Archive | April, 2012

Beacon of Hope –for Game Chef 2012

15 Apr

Beacon of Hope


Navaho myth says that this world we live in is the Third World, and that when it, like the two before, passes away, the Chosen people will travel to the fourth world through a mystical gate in the sky.   It is December of 2012, and the Mayan calendar will shortly click over to zero. The ending of the Third World is at hand.   Dreams and portents have depicted a lantern shining the way to salvation, and so a great lighthouse has been built in the Painted Desert.  The Tribal Elders and Medicine Singers know that it is both a call to the chosen to gather, and a prayer to the Great Spirit to open the door.   Many have gathered here at the base of the Lighthouse, this shining Beacon of Hope.

However, it is Trickster Coyote’s job to be sure that the chosen are truly worthy of the fourth world, and Coyote is not convinced.  He has sabotaged the beacon.  Grandmother Spider has chosen you and a handful of others out of the gathered crowd to travel on a mystical journey through time and space to unravel the damage that has been done.  She warns, however that Coyote will also travel with the group, seeking to observe, to hinder, and perhaps, if convinced of your worthiness, to help.  Coyote is a Trickster, she reminds you, able to appear to be anyone, or anything.  She wishes you good luck, and sends you on your way.

Beacon of Hope is a roleplay game for 3 to 6 players and one Gamesmaster or GM, designed to be played in a single evening.

You will Need

Pencils and Blank Paper, copies of the Ballot, Copies of the pre generated Characters, cards numbered one through six (playing cards work well) and plenty of ordinary six sided dice. 


Designate the GM, and have players choose from the pre-generated characters included with these instructions. (If your group has time, creativity or inclination, you may create characters with a similar structure).

Next, go around the table and ask each player to choose an event of historical significance. (Three players should choose two events each).   These will be the events around which your game scenes will be based.  While the players complete their Character Sheets, including answering the questions at the bottom, the GM should take a moment to sketch out how Coyote has interfered with these historical events.  Use broad strokes –let the details of what was done, and how the players undo it come out in play!

Now, shuffle the correct number of cards for your group size; two per person for three players, one each for groups of four, five or six.  No one should see the card/cards except the individual holding it!  These indicate which player is actually Coyote (mimicking the character) in any given scene.  Note that every player, except the GM, will play Coyote.  Remember, the Coyote role is a secret.  Only one person should know who Coyote is in a given scene, the player actually playing him.

Lastly hand out seven six sided dice per player for their personal pool, and place the remaining dice in the center of the table.

Structure of Play

The game consists of a series of Scenes-each scene is based upon one of the events chosen during preparation.  Each scene has a Scene Conflict- This is what Coyote did to sabotage the Beacon, and what the characters are trying to undo.  Each scene consists of a series of Actions- what the players describe their characters doing within the setting.  Actions undertaken to accomplish a stated goal (generally a step toward resolving the Scene Conflict ) will require a Die Roll- a number of six sided dice are determined based upon the stated action, are rolled, and success or failure are determined, then the consequences narrated.

Determining Die Rolls

Each Character has a list of Traits-basic components of the characters personality or skill set.  Listed under each trait are a number of Tags-more specific subsets of the general skills or personality features.

When a character undertakes an action that is difficult, opposed, or designed to progress toward resolving the scene conflict, they will need to roll the dice to see if they succeed or fail.  Players always get one die for initiating the action.  They get another die if they can apply one of their traits to the situation, and one die for each tag under that trait that they can bring to bear on the situation.  They may add any number of dice from their personal pool before making the roll.

Example:  John is playing the reporter and wants to investigate some rumors.  He states that he is asking around on the streets, looking for information.  He gets one die for initiating the action, one die because he is a journalist, getting information is what he does professionally, after all.  He is investigating, that is another die, and he argues that he is interviewing people for information and the GM agrees.  That nets him a fourth die to roll.  Since this is a fairly safe activity John elects to not add any dice from his personal pool.   He will be rolling a total of four dice to see if he succeeds in investigating the rumors.

