Playtests, gnomos, warlocks e mecânica social

A novidade de hoje da WotC foi o relato de uma sessão de playtest do Dave Noonan. O grupo da aventura, que se passa em Eberron, era composto inicialmente por um warforged paladino, um humano warblade/warmage, um elan psion, e um gnomo do caos warlock. A conversão deste grupo para a 4ª edição parece ter sido bem complicada, e o simples fato de ser composto por um gnomo warlock gerou um bocado de especulações e questionamentos nos fóruns da WotC.

Thursday Night, Wizards Conference Room (Wayne Manor).
Campaign Arc: Castle Smoulderthorn
DM: Dave Noonan
Players: Bruce Cordell, Richard Baker, Logan Bonner, and Toby Latin

I’ve been playing a chaos gnome warlock in Dave Noonan’s 3rd Edition Eberron game for a while now. When it came time to start playtesting the new edition with non-Wizards employees, Dave decided to convert the current campaign instead of beginning anew. We’re smack-dab in the middle of the floating fortress Castle Smoulderthorn, so it would have been unfortunate if we didn’t get a chance to untether its bound elemental and send the whole evil place floating off to Siberys.

I was playing with Rich Baker, Bruce Cordell, and Toby Latin-Stoermer (our resident non-WotC employee). Our characters were Karhun (originally a warblade/warmage played by Rich), Infandous (an elan psion played by Bruce), Hammer (a warforged paladin played by Toby), and Dessin (a chaos gnome warlock played by myself).

Conversion was far from 100% accurate. Not only have the classes changed, but we’re also using plenty of stuff that wasn’t in the playtest document. Several of us needed new races. Luckily, we had some versions kicking around. These hadn’t been developed yet, but we used them anyway. Rich’s character was tougher. He was playing a warblade/warmage in the 3rd Edition game, which didn’t really convert at all. Fortunately, he was able to pick a class that was focused on tactics, and he picked up some wizard powers to feel similar to the old character. We didn’t have a psion for Bruce, so he rolled up a wizard and tweaked some of the names to fit thematically.

The characters were pretty different now, but we all had some pretty interesting stuff to do. We were very curious what Toby would think since he wasn’t familiar with the system like the rest of us. Turns out he enjoyed himself (but we found out the warforged he was using was kinda broken).

We started off the session just after the encounter we had last week. Before we had time to heal up, we were attacked again. Our enemies crossed a snake theme with a fire theme, so they had a fire snake, a fire sorcerer who turned into a snake, and six azers who brought plenty of fire but forgot about the snake bit. Dessin, my warlock, mostly stayed at the back. He was just making enemies attack each other, firing some eldritch blasts, and concentrating fire on badly damaged foes (turns out that makes him do more damage). Most of the azers got taken down relatively quickly. The big surprise of the encounter was the sorcerer becoming a snake and grabbing our poor paladin. Turns out that even if you’re a snake, and even if you’re on fire, adventurers will still kill you.

After the battle, it was a little different than the procedure that follows a 3E battle. Turns out the enemies don’t need magic weapons to be effective (because the math doesn’t need them to), so we didn’t have a bunch of magic loot that we didn’t really need and would only end up selling. It was a bit of a disconnect, but nothing we’d miss in the long run. We got to cut out the middleman and grabbed some coins and XP (though later we did find some cool magic loot that we could actually use).

Em resposta a essas críticas e com mais algumas informações sobre as mecânicas sociais David Noonan postou em seu blog:

Thursday Night D&D: What the heck, let’s tighten up the feedback loop on this whole “Dave’s playtest game” thing. Logan’s playtest report is up on D&D Insider. It cheered me greatly to see that message-board cries of “Warlocks are in! Gnomes are in!” were immediately followed by by message-board cries of “Not necessarily, dude.”

Digression About Info Flow: For race and class stuff specifically, I believe the current plan is that we stay mum until the relevant preview books come out this winter. So mum’s the word there.

I saw a reasonable criticism of the playtest reports here. It’s a fair cop: Why don’t we give you straight 4e playtests without including elements that may or may not make the cut for the PH/MM/DMG? You get two responses from me on that score. First, most of our internal playtest tables are doing exactly that–straight 4e goodness, often starting brand new at 1st level. Only a few tables went the “faithful reinterpretation” route that my table did. Second, one of the things we test is the away-from-table design process. How hard was it for Logan to crank out a reasonable chaos gnome, for example? Was his assessment of its balance accurate? Did he have enough design space to work with? See, those are pretty nifty questions. We live for stuff like that.

One other thing: D&D Insider is going to give you playtest reports from a lot of the other tables. My guys are just prolific, I suppose.

Back to the Thursday Night Game: You’ve read a bit about Castle Smoulderthorn. Well, last night was the final session in that adventure (although the campaign will certainly continue). And it started out with a huge social challenge: The PCs find themselves in the sanctum sanctorum with a lich (probably a tough encounter all by himself) and a blue dragon (definitely a climax encounter). I’ll cut out a lot of backstory by simply saying that the dragon has been attacking the castle to get to the PCs inside it and the lich isn’t sure why either the dragon or the PCs are attacking his floating castle–but he’s not happy about it. So a combination negotiation/debate/trial thing happened.

…And out comes a new iteration of our social challenge rules. We extracted a ton of useful data out of the test, and I’ll probably spend the rest of the morning typing that up for my colleagues and messing with some the rules. But I can share some broad outlines with you.

1) I had perfect attendance at my table last night: 7 PCs, plus the dragon, plus the lich. A truly participatory social challenge at a table that big is going to be chaotic no matter how you structure it. Or at least you can’t come up with rules that muzzle my players.

2) There was a lot of variety in both the mechanical techniques used (the checks/rolls/etc.) and the actual table dialogue. That’s a pretty high priority, so it was good to see it emerge in actual play. But my table is predisposed to show those behaviors, so I can’t see anything more definite than “it’s a good system for people who throw themselves into that play style wholeheartedly.”

3) The system we were testing involves skill checks (big surprise, huh?). One of the things I found fascinating was that some players preferred to deliver their dialogue, then roll the skill check and report the result. Others preferred to roll the skill check first, then deliver dialogue that matched their result (good or bad). The system works either way, so I might just make it explicit that you can “roll, then talk” or “talk, then roll.”

4) There is a totally valid D&D playstyle that haaaaates the idea of social interactions being resolved with a die roll. This system should work for that playstyle, too, once you flip a few switches. That just isn’t the playstyle we were testing last night.

The upshot? We had about 20 minutes of great dialogue at the table, then the lich was sufficiently convinced that the dragon was dangerously insane that he cautiously aided the PCs in attacking the dragon. Of course the lich turned on the PCs as the dragon fight was winding down. But the social challenge mattered, because the PCs were able to fight the dragon (with a little help), then fight the lich. That sure beats fighting dragon + lich.

Numa boa, até agora pelo que ele falou não vi muitas mudanças na mecânica social. Ok, você fala e rola, ou rola e fala, mas isso não é basicamente o que temos na 3.5? Ele devia ter gastos algumas dessas trocentas linhas para falar algo realmente novo, ou nem falar nada…

 

Tô quase deletando o post aqui, porque ficou enorme e convenhamos, meio inutil : )

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