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.

Friday, October 11, 2013


I believe that I'm going to cap the Beacon advancement at level 12. I'm not going to do any drastic changes to the level progression or realign spells to levels or anything else that might really change the game simply because, well, it would really change the game.  I do think that capping the rule book tables and charts at level 12 will simplify everything however.  If people want to run past that level they can figure out the progression and extrapolate but I don't think I would want to play a level 15-16 character in Beacon anyway, I think things tend to break down by that point. I might have liked to make things even simpler with an even 10 levels but there's no real good reason to do that. By level 12 all classes have had a chance to get a couple bumps to their attack bonus, a few class based skill bumps and access to level 6 spells so I think it's the natural place to stop. This way I won't have to consider adding in level 7 or 8 spells, or worry about characters with triple digit hitpoints.

I'm also experimenting with replacing the attack bonus with an attack dice, ala Dungeon Crawl Classics.  I'm not going to go so far as to introduce zocchi dice or anything, however I think that with the basic d4-d12 you can get a pretty decent progression.  I'm mainly looking at how this impacts the fighter at the moment as they get the full range of the bonus and if it works for them, it will be easy to make it work for the other classes.

Here's the current attack bonus chart:

And here's an example of how that progression would map as an attack bonus roll:
L1 L2 L3 L4 L5 L6
Dice(av) d2(1.5) d4(2.5) d6(3.5) d8(4.5) 2d4(5) d12(6.5)
Low-Hi 1-2 1-4 1-6 1-8 2-8 1-12
L7 L8 L9 L10 L11 L12
Dice(av) 2d6(7) 3d4(7.5) 3d6(10.5) 2d10(11) 2d12(13) 3d8(13.5)
Low-Hi2-12 3-12 3-18 2-20 2-24 3-24
with magic users topping out at d8 and the other classes topping out at d12 
I tried to keep the average equivalent to existing values, but still the first thing that you will notice is that the high and low values are pretty wild, a possible +3 or +24 to hit at level 12.   I don't think that is a deal breaker, but it is pretty jarring, and I can see players not liking that much randomness.  I really don't like it very much so I've also considered doing this with more smaller dice in order to curb those outliers.  Also there's something cool about rolling a handful of dice and having more dice in that roll would model the reliability that comes from experience.  Doing this would expose more gaps in the progression but it would work out across the 12 levels and I'd have to jigger level 1 and 2 a bit so it would probably* look something like this:
L1 L2 L4 L6 L8 L10 L12
Dice(av) +1 d3(2) d4(2.5) 2d4(5) 3d4(7.5) 4d4(10) 5d4(12.5)
Low-Hi +1 1-3 1-4 2-8 3-12 4-16 5-20
 In this case magic users would top out at d4 and the other classes at 2d4
That is a lot more reasonable for my taste although the magic users get screwed.  I'd have to adjust that I think.  Also it is a new arbitrary mechanic with a lookup table to reference and it does nothing to address all the other mechanics that rely on incremental bonuses, like skill and magic rolls.  That means it's more complicated than what was there before and I'm not sure it adds a co-responding value to the game.  I'll have to think about this some more.

*yes I know