Thursday, September 30, 2010

4 x 5 Skill System

I think it was 2nd edition AD&D that introduced the world to the Use Rope skill.  I'm not sure whether this list o' skills system idea grew out of the game organically or if it was bolted on because other systems were doing it, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.  I thought it was cool that my Fighter was a good fisherman and mountaineer.  I'm looking at it again now however, and I think that it's not been such a successful idea.
Initially you had class tables, stats and saving throws to give some base values to hang success checks off of.  You wanted to try something use the table.  If you had no table you would make a strength check, or make a saving throw.  If you could replace those class tables, various stunt tables and saving throws with a set of skills maybe that would be better.  However the skills didn't replace the old stuff, they were bolted onto the framework so now you had more moving parts. Also the skills didn't really integrate into the classes and they certainly didn't integrate into the level system very well.  Add to this you will still have those cases where there is ambiguity and no skill to cover the situation so you are either stuck making new skills or new tables for these new solutions or calling for more stat checks or (sometimes arbitrary) saving throws based on the situations.  How many modules had a one off weird effect that was save vs wands?  Mixing list of skills with a class/level geared system can probably work, but it isn't going to be a graceful child. 

That's why I like the Microlite skill system.  The skills and the stats are integrated with the classes and level advancement and they are generic enough that when they are matched to a Stat they can apply to most situations.   You don't need special saving throws because you can assign a skill or stat check to do the same function.  The 4 Microlite Stats are STRength, DEXterity, MIND, and CHArisma.  The 5 Skills are Physical, Subterfuge, Communication, Knowledge and Survival.  It's a 4x5 grid system.  By using them individually or mixing these up with the stat bonus applied to the Skill value you can assign a base number to most activities that aren't covered by (the few) denoted combat or magic rules.  Also depending on how a task is described by the players you can assign a more appropriate base number.

Say your players want to leap a wide chasm - you can use Physical + STR bonus to see if they do it.  The Rogue isn't happy with this due to a low STR stat, and describes using a sapling as pole to vault over it so you let her roll Phys+DEX instead.  To convince the henchmen to follow them into a magic portal you can say Comm+CHA or MIND bonus depending on if they make a stirring oration or a reasoned plea.  Pick a pocket - Sub+DEX, out lie a minstrel - Sub+Comm,  hide a ferret in their pants... um perhaps Sub+STR?  Use a friggin rope? Well that depends on what you use it for but however it is used you have a lot of options here including Sub+MIND (rope tricks), Phys+STR (climbing a rockface),  Survival+MIND (making a snare loop), Comm+CHA (Well you get the idea).

The class bonuses to the Skills also reinforces the system, not only mechanically but by encouraging styles of problem solving.  Fighters who are always working with their bodies are consequently utilizing their physical skills, Mages are going to be better at Knowledge based tasks, and Rogues get benefits from doing things the sneaky way.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

and miscellaneous

I'm sure glad that Delta posted an article on his Stone Encumbrance system because I think I would use that if encumbrance became an issue.  I won't be adding in any rules for it into Beacon anyway aside from "use common sense".  I've already got way more rules than I thought I would have.  I'm going to try to have an update to the draft doc up in the next couple weeks or so which includes more detailed  magic spell lists.  They are more detailed in that they include information on ranges and duration.

I also picked up the Moldvay/Cook Basic D&D box off of the eBay.  I'm pretty happy about that because it comes with the Keep on the Borderlands module and I've wanted a copy of that one like forever.  I think Keep on the Borderlands is the seminal work of the Points Of Light style that I would most like to run as a campaign setting.  In the past I always seemed to have kings and empires at war and Terrible Events come creeping into my campaigns and I think that next time I want to avoid this.  Less San GrĂ©al and more Sanford and Son.  Module B2 will be a good study guide.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Movement and terrain

I didn't want to deal with movement rates and speed.  I liked the Microlite movement system where you could move as far as you needed to or as far as I thought would be cool.  The bowmen on the stairs are too far away to reach this turn.  The Dark Castle is 2 days away, you'll get there around dusk in a couple days (evil laugh).

