Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Shifters Ready for Playtesting

I have mentioned here before that I am working on creating a new roleplaying game. It is finally ready for playtesting.

I have created a pdf of the beta-version rules set. I illustrated it myself, because I couldn't find anyone else to do it. Which means that the illustrations are crappy beyond belief. Some of them are photoshopped photographs, others are tracings of photographs done with pencil (some of which are finished in ink, others not). A couple of them are, in essence, completely brazenly stolen. I justify this theft with the fact that this is only a beta playtest version; if playtest goes well and results in a workable product, I will probably try to put this game on Kickstarter. If successful, one of the things I plan to include in the budget is paying for a professional illustrator (or possibly more than one). Every illustration I made will be discarded, the layout will be finalised and made more pleasant, and real actual honest-to-goodness illustrations will be included.

So, with that said, I would like to make available to you, my faithful readers, the pdf of the playtest edition of Shifters.

As you read this, and as you and your friends play it, please take notes so that you can offer me feedback: do the rules work? Does the chargen system work? Do point costs for traits need to be adjusted? Does the setting work? Does it make sense? Do the options made available to players make it more or less accessible? Are there grammatical or spelling errors? Are there inconsistencies in the rules?

Please download it, try it, let me know how it goes. I greatly appreciate your help.

Until next week,

Game on!


Drackmel Kress said...

Hello. I recently met you over at Loot and XP for the game development meetup. And as long as you promise to stop throwing bees at me, I will do what I can to help.

I have not had a chance to do a full read of the game, I have started going through it. I wanted to post my thought on it before I forget them, then maybe they can be compiled, and you can take what you want from it.

So far only 3 things have jumped out at me that may need to be reworked, I will try to go into as much detail as possible.

1. Too many skills, or Too specific.
I do like a game with a lot of skills to choose from, cause it can be a lot to do. However, it seems that several of your skills could be combined, or made to a broader usage.
This could be very important for a game that is made for new players.

For example, you have both Electronics, and Computer repair. Seeing as a computer would be a electronic device, the usage and repair of it would fall under the same category. You also have 2 other computer based skills, programming and usage.

It may be better to combine these all into one skill. from there, you could apply the specialty which is mentioned later on. So, someone with the Computer/electronics skill would be able to perform all the computer based abilities, but may gain a bonus for using it for the repair part.

The same can be said for several other skills, chemistry and physics could both fall under a general science skill. and survivalist, Naturalist, and first aid and Veterinary may all fall under a general survival skill.

Less skills to choose from would make a newer player be less overwhelmed, and would help streamline gameplay and creation.

2. Some of the character boons/flaws may be not flaws at all, or have no effect.
Not all of them are bad, and can add a lot to gameplay.
However, some of them seem to fall under how the player is acting, rather than the character themselves.

The main ones that caught my eye were Solipsist, callous, and Bad tempered.
These are truly flaws that any character can have, but feel more like they should be role played.

It fells like something that a player should be punished for (or given bonuses to, for boons) on a case by case basis, rather than just, this is who I am.

The player should not need the book to tell him that he is mad. He should really feel his character is mad with whatever situation. The same goes for how he treats NPC's (callous or Charismatic) Or how he views the world (Solopsist).

Don't get me wrong, I would love to see these played out from a character, but it should be the players choice as to how they shape and mold them, from situation to situation. and not some permanent marker on their sheet that has to remind them.

I think these may be better moved to a section covering role playing, and the personality of the character, rather than Boons or Flaws.

To be continued ...

Drackmel Kress said...

Continued from Above ...

3. The initiative wheel.

First off, I like this idea in general. It allows all players to see where they stand, and who is going when. This helps keep everyone organized and accountable for the turns they take.

However, it should not just be placed at random, and counted up or down from there.
This may lead to confusion as to the initial setup, and is more complicated than needed.

Rather, each spot should be numbered, 1 to 20.
This way, if you roll a 14, you go on the 14 slot, easy enough.
Turn order would then go counting down, 20 down to 1, and each player would take action accordingly.

This presents a new problem, of players who roll higher than 20, or less than 1 (if possible, as I have not read it all yet).

Any player who rolls higher than 20 could gain an extra action, like a surprise round. This allows them to take advantage of great speed, leaving enemies caught off guard for sneak attack or flat footed type attacks. Once they take their action, they would then be placed at their initiative roll -20 , witch should preserver the turn order.

The same applies for anyone who would have less than one. They would miss the first round of combat, and remain off guard. They would then be placed at +20 Preserving turn order.

I hope this is helpful, and you are able to apply even a small amount to improving the game. I intend to keep reading, and post any more comments I can.

I may not be able to get my players to play test it, but I will at least try and roll up a character of my own, once I better understand it.

Overall, good luck, and keep up the good work.

P.S. Sorry about the split post, but it appears that there is a character limit.

The Game Dork said...

1. Those are some valid points. I will definitely take those into consideration.

2. I don't know what your experience with tabletop RPGs may be, but I'm used to systems like GURPS and the original World of Darkness, which are centered just as much (if not more so) around storytelling as the proverbial 'hack-and-slash.' Systems such as these have not only personality-based flaws like the ones you mention, but actual game mechanic effects for those flaws. Flaws like 'stoic' and 'callous' not only provide personality guidelines for the characters, but encourage the GM to reward accurate playing of the character, and penalise inaccurate playing. This is seen most notably in the rewarding of XP at the end of the session, where it specifically states that one of the possible points that a player may receive is for accurately playing his character's personality. As such, these flaws become not only personality traits, but in-game mechanics.

3. The Initiative Track is not there simply as a visual reminder of the turn order, but as a marker of the way in which turn order changes. Shifters is not a turn-based game, but a time-based one.

Think of it this way: the various actions that a character may take do not all take the same amount of time. That's not the way it works in the real world, so why should it work that way in a game?

For example, pulling out a phone and dialling 911 takes quite a bit more time than firing a ready pistol. Why then would both actions take a single turn, with both characters getting an equal number of said actions?

Instead, the GM rules that pulling out a phone and dialling 911 takes, say, 15 ticks (a tick being one fifth of a second), whereas firing a single shot from a ready pistol takes only two ticks. So even if the character with the phone began his action on, say, an initiative of 14, and the character with a gun began his action on 8, the character with the phone will move his marker down to -1 to indicate how long it takes to complete his action. Then, when the turn marker gets to 8, the character with the gun fires and moves his marker to 6. He still has another 7 ticks in which to act before the character with the phone can do anything else. He can fire his gun 3 more times, or take time to aim, or duck behind cover...

This is why numbers on the initiative track won't work; the markers are constantly moving, and after everyone has their token on the track, they become confusing instead of helpful.