Ralph brought up a question about con playtesting here: http://www.story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=9895&page=1#Item_23 and it started to drift into discussion about playtesting methods.
I'm interested. How do you playtest your games? Who plays? Do you have rounds of playtesting, and what are they?
I have an idea for a game, usually at my machine at work. I kit-bash up some rules in my head, get all excited and put up some posts asking for players, usually on very short notice, so I get a very mixed bag of players. We play, maybe even playstorm a little. If it goes well enough I try to runit at the next con or meetup. I call this the deciding process. It helps me decide if a project is fun and interesting enough to really start hammering on.
Stage two is to run it any chance I get until everyone, including myself is sick of it. Then I beat out a playtest document and send it out to anyone who wants it, relying on the shotgun effect to actually get some data back. I test myself during this period using the playtest as written too, to see if I left any gaping holes that my playtesters need to know about.
Stage three is a few last con games using the data recieved from those external playtests. If the pieces fit, including the changes made from suggestions I write the actual game document, and... well that's asfar as i've ever gone, but the plan is to send out the full document to even more people whether they ask or not to test the text.
the distinction between the early middle and last stages has to do with what I'm testing. Stage one is concept testing, stage two is rules testing, and stage three is text testing. here's hoping text testing goes well.