Lich Monkeys, Mermaids, and Piggies: Taking No Thank You, Evil! for a Test Drive!

The 5-year-old girl (“I’m going to be six soon! In November!”) dressed entirely in pink and carrying a red fox plushy showed up at the table knowing exactly what kind of character she wanted to be.

“I want to be a piggy!”

And so began the most recent round of playtesting No Thank You, Evil!, our storytelling game for families!

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Each playtest we’ve done looks at general elements of the game: is it fun? Do the players grasp it quickly? Does it keep their attention? How do the character sheets work? Essentially all of the basics that make a great game.

But each playtest also focuses in on specific elements. In this case, we were running the game for 3-5 kids who didn’t know me (I was acting as Guide), didn’t know each other, and didn’t know the game. We actively sought out children with special needs, as well as a wide range of ages. What would happen when you put a group of kids together who didn’t know each other, didn’t know the person running the game, and ranged in ages from 5 (almost 6!) to 14?

We were also testing out Creature—one of the types that we’ll be adding to the game if we hit our #StoriaNeedsHeroes goal!

Lastly, we told each player they could bring their favorite plushy or toy to act as their companion if they wanted to. I wanted to see whether the game rules could accommodate anything the players could throw at it. Every player brought something, and they ranged the gamut from mermaids, husky dogs, flying cats, and ponies to a lich monkey, a Minecraft pig, Yoshi, and Chuthulu. (For those wondering, these things aren’t under license and aren’t part of the official game. But the game is designed for kids to play whatever characters and creatures they want to. So if they want to play Luke Skywalker or one of the Lego characters in their games at home, they totally can).

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Here’s how it went:

Throwing a group of kids together at a table who didn’t know each other turned out to be easier than I expected; in fact, it was easier than some of the pickup games I’ve run with adults. Everyone got right into character creation, asked lots of questions about the elements on their character sheets, and were happy to draw their equipment and skills if they didn’t know how to write yet.

Gameplay went smoothly, with the other players helping the younger ones come up with cool and interesting ways to solve the adventure. There were some bumps, of course—with five players, waiting for your turn can seem like forever to the younger kids. Which is part of the reason the game has group actions—where everyone gets to work together to accomplish something, and everyone rolls the dice. Those really helped mitigate the down time that the youngest players were feeling. (It wasn’t perfect, of course. For one player, there just wasn’t enough hitting things with lasers. Which is something that will be easy to remedy in the future). An hour ended up being a little short for the players; most of them wanted to continue playing once the adventure ended.

It’s a good thing we were testing out the Creature type, since we had players who wanted to be dragons, a piggy (who eventually turned into a piggy-clown), a piggy-wizard (I think he was inspired by the piggy-clown at the other end of the table), a bunny, and a dinosaur. The type stats were flexible enough to accommodate all of these players’ desires, including the weapon options, which ranged from a squirting flower nose, to “melee fire-breath” (“it doesn’t go very far”), to Chinese yo-yos (they had these on sale at Uncle’s Games where we were playtesting, and were a big hit, so we incorporated them into the game on the fly).

Lastly, we looked at making companions. Could the rules accommodate the companions that players really wanted? It turns out that they could. The Flying Octopus companion easily became a flying cat companion, while the Scary Monster companion worked for Yoshi, the lich Monkey, and Cthulu (although the last one could have also fit into Flying Octopus or an Awesome Alien).

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Some of the more creative combinations we ended up with were:

  • A Piggy-Clown who Eats Ice Cream, with a red fox companion and a flower-nose weapon that squirted water at the bad guys anytime she oinked.
  • A Dragon who Experiments with Science, with a mermaid companion and a bow
  • A Dragon who Flies Through the Sky, with a flying cat companion and a little bit of fire breath
  • A Yoshi who Plays (Lots of) Video Games, with a Yoshi companion and a video game controller as a melee weapon

Overall, it was a fantastic experience. The players continue to amaze us with their creativity and storytelling skills, and we learn something new every time that helps make the game better. Next week, I’ll share a section from the GMing section of the No Thank You, Evil! rulebook that goes into more detail about some of the ways to make a game even better, whether you’re running for your own kids or a group of strangers!

But before that, here for your enjoyment, is the most amazing playtest report (unsolicited, which makes it all the more awesome!):

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P.S. There’s just one week left in the Kickstarter! Please spread the word to your favorite geeky families!

Shanna Germain

Over a 20-year career, Shanna Germain has penned six books, hundreds of short stories, and myriad other works, along the way garnering a Pushcart nomination, the C. Hamilton Bailey Poetry Fellowship, and the Utne Reader award for Best New Publication. At Monte Cook Games she has contributed to dozens of products and was lead designer for No Thank You, Evil!. She is a cofounder of the company, and our Creative Director.