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Author Topic: Playtesting a Renaissance era psuedo-historical game(advice? interest?)  (Read 911 times)

Aracaris

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I've been working on a game (for the first time) since the beginning of the year, and playtesting it for about 4 months now.  I've had 2 groups and 3 different GMs (including myself) run it... but all the playtesters are locals and mostly people I've known and gamed with in the past.  I think it's probably inevitable that will lead to strong bias (though it is also a ton of fun).

What I'd like to do is get folks willing to test it out in a situation where I really don't know any of them.  

So, play by post sounds like an option, but problem here is, I have not ran a game in this format before.  So what would you more experienced folks suggest?  Should I just go for it anyways?  Have someone else run it (honestly I'm thinking this might be a better option, since that means another person playtesting as GM)?  Join another game first and see how it goes?  Or is play by post not a good idea for this afterall and I should seek another option?

As far as the game itself here's the playtest packet (it's a PDF that I have available for download): https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7iiKs6gf8dDS3BQS1NXcTJoVmc/view?usp=sharing

Bren

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Playtesting a Renaissance era psuedo-historical game(advice? interest?)
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2015, 02:26:41 am »
It would be useful for you to explicitly state what you want to get out of having additional playtester(s). You may think that is obvious, but actually writing out will help us understand what you are trying to accomplish and that will help you to get a better answer to your question.

Here's some things you might think about if you haven't already.
  • Are you trying to make a game available?
  • Trying to sell a game?
  • Trying to actually make money selling a game? (Very few people actually make real money selling games and by real money I mean getting paid more per hour than say cashiers or fry cooks at McDonald's.)
  • How willing are you to hear people complain or criticize what you have already created?
  • Would you scrap the game if the playtest feedback is really negative or are you committed to this because it is a labor of love or because you have already spent so much time on it?
  • Would you be wiling to radically change the game based on feedback or are you really looking for only minor tweaks or changes?
  • Are you looking for validation rather than criticism?
Currently running: Boot Hill 2E      Currently playing:_D&D 5E and Call of Cthulhu
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I now have a gold medal from Ravenswing and Gronan now owes me 9 beers and I owe him 2 beers.
And this just in, jeff37923 has jumped on the beer wagon. He now owes me 1 beer.

Aracaris

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Playtesting a Renaissance era psuedo-historical game(advice? interest?)
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2015, 03:03:42 am »
Are you trying to make a game available?
Reply: Yes

Trying to sell a game?
Reply: Not at this point (though I've sold a few hardcopies of the playtest on request from people), but maybe in the future.  I may make it available for free (at least as a PDF anyhow).  I would actually rather sell it but I really have to admit I'm not entirely sure yet what is best.
 
Trying to actually make money selling a game? (Very few people actually make real money selling games and by real money I mean getting paid more per hour than say cashiers or fry cooks at McDonald's.)
Reply: Oh yeah I doubt that I will, but one can fantasize.  I'd love to, but I don't expect to.
   
How willing are you to hear people complain or criticize what you have already created?
Would you scrap the game if the playtest feedback is really negative or are you committed to this because it is a labor of love or because you have already spent so much time on it?
Reply: entirely scrap it, no, because if all else fails my group of players likes playing it and a few folks like running it too... though I guess that kinda amounts to scrapping it as far as anyone outside my buddies are concerned and I'd rather fix it than do that.  However am I willing to scrap aspects of it?  Oh yeah, for sure.  I need to hear the negatives... because, especially if people complain about a certain thing regularly, chances are I need to fix it or scrap it.  The game has adapted all ready to fix some things I've gotten negative feedback about so it has been helpful... though I can admit there's certain things I might be a stubborn bastard about.

Would you be wiling to radically change the game based on feedback or are you really looking for only minor tweaks or changes?
Are you looking for validation rather than criticism?
Reply: I've gotten enough validation. I'll admit I like it, and I'll take it, I'll also admit that while it is useful when it tells me what is working and what I should emphasize, it is very helpful (far more helpful) to NOT just have validation. Constructive criticism is more useful ultimately.
I am looking mostly to make minor tweaks, but if it is found something demands a more major change I really will have to consider how to handle it to be sure.

