Monday, 25 July 2011

Playtesting: The Stonehut Massacre

I am the Warden!!

I love playtesting. Correction: I especially love playtesting when everything works like magic. Our first regular OSRPG playtest went down on Friday and I could not be more pleased, not only because everything worked (for the most part, some things are still being tweaked) but everyone involved had loads of fun. We even had the unexpected benefit of introducing a non-gamer to RPGs on the same night and he found everything easy and disturbingly fun. (The fact that he had more ork guts spewed across his clothes was an indication of just how well the new guy did. Let that be a lesson to everyone out there - noobs can save the day.)

The Stonehut Massacre
Our story takes place in an unnamed world and continues to tell the plight of two watchers (think of rangers assigned to patrol the woods around their community) on the run from a legion of orks. Pushing their horses through the woods overnight, they came across a fortified stone hut belonging to an older human by the name of Jamus. With their wounds overpowering their urgency to reach the town of Haven, the two watchers took refuge in Jamus' home.

It did not take long for the orks to track our intrepid heroes down and surround the hut with over 60 of these ugly motherfuckers. The three of them would have to hold off this impressive force on their own, but they had an edge: Jamus is a werewolf.

The majority of the night involved the battle itself, which went on for about 2.5 hours (I wasn't really paying attention to the time). All three heroes survived, but not without a close call or two to one of the watchers (who had a bit of bad luck with the dice that night). Over 50 orks were slaughtered, including 7 beastriders and their warg mounts, a quartet of headchoppers armed with battleaxes, close to 45 standard thugs, and the shaman standing in the background summoning shadow beasts to slip through the hut's walls and attack the heroes from the inside. A grand total of 9 training points were awarded that night just from natural 20s alone (the noob got 6 all by himself!) in a battle royale costing every hero every skill point and power resource he had. All in all, a huge success.

Break It Down: The Good, the Awesome, and the Could-Be-Better
This playtest demonstrated one of the best features of the Optional System: massive combat, huge body counts, and versatility. We had two melee heroes (the werewolf and a watcher with an axe) with an archer for good measure: each hero maintained a good, steady pace and pulled in their own fair share of rampage. No one was left out. And while no one died, the number of hits inflicted on some heroes was enough to make a rough situation tense. I could not be more happy with how everything's turned out so far.

As a result of Friday's playtest, I've begun to make some additions/revisions to the existing material and have enough confidence to actually start putting everything into complete sentences. Some of them may seem out of the blue to you, good readers, and others will be recognized.

Tracking Failures: According to the original wording of options on a Team's turn, each Team has a minimum number of options equal to 1 + the total number of heroes. A Team of 3 heroes has a minimum of 4 options per turn. With all the bonus options flying around, keeping track of how many options remained was tricky and confusing. When we started to track the number of failed rolls, it was much easier. Now each Team affords a number of failures equal to 1 + the total number of heroes. So a Team of 3 heroes continues to roll until they fail 4 times. This tiny difference in wording made a huge difference.

New Dice Categories (Master Dice and Bonus Dice): Remember when I mentioned not have a purpose for the d12 and d4? Not anymore. We played around with using a d12 for the werewolf's master stat, Bestial. Whenever he transformed into a hybrid lycan form, he gained +1d12 master dice to any roll and many of his powers could only be accessed when the werewolf used his master stat. Aside from granting the werewolf even more dice to his claw attacks, it helped the player (who was the noob, btw) keep track of his shapechanging abilities and their affects in combat. It was a positive result and made me realize all master stats could benefit from using d12s as master dice.

We never used d4s that night, but the success of the master dice gave me reason to consider how to use these tiny caltrops of luck. Bonus dice grant your character additional d4s from any number of situation, particularly creeds, magic, and more. But there's a catch. When bonus dice explode, the character's attempt is complicated. For example, let's say your Director grants you +2d4 bonus dice to your next attack and you use it to throw a Molotov cocktail into an adjoining room. You roll a 2 and a 4 on your bonus dice; that exploding bonus die causes the cocktail to burst with such ferocity, the entire room catches fire and will quickly spread towards the room you're standing in. While not a severe detriment, it definitely complicates matter a bit. Rules for bonus dice will definitely have to be expanded, but I love the idea of using bonus dice as a last ditch attempt to gain the upper hand and have it blow up in your face (so to speak).

Character Types: Bonus options are a major component in the OSRPG, but having over 60 orks using bonus options quickly became too much. This quick, on-the-fly adaptation kept the fight reasonable for both players and the Director (me!). There are three character types in the Optional System: heroes (the main characters), villains (major non-player characters), and thugs (AKA peons). Thugs do not gain bonus options unless a villain uses a Pass option on them; otherwise, they only have a maximum of 2 options per turn. Villains work exactly as heroes, gaining bonus options with a minimum number of failures based on their Team.

Playtest Artwork
Another perk to the playtesting is that it comes with art! Kieron O'Gorman took the charge as the watcher with the bow and kindly provided these sketches of various events in the game. As I run off to assemble my notes and start a first draft of the OSRPG Basic Rules, I leave with you with a sampling of his work.