What Ho World: Playtest Report

It was the introductory meeting for Oxford University RPG society today, which gave me a great opportunity to see how people who never roleplayed before enjoyed What Ho, World. Overall, it was very positive! We spent a lot of the session laughing, and every character had a fun plotline. We had a blackmailing butler accumulating a hoard of antiques so he could sell them all and retire to the country, a general winning a golf tournament by default after arranging for his rival to suffer a clothing malfunction, and a pioneering inventor trying to sweep the country’s theatres with his one-man orchestra.

System feedback was less positive. It’s clear that the procedure of play needs a lot of tightening up and quite a bit of simplifying. With:

  • 8 moves per player with multiple options.
  • 4 different token types.
  • A scene framing procedure that forces you to choose 2 of 4 detailed entries every scene.
  • Goals to build up progress towards.

…it’s just all a bit unwieldy in play. I initially thought I needed to gut whole sections of the game, but I think I’ve found a way to keep most things intact while reframing certain elements so they work better. The first thing to try is giving a player a single discard pile rather than tracking per-move card spends. I’m also going to really simplify the scene framing procedure and make sure that when I give a player a choice it really matters rather than slowing down play. Fingers crossed it makes a better game!

Still, it was a fun time, and it’s a really encouraging sign that the game can produce that experience with 4 people who’ve never roleplayed before. It’d be great to hear how it goes when I’m not there to nudge things along, but my ability to arrange those playtests is limited – not many people willing to print off an entire deck for a game that isn’t even finished!