Friday, March 27, 2015

My latest GURPS DF book is on to production

According to Sean Punch's latest "Another week in the life of GURPS "

"The latest GURPS Dungeon Fantasy masterpiece from Peter Dell'Orto is out of editing and on its way to production."

First out, I'm glad he liked it.

Second, that's a big step forward on the process, so soon enough I'll be able to announce what it was here on my blog. Naturally, you've seen some of it in play already, and more as my sessions roll along. My games are a generating machine for good GURPS content, and for that I'm grateful to my gamers, who find a way to turn a lot of my writing ideas into real, actual tabletop fun. And thanks to Pee Kitty, who put in the final editing work and helped make the last little wonky bits into solid gaming material.

I'm looking forward to being able to discuss it once it comes out. Sadly I don't have another one in process just yet; my free time for writing has dwindled to near-zero thanks to a contract job I accepted. That's a really excellent job, and it pays well and it's actually challenging and interesting . . . but it means the hours of the day I'd spend tapping away letting my ideas flow out onto a screen are spent on some non-gaming challenges. But I have some ideas of what I'd like to write next, for when I have more time to do so . . . and yes, it'll be DF related, and draw on my game. I'm looking forward to what I'll do with my writing time.

Future/Pledge Wash recipe?

Like the title say, does anyone have a good recipe for a Future-based black or brown wash?

I've been looking, but the best one I found so far is The Painting Clinic's video, but even so that's an ad hoc method done on the spot.

I'm looking for a recipe for a pre-mix wash that'll keep in a screw-top jar for a long time. Basically, proportions of X paint, Y Future, and Z water to make a dip/wash mix I can use on command. That way I can have the stuff around and brush it on each mini as it gets done, and not wait around for a big load of them and mix some up "just for now" and use it before it dries out.

As much as love the Army Painter Quickshade, apparently, I didn't seal up some of the cans well enough last time (maybe I failed to chip off enough dried gunk along the edges) and it dried up. I'm not putting another $25-30 down on a can because I only need it infrequently and it's a pain ensuring it doesn't dry out.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Turn-Based Oddness

Gaming Ballistic and Don't Forget Your Boots wrote about some of the oddness that comes from turn-based games and the intersection of some situations and options.

Naturally, after playing for so long, my group and I have had a few of these weird moments, courtesy of odd circumstances and a turn-based resolution system.

A couple come to mind.

Vryce and the Orc Spellcaster

In a big orc fight, the orcs tried to plug the doorway. Vryce burst through and ran through a small gap in the ranks to attack a back-ranks spellcaster. On the spellcaster's turn, he ran away. Then orcs poured in to prevent Vryce from following. Vryce's player was frustrated - how could someone run 5 yards away from him in the blink of an eye, after being within sword's reach a split second before?

But Vryce even getting that strike was possibly an artifact of turn-based play. In a real-time simultaneous-move world, Vryce was only marginally faster than the orcs. The spellcaster was already intending to fall back until he had more orcs between him and the well-known lethal threat that is Vryce. More orcs were charging in to seal off the gap. He might not have been able to bust through the momentary gap in the ranks, because that moment would appear and pass in a split second. The spellcaster may have moved out of reach right away. Instead, you get this moment of "I'm just fast enough to bust through and get a wild swing at that guy as he runs, before his buddies cut me off and he moves out of reach." That's how I interpret that, and that's pretty reasonable. It makes the tactical imperative of physically filling space, not just threatening to fill it with a swing or a step, much more clear.

On the day, I remember saying that if Vryce basically had a Zone of Control (aka ZOC) or a zone of opportunity attacks, he would have been able to prevent the spellcaster from moving freely or to get a free cut at that spellcaster. But then again, so would all of those orcs he deftly ran by because of a few open hexes in exactly the right place for him to move. He didn't need Evade, but "hexes adjacent to an enemy cost extra to enter or leave" or "opportunity attacks" would have kicked in. I suppose we could make rules like that, but they'd substantially change the rules set, and probably replace the current oddness (run up and hit, then the guy runs out of reach) with more oddness (how do you enforce a ZOC in your front arc with a one-action, one-second timescale? How exactly are you doing this without physically restraining the target? If you have time and movement to execute more attacks, why aren't you using them in the first place?)

