Order of the Amber Die—Doomsday Dawn Playtest: Wrap Up!

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

Before letting the folks from the Order of the Amber Die get their final thoughts regarding the Playtest out there, I want to thank them for the heroic effort they made in getting this material to all of us. It was great not only hearing about the play experience and seeing the thorough data, but it was also amazing to gaze at the gorgeous pictures. So, thanks to the Order of the Amber Die! Take it away, y'all!

In the Order, as with many role-playing groups, we hold several planning sessions before beginning any major campaign or project. Of equal importance to us, however, is having at least one session of reflection following each such endeavor. These are fairly casual, with each of us taking turns going around the table discussing our favorite aspects of an Adventure Path, in-game or out-of-game problems we encountered, or even answering the usual list of discussion questions our GM has written on a dry erase board. We also like to go through the photos that didn't appear on the Paizo Blog or our social media, laughing at some of the more candid moments from a project. By the end of a good session of reflection, we've always got a list of improvements we want to make for next time. We're excited to be able to share some of those reflections here, including several fun photos of various aspects of our playtest experience.

Before reading these reflections, it might be helpful to catch up on both our experiences and data from our previous playtest blogs:

Part 1: "The Lost Star"

Part 2: "In Pale Mountain's Shadow"

Part 3: "Affair at Sombrefell Hall"

Part 4: "The Mirrored Moon"

Part 5: "The Heroes of Undarin"

Part 6: "Red Flags"

Part 7: "When the Stars Go Dark"


From character sheets to scrap paper, we saved everything.

Cumulative Playtest Data

  • Total number of published adventures completed with Doomsday Dawn: 148
  • Total time spent creating characters for all players in DoomsdayDawn: c. 64 hours
  • Total time spent playing Doomsday Dawn: 76 hrs, 13min
  • Total recorded time spent in GM preparation for Doomsday Dawn: 55 hrs, 51min
  • Number of words written by GM for playtest surveys/reports/feedback: c. 17,000
  • Total time spent during setup/breakdown of playtest scenarios: c. 21 hours
  • Accumulated travel time by playtest participants: c. 60 hours
  • Overall win/loss record throughout Doomsday Dawn: 4-3
  • Total number of times a character reached 0 Resonance in Doomsday Dawn: 12
  • Average number of times a character reached 0 Resonance during a scenario: 1.7
  • Average number of Hero Points given to party per scenario: 38
  • Average number of Hero Points used by party per scenario: 23
  • Average number of Hero Points used by each character per scenario: 6
  • Total number of character deaths in Doomsday Dawn: 13
  • Average number of character deaths per scenario: 1.8

A rare glimpse behind the screen during part one.

Favorite Aspects of the Playtest

Adam: Resonance

Matt: Critical successes/failures for spells

Dan: Balance among character classes

Erick: Hero points

Sean: Three-action economy

GM Reactions

Here I'll provide two common points addressed in my GM open surveys.

Very early on in the playtest, resonance seemed to establish itself as one of the most significant new changes to the game. As a GM who witnessed a dozen or more full campaigns during the 3.5/3.75 era, I saw plenty of examples of the use and possible abuse of magic items and was excited from about the prospect of a solution in the new edition. With the introduction of resonance, gone are the days of buff stacks, quivers stuffed with wands of cure light wounds, or saddlebags full of my favorite culprit from version 3.5: wand of lesser vigor. Along with our custom initiative board, OAD even had our "Buff Tracker 2011," which will soon be gathering dust with some of our other defunct materials from previous editions. We know full well what it did to our campaigns to employ an overabundance of such magic, and while we still had a good time in those years, I'm eager to see how the game plays with the addition of resonance. While we still haven't seen the final version of resonance, I appreciated both the effort Paizo made to provide balance with magic usage, and the courage it took to do so.


Inside the "Map Room" of the Order's HQ, where parts 2 and 3 were drawn.

