Friday, January 27, 2012

Giant fightin plugin

Suddenly, from the bushes springs... a giant plug!
This fellow Christopher Wood posted D20 compatible rules for fighting giant creatures!  He's totally right too, you can't just whack away at huge things, you need to scale up their hides and stab them in the goodies.  You see this all the time in movies but rarely do you see it in RPG play.  If a monster has HP and AC then you can go toe to toe.  Well that makes no sense.  I will sooo be using these rules when I'm running Beacon games and because it's all based on AC/DC you can too.  There's no pain involved, you can just plug them right into your Beacon combats and go.  Awesome sauce.  Thanks Christopher.

Marauders of Ig: Can You Catch Him with a Fishhook?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Beacon: what's in it for you?

I've been posting for a year and a half on this blog and discussing ideas for changes and rules tweaks, thoughts on draft releases and playtest session reports.  I've tried to stick to Beacon as a design topic but I have posted on other topics because things can't exist in a vacuum and a lot of time some idea from a movie or a book will influence game design.  I've noticed a couple traffic spikes when I announced a rules update or mentioned Laser Ponies or some other topic that drew some interest.  Today I was reading a couple blogs and realizing just how hard it is to get a sense of an overall topic in the blog 'rolling posts' format.  Do people coming here read a post and attribute it to Beacon or to gaming in general or to d20?  Do they know what I'm trying to do here?  I do have an 'About' page, but unless you go back to the beginning of the blog and read you might not get a sense of what Beacon is about.  I thought it might be a good idea to make a newer post talking about why someone might want to try out Beacon as opposed to other great games.

So why should you play Beacon?

System specific answer:
Pathfinder/3e:  If you like Pathfinder or 3rd edition D&D but find them a bit heavy with feats and situational rules or if you want something closer to old school D&D but with familiar D20 mechanics then try Beacon.
Microlite:  If you like Microlite but want a bit more class progression and/or more customized content folded into it then try Beacon.
OD&D:  If you like OD&D (or clones like Labyrinth Lord, Castles and Crusades or Swords and Wizardry) but want your characters to start out a bit meatier or would like to try point based spell mechanics then try Beacon.
Gurps Fantasy/Rolemaster/BRP/Palladium/etc.:  If you want to try some d20, maybe run one of the old d&d modules you picked up but never re-statted for your system then try Beacon.  It should be pretty quick to get up and running.
Legend of the Five Rings:  If you want something diverting to play during Winter Court or on the wall between combat drilling and Oni attacks, or if you want to recreate historic tales of the Unicorn clan then try Beacon.
Traveller/Star Frontiers/Star Wars:  Well you're probably not even reading this, or if you are then the sci-fi One Page Dungeon you are looking for is here.
Horror:  Oh my God what's that scratching in the closet!?!
Bullet list answer:
  • Beacon is a d20 system, it is pretty much out of the box compatible with other d20 materials and pretty compatible with materials for older versions of d&d (with minor conversion).
  • Beacon has races and classes tied into a simple skill system. Player creation is fast and simple so new players can grasp it very quickly
  • Players can direct their character progression.  The leveling system includes skill point assignment for players to choose how their characters evolve. 
  • Beacon is rules light and narrative driven.  There are rules here for resolving actions with the focus on how you describe the actions.
  • Combat is simple but still somewhat tactical.  Group initiative streamlines play.  Combat rounds consist of two phases, missile and melee, and movement can happen in both.  Spells must be prepared and can be interrupted.  There are simple modifiers for terrain.  Minis or tokens can be used but are certainly not required.
  • Hit points measure fatigue and physical damage is reflected by stats.
  • Spells are more common, magic items less so.  Magic is draining.  There are no daily use limits, however casting spells uses HP which cannot be healed magically.
  • Monsters are simple to stat up and run, you really just need to remember their hit dice and any really special abilities.  No need to remember an creature's claw vs bite damage, its all derived from HD so pile them on.
  • Your mom wants you to try it.  Seriously, she just called me.

