Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How I play Beacon and stuff

Ya, I've been busy lately.

It's not a bad thing.  I owe you a short session writeup and will owe you another couple posts once I run the final game in this current campaign this week.  As for the rules, well they haven't changed in a while (which is a good thing - means they seem to be working OK for level 1-5 anyway) and I'm pretty much wrapping up the current campaign so our game group can move on to something else for a while.  We're going to try some FATE gaming, specifically Diaspora which looks great.  I expect I'll be writing some posts on that game from the player perspective - but likely on my other blog.  I'll get back to writing about Beacon eventually though - especially if I get any feedback from folks out there playing it (that's a hint by the way.)

I didn't include any magic item lists, information on secret societies or political charts and tables with the rules.  Those kind of things should be campaign specific in my opinion and although I have no  problem with books and supplements that write up items, places, wild effects or other stuff (I totally use that kind of material in my games!) I think it doesn't belong in the core rule book.  Anything that I do present here about the Kingdom of the New Men or Milham town and the surrounding areas as mentioned in my play test session reports would come out in a setting supplement way and not in the Beacon rule book.  I'll probably present more of that stuff here in the future, especially if I gear up for another campaign - possibly something on G+ in the new year.  I'm also sure that once I get more high level play testing in there will be the inevitable adjustments to the rules.  Someone will point out that a level 13 dwarf savant is this or that and I'll feel betrayed and sad, and then figure out a way to fix it.  So Beacon as it sits is pretty stable for now but - it's still a draft.

Anyway since I do think that different games work for different types of play I thought it a good idea to mention how I think Beacon works best, or at least how I play it.  I'm sure you can play it a lot differently than I do since it's d20 at it's heart - but knowing how I run it is probably good insight into why the rules came out like they did.

I have a map of a small country.  It's not really detailed, just enough so that when players decide to go somewhere or talk to someone there are town names or directions and are some people or places they will hear about.  NPCs need things to talk about after all.  I don't want to fill in every little village or cave with stuff ahead of time because I want enough room to drop in encounter locations or accommodate random content. I like to use one page dungeons or simple encounter hooks to flesh out things and let the players decide where to go.   I do use random encounters, especially when the PCs are travelling - but I use custom encounter tables and frequencies for each area so that location matters.  I can see someone doing a random generated hex crawl campaign or conversely someone doing a very detailed map with lots of locaitons and NPCs and I think that Beacon would work that way too, but all that is really up to the GM because there are no extra tools in the game for that.  Plug in your campaign tools - be they random encounter tables or story and social kits.

I play a low level and gritty game where the players grow into their story.  Mostly I let them drive and try to keep things moving around them.  I think it's important that the world breathes  - if there was a plague the players couldn't prevent or cure, then it's going to be a situation for a while, with the attendant famine, economics and political fallout.  Never will it be a condition of 'winning' to stop the plague - shit happens and what's interesting to me is how it gets dealt with.  Emergent story over plotted character arcs I guess that is.   I might make up some recurring villains but I really try to stay away from the Evil Overlord/Mad God kind of bad guys.  It's so tempting to do, but I think that you can only get off one or two good save the world stories in a campaign world, so save those guys for special occasions.  It's gritty because a gang of goblins should be problematic and even mid level play should be about getting treasure to buy stuff and counting your arrows - not running a kingdom or wizard guild.  I see a Beacon game topping out at the old retire to the fortress you carved out of the wilderness - not at kill all the elder gods. If you want a more heroic fantasy it's probably not hard to do with Beacon and a few supplemental products but it would certainly be easier to do in D&D proper.  If you want a crazy gonzo game then you will probably find better materials elsewhere as well, DCC springs to mind here.  However if you like the streamlined presentation of Beacon and want to pad it up for those types of games then I say go for it - and then tell me about it.