Sunday, May 29, 2011

Trying hard

I know I'm not supposed to be thinking of new rules while I'm trying out the existing rules but I did come across an interesting idea while reading an O.R.E* system book (Reign: Enchiridion by Greg Stolze) that was lent to me.  The idea in that system is that if you are taking your time doing something you get an extra die to your dice pool.  My idea is that if you take extra time to do something you should get additional d20 to roll.  If you take two rounds to line up a shot on someone you should get to roll  two d20 to hit - basically take the two attempts to hit you would be making and roll them into one attempt, thus increasing your chance to succeed.  Nice if you are a spell user and you really need to cast that fireball.  This would work within a turn as well as between turns for example if you're a Hunter and you have multiple attacks in a round you could merge them into one much better chance to hit.  Now the disadvantage is that you've increased your chance to hit at the cost of the amount of damage you get to do since you only get one hit, even if both rolls succeed you only roll damage once.  This limits the application, which I think is good and I certainly think this is better than adding a bonus to the die roll because that often leads to guaranteed successes.  Rolling  two d20 still means you can roll two 1's.  I also think you'd have to limit it to two d20 because otherwise I can see everyone stocking up their dice and then rolling fifteen d20 or something stupid like that.  You can only try so hard before you hurt yourself there buster.

*One Roll Engine

Friday, May 27, 2011

Four back stories

Friday is game night so I thought I'd post four of the five back stories I handed out.  A good back story should inform and provide some basis for opinion but not bind the character to specific goals or personality or style of play.  I hope these are good ones.

Drothgar (formerly of Bloodstone)
It is unusual for a dwarf to join the Holy Church, unusual but not unheard of.  Dwarven society has long been dominated by the great trade families, and a dwarf who gives up allegiance to their house and places it in the hands of the Lords of Order has no place in that society.  However the names of those few dwarves who have taken holy orders are often long remembered and in darkest times even the Matriarcha were known to seek their advice.
As a member of the Church of Light you live to serve the Lords of Order, to provide aid and solace to their followers, and prevent the return of Chaos to the world.  With your will and your strength you have been trained to oppose the opponents of Order.
When your cousin Thedric came to speak to you of his desire to find fortune in the south you saw an opportunity to journey there yourself and to return Order to the tombs and ruins lost by your people, and left to the minions of chaos in the great Fall.

Thedric Fairystone
As a young member of the Fairystone family you have little influence and even less respect.  Your house is a minor one, but this was not always true.  Once your family was powerful and rich, but that was before the Fall.  You have a left your home in the north on a journey to seek out your fortune among the ruins in the south, the dwarven ancestral lands.  You are not the first to do so, many have tried and failed, but some few have prospered greatly.  You have nothing but the clothes on your back and an old ruined book of notes with your family crest on it.

Henril of Butterbridge
Six generations ago your forefathers wrecked their boats on the Strait of Daggers and came ashore.  They found wives among the locals and fought creatures in the wilderness, and raised strong children to help them build a new life.  Since that time your people have prospered and carved a kingdom out of this wilderness with their swords arms and their will.  As a younger son, you have decided to leave your home village of Butterbridge in the Soundlands and seek your fortune as a hired sword. You have signed on to escort a trade caravan along the new south road from Kingstown to the town of Milham in the Westmarch.

Tom Marby
Your mother has told you that many years ago your people had a great empire in this land and lived in a time of splendor.  But the people grew prideful and turned their face from the Lords of Order and so were punished.  The empire fell to evil men. Fell beasts and demons ravaged the land.  For hundreds of years chaos ruled while your people and their dwarven allies were driven out from your homes and north to the sea, and were hunted and enslaved or forced to scrabble a meager life on the island shores.  Eventually after long years,  the the world grew quiet again and the humble gained back the favour of the heavens.  People were able to build villages and farm and hunt again, although the wilds were still dangerous.  But when the new men came from across the seas and took your women for wives and had sons and claimed land as theirs, your people recognized the pride in them and worried that things best left alone would be woken again.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The dangers of off-road travel

Been reading on the periphery of some discussion about how travelling in the wilderness should cause damage or some other form of attrition.  I think it's a good idea and I've been thinking how I could apply it to Beacon/Microlite.  Travel is physically demanding and is exactly the kind of fatigue that the HP system in Beacon is supposed to represent.  So it's pretty simple to justify all the bugs and scrapes and exposure to the elements and mental fatigue as HP damage.  As to how much and when it occurs, as I keep stressing, I don't want to have a lot of rules and tables to consult during a game.  Most importantly it has to be simple, it has to be meaningful (otherwise why bother) and it has to allow for low level NPCs to go about their business while still causing problems for higher level PCs.  I also think that for Beacon it has to deal with the Survival skill.  So here's my first shot at this.

