Play-testing + Feedback from the Pacificon

Suzerain Light Character Sheet

Pacificon was tremendously fun.  Of course, a huge highlight was play testing Legendary with perfect strangers and getting some great, useful feedback on the game.  We played almost to the very end of the allotted 7 hours, and we acquired another player half-way through.  I took that as probably the best feedback of all: the players enjoyed it enough to invite another player.

The scenario was a spoof of the teen monster drama generally, specifically Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the TV series).  There were five archetypal characters including the Chosen One, the Mentor, the Rival, the Goofy Best Friend, and the Rebel, and the scenario allowed for any of the characters.  The players decided not to play with the Chosen One (a Buffy-esque lacrosse player / proto-werewolf who excelled at smashing things), and that the group had already bonded over defeating a plant monster / Botany teacher previously.  At the start of the game, characters discover a journal detailing a series of strange events from 70 years ending in the burning down of their high school—events which seem about to repeat themselves.  After some initial research and skirmishes, another player joined as the Chosen One, and played angsty, self-absorbed teen to the hilt (explaining why the group was only too happy to start their investigation without her).  A fantastic game was had by all.

The players feed back on the system:

  • The game felt “rules light” in that it allowed for a focus on the story, rather than resolving complex mechanics.
  • Players enjoyed being able to choose what kind of negative consequence their character received using their powers.
  • There were no “hero points”, i.e., there was no mechanic for players to have a bonus to important roles, ensuring success and avoiding catastrophe at key moments.  However, my approach to incorporating disastrous failures actually worked well for the story (instead of maiming or killing the characters, they ended up with a very inconvenient plot twist).  So the catastrophe made the game more exciting.
  • Switching from a simple 1d20 (which I was experimenting with) back to 2d10 will reduce the likelihood of critical rolls, putting a little more emphasis on character skill and putting a little more control of outcomes into the hands of the characters.

The feedback on the system was really positive overall.  Players also gave me some great feedback on how to demo a new game at a convention:

  1. Get character art for each character in the game
  2. Print a short description / summary of powers for each of the character
  3. One thing I did well was having set characters, but getting to choose the consequences of powers felt like a nice way to personalize the character some without having to take the time to build-out completely custom characters.

I actually got a great example of all the above three points when Miles Kantir demoed a fast and furious version of Suzerain.  I ran into Miles picking up a copy of Suzerain and discussing with Three Sages Games how they found and published it.  Miles offered to run a game whenever I had a free moment.  I told him I was free then, and with only 10 minutes of prep, Miles ran a lightning-fast, one-hour light version of the RPG.  The game had a highly enjoyable, Gaimanesque multiverse feel to it.  Miles gave each player their pick of pre-set characters—but each character was a representative of a pantheon of the player’s choosing (point #3).  Each character came with stunning art (point #1) and short overview of their strengths and weaknesses (point #2, pictured above).  On top of that, Miles had replaced each die roll with drawing from a deck of numbered cards, which made it a lot easier for everyone to see the result.  Lastly, Miles left each player with an awesome art print.  Pretty slick!

In addition to the above, I got some great advice on how to run a Kickstarter campaign from a panel of successful game designers & publishers.  More on that in the next post!

Play testing Legendary at the upcoming Pacificon Game Expo!

Pacificon header

I’m looking forward to testing Legendary RPG at the Pacificon Game Expo labor day weekend! The game will be a spoof of teen monster dramas, so I’ve named the session Tiffany the Twilight Slayer and the Diary of Secrets.  It will be the longest play test of Legendary yet, lasting from 9am to 4pm!  We’ll have a lunch break, though.

Up to 5 players will take on iconic teen monster / supernatural roles: the chosen one, the mentor, the goofy friend, the dangerously dependent friend/romantic interest, and the rival (a.k.a. the indispensable jerk).  The game will open with a busy high school, character-developing scene of bickering, getting snubbed, getting a lecture, etc.  However, all the high school drama will fade into the background as the “unlikely” group discovers a book that reveals supernatural evil lurking beneath the school’s mundane facade.  Or maybe the high school drama won’t fade, and the characters will be bickering as they get eaten by monsters.  Either way, fun times!

This play test catches Legendary at an interesting time. I’m halfway through a substantial revision of the rules, based on my initial two group tests.  I’m overhauling how attributes and skills work.  Also making some more minor revisions. I’m changing the dice rolling mechanic a bit to something simpler but roughly equivalent.  Lastly, I’m changing one of the default settings of characters powers.  More on the rules updates in a later post.

In addition to all the rule updates, I’m also changing my underlying technology for the demo.  Previously, I’d been using Google Sheets as my prototype of an interactive-character sheet.  The next generation, however, is an actual web application in Angular and Bootstrap, which will allow for embedding help text, making fancier calculations, and in-app die rolling.

How much of the updates I can hack together in  week and a half?  Well, we’ll see.