That's not how the players think however.  They want to get up to those bowmen and take them out this turn.  They want to get to the dark castle in the afternoon so they can scope it out.  They will ask you "how far" and if you show any signs of weakness and mutter some half assed answer like '60', they'll be on you like PCs on a bowman saying "no way! I can run that far in a minute carrying my camping gear to get on a bus!" or "we said we bought the fastest horses in the city!  No way it will take 2 days to travel 60 miles!".  At least if you have some rules you can point to them and shrug.

I'm not talking power gamers here either.  If you are using minis to illustrate positioning  this is certainly going to come up.  Playing Microlite with my kids and one of  the first encounters they had with the battlemap turned into a chase around a couple of trees and they wanted to know exactly how many squares they could move to keep their distance and keep throwing things at the bad guys.  I had drawn the trees in just for flavour and they immediately became tactical points in the fight. 

I'm not really sure how I want to deal with movement except a vague idea that you can move twice in a combat turn if you want and that it has to be simple.  I like the SRD base movement rate of 20 ft.  Using minis and a 5 ft. square, that's 4 squares per move or 8 if you just move in that turn.  I can even get behind the idea that if you are unencumbered you could move double that, especially if that also covers monsters dropping their weapons and fleeing or fear spells.  I would also like to have some differences in speed based on the characters 'quickness' (add 1 square per dex bonus point perhaps?).  That means a character with 18 DEX can move 40ft while a character with a DEX of 3 can move 5 ft. (he's real slow to react to stuff, not necessarily physically hobbled).  I think I can get away with something like that anyway.  I'm not going to get into racial leg lengths or the fleetness of elves or any of that.  As for monsters, well you can use their speed out of the SRD* or just make up something.  Maybe creatures get to move 20 ft. per pair of legs or something.  Flying, swimming - hell I don't want to get into it.  Someone has certainly made some charts somewhere.

I also like this idea of move 20 if you extrapolate and say that they can move 20 miles per day on foot (no Dex bonus for non combat movement because you aren't reacting to stuff - you are slogging).  That works well for my style and leaves room for the 30 mile per day on horse movement rate that I base my maps on (although I don't know how realistic any of that it is).

As for terrain, well if you are standing on a ledge looking down on the enemy or walking across swampland to get to the castle - this is going to impact combat and movement.  How much is the question.  And how simple can I make it while still keeping things neato.  I think I need to think on it more because I don't just want to be re-writing tables from the Wilderness Survival guide over again.

* I hate leaning on the SRD so much but on the other hand it's a simple web click away and so many of these things have been hashed out for years and are common in a wide range of game supplements  - why should I spend a lot of time changing them?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gold Standard

I get that idea that the economy of d&d was based on a gold rush style of inflation where goods were scarce and gold plentiful.  Unfortunately these price lists have been used everywhere from border towns to magical fairy cities and items have been tacked on or price adjusted over the years until you have things like a length of chain costing more than the mule that's pulling it or dwarves buying plate armour off the rack. 

In my old home brew campaign I tried to institute a couple different monetary systems, there was the focus empire where the silver coin was the base unit and there were Crowns, Royals and Imperials, the island nation to the south used long flat wafers of different sizes called Marks and the sprawling trader nations to the east used a paper money system.  Since I'm neither a economist or a history expert I didn't have prices for items ready to use on demand so initially I tried using the AD&D ones or other supplements and just substituted silver for gold when making up prices. Even then it took time to reference them and then it took time to do the conversions between the different economies.  This can be fun but mostly it isn't.  As much as the default d&d coinage/price system sucks, I understand that most GM's (or their players) don't want to model a complex system like an economy.  They want to bust up some shit.  Aside from dropping unbalancing magic items and repricing expensive trinkets, when you are using modules from all sorts of places for encounters, it becomes a real drag to constantly tinker and correct the coinage on the fly.

