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[Babel] Notes from my first play test.

Started by Mobius, April 30, 2010, 06:37:11 PM

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Some System Info:

I've finished the first play test of my games combat engine and basic skills.  The set up was the players were on a train headed to New Jericho which was hijacked by a terrorist organization called the Daggers of Solomon.

The players had to defeat the terrorists and disarm two bombs before the train was blown up.

I had six players, four from my standard gaming group and two that I have played with off and on.

We played three sessions each approximately three and a half hours long.

Overall I am very happy with how things went.  Everyone had a good time and I got a lot of valuable feedback.  The core engine worked well and produced the effect I was shooting for.  That being said there is a lot of room for improvement.

As expected the biggest hurdle was the shear number of abilities thrown at the players.  Each of them had 5+ attacks, 16+ counters, and 8+ follow-ups.  The first round took 2 hours to get through as each player got used to what they could do and the rules.  However the players were able to catch on quickly and the second round took about 45 minutes.  Every other round lasted between 20-30 minuted depending on the number of opponents, etc.

Stunting increased the time it took to get through a round as the players would often stop to think about a stunt suggest one to another player but the increase interest in the fight and flavor it adds is more then worth it.

Some specific changes that I'm making to the system based on my observations and player input are.

Dropping the global rule where non-lethal damage would stage up to lethal if it was higher then the target's Constitution.   
In the end this was an unnecessary extra step that made spike damage much more lethal and devalued armor.  In its place I'm introducing a new weapon quality Crushing that has the same effect but is only on a small number of weapons/attacks.

Replacing lethal Brawling and Martial Arts attacks with Crushing attacks.
Lethal Brawl and MA attacks were ineffective because armor would always stage it down to non-lethal. 

Adding a new level 5 counter to each combat skill that is very effective at stopping a single attack.
The players and main NPCs need better tools to deal with the occasional attack that roll really, really well (aka spike damage).

Reworking the counter/follow-up system.
Right now some counters and follow-up of each rank are recoverable and others are not.  The problem is there are far more non-recoverable abilities then there are recoverable ones and they are (by design) always better.  This devalued the recoverable abilities and the system for recovering them.

Instead I'm going to even out the effectiveness of all counters/follow-ups of a given rank and make it so your highest rank of abilities in any skill are none recoverable but all of the abilities in the lower ranks can be recovered. So if a player had rank 4 in Firearms they could recover any of the rank 1, 2, and 3 abilities but not the rank 4 ones.

Also I am going to reduce the number of follow-ups and counters gained at each skill level by about half.  This should make it easier for players to manage the game and increase the need to recover abilities in a fight.

Limit the characters to one Extra-Action Counter and one Extra-Action Follow-up per turn.
This is primarily to keep combat moving.

This is the first time I've truly run a play test.  If anyone has any suggestions or advice for my next one I would love to hear it. 
Mobius a.k.a Charles

Ar Kayon

30 minute rounds seem painful.

Have you considered imposing time limits for combat actions?


Quote from: Ar Kayon on May 09, 2010, 02:29:38 AM
30 minute rounds seem painful.

Have you considered imposing time limits for combat actions?

I'm not really sure that would speed anything up.  The speed of the system seems to be on par with Champions, Exalted, and other crunch heavy games I've played.  The only dead times where we people were looking over their options* or describing stunts, both of which I want them to be doing.

There were 6 new players and all of the NPCs so having 9+ characters acting was the norm with each action produces a counter action with (usually) a stunt.  Each character's turn took 1-5 minutes depending on the complexity of the action(s) and how many responses it provoked.

Overall I'm more concerned with making combat engaging then fast.  And at least in this play test it seemed to work.  Everyone was interested in not only what they did during their round but what everyone was doing because they often had a chance to react to it or use the details provided in some why when they went.

*Which will decrease as they become more familiar with the system/characters and also should be heled by reducing the amount of counters.
Mobius a.k.a Charles

Ar Kayon

Sounds good, as long as everyone's engaged the whole time rather than waiting a half hour only to miss their attack!


Quote from: Ar Kayon on May 10, 2010, 10:46:18 PM
Sounds good, as long as everyone's engaged the whole time rather than waiting a half hour only to miss their attack!


I am considering adding a class of abilities that would allow players to occasionally act "off turn" in response to what is happening to other characters.  For example if someone is about to shoot at your buddy you'd be able to interrupt that attack in some way; imposing a penalty on it or helping defend against it.

My number one goal is to get away from combat where you act during your turn and do nothing the rest of the time.  Instead I want players/characters interacting with the combat as much as possible through active defenses, of turn options, etc.

And thank you again for the feedback.  I really appreciate it!
Mobius a.k.a Charles