Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hey, Hey, Hey ... Want To Test That Bullshit First?

Reading through Raph Koster's blog, which I was directed to do by a good friend, I realized that something important must be said about the prospective round table going on with my last post, and with most posts to be found in the D&D blogosphere.

It's all bullshit.

I want to declare clearly that anything and everything I've said about IMech is, at this point, utterly useless for anything except to waste people's time reading it.  I have not proposed an actual system.  I have not produced any game design whatsoever.  I've watched others throw out possible designs, but I haven't been stupid enough to do so myself ... not for an IMech, anyway.

Why?  Because I have tested jack shit.

The material you will find on the Same Universe Wiki, at least that posted by me, does not represent some mental calisthenics that have occurred to me after a late night session with booze and D&D books.  It is material that I have play-tested.  I know it works, not because it ought to work, but because it actually does work.  And the nice thing is, when other people scarf it up for their world, they are gratified.

But at least 99% of anything you find written about by the community, from monsters to magic items to proposed gaming systems and resolutions, has never been tried by anyone, ever.

"Hey guys, I just thought up this GREAT magic item!  Here's how it works!"

The lack of testing is more than evidenced by people rushing forward to write out a few hundred words about how an IMech could work, less than 24 hours after my writing the post.  People do not even imagine that the idea NEEDS to be tested.  Just them thinking of it is more than enough justification to barf it out all over the place.

Guess what, kiddies.  It's shit until you prove it's roadworthy.  If I ever come up with a system for IMech, I swear to holy lizard babies that I won't post it here until my party loves it.  I realize now that my mistake was ever mentioning that I had the idea as a half-formed thing ... because people don't want to discuss what needs to be managed, they want to leap right to the fully-formed solution in an hour or less!

This must be how Call of Duty got made.


You can find me apologizing about some of this post here.


Zak S said...

I feel like a decent amount of the stuff on blogs--at least campaign materials like traps, items, or rooms--HAVE been playtested since, practically speaking, some peoples' players read blogs and DMs don't want to spoil the surprise.

Granted, this is different than ideas that have been on the road for years, but still, it's stuff that was in a game and worked.

jgbrowning said...

Don't forget that not all play-testing is equal. Play-testing is only as good as the group playing.

Zak S said...


True, but the "most people's games suck" idea is another post altogether.

Zzarchov said...

I think even after something has been tested, it can still be tested more, and refined more..sometimes even years after it settled into "good enough" or even "damn good".

Symeon Kokolas said...

I don't have an active group or anyone to playtest with, so virtually anything I might suggest would qualify as untested crap. I hope my comments in your previous post sparked some thought on the potential scale of the mechanic as well as a few low-level details of interest (which almost certainly already occurred to you).

Since I don't really have anything of substance to add, I won't bother pointing out where my suggestion needs work or testing as it should be pretty obvious. On the other hand, having a wide field of suggested systems available on an experimental basis *could* allow many groups to try out variations, hash out the results online, and proceed with a community process of refinement until we get to something that a relatively inexperienced group could pick up and use with good results. It wouldn't match your usual style of posting nearly bulletproof systems in full, but others would benefit from the process.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

I also have no way to playtest the ideas I was throwing out there. My hope was that I would save somebody else the time of thinking of the same thing I'd thought of, and that it would be worth playtesting. I had no illusions that it would be the best thing ever invented right out of the box; rather I hoped that it would be worth improving.

Anonymous said...

This is all true, but until you throw some ideas out there on how it might work what's the point of the roundtable other than to spin in rhetorical circles?

Blaine said...

Actually... most of the ideas that have been mentioned here in terms of the IMech problem/solution merely address a greater problem that alot of my players acknowledge.

Over the years in my group (Been lucky enough to have a very long running group), a good deal of supplementary rules have been tried... grafted on... judged... tossed to the side or mutilated into something that works. In essence, play tested.

What I have discovered is that merely beginning the dialog itself is the first steps towards properly coming up with the solution. There is never a fast or easy solution to a major rule adaptation or problem... especially when there is 10 people you have to convince that it works... little alone a segment of the internet... but it helps having the discussion.

I think if I was to sit down and write down all the 'house rules' and compromises I have done over the years personally, it would be a new game that only resembled D&D in passing. It worked for a number of years till new people arrived... younger people.