Runaround

We've had the classic "runaround" attack issue discussed elsewhere very often. Sometimes, it only looks like a runaround. One classic was with a sword-and-shield using soldier-wizard-engineer in my previous GURPS game. The group was fighting gnolls in a mountainside keep (in UK3 The Gauntlet, actually). One PC knowingly and willingly turned his back on the gnolls to get a shot at a foe close and behind the line of PCs. So a greataxe-armed gnoll used All-Out Attack and smacked him. The player was miffed he didn't get to defend. "I knew he was there!" and "I should defend at -2!" kind of stuff (not a quote, it's been 16 years since that session.) I said, yes, you knew he was there. You knew there were dangerous people in front of you and turned your back on them, on your turn, to do something. This wasn't a case of a turn-based system artifact causing a faster foe to get a back shot. This was a terrible tactical decision to turn his back on a foe he thought was safely out of reach, forgetting that he was just within reach of a Move 6 guy's attack if he had a 2-reach axe ready at full extension . . . and he did. Bam, roll up a new PC.

Could he have looked over his shoulder? I suppose, but is the standard of combat "I'm checking my 6 over each shoulder every turn with no cost for taking my eyes off of what's in front of me" and complete awareness? Not to me. I figure the "runaround" rule, and the way we usually rule it (only if a foe starts in your back hex, and generally only if it's reasonable that you couldn't or wouldn't or just plain didn't track him visually) is fine. It's clear most of the time. This is one of those clear cases - he turned his back, assuming he could do so without consequence, and was wrong.

We've had related cases thanks to people making odd choices of where to step, wearing blinders (I mean, a greathelm), or having one eye. Most of the time, people accept that, yes, I've made my own decisions (stepping poorly, facing away from a foe, wearing a vision-restricting helmet because I want more DR) and I'll take the consequences. Occasionally, though, we get the "I'm checking over both shoulders while keeping an eye on this guy in front of me and Feinting the dude next to him" approach, and grumpiness can ensue when I rule in favor of a free back shot.

How do I rule on them?

Basically, we play the rules as written. But I'm not hesitant to make one-time rulings for situations where they seem to warrant it.

I also tend to apply my own vision of the situation and the reasonableness of results, along with the fairness (witness the "If bad guys can't interrupt Great Haste with Wait, you can't either" ruling.)

If you make moves depending on what a literal reading of the rules say you can and can't do, and what must result from that, you are taking a risk. If you make moves based on what a reasonable person would think would happen in those circumstances, and assume that generally I'm a reasonable GM, you will be okay. It's the latter standard that I use, not the former, to determine what's okay in a situation. You're arguing before a judge who considers precedent but who isn't bound by it. Sometimes, the rules say you get a defense at -2, but circumstances say you don't. Sometimes, the rules say you don't, but circumstances say you do.

And I'm okay with that. That's part of the reason for a GM, so we can have rules and games that work that way.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Reaper Bonus: Flying Buffalo Poker Deck

I discovered a missing piece in one of my Reaper Bones sets, and emailed them for a replacement. The request got processed but lost in the Bones II hubub, so when it finally went out they threw a nice bonus in for me:

The Origins 2014 Flying Buffalo Pocker Deck

You can see all of the card details (but not the cards themselves) at the link.

I'm trying to decide what to do with it. Part of me says, "Keep it!" but the rest of me says "You don't use playing cards for anything anyway, and have a couple decks despite that." Which is true - the rare times I need playing cards it's for games with ESL/ELL kids, and a standard set is better than a fancy set for ELL students.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Making Monsters courtesy of Ravens & Pennies

Over on Ravens & Pennies, Christopher Rice has an excellent post for people making monsters for their GURPS games.

Gamemaster's Guidepost: The Art of Creating Critters

It's a great guide. If I could usefully add to it:

How skilled is it? Know what its absolute skill level can do. But also know what its skill level gives it relative to its intended foes. Skill 16 is murder vs. Skill 12, but it's toast vs. Skill 20. All the instant death ST-based damage in the world is harmless against foes you can't hit.

Does it have special attacks? Especially for genres like DF, you need to know what special attacks it has that make it especially able to deal with its expected opposition. If its attack forms are limited in a damage type (it only uses fire, say) know how common totally effective counters will be.

Know the synergies. In other words, if your critter has 20 HP and Regeneration, know this doubles the HP regen rate. Know how Unkillable 3 and Recovery will work together. Familiarize yourself with what all of the abilities you are putting down on the sheet meet and how they interact with each other.

I think those, coupled with Christopher's advice, will help when you are making up GURPS monsters.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Strict Encumbrance, GURPS, & My Games

"STRICT ENCUMBRANCE MUST BE TRACKED OR YOU CANNOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL LOGISTICAL CHALLENGE."

- Not the DMG.

Apologies to Gary Gygax, whose "Meaningful campaign" quote has been much mocked but also much commented upon.

Encumbrance seems to be one of the issues that splits old-school gamers. Track it strictly? Track it strictly but come up with an alternative method, such as item slots or large items vs. small items? Come up with some alternative? Appendix O doesn't get the love that Appendix N or the Random Harlot Sub-Table receive.

