Monday, January 31, 2011

Beacon v3 coming soon

6th level spells - check
Simple weapon damage - check
Attack bonus changes - check
Updates to weapon and item tables - check
Other minor tweeks to combat - check
Overland travel table - check
New character sheet  - almost
Formatting and text changes - soon

So I'm almost ready to post a new cut of the Beacon PDF.  This will be version 3 and I hope to get a lot of mileage out of it.  I'm thinking sometime in the next two weeks.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Test of Recovery

One Beacon rule I pulled out of my butt was the one relating to recovery of stat damage.  As you know from your careful study of the Beacon Masterwork, Hit Points represent fatigue and you regain them back with a decent rest period, however actual physical trauma is represented by temporary STR loss.  The rule for this says:
STR damage can be recovered at the rate of 1 per day per point below the character's natural STR.  That is to say a character recovering 1 STR point in damage could recover it in one day, while a character recovering 3 STR below their total would take 3+2+1 or 6 days to recover their full health.
I just made that shit up.

However, recently I had a chance to test it.  The party was fleeing down a cavern while being pursued by hobgoblins and the fighter decided to stop and bust open a crate despite warnings from the others to hurry onward.  The hobgoblins rushed around the corner and started peppering her with arrows and she took 35 points of damage, 12 points more than the 23 HP she had.  She immediately fell unconscious and dropped from 16 to 4 STR.  She would have quickly died had not the mage reluctantly turned and cast a web spell entangling the Hobgoblins in the corridor and allowing the party to hurriedly administer a healing potion and half carry her to safety.  The potion healed her back up to 6 HP but her STR was still 4 (STR bonus -3, a splint mail DEX penalty -12 making it unwearable and weapon penalty of -8) and she was almost helpless.  It will take her 12 days to gain back that first STR point.  In total it will take 78 days for her to be back at full STR.  50 days just to get back to an average strength of 9.

I think that works.  I believe that represents the catastrophic damage she took without being too realistic or saddling the character with permanent disabilities.  And of course she could still adventure with only 9 STR if she had to and this rate could be sped up at the GM's discretion if she spent time in a monastery of healers or if there were potions or other magic available to heal her faster.  I bet after all that she'll listen to her companions when they are screaming at her to leave the shiney box alone and run the hell away.

By the way they are still in that cavern, hiding up on a dusty ledge that leads off into darkness and full of thick sticky cobwebs...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Character Sheet Quest pt. 2

Here's an update of the Inkscape designed character sheet, I don't think I'll need that ugly item tracking sheet I put in the draft PDF anymore, since I put a bunch of check boxes on this one that will do the same thing and prettier.

Mark II prototype
This one has separate boxes to record damage and magic fatigue and simple formulas on it and there is still a lot of space being wasted.  For some reason I always put in a space for character portraits on the upper right but really it could go anywhere. That blank space seems too horizontal at the moment. I'd actually use this one in a game I think but we'll see how I can make it better.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Something for the Rogue

Since I simplified weapon damage, I now think that allowing any character to use DEX as their weapon stat bonus is a bit too liberal and certainly introduces too much cruft into the combat system, especially in the sections qualifying damage bonuses and minimum strength requirements.  I think that I am going to limit this ability to the Rogue class and allow it only for light weapons.  This gives the Rogue something to contribute to combat beyond the sneak attack and allows them to leverage their DEX a bit more.  I thought about giving this to the Hunter as well but since they will already be leveraging DEX for their ranged attacks I didn't want to compound that trend any further by buffing up their non-ranged combat.  I also like how it will influence character choices because you certainly can play a rogue with low DEX and higher STR (a con man type for example) who likes to run around in heavier armour with a longsword.  So this is more for the nimble ones then.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Attack Bonus progression

I've gone ahead and charted out the attack bonus progression in a little table to compare and discuss what the proposed changes will mean to the game.  It's also important to remember that when attack bonuses pass  a multiple of 5 the character gets an extra attack so it really is a powerful metric for determining PC power levels. 
Attack Bonus progression by level
Currently Fighters get +1 to hit to start and +1 to hit every 3 levels.  This means by level 20 they will have a +27 to hit which is way too much I think.  When I was tweaking the Microlite class definitions this slipped by me obviously, however even Microlite has a huge +25 for Fighters at level 20.  That amounts to +21/+16/+11/+6/+1 or 5 attacks at level 21. As for the non-fighters - well they do even better when compared against their counterparts in other systems.
Compare these progressions to Pathfinder attack bonuses where the Fighter gets an attack bonus equal to his level (so +10 at level 10 and +20 at level 20) - this is what the magic users in Beacon and Microlite get.  And then spells on top of that.  The Pathfinder Sorcerer has to make due with half that amount (+5@10 and +10@20).  So you can see why I'm proposing the new progression in the middle of the chart.

Now all the additional feats and powers in other d20 systems might make the comparison a bit harder, and indeed this is the reason behind the steep increase in Microlite, however I think that the Microlite and the current Beacon progressions are much too steep even given this and that they give way too much innate attack power to non-fighter classes.  It's very tempting to take it even further and steal a page from Lamentations of the Flame Princess where non-fighters don't get any attack bonus increases at all.  However I think that jacking back on the increases as outlined here takes it far enough to make me happy.  You have to remember that there are still also a butt tonne of magical ways for players to bump up their dice rolls.

I'm still on the fence on whether Clerics should get +1 every two levels like the Rogue and Hunter or if they should get the same progression as the other magic wielding classes -  On the one hand I like the idea of the holy crusader smashing heads, however it certainly isn't necessary given that magic itself is a big benefit and clerics have ways to buff themselves up.  Perhaps a preferential bonus for a special holy weapon?  Erp! The complexity level is now rising, so I think I better give it some more thought.