Personal Dice Pools

Each player is given seven dice at the beginning of the game as a personal pool.  Any number of these can be added to any die roll at the discretion of the player making the roll.  They are “spent” when used.  One die is added to a player’s personal pool when they fail an action.

Helping another Character

Players may elect to help another character to achieve their goals.  This is done by picking up one of the dice from the helping player’s personal pool, narrating HOW they are helping in the situation, and handing the die to the player making the roll. 

Determining Success

After the dice are rolled, tally the number of dice that are four or higher, this is the number of successes for the action. 

Scene Conflict Pools

Each success on actions within a scene adds one die to the pool of dice available to roll to resolve the scene conflict.  When the players decide that they have put enough effort into resolving the conflict, it’s time to roll the Scene Conflict Pool.

The Vote

Before the Scene Conflict Pool is rolled and the success or failure narrated, Coyote gets to stick his Tricky little paw into the game!  This is accomplished by means of The Vote.  Each player fills out a ballot.  For the players who are NOT playing Coyote this scene, their vote should simply be “I am not Coyote”.   For the player who IS playing Coyote, the choices are a little more complicated.  For Coyote, the options are to HELPadding 1-3 dice to the Scene Conflict Pool; Hinderadding 1-3 penalty dice to the pool, or to observe and do nothing.  This determination is based upon any criterion that the player chooses, even that of whim. 

Penalty Dice

If Coyote has Hindered the players then the awarded penalty dice are added to the scene conflict pool and rolled with the others.  Then an equal number of successes are removed from the result, starting with the highest.

Example- The party is attempting to rescue a particular book from the Alexandria Library Fire.  Collectively they have garnered eight successes, netting them a Scene Conflict Pool of eight dice. Before they roll, the vote is taken, and Coyote decides to hinder the party a little, opting for two penalty dice.  A total of ten dice are rolled; six, five, four, three, three, three, two, two, one, and one.  The TOP two scores are discarded, leaving just one success, the four.  The party rescues the book, by the skin of their teeth!

Narrating the Result

The GM tallies the results of the roll, and narrates the resolution of the scene, the more successes, the more awesome the save.  A single success is still a success, but it is a very close shave!  Should the unthinkable happen, the failure is narrated also.  Remember, failing spectacularly can also be fun!

One More Step

Before proceeding to the remaining scenes, be sure to set aside the successes from the Scene Conflict Pool.  These will make up your Showdown with Coyote pool. 

Showdown with Coyote

Once you have resolved all of your scene conflicts, for better or worse, it is time to return to the present and to confront Coyote.   The GM should determine what form this conflict takes- it could be a combat, a verbal exchange, a puzzle.  Each player should describe what action they are taking to deal with this final crisis.  Each player may then make ONE roll to add to the successes in the Showdown with Coyote pool based upon their narrated actions.  This is a grand time to use any unspent pool dice!  The final pool is rolled and successes tallied.  These results determine if the players succeeded, either foiling Coyote’s plan or convincing him that humanity is worthy of salvation; or if they fail, and humankind is replaced in the fourth world by a more deserving species.   The GM then narrates an appropriate close.


Notes for the GM

Tell the Characters “where/when” they are going

Flailing around in the dark trying to figure out what to do is no fun.  Find some way to let the Characters know what event they have landed in.  This lets you get to the action quicker!

Say “Yes” or roll the dice

If it’s boring or the character could reasonably be able to accomplish it, just say “yes”.  No roll should be necessary to walk down the street. 

Keep the scenes moving

If the action is stalling out, ask questions-What are you doing?  How do you want to accomplish that?  Introduce obstacles or complications.  Make the characters make hard choices. Use the answers to the questions at the bottom of each Character sheet for ideas or ammunition. Use Non Player Characters to add detail, or create drama.

Be Creative

The historical event can be a setting, rather than the actual focus of the conflict.  The Characters might “Quantum Leap” into players within the situation (perhaps giving a “role” trait and tags for the scene!)

