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I'm just putting the finishing touches on the 9th iteration of my self-designed RPG system (with its own setting), and though it was woefully rocky in its early days I think that it's really coming together well. I'm running a handful of pbp games in v8.3, and have collected some encouraging data, and v9.0 is really feeling close to my initial vision.

Now, however, I'd like to see the game tested from a GM's point of view. When 9.0 is fully written up I'd like to find a group to pick up and use the materials with my input being limited to observation, and question fielding.

Do groups exist who like to playtest different systems? I can't imagine it's the world's most attractive pitch to try someone's homebrew pet project, but I also think this one stands up. If so, how or where do I find them?

Again, I'm keen to hand off the entire system to another GM with his/her own players, observe, and be available in whatever capacity becomes necessary. I'd consider this the next step after GMing playtests myself. And I'd be looking specifically for an online venue, as being based in New Zealand doesn't lend itself to large-scale conventions or the like.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @JohnGrabanski If you have a new question, please use the Ask Question button. You can link to this question if it helps provide context. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 6 '18 at 18:46
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I would say take a look at online gaming pages. Most of them have the ability for you to mark it as a custom system, and then put that it's a playtest either in the title or the body. Or they have a forum where you can say that you are seeking playtesters for your custom RPG system and ask if they are interested, and then give them the link to that game.

Also most of these have the ability to designate co-GMs so that you could see it all AND also still observe instead of actively GMing.

For personal experience there, I'm active on roll20.net. There I've done a few playtests time and again by just titling the game "Playtest-Fantasy Dragons war" as example. In the description, I describe a few details about the setting and also the game system; for example:

Fantasy setting not unlike Golarion, with the players taking the role of dragons who awaken from a long sleep and must battle an ancient foe to survive. The system itself is attribute and skill based and uses D20s for rolls. Thus a typical skill roll is D20 + attribute + skill.

Additionally I make a "Check here if you're interested in playtesting" forum post and link to the "group up" page for that game there.

The mentioning of how the system basically is laid out is exceedingly important in addition to the setting used, as players use BOTH of these to decide they are interested or not... Alongside the info that it is for a playtest, you should also make clear what they should expect.

Thus, if you expect to tweak rules every 2 sessions and also to get a report by the players who they like that, then you should include that information in the initial description of the system as that is also important information for them to know.

The above should hold true regardless of which online gaming site you would use (thus play-by-post and chat-based or "phone"-based gaming).

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TLDR

  • RPG Playtest / Design Discord Servers
  • RPG Discord Server LFG Channels
  • Reddit /r/LFG
  • Roll20 LFG Forums
  • Fantasy Grounds LFG Forums
  • LFG Subforums RPG discussion boards (GitP, EnWorld, Etc)

Established online communities exist for playtesting both in-works systems and homebrew modifications to current systems.

I've previously been a member of at least two unique Discord servers focused solely on RPG Design and Playtesting. These communities have channels for general conversation, discussing mechanics, and the like but also have Looking For Group channels where content creators could recruit players for playtest sessions. One even has a specific 'Playtester' role users can assign themselves to be pinged by creators seeking bodies.

RPG playtesting servers tend to be smaller than general discussion servers but I've still had luck finding people to test my content and finding games to sit in as a playtester.


Several RPG communities have playtesting subforums and/or Looking For Group areas, both of which can be used to recruit interested parties. Finding GMs online tends to be the bottleneck of course so I ended up running my own sessions a lot but finding players is usually pretty easy. I've had the most luck when providing either Quick Start Rules or Player's Guides in my threads/ads alongside a decent elevator pitch for my content and an explanation of the feedback I was seeking.


Finally, if you don't already, I'd recommend you consider setting your own Discord community. In my experience it's a great way to organize my content as well as building a pool of potential playtesters and GMs: Properly organize channels to separate useful resources, rules questions, and off-topic chatter and include voice channels for general discussion and test sessions. As you find playtesters, recruit them to your server and from there build a pool of players who've already shown interest and learned some of the rules. You'll be able to draw on them for future playtests and then fill any holes by posting new advertisements on the above resources.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The answer doesn't make it clear for me: have you used any of these methods for playtesting/finding playtesting groups? I ask because "I use a discord server which has a playtesting feature, but I've never used it and don't know if it is effective or not" is usually not a good answer. If you have the experience on using them, please clarify it - and detailing that experience should improve your answer greatly. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 6 '18 at 19:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll see what I can do to clarify. I figured mentioning that I was previously active in communities explicitly built for this purpose constituted showing that I had used them. I suppose I can also change "I recommend ___" to "I previously did ___ and was successful." Thanks \$\endgroup\$ – OneCritWonder Jun 6 '18 at 19:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a valid point. I had missed that the servers were solely for Design and Playtesting in my first read of the answer. Emphasizing that could help, instead of writing too much. Still, I would detail the experience with that, as it tends to be more useful than just "do that." \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 7 '18 at 3:21
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TLDR

  • Forums and Question/Answer sites might be your widest net option.
  • A new app called GameFor may be what you are looking for as well.
  • Local gaming stores can offer some great possibilities.
  • Keep your pitch short and sweet to avoid losing your audience.
  • Make sure you don't hover when they are testing...
  • Make sure you take any criticism as intended...
  • Testing online with Roll20.net/Skype could be key for you.