Friday, January 13, 2012

again with the Hit Points

I have more to say about starting Hit Points.  In my recent foray into Labyrinth Lord I rolled up a fighter with 4 HP.  I was mildly disappointed with the roll for a second, but then I realized that I wasn't unhappy about it at all.   I had no expectation that this character would live though his first adventure as even a single dagger blow could kill him.  Instead of feeling like I had bad luck rolling up my character, I felt tense and edgy imagining all the ways this poor bastard could bite it.  I felt good.  It was interesting putting on his shoes and feeling afraid of the world.  Paradoxically he felt alive.

The thrill of playing Beacon!
He did bite it, and in the first round of the first combat actually.  Poor Marlin Densburg - son of accountants, dusty traveler - got bitten by a giant spider and failed his save vs poison.  He did however manage to slay the spider with a mighty blow before he died. Ironically he still had 3 HP left when he expired clutching at his rapidly swelling neck, so this has no bearing on starting Hit Points at all really.  Quickly the other players gathered up his possessions and Marlin's hireling became my new character and joined in trading his morning star for Marlin's grandpa's two handed sword. Life goes on, and pragmatically these adventurers remembered their comrade, gathered everything useful to them, and knew they could be dead next time.  It was fun.  I felt good about it and I want some of that same feeling to built in the Beacon game.

Now Beacon uses STR + 1d6/level for player Hit Points and I really don't want to change the rules so that you don't roll at first level because I don't like unnecessary exceptions, they cause confusion.  I also don't think it's wise to remove the STR component from starting HP because the way magic works.  I'm not looking to make casters pass-out after casting one spell.  I can however do something like start players with half their STR + 1d6.  I could even phrase the rule to make this an option, something like - "for more thrilling games the GM should start players with half STR + 1d6".  I think this will make First Level a bit more dangerous a place and that's a good thing in my mind.

Why do this at all?  I mean this can be left up to the GM anyway so why mess with the rules?  Well I think that it's always easier to boost starting players than it is to nerf them.  Starting the players out at say, level 3 is always a good compromise if you want them to be less likely to die.  Also yes changing the rules and all that is practically expected but this comes back to previous discussions about things like silver vs gold standard and divine rituals - people have the choice of playing many types of games so the Beacon rules should represent some specific game feelings as opposed to catering to the middle ground.  Anyone playing Beacon instead of Pathfinder is going to be capable of tweaking things to their satisfaction in any case.

As for saves vs death, well I'm not as sure about that.  There are no 'death saves' in the rules per/se but certainly you can take enough damage by failing a resist roll to die. I am of two minds on this because I can see a place for deadly things that no amount of HP is going to mitigate but on the other hand, these things tend to either get watered down or abused.  I think I need to think on that some more.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Google Plus

I've wanted to run a Beacon game on Google+ since they announced the hangout feature* but it hasn't happened yet.  I am however going to be playing in my first Google+ game tonight using the lovely Labyrinth Lord rules. It's a Constantcon game and follows the Flailsnails conventions and all that so it will be a good introduction to that community for me. I have to say I enjoyed rolling up the character** and am excited to play, especially since I never ever actually played original D&D. I actually cut my teeth on AD&D even though my first adventure was Keep on the Borderlands.  I figured it would be a good thing to play a few games this way before running one, especially to see how things like character sheets were done.  I can handle having players roll their dice and have no issues about trust in that respect, however character sheets and item management seemed to me to be the really sticky point. 

The GM of the game I'm going to be playing in suggested a site called along with Google Docs and some other thing I can't recall at the moment, and so I went to the site and was happy to use that service.  It works good, and if it's a bit spartan - well it's clean and free so no complaints from me.  It looks to support multiple games and even has a free form sheet.  It looks to be a suitable solution for G+ and maybe even for regular meat games.  I do worry that it's web only however since I would like the option of playing a game in a spooky shack in the Carpathian mountains, or when the power goes out.  I did want to know what other similar services were out there for managing character sheets, especially for the tablet platform.

