Thursday, December 15, 2011

Starting Hit Points

So I've been thinking on how the starting game goes in Beacon and how hard a time the characters have at first level when they come up on brigands or goblins or what have you.  All touchy freely campaign stuff, don't expect any solutions today.  

In classic D&D you generally have single digit HP and so do the monsters you generally face up to (as opposed to running away) and even a single goblin (or a house cat) is a pretty big threat.  In Beacon you have a huge boost compared to this initially, but because you only add 1d6 per level this levels off as you level up.   It all works out in the end, it's just some front loading.   I approve of the philosophy, even level 1 PCs should have a decent amount of HP so they can get into more fights and have less downtime resting or hiding from every passing house cat - this makes the adventure move at a brisk clip.  But sometimes I wonder if the characters have a bit too much HP to start.  Maybe a bit of humility is a good thing.

A character's average STR is going to be 8-9 and so the average starting HP is going to be in the 9-17 range.  A goblin has like 1-6 hp, and more importantly they do 2-7 damage in a hit.  What this means is that one goblin is a nuisance and a bunch is a threat.  I have no problem with that.  A human brigand has 2-16 hp and does 3-10 damage, much more a threat to the average starting character, but still slightly weaker.

I wonder if first level characters should just get STR = HP and not the initial +1d6 as well?  That isn't a large change overall but it would make the monsters considerably tougher at the first couple levels.  Goblins would still be weaker but those bandits would be pretty tough even one on one.  It would also drop the number of spells available to magic using classes by one or two, and that might be fun.  Then again it's an exception to a rule, so it's more complicated, and something that folks could easily house rule if they wanted a tougher start anyway.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Surprise Attack

I thought it would be a good thing to talk about the changes I made to beef up the rogue, specifically the surprise attack.  Here's the rule:
Once per combat engagement Rogues may attempt to perform a 'surprise attack' (usually subterfuge or survival+DEX, based on their description of the action). If this is successful, they may either add their Subterfuge skill to the damage of their initial attack or perform an additional attack with a ranged weapon.
So you are a Rogue and you are going to be in a fight - how does this work for you?  Surprise is not a sneak attack, it's no longer a backstab analogue to be used once per combat.  It means when you choose to engage someone in combat, you get a chance to pull some cool move out your ass and trip them up with it.  It might be throwing sand in their eyes and then stabbing them, it might be pulling a dagger out of your boot and flipping it into their face, it might be shouting 'Oh my god is that Flint Fireforge over there?".  It might even mean you slide into a shadow and backstab someone - or take two shots with your bow from the tree you were hiding in.  It's a very big bump in attack power for the Rogue because you can try it once per engagement - so if you are fighting a bunch of guards you might sneak up and dispatch one and then while your fellows are brawling dive under another and stab him in the goolies.  At low levels this attack is on par or better than what a fighter could do but I don't think it unbalances the two classes because you have to make an additional roll to pull off the move, and you only get to try it on the first attack.  Once you are engaged you go back to your regular attacks and can't just run off without being subject to a free attack.  I still think it's cool though, you are the hare to the fighter's tortoise.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Beacon fifth draft

Here is the fifth draft of Beacon.

In this update you will find a bunch of changes which I thought would improve the game after play testing the previous version with a small group of folks. I think the major highlights in this version are the combat split into missile and melee phases, and the changes to the non-magic using classes.

I hope to get long play out of this one and very much hope that I can promote these rule to the first real release version of Beacon if it manages to last through lots more scrutiny and play testing.

Please let me know how it works out for you.

Download the Beacon fifth draft PDF
Download the character sheet

Friday, December 2, 2011

miscellaneous design notes

I love it when the solution to things just fits together based on the infrastructure you have in place.  I'm just going through and tightening up the Beacon book, looking for punctuation, spelling, consistent nomenclature and such, and I'm finding little gaps in the rules which I'm plugging up.
Dr. Killenger faces off against Dr. Orpheus
One such gap was spell interruption due to combat.  Now that magic users can't just rip off a spell on their turn, but have to prepare their spells and then wait till the melee phase to cast them, the counterspell is actually usable and useful.  Such was the intent.  There is also now chance that they will get hit with an arrow or have their teeth bashed in before the spell is cast.  I was worried about how to rule this up and was thinking of saving throws and concentration checks but but then it all just made sense this is d20 - just increase the DC when they cast.  I figure a distraction should move the base DC from 10 to 15 (difficult) and an actual attack on the caster would raise it to 20 (hard), or even higher if there was lots of violence going on.  A mage impaled on a spear barely ripping off his teleport spell with some crazy roll comes to mind.  No need for any new stuff here - just the way I likes it.

I also specifically set the definition of a turn which is:
A turn is the amount of time it takes for the players and their opponents to complete a basic round of actions.  This is somewhere around 1 minute, however may be much quicker (in the heat of combat) or a little longer (picking your way through a dark cavern) depending on the situation.  It is certainly less than 10 minutes. 
I want to make it clear to everyone that it's around 1 minute, it's highly mutable, and it's less than 10 minutes.  I don't care how fast you can run in your backyard with a backpack full of pathfinder books.  Anyone at my table that says that six second combat turns are more realistic now gets rocks falling on their character.  All the spells now use this convention so that if they have durations based on turns it says turn (not min.) and units longer than a turn are stated in real time units like hours or days.  Anything less than 10 minutes however is quantum time as far as I'm concerned.

I did end up dropping the spell widening/lengthening rule.  It never saw play in the play test and I'm thinking it really would just make spells harder to balance with not much benefit.  Someone would figure out the edge cases here and game the system I'm sure.

I had written up a little bit on fast melee weapons which would apply to things like daggers and rapiers, and allow you to use them in the missile phase instead of the melee phase of combat.  It seemed like a cool thing on first blush to give some differentiation to the weapons and all that.  But, I started proofreading the rule explaining it, and  like most things that break across simple classifications like (melee and missile combat) it began to seem too messy so that's now gone.

Lets see, what else?  Oh I tweaked the default racial starting abilities to include some skills.  Elves for instance get Survival and Knowledge and +1 Charisma now as an example.  Dwarves get Fabrication.

I'm in the home stretch now, hoping to get this done by next week so The Bane can play it for Christmas.