are sufficient.
- I’m glad to see them talking more explicitly about the playtest not being the final thing, and that everything we’ve been reviewing so far is to garner feedback that will inform the internal process that crafts the final result. The internet has been quite reactionary here (no, really?) and really ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.
- I also appreciated the more explicit discussion of the subclass quartets and the design philosophy. I wish we’d had more of that up front (again, it would have probably quelled some of the virulent discourse), but I’m definitely interested in getting a follow up that walks through each of the subclass quartets.
- On a related note, I am glad to see Crawford take responsibility for the “where’s the Necromancer” controversy. More of this transparency please!
Okay, I guess I need to go read the PDF now…