Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Zilch's first alpha test

Just finished the first Zilch play-test. Played with B. online using OpenRPG, so it doesn't quite capture the full experience, but it probably tested the mechanics well enough.

B. created a character named Max, a human cleric (Death) / fighter: 11♦ 9♥ 10♣ 6♠. Max knows 1 rune (since we were focusing on the combat system): E.

To provide a little backdrop, I used my rough-draft/in-progress fantasy-western setting, Columbia. Max is trying to break into the underground bloodsport competitions in New York City. He approaches a tavern keeper at the Frog and Bean to sponsor him in the local tavern fights, which Max has heard is the first step into the illegal bloodsports.

As an audition, Max spars with the Frog and Bean's bouncer, Anders. This was a basic trading of blows, with Max's magic saving the day, bringing Anders to his knees.

The first fight of the actual competition didn't go quite so well, though it was very close. Max managed to blind his opponent with some kicked sand, though Max was caught in a flailing grapple in the same move. Although Max escaped the eventual pin, he lost consciousness before he could deal the last 2HPs of damage to his opponent.

The fights were a bit tedious... but then such turn-based trading of blows usually is. Overall, things were pretty balanced--Max held his own and dodged well enough, considering his paltry 6♠ was up against some 10 and 11 ♣. The Threatened mechanic worked pretty nicely, I think (as an alternative to numeric penalties).

B had some good minor suggestions, such as call stance and draw a domino, but don't actually reveal all the dominoes until everyone has called their stance. Also considered some sort of cleave/extra attack option for the fighter.

As GM, I often found myself waiting for B. to roll... when no roll was required! The dominoes were already on the table. With practice, the mental math will probably go a little faster.

While it probably went about 2x as fast as an equivalent D&D combat, it still had the same tedious turn-based feel. I guess that can be a good thing or bad, depending on your game preferences. I think my part of my DMing angst comes from a need to generally work on my DMing skills, rather than the underlying gaming system.

We'll see where Zilch goes from here...