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?

1 comment:

  1. Crap! I just typed a 20 minute response to this post and Blogger went and crapped out on me!

    The high points of what I typed:

    * I see Beacon as a setting, not as alternate rules. Don't worry about being compatible with 3rd party modules. Modules are made for good settings, not the other way around.

    * Yes, give me your take on SP Standards, expansive non-conical story caring humanoids, etc. Regurgitating GP Equipment Lists, Spell Lists, Monster Lists - is a waste of pixels/paper IMHO. I realize by adding them, you make Beacon a standalone publication, but I would be just as happy to see a Beacon publication that is just the rules that define the setting with some fluff.

    * Even if I don't play Beacon with RAW, I may "borrow" things. As long as Beacon is compatible with Core, which Microlite represents, you're golden. I would rather house-rule a good setting than build up Core to a good setting. You are doing that. Either way, whether I play Beacon as written or 'borrow' greatness, I will be back here tomorrow to see what is new.

    * Give me more Beacon!

    Best and happy gaming,