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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Live Play-test number 1 (So it begins)

Today two friends of mine and I play tested the game I have been working / blogging about.

This is the first time that the new game has been given a spin, and the first time either of the guys playing h
as seen any of the mechanics or any of the setting, so it was all pretty new and exciting. (For me at least.)

Sitting down for the first time and trying to concisely describe the things that are rattling around in my head is incredibly challenging for me. Not that I am uncomfortable, especially not with the guys involved, it's simply a difficult thing to do. Putting ideas into words is not made any easier when the setting being introduced is so undeveloped that I don't even have solid names for some key items and area yet.

Lucky for me my friends are a patient bunch , and we got moving pretty smoothly.

I'm not going to get into the minutia of the story, however I will write brief portions and relate them back to the test..
Setting:
without outt writing it all out , it's magical fantasy, steam punk with innumerable flying landmasses dirigibles, and a worlds surface ravaged by a magical catastrophe.
Characters:
Harley Burk, former member of the military, big brawling steam punk biker type. When asked for an impression of Harley, Bernard's player wrote “Bad Mother Fucker”
Bernard Octavious O'Holleran, a bookish and stylish investigator and inventor. When asked for an impression of Bernard Harley's player wrote “upper class”

One of the player characters (Harley Burk,) owner of a bar known as The Portal was having a chat with his friend Bernard (another player character.) Bernard and Harley know each other because Bernard Built Harley a steam powered motorcycle and from that exchange they had become friends.

These items and relationships were set up in character generation. I am placing a great deal of importance on the party as a concept and as a construction in the game. In fact I think I need to nail down this emphasis in a more solid way than I already have. For this play test, Harley and Bernard laid out the past relation ship as their party connection. This connection works for a two player game, If there were more players I would have asked for a more general connection between them. Something like all members of the same guild or all mates on the same ship. The connection as it is is a personal connection between them, but again that's fine by me for a two player game.

During the game the players faced two difficult situations that called for dice. The first involved convincing a rather inept ships first mate to accompany them into a mine to find the ships commander. The base of the scene really had Bernard scheming to take the ship all together, and Harley just wanted to sue the portly first mate whom he had known in the past as a human shield somewhere down the line.
Harley used two social dice.
Bernard used 2 social dice and a skill dice based off his negotiation skill.
Bernard chatted up the ships guard, telling him unappreciated the crew is by the first mate and how the crew should be running the ship while the captain was gone. And Harley bribed the first mate to go with him by feeding him fine scotch that Harley carries.

Any time a group is playing a new game and using a new die mechanic for the first time it can be a bit iffy. When it is a game you are writing and no one has ever tried it before it is nerve wracking.

The players took to dialing back dice and earning experience for it pretty well. The mistakes in execution were generally mine.

I found my self getting caught up and not asking enough questions of the players during the PASS phase of the impasse. This did not allow the players to earn enough chips and made me go to the dice more quickly than I would have liked. In the future in play and in the text I need to define more precisely how the PASS phase has to go.

That's just one example of some execution issues that could have been avoided how I been more concise. I will work on sharpening up those rules for the next pass through.

Points that came up.
When the dice come out the GM has to be very careful to cut off the player narrating once he has narrated something. Otherwise the player can just talk and talk while only turning the die back once.


We are not sure the PASS phase is even necessary. In this phase the players get experience for narrating their way out of an impasse before the dice are ever even used. It might simply not be necessary.

If the Pass phase is left in the GM must do it right , declare what is going on , place a secrete difficulty number on the table and ask the players very direct questions and reward them for answers that move the impasse forward. The process sounds simple but in play I messed it up.

At the start of the game there needs to be a mechanical push to get players going . I think I am going to address this by using player goals as kickers. The group should choose a goal to pursue for the session.

In character generation I need to really drill into the game that the “one thing the character is best at” must MUST be specific and colorful, not general.

A measurable method for determining when a payer has to stop narrating after he or she dials a die back during a TEST would be really helpful.

All in all I think it was a good test. 
Nothing crashed and burned so badly that I don't think the game can work. The players liked the system of having a difficulty and a success number placed on the table hidden from the players, and the players playing dice against those numbers. 
We managed to create a fun story with some nice high spots. Scenes including surly dwarfs, exploding-cave entrances, a full on brawl with lizard men, steam-driven shotgun blasts, a collapsing elevator, and even a two man flying rickshaw. These kind of shenanigans lead me to believe the system can work and can be fun.

I think a lot of the real issues we had were my nerves, less than a concise grasp of exactly what we were doign,  and simple inexperience with the game.

Play-test number two with two different people is set for this Saturday so I will have more information and a better idea of what works and what has to go then.

Thank you for reading !