[Fifth World] I need playtesters!

edited November 2009 in Game Design Help
A shaman of the Fifth World
Last night, after three years of work, I finished the rough draft of my game, the Fifth World. It's gone through some major revisions, and the current form doesn't bear much resemblance at all to the versions I brought to GASPcon and Dreamation last year. This version I can run around a campfire, or over Skype.

I need to begin some initial playtesting. I plan to make it public soon, but I need to run a lot of playtests before that to work out any major problems. Ideally, I'd like to run playtests as often as daily up to its public debut at GASPcon 10 in two weeks, so I very much need volunteers.

About the Setting
Four hundred years from now, civilization has collapsed, and humanity thrives in feral tribes. Humans survived by recognizing their place in a more-than-human world. That requires constant renegotiation of the human place in the world, as the process of creation begins each day.

About the Game
We play the game by reading a poem. The poem also provides the instructions for playing. We take places that we know (yes, this point may well require some compromise over Skype), imagine how those places will change over the next four hundred years as the world goes feral, and then figure out what story that place tries to tell. Then, we make characters rooted in that place, bound in that same story; we find out what they want, and then we follow the story to see what happens.
  • It uses fluency play to learn the game by playing
  • It uses ritual phrases
  • The main game economy focuses on Debt
  • Character creation happens in play, rather than before play.
  • You can get an edge in Challenges by introducing Memories set in that place
  • GM-less; the person who introduced the place where the scene happens, called the Spirit of the Place, plays the NPC's in that scene
Who Might Like It
Though technically post-apocalyptic, the Fifth World doesn't really deal with that kind of vision. It presents a bright, hopeful vision of the future. But, unlike what usually passes for bright, hopeful visions of the future, it doesn't say that technology will get us there. I've often called it the deep ecological answer to Star Trek. So, if you enjoy ecotopian fiction or the work of Ursula K. LeGuin; or, if you have an interest in ecology, bioregionalism, or native traditions, you'll probably enjoy this game. If you enjoy games driven by ritual phrases with very light rules, you might enjoy this game. If you like to pick up a game and immediately start playing—without so much as having to make a character first, much less learn the rules—then you might like this game.

Afterculture, The World Without Us, Ursula K. LeGuin, ecotopian fiction, Graham Harvey, Tim Ingold, Derrick Jensen, Calvin Luther Martin, et al. In terms of game design: my initial misunderstanding of the term "roleplaying poem," Ganakagok (from which I flagrantly stole the rule to make people sit in order of character age; Bill White has provided enormously helpful support and guidance since I met him at Dreamation last year, for which I feel incredibly grateful), Polaris, Archipelago, and flashbacks from 3:16.


  • That dude has a belly and buttless chaps. I'm sold.

    More for reals: I'm sold. I've been wanting to play something like this (setting-wise) for a while, and a few days ago started imagining with my girlfriend what a hermitpunk/feralpunk genre would reovlve on (*I'd love to talk about that at some point).

    Question: could me and my girlfriend play this, just the two of us?
  • edited November 2009
    Posted By: joepubMore for reals: I'm sold.
    Thanks! I've admired your work for some time now, so that validation warms the cockles of my heart.
    Posted By: joepubMore for reals: I'm sold. I've been wanting to play something like this (setting-wise) for a while, and a few days ago started imagining with my girlfriend what a hermitpunk/feralpunk genre would reovlve on (*I'd love to talk about that at some point).
    And I'd love to read it! Maybe even rip you off and work it into the game!
    Posted By: joepubQuestion: could me and my girlfriend play this, just the two of us?
    When the public playtest starts, probably. I haven't even started the private playtesting yet--I started this thread precisely because I need to recruit more people for precisely that--so I don't know how it scales with different numbers of players. I do aim for it working with just two players, though.

    For now, I haven't written enough of the supporting material for public consumption. I don't know if anybody at this point could play it without me there to explain things. It's just not at that point yet.
  • So what are you looking for volunteers for, right now?
    Because I'm ready to playtest the moment you hand me something.
  • I'm looking for volunteers willing to jump on Skype with me at a specific time and play a game of this.
  • Well, let us know when you're ready for public playtest!
  • Sounds pretty cool! I'd be up for it.
  • edited November 2009
    Cool! Would you be up for it ... tonight? Say, in about an hour (6 PM EST)? Tomorrow (Thursday, November 4), at 8 PM EST?
  • edited November 2009
    I'm not up for a game at that time (I'll be at fencing), but I'd really be interested in playtesting your game sometime, as I'm a huge fan of rpgs with a strong focus on in-game culture. I'll keep an eye on this thread to see if you have alternate times/days.
  • I'm really running it whenever I can get people to volunteer. I have my email in my profile--email me what times would work for you, and I'll see if I can find anyone else who'll play at that time.
  • I'd love to, but I don't think my highly variable schedule would work out.

    To which I say: "poop!"
  • What do I need for this Skype thing?
    Will you comment on my piss-poor housekeeping?
    From the looks of my bedroom, you'd think I was an abandoned 12 year old, living with a family of squirrels.
  • Peter: I hope to accommodate an Australian at some point. I have motivation to try this even at the oddest hours. Please, feel free to email me with what times you could play, and I'll do my best to make that happen.

    Nathan: A pretty decent internet connection, and a bit of software you download. Your bedroom sounds much like my own, but unless you live in western PA, I don't think I'll get to see it. At least, not quite yet. I'm not quite ready to take this on the road yet. Come February, yes, I hope to take it to Dreamation, but probably not before then.
  • edited November 2009
    Jason, oh Skype is just voice!
    See, I'm not too bright.
    It all makes sense now.
    *shoos squirrels out from sock drawer*
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