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.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.