Thursday, September 27, 2012

Beacon busting out all over

While making some minor updates to the text I finally hit the limit as to what I can squeeze onto 42 pages and so the next cut of the Beacon book will have more.  Right now it's 44 pages because of the way I wanted to lay things out without making it unattractive by changing fonts or squeezing stuff in where it logically didn't belong.  A terrain effects in combat chart should be in the combat section and not tacked onto the blank half page in the Druid spell section.  There is now a bit of white space with the extra pages to move things around and that I can use to include some additional charts - I'm thinking of a skill point by class chart - something that you could figure out easily enough, but having a chart might make it easier.  I might even put a picture in somewhere.

I really do want to make the content fight for that real-estate however.  I'm going to draw a line in the sand right now to avoid ever going over 50 pages.  I'm not in the business to teach people how to role play or explain how a 4 sided die works.

And yes the title is just about the page count. I haven't heard any stories of someone busting out Beacon at a convention or on a G+ game - however I would LOVE to hear about it if it did happen.

And yes should have made a joke about giving it some Deep Thought.  But I didn't.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Welcome to Red Towers

After the last session which consisted mostly of preparation and travel, the gang was very happy arrive at Red Towers, a keep on the southern edge of the Westmarches.  Red Towers is the symbol and the vanity of the Arnulf family.  Arnulf is the assumed noble name and legacy of Otto the Fat, who was ceded the Westmarch territory by the King in 146 as reward for defeating the goblin army that was besieging the towns and territories to the south-west of the Soundlands.  Red Towers, named for it's striking red brick composition, has been in various phases of construction for the last 20 years and is a testament to the tenacity of the Arnulf family for it lies deep in the dangerous South and is surrounded by wild lands and swamp.

The gang arrived at the keep near dusk and were very surprised to meet up with an old friend, Brother Tim of Fox Hollow, upon their arrival.  They lodged at the Bell and Weasel inn just outside the walls and caught up with each other over the bad local beer.  Brother Tim had been treating the sick in Milham and had been asked by the Prior in Milham to come south with a contingent to ask the young Lord Erik (the current Baron's youngest son - now overseeing Red Towers) for an easement of the food levy for the fall.  Brother Tim in turn learned of the gang's adventures from the previous session, and once they all caught up they agreed it was time to retire and prepare to go treasure seeking in the morning.  Henril had to have his armour repaired due to a critical hit he took in the previous session (estimated the cost at 10% of original price per AC point damaged) and it was good to see that this mechanic working to drive the narrative along.  Armour that need to be maintained serves two functions - it uses up player resources and it adds to the verisimilitude and drama of the story to have these little concerns to take care of.  I wouldn't want to have to track weapon and armour status to make this work, so having weapon and armour damage as a by-product of the critical hit system seems like a good solution.  Henril decided to also get some 'ornamental' epaulette spikes added to his chain mail and took much pride in this enhancement throughout the session.

The party then left town and travelled to the cave under the old monastery.  They explored the cave and slew a number of giant rats before finding a staircase leading downward.  They went down and found another cave with rats, some dead rats and evidence of something that was preying on the rats.  During their investigation of the rat cave, brother Tim was attacked from behind by a gaunt humanoid in old rotted finery and was paralysed by its touch.  At the same time the cornered rats attacked, however the party managed to fight them off and kill the strange man-thing.  Kane the mage took a page from the adventurers guidebook and made sure to loot the corpse, finding some rare jewellery and a gold key on the body.  The party continued on and came upon another descending stairway carved into the rock.  At the bottom of the stairs they were injured by rocks falling from the weakened roof and then further injured by a handful of skeletons in the room beyond.  They managed to defeat the skeletons but Brother Tim severely damaged his hand and so the party decided to return to the keep and recover.

