I’ve gotten a bunch of feedback on Murders & Acquisitions over the past couple weeks. I sent my game out to a bunch of friends and industry contacts and they let me have it, for good and ill.
Much of the feedback was as I expected it to be. Some questioning of design choices, a variety of observations on how things worked in their playtest sessions, along with quite a few revelations regarding places where I totally dropped the ball. It’s hard to say that, but yeah, I dropped the ball a few times.
But this is what playtesting is all about…finding the problems.
For this month’s blog, I thought I’d share some of the playtest feedback and discuss what I plan to do with that feedback.
I have over two pages of bullet-point feedback compiled from my playtesters as well as some of my own thoughts in the aftermath of this bigger playtest push. Here are a few of them.
• Synergy Point Uses
Some players expressed concern about the various ways you can spend synergy points to gain bonuses to rolls. In particular, there’s currently a rule that allows a player to spend a synergy point to reroll any or all of the dice from a skill check. Given the bonuses you can get from other synergy point uses, this rule seems overpowered. I’m probably going to have to reign that rule into just rerolling one of the dice from the skill check. This is still useful, but balanced better against the other synergy point uses.
• Skill Descriptions
The twelve skills in the game each cover a variety of “subset” skills, a number of more particular uses of the skill that are all governed by a particular skill. It turns out I wasn’t clear enough in describing the skills and what they are used to do. I need to provide a paragraph on each skill to codify what the skill entails and why those “subset” skills are combined as such.
• “Points” Names
There are five different types of “points” that are tracked in the game right now—body points, mind points, synergy points, power points, and failure points. Several playtesters reported that they got confused by the wide variety of things being named so similarly. I need to rename at least some of these. Body points will become Wellness. Mind points might become “Reason.” And so forth.
• Skill Dice
Right now, an untrained skill uses a d6. Players can purchase their skills up to larger dice—d8, d10, and d12—to reflect being better at certain skills. Some playtesters suggested dropping the untrained skill die to d4 and progressing up from there. This would affect the rules in a variety of ways, which would need to be addressed individually, but would accomplish a particularly useful goal. It would broaden the range of improvement from d4 up to d12, rather than d6 up to d12, giving people playing in a campaign a larger range to improve their characters capabilities. Additionally, it would allow me to set the PCs’ and NPCs’ base skill dice a bit lower overall, allowing for particularly tough monsters and NPCs having d10s and d12s to stand out more as significant threats.
• The Rest of the World
Several playtesters wanted to know more about the rest of the world of M&A, the stuff outside the office setting where much of the game takes place. When I ran playtests, I could always make stuff up if the players asked about such things. The final game materials need to address such things in more concrete terms so that players have a better understanding of the world. How did the corporate world of this alternate Earth become so cutthroat? How does the government, penal system, etc. play in this world? How does the educational system prepare people for life in a potentially deadly office world?
• Spellcasting Rules Module
In a version of the game where magic is part of the world, how does the general populace perceive magic? Is magic use subtle or obvious? What differentiates specific types of magic? These are things I’ve thought about but not described succinctly yet.
A Big Failure
It turns out I failed to include a necessary bit of text in the playtest documents that I sent out a month or so ago. I didn’t provide a clear, concise description of what M&A is about right at the front of the player guide.