Monday, February 28, 2011

Good News - OPD 2011

I'm a big fan of the One Page Dungeon format and find that it really suits my play style and is great for light systems like Microlite and Beacon, as well as just generally being an awesome format for laying out adventures.   I like having things broken into self contained pages so even if I was doing a bigger adventure I would lay it out as a series of one page dungeons - with appropriate pull-outs for stats and notes if needed of course.  I've used several OPD from both 2009 and 2010 to either populate or inspire encounters (or rumours of encounters) around the town of Milham in the Westmarch.

So I was very happy to read about this announcement for the 2011 One Page Dungeon Contest. I'm almost tempted to make one myself but some of the past entries were intimidatingly good.  I'm glad they are doing this again and I encourage everyone to submit your stuff - I'll be waiting to pick through them and co-opt my favorites for my own games.

**Update:  I did decide to enter afterall!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Great Divide

As I get further along in the process of editing and tweaking this game I have noticed that at certain times I come up against the issue of compatibility vs predilection.  Well, maybe not compatibility - maybe something more like commonality.  There are things that I would put in a rule book which are not the same way I would do things in a campaign - in fact there are things I would do differently in different campaigns.  I believe that is just how RPGs work.   Everyone is gonna tweak and house rule things to fit into the scenario they want to explore.

The biggest example of this issue is probably the old Silver Standard discussion.  I'm really in favour of using a silver standard instead of a gold standard for a number of reasons, the primary ones being it makes copper useful, and it allows gold to become exciting again.  I'm not going to get into that discussion, there are more complete discussions on the advantages of using either gold or silver here and on Delta's Blog here
love these little Reaper goblins
As another example take humanoid monsters like Goblins, Orcs, Hobgoblins.  Common convention puts these guys into the 1-2 HD category, dangerous to low level PC's or in large groups.  Well I like to stretch these guys out so you have 1-2 HD goblins, hobgoblins coming in at 3HD and a more gruesome orc (no pig noses) well into 5 HD.  This is a preference, I prefer the setting to have a smaller number of demihuman types lurking around, and to make them carry more of the weight in the story - other campaigns (thinking stock d&d here) may go the opposite route and prefer to make available a larger variety of monsters in the caverns and hills.  Both of these can be good approaches.

The thing is, since it's kind of easy to do this kind of substitution, I put the more common case in the rules and then house rule the way I prefer doing things into my own games.   It's a good design practice to build in compatibility and allow specific changes to be made on a per case basis.   You want people to use your system so you have to make it familiar so it's easy to pick up and compatible so they can use their existing materials.  But I wonder if maybe that's not all there is to it - maybe it's not always the best way to do things. Why should my preference be the house rule and not the common rule?  It's just as easy to convert in that direction.  I know that I sure would like to have price lists noted in silver pennies instead of converting from gold pieces all the time, I'd keep the 10:1 ratio on exchange but just shift everything down.  And I know that it would be nice to have the monsters stated out already as I want to use them and not so that they match things in a 3rd party module.

At some point you risk playing it too safe and making things too common and then there is no real reason to play Beacon v.s. some other d20 variant.  At the opposite end of the spectrum if the rules aren't general enough then they system is more fiddly and harder to learn and there would be less reason to play Beacon except as a single campaign or type of setting.  It's a conundrum for sure. Sure you say, it's a vanity press kind of publication so tart it up and make it the way you want to.  Well that would work until I change my mind and want to run a razed earth type scenario with Beacon where water and iron are the major currencies and there is a different brand of boogy-woogie hiding under every rock.  I could see myself doing that.  Other ways to handle this would be to carve off all the things that might be preferences into a source book or to print up one copy of Beacon D20 and a copy of Beacon for my own use.  It's not too hard to do either of these things in this era of desktop publishing and PDFs, but is there a point?  Are there that many folks out there clamoring for Beacon with gp and SRD standard Orcs?  If they can't convert or revert these quirks into their games wouldn't they probably be playing Pathfinder or 4e (or Microlite or Labyrinth Lord) anyway?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Harrowing Experience

So I was catching up on some blogs today and I read this post which references a prior post called Experience Solved from 2009.  I wasn't working on Beacon back then although I was reading blogs which would lead me to Microlite and eventually get me started plugging away on the first edition of Beacon later that fall.  Anyway, when I started reading those OSR blogs that fall I came across the whole XP for spending treasure which was like a flash going off in my head.  This post just hit me the same way.  XP for damage!  It's brilliant, it solves the problem of trying to have monsters of predetermined value when you have no idea how the party will interact with them.  It also lets character run away and still gain XP for their efforts.  I won't get into all the details here since you can and should read the original posts, but it is a real super idea.  Beacon combat XP currently is based on a pretty simple 100* monster HD because I didn't want to have to create XP for every monster because that's a crappy way to do things.  Every monster is not the same even if they have identical stat blocks and it's how the dice go and how what the situation is that really determine how hard or interesting the combat winds up.  Fighting a handful of goblins is a lot different when you are carrying two party members and have no arrows left.  I figured the way to deal with this was to abstract it further - just give out XP based on monster HD, but I can now see another way to deal with this as suggested by that [expletive deleted] Alexis - turn it all inside out and base it on the damage.