After a 5 day hiatus in which time the party had their loot apprised and XP awarded for their previous exploits, and the helpful local priestess had tended to Brother Tim's hand, they were eager to return to the 'dungeon'.  They journeyed back and managed to avoid any encounters as they made their way back to the place where they had fought the skeletons.  Deciding that deeper was better they went down another staircase and came upon a series of thick wooden doors all scratched on on one side - obvious indications of some fell beast.  They entered one room that turned out to be a trapped chamber and were almost overcome with a noxious gas before Ann the rogue managed to bypass the door mechanism.  Further along the same hallway, Kane's hired man Klypt* was busy chopping open a locked door, when they caught sight of a terrible black beast.  They quickly readied themselves and charged it as it launched terrible spikes at them from it's tail.  The fight was short but satisfying and they managed to dispatched the beast - Henril chopping off it's head to take back to the keep.

Klypt the hired man finished chopping out the door lock of the room and inside spied a number of goblins all barricaded in and shouting in terror - so he charged them - taking a chest full of crossbow bolts.  The goblins were dispatched but the party was in bad shape and decided to return to the keep.  On their way back they heard the sound of a second black beast coming behind them and they decided to run for it.  The beast took chase and launched it's tail spikes.  Ann was hit, falling unconscious in the passage.  Quickly Klypt grabbed her up and they ran as fast as they could back to the stairs and upwards.  They fled through the passages, chased by the beast, however they were lucky not to encounter any resistance. When they reached the entrance Henril slew their waiting mule and tossed it's body into the stairwell to throw the creature off their trail.  They fled back to the keep, manually pulling their unconscious companion behind in the wagon.

On their arrival in the mid afternoon, the local children spied them returning and saw the monster head and the signs of combat on their clothing.  By the time they reached the keep there was a full gathering of guards and farmers awaiting and even the young Lord himself had come to meet them.  Everyone was amazed by their story and the Lord complimented them on their bravery and paid them a bounty for killing a Manticore, a dangerous and fell beast.  The Lord's personal priest was asked to revive their fallen companion so she could give her account of the tale.  And so they were encouraged to tell and retell their tale of heroism that evening to the locals as they were feted and plied with beer - and on the whole seemed very pleased with themselves.

*I'm going to say Klypt is his name but the rest of the party was always calling him derogatory names like 'yon lackwit'  based on his low MIND score, so I'm not sure what it really was.  I'll revise it when I get another look at his character sheet.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I like playing Beacon

Beacon of Progress
The Beacon of Progress
The title isn't a plug or ironic.  I'm really starting to think these rules are working for me as a GM.  You might be thinking 'well duh' - but to me this satisfaction was not a forgone conclusion.  I have messed up games in the past - either the rules couldn't support the system and things started to fall apart or I found things going in a direction that worked - but I didn't enjoy anymore.  Or they just got put down and never picked up again.  Happily none of that has happened this time.

The last game session was probably the best we've had with Beacon, or if not the best game session, at least the best in terms of my satisfaction with the rules.  I didn't have to house rule anything (that I can recall in any case) and the rules seem to be working out.  I am very happy with the HP numbers now as opposed to last year and combats seem to be much more level appropriate now.  Or at least more in accordance with the various Old School adventure source material that I'm using in my games - I can't speak for newer Pathfinder or D&D level expectations.  Before the revision, a party of 5 second level characters would pretty much wade through gangs of 5-6 goblins and have no problem with something like a pair of giant scorpions.  Now that same party will go toe to toe with 5 goblins and still expect to prevail, but not without a decent chance of having a player knocked out.  They also still have enough firepower to take down a larger monster, but since they no longer carry around 4d6 HP at first level, will more likely to actually notice if they take a couple hits from something doing d8 or d10 damage.  This last session 5-6 giant rats were a legitimate threat and there were a couple characters knocked into 0 HP after facing down 4 goblins and manticore (not in the same encounter).

