Playtest #3: Observations and Conclusion

I promised additional details when I got a chance, so here they are:

System

Identity vs. Reputation – This really seemed to ring true for the players. It immediately gave them an idea of how their characters saw themselves and how they were seen by others; and it was evident from their actions that they were allowing this to influence their play. This was the first time I’ve introduced this in-game and I wish I would have done it sooner!

Skill Usage – The players seemed to easily take to the concept of pitch + skill base. Before long I didn’t have to explain it, I could just say “give me a Manipulate pitch of 15 or better” and they immediately knew what to do. There was one issue I would like to address and that is with finding the right skill for a challenge. I had always thought that it would be easy to determine the two talents to use and look up the skill based on that, but I found myself searching the character sheet for the right skill a couple times. For the sake of speed, I need to address this. Perhaps just having a GM cheat sheet would be good enough?

Combat – There was one combat and it was quick, decisive and non-lethal; in other words, it was exactly what I was shooting for. Also, this was the first time using the new wagering system. It worked out brilliantly. The NPC had a terrible Fight score, so I put everything into that. The PC put his full wager into Fighting and it cost him. I had a great pitch and since he wasn’t defending he took 10 points of physical damage, just enough to exceed his pain threshold and take him down. Then, while the NPC was trying to steal an object from the prone PC, the rest of the party arrived and put a bullet in the NPC’s head. The whole thing went quickly and – at least to me – had a very active, cinematic feel to it. I’m really pleased.

Setting

Buy-in – Unbeknownst to me, my playtest section was titled “Hot Buttered Awesome” because I had failed to provide info and the guys listing it had to put something. (BTW, sorry about that guys.) So I was a little worried that the players wouldn’t know what was going on and would either lose interest or be confused. When the players were pulled into the tube and landed in Canopy the players initially seemed confused, but having an NPC on hand to explain things to the party seemed to help. If the players had remained confused or would have continued to pepper me with questions or had aggressively questioned the logic behind the setting I would have been worried that I’d made it too convoluted, but since they all seemed to have a decent grasp on the setting and had a rough idea of how it worked before they left the Canopy landing platform, I consider that a victory.

Reaction – I expect a certain level of non-confrontational “it was good” comments, so I was ready for that. What I wasn’t ready for was for the players to react really, truly positively. They seemed to be jazzed by the way the setting worked and seemed excited about the possibilities of where it could go. I couldn’t be more pleased with their reaction.

Adventure

Structure – I wanted the players to see a couple different chroneurisms and a couple different historical locations. Canopy was an easy choice since it opened into Libertalia, Madegascar where there were pirates. Everything is better with pirates. :P   The only question was where else to send them. I decided on Hinnom because it forced me to develop it a little further and because I thought it might provide some levity after a tough scenario. From there it was just a matter of sending them back and tying up any loose ends.

Acclimation – The players were all coming into the game blind. No one knew what the game was about or how the system worked. I tried to take this into account and started them in a relatively modern setting (the Korean War) and gave them a reason to all be together (all part of the same Forward Surgical Team of an army battalion). I think this lessened some of the common new-game-awkwardness and helped them focus on taking in the large amount of exposition that was required. Once they had an idea of where they were and how things worked, they were off and seemed to find their way rather easily.

Length – The adventure was a bit shorter than I anticipated. We started at 1pm and were done by 3:30pm. I’m not sure if that is a shortcoming of the adventure or of the GM. I do tend to rush things, so it very well could have been me.

Denouement –  I gave the party a guide to help them along, but made the guide a TPA agent with his own agenda to add a twist to it. It provided an ending that was clean, but still left a carrot dangling. From what I could tell, the players all seemed to like that.

Decisiveness – The only noticeable point of confusion among the players was what to do at the landing platform. I had decided that it didn’t matter whether they busted out or waited to be released, but I think I needed to make a choice and try to lead them to it. Busting out is easily the more exciting option, so I think I should go with that.

Overall Thoughts

The playtest couldn’t have gone much better. For the first time I feel that the system is solid. The setting, while still needing some details filled in, has enough meat to pique player interest. And now I have a scenario that GMs can run if they want to give the game a test drive.

All of this leads me to a rather important decision: I am going to clean up the rules, setting and adventure and hold an open playtest. I want to start this process as soon as possible, so I’m setting a goal of having it ready by Labor Day, September 6th, 2010. Keep watching for more details in the coming weeks. Things may get really interesting really fast!

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Posted in Game Design, Playtesting

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