Monday, February 25, 2013

TotalCon Shiverwhen Play Test

I had the opportunity to run the first public play test of Shiverwhen this weekend while attending TotalCon 2013. Despite the ungodly 8 AM scheduling of the game, I sat down with a full table, and even had to turn a player away (had I an extra pre-gen, I’d gladly have run it with seven players). With Shiverwhen being a completely new game for everyone at the table except me, I was very pleased to see that the players seemed to pick up what I was laying down and that the rules system was accessible to newcomers. I’ll count that as a good sign of things to come.

The play test featured the introductory scenario I intend to include with the game once it’s complete: “The Perils of the Book Trade.” It’s a fairly simple mystery adventure that sees the PCs investigating what appears to be a strong-arm attempt to drive a new business out of the city of Carouse, a decadent settlement on the shores of the Snakewater River. The players demonstrated excellent deductive reasoning and came up with several well-conceived plans to ferret out the clues that led them to the location of the culprits responsible. Unfortunately, we ran out of time before we could conclude the adventure due to the time necessary to introduce the game and the last minute addition of myself to a discussion panel immediately following the event.

To give you an idea of where I’m going with Shiverwhen, here’s the breakdown of the party:

  • The ballisturgist: A novice gunfighter that excels at ranged combat and can achieve preternatural results with a pistol.
  •  The combatant: The party’s “brick” melee fighter. Similar to the ballisturgist, but in melee combat instead of ranged battles, the combatant can engage in spectacular attacks and counter-attacks, and endure brutal amounts of damage.
  • The uncanny: A psychic sensitive able to read emotions, objects, and, most impressively, “speak” the language of old buildings to uncover their secrets.
  • The wise one: A minor magician, but not one in the high fantasy vein. This character can influence fate, divine the future, and remove supernatural taint and conditions.
  • The scrivener: A wordsmith whose compositions can transform reality simply by “rewriting” things to better serve his or her desires.
  • The kindler: Able to pool the party’s inherent preternatural energies, the kindler is part cleric, part den mother, and part good luck charm rolled into one.
Not quite the typical band of heroes, huh?

There were several good results from the play test, some of which were hoped for and others that were surprising. Although much of the language of the game remains in a state of flux (I’m a stickler for the wording I’m looking for and some terms have changed several time), the game terms I’m completely sold on got positive feedback, indicating that my attention to the game’s vocabulary is paying off. The method of handling armor in the game also appears to be working as intended, and since it was a recent change, I’m pleased at that. Lastly, and both unexpected and delightful, the session drew a pool of players evenly divided between both genders. I’m a big fan of mixed gaming groups, believing that the sexes often take different approaches to the fundamental problem-solving that is the heart of roleplaying games. Maybe it was dumb luck, but if not and the gender breakdown proves to be a regular phenomenon, it might mean Shiverwhen has a broader appeal than I expected or hoped for.

A big thank you to everyone who woke up early on a Saturday to come down and play my crazy game you never heard of. I’ve got some tinkering to do after I get back from another con this coming weekend, and I’m looking forward to play testing the game again down at NTRPG Con in June.

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