Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ready weapon

I'm not one to complain when players automagically pull out a potion or other similar item from their backpack in the middle of a fight.  I don't want to make people describe how they stored their potion so it wouldn't break, how they reach around to their back while fending off goblins with their free hand or how they dig the item out of their backpack without unpacking the damn thing.  Its a game and this little fudge keeps things simple and really doesn't hurt the balance of things.  I do however want to make sure that weapons are not handled so automagically since that does impact some in game mechanics.  So In Beacon you have to ready a weapon before you can use it.  I'll let players ready a weapon in advance of combat if they are in a situation where it would be reasonable - like entering a dark cave, or when a wolf howls.  But I don't want players travelling down the forest path to have their weapons always at the ready for hours at a time.

Combat in Beacon is broken into two phases - the reason for this is I didn't like the more complicated major/minor/utility action breakdown of a combat round - and I also found the single action combat round to be too open to abuse.  You can read up on why I went with two phases here and here- the point is - I wanted a simple breakdown that had the fewest rules required to achieve a decent level of tactics.  I also wanted to make sure that characters dropping/breaking or switching their weapons in combat would be impacted, but not penalized so heavily that it would be a problem when this happened.  Breaking a weapon and grabbing a replacement needs to add tension and excitement to the combat narrative, but it shouldn't be punitive.

So, assuming you aren't surprised, a consequence of this is that the Missile phase of the first round of combat often has players readying their weapons.  This isn't a real problem for people using melee weapons because they will get to ready their weapon (and move) then attack in the upcoming melee phase.  However folks using ranged weapons are a bit S.O.L in this situation.  If you ready your crossbow you will miss firing it in the missile phase and have to wait out the melee phase.  Well you can move both phases (up to 120 feet/yards if you move in both phases) anyway to get out of the fray and line up a shot.  I don't have a problem with this either I'm certain dedicated bowmen will deal with this as part of their tactics - but I'm pretty sure it will discourage the more casual use of things like throwing daggers, darts and hand axes.

There are two ways to handle this that I can see.

one way to handle it
The first is to make a distinction between ranged weapons like bows and thrown melee weapons like daggers.  In this case I change the Missile Phase to Ranged Phase and indicate which weapons are Ranged.  I somewhat like this idea, but it does introduce the issue of missiles flying in all  the phases and I can see confusion arising from that.  I also can see another problem that if a party is surprised and miss out on the Ranged Phase they will still have to spend a phase readying daggers and darts and won't get to use them until next melee round.

The second, and I believe better, way to do this is to make some weapons available instantly.  No need to ready that dagger - just throw it.  This appeals to my sense of narrative because - hey there's a dagger in your throat - and it would give a good reason for characters to carry certain weapons for these situations.  It also fits with the idea of unarmed combat - there is no way to justify making players miss a round of melee because they didn't ready their fists.  Making the cestus (your basic steel belted or spiked mittens) available for attack without being readied* only makes sense, why not just extend this to daggers, darts, staves and spears** as well.

* when you are wearing them, and you better not try wearing them 24/7 and eating your dinner or hanging out at the bar with them on however.
**well if you are carrying them like a walking stick maybe?


  1. Hello Todd

    Firstly I want to thank you for Beacon. I have yet to actually play it - however from reading the PDF I think it's *elegant*. There are a few balance issues from my perspective but overall Bravo!

    I like the second method.

    Simply treat small thrown weapons as Ammo. No one has to ready an arrow. The readying is pulling and stringing the bow. Drawing an arrow from your quiver is assumed to be a practiced motion and therefor free. Treat daggers, hand-axes, darts, etc as "Ammo". This keeps them to the ranged phase and yet allows those characters who choose to play the flavor of character that uses these to be effective even under surprise.

    On the beacon character sheet there are a few "ammo" indicators that only have 5 boxes. I'll Simply have players list weapons that they have "conveniently worn" in these spots. This will limit the number of items that they can have ready (depending on GM discretion, item description, etc). The character needs to be able to move fluidly to perform these fast throws but they could still hold a large number of items across their person. Use bandoleers, boot sheaths, belts, quick release sheaths, and more to simply hold the items in a ready state.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Ha! I assumed it would put my name at the bottom using my google account.

      Cheers, Jerry

    2. Hi Jerry! Glad you like things. Elegant eh? I feel like the belle of the ball now!

      I also like the second method and I like your idea that instead of just dedicating weapon types to be always ready players should have to prepare these sort of items. It's funny that in an attempt to thwart players from pulling 'I'm a hero, just consider my claymore is always out and ready OK' it's come around to 'I have a couple daggers in quick release sheaths OK.' A hair of difference, but it does work because A - it's a different level of effort and B - where did they buy that equipment anyway? I bet it was expensive.