The new version of the Roll20 character sheet is up, I pushed the code to github and thought it might take a couple weeks but they pushed it right away and so I haven't had a lot of time to write up a good blog post on the subject. My idea to publish something on the Beacon Blog weekly is not going to happen and although I am hoping to meet a monthly schedule, honestly I'm pretty happy with the pace of the playtesting and the recent changes to the sheet. No reason to complain about that.
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
Monday, March 1, 2021
I've been thinking of some updates to the Roll20 character sheet and finally got my butt in gear to make the changes. A big part of this Beacon renaissance I've embarked upon is to make Beacon very friendly for online play over Roll20 (for now) and I want to leverage the online sheets for tracking anything a player might want to track for their character. The new character sheets have been a great facilitator to play so far and so I'm trying to build on that success. I spend some time cleaning things up and refactoring some of the code from the last couple updates. I made the labels bigger in general and tried to clean up any bugs. I fixed an issue with level 5 spells not expanding properly and also updated the AC bonus on chainmail. I did update the page section headers to make them more colourful as well as apply a similar colour scheme to the repeating item buttons.
I wanted to make it simple and leverage the spellbook idea of tucking away the details when not needed. I inherited some pretty good examples for this code from the original sheet designers so it was pretty simple to add it in. I originally tried to fit this onto the Inventory page but after seeing how busy that section was getting I added it to the Combat tab. Hopefully there is enough meat in this section to handle anything a player might want to track about a hireling or their pet owlbear.
Now players have a handy list of their companions and can track their HP and check the box off when they get killed by a norker right on the sheet, but if you click the notes button there is plenty of room for all sorts of inventory and comments. It will even track how much you owe them.While doing this I liked having two smaller text boxes instead of the one large textbox the spell section used, so I also updated the spellbook section to split descriptions and notes into two text boxes.
For backwards compatibility I had to leave the old inventory sections at the bottom. I would hate to roll out an updated sheet and have Beacon players in the wild loose their items! These sections are at the bottom of the sheet and don't really take up much room though. I'm still testing these changes but I think its pretty good chance that this will be pushed up soon.
Monday, February 1, 2021
Last year I resolved to take Beacon out and polish it up a bit. I think I managed to do that and I'm pretty happy with what I managed to get done. Initially I was hoping to fix some outstanding things and build the game out a bit for online play. Over the year I ran two playtesting groups through numerous wilderness and dungeon crawls taking them from level 1 up to around level 4. I took some notes and get player feedback on what they did and didn't like. I wound up making a lot more changes than I expected but I think that these changes were pretty good and took the game up a notch. With the direction I got from this experiment I have a better idea of what works and what does not and for 2021 I want to double down on this direction and really polish the game up. I'm still running games weekly and I even added a new biweekly group for a short term playtest and I'm hoping to get even more feedback.
There are still a lot of things to do and the main groups are now coming into the middle levels 5-8 which will expose more issues and illuminate more interesting designs to keep play fast and fun. I got pretty busy at the tail end of 2020 and wasn't able to keep the blog up to date or push out many rules updates in the last couple months. I do want to keep track of how the design has evolved, so here is a brief synopsis of the some of the things I figured out from the 2020 playtesting:
Character death and HP economy:
There were some character deaths but not a large number. Initially there was a problem where using STR points to soak damage and low level players had way too much tanking ability - even more than 5e. This skewed the game difficulty way down. This was solved by taking out that option and adding condition penalties for loosing too many STR points in one shot. PCs still have a bigger life buffer than in systems like OSE or Labyrinth Lord but its now more comparable with 5th edition if you consider that systems taking HD and the death saves. Moving caster emergency spending away from STR and into their primary Stat also cleaned that up a bit. The feedback I got on this topic was that players liked the way STR damage became the resource governing how long they could continue exploring.
Players most always don't like the HP spend to cast spells even when its pointed out that Beacon casters get more HP to start and spell use is more available at lower levels than in most OSR systems (not even going to argue about 5th edition's overpowered cantrips). One of the big positive changes to spells was adding way more skill influence to spell effects and beefing up many spells that work under a Vancian magic system but not when using spell points. I also removed HP loss when a spell fails (except for fumbles) which I think helped balance things a lot more. Players requested I lower the cost of transcribing spells from 50gp to 10gp and that seems to have been good move, incentivizing that activity. Spell casters generally seem to play very conservative on casting and I do want to keep that feeling of magic being risky, although I also want them to take on the additional risk when its warranted. I believe originally there was a big double dip effect where casters would feel it too risky to burn STR points for emergency spell casting but changing this to use the casters primary Stat I think solves this problem. Hopefully this bears out, but the players really haven't used this option yet, possibly since so few are playing spell casters. Aside from this I'm interested in watching and fixing the middle level game for spell casters. I have a number of players playing clerics but I think I need more play testing of spell casters, especially at these higher levels.
This is never popular but having players truck 3 suits of armor, 5 swords, 30 days of rations and 15 flasks of oil into the field really does make the game suffer. In exploration games you need to have resource management to force players to problem solve, take risks and interact with the environment. I put in a simple tally system to track items and it was not popular even with players who agreed it was desirable. I think some players are coming around but I need to fine tune this, likely by increasing the base carry amount slightly and adding better tools in the character sheet. I want to expand the inventory page so that players can label and equip containers and note the weight of items in the containers. I don't want to totally automate it because it would be near impossible, but I can facilitate it better.
Hirelings, pets and companions:
Using modules and adventures:
Note to my play-testers: here be spoilers.
