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.


  1. It was a good session for sure. Too Tim smashed his hand in that terrible fumble so early... must have been those long weeks playing nursemaid to the sick.

    Now that I'm playing a spell caster, I'm having to get used to the whole spend hit points for casting thing. You almost want to call them something else, like action points, get rid of the idea that they're associated with damage. They're a device to keep you in combat longer.

    1. Ah but remember HP are *not* associated with damage in Beacon. HP are always counting fatigue which you use to avoid damage and you can actually choose to take damage (measured in stat points) instead of HP when you get hit.

  2. Yep, that's my point - "Hit" points makes them sound associated to damage. Action points? Fatigue points? Power points? Capacity points? Yeah, all those names suck, but you know what I mean.