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Lessons From My First Playtest

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So my RPG, Drama Tension Conflict, has had its first round of playtesting, and the process has been illuminating. I have learned some things from it and about the playtest process in general.

The System Needed More Playtesting at Home

I received a few comments that the game didn’t seem quite ready for prime time. While I certainly didn’t advertise it as a finished product, it could have undergone more strenuous testing on my part. Some of the feedback I received were for things I would have caught after a few sessions. Other things, on the other hand, I wouldn’t have discovered until someone besides me ran a game.

I Need to Play The Game as a Player

I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve played in an RPG. I almost always GM. I like GMing. But I think it would be valuable to gain perspective of the system by playing whilst someone else runs the game. I need to gauge how other GMs grok the rules from reading them. I need to see if the game’s fun from the players’ perspective.

I Have to Discipline the Way I Manage Feedback and Revisions

Because I had the time, I began working on revisions as they came in. This was a mistake. In the future I will release a playtest packet and collect feedback. Revisions will happen weeks afterward. I found it frustrating as I’m making changes while other relevant feedback is coming in. That causes me to revise the revisions.

Playtesters Are Better at Keeping Me Honest and I Am

One of the most valuable things I did about half-way through the design process was to establish four “design goals” for the game. In short, these were the reasons why I wanted to design a game to begin with. These were very valuable for me when doing each revision, and several playtesters pointed out when the game rules violated one of these goals.

The next revision (1.3) is in the works now, and I’ll run some playtests in the coming weeks and at Gateway 2013.



Written by

Stu Venable is the producer of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast and writer and editor of He is founder and director of the Poxy Boggards and a member of Celtic Squall. He holds a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from California State University, Long Beach. He is a husband and a father. He hates puppies.

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