Sunday, March 8, 2015

What would I steal from 5e

Bring on the feast!
Still playing the round robin D&D Fifth Edition game.  No deaths yet and when I ran my run of the campaign I found that the third level is about where players can stop worrying about getting killed every fight if you go by the challenge levels in the book.  This is not bad, I'm not saying it as a bad thing, but I found that you have to ramp up the monsters quite a bit above what the book says in order to challenge a decent group of players.  I would say that unless you are doing a closed set dungeon crawl you should aim for what the DMG describes as 'deadly' just as your usual baseline and then go over that for the big punctuation type fights.  Again that is a normal group in a story type game.  As I was reminded by a player, if there were a string of these combats with no breaks it might be a challenge.  Also my players didn't bother with careful approaches to combat, using healing potions or taking a lot of advantage of terrain and defensive play - they didn't really have to.  So what a highly tactical or paranoid gang would need for a challenge to provide a good fight would be very high compared to the challenge levels as written I think.  Well that's a digression for another day anyway.

I've played enough 5e now to know what I like and what I don't like as much.  I like the death mechanic.  I wouldn't steal it as is since I think the Beacon stat loss is a better system overall, however I would consider using it in some way.  I do like the hit dice recovery mechanic and I would consider stealing that idea and the short rest idea so that if you wanted to restore some HP after a fight you could.  I like ritual magic and I thinks its a great way to get spell casters to use those utility spells.  I did actually steal that idea before 5th ed even had it (ritual magic is old folks - I think it was in DragonQuest and Roll Master and probably RuneQuest or something)  Beacon ritual spells are there to provide a different kind of magic for the Divine classes that wasn't locked into the usual combat.  So not quite the same mechanic - In beacon you can use your utility spells when you like at the price of fatigue - but the idea was there to break up magic a bit.  Same as spell slots - a good idea for d20 fantasy in general but not needed in or not compatible with Beacon.

The Advantage mechanic, now that is an idea worth stealing.  It's funny because I added a second dice roll for rogues as a mechanic in Beacon but I didn't realize to use it more broadly like it gets tapped in 5e.  The advantage/disadvantage thing is a real good idea.  I don't know how it would work in Beacon I suppose you could use it the same way - replace many bonus and penalty situations with advantage and disadvantage instead.  For the Rogue class I think you would have to change their special skill into something else if you adopted advantage.  I'd have to speculate on that.

Aside from that it has been refreshing playing this version of D&D.   I think it's probably the best version of the game to be printed, although it isn't perfect.  Does it replace Beacon?  No - I still think Beacon does things that I like to see in my fantasy that 5e does not.  Spell Fatigue, physical damage, critical hits and fumbles - I think Beacon does all this better.  5e still has an air of heroic fantasy that is more fantastic than than heroic in my opinion.  It's still a bit gangling and goofy.   But for all that it is still a fun game and playing 5e has gotten me to rethink some things in Beacon.  I don't think I need such detailed rules for duel wielding for example and I do think that I need to streamline bonuses even better than I have.

That's about it for now.  Last year was a bad year for me and blogging and I'm not going to make any promises for this one, however I'm not planning on packing up the nerd-shelf or stopping with games any time soon.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Elephant in the Room

I put in my order for the 5th edition Players Handbook.  Should be getting it soon.  I expect that my game group will be doing something with this, either a one-shot or a campaign.  I haven't been keeping up with Dungeons and Dragons but some information bleeds through the web and I'm hopeful that its a good system that does well.  I hope that it sells good and gets people playing without becoming a rolling crap juggernaut like 2nd edition and 4th edition became.  I do not want to see a 5th ed Players Handbook 7 or Dungeon Masters Guide 3 being shilled all over the place.  Talking about it last night with some friends we hashed out the idea that instead of class splat books, maybe this version of D&D will tie it's splat in with the setting materials.  Like putting out a Greyhawk supplement where the classes operate very old school, but also an Eberon supplement where they are very feat heavy and crunchy.  It's the thought I had when hearing second hand about the layering of backgrounds.  It seemed like a interesting way to handle the inevitable rules creep, - tie it to a setting.  Maybe this time WotC can release all the setting box sets with wacky changes to races and classes to keep novelty seekers happy but leave the core books fairly stable.  Maybe this is obvious or maybe it is entirely unworkable based on the way the rules work - I don't know yet because I still haven't gotten my books.

