ScreenPlay Playtest Report (Week 1)

ScreenPlay_Rehearsal_GoogleForms_banner_v1p2What a brilliant, crazy week it has been! Our first week of playtesting for ScreenPlay has now moved into the second week and the results have been helpful, insightful, encouraging, and so much more. There’s a risk in throwing out something unfinished to the void and hoping that most of it will stick to the wall. So far, it seems those of you who have decided to help us out have really latched onto it.

Here’s a brief bullet point update on what’s transpired over the past week.

  • Version 1.1 of the Rehearsal Edition is averaging 4.4 out of 5 on our surveys
  • A lot of terrific comments have been shared on the same surveys, as well as some constructive feedback. On Tuesday, October 26th, Version 1.2 of the Rehearsal Edition was updated to everyone who has downloaded the original PDF on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow. The primary focus was a revised approach to Act Two: How To Play using a more traditional approach to mechanics presentation and character creation, along with some modifications to milestones and the additional of character hooks.
  • The current number of playtest points awarded sits at 11 as of the time of this writing, meaning we’re only 4 more points away from unlocking Nightfall, a modern day superhero story of multiple people acting as a single superhero/vigilante.
  • Page views to this site for October have tripled the previous highest month and the month isn’t even finished yet.
  • On the ScreenPlayers Guild G+ Community, we’re getting ready to start a play-by-post rendition of Ironbound, the dark fantasy treatment provided in Version 1.1 of the playtest. If you have yet to join the community, feel free to join in. It’s a great opportunity to see the game in progress and laying down the foundations for how Directors and Writers can set up their own take on a story.

Fifteen weeks remain and the wheels are turning faster than ever. Huge thanks goes out to everyone who has joined in the effort with more than just enthusiasm and has shown this tale is far from over. And remember to keep using the #ScreenPlayRPG hashtag to help get the word out and fill out those surveys to collect those playtest points. Now let’s close out this post with a trio of gracious comments from surveys completed this past week.

CR2cUe6U8AAC3jC.jpg-large ScreenPlay_RehearsalReview_v1p1_AnonymousSurvery ScreenPlay_RehearsalReview_v1p1_MarkMintz

Learn To ScreenPlay: Hitting Those Milestones

ScreenPlay: The Rehearsal Edition launches October 20, 2015.
ScreenPlay: The Rehearsal Edition launches October 20, 2015.

If you’re reading this post immediately after it’s been published, there’s only one more week until you can stop reading about what ScreenPlay will be about and try it for yourself. But it’s even better if you’re reading this post AFTER publication because that means the wait will be even less or not at all. Patience is for suckers.

Stories are about more than pacing, action, drama, and more. Without characters, stories are nothing more than descriptions without meaning, actions without purpose, and tension without resolution. Characters are what make stories captivating and connect with the audience. Part of what latches us onto a character is their growth and development as people, whether they learn to overpower their enemies physically or their deepest fears. If a character remains the same at the end of a story as they were in the beginning, the audience loses interest in them and that is why such development remains an important part of ScreenPlay‘s characters too. But how?

So glad you asked. And even if you didn’t, this next instalment of Learn To ScreenPlay’s gonna talk about it anyway through milestones.

Developing A Character, Rewarding A Writer

The key to a successful story in ScreenPlay is moving the story forward by working together with your fellow Writers and the Director, using the material provided to create a logical and exciting tale of heroes, villains, and the people caught between their struggles. As Writers must tell the story through the eyes of their characters, it only makes sense for an experience system common in RPGs to reward players through the development of their characters as it relates to the story and for doing so co-operatively with their fellow players. Milestones are points awarded to Writers for not only playing the game and keeping the story moving, but for doing so in a unique and engaging fashion based on what they’ve created with their characters, be they leads or supporting.

Milestones are handed out by the Director at the end of a scene as they relate to its goals and character motivations, as well as excellent gameplay, use of descriptions, and anything else the Director feels made the scene a memorable experience. The guidelines for awarding milestones are fairly loose as this is a game built on improvisation, but many treatments that will be available in the Rehearsal Edition will showcase some examples for handing out milestones. For example, in the Tracking The Scarab Witch scene in Ironbound (a dark fantasy story of holy warriors tasked with slaying all warlocks and witches), Writers are awarded 1 milestone whenever they can describe their lead character(s) utilizing clues from the previous scene where local village children are killed or captured using the skills and traits established through each character’s potentials and their primary role.

While milestones are awarded in response to character descriptions, these little babies are handed to the Writer playing them. Regardless of which character earned them those milestones, Writers can redeem them for any character in their pool, even those later brought into their fold. The key is milestones are points handed out to the Writers to make their characters stronger and more prominent in the story.

Beefing Up The Heroes

Milestones can be spent over the course of the story to create one of two types of effects: immediate bonuses or long-term increases. To be specific, there are four ways milestones can be spent to improve the chances of survival for any character under a Writer’s control as they exist in Version 1.1 of the Rehearsal Edition.

Increased Maximum Stamina: A Writer can redeem 2 milestones to increase a character’s maximum Stamina by 1.