After seven scenarios of observation, the Pathfinder Playtest clearly established itself at our table as a game with a high amount of mobility compared to the previous edition. The absence of universal attacks of opportunity, coupled with the three-action economy, created a feel of fluidity in the great majority of our combats. Just as it felt like no monster or character could be cornered easily, it also seemed as if no one was truly safe in the back ranks of the marching order anymore. Even the very concept of marching order felt like a loose term, since once each character received their first three actions in a combat, everything was up in the air. The game may have seemed a bit fast at first—perhaps even scary—especially for the players whose combat routines had been established for years. As the scenarios rolled on, however, I watched them adapt and develop new tactics, eventually finding a comfortable existence within the broader confines of the playtest's combat. This being said, there were actually quite a few points throughout the playtest where battles broke the limits of the standard 24" x 30" Flip-Mat. As such, I ran some of the applicable encounters on different sizes of maps (36" x 36", 27" x 39", 30" x 40", and 40" x 60"). In the end, the larger maps all felt more comfortable and better able to accommodate the play found in the playtest, with 36" x 36" feeling near perfect, and 40" x 60" being enjoyable but far more luxury space than necessary.

Player Captain Reactions

I'll try my best to summarize what all of the players have wanted to see addressed, as well as some of my own reflections. (Matt, Player Captain)

One change that proved interesting was the new critical success/failure system. Of course, the rules for critical hits with weapons are different now, but the bigger change seemed to be critical successes and failures for spells. Prior, the wildest fluctuations in damage during a round seemed to occur from massive critical hits from x3 or x4 weapons (often power attacking to boot). Now, the greatest variability seems to come from area-of-effect spells where multiple enemies are forced to make saving throws. The variety of effects from a critical success (usually no effect) to a critical failure (usually double effect) is significant, and it made spells more interesting and unpredictable throughout the playtest.


A completely normal moment with Fumbus at the table.

All of the players enjoyed the inclusion of hero points in the new system, and we were fortunate to see the entire range of options for their use. Most common, was to see one of our players toss two tokens into the center of the table and go for a re-roll when it mattered (often a saving throw or special attack). The act by itself amplified the emotion already present at the table during an important roll. If Desna blessed the re-roll with success, there was even louder rejoicing—but if not—the groans were that much deeper. Keeping an eye on spellcasters throughout the playtest (I actually played five casters out of six), it was fun to occasionally see someone throw down all three hero points to gain an extra action, thereby casting two spells in one round. And of course, every player at one time or another had a lone hero point stashed away, pocketed to save their life. Perhaps the best part of hero points was that using one meant having to describe your actions in a heroic light, and thereby made combat more vivid and entertaining.

Challenges

We really wanted to get a head start on the playtest in August before the two-week playtest windows began, but because we needed to play everything with the most recently released errata, we couldn't be too far in front and instead had to fit everything into the scant two-week segments. There was a lot to cram into each of the many fourteen-day cycles: learn new errata, make new characters, prep a new scenario, complete GM surveys, player surveys, open surveys, compile data for the blog, select photos from the previous session, then actual play took place, and we'd repeat it all over again. For the final six weeks, our GM took to leaving his entire living room set up as our playtest studio.

From the planning stage to this final blog, our playtest experience lasted nearly six months. A lot can happen to any role-playing group in that time: two of our members began different careers, one prepared to welcome 170 new students on the morning after emerging from the Tomb of Tular Seft, while another was helping their own young children adjust to the demands of nursery school, and one of us even experienced the birth of his first child, wishing us well as he headed for a daring new adventure. Yet, the Order's commitment to each other over the years has always helped us work through life's obstacles and see our campaigns to completion, and the playtest was no different.


The Order running part two of the playtest at PAX Unplugged.