So for Beacon I wanted to keep things close to the SRD while providing an easy out for the masochists that like to tinker*.  I've included info from the SRD on equipment and coinage (especially the 10-1 ratios and coin weights of 1/3 oz or 50/lb).  I've only tinkered with the price lists a little bit (because I can dammit).

Here's the easy out:  There was an old empire now fallen and there is a lot of old coinage from back then still out in circulation.  Especially in the dark caves and wild lands.  That coinage is pretty durable stuff and people like it and use it a lot even though that use may or may not be looked favorably upon by the local authorities.  I think there's a lot of potential in that idea. If you're in a society that has it's own monetary system and you come across a horde of 1/3 oz silver and gold pieces they might be fine using it in their markets or they may want you to exchange that coinage for theirs - they might want to tax it or even confiscate it.  Or maybe there are no societies anymore.

Meanwhile there are a lot of good discussions on 'the blogs' about finance and campaign settings and these have useful information on everything from developing resource based economy to barter systems to historical price examples.  I like the discussion about on The 25 Mile Hex about Manor Economics which fits in well with the traditional d&d 'end game' and gives some good ideas on how wealth gets carved out of those wilderness maps.

*I think that's a good design motto actually.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Land of Map

It's Friday and it's game night and for a change of pace I want to write about something on the periphery of the game but that actually has a lot of impact on putting together the core rules - the setting.  Most GMs will haberdash together their own settings for a game but most good game systems have an implied setting - even if it's just the one used in their examples.  I think that one of the reasons I'm taking so long on how to package the magic section for Beacon is that magic is one of the variable systems that can really be impacted by the setting (XP is another).  And by setting I don't mean the location, I mean the entire 'setting' package - the locations yes but also, how much treasure is out there, how much fantastic vs grit.  How many wand and healing potions would you expect to find? 

I like my adventures to be more gritty than fantastic - you are more likely to be exploring an old ruined temple than a mad wizards death-maze.  If you do run across a death-maze then it's probably only got one portal to the netherworld and a small number of magic fountains.  So from this you can assume that magic is somewhat uncommon in my preferred setting and therefore I'm not likely to have a long list of random magic items and artifacts in the treasure section or wish spell on the Mage spell lists.  Normally you'd be correct but I know that not everyone plays this way so should this go into a core 'rule book' or should it be part of a separate setting book so that the core rules can be used with other more setting appropriate material if the GM chooses?  Does this mean I should have a separate document for the spell lists so that folks can use the SRD if they prefer?  I don't know.  I expect I'll figure something out.

I have a map you know.  I made it in Gimp and it has layers (some, like the encounter layer, I'm not going to display to you).  Here it is.

The Land of Map

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Critical Hitting

It is a simple thing to say you have a 5% chance to do full damage or double damage.  That can be exciting and it can be enough.  I totally encourage this if it's the style of play you want.  However...

I am a fan of the Iron Crown Enterprises Role Master Series, even if I don't think I'd want to play it again.  Coming off AD&D in high school, Role Master seemed like a fantastic system to us.  All those percentile tables were great and the critical hit tables were just full of awesome.  Nose breaking, brain bursting, fire scorching awesome.  All those looking up tables and rolling took a toll on the game however and after a year or so we switched the campaign over to a much simpler percentile die system (Marvel Superheros).  Since then I have always had a soft spot for the distribution curve* and unfortunately, aside from character stat generation this isn't satisfied in d20.  I did think about using 2d10 for d20 but the system isn't designed for it and I believe that you would get a lot of grief and wasted die rolling by bolting it on.  I did want to keep something of that alive however so the perfect place to do it was in a Critical Hit table.

There is something special about a % table**.  Maybe it's because the most common results come from the middle and generally the things you want to have happen (or not happen) are the first and last item on the list.  Those events are pretty rare so when they happen they really stand out.  It's fun putting them together and once you flesh out the middle, you can relax a bit on game balance and put in some cool bits.  Your critical hit/miss table can have a mage loose 1d6 MIND points from a botched spell or have a fighter shatter his opponents shield (or his shield arm!), because it's not going to happen that often.  It provides a way to damage armour and keep blacksmiths busy fixing chain-mail, it provides churches with Restoration spells another source of income.  And when you roll that triple sized fireball and perhaps kill half your party - you'll remember it as special too.