Off road travel through hazardous terrain should cost a cumulative X HP per day spent in that terrain. The X would be based on the terrain type and how hazardous it is, e.g. forest 1, swamp or desert 2, a Princess Bride Fireswamp 4, etc.  So spending 4 days travelling in a normal forest would do you for 1 HP on day one, 2 on day two and finally 4 on day four.  It's not a lot but that's just a forest- it would be pretty noticeable when spending a couple of weeks hacking your way through a swamp.  Also I figure the Survival skill would negate this damage on a per point basis - so Survival score of 4 (a level 1 human hunter for example) would shield you for up to 4 points of this damage each day.  Experienced survivalists (like high level hunters and druids) could stay out in the woods for very long times where a first level mage would probably die from exposure from a long weekend on the beach.
Huzzah! An oasis!
I think that if you couple this with the resting restrictions on HP recovery (specifically what constitutes a good rest) you could easily wear down a party over time and make those treks into the unknown much more exciting.
When that oasis comes into view over the sand dunes the weary travelers would indeed rejoice... that is until they discovered the terrible secret hidden within it's walls.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Minor update

Updated the Beacon PDF with the new armour table and spell penalties and the change in movement rate to 60 feet/yards.  Also changed the 'minute' references into more generic 'turn' references.  As a infamous Canadian once may have said:  "A turn is a turn, is a turn."

I'm calling it draft version 4b.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The buckler

One minor question came up when the folks were equipping their characters.  Can I use a buckler and two weapons?  I guess in a lot of systems a buckler is strapped on to the arm and leaves the hand free.  That's not what I thought a buckler was, but I can see where the idea comes from.  Here's what I was thinking when I put the buckler in the rules.
by an unknown master
It's held in the fist and can only be used to block (it's useless as passive defense).  I thought it was a good way to utilize the beacon blocking rules.
Instead of attacking in a round, a character may try to block an attack.  When blocking, apply a character’s STR bonus + Shield bonus to their AC.
A Block can only happen if you have a shield or a melee weapon equipped (primary or an offhand weapon). 

So a buckler is great for that.  It's light and cheap and if it doesn't give you any AC bonus, neither does it give you any duel weild penalties. And you use it when you need to block a hit.  I like the picture in the article too.  Those dudes are not just trading hats!

Armour update

So this Friday is game night and I realize I have to make a decision on the issues that were brought up in the first game session.  As much as i like the idea of making armour a more abstract concept, I think that in the interest of playing fair with the rules as written I am going to just adjust the existing table and switch the magic penalty from the STR differential to the armour AC bonus.  So the armor strength requirements are lower for everyone and arcane magic users will have a penalty to cast equal to the AC bonus of the armour (a leather clad mage casting a first level spell would need to spend 5hp (3+2).

So this table is what I'm going to use for the rest of the play test:
What it does is lay the ground work for more abstraction (as suggested in the previous post) but still keep the strength mechanics and economic values in place so the rest of the rules aren't disrupted.  I'll see how this works and see if it makes sense in the next draft to keep this or make it more streamlined.  I also snuck in a little choice point in the medium armour bracket where chain costs less but weighs more.  I do like those kind of things if you can keep them simple and not break things.

Monday, May 16, 2011

And another thing...

So the another thing that came up in the play test was a problem with armour.  Armour really was a problem for folks using missile weapons.  Basically unless you had a 12-14 STR you were boned because of the DEX penalty.  It didn't work like I wanted and since the enchanter was actually stronger than the hunter, he was wearing leather while the hunter couldn't even wear light padding.

The problem I have is that I made an attempt to make armour available to arcane magic users with a fatigue (hp) cost - however I think that by linking this to STR I had the unintended effect of penalizing all characters with low STR, and most of all the rogue and hunter classes.  So much for elegance.  Simply adjusting the MinSTR requirements down would just lower the cost for mages while leaving characters with a low STR in the lurch for DEX.  That's not going to work, so I think a simple hp penalty based on the ac bonus is the way to go here.  As for the DEX penalty - it's currently too harsh and I think that anything below scale mail should probably not even have a penalty.

After I brought this up with some options to fix it, Mike (from the comments section) brought up a really good solution to this: 
What about simplifying armor in the same way you did with weapon damage? Light, Medium and Heavy. As with weapons, the actual form is as much description as anything else.
Something like:

Light has no strength restrictions but only offers +2 AC (padded, leathers etc)
Medium has a 10 strength restriction and offers +4 AC (chain and the like)
Heavy has a 14 strength restriction and offers +6 AC (plate, scale and so forth)

The spell hit-point modifier would be, as you suggested, same as the AC bonus.
I like it this idea a lot, but I do worry about two things.  Firstly, I'm not sure anymore that a high STR score should relieve the DEX penalty for heavy armours.  It's not like being really strong is going to let you play a lute with your gauntlets on right?  Secondly I like having one armour type for each AC bonus - it gives folks something to work towards at lower levels.  All that expensive armour also fits nicely with the repair bills that come from the critical hit table.  But I have to admit that it is a really elegant idea.  It fits.