Character Sheet Quest pt.1

Here's a layout draft of a new Beacon character sheet I whipped up in Inkscape.  I like working in this format much better than in a word processing document like the old sheet was made in.   The largest benefits are it scales much better, and there are no pesky tables to deal with.  I also like how it that lets me shuffle the bits around anyway I like and group/layer things.  It's really just blocked in but already I have a lot more extra space than the old sheet even considering almost every object is larger than the co-responding one on the original.  I will need to play with he layout a bit more and then maybe I'll learn how to customize the lines a bit and get fancy with shapes and borders and stuff.
The Prototype
My eldest daughter saw this on my desk and had the following well considered comments: 'it sucks' and 'I can keep my old sheet right?'

Monday, January 24, 2011

More about fighting

I did get a chance to do a little play testing recently when I converted my kids characters from Microlite to Beacon.  At first they were mad because Beacon skills are not as generous as the Microlite ones.  In Microlight you get a +1 to all skills every level but in Beacon you get class specific skill bumps every 3 or 5 levels and only get to choose one skill to do the +1 increase.  They were pretty pissed I was messing with their d&d guys, which I gathered was as bad as messing with their webkinz, so I guess I should be happy they are that involved.  Anyway after that was sorted out, we played and there was no problem with the slight increase in complexity.  I did discover some holes in the rules that need plugging - such as a explaining ranged weapon increments in the rule book (turns out it works just like in the SRD).  We didn't get into any of the fancier rules for terrain or combat but the critical hit and fumble table was a big success, especially when in the same fight they did double damage to a goblin (knocking him out a door and off a cliff ledge) and then another poor goblin broke his arm trying to stab the rogue (he rolled a 3 on 2d10).  Good times.

I did spend some time again thinking that the Microlite convention of adding +1 to hit for every level might be too generous - or perhaps too generous for all classes anyway.  It's a good mechanic because it's simple and it theoretically compensates for the lack of feats and powers that you would find in other d20 systems.  But it certainly smooths out some of the differences in combat ability between the classes.  I've had it in red in the draft rules for a while but I didn't know what I wanted to do with it.  I could of course go with something where Fighters and Hunters (ranged) got +1 per level, Rogues and Hunters (melee) got +1 every 2 levels and the magic classes got +1 every 3 levels.  Or perhaps Fighters get +1 per level, Hunters get +1/level for ranged weapons only, and all the other classes get +1 every 2 levels.   It's simple and offsets the classes well, however I haven't done this because I am still wondering how if that would retard combat development when compared to the expected combat ability in published materials.  I also wonder if I care. Slowing down the progression won't actually break compatibility - and using packaged materials in your campaign is something requires sanity checks in any case.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sanity and saving throws and morale

Yes I am thinking again, and yes I am considering adding more words to the game, and yes I realize that this is how giant fat oaks grow from tiny acorns.  No, I don't want to make Beacon more rules heavy or harder to play, but I have a couple nagging "what if's" that keep creeping into the front of my mind.  What if I was running a game with a really scary monster in it?  What if a vampire tried to seduce a character?  What if the party kills the goblin chief in front of his war band?  What if you read the post title and now you see where I'm going here?

Charisma is traditionally a dump stat, and even though the Microlite style stat and skill system makes dump stats less of a problem, there is still a likelihood that it will be the poor cousin to Mind, Dexterity and Strength.  I know that the Beacon book is all "roll 3d6 and suck it up kids", but I also know that many folks will opt for more control over where those numbers end up in the stat block.  That means dump stats.  But now, what if there was a really compelling reason to have a decent Charisma score?  Something like Sanity checks and Morale?  It doesn't even have to be a new mechanic - One thing you will notice is that the Microlite/Beacon core has no saving throws - anything that seems to require a more traditional saving throw is accomplished with a stat check.  Well by making sure that Charisma gets used for more than flashing winning smiles at a merchants to get 5% discounts on sword sharpening, you solve most of the problem.  Evil wizard is casting a fear spell - Roll CHA checks kids.  There is a horde of ogres on dragon back cresting the hill and you just put on fresh underclothes - Roll CHA check.   There are shoggoths  in the village well and seeing their pulpy masses makes you want to gibber a bit and jump on in - Roll CHA check. 
Charisma - the other mental stat. It's what separates the brave from the run-awayers - distinguishes those with steely resolve from those with vampire boyfriends.  Sure you could use MIND for these things - but that means all your magic using folks would be stalwart with firm grips on reality and you wouldn't have as many mad mages or those brave but stupid warriors, and really - that wouldn't be much fun at all. 

The only flaw in this otherwise perfect plan is that most monsters don't have a CHA score to use for combat morale and I certainly don't want to stat out all the monsters.  I guess some sort of Morale table based on HD will have to do for those cases (but how to distinguish cowardly goblins vs berserk lizardmen?). However, any NPCs with stats better have a decent CHA if they want to stand face to face against a gang of wet gibbering  PCs crawling back out of that well.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Wanted meatshields

While poking around on the internet looking for some ideas or rules and costs of managing hirelings for Beacon, I stumbled across the following great fun thing:  Meatshields! The classic fantasy hireling and henchman generator.

I like this because it generates details of available hirelings including a name and a profession and a little hook or description, and lets you account for advertising and location.  I would totally hire Barus the Man-at-Arms just because he owns his own pair of coconuts.