A few times recently I have used the word/phrase “micro-playtesting” and people have given me blank looks, confused scowls and/or outright snorts of dismissal.
In the absence of a proper post, let this stand here for all time as the definition of what I meant – and will continue to mean – from this lumpley.com comment:
At this stage of development, an internal playtest just means grabbing a couple of friends for half an hour and trying a thing out. I “go to playtesting” when I need confirmation that what I’m designing will, in fact, work, before I move on to creating dependent systems.
It starts very small, just testing tiny system interactions: “hey Meg, pretend you’re trying to push me off a wall. Roll these dice. Say I dunno, something about pushing me off the wall, okay? … Huh. Okay, thanks!”
Or “hey Meg, you’re creating a character, a dragon slayer. I’m going to ask you a couple of questions, choose the answers from these lists here, okay? … Huh. Okay, thanks!”
When I have a complete subsystem I need to test, that’s when I ask friends to sit down with me for half an hour and give it a try. This was the case with The Dragon – I needed to test character creation, to (a) make sure that it made interesting characters, (b) see whether it gave me everything I needed as GM to launch into play, and (c) if not (which I expected), clarify what it was missing, so I could go about creating it with some experience to build on.
Eventually there’s no way to see what works and what doesn’t without just sitting down to play the game, so that’s what you do.