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JohnCon 2018 Playtest Feedback

The first playtest group from JohnCon. (Photo by Duffy Austin)

This past weekend I visited JohnCon, the annual gaming convention held at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. hosted by the university's science fiction and fantasy club. Alongside the other developers there as a part of Break My Game, I was able to get one full playtest in along with two partial playtests and feedback from a number of helpful individuals.

The first group was made up of two college students and a board game designer with Break My Game. that session lasted about two hours. The other sessions had two high school students each, but unfortunately had to cut our sessions short.



Experience can now be gained from lowering allies' Drama. The intent here is to encourage players to use their archetypes to keep other players from Crashing. Originally, lowering Drama was the only way to Advance characters. I included the experience system - rewarding players with points to allow them to advance in exchange for performing non-combat actions of varying difficulty - in order to give players a different means of advancement and encourage interaction.

I also reworded some Powers descriptions to make them more understandable.


Before the start of the scenario, and before I explained how the game was played, I had the players take a look at the characters sheet in order to get their impression of how the information was laid out. They had no context for what the information meant, but I wanted to gauge if it was legible enough to know certain details like what a character's name was, what their motive was, and what Powers they had. I tested them on this by giving them time to review - asking them to voice their thought process on what the different parts of the sheet meant - and then asking them questions about their character. Specifically: what their Base Form's Might defense was. Two out of the three groups were able to determine this right away, with one group only mistaking the Form but identifying the correct Vector's defense.

Similar to the Awesome Con and Big Frederick Gaming Convention, I ran the players through a scenario where they investigated a haunting.

The group that was able to finish the scenario did so after finishing their investigation and defeating the final opponent with relatively little difficulty. They were able to get the drop on them, and took them down while they were still in their first Transformation with just normal moves. They had earned enough experience to Advance, but did not do so during the game session. None of the characters Crashed.

The other groups were able to get about midway through the investigation before they had to leave, and managed to solve a number of their conflicts through non-combat means. They earned enough experience to Advance, but did not get to a point where they had the opportunity.


Players were generally satisfied, but had a few notes regarding character sheets.
The version of the character sheet used during the last three playtests. The hightlisted sections correspond to comments below. (By Duffy Austin)


The first group suggested moving the boxes that act as the Drama tracker (1) down so that they are closer to the boxes for Defense. To make room, they suggested putting the Arms names (2) above the Drama tracker.

They also suggested Motive (3) be moved so that it is completely under the Name and Alter boxes so they aren't confused with Arms names.


The current layout of the character sheet has the rules for all six of the Archetypes listed in the lower right-hand quadrant (4). They are a bit confined in there and do take up a considerable portion of the page. One player suggested getting rid of the of all of the options and instead listing just the current Archetype of the player.

The topic has come up multiple times in playtests, and this may be the solution. I want to test further thought to gauge the difficulty curve, as in prior playtests I've noticed that the players have Crashed when the number of opponents have been equal to the number of players. For example: in the last two playtests, where the number of players has equaled the number of opponents I had designed the scenario with, the players did suffer Crashes that could have been avoided with the use of their Archetypes. They still managed to win their fights, but there was much more tension than in the fights where the players outnumbered the opponents.

I want to do more playtests where I adjust the difficulty of a particular session based on the number of players and see how that impacts things.



I'm going to take the player suggestions to heart and alter the character sheets to incorporate some of their designs. I also am going to perform some blind user tests online to determine if participants can decipher them. This way, I can get much more data on player's understanding without having to meet in person with them.


I'm also going to see about adjusting difficulty based on the number of players. I want to get Archetypes to work, mostly because I want players to have the ability to lower Drama, but if subsequent playtests reveal that they are unnecessary, I may just remove them altogether.


As I mentioned before, I want to create a glossary of terms on this blog to better clear up what the terms I'm using mean. Currently there is just the About section.


Nils, a pregenerated character from the recent playtest,
and their Alter, The Slithering Snarl. (By Duffy Austin)

I've been able to create more art assets as of late, which I think should be used to help flesh out the setting more. I have a while before my next playtest, so I'm going to look into doing this as well.


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