Monday, May 7, 2012

News Flash:Play-Testing Makes You Feel Good

Doubtself doubt…is a terrible thing.

Two Wednesdays ago, I woke up feeling great. Well, kind of. Certainly I’d gotten too little sleep (and too much beer) the night before, resulting in an upset stomach and severe headache the entire day. This didn’t do much for the chronic neck and back pain I’ve been suffering. It was grey and drizzly all day after several days of sunshine, and my phone at work was ringing off the hook all day (which, as I’m not in a sales profession, is NOT a good thing).

But regardless, I was feeling good. There was a lightness…hell, a bounce…to my step, even as I was dragging my sorry ass into work a little late. And it was due entirely to the good play-testing the night before.

Now good gaming is its own reward for the most part. I’ve certainly blogged before about the elation and deep satisfaction I feel after a good gaming session, whether I’m running the game or playing in someone else’s. I’ve also written how disappointed or even ANGRY I get when a game session doesn’t go well…it’s like I wasted several hours of time, including the build-up and anticipation beforehand. I LOVE to game. Who knows why? For some folks, it’s an enjoyable, occasional pastime. For me…I don’t know. It’s just something more. A needed escape, I guess; a means of creative expression. Maybe just a chance to stretch my “imagination muscle.”

Astrologically, I would probably point to the emphasized Mars in the 5th house…a person with Pluto in the 5th house would be one of those people who have a hard-time “growing up.” With Mars in that location…well, it indicates this is where I gain or lose energy (and where I’m prone to upset when thwarted). There’s also a lot of ego surrounding an Aries Mars in the 5th house…which is par for the course with a 10th house Pluto and Capricorn 2nd containing Venus, I might add.

Whatever; the why doesn’t really matter all that much. The mental result does. And I get off on good gaming and get pissed about games that go poorly.

But it’s taking it to a whole ‘nother level when you’re dealing with your own game, one that you’ve designed and written yourself. So when a play-test goes well…especially with a game that you’ve been tinkering with for more than a year due to the flaws and frustrations it’s caused…well, it’s enough to make you forget (mostly) about a raging hangover.

Because CDF (the game we’ve beep play-testing) has caused me frustration. And that frustration can lead to self-doubt: doubt about whether you have completely wasted your time. Doubt about whether or not anyone would even enjoy such a game. Doubt about whether or not you should even spend your energy on “design.” I mean, you still have B/X (or LL or AD&D or Pathfinder or whatever)…just house rule it and run with it forever, Amen, right? Throw in a game of Traveller or Boot Hill every now and then for a change-up but just stick to what works and forget the idea of writing anything besides flowery character backgrounds or adventure scenarios for your existing game. Forget your compulsion to do anything more…’cause dammit, you’re just not good enough.

See that? Follow that line of thinking you end up hiding your light under a bush.

I’m not saying every gamer is a designer waiting to bloom. I’m saying that every human has a means (or two) of creative expression and when you find it (and usually you’ll know what it is, deep down, ‘cause it excites your passion) you have to find a way to pursue it in spite of any reservations that might stifle you…things like not being good enough, or smart enough, or educated enough. No, you may not “succeed” and make oodles of money or acquire fame, but you’ll be a helluva’ lot more satisfied with your life…much moreso than if you allow your own nay-saying doubts stop you from pursuing something you enjoy.

I recently had the opportunity to re-read Thomas Sugrue’s biography of Edgar Cayce, There is a River (I highly recommend it to anyone…a good, quick read and both fascinating and enjoyable). Reading about Cayce’s self-doubts about his own unconventional work…despite the great good and help he did for so many people…really helps put your own BS in perspective and (to me anyway) demonstrates how important the MEANS is, not just the END. We’re all going to end our present lives eventually anyway; how do you want to look back at the way you lived it?

I’m going to stand for courageous creativity.

So, regarding the play-test: it went great. As with my previous play-test, I’ve been running an old Shadowrun adventure, converted over to my own system. This particular adventure is Demon in a Bottle, which is kind-of-bad-but-not-terrible. It’s very flavorful due mainly to Tim Bradstreet’s artwork (the story narrative sounds both poorly written and banal to my ear), and an interesting not-quite-McGuffin combined with the usual SR triple-cross-SNAFU isn’t quite demolished by some ham-fisted railroading.

Or maybe it is. After all, in the original adventure it’s up to an NPC to come in and be the “hero” in the end.

But, as said, that’s the original adventure. I ran the opening scenes twice (over two game sessions with different players) in order to test some things, and have decided the rest of the mission will be completely “off-book” (i.e. I’ll be spinning the rest from whole cloth). Hopefully, when we meet next

[Note to Players: TOMMOROW (Tuesday) at the BARANOF, 8PM or thereabouts]

…hopefully, they’ll enjoy the session at least as much as I enjoyed our last one. Highlights from the last session (for me) included the following:

  • Players really embracing the Alignment rules (and earning the bennies of playing in character).

  • Vehicle evasion/skill rules working the way I wanted…quick, loose, and fun while still defined.

  • Having a boost ganger perform a boarding action on a moving vehicle and subsequently getting blown away by a hail of bullets.

  • Good (and creative) use of the witchcraft rules by the witch play-tester

  • Surprise and Initiative rules

  • NPC rules

  • Illusion spells and flux working the way I intended

  • Learning what other “fat” needs to be cut out of the rules

Regarding the latter, I’ve now found over multiple play-tests that I never use the shock/stun rules…which tells me, um, why should I even bother including ‘em? Cut. Keeping track of ammo/bullets expended also seems to be something we neglect in the heat of the moment…I’m thinking of knocking that out, too (or just stream-lining it). I’m going to play around with that tomorrow, I think.

While I was in California last week, K had the opportunity to run another play-test session of CDF with her group, and reported they, too, had a very enjoyable time. They have also skipped the shock rules and stopped counting bullets, which leads me to think I’m on the right track dropping and updating the rules. She says they had a lot of fun with grenades (who doesn’t?) and that the sorcerer was able to knock himself out with flux for most of the session while still contributing mightily to the success of the mission. She also says the two players with prior Shadowrun experience enjoy the rules and are having a blast…which, of course, makes me uber-feliz.

They’re going to continue playing for at least the next couple weeks, which should give ‘em a good chance to work with the development/advancement and mission creation rules. I’m going to need to get on the ball to catch up!
: )

So, yeah: play-testing will re-commence tomorrow at the usual time. Folks in the Seattle area who are interested should email me...I still have a couple-three spots open for players.

1 comment:

  1. If next Tuesday night is a (relatively) sure thing, feel free to pencil me in. I wasn't sure about this week until I saw this post, so I went ahead and made evening plans for tomorrow.