I want to play test to find holes in the system, to find things that make it fun and worth playing, to find things it needs (meaning what it's lacking), and find things that are outright broken that need fixing/scrapping.  I also want to playtest it because there is something about seeing one's creation in action that I enjoy (plus I've playtested other folks games and so far as a player have found it great fun, though maybe I have just gotten lucky so far), though admittedly that particular aspect of playtesting is pretty much fulfilled by my local group.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2015, 03:39:39 am by Aracaris »

Battle Mad Ronin

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Playtesting a Renaissance era psuedo-historical game(advice? interest?)
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2015, 03:42:59 am »
Ok, I've skimmed the document and my first impressions are:

- I fucking love the setting. I'm a huge fan of renaissance era games, primitive guns and infant science. The setting reminds me very much of the obscure PC game 'Lionheart', which had an awesome fantasy-historical setting mared by terrible graphics and rules.

That is also why I'm disappointed to see so little setting material. I would love to hear more about the world as it is. The overview of European countries is too short by far to give me a good idea of where to set a game, for example. Mages ruling England = pure win, but couldn't we hear a little more about them? How do they legitimize their rule? What are their interpretations of Christianity? Because they could absolutely not hope to rule if they reject the Christian church, not in a million years. How are their relations to the continent? Are the Spanish about to launch a crusade against them?

Organizations I also like, these add some meat. Although some seem more useful than others. Where are the Knights Templar? Where are the different sects of Christianity that came with the reformation? Where are the 'Brotherhood of Löwe', the secret Golem makers? There are so many weird and wonderful real-life organizations and conspiracy theories you might draw on. I'd like the factions to be more intricately woven into the setting. The Joan D'arc sisters are a good example, the others seem more... bland.

And what use are the Promethians and Thoth guys? 'Gather secret knowledge' doesn't start any adventures. The Templars from 'Assassin's Creed' gather secret knowledge and use it to influence the course of human history to achive the 'best' outcome. That's drama, that's something you can uncover and fight against, and/or have moral qualms about (what if they are right?).
Gathering secret knowledge to store it in the library and make some experiments? That's uninteresting. Make these guys have some motivations, goals and ruthless methods rather than just being groups of glorified librarians.
I read an article by a game designer once, where he explained who he'd created this awesome guild of Gnome clock-makers that were ever so dear to him... And then he threw them out when he realized that there was nothing about them that made them interesting enough to warrant game inclusion. The pages were better spent on the guild of evil wizards because that group was simply more interesting for the GMs trying to create dramatic games. I think this game would be best served with a merciless 'kill your darlings' proof-reading.

- The Rules bore me to tears. You've got less than twenty pages of setting info and the rest is just rules, rules, rules. And they all seem like a rehash of D&D and elements of various other games to me. Backgrounds, levels, classes, it's all there, the basic stuff. I've read it before and I couldn't help but wonder why I should play this system rather than D&D, Savage Worlds or any other system that I'm already familiar with.

Savage Worlds is intended to be fast, furious and fun for any (pulpy) genre. D&D is intended for high fantasy adventure with lots of combat and dungeons. FATE is a sleek story game with heavy emphasis on personal and inter-personal drama. And those are just some of the systems to draw from.
What makes your rules essential for running this setting? Why could I not substitute the rules given for this game with any of the above?

Kevin Crawford, RPG Kickstarter master extraordinary, once wrote that your first game should always use rules that are already established. Most people are looking for game settings that fit into what they know, rather than stuff full of rules they will have to learn. It's simply easier to latch onto an existing market. D20/OSR rules are easy to use, known by almost everyone and super streamlined. Those would be my first bet for a simple rule set that sells itself.

You say that you know people who liked the rules and therefore you are unwilling to scrap them. I know people how like pickle-flavored ice cream. Care to invest a few thousand in my pickle ice-cream project? I know some people who like it, therefore there must be a market.

