Thursday, 5 January 2012

Big Game Hunting – Meet the Munchkins….

Our illustrious leader, Ben, filled me in very briefly today about the kerfuffle that Fantasy Flight caused when releasing a new game that, apparently, hadn’t been play tested to a rigorous standard. So, instead of talking about characters this week, I thought I’d talk about something that usually comes much later in the design process, but you really need to start planning for from the outset.

Play testing.

It’s actually quite fun. I’ve had one play tester ask for a ‘look good naked’ skill and discovered, while doing the final playtest of another game that falling from a kerb is actually lethal. And apparently, that that newest release for Mansions Of Madness (which is being very quickly errata'd and fixed), needs two rooms... printed on either side of one piece of card. And that’s just one thing I was told about.

It might not seem like much, but play testing is one of my wish list, big-ticket gaming items – and one that I don’t actually do very often. I like play testers to find holes in my games – much like I like my beta readers to find holes in my plots, so I thought I’d share some play testing wisdom – perhaps, it’ll help you design characters and scenarios.

1) Never expect people to play it straight – in fact, if you’ve got a friend that likes to ‘munchkin’, let them. It’ll stop the conversations later on of ‘I can’t win’, which no GM likes to hear. Or worse, a GM having to fill the holes themselves.

2) Deliberately cheat when play testing – how obvious is it if the GM cheats? How about the players? Look at every hole you’ve got and try to drive that MAC truck through it. That way, you know what to adjust.

3) Go to extremes. Play a game where one round the players are lucky (automatic critical successes) – does it make the game impossible to play later because they’ve won stuff that they shouldn’t have. And then, play the same round the other way and critically fumble the rolls. Again, does it really shaft the players? Then, middle of the road? What happens.
Finally, roll actual results a couple of sets of times. What’s the average outcome?
If you do this for several key mechanics in your game, you’ll probably get a feel for where the system is unbalanced, before your players do. Which is a very good thing.

This week, Kai can barely walk, having broken herself. There’s no dice roll to fix that, but, on the bright side, she’s pokemonning for all she’s worth.

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