[Final Hour of a Storied Age] Looking for beta playtesters

Final Hour of a Storied Age: A Roleplaying Game of Epic FantasyThe end of an age draws nigh, an age of magic and wonder, an age when legends walked the land and great deeds were done. That was all long ago, when lives were larger, before things were settled. Now, if there is any greatness left, it is great evil, evil that will change the world for the worse. In the last hour of that age, a new story begins. Will it be the story of a hero, rising up to save what is good and true about the old age to shepherd it into the new? Or will it be a sad lament for things long gone, to usher in a new age of darkness? It is now the final hour of a storied age, and telling the tale falls to you.

Storied Age is a no-prep, GM-less storytelling game that, over a few sessions of play, creates an epic fantasy story in the vein of The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, or The Sword of Truth. The game weaves together creative contributions from each player around a structured plot arc and then helps you play through a chapter-by-chapter account of how your characters face adversity, echoing how an author starts with an outline and fleshes it out into a full novel. By distributing responsibilities and providing creative constraints to guide players’ contributions, Final Hour of a Storied Age lets everyone experience an epic fantasy story without asking anyone to shoulder an epic creative burden.
I'm looking for beta playtest groups for my game Final Hour of a Storied Age. The playtesting I've done with the 0.67 revision has been very successful, producing fun sessions and really satisfying Epic Fantasy stories. There have been a few hiccups along the way, but they all seemed to be in line with the problems that any new group might have when learning a new game. In order to get a better handle on what still needs work in the game before I officially publish (either with the mechanics themselves or with they way I explain them in the text) I need some feedback from groups playing the game without my direct participation. I would really appreciate any beta playtesting people are willing to do for me. I would absolutely love audio recordings of the game in play, honest reactions, AP reports, or really any feedback people would be willing to give me. I'm happy to answer questions about the game, and would appreciate feedback or discussion about the text itself even if you're unable to playtest.

I believe the game works best with 3 or 4 players, but might work with as few as 2 or as many as 5. The recent playtests I've done have been 3 player games and have both finished story arcs in four 3-hour sessions. I posted the first arc in AP podcast form as episodes 10 to 13 of the Designer vs. Reality podcast, and in text summary form on my blog (here, here, here, and here). I've got the audio from the second arc in the can I'll be editing that and posting podcasts and text summaries over the next few weeks.

I think there's value in transparency in the design process so I'm happy to discuss the game in the open (I blog here and participate here on Story-Games as well as Praxis, The Forge, and RPG Geek). E-mail conversations are great, too, if you'd prefer a less public conversation (I'm dan.maruschak@gmail.com).

Comments

  • Dan,
    I am running a Games on Demand event at Genghis Con, is this the type of thing you can do as a one-shot?
    Dave M
  • Having playtested Storied Age with Dan, I am comfortable saying that you could not complete a full story arc of Storied Age in a single typical con session/slot (i.e. of 3 to 4 four duration). Our two story arcs each took around four three-hour sessions to complete.

    You could potentially run the game as a three or four slot 'mega-session', or as a multi-session, multi-group serial where each subsequent session/group carries on from where the previous group left off. However, I think the latter would fail to provide all of the participating players' of the full and true experience of playing Storied Age.
  • I agree with Leo, it would be hard to do as a one-shot. There are some ideas that might accelerate play, but skipping things or rushing through certain procedures could undermine the way players relate to the fiction and mechanics. (I've never played a con game, so it's hard for me to say what does or doesn't work in that environment).
  • As promised, I posted a new playtest session recording as Episode 14 of the Designer vs. Reality podcast and a corresponding text-based AP report on my blog.
  • I posted another session as Episode 15 of the Designer vs. Reality podcast and a corresponding text-based AP report on my blog.
  • I posted another podcast episode and AP report, concluding this story arc. That's the last of the Storied Age content I have to post, so getting some additional feedback from playtesters or people who want to read the rules would be greatly appreciated.
  • If anyone's interested in playing over Skype, i'd be down. We'd only need a couple other people.
  • The guys over at the Mom's Basement Podcast were nice enough to playtest the game, send me an audio recording, and talk about their feedback on their podcast (and there's some followup discussion in this RPGCrosstalk discussion thread).

    Based on what I learned by listening to them play I made a few revisions to the rules document to clear up some miscommunication. You can get the PDF of rev 0.68 from the download page. I'd really appreciate it if some more groups could try playing the game (especially if they can record the audio since that's invaluable data for me, but I appreciate all feedback). I'd also love to get feedback or questions about the text -- I'd like to make my game as understandable as possible, and getting insight into how readers are perceiving the text is very helpful in that regard.
  • Over in this praxis thread about the game, I learned that I haven't been effectively communicating what the game is about. Let me try to rectify that a bit! First, when I say “Epic Fantasy”, I'm not using “epic” as a kind of all-purpose superlative that it has come to mean in the broader gaming community. I'm also not using it in the “levels 20 to 30 in D&D” sense of flashy over-the-top magic. I'm talking about the Epic Fantasy literary genre – the genre that essentially started with The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and is continued today by writers like Brandon Sanderson. Not all fantasy is Epic Fantasy, and Epic Fantasy isn't the right vehicle for every fantasy idea. For example, Sword and Sorcery, which is popular in a lot of other indie games, is a distinct genre from Epic Fantasy. Sword and Sorcery fantasy tends to be tightly focused on individual characters, and when societies are present they're often corrupt or evil. Epic Fantasy stories, on the other hand, tend to be more hopeful. The premise of my game is that epic fantasy is about defending what it good about a community from an existential threat – the iconic example being Frodo undertaking the quest to destroy the ring in order to save The Shire.

    When people hear that there's a Tolkien influence on my game their eyes sometimes glaze over because they've come to associate a Tolkien influence with “generic fantasy”. That's not surprising, because lots of other games and media properties have copied superficial elements of The Lord of the Rings to deliver bland experiences. My game takes the opposite approach: it's finding the heart of what differentiates books like The Lord of the Rings from generic fantasy, giving you a game structure that delivers that experience, and leveraging the creativity of the people at the table to contribute the personalizing details like setting and characterization so that you get a solid Epic Fantasy story every time (at least that's the intention – I need help testing to confirm that the mechanics are delivering the experience I want them to at the table when I'm not directly involved).

    As I asked over in the praxis thread, I'd love to hear about it if there are things holding people back from giving my game a shot. I'm not a great salesman, so questions or comments from the people reading this thread could really help me improve my communication.
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