I'm going to look into this more because I'd like to have character sheets on my iPad and preferably be able to store multiple characters from multiple games and port them between the Applesphere and desktops or even a hypothetical fancy Android tablet (the Toshiba Excite x10 one looks nice!).  My regular gaming group is starting an L5R campaign and the GM is a real Apple fellow so we have a website/app for the campaign and I really want to electrify my character sheet and do everything but dice rolling on the tablet.  There's no reason why this can't be done these days, even to the extent of having many fields on the sheet flowing back to the GM's dashboard.  I can dream of a day when I have Beacon character sheets, indexed rules and various quick roll tables all packed into one nice little tablet app.

Also speaking of Google+, I did make a Beacon page on there as a ambassador of this blog and a way to co-ordinate activities should I get a game going.  Don't bother checking it out now however since nothing is going on there yet.

* Actually I've wanted to try to run an online game since I found RogerWilco VoIP software back in 1998, but G+ multi-person video was the sauce on the goose.

**I made my daughter validate my rolls 3d6 in order.  I got a Fighter. He could have been a dwarf with his 14 STR but I wanted to go with a two handed sword though.  He has 4hp. I've certainly been thinking of the differences between this and my last post about starting HP.  She also suggested the name: Marlin Densburg - kids are fun.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

for beginning GMs

I didn't get a chance to play much Beacon over the holidays, although I did get in some Battlefield 3 and managed to play through ICO on my PS3.  ICO was great by the way, well worth checking out and as a bonus on the same disc you get Shadow of the Colossus which looks great too (you climb up giant monsters and stab them - how sweet is that?!).  During the holidays, one of my daughter's friends came over and they asked me to pull out a book and some character sheets for them to play a game.  So, although no Beacon got played there was RPG in the house -  by popular demand we played Laser Ponies. 

It was a while back when I heard about Laser Ponies and I grabbed a copy from RPGNow because it was a cheap PDF and it was funny.  I thought maybe my girls would enjoy playing it as an silly offset to more serious games.  I ran them through an adventure and they had a great time, my daughter even ran a short game back in July, but soon we were back to playing Beacon.  I thought it was all a lark but didn't think much of it and I didn't hear much about it from them for a while afterwards so I assumed they were done with it.  So I was mildly surprised that they asked to play this specifically, I tried to offer them a game of Beacon but they politely declined*.  I got out the Laser Pony books and started them on a sweet little rescue quest and we played a bit for an hour or so until we had to do something else.

The thing was, they weren't done with it. The girls decided they didn't need me to play Laser Ponies, they could run it themselves.  So they did, they continued playing most of that afternoon.  Wow, I thought this was great!  And it's even greater because this morning my 10 year old daughter asked me for more character sheets because they were going to a sleep over and the girls had decided to roll up characters for their friends.  RPG sleepovers!  Oh yeah!  Man I used to love RPG sleepovers when I was kid - that's when the rubber hit the road for us back in the day.  Many a brave warrior slew mighty dragon over a bowl of chips in those days.  My daughter had maybe three questions about QAGS, the system that Laser Ponies is based on, but mostly she's going to wing it, and she didn't seem too concerned about having to make up things on the fly.  I showed her the D&D and Savage World books and talked about the different game genres like fantasy or super heroes or space opera and she pretended to be interested, but then she said that they could do all that stuff in Laser Ponies if they wanted to.

I assumed that kids starting out playing would need to know a lot about rules and charts and how to build characters and generate stories, but you know what - they don't.  They are better at making up characters and stories than most adults are, and once they cotton to the idea of using a random element like a dice roll to resolve actions - they pile a lot of mileage on the concept.  I'm sure their first games will be as terrible and railroady and broken as my first games were, but I think they will have fun learning to play.   I do not know if this would be the case if I dropped the 4e or the pathfinder box set in their laps.  I did eavesdrop on some of their holiday game, and I heard one of them ask if she could trade in some of her Yum Yums for a new power.  I didn't hear the answer my daughter gave, but I didn't need to either.  There is no wrong answer.

I have to say if you are looking for a good simple game for fantasy RPG you might want to consider Beacon, but really for beginning GMs I think that Laser Ponies is just about perfect.

*Fathers might recognize that particular raised eyebrow look that indicates this.