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The next generation of D&D is finally peaking above the horizon with the announcement of One D&D, including the release of the first of many playtest resources. Playtest content, especially the kind that will eventually replace the core rules, presents some unique challenges for our site. Changes to core rules are rare, happening in the form of (typically) minor errata. Wizards of the Coast is further complicating things for our site by releasing the rules in piecemeal fashion - the first playtest resource is only part of what is required to make a first level character.

However, this stack has been around longer than D&D 5e, and I know that some of you who went through the era of the last D&D playtest are still around. So I am reaching out for guidance to the stack veterans who remember the D&D Next playtest. What did we learn? What wisdom and guidance can you provide from your experience on the site during that time?

To be clear, I don't mean to limit this question only to users who have been around for 8+ years. I am sure many of you whose introduction to Stack Exchange was more recent than D&D Next have valuable insight, so I'd like to leave this open for more general experience and guidance too, not just "lessons from the past", as it were.

I know this is somewhat broad, but it's meta, so I'm loose with the rules.

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2 Answers 2

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Be mindful to enforce our normal quality standards on question seeding

When the D&D Next Playtest started, we saw brand new territory open up to ask questions nobody had asked yet. And there was a points incentive to ask them! This lead to a gold rush of sorts, which was fine, but the collapse in quality that happened was not fine: Why Are Our 5e Questions Terrible?

By far our primary issue was “read this text back to me” style questions: someone indicates new material and asks us to explain it. Crucially the question describes no actual problem understanding the text. Such a question is essentially just an invitation to copy+paste/rephrase the material. These questions are answered, frequently self-answered, exactly that way.

Normally we wouldn't accept these questions. If you ask how something works without expressing any particular problem and it seems pretty plain and clear to us, we'll close your question as needing details/clarity, and ask you to explain what research you've done and/or what trouble you're actually having here. But when it came to playtest material we seemingly waived this quality bar completely for a long time, allowing no end of questions that had no real, actual problem anyone faced.

Essentially there's what I'd characterise as the Points Siren happening: we get so excited to ask and answer new questions because we can get Points for it, and in the process the Points Siren has us waive our better judgement and lower all our usual quality standards until the site's languishing in low-quality material. (Something something metaphor about being dashed against the rocks something something.)

The solution is to resist the Points Siren and apply our quality standards as normal in spite of it. That means:

  • Constrain your questions about the new material to actual problems you're actually having: things you don't understand, things you're having trouble with in play. Don't ask “read this material back to me” style questions no matter how tempted you are.
  • As readers, be judicious about the questions you see about the new edition. You can answer this new question and maybe get some points or updoot people, but does this question actually pass our usual quality bars? Is there a real problem they're actually having here? If this question was asked about an older edition (pretend it makes sense in context), would we accept it?

There's other issues to be mindful of too. For example, a recurring theme was impossible questions, like “How does the Sorcerer work?” when the Sorcerer did not exist yet in the material being asked about. These were essentially a user's efforts to get their foot in the door very early because it'd be inevitably asked later in some form. Thankfully the Points Siren didn't cause us trouble here and we correctly determined each time that these questions needed to be closed and left for when they could actually be answered. It'll be a thing, but it'll be a thing we'll resolve as it comes up.

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Don't Rush to answer questions!

Many questions in the next playtest came up with incomplete presentation and when rules on a topic were either not given complete or not linked. Some answerers thus relied on totally wrong rules. As a result, some questions did actually undergo multiple revisions that actually changed the asked question - and turned answer attempts into baseless speculations.

Instead of rushing to get in the first answer:

  • Verify that what is written is actually what is asked
  • Link the relevant resources to the question
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Link the relevant resources to the question". I don't understand this requirement. Is just saying that you're using the Character Origins rules not enough? What I learned from the DND Next playtest is that any links will be dead within two years (2012 vs. 2014 and 2022 vs. 2024). \$\endgroup\$
    – Laurel
    Commented Aug 30, 2022 at 11:48

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