Friday, June 17, 2011

Fighting Chaos

In planning an encounter for one of the various sandbox areas around Milham I needed to take a quick look at the Divine spell list to see how players might deal with evil spirits.  Well apparently they really can't given the list of spells I have put together and this kind of pisses me off because I was trying to be careful when crafting the lists.  I did pair out a lot of the D&D alignment mythology type spells like Detect Evil and protection from Evil 10' Radius, and now I appear to be reaping what I sowed because the divine caster doesn't seem to be prepared to deal with the kind of Law vs Chaos war I wanted to portray in this campaign.  I can always throw in more spells from a campaign perspective - indeed this might be the best way of dealing with this sort of thing given that it's the campaign that will determine if clerics are holy defenders of Order or if they are the avatars of a specific god in a milieu of many such gods.  Still it bothers me that divine casters get a create food and water spell and a spell to preserve corpses, but nothing to protect against possession or to ward away spirits.  By the time the 6th level Banishment spell comes around really it's too late to start getting into spirits and stuff - the ship has sailed on being all scary with the bed sheets and moaning noises.  They need something to deal with lower level introductory threats like possessed villagers and ghostly visitors (which would also be much more fun than a big hairy demon anyway IMHO).

The other way I could deal with it would be to  take out some of the cure spells (really with spell points you don't need to have an HP restoring spell for every level) and replace them with a couple spells designed to deal with spirit issues (possession, protection, warding, etc.)  Maybe I can just figure out some spells in game and then decide whether to include them in the magic list or not later.  This also needs to cover some spirit ammo for the BADGUY divine casters too.  That evil witch in the swamp should be able to do something more interesting than spoiling your rations.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Play test: On Skills

The play test is still going and it's a lot of fun for me (hopefully fun for the players as well - he he) as I'm getting the old kinks worked out and trying to find my GM voice again.  The party is still all first level after three sessions but I don't think that's necessarily bad since it is a gritty game I'm running and I'm getting a good vibe from the experience calculator as written.*  The party has encountered a small gang of bandits, slain a handful of hobgoblins, been attacked by some huge scorpions and smashed up a dozen or so goblins and they are getting close to second level.  Aside from the issues of the first session the rules as written seem to be working out pretty well and I'm also enjoying the simple random encounter tables I whipped up for travel in the forest, swamp, hills and road around Milham.  I do have some thoughts about playing however, or more specifically notes about how skills are being played.

I have here a bunch of guys who have played a lot of games.  These guys have played a lot of d&d of various types and a lot of other systems as well.  They are good at following not just the rules, but the spirit of the rules and aren't trying to 'game' the system over a typo.  Which is why I am having such a dilemma when they are telling me stuff like "I use my survival skill to sneak up on the goblin" and "I'm going to use knowledge to try to find the hidden entrance".  I probably will tell them to use those skills in those situations (as opposed to subterfuge, because of the context they are giving), but I know that if they are doing this then some people will probably be doing it EVEN MORE.  Especially those coming from more modern D&D.

It's a natural tendency for players to want to use the skills they are good at and that's all well and good but I think it does lead down a road where you have people trying to justify using their best skills for everything - and that will probably break the system.  As a GM you can't just say no all the time because that will also break the system.  The Beacon/Microlite skills are purposefully vague so that they can be combined in interesting and entertaining ways and the last thing I want to do is get into the situation where someone says "I can't tie the rope, I don't have that skill".  That is the real enemy right there, that way of thinking.  Meditating on this for a while now and what I think must be done is to crack down on this in the rules by very explicitly stating the following:
Players describe their actions without using any skill or stat references, then the GM assigns the DC and the skills/stats to use.  
I think this is one of those rare play-style rules that can't just be mentioned, it needs to be emphasized and entrenched in the system as a procedure. Sure you can appeal the GM's decision and make your case and all that if you think you are getting the shaft because you wanted to use your 7 knowledge to punch someone**, but that has to be after the fact because otherwise it is just too easy for players to fall into the old way of thinking a skill for an action as opposed to DESCRIBING THEIR ACTIONS and thus metagaming their way out of a lot of fun.  Also if the GM is shafting people or the players are arguing skill checks all the time then you probably need a more structured game than Beacon anyway.  Ya play your game your way and all that, but sometimes rules really set a tone.  It kind of reminds me of the suggestion in the card game Dominion to verbalize your action and buy status as you play your cards - following that style simply makes the game better for everyone.

