Saturday was the first three-player playtest for Phoenix, testing the "Mortal-1" classes of Conquestor, Elementalist, and Alchemist. And oh yea, the Alchemist was really a Ninja in disguise.
Overall the playtest went very well. Some of the fundamental mechanics that were tested are listed below.
Rule of Assumption
This is the rule stating certain basic provisions are assumed. As expected, this was a breath of relief. Noone had to track torches or ammunition, including the
One-Roll to Rule them All
This is the rule eliminating all-or-nothing attack rolls. This worked excellently. At least one player was particularly worried about this rule, but at the end of the session professed that they didn't even notice it was gone. This is a cornerstone of Phoenix, and I was glad that all the players involved weren't thinking about attack rolls after the first few minutes of play.
Fun. Big hits. More fun.
The structure of the combat round and the initiative system both performed well. The players enjoyed the speed of the card system, and were drawn into the question of who would get to go first each round. Normal, slow, and fast methods all saw use. Combat was dynamic and felt natural.
The races certainly felt different from each other. The Cyclopaean needs a bit more refinement, but the Gnome ability to turn invisible by standing perfectly still, and the Elf ability to sense magical auras both shined.
Overall the feedback was positive for all three classes. There are some refinements that need to happen, but that was expected - you can't nail something this intense on the first try.
What I enjoyed seeing was that the classes all felt different in playstyle, without a bunch of complications. The Ninja was using Aikido to flip attackers around on their backs and throwing shuriken around the room. The Elementalist was summoning fireballs and air vortexes, and only lost control once. The Conquestor was smashing things with a sledgehammer and... smashing some other things with a jagged gladiator sword.
Unarmed combat was interesting for the Ninja but felt uninspired for the other classes; I'll have to examine that in more detail.
Not having skills let players relax and get into what their characters were really good at. I need more content development work here, but the basic idea of "just worry about what you are really good at" is a lot of fun so far.
The Linguistics/Translator mastery was particularly well used by the Ninja, who used it to communicate with some faeries, even though noone knew their language. The Ninja determined it had a similar phonology and syntax to Elvish, and quickly learned how to speak some simple words. Uhura would be proud. So would Uhura.
The Beast Handling/Empathy mastery also saw some fun use in the hands of the Elementalist, who realized just in time that a large predatory lizard was pretty excited about the ambush that was about to happen (velociraptor style!). One "fryball" later and the party had an improvement on dry rations.
The Conquestor, with his Medic specialty, was able to help figure out the cause of death for a couple of corpses found along the way, which helped the party prepare for upcoming encounters.
Phoenix RPG "Next"
The next draft test will be a virtual playtest in a couple of weeks, using MapTool. Stay Tuned!