Dec 21 - Final Playtest

Final Playtest Notes

  • I had the pleasure of running my first face to face game in a number of years last weekend and surprised my players with a printed preview copy of the Heroes of Adventure rule book each (A4 hardback and A5 paperback/zine formats as pictured below).
  • We ran a three to four hour session of the game starting by testing the character creation rules (but we used existing 2nd/3rd level characters during the adventure)
  • My notes and initial player feedback (as there had been a number of rules tweaks since our last adventure) are detailed below.

Hero Creation

  • I opened up the non-human races for selection as I had felt they had progressed sufficiently in the campaign to learn about and discover these new races (they had previously completed an adventure to help the Wildfolk tribes) .
  • Creating a new non-human hero did make them feel quite powerful at 1st level (the intention) but this is off-set against slower progression.
  • Hero creation did encourage some initial world-building when we started marking players home towns on the ‘global’ map.
  • Hero creation took longer than I had anticipated. However, I had tried to create a D&D 5E character for a recent adventure and that felt a lot more complicated with all the character build options so this by comparison was straightforward.
  • I thought the ‘background tables’ worked quite well. Short questions to give background prompts but also provided some mechanical benefit (double XP objective for example).

Creating The Adventure

  • The adventure was intended to be a wilderness point-crawl type affair but set in the Shadowlands (a realm between life and death) where chaos creatures roamed
  • I used the adventure creation processes as a test which helped me get the initial scope down fairly quickly and then I did a couple of passes on each room/area to add further detail
  • One thing I did do which I might highlight more in the procedures is to link items in between rooms/areas. One of these actually developed into a small sub-plot which the players have yet to fully discover.
  • The treasure tables helped me create some more interesting treasure (we had the typical chest of coins but also a mechanical wind up toy king, expensive crystal ornament, magical spices, jewel encrusted goblets, elven inscribed wooden armband, a rune marked bag with smooth playing stones). It was good to have a variety of things and even some of the lower value items were retained as they were considered interesting.
  • I now have a bestiary of creatures and it as nice to throw things at the players which they are not familiar with and didn’t know how best to handle (a Psycher - mind control, Aberrants - flying menace, Barghasts - hunting and pursuit)

The Adventure

  • The game was felt pretty fluid, the rules were sufficiently light (and I was sufficiently knowledgeable of my own work!) to run this without having to refer to the rule book at all. The only time I needed this was to check monsters statistics.
  • I had introduced (and forgot a couple of times the ‘combat momentum’ rules). One piece of feedback was that this added a randomised element to combat (if one side had the upperhand then what was the reasoning for the change in tide of the battle? The design intention was this exactly to provide that potential shift in momentum which the referee could narrate as a tactical change or rally). I was more concerned that I kept forgetting to apply the rule than the rule intention so one to mull over further.
  • The couple of encounters which led to combat were all over in less than 3-4 rounds, this could be attributed to a lowering of the defence scores so the outcomes were likely to be; miss, hit or critical hit (and we had a number of critical hits with double damage). 
  • Not all the encounters were a straight up fight; we had a Psycher who possessed the nearest player from a hidden position which happened to be the strongest warrior who could have decimated the party but the mage used a sleep spell on him so a crisis averted; we had some Aberrants (new creatures not in the book) who swooped in and grabbed party members and flew them away splitting the party and a third encounter with some Barghast which had been following the players for a while and caused the Mage to use his ‘nuclear’ option (see below).
  • The armour absorption rules (half damage but damages armour and its effectiveness) was applied a few times and worked as intended.  
  • Grappling came up once (when the players were trying to restrain the possessed fighter) and this was simply handled by a ‘what would you like to do?) (restrain) ok make an opposed strength/agility vs strength/agility. If you win you restrain. A good example of a quick ruling and keeping gameplay moving forward.
  • Unfortunately, one of the NPCs was grievously wounded twice which involved two checks on the wounds table; one result involved a temporary wound and the other resulted in the loss of an eye and a permanent impairment as a result. The players got the concept that when heroes hit zero health this may not mean death but may result in a permanent impairment forcing retirement through too many injuries. 
  • Applying this rule to both NPCs with the party (as opposed to VIP NPCs only) started to give the NPCs more ‘character’ (one-eye, broken ribs guy) and the players felt more responsible for the NPCs during the session when they were carrying an injury. In essence, they felt more than ‘throw-away’ people (i.e. the classic ‘red shirt’)
  • One balancing aspect I need to consider is the strength of the warrior classes; bluntly if you are a warrior type combat then you shouldn’t fear melee combat as you have a pool of health, a higher defence score through armour and the ability to absorb damage. If you are not a warrior then combat can be very dangerous as there is a strong risk of getting hit. I like the feel of this but it may need a bit of tweaking to get the balance right so other classes (say Rangers and Rogues can offer more value here. Anyone can hit and damage but non-armoured classes will get hit back. 
  • I might need to be clearer about the detect magic rule. I tend to play this as magic sensitive characters have a ‘spider sense’ when magic is nearby but then can choose if to cast a detect magic spell to ascertain further details about proximity, strength, nature of magic etc. Got a couple of prompts about when the ‘spider-sense’ should apply. Maybe, I just need to say it’s a passive ability so it’s clearer the referee will tell you if you feel something.
  • One thing which I liked was the mage in the party choosing to use both the focus and amplification elements of casting a spell to create a powerful magic attack on some creatures (i.e. the nuclear option). The increased difficulty meant they couldn’t summon the power the first time but then nailed a die roll to score a critical success on a double damage roll which I ruled a triple damage outcome which absolutely disintegrated some monsters. The cost is the temporary loss of health until they rest but I liked the risk reward choice they made.
  • Nothing to do with the rules but my maze room (lots of twists and turns) didn’t interest the players (felt a bit of a chore) and so I skipped past some of this and moved the adventure on, one on me there.
  • The players re-routed through an area to avoid a potential hazard, the way I had created the areas gave the players options to figure out their own route.
  • I kept a note of XP and awarded this at the end of the session. Personally, my players like incremental gains and it was easy to work this out. Objective done = x, Rooms explored = y, Treasure Items found = z etc. I had a question about division of XP with NPCs and heroes who died but had already considered this and use the ‘half share’ rule for these eventualities.
  • Overall it was an enjoyable session which is the main thing and the game flowed with little interruptions to check the rules so pretty happy with how this played out.
  • I have a few typos in the rule book which were highlighted so subject to correcting these (and there will be more) I will be publishing the game for everyone else to have a look at in the next couple of days.

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