*basic rate = (HD type * HD number )*10, for example a goblin with 1d6 would be worth 60xp, where a 4d8 monster would be worth 320.  Add some extra for special abilities.

** "But I have studied anatomy tomes and I know where to punch them better!"

Friday, June 10, 2011


I realize that I'm not a big playa on the blog circuit.  I don't generally post about stuff unless it directly references Beacon development (mostly).  I am not in this so I can quit my day job.  I am a curious wide eyed doe however, and I do like to see how many folks are stopping by and love it when I get new followers.  Anyway for a little while now I've been curious as to how many people outside my game group have downloaded and tried Beacon.  Blogger gives you some statistics as to how many folks are reading your posts and stuff but it is more a guess than a measure I believe, I mean how else would you see 14 page views listed in the overview but only two listed in the page view breakdown section and six on that little world map?

Anyway la-de-da, I've set up Google analytics in Google docs so I can track how many times people are viewing the Beacon PDF because that's what I really want to know.  It's pretty neat and they have made it easy to do, however I have no idea if it works because I haven't seen any results pop up yet.  You do know about the PDF right?  It's just over there in the corner, waiting for you to give it a look.

Now I know it's only been a day but dammit I want my monkey men analytics!

Friday, June 3, 2011

A brief history of the Baronies

I thought I'd throw up some of the short notes I have jotted down on game I'm running.  I do appreciate the old drop down a handful of orcs is a cave philosophy, however I can't stop myself from thinking up back stories and history to flavour the stew.

A brief history of the Baronies.
It only took one generation for the men from across the sea to leave the island and cross the Strait of Daggers. Rickard the Tall founded the city of Freeport (since renamed Kingstown) on the mainland and established himself as ruler of the sound in year 30. As the new men spread out from Rikard's Landing they settled the shores of The Sound and absorbed or conquered the natives who were scrabbling out more modest existence. More warlords than barons, there was a short period of expansion as the ambitious second and third generations spread their reach onto the mainland. The first villages and towns they established were in The Soundlands. Also in this time some order was restored in Lakshire, which had much of the most intact infrastructures from before the Fall. Some of the older towns in Lakshire like Swale and Oldcastle never entirely fell in the dark times and inhabitants in some cases could trace their lineage back to the old empire. This was also a period of great rivalry between the new men and the men from the old empire with stronger leaders rising from both groups. The Middlemarch was resettled not long after and for a short time there were a number of small independent kingdoms constantly striving for manpower, resources and dominance. Paradoxically the constant fighting caused large population booms as for the first time since the old empire there were men defending the land and roads and the wild creatures and dark creatures were pushed south. Farming once again became widespread and roads and walls sprang up all across the land.
By the fourth generation, these settlements had aggregated into three large baronies and two major factions vying to control it all. In year 103 The army of Rikard One Eye, the great grandson of Rikard the Tall defeated the forces of Gallien the Strong and became king of all three regions and the independent towns of the west. To the houses that supported him most he gave over the two baronies of Middlemarch and Lakshire, keeping the royal seat in The Soundlands.
In the year 146 King Bartal, son of Rikard, awarded the lands and independent towns on the western border to his greatest supporter among the military, a war leader named Ottol the Fat whom had been a popular leader during years of unusually active raids on the west by goblin and hobgoblins from the south. Ottol took the family name Arnulf and became the fourth baron in the kingdom and ruler of the Westmarch. The Arnulf family was a popular choice to rule and although the independent towns did loose some autonomy, they had long been used to supporting the military and many retired soldiers had settled there so the transition was peaceful with only minor incidents.