Playtesting and Other Extreme Sports

So the first Martian Muckraker playtest was a little rough. Maybe more than a little rough. A lot rough. It was rough. Solidly rough.

So the first part of this post is to state that when you are designing a game: PLAY TEST PLAY TEST PLAY TEST. And be not discouraged.

The chief areas of growth discovered during the first playtest were:

  • Ruleset needed to be simplified / better explained, specifically the genetics and stress numbers
  • Players experienced with Tarot wanted to use their own knowlege of the cards and not use game charts.

Main areas of strength:

  • Players really liked building a character around three memories produced by a tarot spread.
  • My players liked the sci-fi vibe / conspiracy vibe.

So a new version of the rules has been produced.

Here are some of the key mechanics, download the PDF (no cost) from itch for all the details:

Muck Rolls:

Your Martian Muckrakers are exploring dangerous places to solve a mystery. Sometimes we need to see if they succeed, fail or if chaos ensues. Two D6 (challenge dice) and a D12 (genetic die) are rolled. On the genetic die each character has a number that ranges from 4-12 that dictates how likely their martian superpowers are to manifest. However the stronger your alien connection, the more likely earthlings will think something is wrong with you . . .

  1. GM Sets the Stakes: Challenge Number is set and it is determined if this task is better done by the character’s Earthling or Martian side.  The GM narrates what could go wrong if the player fails to meet the challenge.  Each dice roll moves the story forward.  The fiction will go forward, just whether or not it goes forward in a way the player intends changes based on the role.
  2. The role:  The dice are rolled. 
    1. Plot Twist Doubles: If plot twist doubles (any double on the white dice) are rolled a tarot card is drawn and the game master uses it to inspire a plot twist. Challenge number and genetics die are not evaluated. 
    2. Challenge Number Met (on white dice): The character succeeds. (Regardless of the genetic die)
    3. Challenge Number Not Met: If the genetics die was rolled in the right range (below or equal the genetics number for skill uses that favor matian talents, above the gentics number for skill uses that favor earthling talents) the player can gain a point of stress to succeed anyway. 
    4. Oh Shit!:  The genetics die was not met in the ideal range and you missed the challenge number by 3 or more.  The character gains a point of stress and the GM can, if they wish draw a tarot card to determine an extra consequence. 


If you are doing a difficult muck roll and you would like an extra boost, you can tap a memory (made from your three card tarot spread, see the rules on itch for character creation) that you believe would give your character extra insight into that situation to get a +3 to the roll. Furthermore on such roles you don’t need to role your genetics die – your character automatically is in the right mindset (Martian or Human) for the task. 

Memories are also important when interviewing NPCs to gain information. If a player taps a memory card and explains why that memory provides insight into an NPC, that NPC will open up and be willing to share more. 

There’s something off . . .

Having a high genetics number comes with a lot of perks . . . such a character can use martian superpowers more easily. However whenever an undercover martian meets an earthling the gentic die is rolled and if you role the genetic number or below, the earthling suspects that “something is off” and is gaurded towards you.

If this seems like a game you’d be interested check out the full game rules here!

If you would like to learn more about Tarot, Labyrinthos has many great resouces.

Image by ipicgr from Pixabay

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