Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Divine Rituals pt. 2

OK, last post I got the rituals for level 1-3, so today hopefully I can get to level 6.  I guess it's not clear but the casting chance and cost of these rituals would be the same as the spells for that level - rituals that take more than a day would require that cost each day.  If you are performing something like consecration over a weeks time you would probably need someone to share the load vis casting, although I do like the idea of the sleepless fasting cleric muttering prayers in a week long endurance-fest.

I'm not explicitly tyring to make all the rituals equal opportunity and I'm strongly suggesting that GMs add in additional rituals to their campaigns for their evil cultists and dark flower god worshippers to use.

Level 4 - Remove Curse
Range: Touch.
Duration: N/A
Description:  The remove curse ritual takes one hour.  This ritual will remove or block the effects of curses and enchantments on the subject.  It will allow minor cursed objects to cleansed or destroyed and major cursed objects to be safely removed or interred.  Materials required for this spell should be in the 500-1000 sp. range.  Exceptional curses may require additional materials or conditions to be met (or repeated castings of the ritual).

Level 5 - seriously I got nothing, maybe some sort of investment spell for making items?  Is there any divine aspects I'm really missing out on here?  Demons?  Bingo?

Level 6 - Resurrection
Range: Touch.
Duration: N/A.
Description:  This ritual requires at least 3 clerics of the same faith to perform and takes one day to perform for every 10 years since the subject's death.  The subject returns to life fully restored and with full HP.  Some piece of the body must be used to restore it and the target creature must have a soul available and not trapped or otherwise destroyed (or have a soul provided for them...).  The material cost of this ceremony is very great (> 100,000 sp.) and usually not payable in cash - only the most worthy (or heinous) applicants would be considered.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Divine rituals

So since I've pretty much decided I'm going to put divine rituals into my setting, I figured what the hell I'll put them into the Beacon rules as well*.  These rituals are basically spells that a divine caster (read cleric) gets that are not castable in a single round but which add a lot to the class or which replace some spells from the SRD that were removed from Beacon but which would still be useful game abilities.  As mentioned Rituals require more time than a 'spell' and may also require some sort of components or conditions that general spells would not (like requiring a circle of clerics to cast).  Again, I expect people running Beacon games would change these to suit.

There is one divine ritual per spell level (excepting the orisons which are really 'training' spells).  No reason for this except it's nice and neat.  Here's the first three rituals:

Level 1 - Liturgy
Range: Sight and hearing.
Duration: 1 day.
Description: The Liturgy is a religious service performed by an initiated cleric in which blessing and instructions are conferred upon the faithful.  For every 30 minutes spent preaching (max 3 hours) people present at a liturgy will respond favourably to the caster as if he had +1 charisma.  It may also confer the effects of a Bless spell for it's duration and an equal length of time afterwards.
Level 2 - Anoint
Range: Touch.
Duration: Permanent
Description:  Anoint is a 30 minute ritual that allows a divine caster to mark a person as a follower of the faith.  This ritual is used to invest new clerics to the religion as well as protect (or maybe harvest) the souls  of the dying.  Anointing will grant an additional save at +2 against the death effects caused by certain undead or the effects of lycanthropy (or an additional chance for the subject to be effected).  Requires holy/unholy water or oil.
Level 3 - Consecration
Range: Touch and/or area 100 ft. + 10 ft. /level.
Duration: Permanent.
Description:  The Consecration ritual allows a caster to dedicate a building or altar fit to be used in rituals of the faith.   Consecrated areas act as Cause Fear to beings of opposing faiths and also make it difficult (DC +5) for them to cast spells, or resist spells of the consecrated faith.  Consecrated areas are also immune to some arcane effects such as scrying and area effect spells such as Restful Glade or Hallucinatory Terrain.
A consecration ceremony takes at least a full week of uninterrupted prayer and fasting.  An area already consecrated by a rival faith must first be cleansed both physically (by removing offending materials) and spiritually before it can be consecrated in the casters faith - a process that can be time consuming and expensive.

*ok I still reserve the right to change my mind on this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rogue and Savant

Gonna fire this across the port side and see what floats.

The Rogue

Rogues specialize in stealth and cunning.  They start with 3 points to allocate between the Subterfuge and Survival skills.  They may allocate an additional point to one of these skills every 3 levels (3, 6, 9, 12…).  Their Attack Bonus increases by +1 every second level (2, 4, 6, 8…).  In combat Rogues can attempt a 'sneak attack' by surprising their enemy (usually subterfuge+DEX bonus, but depends on situation).  If this is successful, they can add their Subterfuge skill to the damage of their first attack* or perform an additional attack** with a ranged weapon (if available).  Rogues can choose to use DEX instead of STR as the bonus attribute when using light weapons in melee combat.

