Thursday, June 13, 2013

Musings: Playtest Follies

I've finally broken down and started listening to Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, and the first episode I listened to included a discussion on what it means to be a good playtester. I'm curious how my readers fell about commenting on the stuff I'm presenting here, or indeed for ant formal playtest or any time they're talking to a game designer.

In my case I've been involved in just two playtests: one for Silver Age Sentinels in which the game designers were absolutely adamant about not instituting a single change I was requesting because "no one would ever want to do that", only to adopt it whole hog in the next edition of core Tri-Stat games (if you're wondering it was the inclusion of a level of henchmen of moderate competence between the high cost, high utility sidekick and the low cost, low utility to be purchased in masses followers). I like to think I provided other useful suggestions to them that were adopted, but in the end I didn't agree with parts of their design philosophy and identified a bunch of areas in which it was best to not comment, since they were never going to take the skill system back to base principles on my say so.

The other was for William Stoddard's GURPS Supers, which was a very odd playtest a discussions kept getting derailed to debate the thickness of German tank gun barrels. No, really. See, it's critical you got that exactly right to know what level of strength was required for a WWII Superman type to be able to bend them, even after everyone acknowledged that it would be more time efficient to take out the tank in some other fashion. Some GURPS players get very caught up in those details. I am pretty sure I was useful I provided a goodly chunk of the first draft or motivational lenses and some additional ideas for team types - Mr. Stoddard did all the polish work that made them readable. I also tossed in two other things, one of which got put into Bill's Designers Notes article on Pyramid (the idea of Flux levels that amplify or diminish power levels similar to how Mana changes magic) and the other was visciously and ruefully ignored due to it's unnecessary complexity(math for using super-speed movement rates to increase search speeds and other activities). As you can tell I'm pretty proud of my work on that one. It's a good book, though of limited utility to the non GURPS player.

Anyone have any playtest war stories to share?