* ok more of a angle than a curve with percentile dice, but still a probability graph!

** note I totally got this ass backwards if you read Trevors' comments below but remember that it's been like two decades since I played rolemaster.  The important part is that Beacon used 2d10 for critical hits because it's kick ass.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I get where the Microlite experience system is coming from - counting up encounter levels (EL) is simple and easy to work with, but for my mind I need to have wiggle room to add or subtract the amount of experience based on game play and for that I wanted more granular units.  I could have worked with EL if I hadn't wanted to give XP for spent treasure or hand out little XP perks for good game moments.  As it is I went with a general goal of 100XP per HD so that I could throw in 25 or 30 XP here and there.  Going with this makes it easy to put the level requirements at multiples of 1000 so level 1 is 1000XP, level 2 would be 2000, level 11 would be 11000.   I also like handing out 25 and 50 XP bonuses for little game play things like figuring out the magic lever or babysitting the kolbolds.  If I were to be running on a level *100 system I would be worried about handing out too much or seeming miserly handing our 1 or 2 XP.  I did like the mechanic in Microlite of once you level you wipe out your XP and start counting again - for no particular reason except simplified record keeping.

Now when I say a 1HD monster is worth 100 XP that doesn't mean that all 1 HD monsters are worth 100 XP.  A little 3hp goblin is not worth 100 XP, a crazed dwarf with his torch over a pool of oil probably is.  I like to mix it up a little when handing out XP but you could follow the basic system and assign a straight 100/HD and it should work out.  You can even go with a variant with 50/HD or 200/HD depending on how long you want to play out each level and it should work well since level * 1000 is pretty simple to work with. 

I'm not worried that it doesn't average out with or track with experience point tables in d&d or other d20 style game in particular.  I think that the with difference in game styles and difficulties and amounts of treasure in d20 fantasy systems already out there you can get away with this and still track pretty well with the modules and supplements at each level no matter how you got there.  Some games are tough and some are Monty Haul and a  level 4 cleric is probably going to be pretty much the same mechanically whether you got there in one adventure or in six.

As for experience for spending treasure - well I think this is a great idea to get dragged out of the old school systems.  Giving XP for spending treasure does two things - it rewards lots of adventuring things aside from combat and it gets rid of treasure so that players need to get more.  Also having to spend it on 'tithes and training' makes sure it gets spent and not just converted to some other kind of swag.  The 10 to 1 rate of exchange is a guesstimate based on what I consider my treasure levels will be.  I wanted to make the treasure component less than 1/3 of the XP so I pegged it to 10gp.   I can see a good adventurer at level 8 accumulating 25,000gp to spend on training and charity somehow. And if they are not wanting to part with their money, well they'll be out there fighting it up then.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Some bits of combat

I'm going to try to stay away from magic for a while even though the section on class and this one have some teasers.  One thing that Microlite is very light on is combat mechanics and I have added in a lot of ideas gleaned from the web and even some of my own.  I want to keep combat very quick and light but I also want more structure than the simple one thing per turn and here's your chance to hit.

First thing is initiative which is fairly basic and which I'll keep as it is - d20 + DEX bonus.  You can do it individually, by side or by groups/types and it doesn't really matter.  I prefer to go by side because it keeps things quick.

Combat rounds are one minute long which works well with spell times.  I've adopted the turn sequence posted on the Microlite fourms (by weeot).

In combat everyone in their turn can do one Standard action, one Move action and one Minor action.  You can also forgo any action for a lesser action, e.g. take two Moves and a Minor action or take 3 Minor actions.  Casting a Spell however requires a full action turn.

