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Astounding Tales: Back to The Drawing Board

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My busy holiday season with a sick foster dog and relatives in town has kept me from posting much more about my ideas for Astounding Tales of Swords and Sorcery. I'm sorry to report that this may have been a good thing. We held a few playtest sessions with a couple of free members from my OD&D game. We discovered a number of problems.

Players consider the hit dice system "too fiddly". The magic system just does not work well. It is far too easy to cast high level spells as rituals. Characters have a good number of hit points, but players seem to watch them like they were 1st level Magic-Users with 1 hp. The varying number of hit points available each day seems to be partially responsible.

The major problem here is the hit dice system. As it is the core of the current Astounding Tales system, the fact that player find it "too fiddly", seem afraid to "spend" hit points to do things, and are confused by the new hit point total every day tells me that there is something fundamentally wrong with the game system. No matter how nifty a design is on paper if it does not work in practice or most players do not like it, it needs to go back to the drawing board. The system works pretty good (better than the magic system), but everyone who has playtested it has disliked it.

What does all this mean? I'm going to have to take a Astounding Tales of Swords and Sorcery back into the workshop, rethink things, and try again. This dashes my hope of releasing the rules as a 0e supplement in January. The project will probably go on the back burner for a while, at least until I can come up with a different core system to base things on.

5 comments:
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Timeshadows said...
December 28, 2009 at 10:12 PM  

I am sorry to read this, but am confident you will hammer it in to shape before too long. :D

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Randall said...
December 29, 2009 at 7:25 AM  

I'm just happy to have discovered that there are problems. I'll just work on other projects and let this float around in the back of my mind until I come up with another way to handle the hit dice that isn't so complex/fiddly but still makes the system gel together. The problems with the magic system are much easier to resolve as they are more concrete mechanical problems.

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Matthew Slepin said...
December 29, 2009 at 4:32 PM  

Ah, play-testing: the bane of pure game design. :)

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Timeshadows said...
December 31, 2009 at 12:55 AM  

Agreed.

It is certainly better to find them before it goes to print/PoD. :)

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Jay said...
January 2, 2010 at 4:37 PM  

This is great news (really!) you've identified a major problem before it became an embarrassing one and are taking steps to correct it. Your game will be better for it!

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