Conflict Re-Roll: A Writer can redeem 1 milestone to re-roll one of their conflict rolls immediately after it is rolled and before complications (if any) are applied. Whatever the new result, it must be honours and multiple milestones can be redeemed for the same conflict roll.

Step Bonus: A Writer can redeem 1 milestone to gain a one-time +1 step bonus for one of her characters. This must be redeemed on the same turn the step bonus is applied and can only be done once per scene.

Additional Resources: A Writer can redeem 3 milestones to permanently gain an additional resource slot for one of her characters.

Playtesting to date has revealed a lot of Writers plan to use their milestones to increase a lead character’s maximum Stamina, but the temptation to make that suddenly important conflict re-roll complicates this character growth. Which is exactly what they were intended for, but this point assignment is one of the key ingredients for moving forward with a public playtest. How quickly can characters grow in your average ScreenPlay? What is the average number of milestones awarded per scene? Per session? Per story? These are the answer we’re hoping players like YOU can help answer.

While there may be another class in this series of lectures we call Learn To ScreenPlay, this is the final lesson for now. There is only one other way you can learn about this game and that is to download the completely free, totally-up-your-own-discretion download of ScreenPlay: The Rehearsal Edition. In the meantime, we invite you to join in the ScreenPlayers Guild, a Google+ community dedicated to nothing but creating a discussion on what works, what doesn’t, and how to make it better. Hope to see you there.

Wheels In Motion

ScreenPlay_logo_earlyWith only 12 days before the launch of ScreenPlay‘s Rehearsal Edition, it seemed a good time to update everyone on the state of things and where the playtest stands at this very moment.

First, the promotional wheels have begun to spin as the Warden (OK, me) spoke about the game and exposed his true feelings about Michael Fassbender on the Dr. Tom the Frog show.

As for the release itself, there are a couple of areas to explore and we’ll take a look at each of them individually.

The Playtest Itself

ScreenPlay‘s editor, Vincent Harper, has completed his edits for the current draft (version 1.1) and submitted revisions based on his suggestions and in response to some additional alpha testing conducted over the weekend. (To that end, big thanks to Matthew, Jake, Darina, Matlock, and Fraser for writing a great story of Ironbound: The Curse of the Scarab Witch at Capital Gaming Expo on Saturday. Your input and outcomes definitely helped create a sharper version for everyone to enjoy on the 20th.) There are a couple of mechanical aspects under review for different reasons and I’m debating leaving them in as optional rules or leaving them inserted with everything else to see how they hold up in beta playtesting. Decisions, decisions.

There’s also the matter of expanding the third act of the Rehearsal Edition, which is the advice chapter for Directors (or Gamemasters). Reading some comments, posts, and shares about this game has given me some concerns about whether the game will meet certain expectations and I want to make sure those expectations will be met. For example, quite a few people have compared the concept of the game to Primetime Adventures, a story game in which players develop a TV series and play out the story arcs of characters across an entire season. It’s a flattering comparison and while it may be personal last minute jitters, I want to make sure anyone who expects to find similar themes from that game will be happy. The mechanics of ScreenPlay focus on the storytelling and gameplay, but it’s the actions of the Director that make it cinematic. Once I know those tools are clearly delivered, I can breathe a sigh of relief.

The ScreenPlayers Guild

Discovering how Writers, Directors, and casual readers feel about the game is the key to a successful playtest and there will be two means of accessing that input. First, each draft of the Rehearsal Edition will include three surveys, one for the three levels of participation (reading the game or playing as a Writer or Director). Second, there will be an G+ community for everyone to get together and share their comments publicly, ask questions for myself and other players, hang out, maybe start up a play-by-post game. Either way, the ScreenPlayers Guild is a way to connect with other playtesters and I encourage anyone who’s thinking about giving this a whirl to sign up now and receive 1 bonus playtest point if you join before October 20th.

What’s a playtest point? I’m glad you asked.

Playtest Points

Simply asking nicely doesn’t always do the trick, not when there are so many different games to play and so many released on a weekly basis. What we needed was to offer an incentive and that’s where playtest points come in. Anyone who provides feedback on any of the various drafts or shares a link to a draft during these 16 weeks will earn playtest points. The more points you earn, the greater your reward will be at the end. Get your name listed as a playtester in the finished product, earn PDF copies, even unlock additional adventures to playtest. And the top five people will unlock free print copies of ScreenPlay: The Director’s Cut. While I had hoped to share the current point structure with everyone, there are still come adjustments underway and it’s probably best to wait until the Rehearsal Edition launch to see for yourself.

#ScreenPlayRPG

Maximizing the number of playtesters means spreading the word and that’s where we could use YOUR help. Hence the #ScreenPlayRPG hashtag. Anyone who shares a link, posts on their blog or Facebook page, tweets, or whatever will earn 1 playtest point. That’s enough to get you credit in the finished product alone. And we’d love to see your comments, video reviews, and podcasts about it. It’s all about passing it on to the next player.

The response to date has already been rewarding and has given us cause to tighten up a few screws to ensure this first playtest draft is as ready as possible, while still leaving room for flexibility and varied feedback. The clock is counting down and the suspense is building. Soon, it will be out in the world and I will have a stash of paper bags to hyperventilate in or jumping up and down for joy on the wing of a plane 10,000 feet in the air.