Here We Go!
Been busy settling into the new job and getting something special together;
The Life After open playtest!!
This has been a long time in the making, and I couldn’t be more excited to kick this off, but there is a lot that needs to be done to run this right. So, to catalog my thoughts and methods, I decided to post it up here for future reference
Yeah? What’s up?
Uhh…You have mentioned this Life After thing a few times but have never told us what the hell it is. So…What the hell is it?
Oh shit! That’s, unfortunately, true! So, let’s remedy that.
What is Life After?
Straight from the book:
“Life After is a game of struggle and perseverance, of horror and triumph. Life After sheds light on a group of people trying to survive in the ashes of a hateful world after it all came to an end, bearing the consequences for actions of the long dead.
We play to see how the group struggles and is beaten down yet manages to push through and create the legends that the future generations will tell. Will this be a story of victory and glory or a story of pain and downfall? Only one way to find out…”
This is a game about telling the stories of a group’s Life After life-changing events, whether that be after the bombs fell, robots uprising, or after their planet was cordoned off to be a nature preserve as a political stunt to save face for a galactic company which recently went through a criminal scandal.
There is no deficit in the number of post-apocalypse RPGs out there, and that’s great! Why am I not worried about competing with them? Well, because Life After isn’t about the post-apocalypse. It’s about the lives of those after life-changing events. No end of the world needed. This idea of setting agnosticism was one of the main design ideas behind Life After. This small change makes it easier to take Life After and adapt it to your settings and stories.
*Though note: Many of the examples in the book are given from the perspectives of those in a pulpy, post-apocalypse setting just for the sake of an example but are in no way meant to imply a setting for Life After.
For context, Life After is a PbtA, Powered by the Apocalypse, game, meaning that it uses 2d6 for most rolls and most rolls have 3 ranges for dice results:
6- is a miss
7-9 is a mixed success or a success at a cost
10+ is a success with little consequence
The State of the Game
Where is Life After at production-wise?
I have been playtesting and writing life after for over a year now, and man things have changed so much since the beginning. Initially, Life After was a simple Dungeon World hack that quickly became its own unique game. At the moment, Life After has been playtested by a few private groups, but it needs to be approached from a different perspective by different people to answer a variety of questions:
How would someone new to RPGs run this game as opposed to a long time PbtA vet? What can I do to make the game easier to run or more accessible? What rules are cumbersome, and what rules need to be added?
To answer all these questions, I am calling for a public playtest at local gaming stores by giving GMs copies of my book to take back to their regular groups and having a monthly Life After meetup to run a game in store where I will actually be a player.
Let’s breakdown the playtest plan and approach.
Let’s start by asking a few questions:
What are the basics of the playtest?
I will host a monthly meetup to have people run games in person at a local game store in addition to encouraging GMs to run games between the monthly meetups.
How will I keep the playtest honest?
I will continue my own weekly playtests with my private group that has played before alongside the normal playtesters but keep the two groups separate as to not influence the public games. Also, during the monthly games, I will be a player rather than the GM so I can see what the player sees while playing Life After.
Who am I looking for?
I am looking for volunteer GMs and players interested in trying out the game. I want anyone and everyone regardless of RPG experience. The wider the variety of people, the better.
What do they need?
They will only need their own set of dice and pencils! I will print out a copy of the current version of Life After, several copies of the character sheets, and several Basic Rules sheets for each GM to reduce how much it costs the volunteer GMs to help with the playtest.
How will I collect feedback?
I will make a short Google Form to help collect feedback outside of the monthly games, as well as make sure everyone has my business card and contact info. The primary method of feedback collection will be during the monthly Life After meetup, as it is always easier to get raw feedback in person.
How will I implement the feedback?
I will take all feedback into consideration but will not rewrite the book because of one person’s thoughts. I am looking to iron out the kinks in an already established system, so it will take a lot to make me consider changing something core to the game, but edits and tweaks are more than encouraged!
I expect to receive a ton of feedback on:
The current version of the character sheet, as it needs a lot of work and an artist to make it pretty;
The damage system, as it is such a divergence from popular damage systems in RPGs. It leans hard on narrative influence to dictate harm someone/something receives but is influenced by the dice as well. Keeping the balance might through some folks for a loop.
How Power Armor is way too strong. This is intentional, though, as the GM should adjust the game to match the party’s capabilities, not the other way around. And since I brought it up:
How to pace the game/keep the narrative flowing. It takes practice and willingness to let the players take the wheel to make Life After work. This lack of a rigid structure to guide the narrative can be overwhelming to some, so I expect to see some comments about how it’s hard to pace a game. Lots of GM’s are used to establishing the narrative and story before the game even begins, so breaking from that mold and letting the table’s narrative dictate where the game goes might throw some off.
Before I start the playtest, I wanted to list the planned features or changes I want to make to Life After but didn’t have the time to implement beforehand.
I wanted to:
- Release the podcast, Wander the Wastes, to help give people an idea of how the game is supposed to work and what it even is.
- Make how-to videos to help raise interest in Life After while teaching people how to play the game and explain some of the more complex parts of the game.
- Finish the tarot card character sheets. Originally, Life After was designed to be played with character sheets that fit onto tarot sized cards instead of sheets of paper. I had to put the idea in stasis for a while because the game was going through so many changes, calling for me to edit every card every time I made an edit. This became quickly unmanageable. Now, though, the game has a solid foundation and only minor adjustments need to be made from here, so the idea of reimplementing the card character sheets has been on my to-do list for a while now.
- Playtest the playing card versions of the rules more. Right now, it is just an optional way to replace dice at the table in the Optional Rules section. It’s a lot of fun and has playtested very well, but it needs more ironing before I ask the public to try it out. I may ask the GMs in the playtest to give them a spin for a month of the playtest and tell me what they thought.
- I wanted to make a rules-light version of the rules to help people get the basic concepts and pacing down before trying to play the full game. I will be working on this version while the playtest is going on, but don’t plan on featuring it in the playtest for a few months.
I can’t stress how excited I am to do such a large playtest of Life After finally! There is a lot of work ahead of me before I feel good about a full release, but I am eager to have people tear my game to shreds so I can make it even better. I have quite a to-do list to knock out, but I am so excited to take this next big step in Life After’s development.
Now to find a publisher for this thing…
Wish me luck, y’all!
PS. If you want in on the playtest but can’t make it to the physical games, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will send you everything you need to help out. The more, the merrier!