[Brick & Mortar] First playtests

Started by Dan Maruschak, May 04, 2011, 12:06:42 AM

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Dan Maruschak

Yesterday, Nolan, Leo, and I ran some playtests of Brick & Mortar: Last of the Independents, the game I created for the April round of The Ronnies. I just released the audio of the session as episode 27 of my playtesting-focused AP podcast Designer vs. Reality. The games ran very quickly -- the podcast is under 70 minutes but contains two playthroughs of the game.

The speed of the game was a bit of a surprise -- I knew it wasn't a long game but I hadn't realized how short it would be. The first playthrough lasted 24 minutes and 26 seconds from the end of chargen until the last character died (edited down to 21:22 for the podcast) and the second playthrough lasted 17:06 (edited down to 14:32 for the podcast). I think the short length works well since it was pretty high-energy the entire time, play was very comedic, and we all had fun in both sessions.

Another thing I didn't anticipate was that The Owner's natural reaction when The Survivor frantically comes in talking about the outlandish disaster is to not believe The Survivor. I think I need to enhance The Survivor's pre-play section a bit to keep him a little more grounded and level headed, and also maybe instruct the characters that come in after The Survivor to back up the story so that you don't have to do as much in-character convincing to get The Owner to engage with the situation.

As some people (including me) suspected, there were places where the session stalled out because there's nothing in the mechanics that escalates problems that aren't being addressed. The game probably needs something like that, although I haven't figured out yet how to incorporate it into the mechanics. The "dead players start playing the threat" idea from Zombie Cinema is something I'm going to consider, too.

Leo and Nolan felt a little uncomfortable with the loose nature of determining when the mechanics kick in, and wished another player had explicit authority to tell them when to roll for Doing Something Important or Avoiding Danger. I'm not sure how I feel about that -- I think I like the "anyone can suggest it, but do what you feel is right" nature of the current mechanics but I'll have to think about it. The "first roll to Avoid Danger, then roll to do the important thing you wanted to do" was a bit clunky in play. I might try doing the rolls in parallel with colored dice, or I may need a better resolution mechanism altogether.

One big problem is that there doesn't seem to be enough incentive right now for the players to start mentioning things that trigger the "important items" mechanic. The original idea was that people would just start mentioning stuff in the normal course of roleplaying, and that the accumulation of items would act like seed content for people to start proposing Plans. In practice the threat is so immediate that it's rare that specific items work themselves naturally into the conversation. I'll have to think about that.
my blog | my podcast | My game Final Hour of a Storied Age needs playtesters!


How about coming up with a list of pre-thought items, and empty cards saying "An item of X and Y sort", and from an X scene, someone has to mention/incorporate the item into the game, such as when someone comes into the shop, and someone takes a card from the top of the pile and has to go "If only we had X!"

You can enter the plan and the item into the game simultaneously, on the idea level.
Guy Shalev.

Cranium Rats Central, looking for playtesters for my various games.
CSI Games, my RPG Blog and Project. Last Updated on: January 29th 2010