Playtesting Jawbone on the Gauntlet
By June, I had an actual complete draft of the module, and I decided to playtest it on the Gauntlet, a gaming community I've been playing with for a while. I was a little intimidated to run a game there, not because the people there aren't friendly and welcoming (they are! ALL of them are! It's amazing.) but because their standards are high. There are so many great GMs running games there, I was worried about living up to the expectations players there have for all games.
I'm not a great GM. I stutter and pause at weird times, and all my NPCs sound alike because I cannot do voices to save my life. Really, my only decent GM skill is tying seemingly unrelated threads together, and I was running a module that already does that.
But anyway. A few intrepid players signed up, and, y'all, let me tell you about these players and maybe you'll see why I was so intimidated. For one thing, every one of them knew the game better than I did.
We have Bruce, who has run Dungeon World approximately a gazillion times. I had run exactly four Dungeon World sessions before: the previous playtest of this module. He brought this series' good-natured Barbarian, Harvo, who loved music and dogs, and who occasionally asked a skull for advice.
And CJ (@superchailatte), who comes up with amazing characters. At first you think they're just funny one-note tropes, but then he gives them actual conflicts and details that, before you even notice, turn them into three-dimensional characters you care about. His Paladin, Lieutenant Rekka, was no exception.
And Jim (@jimlikesgames), who has also GM'd a gazillion games, Dungeon World and others. I've been in a lot of his games. It was kind of weird being on the other side. And then he introduced his character Luciano, Bard of the Blues.
So I ended up barely having to do anything. The occasional nudge in a particular direction was all it took, and they were off wreaking havoc.
Jawbone has a lot of NPCs, and I have yet to run through it with a group who interacts with all of them. It's always interesting to see which characters they're interested in. This group spent a lot of time at the tavern, so I had lots of fun with Virgil, making him extra belligerent. They also took NPCs along on their adventures more than any of the other groups did -- for the final showdown they had an entire entourage, and keeping track of them was the hardest part of GMing the entire series. (I failed at one point, forgetting that having two of the NPCs with them at the same time automatically solved one of the mystery threads. D'oh!)
Running a game for players who knew it better than I did turned out to make the experience easier, not harder, and once again it took exactly four sessions to play through, and they were satisfied with the answers they got at the end, so I'm calling this one a near-complete success.
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