I wrote a game, but I don't know how to playtest it

edited March 2008 in Story Games
So, it's been about half a year since I've had an honest to god game going on, and golly gee do I miss it. So I wrote a game that I'm rather stoked up about. Finding a group should be the matter of about a day's work, because, hey, this is a college campus.

But I've no idea how to go about playtesting it. It isn't at all like anything I've ever played before. It's diceless and GMless. It's the next logical step after the system I used to run Exemplar last summer; it takes the trappings that drove the game and turns them into the core mechanics of the game. But I've played, like, 1 session of a GMless game at a con once. I've never played anything diceless, not since "playing D&D" with the neighborhood kids stopped being running through the wooded park with sticks and started being sitting around a table with graph paper.

I'd trust it to work out with my group back home. But I don't really have the confidence to try it with a new group, likely composed of recruits from the local contingent of WoW heads or campus Vampire larp.

So, ah, yah. Thoughts, ya'll?

(If you want to check out the game, by the way, it's over here-a-ways.)


  • Pay strangers to do it, in food, credit, or money.

    Watch them as they flounder their way through it. Don't help them. At all.

    Listen to every ignorant thing they say about your game.

    Do another editing pass.

    Return to top of post, begin again.
  • Hi Jeph! Good to hear from you.

    There's lots of ways to playtest depending on your goals. Jason's approach is a good one if you want to understand how effective you are at using the text to communicate your ideas and procedures.

    If you want to understand whether those techniques and procedures actually work as intended, being involved in the playtest yourself can be helpful. This can be actually participating as a full-fledged player or GM, or observing but being available for questions.

    Some people play with the goal of deliberately breaking either a subsystem or the entire game. That can be useful or totally counter-productive, depending on your intention and ability to parse what you are seeing and experiencing.

    You can also playstorm to try out barely baked ideas, with the goal of modifying stuff on the fly until it seems to work the way you want.

    There's no one answer. I try to do a little of all of these, as well as just play with the goal of having fun and stopping when the fun stops and figuring out where it went and why.
  • Mm, I think you guys misunderstand a bit. By playtest, I don't mean play with the express intent of finding the game's faults and correcting them. I'm not doing this with any commercial publishing intent, I'll probably just throw it up on the web for free. By playtest, I just mean play, with the knowledge that this isn't a proven game, and that it's not yet a game in its final form, fixing stuff that needs fixing as we go.

    And I'm not really asking for general playtesting techniques. There've been a million threads on that.

    I'm asking on advice for playing in these specific circumstances:

    A very non-traditional game, rules-wise, diceless and GM-less, but nothing out there setting- or premise-wise; and a group that probably doesn't know one another very well, and hasn't built up an understanding of one another's preferences or a level of trust.

    And with those conditions in mind, I need advice on how to make it go smoothly. This isn't something I've ever done before, and I can see it easily crashing and burning. Just want to go into the game with optimized chances of having a good time.
  • What makes you think it should go smoothly? It sounds to me like it absolutely should crash and burn.
  • I think what's worked for me, in terms of both playtests and games I'm not sure how to run, is to be really open with all the players, adn approach it in a spirit of experimentation. Don't try to have all the answers. Get feedback right at the table about what works, and if you don't know how to do something, ask everyone right there what seems best.

    Go into it thinking "let's make this work" rather than "I have to make this work".
  • Yeah, see, I'm getting two contrasting messages from your posts in this thread.

    On one hand, you acknowledge that this game is not meant for professional publishing, you just want to put it out there and let people play with it. And hear what they have to say, which means that you might have some (a lot) of interest in correcting it based on feedback. So far, so good.

    But I'm getting an undercurrent of unease. What if they don't like it? What if something is wrong? Dare I inflict a rough-around-the-edges game on people?

    Just play it. IF it crashes, IF there's parts that don't do what you want them to, well now you know. And knowing this, you can fix it.

    Or, is what you're asking more along the lines of, "How do I sell this playtesting idea to people who may be used to games that are already playtested?" That's a different thing, and all I can recommend is honesty, and sell them on the chance to get in on the ground floor of what should be a cool RPG experience. I don't think anyone reasonable will be offended if they know they're playtesting a game; scratch a geek, find a budding overachiever. I think you'll be surprised.
  • edited March 2008
    Posted By: JDCorleyPay strangers to do it, in food, credit, or money.

    Watch them as they flounder their way through it. Don't help them. At all.

    Listen to every ignorant thing they say about your game.

    Do another editing pass.

    Return to top of post, begin again.
    Harsh but strong advice for you, Jeph! Of particular note in this idea is that you'd be saying 'I'm giving you something to playtest this'. Ie, your not promising them orgasms of pleasure, your offering them something to playtest this thing.

    Just make it a playtest - feel anxious anymore, when it's a playtest?
  • Bugger strangers! I want to play!
  • Posted By: JephIt's diceless and GMless.
    Forget WoW heads (unless they play on RP servers to have a chance to RP), get theater geeks and english and art majors, especially any who also play video games, card games, and/or board games, and of course RPGs now or in the past (since people good with rules and game structure will be able to help more). But unless they are interested in RPGs, don't push to hard that this is an RPG. This sometimes can be a pitfall for incorrect expectations. Although, only sometimes. Other than that, what JD said.

    Also, I fully recommend the Master Plan podcast. Ryan has at least one episode that talks about playtesting, but it's a good all around "things to look for and think about" game design podcast.

    Good luck!
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