Physical damage and the critical hit table are all working well.  Tim the Cleric rolled an exciting '3' on the combat fumble table and wound up with -4 DEX and a smashed hand that took 10 days to heal (well 5 once he ponied up for clerical health care).  This ability for players to recover after a short rest from fatigue but still incorporate more serious injury into the game works for me.  The two phase combat seems to be working and combat is still nice and fast, but there are interesting things happening with spell interruption and movement.  I haven't seen a lot of player use of this for tatics yet, but I had goblins use missile phase to deal some decent damage on charging players where before they would have just been slaughtered if they lost initiative.

I am also pretty happy with the spell reworking, especially to Cure Light Wounds and Magic Missile.  Since those spells cost  3 HP to cast in Beacon, I had to change the point value for their damage so casters didn't get screwed with a bad roll, and I think I have got it right now.  Kane the mage has had a fantastic run of finishing off monsters with a well placed Magic Missile, much to the annoyance of the two fighters in the party.  Again the overall drop in HP probably impacts the magic using classes the most but they seem to be within the expected power level for a d20 caster (at least based on the OSR adventures I'm referencing and Beacon monster stats).  As I said before spell interruption during combat seems good, at least three occasions in the last two games had spell casters get hit and have their DC for casting bumped from 11 to a 16 and it was a simple and interesting interaction.

The change to the Rogue surprise attack was well received and certainly worked much more smoothly than before.  Rolling 2d20 at once is certainly faster and even if the subterfuge skill doesn't factor into the chance to hit, it does factor into melee damage so I can live with it.  I'll have to watch that one over the long term to see how it holds up.  TSo far the amount of XP seems good for the speed I like to see players gain levels, and now that they are getting a little buffer of cash they seem more eager to spend it on advancement as well.  I want to see how that scales as we get into the middle levels game.

In fact it it's waaaay to early to announce that I'm satisfied with Beacon.  The special combat rules like polearms, duel weilding, and unarmed combat rules we don't use nearly enough yet to be considered tested. No one has actually chosen to take stat damage over HP damage yet. There's still a lot of higher level spells that we haven't used in game - probably some of those need tweaking.  And seeing how the XP system holds up over the long haul- still have to monitor that.  Class skills balance out ok at level 10?  Do the bigger monsters still hold their own with the HD for damage system?  So many things still untested.  I haven't even had a chance to try it from the players seat. 

But so far it's a hoot.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Wild Shall Wild Remain!

It was over two and a half years ago I decided that I should stop doodling and jotting rules down in a notebook and start actually composing my own PDF d20 game.  I liked the things I was reading on the game blogs and it seemed that the technology was all in place for weirdo RPGers from all over to create and share their visions.  It was a lot more work than I thought it would be to actually write and lay out Beacon.  It was also a fantastic experience getting it out onto the screen.  I don't have an actual inception date but today is the date I started this blog and so it will do as the Beacon birthday.  Thanks for hanging around these last two years Its been great getting your comments and and hope to see more in the years to come.

It's also the last day for Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot kickstarter which is kind of funny because ol' Flaming carrot was the profile icon I used for the account when I started blogging.  The Flaming Carrot is a modern day Quixote and for me and he's personified the spirit of someone who would take the time to write and blog about a Fantasy Heartbreaker.  He's undoubtedly insane but he is also someone you want to hang around with.  And he has a baloney gun.   If you aren't familiar with Flaming Carrot you owe it to yourself to drop the 15 bucks for a digital version of this comic.

*I wanted to add a note here that this kickstarter was great, I got all my stuff really fast including the signed Mysterymen graphic novel and a bunch of little Gumby cards and bookmark thingies freebies in the mail.  Solid job Mr. Burden.  Kudos also for offering the digital comic in so many formats and without any creepy DRM or stuff.  You can also buy FC stuff at

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


I'd like to keep this blog mainly for discussion about Beacon and all it's wonderfulness, however I do have other interests which may or may not intersect with Beacon or game design in general.  I recently ran a game of Chris Perrin's MECHA RPG and I have a lot to say about that.  I'm going to be doing some posts about that on my other Blog but I thought that some of you folks might be interested.

So you can read about my experiences with MECHA here: (links to all 5 episode breakdowns)