Playtesting Sucks! Is Awesome

I am still massively brain-tired after our first go at my game about knights who are also monsters yesterday. Holy hannah. Way, way more tired than I ever am running a game, that’s for damned sure.

Almost nothing works right. The time scale at which I’ve been working on the game — three years! — is showing itself mightily in the scope of moves and stuff: old moves just aren’t well constructed, new stuff doesn’t fit into the old stuff, etc etc. I’m a different human being now than I was and it shows.

But it’s also so great, you know? I’m learning, wow, a lot about how and why other games work at the same time, which is kind of a mixed blessing because I’m already prone to overthinking this stuff. Prone? Is that the right word? Maybe doomed, can’t be sure.

Mostly I’m laughing at myself at some of the totally obvious lessons that somehow weren’t in my head. Like how moves need to trigger other moves but they need to pass through the fiction first. Lots of what happens during play is that moves trigger moves but they never check back in with the fiction. It’s the logical conclusion to my most-hated game-plays-you phenomenon, hilarious that I brought it on myself. In fairness I brought it on myself in 2014. Things were different, you weren’t there.

Thematically I think everything’s mostly there. Mostly. I’m super happy with the characters and characterization that emerge from character creation and moves and of course the implications of advances not yet taken. All hail the power of pick lists! It’s like getting drunk by browsing the liquor aisle.

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0 thoughts on “Playtesting Sucks! Is Awesome”

  1. p.s. please please folks who haven’t seen a draft yet — DO NOT WORRY. I’ve got a plan in place for reading and testing, and it mostly means breaking up rounds into small reading lists. You’re on the list! But I want you involved at a later (maybe much later) stage. It’s not an ego thing I promise. In fact I feel kind of bad for the pre-alpha folks who ground through what I’ve got, because a lot of it is just so so (mechanically) bad right now.

  2. I love problem solving like this but I don’t know if I could ever confidently and comfortably feel like I was making a contribution with play testing. Even if it’s rudimentary recommendations. It’s also the reason I don’t write a game; I don’t think I have anything worth adding.

    Big reason I didn’t sign on despite really wanting to see what you’re working on. I think you’ve got a great group of people looking at your stuff, yourself included. It helps being slightly self-deprecating, me thinks. 😉

  3. Adam Day oh I’m not, I don’t think. There are some genuinely bad ideas in there. Procedural, possibly thematic as well but I’m gonna need to assemble a blue-ribbon panel to make sure I’m hitting my inclusivity notes correctly in the text (and again in the art, when the time comes).

  4. This is interesting. Just wondering, what’s the problem with the moves that is not a problem of all moves-based games?

    Also I’m super curious about your picklists. I want to peek at them.

  5. Paolo Greco​​ the biggest one? I’ll have a move where, say… hold on, let me just c/p one into place. It’s terrible!

    When you hold forth in court, roll +courtesy. On a 10+ hold 3, on a 7-9 hold 1. At any time in court you may spend this hold on any of the following:
    * Convince someone in the court to revoke or swear an Oath
    * Add +1 forward when you take the measure of another who is present
    * You invoke their lust
    * Goad someone into acting on an Urge you’re aware of.

    The goading is good, the forward is okay, the Oath will be okay with a couple tweaks, but the invoke their lust means you’ve just rolled a move and now move onto another move, with no air between the rolls.

    Now, invoke their lust turns out to be another problem move (it’s a descendent of Turn Them On,), but more to the point is that it’s too abstract, and doesn’t really resolve a tension point in the fiction. When is their lust invoked? Right there in court? Nah, that’s crazy and it makes no sense. It really needs to point at more fiction, not at a mechanism, even if the fiction strongly implies or even mandates that a move happen.

    There are lots of little loops like that in the game as written, first public-ish draft.

  6. Paolo Greco aren’t you like fundamentally opposed to PbtA stuff anyway? I’m sure whatever I’m saying will just reinforce that. 😐

  7. Oh I see now, thanks. This kind of worries, personally, makes me feel like I’m probably better off sticking to writing trad stuff. I seem to completely lack the aesthetic to avoid such problems.

  8. No, no, I’m opposed to pbta stuff on a couple of specifics parts because they go against the way I like to run games, but they clearly work for others. Kind of similar to the way avocado makes me feel like I’m about to die, and I wish I could enjoy eating it.

    I love moves and I’m using some stolen from pbta things in my supertrad games.

  9. Well to be fair and clear, there are lots of ways of doing it. I’ve basically identified three broad schools of thought on it. And right now I’m mixing them up, which is breaking things.

  10. Yeah, first time running a set of moves is usually kinda terrible, IMO, even if the players still make it fun regardless. The important/hard part is figuring out how to get closer to providing people with tools that do what they need.

  11. Mostly I’m laughing at myself at some of the totally obvious lessons that somehow weren’t in my head.

    Absolutely! Love this part of playtesting–suddenly, everything starts to become so obvious that I wonder why I didn’t realize it before.

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