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.


  1. Good compromise, I like it.

    And really? A Ninny Hammer? I was merely looking at a different way to play a 6 Charisma. A character doesn't have to be gruff and anti-social, but could very easily be quite social but rather annoying, still justifying the stat.

  2. Hahahaha. You are correct, it was a masterful portrayal of 6 charisma. Possibly even a 4 charisma...

  3. A good session and a good play test. You've got over 80 years of collective gaming experience around that table - some of us (we'll ok, one of us) have been gaming since the 70's - so their's going to be lots of strong opinions on rules. It's going to be challenging to strike a balance between maintaining your design vision and letting others muck about with it.

    I like the compromise on the round. It's merely an abstraction to allow for action sequencing, so it doesn't need to be tied to an actual unit of time measure. The only time this could be an issue may be where the PC's need to accomplish something during a combat while being timed somehow, but that would be rare enough that you could hand wave it.

    And I think that Thedric's 6 charisma was played very effectively... as a ninny hammer. Tom and Henril are still watching, squinty eyed over their mugs of beer, trying to decide what to make our new beardless dwarven adventuring companion.