GURPS

Reflections on the First Playtest

So I’ve just run the first playtest for my bare-bones, draft, alpha-version town adventures system.

What can we learn from the playtest?  Let’s see…

I had fun

  • I had a lot of fun, which means the draft system can definitely GM a fun session for me in practice.  So that’s good.  The system isn’t sophisticated enough yet, but it’s workable.

The Basic Mechanic is OK

  • The basic mechanic seems to be working ok – it’s simple to run and generates worthwhile results, so I don’t think I’m going to do a total overhaul. That’s pleasing!  (It definitely still needs revision, and also some fleshing-out and coloring-in, but that’s another matter).

The Scenes were Too Short

  • The scenes here were all very short – most were just one or two skill rolls. Now, partly this was because of the colossal luck Jaspin kept having, and I don’t want to be misled by that.  But still, I think perhaps I ought to increase the cost of winning the scene.  Tying that cost to Peril might have been a mistake, too, since Peril is already taken into account in the penalty to the skill roll.  My instinct now is to adjust the cost of winning the scene to a flat 5 pts, and see how that goes next time.

“Scene Gains” might be too cheap, across the board

  • In fact, I wonder whether I ought to increase the costs of all “Scene Gains,” so as to lengthen the scenes. I’m not yet sure if this will work – part of Jaspin’s success here lay in the fact that he was almost always in “mental” scenes, and that really worked out for him, since he’s invested most of his points in being good at those.  Things would have gone much worse for him if he’d been forced into a choice between, say, a “Physical” and a Combat” scene.  Things would also have gone worse in the “Mental” scenes if I’d been using a character with points spread across a wider variety of activities (Temian, for instance).  So while I’m considering increasing all the costs, I think perhaps I’ll hold off on that for now, pending more playtesting.  Maybe it’s not really required.

The timing of the “Climax Scene” is too unpredictable

  • The arrival of the Climax scene is a bit too random. I think I need to introduce a new option under “Scene Gains” (I’ll call it “You’re a big step closer to your goal!” or something), which makes the scene you’re currently in count for a bonus of +2, rather than just +1, when rolling on the “What’s Next?” table.  This would allow you to invest some of your winnings in moving yourself closer to the Climax scene, and thereby give you more control over when it arrives.  How much should that cost?  I’m not sure.  Maybe 4 pts?

The system can be exploited; I should fix that

  • I didn’t do this during the playtest, because it would have spoiled the fun, but I while playing I noticed that it would be possible to exploit the system by remaining in a scene that’s favorable to you indefinitely, just racking up bonuses for the future. Then you would take the risk of moving only on when you’ve racked up so many bonuses that you can’t be beaten.  I need to do something to prevent this.  A blunt way to do this would be to simply put a cap (3, maybe?) on the number of “Things That Might be Useful Later” you can have at any one time.

And of course, the whole thing needs fleshing out

  • Right now the top priority is to get the basic system working ok, but I’m very much looking forward to the stage after this, when I’ll be able to start fleshing things out a bit.  I especially want to come up with some nice, flavorful ways to make the Climax Scene special and interesting.  But that’s for another day…

Well, those are my initial thoughts at least.  As always, I’m very happy to hear others views on this, so if you’ve already taken the (considerable!) time to read both the draft system and the playtest, then please do weigh in with your comments/suggestions/critiques.  (I can’t imagine too may people will have done all that reading, but maybe…)

Until next time, happy gaming!

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6 thoughts on “Reflections on the First Playtest

  1. Pingback: - Gaming Ballistic
  2. Enjoy your posts and thoughts, as always. My input is that your overall system already tends to encourage well-rounded characters (I ran an adventure for fun with your system using two pretty heavy PCs 250CPs each at Peril 3– a mage and a cleric– neither had Swimming– the mage was one roll from drowning, got lucky, then used his magic to save the cleric, who had lost her rolls and had pretty much drowned– they used some CPs for Swimming at the end of the session, believe me) and the overall feel is that town adventures should require more wits than brawn, and Jaspin is a (relatively) IQ-heavy PC. I agree the adventure was short, OTOH Jaspin’s goal was relatively modest. Perhaps a roll to reflect this and adjust length? A complexity roll? re: bonus points–why not incorporate a sliding scale for an upper limit on accumulated bonus points based on Peril, encouraging the PC to spend them along the way (or lose them)? Lastly, keep in mind that the aspirations of your PC shape the nature of the adventure, as well, so I found the heavy IQ/Will-based adventure appropriate. I agree fleshing out this part of the system would be nice, but overall great job as usual! Love your enthusiastic writing style!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for all those thoughts, Victor – the feedback is very welcome (as is the praise, of course!)

      A sliding scale for bonus points, based on Peril, is an interesting idea – I’ll have to think about it. I think for the next iteration I’m just going to cap it at 3, for simplicity, but I’ll certainly keep that idea in mind.

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  3. With regard to the exploit you mentioned.

    Rather than fixing the bonuses at 3 you could make a failure undo all previous successes and stop further attempts in a scene.

    I would also suggest that you shouldn’t be able to apply more than one bonus at full value to any one check. A second bonus would only provide +1 and you would need to burn 2 further bonuses to get a further +1, another 4 to get the next +1 etc.

    This would encourage using bonuses across a number of checks in earlier scenes rather than saving them all up for the climatic scene. Success in those earlier scenes would still increase the chance of success in the nest scene but you spread the accumulation and expenditure of “plot points” across the whole story rather than have mediocre success overall, a single scene where you max out the bonuses and then make the climactic scene a foregone conclusion.

    This is like the gradual accumulation of advantage rather than “Oh hey guys, I was looking in the library earlier and apparently the Death Star self destructs if you say the words “I reject the Dark Side” three times when standing in Yoda’s hut.

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  4. Further to the above. Maybe a bonus that came from a different challenge would be assessed separately and you would get +2 for the first of each discipline, +1 for the next etc. Thus if you got a bonus for a physical challenge and two for mental challenges they would be worth +2, +2, +1 if applied to the same check.

    This would allow a multi threaded path through challenges and will reward specialist characters that attempt things out of their specialism rather than try to exploit an advantage by remaining in the scene rinsing and repeating.

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