JP On Gaming

Friday, May 21, 2010

Play-testing: What to evaluate?

During my latest trip to Montreal - in the grips of Hockey fever - I play-tested this setting I’ve been posting about for the last few months. I was very excited about finally bringing my creation to the game table. There was a lot to prepare: writing up the pre-gens, sending a short background to each character, giving some details about the gods to the players, finish the adventure, pack everything up and then set up the game itself. All the players were on time and ready to go.

In short, things went well or as good as could be. The PCs "got" what I was trying to do, and did the kinds of things I wanted them to do. Their evolution through the adventure was as expected.

I could simply pat myself on the back and say how awesome I really am. But that would not be who I am. No, I have to dig to find some dirt, something to improve. So by trying to find out what was wrong, let’s see what went right with the adventure.

The timing is good since I was aiming for an adventure that would run around four hours. Including a lunch break, giving a description the world and its particularities, and the chit chat of a bunch of gamers who hadn’t seen each other in months, the whole thing took about five hours. By focusing on the game, the timing is fine.

The plot hook works finding a plot hook that works, that is original and that is engaging for players with different motivations. That is one thing I reproach to the Pathfinder Society, its plot hooks are terrible! I’ll let you in on a secret: they’re all the same. You have to do that because I tell you to.

The players’ flow make sense this is always one of those points that I personally find to be the most important. The "flow" is the player’s thought process and discovery of the adventure. Do they go from conclusion to conclusion based on the clues / discoveries logically? Do they have to reach very far to come to a discover something that’s in the adventure.

For example, that the PCs deduce that their employer is evil when they see a letter with his name on it is a natural deduction. That they come to the same conclusion because a painting on the wall shows him being dressed in black and sporting a goatee is not.

The fights are interesting This one is particular. LFR (the wrong-standard) defines an interesting fight by having something cool and unique in the encounter, over story reason. While that is a part of it, coolness and uniqueness are not the only factor in creating fun fights. Why are the villains there? Why do they fight the PCs? Is there a good reason for them to be there? Would other monsters be more likely? Should they be toughened up? Wussified? Diversified? Those questions all go through my head as I try to review a combat encounter. Do the players have fun with the encounter?


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