The Savant

Savants are characters who have chosen to pursue skills rather than magic or combat.  They start with 4 skill points to allocate as they desire.  They allocate an additional skill point to any skill every second level (2, 4, 6, 8...).  Their Attack Bonus increases by +1 every second level (2, 4, 6, 8…).  Savants can be generally good at many things or very good at a few, they can play many different roles from professional scholars to travelling acrobats to scheming vagrants.

*sneak attack would imply the target AC is at -2 for surprise as well...
** the second attack should be against a different target - otherwise it's not really that useful.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Skill advancement

Spell Casters in Beacon don't get many skill points - we assume they spend the majority of their time on magic.  They will get their 3 skill points to start in their area of expertise (clerics - communication, mages - knowledge, etc...).  They get one free skill point to assign per level but their prime skills only get points every 5th level.  By level 15, a magic character gets 17 more skill points (14 of these freely assignable). The non-magic classes get more skills, primarily in their  skill bumps every 3 levels in addition to their one per level.  By level 15 they will have 19 points (still only 14 freely assignable).  I wanted to give the Rogue more skill points   What I have been thinking as an alternative is to give the Rogue one skill point per level as before and give them one additional freely assignable skill point every second level.  This will give them 21 skill points by level 15, and all 21 would be freely assignable.  That's a lot of points, but I think it's a good compromise for having lower combat and magic ability.

A short aside here: I worry sometimes about players deciding to pour all their skill points into one skill, it seems to me that some people would do this and I wonder how it would break the game.  Then I remember that in Microlite you get to add your level to all your rolls and I relax a bit.  Also those people would be prime candidates for getting hosed by a wandering reactive skill check (surprise - 2d4 hypno weasels).

I have also still been having strange thoughts about merging the Rogue and the Hunter into one class.  It's just that the Hunter and the Rogue are too similar as archetypes.  What I would do in this case would be to remove the Hunter class all together, and then give the Rogue a second attack with ranged weapons.  This would give Rogues more combat prowess and it would be heavily weighted towards DEX.  I like this because it gives them more teeth but they would not get the to hit and damage bonuses of the Fighter that the Hunter enjoyed.  That combat/damage bonus was problematic for me since it undermined the Fighter's uniqueness and was the main reason I disliked the Hunter.  Maybe I'd give them 2 points in subterfuge and 1 point in survival to start and let them choose which to bump every third level.  This would give you the ability to develop into either the 'sneaky hood', or the'robin hood' Rogue depending on your whims.

The Hunter class I'd replace with a new non-magic class who get no special combat abilities* but get 4-5 skills points to spend at level 1 and and additional free skill every second level (in addition to the one everyone gets each level).  You could make a really good thief by socking points into subterfuge and communication (and/or fabrication) - you could easily be a better thief than the Rogue class.  You could also be an acrobat (physical) or a sage (knowledge) or a real wood craft specialist (survival), or even a jack of all trades, fairly good at all the skills.
I don't know if it would be a viable class - namely if anyone would want to play it - but its something that stuck in my mind as an option I'm kicking around anyway.

* they get +1 to hit every 2 levels like the current non-magic, non-fighter classes

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Level 1

Ya, lots of chatting in the blogs about how level 1 D&D magic users are hard to play and how it's all a meat grinder.  I have no problem with that, I've run monty haul campaigns and cakewalks and they are no fun.  No stakes.  I'd happily play a level 1 magic user as long as the game was fun and the DM was good.  Now since I support this opinion it's impossible for me to act in any other way because this is the internet and everyone has to pick a side.  Well screw that.  Just because I see this as a good thing in OD&D, I don't have to think that that's the only way to play the game.

In Beacon, level 1 isn't nearly as 'hard' as it is in OD&D.  Firstly you get a pile more hit points - Strength score + 1d6 HP to start. Even the weakest possible PC would have 4 hp to start, and the toughest possible dwarven fighter would have 27!  Maybe that's too much, but it sure makes it easier for the players starting out and it means you are most likely going to survive first level unless you are very unlucky or you charge ahead blindly all the time.  And it's not like I didn't kill some PCs in the play test either.  First level Beacon isn't hard, but it's not a cakewalk.

