MAGFest 2022 was a great experience! I learned more about encounter balance for both Alter Arms and Skrap Packs, and met a number of wonderful people with some great stories to tell through the games and feedback to provide.
With Alter Arms, the main feedback I got was in terms of learning the system and encounter balance:
- Coming into the game with characters with at least one advancement can be fun when multiple special abilities are applied to actions, but it can be overwhelming for new players learning the new system. The different kinds of actions a character can take, the bonuses they can create for themselves and their allies, and managing the pressure their characters are under can be a lot to take in all at once.
What I've found by comparing the MAGFest 2022 playtests to other playtests is that the game is easiest taught in steps: at PAX Unplugged I brought characters in before they had any transformations or special abilities. They were left to solve problems with just their characters' core stats. Once they dealt with an encounter this way, new mechanics such as transformations and special abilities were introduced. I believe that with this baseline context established, players were better able to gain entry into game mechanics and were less confused by what actions to take.
- For encounters, I am working on balancing the number of opponents and how many advancements they have in comparison to the player characters. At MAGFest 2022, I ran a session where players had one advancement, giving them one additional special ability and either a new form or a stat increase. There were five players and they fought three opponents with at least three advancements each. This left the players fighting an uphill battle that wasn't a good point of entry as they found themselves doing little damage to the opponents by comparison to how much they were taking. In the future, I want to cut back on the number of opponents while keeping the number of advancements to see if that helps.