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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 116 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [Danse Macabre] Playtesting  (Read 1039 times)
whduryea
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« on: February 01, 2011, 06:22:51 PM »

I've playtested my Ronnies entry, Danse Macabre, three times now, twice with three players and once with four. All three sessions mostly went well.

Here are a few of my thoughts so far:

- There don't seem to be any glaring problems with the game's structure or the flow of play. I was concerned that the music might become distracting, but classical music played at a reasonable volume actually seems to enhance play rather than detracting from it. The Death Scenes have inspired some pretty diverse, unique approaches that extend far beyond my original idea. (We've had Death appear as dead pets and family members, play mute, convince players to meditate, and just generally act like a dick just interested in punching his time card.)

- I was worried that the game didn't offer enough guidance in terms of setting selection, but this hasn't been an issue with my group. In fact, we've had more setting suggestions than we have been able to use. Still, I could see this potentially being an issue for other groups, particularly those used to playing games with a single, clearly established setting.

- I had indicated in the design doc that I expected a single play to take between two and three hours. In reality, sessions have been between 45 minutes and an hour and a half, including character creation. Granted, some groups will stick with individual scenes longer than we did and have more players, but at least with my group the game went faster than expected.

- I think four or five players is definitely preferable to three. I guessed this when I wrote the design doc, and play has supported this assumption. A three player game simply seems to escalate too quickly from mundane to doomed, and doesn't offer as much time for character development and narrative building as I would like. That said, it's not unplayable with three players by any means, just a little limited.

I'd love to see others playtest the game, and hear their opinions. You can still find the game on the 1KM1KT site here: http://www.1km1kt.net/rpg/danse-macabre. I've added a new draft (version 2) that fixes the typos, clarifies some rules and (slightly) improves upon the presentation of the original rushed, ugly draft.

If you do decide to playtest (or even just review the game text), here are a few points that I'd love feedback on:

- I've been considering changing temptations so that they are chosen by the players and allowing multiple characters to have the same temptation. There doesn't seem to be a good thematic reason to prevent players from choosing their own temptation (unlike rank), and it would give players more agency in building their character. On the other hand, it might also slow character creation, and I want it to remain as streamlined as possible, considering that the game is designer for short, intense play. What do you think?

- Do you think setting selection should be more directive? Or, at least, that there should be a more detailed selection of default setting for players who can't/don't want to come up with a setting pre-game?

- Are there any parts of play that you feel need to be clarified? Are there any glaring omissions from the text?

- Does the supporting character role offer enough engagement for players whose characters die early, or do they feel cheated or deprived of the full experience of the game? Are the player roles--Characters, Death, Supporting Characters--fulfilling in general?

- Is there anything else that you think would make playing more fulfilling? (The obligatory catch-all question.)

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I'd definitely appreciate any thoughts or feedback you may have.
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terrible games about terrible people in terrible situations
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2011, 06:25:15 AM »

Hi!

That is some serious playtesting. I really liked the time-card punching death concept. "But why did I have to die? Why did any of us?!" "Fuck if I know, man, my uncle got me this job. Sign here."

I'm also surprised by the short duration of play. It might be due to the size of the groups, in that I'd been envisioning much larger groups when reading the Ronnies entry. It might also be due to an effect I've noted with strongly-structured "chapter" based games, that people tend to march along to the structure at first, and then open up and let characters breathe and grow more when they return to the game, after they're familiar with the mechanical features.

Regarding setting, I wanted to clarify my earlier remarks. My suggestion was not to provide a canonical setting which would be the single expected, official, play-here setting, but rather an example, whether integrated with the rules or not. As I see it, this grounds a reader in how setting and system interact, even if such interactions are not spelled out. The message is, "Choose your own, but when you do, this is how it's done."

Speaking of which, what were the settings in your playtesting runs? And what roles were chosen? That really interests me.

I agree with you about the temptations; they're so various in application that duplication shouldn't matter. I even kind of like the idea of trying a session in which everybody has the same temptation, for a lark.