But it's not all about surviving at low levels, it's about getting to do things.  In Beacon you can usually get into a couple fights before you need to flee or heal.  This is by design.  Since fights are quick you can get through a couple fights pretty fast, and you can get into a lot of them in the course of an evening.  Having to stop and rest after each skirmish would slow things down.  Also magic burns hit points.  Forget about casting one spell a day in Beacon, you can cast 4 or 5 pretty handily - you don't even need to pick them out ahead of time.  However even though a first level Beacon 'magic user' can cast way more spells than a D&D magic user, they can also use crossbows or short swords.  Ol' Thedric sure finds his crossbow in a hurry when the goblins come a running.  What I find the most interesting about using HP as spell juice is that players ration their spells, they don't want to be down to 3 or 4 hp - even if that is all they would have in peek condition in D&D.  It's a visceral thing but it works well - it's a metagamey reaction that simulates character tension/motivation, kind of like the fear players get from level stealing undead.

So I'm of the opinion that this Beacon low level game is working - working for me anyway.  The play test we've been running has characters up to level 3 now and despite a couple little grumbles, I think that the characters are pretty capable but not overpowered.  Really it comes down to what you throw at them at first level, and I'd have no problem throwing a half dozen goblins or a couple of giant frogs at them.  I think it's working for the players too, they seem to have enough to do that they aren't pulling 15 minute adventure days - but have also learned that if they don't ration their resources they are not immune to loosing half the party or flirting with a TPK.

So does this mean I'm not old sckool?  Well I think a lot of my game preferences are OSR certified even if I run a d20 system.  I like descriptive actions, random encounters, unbalanced encounters and resource management.  I'll kill your PC, I'll kill them dead.  I just hope I don't loose any readers because I didn't make everything into charts or subscribe to the meat-grinder chargen philosophy.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Magic Missile and other mage spells

OK, I've already talked a bit about Fireball and Lightning Bolt, but  a lot more spells that I thought are kind of wonky when translated from SDR to Beacon.  Number one culprit is the change from spell slots to a point system, which I did keep in mind.  The other thing I'm finding however is that there is also a change because HP are spell points and that changes the cost. No one wants to spend 3 HP to do 1 HP damage to something - it isn't smart.  I already changed the way Cure spells work to address this, but now I'm going to look at a couple of low level Mage spells; Magic Missile and Cone of Cold.

Magic Missile does 1d4+1 and you get one extra missile every 2 levels.  In Beacon this means it's a crap spell for first level casters.  It also scales crappy because at 3HP to cast it is going to be a good spell the higher your level without the extra missiles.  So this ones needs a makeover.  Prestidigitation is garbage because it just replicates the effects of other cantrips like Create Fire and Mage Hand.   A couple more candidates are Cone of Cold and Comprehend Languages.  Cone of Cold does 1d3 points of cold damage - and at 3HP to cast that sucks.  You're better off to use your dagger.  Also since you don't want it to compete with Magic Missile as a simple blast spell it should probably focus on the cold aspect over the ray aspect.  As for Comprehend Languages, well that's a cleric spell really.  Clerics get the communication bonuses in Beacon so why the heck would wizards get this spell - there isn't enough spells to overlap like this anyway.

So here are my changes to mage spells level 0-3:
  • Prestidigitation now only deals with smoke and fog.
  • Magic Missile now does 4+1d4 damage.  You do not get additional missiles as you level up - you get more HP to cast it more often.
  • Cone of Cold is a wave of cold that emanates out from the casters hand and freezes stuff like small puddles or buckets of water.  It is shorter range (25ft+5/level) now than before (sight).  Think of it as a reverse microwave. It now does 1d6 cold damage to living creatures as a byproduct.
  • Shocking Grasp deals 2d6 + 1 point/per level electric damage.  More damage upfront because you can cast it a few times.  It also scales a bit because it's hard and dangerous to touch things and those things will get bigger as you do.
  • Comprehend Languages is now Decipher and it allows the caster to understand natural written languages only.  It does not translate magic writing but it can be used to figure out things written in code - just add a DC value for coded messages to the casting roll.
  • Protection from Missiles now more relevant since now missile weapons hit before spells do in combat.  it does 10 +1 point / caster level.  Which is now enough to stop a few arrows at 3rd level and hopefully a few more as you level up and get into bigger fights.  But its now a personal spell.
  • Fireball and Lightning Bolt will do 3d6 +1 per level (8-23 points at level 5, 13-28 at level 10).  That's still a lot, but nothing like doing 3-30 or 10-60 points of damage for 7 casting points from before.  It's also less variable.
  • Vampiric Touch does 1d8 +1 per level now.  I also put in wording to specify it can only restore physical fatigue not magic fatigue.
I think that by doing these changes I might actually see more use of the extending/widening spell rules so I might leave them in, but I'm still on the fence about it.  I like the idea of these rules but I'm not sure they are worth the additional complexity.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Combat experiment revisited

