Friday, September 3, 2021

Summer Update

I'm not positng much but I am running games and am still working on the 7.5 version of the Beacon rules and feel like I'm in the home stretch.  I've felt that before though and soon found out some big issue that needed to be sorted out.  So hopefully I'm in some kind of stretch anyway. The players in my weekly game are at level 7 and starting to use 4th level spells and also needing more complicated monsters and situations to keep things interesting.  The longer we play, the more the rules get tested so its been a much more productive process than I had in the past when I was running short one offs or just thinking about the game.

I'm mostly working on fixing the spells from levels 4-6, some of which I haven't touched since I originally put them in the book.  I did clean up the level 1-3 spells quite a bit, but the have not really worked over the higher level ones.  Some of these spells are not worth the casting cost, others are overpowered.   There are even references to systems and terms that don't exist in the game any longer.  I have decided that I want to do more to 'fix' or pin the spell effects and get rid of effects that get bigger based on caster level.  This is all to make it easier to understand the cost/value when you make the change from slot based to point based magic.  Slot based magic you can have powerful spells limited by per day use or just toss out some special effect as a novelty, but hit point based casting needs to be more balanced vs the cost in player survivability.   If you can cast fireball for 7 points a pop, it does not need to scale with your level, the scaling comes with the additional hit points you get.

The rate of character advancement seems very on point to me and the characters in the weekly game have gone from level 1 to level 7 in about a year of playing, although I am starting to see some issues with the amount of treasure they are accumulating and how much they can spend on equipment and leveling up.  I really need to add more big ticket items to the game since once you have plate mail or a couple hundred gold for transcribing spells there is little else to spend on except leveling up.  Beacon XP requirements to level are pretty simple line plots compared to the class based tables of BX/OSE or the sliding tiers of 5th edition.

My original thought on was two fold; to keep the formula dead simple so you always knew what was needed for the next level, and every level should take a little bit longer to get to than the last one.  I think that gives things a certain gravity and lets players get used to each step up in the game.  I am not sure the effort should be doubling,  but certainly a few more adventures than the last time.  I don't think this is happening even factoring in each level is 1000XP more than the last, its a pretty shallow rise.  Also it seems that by spending treasure and carrying over treasure from the last level, players are leveling up at a constant pace, or even having the level up rate accelerate as they run out of things to spend silver on.  

I've also noticed that I have to be very careful about how much treasure I am giving out even though the amount is already very low compared to most D20 fantasy campaigns.  As an example, in an adventure that took three sessions, the party rescued a bunch of dwarves and were rewarded 10,000sp (split 6 ways) by the King, which would be a laughable amount of treasure in 5th edition or even OSE, even accounting for the comparatively higher value of silver and gold in Beacon.  It would be nice to have some more things to buy and mechanisms to handle players with more inspiring amounts of treasure without breaking the game economy.

One thought on this was instead of spending silver to buy XP, I could separate the level experience point and silver piece requirements so that players would need to have the required 1000XP/level to advance and also spend silver equal to 1000 x their current level.  This would would increase the leveling curve from a 1/2/3/4... to a 2/4/6/8... and it would also make sure players couldn't just buy a level with silver they had lying around.  I like the idea and especially having the PC collect enough coin to level up making it an even bigger deal.   Right now PCs will toss a few coins at their XP like an investment account, or use them to top up after an adventure.  If they had to save up the cash and then drop it all on their next level, then its more memorable.   Narratively it is as if the PC was training and carousing, researching and otherwise spending money on improving their adventuring life.  I also think that having it split this way it would let GMs have two levers to control the leveling speed instead of just one.  You can adjust treasure and encounters to suit the pace you want to keep.

Other than this I am still tinkering with the rogue sneak attacks and trying to sort out how to make combat have interesting choices while streaming the crap out of it where I can.  I don't think anyone is really missing the rolls for damage and the Cinematic Advantage works really well.  I would like to lean into the initiative system so that Rogues and Hunters leverage a maneuver roll for their special attacks.  I like the idea of Rogues using a d6 for sneak attack and having a one round cool down, the choice here when to use this and when to try for Cinematic Advantage seems interesting to me and, more balanced than either making them roll to hide or giving them additional damage every round.  I would like to give the Hunter an option to roll a d10 maneuver which would let them choose between aiming (for automatic advantage), or doing a double shot which would give them double the weapon damage (and use up ammo twice as fast).

I'll try to get all this in to a usable state soon and push out the update this fall.  I did notice that the 2020 Microlite omnibus still has the version 6 rules for Beacon which seem so clunky now compared to what's been changed this last year and a half.  It would be good to get to a point where I would be happy to get them to go with the newer one.

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