About Me

My photo
Seattle, Washington, United States
I'm an old time roleplayer who became a soldier who became a veteran who became a developer who became a dba who became a manager who never gave up his dream of a better world. Even if I have to create it myself.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Virtual Playtest

Yesterday was the first virtual playtest of Phoenix, using MapTool as the virtual software.  I had players from three continents - Asia, Australia, and North America.

I can honestly say that's a new experience for me.  I've never had to calculate so many time zones to schedule a game session.


It was a full party, with the same characters as in the OTB Playtest, plus the introduction of Shor, the Prophet.  Prophets don't have any allegience to religions; they serve their Supreme Power directly.


We used MapTool and Skype.   I had worked with everyone to set them up ahead of time, and started the session with a little tutorial map that showed a few things and let folks play around moving their tokens, scribbling on the map, and rolling dice.

When they were done, it looked like this:

Gamer art.

Skype worked well and the only problem we had was one brief drop-out from an iPad user.  Of course, we did audio only - be honest, who really wants to stare at an aussie in his underwear for 4 or 5 hours.

MapTool worked well for the most part, but there were a couple of issues raised by the players.

Making people type in [d10e + d8e], or similar, when they wanted to roll wasn't appealing (nor was the rudimentary output), so I had a dice box frame based on Rumble/Cclouser's work.  Even with that, the players felt like the die rolling was getting in the way of the gameplay to some degree.  I agreed.  When players sit at a table, die rolling is much more fluid.  I'll work on some enhancements and see if I can make that a bit better next time around.

The other opportunity for improvement is around the fog of war.  I think the players would prefer to not use the line-of-sight (LoS) functionality; next time we play I will try a straight-up fog of war manual-reveal approach, and see if that fits their expectations more.


As with previous playtesting, feedback was generally positive.  Everyone enjoyed the quicker attack resolutions, and everyone enjoyed the dynamic initiative.  Exploding dice made for fun critical hits.  The new defense system in this version made sense (although as a GM I saw some more room for improvement).

I do need to continue working on some of the class mechanics.

Elementalists in particular still do not have a satisfying overload model from my perspective.  This is the model that allows Elementalists to go beyond their normal safety limits when channeling raw elemental energy.  The risk/reward isn't quite where I'd like it yet.

At least one person missed fumble mechanics, i.e., really horrible misses that result in things like tripping over your own feet or stabbing your friend in the eyeball.

Unrelated to the game system, one interesting thing to see when playing pregenerated characters is how different people play them from group to group.

The Conquestor has seen some of the most interesting variations in play - even though the character has the same abilities, different players focus on different aspects.  One played the class up on cleaving, constantly looking to multi-attack everything.  One played as a single-target warrior.  One played as an attention-deficit victim, constantly spending Endurance to charge new targets and mutilate them.

I like seeing that sort of variance in play.  It indicates that the class is interesting in different ways to different folks.  It also means that the class will have replayability.

The virtual playtest didn't cover as much of the dungeon as the OTB test, given roughly the same time period.  I think the tool got in the way a little bit on that, although the virtual group did spend more time playing with their lizards.

Dungeon Tier 2


  1. Just so those dirty minds do not go too far, "playing with their lizards" is not synonymous with any overt sexual act (though this was definitely a joke for the 2nd half of the playtest)... There really were lizards, and the elementalist actively prevented the party from killing and eating it, thus resulting in the party naming it "Lucky the Lizard."

    1. Some guys just feel obligated to name their lizards.

    2. I find it funny that a guy, I presume Anonymous is a guy, feels the need to explain to those of us with “dirty minds” that there were lizards. In fact, I don’t feel that we the readers do have “dirty minds”. We were spoon fed a masturbation joke (Am I allowed to say masturbation?) by Mr. Blue, we laughed, we moved on. Then Anonymous brings it back up.

      It is my opinion that Anonymous feels shame when sexual matters are discussed, especially masturbation. Is it possible this all stems from that time his mom suddenly walked in his room and he pronounced “Mommy I was just scratching it!”

      Grow up Anonymous.

    3. Wow Legumes... I was just trying to comment on how the playtest went (an ongoing funny joke for the 2nd half) and how it worked with the Elementalist and a specific ability it had with animals. I see where your mind went though ("mommy, mommy"). Perhaps growing up is best left to those who obviously need it (cough... cough... Legumes... cough).

    4. Sorry I didn’t respond earlier, I had an itch to scratch. Allergies.

      Please don’t take offense by my comments. It is normal for those first diagnosed to deny that they have issue. I think if you would take the time to honestly assess your life you would see it. Acceptance is the first step.

      I actually would like to hear what you did as the elementalist utilizing beast empathy. But, other than stating you didn’t literally play with your lizard you said nothing. How and or why did the elementalist actively prevent the party from killing the lizard? Did you use your ability to recognize the ambush by the second lizard? Did you like playing the elementalist?

      As for me growing up, I’m fairly happy with my maturity level. I’m capable of functioning in the adult world while maintaining my love of games like this and cartoons. You at least have to give me credit for not being a LARPer. Now those people really have a maturity issue.

  2. I had a great time with it. Looking forward to the next game, hadn't played D&D in ages.

    Some thoughts:
    * It's important to make a distinction between shroud (black stuff) and fog of war. In a table top game, we have shroud but no fog of war. I'm personally of the opinion that we should keep it that way online as well.

    * When's the next game?

    * A better design for the dice box. Instead of typing numbers next to (hard to read) dice boxes, it should be a button we click that increments the counter for each dice. We can then type a modifier and hit a "Roll" button. So rolling a D10 & D8+3 would be click, click, type in 3, click roll and it would appear.

    * Haha @ Conquestor. Was I the single target one or the ADD one?

    * When's the next game?!

    1. I think D&D is to RPGs what Kleenex are to tissues...

      Some responses:

      I think terms like shroud and fog-of-war mean different things in different dev zones. Your terminology does make sense, but MapTool uses fog to describe the whole system; the limited vision is LoS (or more specifically vision blocking) which also interfaces with the lighting system. In the last game, fog was auto-removed by valid vision lines. That's all fairly similar to what we used in the video game industry many years ago, but no doubt it has grown since then...

      Not sure yet.

      The original code for the dice box I used had a similar interface to the buttons you're talking about, I just usually hate clicking buttons more than once to get something done. Imagine rolling a 20d6 fire blast... What do you think works for interface on that?

      You were most definitely the ADD one!

      Still not sure but glad you are ready for it!

    2. The dice box would still have the ability to write in numbers, just that clicking the button (or a picture of the dice!) would increment the counter in the text box.

      It's faster to do it that way than to go to each individual text box and type in "1". Especially since the whole interface is designed to be mouse driven anyway.

      Likewise with the modifier, a + and - button on the right and left side of a text box respectively.

      On a completely unrelated note. Solve this.
      Put the images on the bottom row into the squares on the right, using the two cubes as guides. Orientation of the images matter!

    3. Fun little puzzle. Not too hard once I realized only one side of the triangle is aligned with the edge of the die.

      Wish it were flash or something so I could check my answers ;)

    4. Flash? Don't you mean... Silverlight!


    5. Silverlight? Don't you mean... HTML 5?

    6. HTML 5? Don't you mean... native?

    7. Native? Don't you mean... an abacus?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...