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Big Fredrick Gaming Convention Feedback


My playtesters during BFG Con.
I was able to get in one playtest at the Big Frederick Gaming Convention this past weekend with some lovely volunteers and wanted to go over the session and feedback I received.

I had two players - a father and son - who had prior experience in role playing games and were familiar with the tokusatsu genre who took part in a two-hour playtest session. This gave me the opportunity to take things a bit slower for each player, and gain more focused feedback.

WHAT'S NEW?


For this playtest, I incorporated new features including unique benefits for Finishers, the consequences for Crashing, and what I'm calling Trappings that are tied to different forms.

FINISHERS

As before, Finishers are all-or-nothing attacks where players can max-out their Drama so that they at the brink of Crashing, but gain access to the next-highest dice-type (a characters in form 1 who normally uses a d6 would have access to a d8). For this session, I tied special benefits to the Powers that characters already had. creating new effects when they were used as Finishers. For example, the Power Havok allows a player to roll an additional d4 alongside the dice they normally use for this form, and choose which dice result they want to use for their move. When used as a Finisher, the player rolls the next highest dice-type, along with the d4, but in this instance can add the two dice's results together for their roll's value.

CRASHING

Crashing's new rules mean that, if a character takes more than their maximum amount of Drama, they are defeated and revert to their base form, as usual, but in addition they lose any experience they currently have. experience is used to advance, raise Vectors and gain new forms and powers. The incentive here was to add consequence for defeat. I dislike games where players are forced to sit out as the result of their characters dying, so I initially just made the consequence for defeat being reverting to base form and not being able to transform again until some success was accomplished by a character. This didn't incentivise players from monitoring their Drama, though, so I think incorporating this suggestion from a prior session is a good idea.

TRAPPINGS

Trappings are adjectives that can be tied to a form to provide context for what they are capable of. They are acquired when a form is acquired, and more can be added when Vectors are raised. Prior feedback suggested that players were unsure as to what limitations were placed on their characters, and I thought this could be remedied by allowing them to give single or hyphenated word descriptors for what they believe is something that their form can do. For example, a technology-based space adventurer had the Trapping of Well-Equipped. This suggested that they had a variety of gadgets they could use to solve their problems. I incentivised players to give specifics to these descriptors by allowing them to take unique actions based on their Trappings, and to add +1 to actions if the have ones that were applicable. In this instance, I allowed the player to produce minor tools to use for non-combat actions, and gave them +1 when they used them in combat creatively. I believe that such a minor number will be beneficial while hopefully not being free to abuse.

Features are also a means of encouraging players to raise their Vectors. So far, players have been most interested in acquiring new forms, even though they won't increase their likelihood of success at actions as much as raising Vectors do, which I can understand since transformations are a main hook of the game. By allowing players to recontextualize the forms they already have, I hope to encourage players to think more about their characters than just what they can change into


WHAT HAPPENED?

A non-player character that was encountered during the one shot scenario. (Art by me)

For this playtest, I created a new one-shot scenario where players, as employees of the super hero job app Switchboard, were tasked with investigating and resolving a supposed haunting on a large estate. They interacted with the lord and lady of the house, some members of staff, and the supposed apparition themselves.

Through their investigation, players were able to determine what was really going on, and at the same time gain experience so they could advance. Since these were low-level characters, it didn't take long for players to accumulate enough to advance, which I had hoped for because I wanted to see how players would handle advancement during a session.

When advancing, players can either wait till the end of a session to spend their experience and attempt to gain an advancement of their choice, or advance during a conflict but gain a random result. Both players were excited to choose the random advancement, with one of them gaining a new form and the other raising a Vector and gaining a new Trapping for their current form.

Players didn't choose to use their Archetypes to heal their characters, and both ended up Crashing during the climactic battle. One players had advanced already, so it wasn't much of a setback for them. The other player did lose their experience, but they realized that they could regain experience by focusing on non-combat actions. I admit I was generous with the rewarded experience because I wanted to make sure they had a positive experience.

Finishers were used to great effect, greatly turning the tide of the final battle and served as dramatic events for the story. One player even Crashed as a result of a dangerous side effect of their Finisher, which they knew would result if the move failed, but did allow them to perform an even more devastating follow up attack.

The player who had unlocked a second transformation was able to deliver a devastating blow to the final opponent by using their lower form's Finisher, relying on the edge their type in this form had on that of their target (which is the ability to roll twice and take the higher number). I was very satisfied by this, because I devised the system with the idea of allowing characters at lower forms to be able to stand up to higher-level opponents.

Players did use the cheatsheets I provided this time, which I am glad to see worked in getting them familiar with the system.

WHAT WAS THE FEEDBACK?

Both players said they had a good time and expressed interest in playing the game in the future. Other than that, they had very minor observations, which makes me feel confident in the progression of Alter Arms' development.

Aside from some details I noticed in specific Powers and Finishers that I didn't like, players were interested in having defensive options for when they are attacked. Right now, there are only four Powers available to each form type, which I hope to expand in the future. I think it would be interesting to make some of these options include things like parries or possible stealth options.

The other bit of feedback was the question of scale; in many tokusatsu series, the heroes have access to large vehicles that they can use to fight more powerful opponents, even combining them into giant robots. How does this translate into Alter Arms?

One of the issues with developing this game is that it combines several sub-genres of tokusatsu. The scenario described above is unique to one of them. I have had to focus on making the system as open as possible in order to accommodate tropes that are unique to one sub-genre but not present in the others. I hope to accommodate the vehicles and combination thereof by making them a form only accessible in forms 3 and 4. I want to maintain the escalation that the game encourages so far, and that would be difficult if large-scale forms and vehicles were available early on. I don't like setting limits on players creativity, but for the sake of balance I might have to do so.

As for the combination of vehicles, I believe that this could play into the team-up attacks that I mentioned in prior posts, where players must give up their individual turns to pool their resources for more powerful moves.

WHAT'S NEXT?

I am going to incorporate the above feedback into my next playtest, which will be at Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. on March 31. Feel free to stop by and say hi!


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