I've had a chance to play Dungeon Crawl Classics and my kids played some 13th Age the past while.  I liked the former and they liked the latter better.  I wasn't too enamored of 13th Age - there were a lot of class 'powers' and conditions to crunch through, and I find that off-putting personally.  The kids liked having that stuff laid out for them to shop through however and I can see the appeal.  If you like 3.5 or 4th ed then 13th Age seems to be a good solution.  It's attractive and well put together anyway.

I finally managed to get my hands on the 'Traveller' 2300AD core book from Mongoose.  It's very much more my idea of a good Traveller setting than the huge and inscrutable Imperium so maybe I'll finally get a chance to do a Traveller campaign - even though it's not exactly Traveller..

I'm really much more excited that Ashen Stars has a supplement book coming out called Accretion Disk. It promises ship deck plans and alternate professions and new races.  Ashen Stars is so very good and I am still very excited writing adventures for it.  If you follow my general content blog you know I've posted a bunch about my Ashen Stars campaign over there.  That book isn't likely going to be out soon however.

As for Beacon, I am still chugging away at it.  I haven't made any changes for a while but I think it's pretty solid.  I've been doing a long recon into other games before reexamining my fantasy heartbreaker again.  Playing some 5th edition D&D will give me a chance to once more reevaluate Beacon and see how the rules stand up.  Normally I'd post my thought s on other games on that other blog, however when things come close to that d20/Beacon intersection like 5th edition does, then I'll likely post it here.
Just like playing DCC had me consider variable bonus mechanics, and 13th age brought the possibility of using an escalation mechanic for combat, 5th ed will tempt me with special class mechanics or advantage/disadvantage concepts.  I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Its that time of year again...

I would be remiss in my blogger duties if I didn't plug the annual One Page Dungeon Contest.  It's always great.  It makes great things for the community to use.  It is fun to participate.  Check it out.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Beacon Christmas Update

Merry friggin Christmas.

New Beacon PDF.  New Beacon character sheet. New Beacon GM Screen.  Go to the Get Beacon page to get them.

I made a lot of changes to the text to make the rules clearer.  I capped the levels at 12 to make the game more focused on gritty fantasy.  I changed the Critical Hit table a bunch to add in more stat damage and make 00 a special snowflake.  I made a lot of small adjustments.  I didn't do anything with variable attack dice (see the previous few posts) because it wound up being stupid.  I think in other games that sort of thing can work, but in Beacon it was stupid.  I ditched the 6th level mage spell Protection from Heat and Cold because it was stupid.  I replaced it with a Protection Sphere spell which is great unless I find out it's stupid.

I have a feeling this is really Beacon version 1.0 but I made it draft version 6 (0.6) because there are probably some still some errors and omissions to be caught in higher level play testing.  Play test it at higher levels somebody and let me know.

I love you all.

Now get out of my yard so I can get drunk and prep some Ashen Stars games.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What happens at Hammercon...

...stays at Hammercon.

I said I would and I actually did update the Beacon rules in time for Hammercon V, which was all the way back at the beginning of November.  I even brought some copies of the 5.3 draft of the game with me and gave them out as a special Hammercon V edition.  It was a very small number of copies, like 5 or 6 something.  And that's the end of them.  Even I don't have any copies of that version myself. There are no more copies of that version ever.  I've since added a few additional changes to the rules and am planning on posting an updated version of the rules in time for Christmas.

Hammercon was fun by the way and I got in lots of board gaming.  Maybe next time I'll actually run a Beacon session too.

