Slash Five / Maneuver Debut!

Several Slash5/Maneuver playtest modules were run this weekend at NERO Ravenholt. Got some great feedback! I’m still collecting data, but I thought you guys might be interested to hear some quick notes.

I just want to take a moment to thank the Ravenholt players that tried it out. There was some grumbling at first, but people approached it with an open mind and gave me their honest feedback.

The general impression was strongly positive. Ravenholt has a lot of level 35+ characters and a much smaller number of characters in levels 1-20. Recruiting new blood is hard here, because new players are so far below the average power level. Most plot is aimed at the average Ravenholt level, which I think is in the upper 20s. So I was pleased that we could bring the full level range on a combat module without the low level group feeling overwhelmed or the high level group feeling underwhelmed.

 

Here were the two modules that used the playtests:

Slash Five (standing alone) — one of Ravenholt’s staff members ran a module using the slash five playtest. I was not there to see it, but I talked to people that went on it. The feedback ranged from feeling neutral (it didn’t change anything) to strongly positive.

Slash Five + Maneuvers — I ran a module that used both playtests. We had roughly 35 players involved.

Backstory: the players were asked to help research a magical anomaly in a nearby region where the Great Celestial Cycle is in flux and things are not behaving as they normally do. My hook character (A scholar of Helevorn, the great Quentari library) had some research on how people behave when they’re in that area (ie, the playtest notes). I left the playtest notes in the back of the tavern with some paper, so people could draft out how their build would be spent under this playtest. On Sunday, I brought everybody out to the battlefield.

We divided the 35 players into two groups – a higher level group and a lower level group. Each group had a magical device (a gem) which was said to record the magical energy patterns in the area. The devices were not allowed to get within 50 feet of each other until the last wave of monsters (forcing the groups to stay separate, thereby making it easier for our NPCs to challenge each group). So the players were there, in-game, to collect data for the Black Tower of Helevorn. The new maneuvers were explained as the memories of ancient heroes who had died on that site in a previous era. By hanging out in that area, the spirits of these heroes aid you in battle.

Then the group of 6 NPCs attacked each group in turn. We started with 5 body, swinging 1s, and got a little tougher after each wave. We gave monsters a variety of maneuvers so we could test them out. As the module went on, we also drafted some of the players to join the monster side so players could be on the receiving end of archery, celestial magic, and earth support.

Finally, after each group had faced about 8 waves of monsters, we combined the groups into one, and attacked them with tough monster stats. The top stats we used were monsters swinging 5s, with 35 body, two Return Magics, and two slays. Each monster had a full set of maneuvers to call upon.

The Cons:

– Learning curve – people were not yet used to the new numbers, so there was some confusion / frustration  there. One person pointed out that it felt like the month after NERO implemented numbers after spell incants (you didn’t always have to say “20” after a flame bolt) – everybody was confused at first, there was some frustration and resistance to change, but people eventually got the hang of it. But not everybody “got it” instantly.

– One complaint was that it made new characters too effective – a few high level characters didn’t like that a brand new character can pick up a +1 weapon and compete in a high level module or encounter.

– Stance duration was an issue – if you activate a melee stance, it lasts until the battle ends, which the rules define as “line of sight” (meaning the battle’s over when you don’t see any combat for 10 seconds). However, in practice, this means your stance only lasts for one wave of monsters. The intent is that it could be active for an entire wave battle or module.

– Some people felt the call “weapon strike” was too long and is too easily confused with “physical strike” or “spell strike”. We are interested in suggestions for other words, the shorter the better!

– The cost of maneuvers may be too high, still collecting data on that.

The Neutral:

– Some people reported “lower math makes *everybody* feel more deadly.” One player said, “As a high level fighter, I used to be able to ignore a monster swinging 2s. But now even goblins have a shot at dropping me. Game feels scary again!”

– Some suggested this playtest puts a little bit more emphasis on real fighting skill (as opposed to character skill).

– Skilled Block was probably the most popular maneuver. A fighter with five available Critical Attacks and Skilled Block can take five more hits than a fighter without it… but is still dropped quickly by a Slay.

The Pros:

– People reported the math WAS much easier to process. Nobody was in a situation where they had 42 body and 12 armor and got hit with a 17… under slash five it’s more like 8 body, 2 armor, and getting hit with a 3. Much clearer!

– Nobody said the math was harder than current NERO math.

– People said it still felt like NERO. Even people that didn’t think the lower math was a benefit said that overall, they still felt as powerful as they did under regular NERO.

– People said it made celestial casters feel more powerful, though I’m still investigating why. Some said it had to do with low level spells being harder to ignore. When you’ve got a ton of body, you tend to brush off the odd magic missile or lightning bolt, but when the numbers are smaller across the board, you pay more attention to them. Still looking for data on this.