I go with strict tracking.

In my GURPS games, in fact, in every one of my GURPS campaigns, encumbrance is tracked pretty strictly. On a 5-point strictness scale, with 5 being "by the book, always" and 1 being "who cares?", we play every game at either a 4 or a 5. Usually both.

I think this is because encumbrance is so deeply embedded into the core of GURPS.

Encumbrance is handled with a simple, concrete, real-world metric - weight. Bulk matters abstractly (hard to hide under a table with a halberd, say) but weight is concrete and tracked. Your strength (ST) stat directly translates to your maximum load. Just about all gear comes with weight. We routinely keep track of weight and I expect all of my players to be able to quote me their loaded weight (PC + gear) at any time.

Why I say it's the game system is that I don't really do more than eyeball my S&W character's gear. I didn't even think about encumbrance for my D&D5 guy. But GURPS, I know to the pound what people are carrying in their normal loadout.

We'll eyeball things and wing it a little in play - it's easy to say that you've got 60 pounds between "Light" and "Medium" encumbrance so adding on this treasure puts you at Medium and that's that, without doing the math beyond estimation.

Like I said, I think it's the rules. Since encumbrance effects so much (Move, Dodge, fatigue after a fight, penalties to load-limited skills, etc.) and the limits are so embedded into the system, and the metric for it is so common and easy to grasp, it's something we all track. No "200 gp weight for a scroll, and GP are 10 to the pound, but scrolls are bulky and have more encumbrance" to foul up tracking. No bulk-conflated-with-weight issues. You need to deal with bulk on its own, with a GM's judgement, but it's easy to get strict encumbrance tracking.

And so every GURPS game I've played, back to when we just messed around killing each other in Man-to-Man, we've known how much gear we're carrying. It's easy enough, and a big enough deal to not be a big deal at all.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

DF Cold Fens - Passed Over Adventures

A little while back, I posted about what I was looking for in my DF game, some modules I was looking at, and then what I chose to implement.

Here are adventures I passed over, and to some extent why:

UK4 When A Star Falls

When a Star Falls (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons module UK4)

Why I considered it:

- It has a mix of wilderness and indoor/dungeon.
- In the mountains, and I had handy mountains.
- It has an interesting mix of monsters, including some of the odder but well-chosen monsters typical to the UK series of adventures.
- It's a sandbox with a plot, which makes it easy to adventure in, with lots of things to do with lots of logical stopping points.
- It has a mix of a plot device that fits into DF (a meteor!) and something DF does well - gnome artificers.
- A mix of combat and negotiation, and plenty of chances to choose between them.

Why I rejected it:

- Maybe a little too much gnome artificer technology.
- It has a lot of fiddly bits, which would make it tricky to convert.
- So much to read, absorb, and have fluency in that it would take some familiarity to be comfortable using it. I didn't have that kind of time.

I may still use this adventure some day - it's really an interesting one, with a lot of interesting hooks and good places to adventure.

Mirror of the Fire Demon

I reviewed this here.

Why I considered it:

- Ready to go GURPS DF adventure.
- Mix of wilderness and dungeon.
- Fun hook of "rival adventurers" to drive delving.
- Overall excellent materials.

Why I rejected it:

- Some of the players went through significant parts of it.
- Maybe too big for a pickup basketball style game of delve-and-return.
- Desert. I didn't have a handy desert.

Secret Christopher Rice Adventure

Christopher Rice wrote a DF adventure and was nice enough to share the draft.

Why I considered it:

- Ready to go DF adventure.
- Mix of wilderness and dungeon, complete with hex maps.
- Well balanced and well assembled - neither too tough nor a steamroll.

Why I rejected it:

- Desert. As good as it was, it's a desert, and I'd decided a desert wasn't going to fit into my plans.
- Theme. I'd have to rename, relabel, and re-purpose some of the material to make it fit with how my world is working. That would take some work to do properly.

In Search of the Trollslayer

In Search of the Trollslayer: A Heroic-Level Adventure for Basic Roleplaying (Basic Roleplaying system) (The Mad Mayor's Dungeon Delve)


Why I considered it:

- Pretty cool dungeon delve.
- In a swamp, and I'd decided I'd like swamp or mountains.
- Pretty atmospheric.

Why I rejected it:

- A bit too powerful, if I converted it appropriately.
- A little difficult to convert, because it's been years since I played a CoC-based game system.
- Treasure a bit too rich, magically.
- A bit too small for delve-and-return. To do delve-and-return it would need significant expansion.
- Wilderness too small, so I'd need to create my own.


So out of five, I rejected those four. The other I took and used as the basis - largely intact - but I can't disclose what it is, of course.
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