Need another pair of eyes on this beholder
October 23, 2011 2:47 PM   Subscribe

How I do go about helping play test an indie pen and paper rpg?

My time is pretty limited and it's rare I can manage to get everyone's schedule's coordinated enough to run anything. I know my group alone can't be exhaustive so how do I go about streamlining the process? Has anyone here ever been involved in playtesting for a major RPG? If so what did their feedback process look like? Should I focus in on what the game does or be more expansive and look at situations the players get into that the doesn't handle?

We've spent time on some of the indie game forums, but it seems tough to draft any other play testers unless things are happening as part of a contest or you're a major name on the scene. How do we go about expanding this pool?

My friend is probably willing to open the process to anyone and is located up in Seattle if you know of any groups or gaming stores that would interested in helping.
posted by 0bs01337 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Back in the day I did some writing for Games Designers Workshop and saw lots of "virtual" play testing (meaning people kind of mentally worked some things out and off they went to the printer). This is suboptimal.

I'd test with three groups - one that included people who were in on the development and taking notes during play; a games familiar individual who could read your mostly polished rules and point out the parts that were confusing or boring; and a group that had noting to do with anyone who was involved in development who could play test your first final draft coming into things cold. I'd let the coming into it cold group run for about a month, only talking to the person running the game between sessions, and then talking to everyone involved afterwards to see how they felt about things. Lather, rinse, repeat until you think you're ready to launch.

The thing to remember is that RPGs break in some pretty discrete ways:
  • Rules that make perfect sense to the developer / when the developer explains them, but don't come through when you're reading the rules.
  • Case issues that aren't spelled out (round to the nearest whole number or drop the fraction is pretty common here).
  • Poor estimates of odds on the developer's part. A lot of time this represents a disconnect between the combat system and the rest of the task system, an error with dealing with difficult or easy tasks, or not dealing well with tasks where success is pretty much guaranteed, but the time it takes to get there will vary wildly with the characters skill and circumstance.
Read through "Murphy's Rules" and note the places where it's not that the rules fail a real life logic test (because that probably matters less) but where they break the game. Avoid those issues.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:33 PM on October 23, 2011

Best answer: The lack of playtesters seems odd. Conventions always let people run games, many for games people have never played before. Most game stores I see will have message boards or space for games to be run in the store.

Send me a copy of the rules if you can, and I'll read through them in a few days and give opinions :)
posted by Jacen at 7:03 PM on October 23, 2011

Best answer: I don't have the major publisher insider view, but do have a few thoughts.

Regarding feedback, I think you want four major categories addressed. First is how well the mechanical parts and pieces of the game work. Are there ways that players can 'break' the game? This is the sort of thing that some folks are just plain good at (often those same people who have excellent mathematical and statistical skills). I suspect a lot of it, if not all of it, can be determined by perusing rules individually as opposed to in group play.

The second is where the players experience difficulty. This is where you want both monitored and blind playtest. What rules confuse players? Where can you provide clarifications or encouragement to the sort of game you are trying to develop?

Third is the setting and how well you introduce, describe and support it with your rules. This is a lot more subjective, but you want to find out whether you are really engaging people's imagination.

Fourth, and equally important is rules organization and proof reading. This feedback may not be as much about the rules or experience of the game at the table, but reflects on the place where I suspect most RPGs see the most use, in one reader's hands.

As to locations to find play testers: Conventions are a good place to find individuals who may be up for testing in a pick-up game, or even to commit to taking the game and playing it elsewhere. If you clearly indicate that your session is a home brewed system there are conventions where would be perfectly reasonable to make it a scheduled event. Also, keep plugging at various role playing game forum sites, particularly those that focus on games with similar features or themes. Hopefully you don't mind me plugging RPG Geek as a site where you may be able to drum up some interest.

In any case, you'll get the most success if you engender a personal interest from folks either in what you are doing, or in the concept behind the game you are developing.
posted by meinvt at 7:48 PM on October 23, 2011

Best answer: I've playtested for exactly one major RPG, which was WW's Adventure! (IMHO the best of the loosely tied Adventure/Trinity(Aeon)/Aberrant line).

The process for us went like this: Our local GM was a buddy of the author (and later a contributor to the product line). He recruited us. We signed NDAs and were given access to the secret forum. It had a mailing list and docs. We were encouraged to play a session, write down everything we thought/noticed, and sometimes we'd see results of our changes in the nth revision.

When it was done, we were mentioned in the book. That was the "big-name" version of things.

As to indie stuff, ask the other creators. Vincent Baker doesn't have any problems finding play testers these days, but he probably used to.
posted by Mad_Carew at 10:32 PM on October 23, 2011

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