Final Thoughts and Thanks

A shout out goes to Blue Table Painting, who brought our iconic miniatures (and the kraken) to life. Another goes to the skilled team at Keltic Greene, who love to build elaborate gaming studios in their spare time. A warm thanks to Sarah McIlvaine, who sat with the Order at our high school lunch table in the 90s, and still supports us by printing everything from high quality maps to the character placards we used in the playtest. Lastly, it was both an honor and a pleasure to have the Order be among the vanguard of this new era; our deepest thanks go out to the community for their encouragement, our Patrons for their support, and the staff at Paizo for their boundless efforts to improve the game we so revere.

As we eagerly await future announcements regarding the final version of Pathfinder Second Edition, the Order is closing in on completing our 150th published adventure in 2019. 150 could likely be the highest number of published adventures ever completed and would make a nice number to retire on. Maybe we did consider it, but there are still too many dungeons and too many adventures out there not to continue onward.

And continue we shall.


Our namesake: There is only one Amber Die.

Follow Order of the Amber Die on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube.

Adam Daigle
Managing Developer

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Tags: Community Order of the Amber Die Pathfinder Playtest
Grand Lodge

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

Huzzah!


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Again, amazing job. I'm left with hope for the future of the game. Keep the amazing stories, and I hope to see more of the order soon!

Designer

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Bravo!


4 people marked this as a favorite.

Thank you, OAD, for all of your hard work in completing the playtest! Hearing the horrendous schedule you kept demonstrates your dedication to the game and your efforts are appreciated. Not only that, but each blog was a treat to read and the pictures were always amazing. You have me excited to see the final version of 2nd Edition and I'm looking forward to experiencing some of these changes myself. Thanks again for another great read and for sharing such dedication with the community!


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game, Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Thank you SOO MUCH for sharing your endeavors. You guys are my heroes. You all just get IT. What can I say, you guys inspire me to be a better DM, and to just play better.

Keep it up!

Order of the Amber Die

1 person marked this as a favorite.
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Huzzah!

A fast pace and a GREAT ride.

Huzzah!


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

An amazing recap! Great final thoughts. Congrats on this achievement but also all those real life ones with family, career, and all! I hope to see some Runelords ahead after ya deal with the end of the Ruins!

Order of the Amber Die

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Mark Seifter wrote:
Bravo!

As I was writing down some notes for this blog, I was remembering how a humorous conversation about our experiences playing a high level medium somehow turned into laying the groundwork for a full playthrough of all seven playtest scenarios. Looking back, only you really knew what we had just signed on for. :) Thanks for believing in us, Mark!


Loved all these write-ups great job.

That's a lot of hero points though per scenario. Maybe I was too restrictive with them. But it never really felt like my players did anything above and beyond to earn more than a few every now and then.

What was the criteria you used for giving out hero points?

Order of the Amber Die

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TSRodriguez wrote:
Again, amazing job. I'm left with hope for the future of the game. Keep the amazing stories, and I hope to see more of the order soon!

Hope for the future of the game. Yeah, I think a lot of us in the Order are feeling that way too. There is a great feeling of anticipation hanging in the air. I personally can’t remember the last time I was this excited about the release of a new edition. Eight months seems a really long time away now! We love being able to share our stories with the community, and hearing from you guys too!


150 published adventures is quite a feat, indeed. I don't think I've even read that many. What are the Order's favorite 10 they've played or DMed?

Order of the Amber Die

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PsychicPixel wrote:

Loved all these write-ups great job.

That's a lot of hero points though per scenario. Maybe I was too restrictive with them. But it never really felt like my players did anything above and beyond to earn more than a few every now and then.

What was the criteria you used for giving out hero points?

Thank you! We really enjoyed putting this together for everyone, and I hope it offered some useful perspectives on the new edition.

As for Hero Points, we used the formula provided on p. 300 of the Playtest Rulebook. If your scenarios weren't longer than four hours, you might not have been as restrictive as you think. Each player has one or two points at the moment they sit down to the table, with the final point per session to be determined during play. For a much more detailed explanation of how our numbers ended up the way they did, check out the comments section of this blog. Hope that helps!

