Sunday, December 4, 2016

DF Felltower: Magic Item Price Increase

Recently I quietly got rid of most $1 per energy items in my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game in favor of $20/energy and $33/energy costs.

I kept the requirement that magical weapons and armor have cost-positive prefixes to hold a magical charge.

This suddenly means that:

Fortify +1 is $1,000 for a full suit.

Lighten 25% is $2,000 for a full suit.

Cornucopia Quivers are $2,010, not $110.

I didn't change the prices of projectiles, though - they're still as cheap as can be - but they're largely one-shot items

Secondly, I've downrated the availability of most magic items for purchase. This is besides the changes such as getting rid of the Power enchantment and making more things Always On. What this means is that it's harder to special order magic items, there isn't an expectation that something will be enchanted in town automatically, and that magic items are more of a found rarity than a purchased one.

The basic stuff in Adventurers will largely be available. I don't mind if people want to spend $10K getting +2 Deflect on a shield or $5,000 getting +1 Puissance on a sword. That's fine. The time requirement will still apply - so you can't just get your axe or mace enchanted quickly between delves - but it can be done.


Why?

For a few reasons. This has long been on my list of things I'd have done differently. Why the change, though?

Because I'd really prefer magic items be found in the dungeon, not purchased cheaply in town. I'd like mundane equipment to actually be useful and sensible purchases. $150 for +1 DR and -25% to weight when a suit of fine armor costs 10x as much as a normal suit means that quality mundane is more expensive than more useful and more effective magic.

It doesn't hurt that the day rate for a bargain henchmen is $30 a day and weekly upkeep is $150. At that pay rate, even they should have magical armor. People don't keep a lot of money on hand because they blow it all on magical gear and then can't afford hirelings. Raising the price won't suddenly put more money in their hands, but making magic a non-trivial cost means you can either get a minor magical boost (Woohoo, +1 DR!) or get a lot of hired help and value in town (Woohoo, +1 DR forever or a henchman for several weeks and my weekly upkeep?) instead.

I didn't ask my players, I just went ahead and did this. I'd been increasing these costs as new items came up for purchase requests, so I just finished the job. I grandfathered into someone who'd asked months back about one item but otherwise, applied these right away.

My hope is that if the money starts flowing from the depths, and magic items aren't a trivial purchase, one of two things will happen:

- PCs who emphasize maximizing their personal delving power will have to make fewer, better choices over gear.

- PCs who balk at the prices will have effectively more cash to spend on normal equipment, expenses, research, hirelings, carousing, etc. and for reserves in case of disaster. "Effectively" because the amount of money will be the same but the tradeoff will be more even - see my Fortify vs. hirelings and gear and upkeep comparison above.

All this will take is more and deeper delving, of course.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Erol Otus Basic Set Cover - Image Only

The Erol Otus Shrine put up this great image of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set cover, without all of the clutter of title, description, etc.:



My players haven't found this room yet, but it's in Felltower . . .

Friday, December 2, 2016

Use High Powered Monsters Right Away!

In reading some reviews of Volo's Guide to Monsters, I stumbled across one that mentioned the emphasis on lower-powered creatures.* This echoes something I've heard - games spend most of their time closer to "zero" than "hero" so you need more "zero" challenge monsters.

The big, cool, badasss monsters?

They're end-game icing-on-the-cake monsters. Campaign pinnacles. Special moments.

Dungeons first, dragons later, once you're earned them.

I'm guilty of this as well - look at my monsters encountered list in my higher-powered** DF game. Many of them are quite low powered. They turn up the most often. While it's taken forever for my players to fight giant rats, orcs, hobgoblins, goblins, lizard men, newtmen, etc. show up all over the place. Annoying-level oozes slime around the dungeon (and annoying slimes ooze, too.) And stirges, stirges, stirges.

I've tried - a dragon right near an easy access point. Trolls on level 1, along with weapon-resistant gargoyles, packs of wights with an unholy cleric wight, cultists with delver-level offensive firepower, electric jellyfish, a unique demon lord on level 2, etc. etc.

 photo BeforeitGotWorse_zps7109aa1e.jpg

But still, there are so many cool monsters my players have yet to encounter. I'm not trying to husband them for later, but effectively, I have. By putting sufficient obstacles between them I've made them less common.

