Who’s Yer Con 2016 Playtests: What I Learned

Another couple Playtests down. I’m happy to report both went very well. The changes I worked on post- Gen Con seem to have made a significant difference in how quickly players picked up the rules. There was no more confusion on what to roll or when to roll it. I chalk that up as a big success.

Additionally, since I made sure that all stats had to have at least one, the zero attribute issue vanished. There were several instances where players didn’t have enough in a stat, but they had something to roll, which meant they had something they could build on with bonuses or with Proof of Purchases. Another success there.

This year part of the event was letting the players build their own characters. This turned out to be a LOT more work than I anticipated leading up to the con, but it forced me to fill in rules details that I had previously hand-waved. For starters I had to actually define the process for creating a character; basically to formalize it and write it down rather than just having it in my head. This was key since I was asking the players to actually step through the process. Similarly I had to flesh out the Toy types. I already had the types, but they were little more than bullet points.

Finally, I had to come up with a list of Features and a list of Recalls from which players could choose. Previously I just came up with those on the spot based on what sort of Toy I was making, but I knew that wouldn’t work for players. Leaving it open ended like that, while liberating for some, is overwhelming, especially to new players. I ended up with about 70 each of Features and Recalls, which took considerably more time than I anticipated. All of this paid off, though, as the players easily stepped through the character creation process. So score!

It wasn’t entirely smooth sailing, though. The first issue came with the Toy type bonuses and penalties. It hadn’t occurred to me that if one of a Toys stats was 1, then having a -1 penalty would make the stat effectively 0. I hadn’t 0ccurred to me because I assumed that the players would naturally account for the penalty and distribute their stats to offset it. Poor assumption as I had a player who effectively ended up with a zero stat. I’m going to have to figure that one out.

The next problem surprised me quite a bit. In all previous playtests no one ever had an issue understanding how a dice pool worked. This time through there was confusion on this point in both playtests. Honestly, I don’t think this was a problem with the system. I have a theory on this one. To help make the idea of the stats a little more concrete for younger kids I decided to let them use poker chips to distribute their attribute points. That much worked great. The kids distributed the points with no problem. But I think they missed that each chip represented the number of dice to roll. For some reason there was a disconnect there. I think if I try that method again, instead of having them distribute chips for attribute points I should have them distribute dice so that there’s no need for conversion. I.e., need to roll Strength? Pick up the dice in the Strength space and roll them.

Finally, I need to take a look at the difficulty scale. In the adventure I had set a lot of difficulties from 3 to 6. The problem is that if they only have 1 to 4 in their stat then reaching a difficulty of 3 to 6 is pretty tough. I ended up having to nerf a lot of the skill check difficuties to make them achievable. This one may work itself out once I include accessories. Then they can have additional bonuses on their skill attempts. At any rate, I need to sit down and do the math to be sure I know the probabilities a little better.

So all in all, a pretty good run, and several of the problems I encountered weren’t necessarily system related. We’re edging ever closer to possible publication. Right now I think once I’ve addressed the current issues and completed the text, I may be ready to post out the rules for beta testing and see what kind of feedback I get from outside GMs. That prospect is really exciting!

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Posted in Game Design, Playtesting

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