Technical Difficulties wouldn’t exist without playtesting. We all joined up to playtest Red Markets. Between the games Laura edits and Ethan's historical scenarios, we have playtested quite a bit, which can be a great way to add something new to your game night.
The first thing for playtesting is to be honest about it. These are unfinished games that need to be tested. It isn’t helpful for the designer or the people at your table to pick something just to do it. Look for something that you’d want to play, or go into the game knowing it’s out of your wheelhouse.
Second, you have to actually read the book. It should go without saying, but there are times it’s been hard to find the time to read the playtest packet. But you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t. You might misinterpret something, which will affect how everyone views the game. Even if it’s in a familiar system, like Powered by the Apocalypse or Fate, the author might have added extra rules. You won’t know if you don’t read it.
At the table, remember to give it a chance and room to breathe. Play the game as you would any other. Treat the scenario like you would any other game. Don’t do a stale reading, get into character and invested in the setting. When the game is over, reflect on the game, and think about what you liked and didn’t. Remember to fill out any packets for the author and be honest. Lavishing praise is not helpful, especially if you are covering up a fatal flaw in the rules.
We recently did a couple of playtests. The first was Infinite Galaxies, the episode for which is already up and the Kickstarter is still going as of this writing. We were able to build our characters for this, so I was able to choose a class and build my character how I wanted. By having investment in W31RD with the bits I could add, I bought more into the game. By being mindful at the table, I was able to see what I liked and didn’t, and let the author know.
Second, we ran a playtest of a rules hack of Red Markets' Profit System, GM’d by Ethan. For this he has a specific setting in mind and made pregens for us to play. While this might have been restrictive, I used the spots he had created and the character’s former job to get in the mindset. I combined it with a funny voice and some characterization. By doing this, I got into character and made the game my own. In doing this I could focus on the rules, letting me give Ethan my genuine opinion.
Playtesting is an important part of RPGs. With the right mindset and preparation, it can also be an important part of your table. Have you had any experience in playtesting? Any stories or missteps? Let us know in the comments!