Standard: Melee attacks, drink a potion, anything that requires a roll (except spell casting)
Move: Move, stand up from prone

Minor:Draw weapon, open unlocked door, shout more than a couple words.
Apparently this is similar to 4e turns but since I haven't played it I wouldn't know.  They work well for me.  If you want to run full out you get to move double rate that turn, if you want to fiddle with something you can fiddle three times.  I added in spells taking a full round to cast for gravity.  I don't want to see casters throwing off spells while running around pulling ropes and slamming doors and stuff.  Also this prevents casting and countering spells in the same turn.  Right now counter spell acts as a minor action - I'm not sure that mechanic will stay - we'll have to see how countering spells works in general I guess.

All spell casting requires a roll.  Even unopposed spells require a roll against the base DC of 10 - and you spend the HP before you roll so it's gone no matter what.  I think a lot of folks might dislike this but I think it is a good thing (magic is hard) and it allows for the critical table to come into play.

I wanted to include something for pummeling and especially grappling because I've not seen a good mechanic for it before.  I thought up the following for unarmed combat.

Punching/hitting damage is 1 + STR bonus.  Using hand weights such as a piece of iron in the fist or brass knuckles would do 1d3 + STR bonus.

Grappling/holding would be Melee attack where the DC is 10 or the opponents HP – attackers STR.
So, the higher the opponents hp, the harder they would be to hold onto.  I did it this way because  a lot of creatures don't have STR scores and it seemed easy to remember.  Have a 16 STR and want to grapple a Crocodile (hp 22)?   The DC will be 10.  Want to pin an ogre (hp 29)?  DC is 13.  Minotaur (hp 39)?  DC would be 23.  Wrestling down a monstrous Troll (hp 63) the DC would be 47!  Also it's their current HP, so it's easier to grapple a tired beat up minotaur than a rested one.  I don't know how that will work but it seems fun right now.

I like the first round/first strike ideas for missiles and pole-arms that Delta posted because I've always had problems with ranged attacks while the groups run at each other (there's always some dick getting initiative and rushing the archer) and this is the first time I've come across a good reason to have a character actually buy a pole-arm.

For now I'm keeping both the attack bonus and dual weapon rules as written in Microlite but I'm not sure that they will stay untouched.

I'd like shields to be more useful and have two ideas on that.  One is blocking and the other is allowing a shield to take the damage on a hit if the player chooses.  The first is simply if you don't attack you can block with a strength bonus, the second is that if you take a real nasty hit you can choose instead to have the shield destroyed (for the life of me I can't find the blog posted to link that but I think it's really elegant).

I will also probably try to add in a really simple terrain modifier rule if I can find one or make something up.

Combat should be fast and fun with just enough crunch to support cool stuff like ogre wrestling happening without the crunch that prevents cool stuff like jumping on tables or swinging on ropes.  Anyway that's a lot to digest in one post so I'll leave it there.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Classes in Beacon

There are seven classes in Beacon. They are broken up into three areas of commonality.

  • Fighter: expert in all weapons and physical skills.  This is your go to class for fighting obviously.
  • Hunter: expert in ranged weapons and survival skills. This is your noble ranger or humble woodsman or city rat catcher.
  • Rogue: expert in subterfuge skills with a sneak attack.  This is your thief but also possibly a swashbuckler or stealthy assassin. 
Arcane Magic: (penalties for armour use)
  • Druid: nature orientated spells, knowledge and survival skills.  The hedge magician or medicine man.
  • Illusionist: confoundment spells, subterfuge and communication skills.  The tricky misdirecting sorcerer.
  • Mage:  general repertoire of spells and knowledge skills.  The powerful scholar magician.
Divine Magic: (no penalties for armour)
  • Cleric, spiritual and restorative spells.  This can be the learned priest, the wandering witch, or the charging paladin.
Aside from magic ability I didn't want to give the classes special powers with associated tables or charts. I wanted things to remain pretty simple. I removed the Cleric's ability to turn undead and made it a spell instead.  The Rogue does get a sneak attack and the Fighter and Hunter get hit and damage bonuses but these are simple and hopefully somewhat of a balance against those spell lists.