Order of the Amber Die

2 people marked this as a favorite.
K Vogrin wrote:
Thank you, OAD, for all of your hard work in completing the playtest! Hearing the horrendous schedule you kept demonstrates your dedication to the game and your efforts are appreciated. Not only that, but each blog was a treat to read and the pictures were always amazing. You have me excited to see the final version of 2nd Edition and I'm looking forward to experiencing some of these changes myself. Thanks again for another great read and for sharing such dedication with the community!

K, thanks so much for the words of encouragement! It's a nice feeling to know that people noticed the pace we kept, because we found ourselves sitting there at times after a session in the middle of the night, compiling data and planning for the next two-week segment saying "Are other groups out there keeping this pace?" :) I like to think of it this way though: No matter how furious our schedule, imagine all the effort it took on the part of the design team at Paizo to read and react to so many reports coming in at that same pace! I can only wonder what these next few months look like for them until version 2.0 ships out to print...

Truth be told, it was an awesome gaming experience to be able to play a role in the evolution of the game that OAD approaches as a lifestyle--and we got to make many new friends like yourself in the community throughout!


Adam Smith wrote:
K Vogrin wrote:
Thank you, OAD, for all of your hard work in completing the playtest! Hearing the horrendous schedule you kept demonstrates your dedication to the game and your efforts are appreciated. Not only that, but each blog was a treat to read and the pictures were always amazing. You have me excited to see the final version of 2nd Edition and I'm looking forward to experiencing some of these changes myself. Thanks again for another great read and for sharing such dedication with the community!

K, thanks so much for the words of encouragement! It's a nice feeling to know that people noticed the pace we kept, because we found ourselves sitting there at times after a session in the middle of the night, compiling data and planning for the next two-week segment saying "Are other groups out there keeping this pace?" :) I like to think of it this way though: No matter how furious our schedule, imagine all the effort it took on the part of the design team at Paizo to read and react to so many reports coming in at that same pace! I can only wonder what these next few months look like for them until version 2.0 ships out to print...

Truth be told, it was an awesome gaming experience to be able to play a role in the evolution of the game that OAD approaches as a lifestyle--and we got to make many new friends like yourself in the community throughout!
What a great perspective you have! To be able to think about the design team's efforts instead of focusing on your own herculean task shows exactly how much you do love the game. It's because of that sort of attitude that I am happy to be counted as a friend :)

The Exchange Order of the Amber Die

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SilentInfinity wrote:
An amazing recap! Great final thoughts. Congrats on this achievement but also all those real life ones with family, career, and all! I hope to see some Runelords ahead after ya deal with the end of the Ruins!

Thanks Rob, that means a lot since I was one of the group with a big change in my professional life which made the playtest harder for us. I'm kind of sad it's over now, I'll miss everyone on the team for a few months!

For the future I agree, and I am pushing for Runelords too (we are in part five but haven't released anything yet). Lem and his llama are ready for some more action!

Kind of random, but I was looking at these photos all put together and just noticed how much orange-through-amber is in Adam's world. That's how it should be I guess, it's his dice bag that has the Amber Die in it.

Order of the Amber Die

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GreatKhanArtist wrote:
150 published adventures is quite a feat, indeed. I don't think I've even read that many. What are the Order's favorite 10 they've played or DMed?

That is a really good question. A tough one. One trait of the Order is that Adam has always been our only GM.

A few of my favorites played with OAD:

1. Vault of the Dragon Kings (want to play this again)
2. The Emerald Spire (playing this again right now)
3. Shadow of the Storm Tyrant (still want another chance at this one)

Order of the Amber Die

Elorebaen wrote:

Thank you SOO MUCH for sharing your endeavors. You guys are my heroes. You all just get IT. What can I say, you guys inspire me to be a better DM, and to just play better.

Keep it up!

Wow, thank you so much. Those words really mean a lot to all of us. Inspiration is something that there can never be too much of, so it’s incredibly heartening to hear that all our efforts are inspiring others!

