Encontros não-combativos

Como tem se tornado rotina Dave Noonan postou em seu blog uma ótima discussão sobre os desafios não-combativos, que acho que será útil não apenas a quem se interessa por D&D ou pela nova edição, mas a todo mestre que se interesse um pouco pelo assunto das recompensas e opções narrativas:

Noncombat Challenges: Today’s work is mostly spent on the end state: How do you know you’re at the end of the encounter, and what are the consequences (both game and narrative) for success and failure?

Those end-state elements are so obvious in most combat encounters that we take them for granted. Most of the time, you know when the fight is over, and you know what the consequences were for both the winners and losers.

It’s a little muddier for noncombat challenges. The successful end state of a wilderness trek is pretty obvious–you reach your destination. But the failure end state? It should probably be something more satisfying than “you all get lost and die of exposure.” The failure should hurt, absolutely–but it shouldn’t be a narrative dead-end (on a one-way street, no less).

And just like real life, things get muddier still when you’re talking social interactions. At what point does the Duke make up his mind and no amount of further talk will sway him? (And if you think the players naturally stop talking at that point, well, you have very different players than I do.) If you tick off the Duke, what’s the consequence of that, both in a game-mechanics sense and in terms of the narrative?

Those are tricky questions. Fundamentally, they’re questions whose answers get generated at your table, not in the DMG. But we’re going to lay down some principles that guide challenge design–whether you’re designing ahead of time or making it up as you go along. Right now, the manuscript suggests five principles for noncombat challenges.

Right now, the principle I’m working under is “Success and failure have both game consequences and narrative consequences.” One of the implications is that success isn’t just its own reward in a narrative sense. Success also gets you the same cool stuff that a combat encounter would get you. If you engage in a big debate with the Duke and convince him to help you secure the borderlands, you earn experience and treasure just as if you’d faced a combat challenge of equivalent difficulty.

Whoa. Treasure? Yes–sort of. In a lot of noncombat challenges, there’s no way to directly provide treasure at the challenge’s conclusion. To use the wilderness trek example, it would be a little weird to say, “You’ve reached your destination…and there’s a big pile of gold there, too.” But any DM worth his salt will defer that treasure and sneak it back into the adventure in a spot that makes sense.

What about social stuff? Does that mean you earn experience and cold, hard cash just for talking to NPCs as a matter of course? No. The point is that a noncombat challenge has to be a challenge. The situation must be meaningful, the outcome must be in doubt, and there must be some element of risk. If those elements aren’t all present, you’re just talking. You might be learning useful stuff, and you might be having fun. But no XP for that.

And just for fun, here’s another one of the five principles: “Noncombat challenges test multiple PCs in multiple ways.” Not exactly shocking or radical, but it’s something we’re taking seriously. To use the social encounter example, it’s useful if the party has a “face man,” but a face man alone isn’t a “We win” button.

Mood: Q: If they can teleport like that, what do their jails look like? A: Graveyards.
Music: Maria Rita, Maria Rita

Alguns questionamentos muito bons no post. É claro que uma falha feia em um teste de Sobrevivência deveria deixar o grupo perdido e em péssimos lençóis, mas isso é divertido? Uma das preocupações que eu tenho tido nos últimos anos é com essa idéia de nem sempre ter que fazer algo certo mas sempre tentar fazer algo divertido. Claro nem sempre funciona, mas acho que é um parâmetro bacana para se seguir em um jogo de RPG.

A própria reflexão que os testes e encontros tem conseqüências além das mecânicas é ótima, e para ser sincero eu não vejo isso nos livros de Dungeons & Dragons com freqüência – embora seja um tema até batido nos bons fóruns. Enfim todo o sistema novo de desafios não-combativos, em especial os sociais está parecendo ótimo, e espero que eles não pisem na bola e me decepcionem, já que as expectativas estão muito altas aqui.

E por falar em decepção o nossa amigo Noonan estava ouvindo Maria Rita….

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