The playtest closed a month ago but it’s taken me this long to get around to reviewing all the feedback.
First off I want to give special thanks to Thomas Elmeblom, Duamn Figueroa, Luciano Meza, Marco Caprile, Sebastián Ojeda, Yoan Lessard, Orion Cooper, Justin Chang, Bay Chang, Jim Morris, Max Külshammer, and Nathan Roberts for playtesting the game AND giving me great feedback on it. I also want to give special thanks to Jason Morningstar for reviewing the source document and giving me some great direction. Jason was like having a third editor on the project. Finally, a huge thanks and personal awe to Noam Rosen who not only played through the entire adventure (not a feat I was expecting) but also corrected quite a few errors and gave great feedback to boot!
What did I learn from the playtest feedback
- Cut to the chase! I knew this in principle, but I clearly wasn’t applying in practice. Draft 1.14 (the playtest draft) starts with six (6!) pages of back story and cultural information. That’s way to much. Duamn and others gently told me to get to the point already! What I’ve done (for now) is to take the entire “The Story” and “People of the Mountain” section and put them in the back as appendices. Mostly for my own reference right now. I hope to eventually cut them out completely forcing me to…
- Show, don’t tell. Another one that is obvious but not easy. Jason suggested using Graham Walmsley method of giving every character three mannerisms or activities that not only show who they are as a person, but also reflect on their culture. I tried to squeeze these in as beliefs, traits, and/or instincts but they didn’t fit well. So at present they are just lists of things under the characters name. For example:
Sampat the Wealthy
- Brings money into the conversation
- Paces back and forth
- Speaks sweetly to strangers; barks orders at servants.
- Looks to the mountain’s summit thoughtfully
- Pours pink salt on the ground and murmurs “Thanks to Namakambhari.”
- Checks her pack for rations and supplies.
I’ll keep tinkering with these, but I already prefer this method because it is not only tools for the GM to make the world come alive, it’s also exposition that can be given directly to the players.
- Cleaning up the twists. A few of the twists like Hidden Crevasse and Avalanche have too many if, then clauses built into them. It makes them difficult to parse and effectively splits the twist into two branching twists, which each are fully detailed. That is cumbersome in the text and difficult to parse in game. I’m changing them to assume one option (the characters are below the avalanche and that they are tied together respectively) and then make the “worse” outcome, a follow up twist. This way these twists effectively work like traps. First giving the players a possibility to avoid them by taking the actions that would prepare them, and then facing the actual danger if they either fail the roll to avoid it, or don’t make the attempt in the first place.
- Base camp is too “big”. Too many people there to talk to, and too easy to end up spending a whole session find out information and getting supplies. I’ll consider breaking up the camp into two locations (Everest, which this is modeled after, has one base camp and four camps on the way up). Or possibly making the shrine effectively a second camp and moving some of the NPCs there.
- Everyone loves Ankit. Not a surprise, but probably worth noting that he has one of the shorter descriptions. Shorter is better! Now just to get much more complex characters like Jhala, Sampat, and Deepti to be that compact!
- Mingmar is a weak character as he stands. He shows up too late in the game to every get his story, so all his motivations are for naught. He comes off as more maniacal than pious, which while not completely off base, isn’t my intention. I think I need to provide more opportunities for the monks to interact with the PCs earlier on.
Most important of all though is that I’m back at it! SDM is a 90 page google doc that is slow to load (lots of tables for the stat blocks) and like the mountain climb itself, editing the doc is a daunting process. I’ve got my ice axe in one hand and my mouse in the other. Oh shit, that’s bad news for my keyboard!