Friday, February 18, 2011

a Little Printing Tip

The Beacon rules PDF actually makes a nice booklet if you have access to a duplex laser printer and some legal paper.  I was using letter size paper all this time and found the margins to be pretty wide, although it still fit nice in the hand.  I don't know why I thought to use the longer legal paper but I'm glad I did because man does it ever make a nicer looking booklet.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Secret Confessions

You know, after all the hoopla about making a d20 compatible system , I don't really have a lot of d20 resource materials kicking around in my library.  The thing is that I never wanted to buy any because when D&D v3 and all that d20 stuff actually came out I was pretty set against buying any of it.  I was still soured from my experience with the upgrade from AD&D to AD&D second edition and all the reprinting and splat books.  Now I always liked buying interesting systems (after dropping 2nd Edition I was dipping my toes into stuff like RoleMaster, DragonQuest, and Marvel Superheroes) and game accessories, but this all seemed more directed marketing than system building and frankly I was a broke student.  Long story short I seem to have gone and built something to be compatible with d20 in lieu of actually buying any d20 stuff.  And I'm not really too sad about that, I mean I wouldn't throw out any Pathfinder or 3rd edition source books if they came my way but I wouldn't spend any money on them either.  I'm not a fan of skills and powers and prestige classes and all the complexity and scope creep they engender, I am however wondering what little wonderful tidbits in d20 I am missing out on or in fact just missed.

In fact I have my eye on one particular item which I think is very interesting - the GameMastery Plot Twist Cards.

Ohh, Plot Twisty!

I read about these on the Stargazer's World and this is the sort of thing that really appeals to me.  I am not a stranger to player 'bennies' or a token redeemable point system to reward good play with mechanical advantage, in fact spending XP to increase successes was a mechanic in my old homebrew that I lifted from the Marvel Superheroes karma system.  Also, back in the day I had the thought to use Tarot cards to introduce a mechanic to generate random plot directions in my campaign.  Kind of like the weather but all cool with fate and shit.  But what I didn't have was the idea of having the players use a game mechanic to drive the plot.

This past fall I had a chance to play the Atomic Highway RPG, and this system has an interesting twist on the 'bennies' approach - having players use 'Fortune' to create plot twists in addition to the usual re-rolls and success bumps.  This was awesome.  I actually got to spend my accumulated Fortune on things like making two NPCs be related to each other, finding batteries in the dark, and creating small situations to nudge along a romance between two PCs.  This was much more rewarding than simply re-rolling dice in combat.  Now it could be hard to manage this kind of thing in the kind of game I like- for example I think I wouldn't let players have more than one card at a time and I wouldn't give the cards out very often, but I can certainly see the appeal in having a player drop an "Unexpected Assistance" or "Gastric Distress" event into the middle of things to stir the plot a bit.

Now don't panic, I'm not going to build in any mechanics in Beacon for Fortune or Bennies or card systems like the GameMastery Plot Twist cards (and especially nothing like a CCG travesty).  I like to keep things lean.  But I do think I will be picking up a deck of these funky plot twist cards and looking at using them or something similar in my own games.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Psst buddy, do me a solid?

So the third draft version is published and out and things around here are a bit slow again.  It's the middle of February and I'm pretty busy at work and all, so not much time to dwell on why I chose Times Roman over a nice Comic Sans Serif.  Anyway I wanted to ask a favour.  If some of you folks have been playing Beacon, or read through the rules or just like the cover - how about you let me know.  I have a section called Testimonials! and I'd hate to have to take it down cause it's so pathetic linking to an empty page.  Now I don't want you to get all weepy and write about how it stopped a bullet when you got mugged or cured the little problem you got when you were rude to that old Gypsy woman, but if you do like Beacon, maybe you can toss off a couple lines for the folks who are wondering if they should try downloading it.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Beacon third draft

Alrighty, behold the third update to the Beacon draft document now made available to you via cybernet links on the right.  Lovely and shiny and if I might say, quite a pain in the butt to publish given some hitherto unknown issues with PDFcreator and image rescaling - and also some blogger widget (un)happy (not)fun time.

What does the third draft contain?   Well in addition to this, it has changes to weapon strength requirements and dual wielding, some clarifications on learning and casting spells, some stuff on ranged weapons and a chart with costs for hirelings.  All in all I'm getting pretty happy with how it's coming along and I expect that most of the big stuff is nailed down by now.  So grab a copy and play it and let me know what you think.

As before I have left a link to the old version 2 draft on the off-chance you need it for reference.  That's available for a limited time only.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Character Sheet Quest pt. 3

Here's the final cut of the character sheet unless I notice any obvious errors or omissions.  
New Sheet (for really!)

It has all the information and convenience factors I want it to have and although it is pretty simple I wanted it to be easy to print.  I did play with drop shadows and colours and stuff, but that made it more of a pain for me to print so I kept it basic black and white.  I hope you like it.