Aracaris

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Playtesting a Renaissance era psuedo-historical game(advice? interest?)
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2015, 04:30:26 am »
I can elaborate more on rules and what distinguishes them from the systems you are referring to (improvisational magic, classes that are though traditional tropes handled differently with the introduction of the paths, the way resources and backgrounds are handled.  Yes they do have a strong traditional RPG tinge, and I'm not looking to get away from that entirely)... but onto the other things you said that honestly stand out more to me and might be more useful to discuss in this particular case.

Your comments on the setting (and criticism of what you like and what it's lacking and what elements are weak) are what I LOVE to hear, and I am actually considering doing a book that is pure (or close as can be) setting, and maybe with some simple adaptations for games like Fate or something else (I'm not really a fan of Savage Worlds but that's neither here nor there).  Why? Because I agree there's a lot more meat to be added to the setting and I'm probably much more likely to get people interested in it then rules (though I have been having a blast with the rules and do want to continue refining and improving them).  You are exactly the sort of demographic I imagine I would be having to target if I am indeed to branch out and do a setting sans-rules book (or a setting book with some basics of how to adapt it to the rules of your choice book).  

Now that all said, my intent to support a system-free book or other systems is very very much in an infant stage at this point (I didn't really come into this thinking I'd even bring it up, but it seems to be a worthwhile subject).  If I do support a specific system with this I am leaning towards Fate, at least for the first one... I may branch out from there (though I think supporting too much is probably going to amount to biting off more than I can chew) but honestly, I'm not sure what other systems I'd want to support at this point (there's far too much PF/3.5 material out there all ready, and again, Savage Worlds isn't my cup of tea, so probably neither of those).  If you have suggestions for other systems I should support (and again, I'm a bit worried about biting off more than I can chew with too many systems) I am open to looking into some.

I'll look over what you've written a few times and make a list since it looks like there's plenty of seeds in it for me to pick and elaborate on.

----

OK starting to expand a bit

On factions: I'm actually torn on them.  When I started writing, I wanted to keep them more madeup factions.... but you are right there's a TON of fascinating real world groups.  I may drift away from the madeup ones (aside from the Blood of Adam and Sisterhood of the Phoenix) and towards real world ones, especially as I do more research... plus the real world ones all ready had plenty of motives and schemes that I can twist and elaborate on.

On Albion/England ruled-by-mages: cool that someone finds the idea appealing... I don't know how much I'll go into them, I guess if enough people like the idea I may focus in on them more, otherwise they might be more something distant that gets a little blurb.  If I do go into them more, then I'll definitely have to answer the questions you've asked, and more.

I am really wanting to focus in a lot more on Italy, and REALLY detail a few specific cities (or maybe even mainly focus in on one initially) since I see it as being the heart of the setting to some degree, just as it gets thought of as the heart of the Renaissance.

As far as conflicts (like the Spanish planning to launch a crusade) I really REALLY want some sort of big inquisition, or crusade, or something along those lines to be boiling, and to bake some nasty politics and intrigue into things... but, that is going to take a lot more thought and time.  It's also I think another thing playtesting will help with, as sometimes ideas come to me as I'm running or playing games.
---

This brings me to another question, ignore the ruleset for the time being: if I were to make a book that is setting only, and then release something that would make easy to adapt to (let us say Fate, but could be something else) would it be something you would want to run or play?  Obviously this would mean I'd have to have A LOT more setting material, which I plan to do in any case.

Also should this be in the play by post forum anymore?  I can't move it, but if it ends up not going towards a play by post (using my system, Fate, whatever with this setting) probably doesn't belong here.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2015, 05:06:44 am by Aracaris »

Aracaris

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Playtesting a Renaissance era psuedo-historical game(advice? interest?)
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2015, 06:47:16 pm »
Hope a double post is OK.  

I saw you mentioned OSR Battle Mad Ronin, I missed that before... a lot of the best adventures are written for OSR games  IMO (though I've always ended up using some other ruleset for them, I always make a point to get any new Lamentations of the Flame Princess material especially).  Does get me pondering whether OSR might be a decent option for this to be adapted to as well.

Thanks for taking a look BTW.