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Creating a Character:
- Roll and total 3 six sided dice to determine your character's Strength (STR)
- Strength is important as it effects how much damage you can withstand and gives bonuses for melee combat.
- Roll and total 3 six sided dice to determine your character's Dexterity (DEX)
- Dexterity is important as it can make you harder to hit and gives bonuses for missile attacks and challenges requiring accuracy.
- Roll and total 3 six sided dice to determine your character's Mind (MIND)
- Mind is important as it is the gives bonuses for arcane magic and intellectual challenges.
- Roll and total 3 six sided dice to determine your character's Charisma (CHA)
- Charisma is important as it gives bonuses for divine magic and personality challenges.
- Fighters do well with high STR as they will be able to take and deal more damage.
- Rogues do well with good DEX score as it is compliments their combat ability and is useful for many skill challenges.
- Hunters do well with high DEX as it compliments their special combat abilities.
- Mages and Enchanters do well with a good MIND skill.
- Clerics and Druids do well with higher CHA.
- Physical skill helps with physical challenges like jumping or climbing. This skill also determined if you can use heavier weapons and armours. Good for fighters, clerics and hunters.
- Subterfuge skill helps with being sneaky, tricky and things like hiding. Rogues and other sneaky people.
- Knowledge skill helps with research, lore, and similar challenges. It's also very useful for reading scrolls and impacts many spells. Important for mages and enchanters but also good for rogues.
- Communication skill helps with understanding or persuading challenges. This skill impacts managing your hirelings or companions. Clerics and druids leverage this but it is helpful for others too.
- Survival skills are things like tracking, finding resources etc. The hunter, druid and the rogue benefit most from this skill.
- Crafting skills are used to assess, repair or build things. Higher crafting allows for repairing heavier armour and weapons. Fighters, mages and rogues will find this useful.
play mode (tabbed)
Creating higher level characters:
Sunday, November 29, 2020
I just pushed up version 7.4 of the Beacon rules. A lot of changes to the layout this time. Druids are divine again. I'll post more on the specific changes soon as I think there are some interesting design choices in this one. Items in RED text are suspect and the stuff in PURPLE is the new bits.
Grab it here.
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Still running twice weekly games and having a good time. Roll20 is working well for this kind of campaign and the sheets are working as is keeping various maps in play for overland travel, dungeon exploration and managing handouts.
In the playtest some players are starting to hit level 4 as they explore and fight their way across the wilds. I think that the rate of advancement is about perfect, combats are averaging about 3-4 encounters and around 250-300XP per six player session and they are spending a good amount of treasure to top up to next level when they return to town. It will be interesting to see how this shapes up as they hit the mid levels 5-7 and see if it still seems to track.
The overland map is expanding outward as they explore and looks like this now:
|The northern wilds|
Using the VTT features in roll20 is great although I wish I could use a tablet or something to do the live drawing part since using a mouse with their tools is very obtuse. The players are able to add annotations to the maps and I am using copy/paste to lay out the terrain icons which works well. In Roll20 the DM needs to manage the map I think although I would love if the players did take on more mapping and notetaking.
I'm currently working on the 7.4 rule update which is a bunch of minor tweaks and fixes more than any big changes. Still slowly updating the spell descriptions to make them more skill facing and still working on more challenging monsters. One player bought a bunch of war dogs and we quickly realized that adding 2HD for trained animals was too much, so that buff got scaled back to 1HD.
I'm tightening up the language around combat round actions a bit, each round you get an attack action and a maneuver or two maneuvers.
Attack actions are:
- weapon attacks;
- casting spells;
I specifically listed Aim as an attack action since PCs with multiple attacks could then use an attack to take aim if they wanted. I also called out the Defense action here which makes it more clear how that works to provide AC bonus.
Maneuver actions are:
- movement of various kinds;
- manipulating items;
- swapping gear;
- or other miscellaneous actions.
The assist action is new here and I see this as a replacement for things like flanking or other ways to give another player advantage and still leverage the initiative system. The way announcing actions and movement happens it is too hard for players to rely on combat positions for bonuses so having this action will mitigate that I hope. It also lets other players set up surprise attacks for rogues which would let them act sooner in the round than if they had to set themselves up. These are not really changes so much as clarifications to existing mechanics and hopefully its all a lot more clear for those reading the rules now.
I also formalized overland travel and rest around the 4 hour "watch" period, generally rolling for an encounter and giving a travel description for each 4 hour period. I standardized the journey encounter rolls to a d6 where 1 is an encounter on the relevant table and 6 is a 'character moment' where a PC will give some information about themselves either in a story or in interaction. I like that idea since it gives some sense of time and getting to know one another on overland treks. Players were kind of hesitant at first but since they know its coming up they are starting to warm to the idea and prepare things for it. I like it a lot, especially since its an exploration game and I am discouraging long backstories at character creation. I also added a petite rest because I noticed when they are resting players fall into the idea of first and second watch pretty quickly but it was a bit hard on PCs who only had minor wounds as they usually got tapped to keep watch. I decided to give PCs who only rest for 4 hours a small HP recovery equal to their level. I also want to make sure that PCs who didn't get at least 4 hours rest in a day would have disadvantage until they did.
No firm date on when I push this latest update out, but it will be soon.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
You might say why even tie HD to so many monster mechanics if your going to do something like this?
Well, the idea of basing all the mechanics off HD still simplifies a lot of things and for most monsters it works well. All we are doing here is breaking a mighty monster into easily manageable smaller parts. In fact the rules say monsters shouldn’t just be stat blocks and should be unique monster-y things and so mashing some simple monsters together into a big monster seems to fit that design philosophy.