This is when you find out just how byzantine a system you have created... especially when they only have the 'core' material to work with and not 6 to 10 years of house ruling.

This is why ultimately play testing is needed and haphazardly jumping in is bad. Can not tell you how many times something that looked good in theory turned into something terrifying in table top... and usually requiring a couple hard drinks and a dinner to work out a solution.

But no matter what, I have to approve of this entire IMech endeavor because it gets the ball running, the mind wondering. Trust me, it has on my side of the screen and with my group. I am the only one in my group that reads this blog but the topic has come up before the series of posts and now after wards... and its been the subject of some round table discussions over breakfast... like many other aspects of the game that people have wanted over the years.

In conclusion... I enjoy watching the though experiment work out in text form here, it proves others address the problems in a fashion that I can recognize... even if the end answer is not something I would ultimately implement due to rule incompatibility or group disinterest.

Perhaps if a solution is reached and tested on this end (it is silly how many of the notes in my gaming folders have the words 'Alpha-Test #.#' or 'Beta-Test #.#' written in the header) before you have... I'll share what we have... if not, we can always provide beta test results.

Till that point, keep working! Some are enjoying what we are seeing.

Mike Vavosa said...

Not only is playtesting required, but also no one seems to mention that "whats good for one group/system/game may not work for another..."

Why do role-playing games need a universal IMECH? Isn't the old DM is law adage enough? If the DM can't make sense of a player's idea on the fly, then do we really need pages and pages of ways to make it work?

I agree that the system as it stands (3rd ed) is flawed. A less intelligent player should be able to play an 18 INT/WIS/CHA character and not be hindered by his own failings, however why does the system have to be overbearing?

4th edition (though flawed in its own ways) at least accomplishes much with skill success challenges. Though the skills themselves are limited and generalized, they present opportunities for a contested skills/ability challenge similar to many of the IMECH problems (ie bribing guard) argued here.

Maybe less is more.

Zzarchov said...

Just as a note:

What I often do with puzzles that use player intelligence to account for character intelligence is make the time they have to solve the puzzle based upon their intelligence. This won't always work, and I always have made the times fairly arbitrary (5 seconds per point of intelligence! and next time for a similar puzzle..we'll say 7 because I forgot it was 5 before). So if a player is trying to figure out a puzzle lock before the room they are in floods with sand in a minute I might say "10 int is average, so 6 seconds per point of int for the person solving the puzzle..Go!".

Tested, but only haphazardly

Griffin said...

Forgot to post this in my comment in the previous blog post, but it fits a bit better here. I did a comment about using the old card game Brawl as a starting point for a card-based social combat mechanic. It is always a good idea to look around to see if any published game has done something similar when you are thinking of making up new rules. The biggest reason is that if it is a published game and been around for a while, there is plenty of playtesting data you can (potentially) use.

As for writing about new rules that haven't been playtested extensively, I don't think that is such a bad thing. If someone posts an idea on their blog that they thought up and a half-dozen people read it and try it out... isn't that playtesting? Even is one group has been trying something for a while and it seems good, that just means the rule works well with their playstyle. I think that what people should try to do more of is be sure to note how much (if any) they've actually tried their ideas in play so readers know just how sturdy they are, or if the idea is completely untested.

Arduin said...

Playtesting is indeed important. The statement is almost redundant in simplicity.

The flipside being that without putting an idea out there and fiddling with it, there's nothing to playtest.

Having fiddled, and done some playtesting, I humbly submit for approval and criticism my own design, playtested multiple times by myself, and a few times now in a real game situation.

Yes. That is a link to my own blog, but since it was created specifically for the purpose of designing a system of Negotiations, I hope Alexis and the readership can forgive my apparent hubris.

It's just fairly complex to explain, and a 4000 character count comment isn't the place to do so.

Alexis said...

Went and read it all. Do you plan to continue the blog, or leave it for the sake of the IMech material?

Arduin said...

I fully intend to keep it going for the duration of development.

The framework you saw was just the tip of the iceberg. Eventually I'd like to refine the "Relations" table to something akin to your own Behaviors table in diversity.

If, when it's all done, I find I've liked blogging and the feedback and the whatever, then I'll keep going with the blog.

This is just the first time I've had an Idea I thought was worth talking about. Go figure.