At the moment all the classes can choose between STR or DEX for their melee weapon bonus stat, however I'm thinking on limiting that to either just the non-magic classes or just the Rogue.  In Microlite, Fighters and Rogues can use DEX bonus for light weapons - I imagine this would include rangers as well. The idea behind this is that there is more than one fighting style so allowing DEX as a more finesse based style - however you don't get your STR bonuses to damage.  Since Rogues don't get the +1 to hit and damage every three levels  it might be nice to throw them this.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Class mechanics

Before I go into the classes I picked and why, I want to go into the general class mechanics.

In olden times a character's class really defined what their mechanical effects were.  Originally your race was a class, and even in first edition AD&D the class determined how you played and how you advanced.  You had games where this wasn't the case, and what a lot of systems did as an alternative to the class/level model of advancement was use skills.  When 2nd edition AD&D came out it was a lot more skill based and back in the day I thought that this was a good idea.  However when playing it it took up a lot of space on the character sheet and it didn't seem to fit well with the class/level system.  I thought that the problem was too much class and not enough emphasis on the skills and I gravitated towards games with more robust skill systems.  When I made my home brew it was entirely skill based.  I could never figure out why the more work I put into the skill system the less fun the game got.  I haven't played 3rd or 4th edition but they seem to be a whole nother level of skills and feats and daily and weekly powers so much so that I don't even recognize the system (it might be great fun but it's not good ol' d&d IMHO).

Now I think I had it backwards.  I think that bolting all those skills onto a character system rooted in class starts making it harder for players to even try doing things that aren't in their skill list.  The mind set isn't there to think outside the box. This makes it harder to play non-optimized characters and it makes it harder for small groups of characters to have the right combination of skills to succeed.  This leads to more skill spill over, more multi-classing and special blended classes.  I think it can work if a game is built on skills or feats and not class/level progression (e.g. Traveller, Savage Worlds) - but that's not d&d in my mind - it has a different flavour.

Playing Microlite with my family, the rogue player (low on HP from a previous encounter) was asked to check a chest for traps and she refused saying that she didn't want to get hurt.  Some bickering occurred but she stood her ground.  Finally the fighter player (with lots of HP) said give me that chest.  Now the fighter didn't have a good Subterfuge skill but had a decent Mind stat and described how she was looking and what she was looking for so I assigned MIND+Subterfuge as the roll with a DC of 15.  She managed to roll well (17 I think) and find the poison needle.  What this illustrated to me (and the players) was that the rogue wasn't checking for traps because they were the only ones that could do it - they checked because they were good at it (+3 Subterfuge).
I think this is great and it really encourages players to try things or play characters with a different stat combination that they might normally try.  Yay Microlite.

My only problem with Microlite for classes is that they aren't distinct enough after starting bonuses and that some of the benefits or restrictions are based on dogmatic rules rather than mechanics to encourage types of play.  For example aside from the sneak attack once per combat ability what encourages players to choose a rogue over a fighter who takes skill points in Subterfuge?  Not much.

So now the class bonuses are reinforced as you progress - the non-magic classes get a bump to their skills every 3 levels and the magic classes get one every 5 levels (to be fair since they get the a magic bump too).  I tried for simplicity so some more playtesting may show issues with this but it's good enough for now.  This is in addition to the chosen skill bump every level so it is still possibly to develop that sneaky fighter character but (s)he'd have to work really hard to keep up with a rogue as they gain levels.

I also used the minSTR and armour mechanics developed by The Wanderer to encourage players to pick weapons that fit their characters rather than simply make blanket statements about usability.  Your mage can use a great axe but then she's going to have so many penalties to either magic or strength to make it counter productive.   I do cheat a bit on the philosophy by saying that arcane magic is hard to cast when using armour - however it doesn't prevent the player from doing it - it just prevents them from becoming magic tanks in plate mail armour.