Bren

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Playtesting a Renaissance era psuedo-historical game(advice? interest?)
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2015, 08:09:40 pm »
It's Ok.
Currently running: Boot Hill 2E      Currently playing:_D&D 5E and Call of Cthulhu
My Blog: For Honor...and Intrigue
I now have a gold medal from Ravenswing and Gronan now owes me 9 beers and I owe him 2 beers.
And this just in, jeff37923 has jumped on the beer wagon. He now owes me 1 beer.

Bren

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Playtesting a Renaissance era psuedo-historical game(advice? interest?)
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2015, 08:10:15 pm »
It really is.
Currently running: Boot Hill 2E      Currently playing:_D&D 5E and Call of Cthulhu
My Blog: For Honor...and Intrigue
I now have a gold medal from Ravenswing and Gronan now owes me 9 beers and I owe him 2 beers.
And this just in, jeff37923 has jumped on the beer wagon. He now owes me 1 beer.

Battle Mad Ronin

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« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2015, 04:22:16 am »
I'm definitely more interested in the setting than the rules, and will limit mhy comments to that.

I think the idea of focusing on one particular city state is brilliant. It gives GMs a specific well-detailed area to use as a starting point, a 'sample' of renaissance culture. And setting it in Italy means you are right at the heart of what might be the most politically explosive area of Europe.

Might I suggest the 1520s as a starting point, in the middle of the ultra-complicated Italian wars. Instant hooks for player's doing mercenary work, secret negotiations, spying etc. for one or more interested parties involved with the war effort.

Da Vinci just died (or maybe he''l live to be a hundred in this setting, who knows!), Machiavelli having 'The Prince' published and the legendary Borgias at the height of influence. And the protestant reformation blowing up society in northern Europe, Martin Luther excommunicated and (fake) kidnapped by his own supporters, the Peasants' War and all kinds of fun.

Aracaris

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Playtesting a Renaissance era psuedo-historical game(advice? interest?)
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2015, 05:42:54 pm »
Yeah, that is pretty rich setting material to work with. What I'm doing for now is starting a series of modules, each one I am thinking will focus in on a particular area or situation.  So I could have one focusing on some event happening in Florence (and give the players the chance to either change history, or go off and do something which leads to it taking place as it would have ordinarily), then I could have a book detailing Rome and something happening there, and so on.  This would also make it easy for me to release some pay what you want (ie, you want it for free, go for it, you want to tip me, cool) material, and have more for people later if they do like it. Also makes it easy to release books both with OSR, Fate, or whatever compatible versions probably.

I love Machiavelli, and that's a figure that should be a lot of fun to work with, same with the Borgias.  I think the reformation probably will end up happening very differently... so that one will be a real tough scenario to do justice and make work with the alternate history, not sure I can manage it, but if I can that would be great.  I definitely want Da Vinci to be alive (at least for some scenarios), along with some other figures for longer than they were in real world history.

 I've found a partner to work with on this, which should help a lot (fellow certainly is, at the very least, a way superior editor to me).

Battle Mad Ronin

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« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2015, 07:22:10 am »
Sounds like you have a very clear vision of what you want to do. I for one would love to follow that process.

Aracaris

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« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2015, 01:58:34 pm »
Cool, well once I have something worth sharing or discussing I'll post again.  

BTW I have played Lionheart, I'll name it as one of several influences... though hopefully I don't without realizing it take too much from it (or anything else aside from real world lore and history, which I'm not concerned at all about letting influence my work to excess), as I very much want to avoid being too close to a clone of any existing fictional material.  Early game for Lionheart is pretty solid IMO. Further in the game got to be terrible, but I don't think it was the system/rules (which were fine for a certain style) so much as it stopped being something in the vein of Planescape and Fallout and became a hack n' slash game (which it was ill suited to be).

Edit:
So, funny thing, I had made some Pathfinder house rules for this a while back, and figured they'd never get used again (scrapped them in preference for building my own system and not supporting others, let alone PF), but found out a friend of mine is now running the setting using... well, Pathfinder.  Managed to find and dig up copies those up for him though (they weren't lost for good fortunately).  I'll be looking forward to hearing about his group's shenanigans.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2015, 01:21:35 am by Aracaris »