Playtest Session #2: A Matter of Odds

Last night’s session went very well indeed, with a lot of the rules questions being ironed out and only a few clarifications needed (see below). The real talking point of the session was powered by some amazing playtester work on probabilities earlier in the week and a deep discussion on the implications of the smaller hand sizes on Mission design.

You see, they failed the mission.

That doesn’t happen very often, but it did last night and it felt … wrong. As if the odds were weighed against the PCs in too great a manner. The standard mission structure (Succeed in four challenges before you fail in two) worked when people were drawing 8-10 card hands, but with 3-6 cards now being more common, and reputations being a spendable resource, rather than a static bonus, losing a challenge is a definite possibility rather than a statistical fluke. To illustrate this, Gaz (you may know him as one half of What Would the Smart Party Do? podcast, and the Officer of our company) ran one hundred million simulations of the resolution mechanic, based on hand size vs hand size. The results are below:

This is an invaluable resource because it allows us to calculate the likelihood of different mission builds working, with fate and luck playing a chance to, naturally.

As it stands, they persevered and completed the mission (but too late to not suffer the consequences) and were still rewarded with two Advancement Points for a 4-2 ‘loss’ in a 4-2 Mission, to partially compensate for losing Reputation as a consequence of failure.

However, this threw up something that I have never seen before in ten years of D&H – the only time I have seen Missions failed was on the final flop – the deciding challenge. This lead to a natural crescendo for the story. This time, they failed on the fourth challenge, 2-2. In subsequent discussions, carrying on felt forced, or wrong, as if they were playing for nothing. Not even the aforementioned advancement points were enough to get the consolation prize. So, to explore this further, we’re going to be testing our a new Mission structure next time, and see how that works.

As I said in my last after-action, challenging the basic concepts of the game with modern expectations is what I’m looking for, so this is solid playtesting gold and to anyone out there reading this who might be under the illusion that playtesting still isn’t worth it, you are sorely mistaken.

In terms of specific items to discuss:

Q: Do you take opposed damage on Command checks at the end of a skirmish? The answer is no. This will be made explicit in the text. STATUS: Done

Q: You draw, one critical each, what happens? I decided that a redraw is a poor way of doing this so we went for alphabetical suits (Clubs beat Diamonds beat Hearts beat Spades) STATUS: Done

We also tested having an investigative skirmish challenge lead by one of the more clandestine soldiers (our Gentlemen Volunteer, no less) with Intrigue as the final success checking skill. This worked fine and delivered to the player the appropriate level of regret for his fellows when he failed and the evidence was destroyed that would have allowed them to move swiftly against the traitor and thus not lose the mission. Apparently, having felt that, it is something that should be shared and not on the officer’s shoulders all of the time. Good stuff.

The adventures of the 103rd Monmouth Rangers continue next week as they are sent to scout out the situation on the Douro and find out what is happening in Oporto.

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