As for multi-classing I don't support it.  If the only difference in character ability are these mechanical bonuses then you don't need to allow multi classing.  You can build a burly mage or a sneaky fighter if you want anyway.  Multi classing just breaks things and gets in the way of a good time.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

PC Races

I've always disliked having hobbits in my game.  I realize they are called 'halflings' but before DragonLance came out with the Kender race, halflings were hobbits and that was that.  When I ran my custom game no one could play a hobbit or an elf just because I thought players were just picking them for the racial bonuses and playing them like humans anyway.  I allowed many different cultures of  humans and a mono-culture of dwarfs and that was it. If you wanted a decent hobbit or an elf then you could go play MERPs.  I had NPC elves running around but they were an aloof bunch and didn't hang out at the local tavern bragging about being 200 years old and still in short pants.  I was a teenager and I had to have some standards after all.

Well when I started playing Microlite, I described the races and classes and asked my kids what race they wanted their characters to be and they both said "a halfling!".  I am almost certain this is because to them halflings are like "grown up" kids.  Halflings are little and yet they get to play with daggers and hang out in taverns and go exploring old dark holes in the ground that may be full of monsters.  They are little and they are looking up at everything so I can respect that, I'm not a teenager anymore.  I did tell them that they had to wear shoes though.  I also bought some minis for them to use and they were Reaper gnomes - I refuse to buy minis with hairy feet.

I think that it's probably best to leave the iconic races in the game now, however I don't really see the need for making gnomes a unique race or allowing half-elves. Hell I still think that since every single character in the real world and an overwhelming majority of fiction comes from the human race so if you can't work with that then you aren't trying.  Still - this is a fantasy game.  You have the standard elf, dwarf, and little person and that should be enough to satisfy people who don't want to play a human.  If you want to role play you are going to have to put some effort into developing some personality instead of cribbing up a funny voice and printing off some minotaur half-goblin picture you got from Google image.  I figure that if you want to do it, work it into the setting and make it unique, but I'm not going use them or to make any rules for it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On Armour Class and Hitpoints

Originally when I was thinking of what to house rule with Microlite I wanted to modify AC to include damage resistance for armour.  There was a really good example of this on the Microlite site posted by The Wanderer and in fact I co-opted this (along with strength based equipment mechanics) and worked with it for a while.  I really like the idea of separating AC into Defense (Dodge + Blocking) and Damage Resistance - especially for monsters, since it makes it a lot harder to wound a dragon with an arrow (unless you roll a 20 that is).  It makes perfect sense that a bear is not hard to hit (DEF 9) because it's a big target - BUT it does have a large resistance (DR 4) to both wounds and pain.   I had all the monsters from the purest essence monster lists converted and was gleefully imagining the tough battles my players would have against Orcs with a 4 or 5 damage resist.  However, after playing out the numbers a bit I realized that great as it was mechanically, it would really change the flavour of the fights and drag out combat.  Most non fighters would be rolling and rolling and rolling and hitting and hitting and hitting before they did even a point of damage.  They would be initially happy to be hitting and rolling damage so much - but in the end it would suck hard never dealing out any.  Also it was another barrier to using published resources since you would have to guess at the proper AC to Defense and DR conversion and you could really screw with the difficulty by getting it wrong.

So I changed everything back to AC (I kept the minStrength stuff though).  I resolved instead to make sure that I treated AC as it was originally intended, and reflect that in my game narration.  AC was the abstraction of all the skill, damage, luck, fatigue and psychology in a fight so if your roll was not high enough to match the AC of that barn sized Behemoth - you didn't miss it- your sword skidded off it's poison hide - or you tripped on the rocky ground - or the foul stench drove you back.

The same goes for Hit Points.  Instead of trying to rationalize HP as wounds and seeing high level adventurers bleeding all over the dungeon with enough damage on them to down a whale - I resolved to specifically treat  HP as a combination of skill and fatigue (mental and physical).  Increasing HP every level represents skill at  avoiding real harm and having more reserves of energy and willpower to keep going.  Falcor the rogue is down to 3 HP, he's bruised and tired and he wants to crawl into a hole.  Again it's all in the in game descriptions.  This works well with the Microlite magic system too, since spells are draining that mental reserve and making you tired and easier to take down.  I saved stat damage for actual meaningful physical damage. 

