Last night, my group and I finished our year-long (give or take) playtest of the Hypertellurians RPG. We started it when the rules were just a jumble of notes, went through three major revisions, and countless minor ones, and finished with what we now consider “v1.0”.
While this main playtest went on, I ran a bunch of one-shots with different people, and with different experience levels when it comes to roleplaying games. At some point, one of my players took over the GM reins for an adventure, so I could get a feeling for what the game is like from the other side of the table. All in all, we stretched, bent, and broke the rules, and put them in front of as many people as possible.
Let me tell you a bit about how the playtest campaign played out, and then what I learned from the whole excercise that still needs addressing in the rules as they stand.
From Ultracosm to Endocosm (and Beyond)
The premise of the campaign was that the characters had all been rescued from their individual prisons by a mysterious figure known as the Emerald Emissary. In return, they worked for him and recovered seemingly random items from all over the Ultracosm. Soon it became clear that the Emerald Emissary was less than benign, and it came to an altercation that ultimately led to the creation of a miniature, self-contained universe (called the Endocosm) that had the PCs, and other characters, trapped.
As they explored this realm, which featured callback fragments to many previous game worlds that we’d played in together as a group, they ultimately discovered how to escape. When they did, it transpired that their whole world, and possibly the whole Ultracosm, had been the creation of the Emerald Emissary, who, in reality was an angelic youth of sorts, and everything they knew had simply been an elaborate science project.
Only, they had managed to leave their fictional reality (and fictional selves) and become real beings, in the Emissary’s reality.
It was a satisying conclusion to a campaign that saw the characters traverse all of the adventures seen in the picture above, plus several of my own devising.
- The game does what it sets out to do: allow the use of a vast array of tonally different adventures and settings, while keeping a cohesive tone of its own.
- Character power gets hard to judge after the second (definitely the third) major advance. That’s ok: in regular play, I expect the campaigns not to go over that often, if ever.
- The mechanics work. Advancement being tied to Wonder spent, works. The powers and wondrous actions work.
- My players still think that fighting and killing most things is the only path, regardless of how heavy I telegraph the danger. This comes from years of D&D and Pathfinder, I expect. I didn’t run into this with newer players.
- In fights or situations that are going badly, my players like to try and convince me that the enemies will surely kill them if they try to run away, and use that as justification to fight to their deaths. This is puzzling to me, especially when I’ve spent the last few rounds hinting strongly, nay, telling them outright that the answer might not be on their character sheet.
- The ritual “Summon Barbas, Son of Corson, King of the West” was never cast, but it is now canon in every game we’ll ever play until it has been.
- The campaign has been fantastically fun, with the players engineering the craziest of situations.
- The rules, as they are on the website as of this writing, talk about combat too much, and not enough about other dangers and interactions. Some re-organization will go a long way towards fixing that, since this game’s focus is less on combat than, say, D&D.
- New games with great ideas have come out since we started creating this one, and I am resisting the temptation of doing another full revision of Hypertellurians in light of them. Otherwise the game will never come out.
- I can’t wait to have Hypertellurians ready in physical book form, with all the layout and art.
Our second advanture, Brutal Imperilment in the Bag of Infinite Holding, is done and I’m waiting for the print proofs, so between now and UK Games Expo the focus is on getting Hypertellurians finished. The current text needs some adjustements, the GM section needs revising and combining with the core, and a handful of sections need to be added (like spells, items, and other characters). This will happen over the next few weeks, and at the same time I will start on the layout. I’ll be doing my very best to make it a gorgeous book you’ll proudly display on your shelves!