Here follow my notes and thoughts about the Playtest 8* survey results video
that Wizards of the Coast released in late January 2024.
(Why the asterisk? See my rant on the Playtest 8* Barbarian.)
For more context and my Standard Disclaimer,
check out the introduction to this series.
Ready? On to…
Playtest 8* scored very well.
Starting with the Druid… Updated Wild Shape and Circle of the Moon features score 70 and above. In an aside explaining the 70% goal, Crawford makes it explicit that the UA version isn’t the final version — it’s a milestone that informs additional internal development to analyze what people liked about the 70-plus-scoring features and refine and amplify that.
Barbarian features (such as Brutal Strike) scored in the 80s. Path of the World Tree scored in the 80s as well.
Monk will likely end up as the most-improved class in the 2024 book (in terms of satisfaction). It surpassed the Ranger and most features landed in the 90s. It’s rare for any feature to get into the 90s due to the size of the player base and differences in taste.
Revisions to spells scored well too — the healing spells scored in the 80s, and the revised, experimental conjure spells all scored in the high 70s and 80s.
Apparently Playtest 8* is the last UA release for the 2024 Player’s Handbook (so I guess we’re not getting nine UAs for the PHB after all??). Crawford seems very satisfied that the process ended on a high note. Internal PHB development now turns to things that haven’t been publicly shown yet, such as new spells “that will be surprises”. Everything is “getting careful polish”.
On image-based rumors… The graphic that appeared online that said the new books would be out in May was a complete surprise to both Crawford and Kenreck (who were literally on stage at PAX Unplugged when the image popped up). Officially, that was never the date, and won’t be the date. They’ll still be working on the books in May. Also, the Dwarf Fighter image that folks thought would be the new cover isn’t. The new cover hasn’t been revealed yet. The Dwarf Fighter image comes from the Fighter section of the new PHB. Classes and subclasses will all have art. More equipment art. More spell art.
Revised monsters for the new Monster Manual are undergoing internal playtesting. The new encounter building tools are as well. They’d talked about showing that in a UA release, but are focused on internal iteration instead, and having really tight loops there has apparently led to really strong results. We’re promised that the new encounter building stuff will be very pleasantly streamlined — you’ll be able to quickly determine what the “monster budget” is for a given difficulty and then spend that budget. Work continues on the Dungeon Master’s Guide as well, with new and revised magic items.
Announcements and events will be coming up “over the course of the year”.
Finally, Crawford waxes slightly nostalgic about his personal long history with the game and seems quite proud of being part of the team creating “a monument” to the game for the 50th anniversary update.
I’m glad that things in Playtest 8* scored well overall — I thought it was pretty solid.
I’m disappointed that it looks like this will be the end of the public playtest process for the 2024 books. At the beginning of the process we were promised monthly releases of material for all three books. Later we got promised at least nine releases for the PHB with additional releases for the DMG and Monster Manual. Ultimately, we got eight releases of PHB material, one of DMG material (Bastions), no glimpse of the updated encounter building rules, and zilch for monsters. My disappointment, I think, comes in three pieces — first, that WotC wasn’t able to meet the expectations they’d set for their audience; second, that I and other fans won’t get to provide feedback on what will be really important changes; and third, that I’ll lose one of my few motivations to update this blog.
As much as I don’t like it… it makes sense, and I guess that upon reflection I can’t say that I’m all that surprised. The audience response ended up being huge, probably an order of magnitude more than anticipated, which meant that it took way longer than WotC expected to fully process the survey results, and in turn that impacted the release cadence. Then the whole OGL debacle happened just when it was time to release another playtest update, and the radioactive toxicity of that drama meant pushing back that release until things had calmed down a bit. Then at the end of 2023, just as the survey for Playtest 8* was opening up, Hasbro did a huge round of layoffs that (despite WotC being Hasbro’s sole source of actual profits) hit WotC hard, including some of the folks whose job it was to process the survey results. And now, a scant four weeks since that survey closed, D&D has officially turned 50. They need to get the new books out sometime this calendar year to capitalize on the occasion — really by September or October in order to meet the Christmas shopping/gifting season. The survey process already took too long, and now they’ve lost the staff they needed to maintain that too-slow pace.
Oh, and that toxicity? Yeah, it was bad, and it wasn’t just about the OGL, but about everything, and in addition to people spouting off on Twitter and Reddit and wherever else, it came directly to the design team via the survey process. Jeremy Crawford literally got death threats through the survey process, just for trying to give folks an opportunity to weigh in on the design team’s ideas. Those ideas weren’t perfect, but they also weren’t set in stone as “this is what D&D 2024 will definitely be.” And nothing of the playtest content or the good faith extended by the design team deserved to be met with the kind of bile and vitriol that the deeply online parts of the community vomited up in response. Would you want to be on the receiving end of that? For trying to make a game — a thing that people play together for fun?
So. I’m disappointed that the playtest ride, at least for now, is over. I’m disappointed we didn’t get as much of a peek behind the curtain as we’d been told to expect. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to see another revision of Bard (because spell lists, lol). I’m disappointed that the surveys weren’t designed in a way that would be faster to complete and faster for WotC to digest. And I am, once again — because what else should I expect in the internet-roaring 20s? — disappointed in the failure of human decency exhibited by the worst parts of this fandom.
Well, that turned into a bit of a rant. Phew! (Also some big dad energy on display with the whole “I’m not mad, just disappointed” angle. Pardon me while I heave a weary sigh.)
I suppose I should go figure out what spells to pick up before my Saturday night game since we just leveled up and I haven’t done that yet. TTFN, folks! Until next time, stay safe out there, and may all your d20 rolls be natural 20s.