AC and HP always get a bad rap, however I think that this is from years of (mis)interpretation and how the combat is described and not necessarily from the mechanics themselves.  Keeping the status quo wasn't the sexy thing to do but I think it was the right thing.

It also makes it a lot easier to co-opt critters and encounters from all those juicy modules out there.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why "Beacon"?

Why am I calling it Beacon?  When I play Microlite with the kids we just call it d&d (notice the lowercase) and in my opinion this is just like we use band-aid or frisbee.  My kids don't ask for a Band-Aid brand wound binding (or even for a bandage) or a Frisbee Disc, they ask for a princess band-aid or the blue frisbee.  They don't ask to play Microlite - they ask to play d&d.  I would bet that "d&d" has passed any reasonable test for genericized trademark by now.

Anyway I was thinking of all the "Blank & Blank" names used for rpgs and I knew that another one wouldn't really stand out in peoples minds, I wanted to go with something that would.  I don't want to compete with the likes of Tunnels & Trolls or Castles & Crusades or Swords & Wizardry.  I like Labyrinth Lord because it kind of avoids that problem while still sounding similar.  Also I am not working on a retro-clone - Microlite is firmly in the d20 camp even though it is trying to capture the pre-skill old skool play style.  "Swine-men and Scimitars" wasn't going to cut it.

I considered a Microlite style name or adding a M20 to something, say "MicroPillager" or "Caverns M20" but I didn't want it to appear to be a programming language and I really wanted to represent something 'lite' not something super or micro-lite.

Lite... Light.  Hmmm, maybe "Light Quest" or "Light Spell".  Maybe "Torch Bearer" (yuck).  Maybe Beacon.   Yea...  Beacon.  A shining light in the dark.  A warning of trouble.  I liked that a lot.

As a bonus when I searched to see if it was already being used and went to beacon on Wikipedia there was an awesome illustration by Karl Dahl called Vardetenning* AND it was in the public domain.  Wow. that name and that image seemed to really sum up what I thought the feel of this system should be. I think was a sign that the RPG gods were smiling on me.

But I know that when we play it will still be d&d.

*if you didn't put it together yet it's the illo used for the blog header and on the cover of the Beacon PDF.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why (not) Microlite?

That's a very good question.
I started playing with AD&D first edition a long time ago and when AD&D 2nd edition came out I tried to like it but quickly came to the conclusion that things just weren't holding together well (not to mention that horrible Monster Manual binder thingy).  There were too many tables to check and every game mechanic was on a different chart.  Not a game went by without something to argue about or something to look up.  I tried to play Role Master and it was great stuff but much too cumbersome for my style of play (loved those critical tables though!).  I eventually built my own system based on percentile dice and a power ranking system somewhat like the Marvel superheroes system "Universal Results Table".  That worked well for a couple years but the largest issue was that i had to convert every thing into this system; every game supplement, every published module, every damn Lizardman.  I played some other games and eventually stopped playing as life intruded and people lost touch.  No more role playing, it was all I could do to get a board game in every now and then.  I did look at 3rd edition when it came out and heard about the OGL and heard about the screwage and the bloat and just shrugged and played me some Puerto Rico.

Well now there's blogs and there's people posting things up that are interesting and fun.  Now I hate me some blogs (I was a WIKI and forum-man from way back and I don't want to hear about your cousin's soup recipe) but dammit I liked reading some of them ones about gaming.

About a year ago I ran across the Microlite site put up by

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Welcome to the Beacon Blog

Hello, this is a new blog created for the development of the Beacon fantasy role playing rules.
Beacon is a fantasy RPG designed to be fairly rules light and quick to play but still have enough meat to be satisfying and to be highly compatible with the vast amount of d20 based fantasy supplements available.
Beacon is largely based on the Microlite d20 system.