So there are of course a great many ways to attract potential players to play test a game you are developing. It all depends on the type of play group you are searching for and how you want to test it. Online, In person, or Both.

While I have not actually used any of these methods to playtest a game it is not a stretch to see how they can be beneficial. All you are doing is finding a group to play a game (which I have used these methods for), but not participating with them...

To find individuals to play you have no limit to where you can go to find them. You can post something online looking for interest on forums, Yahoo Answers, Reddit, Tumblr, even this stack's chat room. Better yet, you can post in all of those places and hopefully generate even more interest.

The key here is to just find someplace that you can ask and individuals can respond. I have found people to play online with through Yahoo Answers before and website forums. Any place that you can post your request and receive multiple answers will work... even craigslist if you wanted to go that route...

There is also a new app that has recently been released that may be a big help for your endeavour. The GameFor app (both iPhone and Android) is geared exactly for what you are searching for. Finding gamers to game with all around the world. You can find people in your local area, as well as local stores and events, and meet up to play. The only downside currently is that it is still only a few months or so old, but the more gamers that get on it the bigger it will grow!

As I mentioned this app is new, and as such I have not used it yet, but there are not just individuals that appear "near" you. There are also entire groups and game stores.

Another option (I think the best, first option) would be to go to your local gaming store. This has a lot of great benefits. First, you can meet gamers face to face and see their reactions while reading or playing your game as opposed to just reading reviews in emails. Also, you might be able to get the store owner or employees to help spread the word if they think you are onto something!

I have also joined game groups through stores. Just going to a store you can enter, talk with the owner or players that are there, and quickly generate interest on the spot. The owner (to my experience) typically knows the type of gamers that come into their shop and might be able to get you in touch with exactly the type of player you are looking for.

Whether you post online or give your pitch in person I would try to keep it short and sweet. Explain the basic storyline, basic play style, and any unique game mechanics you have. Beyond that, I would advise that those interested further can contact you for more details/information (given that those interested will have to contact you eventually to play regardless).

If you get a slew of responses this could be even better because you can set up multiple play test groups to run at the same time. If you do, of course, try to check in on all of them and ensure they are running as intended, but also try to withdraw yourself and ensure that someone picking up the "book" the first time can figure it out without a lot of direction.

If you do want to limit interaction to cyberspace (or simply have no other viable choice) Roll20 is a great resource for playing RPGs online. With Roll20 and Skype I have played numerous games online with no additional cost to my wallet or meeting another human.

Whether you have groups play test online or in person you can still lurk in the background and take notes for yourself on what you observe. Maybe you will more easily notice something that a player or DM would miss: "That NPC should not have done that, there is a situation where my game mechanic could fail, etc."

Most important however I think would be criticism you receive. If someone takes the time to test your game, make sure you look at ANY criticism you receive objectively. Since it is your baby you may be inclined to defend it and provide excuses, but looking at your project objectively is the only way to ensure it improves!

Good Luck!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ ...Are you associated with the app? The language you use to describe it sounds pretty promotional in nature. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 31 '18 at 17:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not. I am just a gamer, but I do have it and hope that it grows so that I can find more people to play with! It is just new so I wanted to add in some more details to explain what it is... \$\endgroup\$ – Odin1806 May 31 '18 at 17:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ As another non-affiliated gamer who recently discovered the app but is sad to see not much use for it locally, I've likewise been dropping it into conversation here and there...but I can see how doing so seems promotional or like a plug. \$\endgroup\$ – OneCritWonder Jun 6 '18 at 18:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Which of these options have you used or seen used for game playtesting? Similar to Hellsaint's comment on OneCritWonder's answer there's a large difference between "here is a thing that's possible, though I've never used it" and "here's a thing I've used or seen used and here's how it has worked out". I'd be interested in seeing explanation of what you've seen used and how it's worked out in practice (was it helpful, did it work not so well, are there pitfalls to be aware of, etc). \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 7 '18 at 11:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I will edit in some more details based on my experience when i get a chance... though that could be a bit... I am on vacation with spotty internet. \$\endgroup\$ – Odin1806 Jun 7 '18 at 19:15

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