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The Slash Five Playtest FAQ

What’s the Slash Five Playtest?

The Slash Five Playtest is a NERO playtest designed to decrease all the numbers in NERO by a factor of five.

The playtest text can be found here.

If you’ve played using this playtest, we want to hear how it went! Fill out a survey here.

Why would you want to do this?

A few reasons—

  1. Immersion. The less you’re thinking about math, the more your head is in our world and the things going on around you.
  2. Less unintentional cheating. Right now, everybody guesses. Most people make pretty good guesses about when they’re supposed to fall down, but it’s still a guess. People who can keep up with the math tend to fall down faster than the people who fudge.  It would be better to have a clear system that everybody can follow.
  3. The game was never designed for this math. When the game started, nobody expected that fighters would eventually be swinging 20s and monsters would have 200+ hit points. Let’s scale it back to math everybody can do.
  4. Math complexity is a barrier to entry. I have seen countless newbies and first-event players look like a deer in headlights when the are attacked by more than one person. We are in some ways deaf to this issue because of survivor bias – anybody that was scared off by the math complexity doesn’t give us feedback, they just stop playing.

Do you think players can’t handle basic math?

I don’t think the level of math in our game is “basic”. I have no shame in saying that even as a veteran NERO player, I have problems keeping up with the math. My character has a lot of hit points and armor and I can take a lot of hits. But how many exactly? Hard to say. When you have over 100 hit points (like many of our NPCs do) and you are getting hit with different numbers and spells at the same time, then our game is less guided by character skill than by what “feels right”. A math reduction would make combat clearer, fairer, and easier to track.

It’s really expensive to increase my damage now!

Yes, this playtest is not in itself intended in itself as a long-term fix. It’s meant to get us thinking about what NERO would be like if the numbers were scaled back. With numbers at this level, we need to think about fighting and stealth skills differently — otherwise it essentially costs 75 build (in-class) to increase your damage through profs or backstabs, which is a long time to wait for one skill.

We are hoping that chapter owners submit playtests which address fighting and stealth skills. We do have one more playtest on the stove, called the Maneuver playtest, which incorporates ideas from several other weapon-skill playtests. As a teaser — Under this playtest, melee oriented characters aren’t just spending build on profs/backstabs, they are also buying critical attacks/back attacks and maneuver skills (which let them use crits/back attacks in different ways). These are aimed at creating fighting-style niches… as you build your character, you will make strategic choices: are you the slayer that focuses on taking down one monster at a time? The guardian that defends your team with his sword and shield? Does your rogue prefer hit-and-run tactics or more a focused strategy? High level characters will have more options at their disposal.

How should scaling change under slash five?

The beauty of a flat /5 division is that the actual number of hits and spells being exchanged should not change too much. Think about it:

  • A monster with 40 hit points takes 4 hits from a guy swinging 10s, or 2 flame bolts (20 damage) to kill.
  • A monster with 8 hit points takes 4 hits from a guy swinging 2s, or 2 flame bolts (4 damage) to kill.

I recommend that event directors ease into scaling. Start with monsters that swing 1 damage, and gradually turn up the difficulty until you find the right balance. For most encounters, monsters that swing 1 or 2 damage should be fine.

A low level monster

Should have between 2 and 5 hit points, and swing 1s

A mid level monster

Should have between 5 and 10 hit points and swing 2s.

A high level monster

Should have over 10 hit points and swing 3-5 damage.

Most monsters, especially those with 10 or more hit points, should also have an elemental weakness (fire, ice, lightning, stone).

This makes it difficult to be low level

NERO was already pretty hard at low level–this doesn’t significantly change that. If a monster is swinging 5 damage (without the slash five playtest), it can drop most characters level 8 or under in just two swings. Just like under 9th edition rules, armor + protective spells are very important to all characters at low levels.

What’s the playtest process / timeline?

The 10th edition playtest policy is posted here. Essentially, chapter owners may submit playtests which address one or more of our 10th edition design goals.

The rough plan is that each playtest will have a six month review period, starting in January 2013. This playtest (Slash Five) has been approved to be used prior to then. Constructive feedback posted on the NERO Forum and submitted via surveys may be incorporated into the version that will be posted in January.

How does Strongarm work in slash five?

Treat it as a weapon proficiency before dividing by five.

This doesn’t do what it’s aiming to do: (slow down combat, rebalance classes, decrease weapon damage, provide new character options… etc) 

The objective of this playtest is just to reduce math complexity, just the degree of difficulty in knowing exactly how much damage you can take or have taken.  Smaller math operations also take less attention, which leads to fewer errors and less unintentional cheating. Try it out!

Right now, the ability to rapidly add 16, 12, 7, 19, 4, and 12 and immediately know the total (or pretend that you do) is necessary to play NERO. We would like to lower that bar of gameplay difficulty without significantly changing the number of hits / spells being exchanged.

This doesn’t change how combat works

Exactly! We wanted this to be a test of NERO at easier math, and didn’t want to confound the discussion by shifting how things are scaled.

Ask yourself this – if you can kill a monster in 4 swings, are you having a better experience if you were saying “16” than if you were saying “3”? Many people argue that they have a better experience when the numbers are easier to follow. They are less likely to be confused, and spend less of their attention on math.

I have not heard a convincing argument that high numbers and complex math result in more fun. But I have heard countless people say that overwhelming game math is the reason they don’t play NERO.

Version Notes

In response to feedback, the Slash Five playtest has been updated in the following ways:

Version 1.2

  • Based on feedback about low level survivability, added +1 body across the board
  • reduced Drae racial disadvantage to -1 body during daytime.

Version 1.3

  • Healing stabilizes before healing is applied. (getting a point of healing while at -1 should restore you to consciousness)
  • Extra weapon proficiences may be sold back for 4 critical attacks. Extra backstabs may be sold back for 4 back attacks.
  • Clarified Protection Aura
  • Clarified Sharpening
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