Have Fun

At the end of the day, this is what it’s all about!


The Author wishes to thank:  The Navaho nation, upon whose myths and legends this game is (loosely) based; John Harper, author of Lady Blackbird for inspiration of character design; Willow Palecek, Tim Jensen, and Richard Barton for their opinions on system mechanics; Abram Bussiere, Brendan Day, and Edward “Sabe” Jones for play testing and thoughtful feedback; MikeF, author of Forge thread #26203 “Dr. Whom”, for The time travel theme; rgrassi, author of Forge thread # 26043 “Character Swapping” , for the rotating Coyote role; and to contracycle, author of Forge thread # 5632 “Scaffolding”, for the origins of the dice mechanic used here.  All errors are my own.

Thanks also to Christopher Lerno, author of Forge thread #1926 “Ygg take three” which had some thoughtful commentary on detail elements and giving environmental elements attributes.  I wasn’t able to use it here, but I liked the ideas and will use them elsewhere, I’m sure.


Supplemental Play Materials


Character Sheets 

The Reporter

Character Name


Interview, Investigate, Write, Photography

Seeing the Possibilities

Spin, Public interest, Find the other angle


Charisma, Presence, Photogenic,


Insight, Aware, Detect Lies

Questions for the player:

What type of Media outlet do you work for?

Are they reputable?

What brought you to the base of the Beacon today?

What are your beliefs about the supernatural/metaphysical?


The New Age Hippie

Character Name


Auras, Prognostication, Speak with Spirits, Clairvoyance, Object Reading

Counter Culture

Drugs, Music, Art, Tattoos and Body Piercings

My Body is a Temple

Yoga, Vegetarian, Health Nut

Personal Gestalt

See the big picture, Connect with the Universe

Questions for the player:

How well do you fit into mainstream culture?

Do you believe in the coming Apocolypse?

What brought you to the Beacon today?

How do you make your living?


Native Businessman

Character Name


Business Acumen, Trade Awareness, Follow the Money, Bargain

Fits into White Society

Mainstream Culture, Blending in with the Crowd, Standing out-the right way,

Native Roots

Tribal Customs, Tribal Lore

Level Headed

Insight, Clear thinking, Analysis, Problem Solving

Questions for the player:

How do you feel about tribal customs and traditions?

What type of company do you work for?

 What is your position ?

What brings you to the Beacon today?


The Supernatural Investigator

Character Name


Science Procedure, Pseudoscience, Psychology, Logic

Stage Magician

Sleight of Hand, Illusion, Misdirection, Fast talk


Show me, Perception, Detail oriented,

Truth at all Costs

Aggressive, Detect Deception, Persistent

Questions for the player:

Have you ever encountered a genuine paranormal occurrence?

What are you trying to prove/disprove?

How mainstream are you?

What brought you to the beacon today?


The Tribal Elder

Character Name

Tribal Leader

Tribal Custom, Tradition, Leadership, Politics


Mind/Body Connection, Spirit Journeys, Totems, Connection to the Earth


Calm, Patient, Unruffled, To everything its season

Warrior Path

Knife, Bare handed fighting, Fast, Anticipate Opponents Move

Questions for the player:

Were you involved in the planning or construction of the Beacon of Hope?

What tribe do you belong to? 

What is your role within the tribe?

What brought you to the beacon today?

The Grizzled Veteran

Character Name


Guns, Knives, Locate Enemy Position, Sense Danger

Physically Fit

Strong, Fast, Stamina, Agile


Quick Thinking, Plan Ahead, Intuitive

There has to be Downtime

Cards, Musical Instrument, (pick a hobby)

Questions for the player:

Where did you serve?

What rank do/did you hold? 

Are you still in the service or were you discharged? 

What brought you to the Beacon today?

Voting Ballot

I am not Coyote  x

Coyote Helps 1  2  3

Coyote observes  x

Coyote Hinders 1  2  3