On that topic I was recently thinking of the effect of rations on game play.  Generally unless you are doing a special adventure where you are crossing a desert or something there isn't a lot of fun in carefully tracking food supplies, and indeed in most games I've played the party tries to justify saving their food and living off the land well enough to make those rations superfluous.  I was thinking that one way to streamline or abstract things a bit but still have them impact play in an interesting way would be to include a foraging penalty to the daily movement chart.  If the party are living off the land, slow their movement rate.  Just one more exciting mechanic you may or may not see in the upcoming  Beacon update!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Some love for the magic guys

Magic characters (Mage, Enchanter, Druid and the Cleric) will get a skill bump every 4th level, so at 4, 8 and 12.  This ties in better with a 12 level system and really they were not getting much in the way of class skills anyway.  This is also because they get new spell levels on odd levels so this gives them something nice for the even ones.

I'm revising the rule book (and the gm screen) to deal with the level 12 cap and fix some of the text issues and typos.  No crazy dice for bonuses or adding in laser shotguns for now.  I'm going to post that as an update with no major changes.  Hopefully I'll get that out before Nov 1, just in time for Hammercon.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A lot of d4s

I spent a little bit of time working through the idea to change the static bonuses in Beacon with die rolls.  I won't say that I've given up on the idea but I won't say I'm happy with anything so far either.  One of the problems I'm seeing is how to make a smooth progression without having an arbitrary or obtuse levelling table.  Another problem is how to deal with the rapid escalation of the high end of the dice rolls.  My solution so far has been to use the standard die with the lowest variance, which is the d4.  Last post I showed a table that used d4s for an attack bonus.  I like d4s because the more you add them together the more probable the average result will come up and the highest and lowest results are not so far off as to be unfair or break the game.  A fighter with 4d4 will get a solid +10 average and in rare cases at the very least a +4 and at most a +16.  If you start adding larger dice those variances are a lot larger and you quickly start seeing +30 and +40 coming up as possible outcomes.

They add up fast!  BTW, you can buy these on etsy.
I think I could live with that sort of thing if it were the only case in the game where this kind of mechanic was used.  However it is not.  There are also incremental bonuses in the class skill system, players gain a +1 to any skill every level, and at specific levels they get class specific skill bonuses.  Should I try to substitute d4 for these as well?  I did play around with that idea a little bit and it seems to work pretty well with the level bonuses, e.g. a rogue would get a +1d4 to their subterfuge or survival skill every third level.  That is fine.  Where I'm concerned is the case of the savant class, who get a free skill bonus every second level, and also with the general bonus all PCs get for levelling up.  Those d4s would be adding up fast.

Right away I see the need to change the distribution so that the bonus comes at longer intervals, staggering them out so that you only see an increase every second or even third level. After all you aren't getting a +1 you are getting a +2.5 average.  So instead of +1 per level you would get +d4 every second or third level.  And because they would be staggered I'd want players to get some kind of advancement at each level so I would have to interleave skill bonuses with the magic level advancements and with the combat bonuses.  Nothing worse than gaining a level and getting nothing for it so I would try to avoid dead zones.  Since the skill bonus is pretty much the same as the fighter attack bonus, the progression would look the same, however it would ideally be spread out across the six skills.  You would not likely have many characters with any single skill bonus greater than a 5d4.  However the savant would break that all to hell and without some adjustment I can see characters with huge piles of d4s in a particular skill.  In fact the savant class probably already bends the skill system as they can apply generous bonuses to any skill and there are no restrictions on pumping one skill up very high.  Right now a 12th level savant character could have a +17 to any one skill if they ignored the others, however in a d4 system with the progression rate halved they would probably have a lot more than that since a modest 9d4 averages 22.5.

I'd not like to have arbitrary rules for this but it is possible that I could to make adjustments to limit skill bonuses to prevent problems, perhaps limiting a skill bonus by level number or something.  This would further complicate the advancement to keep the levels balanced and I don't like unnecessary complexity.  And if I have to do all that the question arises,  what does this do to the game and is it worth the complications.  Is having variable bonuses worth the extra effort?  Then again, it might be fun to roll handfulls of 4ds.  I'll have to try it and see.