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The next big release of DnD will be in 2024. The article says "no timeline for the project’s development or playtesting has been announced", so it's anyone's guess what playtesting will look like, I suppose.

Thus, I looked to what Wizards of the Coast has done for playtesting in the past. I am familiar enough with the process for Unearthed Arcana for minor updates, but I was not able to find much information about previous playtesting for major updates. As far as I know, there was only playtesting done for 5e, which started in 2012, had one final release at the end of 2013, while 5e was released in 2014. I found Is the NDA for DnDNext still in Effect? which has some details that I was looking for but is somewhat confusing to follow without some more context.

What was the playtest process like? I'm looking for details like how participants were selected, what they were asked to do, and how the process changed over the duration of the playtest window.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Rearranged the tags a bit, and I removed the question about future testing from the first paragraph, since it isn’t what this question is really about. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 10, 2022 at 21:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Actually I was trying to ask about play testing for all versions of dnd that we have non-speculative information about. While we may not have that now for the 2024 release, I expect we would in the future. \$\endgroup\$
    – Laurel
    Apr 10, 2022 at 21:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Play testing about each edition is definitely worth a question-per-edition. Asking broadly about every edition in a single question would be much too broad, IMO. Btw, I do think this is a fantastic question, documenting the play test process for 5e will be a valuable piece of gaming history for this site. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 10, 2022 at 21:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe it the title ought to include "originally"? as it is still being play-tested for content e.g. Unearthed Arcana? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 12, 2022 at 21:55

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As someone who took part in the D&D Next public Alpha/Beta materials, I remember filling out a survey before the first materials were released asking what I liked/disliked most from each edition. From there, they would gradually release digital playtest kits, which generally consisted of prefabricated characters and a quick-start rules packet. Once released, they had a webpage to log in to submit feedback on the latest release.

Playtesting itself was on an individual basis. You were provided the materials and expected to run them with your own players. To my knowledge there were no formal playtesting sessions for the public run/hosted by WotC.

The first batch of files (Around 5/22/12) themselves were a very limited module called Caves of Chaos with prefabricated characters including a high elf wizard, halfling rogue, dwarf fighter, a mountain dwarf cleric, and a human cleric.It included a "how to play", and a quick start guide for DMs, as well as a Bestiary file for the monsters in the module. All of the class abilities were on the individual characters.The characters could be upped to level 3 as they adventured with specific tracks listed on each one. Monsters at this stage gave a raw XP number and CR was not a factor. The survey ran 5/31-6/13.

The next survey opened 7/18 and asked for feedback on wizard and cleric spells. From here the surveys were open ended but you could only access each once from your account.

More playtest materials were released 8/22/12, and focused on added sorcerer and warlock, and allowing characters to get to level 5.

Another survey was opened 9/14/12 for races, backgrounds, specialties, spells and monsters.

On 10/8/12 a playtest packet including a revised version of the original module, magic items, and monster tweaks was released.

A survey was later opened on 1/10/13 focusing on rules, classes, maneuvers, feats, spells, and high level play.

On 1/29/13 materials were released for all levels of the Barbarian class and a batch of rules to convert D&D Encounters sessions for D&DNext. It was announced in that message that starting 2/6/13, D&D Encounters would support Next as well as 4e.

The last batch, 9/19/13, was a lot more expansive and more of a beta to the D&D5e we know now. Bards were added, classes had a pair of paths, there was technically information available to get to level 20 and included an editable PDF character sheet. That batch included everything you would expect from a quick start box and more modules to try.

The final communication I have is from 12/11/13 stating that playtest materials would no longer be available after 12/15/13.

D&D 5e was released in July of 2014.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a great account of your experience playtesting! I'm not sure what else people can expect of it \$\endgroup\$ Apr 13, 2022 at 18:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage I think my expectation is for an answer that contains the details of the playtest and a then summary of their experience. By focusing on the experience summary, we aren't really getting an answer to the larger question of the process. I'm not sure that having many answers of personal experience will get us to an answer - and it definitely presents the risk of spreading out the details across all answers and with no one answer, it risks becoming an opinion-based question. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Apr 13, 2022 at 18:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch: The actual playtesting was playing D&D by these rules. My thoughts and opinions of the system or how my players handle it are as subjective as subjective gets for a question that was asking for the objective timeline. It was a public playtest for selection, the process was "play and fill out occasional surveys", the only change to the process was open ended surveys instead of narrow windows. Otherwise it was consistent - get new material, Do The Thing, report. \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Apr 14, 2022 at 11:30

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