Sunday, 25 March 2012

I Love It When A Game Comes Together

I am the Warden!!

After a dozen emails back and forth between players and DM yesterday resulted in our bi-weekly D&D game staying cancelled, it seems I have a little extra time on my hands today. Time leads to wandering thoughts and mine are centered squarely on the results of this past Friday's Killshot playtest and the opening scene of my next game.

To put it simply, the game went off without a hitch. No revisions or difficulties ensued. Whenever the players tried to do something, the game accounted for it. From a players standpoint, everything was perfect. From a Director's POV, I'm still a bit paranoid my text might be a little strict and not encouraging free thinking applications, but that's nothing another pass through Direction can't fix. At this point, I'm thinking of adding sidebars into the books for just such a purpose. What's written so far remains a fairly solid detail on the design of the game; sidebars will allow me to break off topic and go into how you can take that design and modify it according, playing up on Rule Number Two from a Director's angle.

The next playtest with this group will be the big one: a full-out, bullet-riddled action sequence. Mass carnage ensues at the very beginning of the third Killshot job, Final Justice, and if that scene goes off without a hitch, then everything I need to test and certify for this game will be good to go. The Optional System was originally designed as a heavy action packed RPG mechanic capable of handling intense combat while simultaneously breaking away from the all the standards of most RPGs, but such designs come with a heavy toll. By starting off somewhat smaller by designing a more strategic game (Killshot is just as much about planning as it is about execution, pardon the pun), I can build the design level-by-level until I'm positive it can handle a more fantastic setting and theme. I've been able to test the mechanics in a martial arts sequence and was very pleased with the results. Now it's all up to guns.

That being said, I'm still feeling to itch to run more games before signing off on certain aspects of Killshot's design phase. Not to say everything's ready to go - even if it were, I still have work on Chapter 2 of Direction and the Final Justice job to complete - but there is a lingering hesitation on my part. Once I know how the mechanics, particularly in Killshot, can handle a large action sequence and observe how those piece all come together in various groups, I'll be able to know where I'm headed from there.

An Unexpected Hurdle
There's one thing I never counted on during playtesting and the more I think about it, the more I realize there's little to do about it. Killshot is a fairly detailed and complex game in comparison to other independent RPGs; it's a lot like D&D and Pathfinder in that there are numerous selections available to players listed within the core text of the game. If you don't know what those choices are and how they function, you'll have a disadvantage versus players who do.

One obstacle I've noticed during playtesting with my particular group is the players don't have innate knowledge of the game and all its options. As proof, I turn to the assassin holding the sniper rifle as his preferred weapon - he's a Hunter and Enforcer, but not a Sniper. So while he's a very good shot (he's made the kill shot on both marks thus far), he's going to face a disadvantage compared to a properly trained Sniper in the next game. Rather than point out such issues, I make a point of working with the players and giving them the benefit of the doubt, but they still remain unaware of their characters' potential.

I tried to fix this in the last playtest by offering cheat sheets highlighting all the abilities of their Focus and their trained options and it did help. Still, aside from perhaps one player in particular who gushes over Killshot every time, playtest players are never as adept in a game as those who purchased it. Which is why I'm eager to try running a game with players who have read the rules and crafted their own characters carefully and meticulously.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to kick someone's ass in the game of Labyrinth. The fate of the dishes is at stake.