OK, here's another idea that's more streamlined but keeps a bit of the flavor of the first attempt:  Two phase combat.  In this method, like the last one, you would still have the GM call phases and both sides would do actions in order of initiative but there would just be the two phases, Missile and Melee. Both phases would have a move option so if you moved in missile phase you could close with an enemy or run away.  You could also move for both phases if you didn't attack.  Also changing/picking up a weapon would take a move - Actually even simpler than that - instead of having major and minor actions and all that I think you can just have two phases in which to do one of those minor things like pulling out potions, readying weapons or tipping tables over.  Casting, which still takes a full turn, would have to be stated* in phase 1 and would go off in phase 2 (again initiative order).  So combat would look something like this:

Surprise roll or determination.
Roll for initiative.
All sides do the following each phase in initiative order:
  1. Prepare spell/missile attacks/move/change weapon/etc...
  2. Cast spell/melee attacks/move/change weapon/etc...
So there would be the same fight as the previous example under this design:

Two groups meet on the road.  Each consists of a mage, a hunter and a fighter.  I determine there is no surprise (no free attack).  Assume they had weapons ready...

Round 1: Group A wins initiative.
Missile Phase:
  1. Hunter A fires two arrows at Fighter B (misses, hits), 
  2. Mage A declares a spell, mage B declares a spell, 
  3. Fighter A closes with Hunter B,
  4. Hunter B throws 2 daggers at Mage A (miss, miss).
  5. Fighter B closes with Fighter A
Melee phase:  
  1. Fighter A attacks Hunter B (hit), 
  2. Mage A does counter spell, 
  3. Fighter B attacks Fighter A (hit), 
  4. Mage B spell is countered,
  5. Hunter B switches to short sword and shield.
Round 2: Group B wins initiative.
Missile Phase:  
  1. Mage B prepares a spell,
  2. Hunter A fires at Fighter B (hit, miss),
  3. Mage A readies a crossbow
Melee Phase:
  1. Hunter B attacks Fighter A (miss),
  2. Fighter B attacks Fighter A (hit),
  3. Mage B casts Spell (magic Missile) Hunter A,
  4. Fighter A attacks Hunter B (hit - Hunter B dead)
Round 3:  Group B wins initiative
Missile Phase:
  1. Mage B prepares spell
  2. Fighter B runs over to Mage B
  3. Mage A fires bolt at Mage B (miss)
  4. Hunter A fires at Fighter B (hit)
  5. Fighter A closes with Fighter B
Melee Phase:
  1. Mage B casts Mage Armour on Fighter B
  2. Fighter B attacks Fighter A (hit)
  3. Fighter A attacks Fighter B (miss)

And so on.

So how is this better?  Well it has less phases and it's easier to track movement, if you moved that phase you can't attack that phase.  You still get the distinction between missile and melee attacks which makes things more fun, and it mixes up the combat so you don't have one side just rolling over the other. Your 5 brawlers aren't going to kill all the bowmen before they get a shot off just because you got initiative.  And you have less moving parts than the old one attack/2 moves or 3 minor actions.  It's almost as simple as the glorious 'you get to do one thing' but it incorporates full/partial movement, minor actions and all that into it.  Maybe tomorrow I'll find a problem with it but I think it might viable for now.

*to be real clear - in both this example and the one from the last post you wouldn't have to say which spell you were casting, just that you were going to be casting a spell.  Assume all spells have a similar prep action - like cracking your knuckles and humming a scale.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Combat experiment

First off I'm going to say I wrote much of this up last week and I thought I had a great idea...It was even working out that there were a spate of posts on the OSR blogs about how the combat rounds sorted themselves out, which kind of fed the idea.  I was going to post this, but I thought I should think about it more.  Well a week later and I'm now trying to think of better* way and not considering this idea as much, but I thought I should post this anyway since it is a design blog and this is how I design.  Who knows I might figure out a way to make this work in the end.  So with that preface, here goes:

Following on the heels of my desire to make the combat 'round' more better, there is a good breakdown of the different versions of D&D and how they resolve combat by Arkhein at Rather Gamey.

