Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Which The Warlock Ponders Playtesting...

As I mentioned last post, I've finally begun my alpha testing of Cold Steel Wardens this week, running two sessions at Wittenberg:  one on Wednesday evenings, and another on Saturday afternoons.  Beginning the playtest has been a bit daunting, all told.  Each week, I have to focus on new rules, new items, and new situations to test out, that way I can make it through the full rules-set before the semester ends.

What I wasn't expecting was such a disparate set of characters to start the game.  Our first session was primarily a character generation session, followed by a sample combat so that the players could get their feet wet.

My Wednesday group was a little shocking.  Starting at 6, we ended up with only four players, one of which has never played an rpg in any sense of the word.  What's more, this group was particularly low-powered, spending most of their character-creation points on Masteries and Skills.  In fact, only one player took any powers whatsoever, and only Sense at that--a power that grants the chooser some form of super-sense such as night-vision or exceptional hearing.  Even more shocking were the actions of one of the Heroes during our sample combat!  With one of her allies in over his head against some of The White Russian's gun-runners, she simply walked away...leaving him to his fate!  Yeesh...some heroism, right?

Character Creation on Saturday Afternoon
In contrast, my Saturday group consists almost entirely of long-time dice-chuckin' veterans, ready to throw down some d8s with the best of them.  While I had mentioned that the prior group had very few powers, I was more than shocked to see every player in the group take at least one power!  What's more, the themes of each Hero's powers were particularly different.  We ended up with a cybernetically augmented hacker (formerly of the Tech Support gang), a knife-wielding teleporter, and even a multi-armed alien! 

Already, though, I've begun to find some rules that just don't work.  While CSW is fully meant to create flawed, vulnerable heroes, the sheer amount of Flaws that players started with (in both groups) was a bit exorbitant.  While I expected some to end up with 4-5 Flaws, especially since Heroes are mandated to have 2 Flaws to start the game, I hadn't expected every player to do so, and more! 

Running the sample combat...
Further, it became immediately apparant that my rules regarding critical hits weren't quite right.  While critical hits were still fairly uncommon--despite the fact that my first 'mooks' were beyond underpowered--the Mental Strain associated with viewing a critical hit was just way too much.  In both sessions, Heroes nearly went mad from blows that they, themselves inflicted!  While I still want to assess some degree of Mental Strain for such blows, it definitely needs scaled back.

Next week, I'll be taking a look at our first real Investigation--a concept-map style case, involving a coming storm between two rival crime families.  I'm hoping to really hit home the fact that CSW isn't meant to be a 'super-brawl' sort of system; rather, it's meant to emulate tense investigation and gritty, dark choices.  With at least one player in each group focused solely on combat, this could be just a touch difficult...

We'll see, friends and neighbors!  The work is never done!

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