Thursday, 29 March 2018

My invisible playtesters

Comic character 21 by Firkin
When I'm writing an adventure I need to give it an initial test to make sure that it's going to appeal to an average group. To do this I can't sit down with my gaming group and ask them if they'll enjoy certain aspects of the adventure as that'd ruin the surprise for them, so I have to look at the adventure from different angles to make sure that everyone has something to do.

To deal with this I began to build the game in my head with several invisible friends with different play styles to make sure that the adventure I was writing was going to appeal to everyone in the group. I would sit down with a pad and list out the five kinds of player that I've experienced over the years. Of course, if there are others these can be added too, but for now I'll stick with the five I know.

I would then make notes on each type to make sure that they were catered for in the game. If I was designing for a regular group and I knew the players it made the job much easier and I'd make sure that each one was catered for as best I could, but for new groups or general adventures I needed to be a bit more aware of the possibilities.

Of course this didn't work for all games as some games have a specific play style or genre that they're trying to emulate, but for general adventure games the full five usually worked out well. If the game was going to be more angled to a certain play style, or the game turned out that way, then I'd simply drop one of the types or at least reduce their importance.

I especially began to do this when I started writing adventures for public consumption, as the many varied play styles or attitudes to the game that groups out in the wild have will need catering for, or at least acknowledging to be sure that it appeals to a larger number of groups. The adventure would go through playtesting anyway, but I always felt the initial design needed attention before that point.

So, for example:

The Action Player - This one is simple; is there enough action to keep this player happy? The game doesn't have to be filled with it, and depending on the game the combat encounters might take up quite a bit of time, so making sure that the Action Player gets to hit, shoot or outmaneuver an opponent is dependent on the game system.

The Storyteller Player - Is the story good enough to keep this player happy? If the adventure has a plot that can be followed or the overall story of the adventure is relatable then the Storyteller Player should be satisfied.

The Puzzle Solver Player - This doesn't have to be a riddle or a physical puzzle to solve, it could be a series of events or plot points that need to be put together for the Puzzle Solver Player to be satiated.

The Dramatic Player - Character interaction and melodrama can really make a game and the Dramatic Player can be pleased with some memorable NPCs, moments in the game where they have the chance to have in-character conversations with the other players and relish those moments of high drama during the game.

The Explorer Player - How big is the land or the location? What is there to do there? Some players love to explore and poke their noses into rooms, look for secret locations, walk down paths that aren't signposted or just experience the location in it's entirety.

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