Best, Ron

P.S. Ronnies authors, take note! William has demonstrated that you can add additional drafts into your game's 1KM1KT page. That is very useful.
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whduryea
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« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2011, 03:55:49 PM »

It might also be due to an effect I've noted with strongly-structured "chapter" based games, that people tend to march along to the structure at first, and then open up and let characters breathe and grow more when they return to the game, after they're familiar with the mechanical features.

I think this may very well be part of it. Our sessions have been getting progressively longer, but still nowhere near 2 or 3 hours.

Regarding setting, I wanted to clarify my earlier remarks. My suggestion was not to provide a canonical setting which would be the single expected, official, play-here setting, but rather an example, whether integrated with the rules or not. As I see it, this grounds a reader in how setting and system interact, even if such interactions are not spelled out. The message is, "Choose your own, but when you do, this is how it's done."

Thanks for clarifying this. I think we are actually on the same page here, though perhaps expressing it a little differently. My question was mostly to see if anyone thought the setting creation should be even more directive than what you've expressed here.

Speaking of which, what were the settings in your playtesting runs? And what roles were chosen? That really interests me.

I've been encouraging the other players to suggest/select the settings for each session. I've been trying to keep hands off to see how well it works without my intervention. With that in mind, this is what everyone came up with.

(For the first two sessions the groups consisted of myself, Rudy aka FetusCommander, and Mike, another local player. For the third session we added Tom, another local player.)

1st session:

Rudy decided to stretch my design right away by suggesting that the game be set on a mining colony on the moon in the not-to-distant future.

Characters:
Rudy - Artisan/Lack of Faith - An scientist and evangelical atheist who was moonlighting in human resources because the mine was understaffed
Mike - Peasant/Avarice - A low level miner who was also a petty thief and smuggler
Me - Priest/Pride - A muckraking journalist trying to expose (possibly imagined) safety violations at the mining colony

2nd session:

Mike suggested India during the revolution for independence.

Characters:
Rudy - Priest/Impatience - A hard line (female) revolutionary who believed in violent revolution
Mike - King/Despair - A disillusioned British/Scottish military commander tasked with trying to put down the revolution
Me - Artisan/Lack of Faith - A drunken American diplomat from a rich family who was shipped to the Indian embassy to keep him busy and prevent him for being an embarrassment. Used alcohol to avoid nagging questions about the revolution and his place in it.

3rd session:

We were all fairly sleep deprived after a several hour long prep session of Rudy's superhero/chess game, and looking for a quick, fun game. Rudy suggested Star Trek. Eager to push the game to the breaking point, I agreed. We opted to use the Original Series as our source, in spite of the fact that I've only seen the new movie and Tom may not have even seen that. (Rudy and Mike were better informed.)

Characters:
Rudy - Artisan/Impatience - Scotty
Tom - King/Pride - Kirk
Mike - Peasant/Lack of Faith - Red Shirt
Me - Priest/Despair - Bones

(Note that both the ranks and temptations were drawn at random.)

The Child rank hasn't come up yet, sadly. I am hoping to get five people together to play a more complete game this weekend or next.

Next session: A plantation in the American South during the last days of the Civil War. (Rudy's suggestion.)

P.S. Ronnies authors, take note! William has demonstrated that you can add additional drafts into your game's 1KM1KT page. That is very useful.

Yes, extremely useful. Thanks to Mister Echo over at 1KM1KT for being so helpful!
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terrible games about terrible people in terrible situations
Dan Maruschak
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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2011, 12:48:02 PM »

I posted some thoughts about the game on my blog.
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whduryea
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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2011, 02:03:42 PM »

I posted some thoughts about the game on my blog.

And I replied, at length, to Dan's thoughts in the comments section of the blog post.

The abridged version: He brings up some very good editorial points, especially about passive or noncommittal language in the text. I will definitely be addressing these concerns n future drafts.
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terrible games about terrible people in terrible situations
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