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Post-MAGFest 2022 Playtest Report

 


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.

For Skrap Packs, I learned a similar lesson in balancing encounter difficulty. Currently, the system is set up so that players take their turn to do damage to multiple opponents, and once all players have had a turn, the opponents do damage to individual player characters. 

I want to change things up by first adding different special effects that different enemies can have, such as being able to attack multiple player characters at once, disarming player characters, stealing from them, etc. This would force players to strategize where to focus their efforts rather than just attack nondescript enemies.

Also, I want to decrease the numerical bonuses players can get to moves, making them slightly weaker in the face of their adversaries. This could also raise the tension of encounters. 

The most engaging playtests I witness with Skrap Packs over the weekend was one where the players were more overwhelmed, constantly being disarmed and having tools destroyed. I hope to replicate that more often with these changes. 
On a side-note, one prior playtester brought their friend over to see the pre-gen sheet for my Pretty Cure/Magical Girl inspired character. Unfortunately, I left it at home, so I am posting it here now in case they would still like to see it.


While it makes sense to have a *magical* girl be part of the Lore Arms type (giving them powers based around avoiding taking hits) it felt more appropriate to make a Pretty Cure-inspired character a Fight Arms type, giving them abilities focused on taking on hoards of enemies and getting stronger as they take more hits.

As always, thank you to all of my players both at MAGFest and on my discord. If you're interested in more frequent updates and online playtests for either Alter Arms or Skrap Packs, be sure to join!


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