D&D Archives07/13/2003

Internal Reviews Design Notes
By Ed Stark

As the Design Manager for Dungeons & Dragons, I have been fortunate enough to work alongside the designers, editors, and other Wizards staff members who created both the 3rd edition of D&D and the "3.5 upgrade." I worked with all the people who worked directly on these projects and I like to think I helped them all achieve their goals for these two important works.

One of the most grueling parts of the whole process was the internal review. External playtesters and internal online discussions are exacting enough -- there's nothing like throwing your work out to be picked at by hundreds of interested people -- but our internal review process for the 3.5 revisions included several steps where the entire RPG R&D group, plus interested parties from around the company, sat in a room and went through the rules chapter by chapter. I have a copy of an early version of the v.3.5 Player's Handbook, for example, that has Post-It® notes on literally every page.

During these meetings, we discussed questions, potential problems, and ideas for improvement. My job was to take notes and keep the meetings moving -- it's hard not to bog down on individual issues when you have a bunch of creative, assertive designers all in the same room. I found this a big challenge, but fortunately the v.3.5 designers (particularly Andy Collins, David Noonan, and Rich Baker, who had to sit and listen and occasionally defend during these meetings) did a great job of staying on track. These internal review meetings were not the only way we reviewed the books, but they were perhaps the most intense design meetings I've ever been a part of. I'm glad we had them, but if you look closely at any of the designers, you can probably still see the scars.

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