And look, AD&D has missiles before movement even.  I knew there was something to having missile actions before movement - probably something left over in my mind from AD&D - the system I learned first.  In any case I want combat to be fast (which is why we dropped d20 initiative) but I also want it to be fun - and fun for me means a dash of tactics.  I don't want to have all actions declared before initiative roll - that seems like it would take all the momentum out of things.  I do however think that I should be able to call out a phase and everyone doing that type of action will then have to do it at that time.  So one proposal I've been thinking of for resolving combat is 3 Phase combat: Missile, Movement, Melee.  It would look something like this:
Surprise roll or determination:
Roll for initiative:
Then all sides do each following phase in initiative order:
  1. Missile attacks / prepare spell 
  2. Movement /weapon changes 
  3. Melee, 'minor' actions, spells 
I haven't been doing spell declaration, but I think I should be doing it.

So a combat would look like this:
Two groups meet on the road.  Each consists of an mage, a hunter and a fighter,  I determine there is no surprise (so no free attack).
Round 1: Group A wins initiative.
Missile Phase:
  1. Hunter A fires two arrows at Fighter B (misses, hits), 
  2. Mage A declares a spell, mage B declares a spell, 
  3. Hunter B throws 2 daggers at Mage A (miss, miss).
Movement Phase:
  1. Fighter A closes with Hunter B, 
  2. Fighter B closes with Fighter A
  3. Hunter B switches to short sword and shield.
Melee phase:  
  1. Fighter A attacks Hunter B (hit), 
  2. Mage A does counter spell, 
  3. Fighter B attacks Fighter A (hit), 
  4. Mage B spell is countered
Round 2: Group B wins initiative.
Missile Phase:  
  1. Mage B prepares a spell
  2. Hunter A fires at Fighter B (hit, miss)
Movement Phase:
  1. Mage A readies a crossbow
Melee Phase:
  1. Hunter B attacks Fighter A (miss)
  2. Fighter B attacks Fighter A (hit)
  3. Mage B casts Spell (magic Missile) Hunter A
  4. Fighter A attacks Hunter B (hit - Hunter B dead)
Round 3:  Group B wins initiative
Missile Phase:
  1. Mage B prepares spell
  2. Hunter A fires at Fighter B (hit)
  3. Mage A fires at Mage B (miss)
Movement Phase:
  1. Fighter B runs over to Mage B
  2. Fighter A closes with Fighter B
Melee Phase:
  1. Mage B casts Mage Armour on Fighter B
  2. Fighter B attacks Fighter A (hit)
  3. Fighter A attacks Fighter B (miss) 
And so on.

It looks complicated but really if the GM is calling out each phase name it shouldn't be too hard to keep the pace up.  The benefits I see are that it makes ranged combat more interesting of a choice and it would certainly be more dynamic if you were using miniatures.  It's also a bit more interesting to me than having the  side who wins initiative getting to do everything and possibly wiping the other side out before they get any actions, or at even simply taking out their mage or archer with an alpha strike.

The problems I see with it are: loosing initiative is probably better in some cases - like magic users if they want to counter-spell, or for movement.  Well that might not be a problem actually...   Also it might be hard to keep track of which actions have been done that preclude other actions - like firing a missile precludes a melee attack so you have to wait to get hit - or if you are closing with someone and changing a weapon you wouldn't be able to hit them.  I think it would also be hard when you are breaking up player actions this way to keep everything straight if you aren't using minis.  I also didn't have the mages make any kind of check to cast their spells after they got hit in this example.  I'd have to figure out if that should happen and how it would be implemented.  Maybe it's not so different than regular combat however - if you got initiative you would beat the opposition melee attack and get your spell off so really it's only archers you would be worried about (missile shield anyone...).

Now, I did think of another option which I'll try to post tomorrow.

* a better way would have to be a simpler way I think.

Monday, October 3, 2011

What's going into the next draft?

This is what's going into the 5th draft:
  • removing the section on Traps - these came right out of the Microlite book and are cool but I don't think people need these outlined and I would like to reclaim the page and a half
  • adding minor changes to Initiative and weapon replacement - maybe that whole section can be rewritten to make it easier to understand.
  • Fabrication - I'm still waffling on adding in a new skill actually, but leaning on yes for now.
  • Tweaks to Divine spells, including changes to healing and new spirit orientated spells.
  • Tweaks to enchanter spells, and spell balance in general.
  • Divine Rituals
  • Changes to Hunter and Rogue?
  • Changes to the Rules for dying and stat damage.
  • Removing the spell extending stuff, reexamining counter spell?  Not sure anyone is using these, we still haven't used them in the play test.
  • I thought about adding in 7th level spells, but until I play a higher level game I'm not sure if it's appropriate and which spells would be best - by that time in a campaign the GM might be better off making up their own higher level spell lists anyway.
  • anything else?  
Usually while doing one of these I come up with some ideas or streamlining.  I expect this time will be no different.  I really wanted to have something out by November but I'll have to see.