A while back, the Weekly Group did what I assume is the first serious playtest of 8 Tokens. (I assume so, anyway, because I haven’t heard any other reports back. If you’ve tried playing it, let me know!) It worked pretty well, considering! I got some very good feedback, and learned some lessons:
- Players didn’t follow the exact “[Really good/good at] [gerund verb] [object] with/without [indirect object]” formulation. Not sure what to do about that. Does the game work if characters are written up as just “Good at killing”, for example?
- Relatedly, it was clear that players weren’t sure what kinds of “good at” qualities were possible. That’s a big part of why I came up with last month’s list.
- Players very rarely use the “choose not to succeed” rule. But then, we weren’t super-low on tokens.
- The game got praise for being fast and light-weight. It worked well as a quick drop-in system for an existing campaign where we wanted a quick switch of systems. One player noted that 8 Tokens would work well for a heist-style game. I can see that. One player thought it would work well as a fast system for conventions; another player thought it would work well as a general introduction to RPGs. I can also see that. It seems like it could work well with kids, for example.
- Skill challenges kind of need to be to the group as a whole (“someone needs to do X”) rather than to each PC (“you all need to do X”). Hmm. Will have to think about that.
- As a player, I got down to 3 tokens by the end of a 2-ish hour session. The GM and another player had 2 tokens. That’s pretty close to what I was hoping for.
- The GM noted that there’s a subtle incentive for the GM to come up with lots of 1-point challenges for the PCs, so the GM can keep their token pool the same size. (If the GM poses a 1-point challenge and at least one PC passes it, the GM gets their 1 token back, and the GM’s pool then stays the same.) That was definitely intentional, but it’s good to hear that it worked.
- The GM has a slightly too large disincentive to pose larger challenges, though. The GM didn’t feel free enough to pose 3- or 4-point challenges. I think maybe the GM should get 2 tokens back for posing 3- or 4-point challenges. Maybe just for 4-point challenges. It’s might also work better for the GM to get a larger number of tokens to start, such as 2 tokens per player. Need to playtest this further.
- All games have an issue of “what skill do I use when none of the game’s skills apply?” Like, if a game only had skills for “Fight”, “Talk”, and “Run”, which skill would apply when you want to notice something? The fewer skills the game has, the more serious this becomes. The extreme granularity of 8 Tokens — each PC consists of only four ‘skills’ — means it can be difficult at times to say whether a character is able to do a thing. For example, does “Hunt things in the wilderness” imply an ability to detect hidden things? Maybe, maybe not. I think that being careful to use the full “[Really good/good at] [gerund verb] [object] with/without [indirect object]” formulation would help cut down on this, by adding much-needed additional context, but it doesn’t eliminate this problem altogether. As another example, we were playing something of a horror scenario, but how often does a player want to have something like “Really good at keeping my wits about me without panicking” be a major character-defining feature? And if a PC doesn’t have anything resembling a ‘sanity’ skill, does that mean they automatically fail any sanity checks the GM throws at them? Does that mean PCs need more than just four things they’re good at? Perhaps one thing they’re super-good at, three things they’re very good at, and four that they’re just good at? What’s the sweet spot here? Again, clearly something to playtest further.
Some good feedback, some good encouragement, some good things to test more.