– Earth casters said it felt exactly the same, they felt no change in power

– Nobody said they felt LESS effective under this system

– Some really cool teamwork moments. Fighters with the Bodyguard skill would team up with casters and defend them. Players would set up combos with each other, where one player would fumble the monster’s weapon, then his buddy would move in to flank.Warrior’s Dare allowed a lone fighter to approach a group of people more tactically, using the line on the ground to single out a target and prevent the whole group from rushing forward.

– Several people said they were excited that the new skills help them better express their character concept (for example, playing a defender-style fighter vs a slayer-style fighter).

– More level playing field. Low level characters had an easier time competing against tough monsters.

 

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  1. #1 by Bill Tobin on November 5, 2012 - 6:56 pm

    Is there any way you can direct players that were involved to give some feedback in the comments? A summary from you is great, but I think I’d also like to hear it from the players themselves.

  2. #2 by Luke Mahar on November 5, 2012 - 8:44 pm

    Dan,
    Would love to see the playtest notes the players had to build their characters from. I want to know what you finally went with for the numbers. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to get up north again sometime and particpate in a playtest myself. Good stuff.

    • #3 by fresh heir on November 5, 2012 - 9:17 pm

      Luke, we used a printout of the 1.1 revision — after a lot of debate, we eventually went with a flat 75-build prof so as to not rock the boat too much. I do think scaled profs are the way to go, but we’re going to have to deal with that later. Latest copy here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/110691765/Maneuver-Playtest

  3. #4 by Jacob Aldridge on November 5, 2012 - 9:07 pm

    I got a chance to go on this module and though most people didn’t have much thought to the plot line, we all knew that the play tests were the focus here. I’m glad Dan explained the plot line. I would have jumped on it even if I hadn’t known about the play test.

    The biggest part of the play test for me was the slash 5. I cannot rave about this enough really. It hurts absolutely no one and takes out so much over bloated math. I immediately felt cool running around with my bow, hitting creatures for 4 Normal. Considering my character level, watching things drop after 3-4 shots is awesome. And to watch NPCs actually take the celestial caster’s 9th level blast spells was simply refreshing. I think that those lower level players will finally have a chance to jump in the game and really have a good time and not feel that awful cliff of a curve when facing a high level character.

    As for the maneuver play test, I really enjoyed it. I thought that it had some kinks, but nothing that can’t be worked on and cleaned up. I’ll comment on the things I encountered in a new posts below to separate them and make them clear.

  4. #5 by Jacob Aldridge on November 5, 2012 - 9:11 pm

    Knockback – I used this in conjunction with my Archery skills and found this very useful, except that the “I challenge you” portion of it, which I found very cumbersome and clunky. I feel like it should use a “Lesser Repel” instead of a normal one, simply to make it more intuitive. Players will more likely jump back into the fray after 10 seconds if they don’t quite understand that they are only repelled until they move back 10 feet.

  5. #6 by Jacob Aldridge on November 5, 2012 - 9:13 pm

    Martial Recovery – This was really a godsend when you were out of Critical Attacks. I’m not sure if 1 is enough, but I’d have to play test it more to get a better feeling for it.

  6. #7 by Jacob Aldridge on November 5, 2012 - 9:17 pm

    Archery Stance – As likely the longest playing Archer in the game (NERO as a whole), I’ve been waiting for something like this for an incredibly long time. It was immediately useful and got me out of so many potentially horrible situations of being charged because my ranged damage forces people to engage me at close range, but usually just ends up me being run into as I stand my ground.

    I would like to see more detail put into the stances, maybe advanced forms of them after spending lots of build to help you improve your abilities while using that stance.

  7. #8 by Jacob Aldridge on November 5, 2012 - 9:20 pm

    Critical Attack – You can’t have enough. In a 45 minute module, I had used all 6 of mine. Maybe the cost could be lower or have martial recovery return more. I’d love to see more comments from people on this.

  8. #9 by Phil on November 5, 2012 - 9:42 pm

    Bill, what would you like to know?

    Dan’s got a a pretty good summary listed here. There were a few other concerns mentioned, like most folks though stances still stuck you in place since it just removed the words ‘you must stand’ but didn’t explicitly say ‘you can move after you do the plant your feet for 3sec.’ Also confusion about which damage pluses stacked, could you really get from base to 4 with just a Martial and a crit?

    Also yes, there was concern about the power of the +1 sword, but there were also folks that thought an easy +1 via damage aura or sharpen was a good thing for newer players, letting them keep up much easier with the high levels while still giving them plenty to look forward to(profs, slays, strikes)

    The general response was overall positive from my listening to folks.

  9. #10 by Bill Tobin on November 6, 2012 - 2:32 pm

    I’m happy just hearing anything about it.

  10. #11 by Valerie on November 6, 2012 - 3:52 pm

    Wish I had a chapter nearby open so I could playtest this! Thanks for sharing and for working on the playtest. Hope it gets pushed through to the rulebook.

  11. #12 by Christopher Drew/Remlin on November 16, 2012 - 12:21 am

    Thanks for this writeup Dan. Anything that takes the level gap and makes it less of a curve while keeping the higher builds having cool skills to be used in specific moments that cause “Hero Stories” are good in my book.

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