As an aside, but related actually, one piece of data we didn’t get to fully track and post was all the email chains going back and forth prior to each session. As Player Captain, I am usually initiating and directing these, and there were often hundreds of emails back and forth for prior to each.

The Exchange Order of the Amber Die

1 person marked this as a favorite.
GreatKhanArtist wrote:
150 published adventures is quite a feat, indeed. I don't think I've even read that many. What are the Order's favorite 10 they've played or DMed?

Oh, oh, oh, I love this question!

Here are some of my favorites played with the Order:

1. The Lost Island of Castanamir
2. Black Stars Beckon
3. City in the Deep


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I am in awe of your dedication to your passion; your game.

I'm extremely jealous of your dedication to your passion; your game. ;)

I look at my own dice bag, gathering dust. 3 of us in my group of 30 years have children under 3, and 2 others live 60+miles away. We simply cannot make it together that much at all.

So, I'll live vicariously through your exploits. Well done, thanks for sharing, keep it going!

Order of the Amber Die

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Erpa wrote:

I am in awe of your dedication to your passion; your game.

I'm extremely jealous of your dedication to your passion; your game. ;)

I look at my own dice bag, gathering dust. 3 of us in my group of 30 years have children under 3, and 2 others live 60+miles away. We simply cannot make it together that much at all.

So, I'll live vicariously through your exploits. Well done, thanks for sharing, keep it going!

Such comments like this and the others on this blog really make what we're doing worth it, and it has me wanting to spend today working on new ideas for our next project. :) Thanks for mentioning dedication, I always appreciate when that's noticed alongside the material aspects of our setup. What is sometimes overlooked is that this is actually our regular game, meaning that we play like this whether we are posting our game online or not. We've been keeping logs and doing reports for ourselves as far back as our second year of play as kids, and I have an attic full of everything from initiative sheets to campaign records from everything we have ever played. The passion you mentioned is another big component, and it took us three decades of both that dedication and passion to get our game to this point. While our roster changes and members come and go over the years (and come back too), I'm the one in the Order that has GMed the entire count of what will soon be 150 adventures. Until we received such a warm welcome with our first Paizo project, I used to hide from the number, since it showed that I have clearly dedicated a very large part of my life to GMing published adventures. Thank you for inspiring us to share our game and keep doing what we're doing, and let's see what we can come up with for 2019!

Oh, and since it sounds like your group is still together after thirty years, don't put that dusty dice bag away just yet. :)

Order of the Amber Die

4 people marked this as a favorite.
GreatKhanArtist wrote:
150 published adventures is quite a feat, indeed. I don't think I've even read that many. What are the Order's favorite 10 they've played or DMed?

I'm glad the holidays gave me a few days to think about this one. It's really hard to commit to a permanent list, as my tastes have changed over the years, but I didn't have much trouble saying these could be in my potential top ten.

Here are a bunch of the favorites I've GMed:

1. Night below
2. N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God
3. Return to the Tomb of Horrors
4. S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth
5. The Emerald Spire
6. The Rod of Seven Parts
7. Heart of Nightfang Spire
8. PF113: What Grows Within
9. Moonlight Madness
10. G1-2-3: Against the Giants
11. I2: Tomb of the Lizard King
12. U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh
13. The Temple of Elemental Evil


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Erpa wrote:

I am in awe of your dedication to your passion; your game.

I'm extremely jealous of your dedication to your passion; your game. ;)

I look at my own dice bag, gathering dust. 3 of us in my group of 30 years have children under 3, and 2 others live 60+miles away. We simply cannot make it together that much at all.

So, I'll live vicariously through your exploits. Well done, thanks for sharing, keep it going!

We finished the playtest 1 week before my son was born. I'm deffo getting my rpg kicks through others right now as well! Although as my group's GM I'm getting our hopes up with things like "I'll run a short 4 session story after Easter."

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