I'm going to think about it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I'd like to have an argument please.

If you would like to have an argument, or at least a open ended and protracted discussion at the game table follow this simple tip:
Call a turn a minute and then set movement distance for a turn.
So, the first Beacon play test went off, and all in all I think that it was a pretty good introduction adventure.  This was certainly a different experience than playing with the kids and there was a lot of planning and character motivation and interrogation.  A big difference is that these hardened veterans of the dice bag don't necessarily take everything as writ like the kids do - and I mean that in a good way.  Sometimes a dragon is not a cigar.

So it starts with a fighter named Henril, pulling caravan escort duty along the south road from Kingstown.  If you recall the map this road goes from the city (now called Kingstown*) south along the river all the way down to Red Towers, which was the destination of the rather arrogant goods trader Nim.  Naturally they meet a pair of dwarves travelling from the northwest.  As unusual as it may seem these dwarves were not traders or craftsmen (for trade and craft is the primary occupation of the dwarvish) but a contemplative priest and a ninny hammer**.  Satisfied that they were neither robbers nor competitors, the trader graciously offered to share the road with them.  At end of day they pulled up to a little farm where a wandering hunter was chopping wood for his lodging, and there passed the night.  The next day they continued south hoping to make Milham by late of day.  The trader hired on the hunter as additional escort, both to augment his guard and as some insurance if he might otherwise be working for local highwaymen.

Naturally they were waylaid by bandits.  A suspicious tree lay across the road and when Tom Marby (the hunter) walked up ahead to assess the situation, it became clear that this was an ambush.  It also soon became clear that it was a really bad idea to use a minute as the default combat round.  Tom, one of the other caravan guards and Thedric Fairystone (the dwarven Enchanter) moved up further to take a closer look at the fallen tree.  I had given the distance to the fallen tree as 600 yards and Tom's distance as say 100 yards when three bandits popped up from behind the tree and started shooting crossbows.  What should have been an delightful first combat became a discussion about running a four minute mile, sprinting, adrenaline, wearing backpacks, six second combat rounds as per the SRD and the length of the hallway off of the dining room.

The Becaon rules say a round is a minute long.  It also says in a round you can either cast a spell or do three things:  Attack, move and a minor action.  If you forgo your attack you can move twice, if you forgo your move you can do two minor actions - pretty simple.  Unfortunately the standard movement rate I had was 20 feet - double that if running - so 80 feet per minute. Well fuck me, you would have thought I was saying Archer was a better captain than Picard.  There were iPhones out and numbers being crunched and it was brought to my attention that the guys back at the wagon had to cover 1800 feet to get into melee range - AND IT WOULD TAKE 22 MINUTES TO RUN HALF A MILE.

You see the thing is that I don't really care if the rule is wonky - that's the reason we're play testing.  However I do care about the feel of the rules and one thing I don't want to do is get down to counting out how many feet each player can move every round or having different move rates for inside vs outside and rounds for combat or for spell durations or for dungeon exploration.  Hell I didn't even want to have speed as a statistic for monsters and character races.  I just wanted some basic values to use when using miniatures.  HOWEVER I don't think I will have the luxury of hand waving this.  There is something about telling players they can move x feet in a minute that sticks in people's craw, and someone is always going to threaten to dress up in plate mail and do time trials across the back yard to prove you wrong.  Also, I can just imagine sitting in the back yard in two weeks counting how many arrows someone can shoot in a minute.

So after the game we had a discussion on how to deal with this and the suggestion I like best is to just abstract the time of a round to remove that loaded word "minute".  A round will simply be 'a round' and in the heat of battle it will be shorter than it would be when carefully walking down a dark hallway.  Also there is some merit in the argument that the base movement should be a bit faster (dark dungeon halls are not the norm anymore). I'll also probably say that the movement rate is 60 feet per round (so you move 120 feet if you don't attack) and 60 yards per round (120 for a full turn) when running for a turn which is 3 times faster.  Yes, you can probably run faster than that, but you probably have proper shoes and didn't grow up eating turnips and grass every day.

* renamed from Freeport when I found out that Paizo already had some supplements out for a rather famous town named Freeport.

** I am presuming the ninny hammer routine is cover for a shrewd and calculating Enchanter, and by presume I mean desperately hope - everyone is desperately hoping.