While I'd like to bill my game as pitting your powerful and capable dungeon delvers against dragons, demon lords, flying eye monsters, ghosts, and elder beings and reaping amazing hoards . . . it's all too often turned into the supermodule DULL1-7 Against the Fodder.

And that's my fault.

I need to get better at using things right away.

Not at the end of a long dungeon where it "fits." Right away. Put a beholder in room 1, and then challenge yourself to make a better boss at the end. Use dragons enough that - like in Skyrim - you never take them too lightly but never too seriously, either. If mind flayers are a thing in your game, use their minions in game one and the flayers in game two. When you need a cool monster later, just make one of the others, cooler.

Our Gamma Terra game is a good example - in the first two sessions we played we fought badders and hoops and a mutant wolverine with a force screen, killed the latter with a torc grenade, and got a warbot. In most games I've played, a warbot is something you read about but never, ever meet. A death machine? Legend, not reality. We fly around in one. This hasn't made the game worse but better.

The longer you hold off, the more your players are tempted to hold off - it's so tough, let's wait until we're good and ready. The more you're tempted to hold off - it's so special, I don't want to waste it.

No monster is wasted.

No good idea used is wasted.

No challenge is too soon.

Use them right away.

Players? This means you guys too. Go right after the dragons, the demon lords, the nests of vampire lich trolls you've heard about. Don't put them off until "when we're all powerful enough." That'll be never.

I've said much of this before.

This post is as much a reminder to me as it is to you reading it.

Use the cool monsters right the **** now.





And by the way? Same goes for magic items. I'm sorry it took so long for my PCs to find Gram, and then lost it. I should have just put the Machine of Lum the Mad or Blackrazor or the Ring of Jaylin (one of my players will know what I mean) in B2 and let the players have at it.




* That and the fact that norkers were considered, but reject. Dammit, I love norkers. Great name, cool monsters in the original AD&D form, and they make good menaces in GURPS of all power levels.

** Well, DF-standard, erring on the lower powered side of "higher powered." Cut-down race list, cut-down spell list, cut-down item list, cut-down template list, and more grit than heroism. Had I started out lower-powered, I bet it wouldn't be "wipe out this army of orcs" but even smaller change we'd be playing for. The saving grace is that characters were powerful enough that orcs by the pack are time-consuming but not actually threatening.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

New Spell: Rain of Lightning

I mentioned how easy it would be to make a "Rain of" spell for electricity when I was talking druid spells. Here it is:

Rain of Lightning
Area

Miniature bolts of lightning rain from the sky into the area of effect, causing 1d-1 burning damage to all within it. Metal armor provides only DR 1; other armor protects fully. Creatures under the Rain of Lightning take damage on their own turns; halve damage (round down) if less than a full second is spent in the area of effect. Wooden shields may be held overhead as described under Rain of Fire (Magic p. 74); metal shields provide no protection! This spell can only be cast outdoors.

Duration: 1 minute.
Base Cost: 1 to cast (minimum 2). Same cost to maintain. For double base cost, the Rain of Lightning does 2d-2 per second.
Prerequisites: Magery 2 and Lightning.


***

Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Swords & Wizardry Complete: What does the Robe of Wizardry do?

The other night I took a break from game prep and reading for work and browsed the always-enjoyable Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook.



Besides finding an annoying error (an unbolded magic item!) I really took a good look at this item:

Robe of Wizardry: This robe grants the wearer the ability to cast charm, polymorph, and hold spells with a 95% chance of success. The robes may be tied to specific alignments. Usable by: Magic–Users only.


Okay, I can't parse the intent here. Do I now have:

- All charm spells
- All polymorph spells
- All hold spells

. . . useable as often as I want on a 01-95 on d100? 96-100 I waste my round and fail to cast?

At first glance I thought it might mean those spells succeed 95% of the time - that is, I learn them, I memorize and cast them, and then on a 01-95 they just work, no save. It's not like S&W has a spell failure chance when casting spells normally, so "95% chance of success" has to mean one or the other of "use it" or "use it successfully."

The first is a major item, and probably what is intended. The second isn't quite as major of an item, but it vastly improves your own magical ability with those spells.

If you're tempted to answer this question with, "You're the GM, you decide!" please do not. That won't help. I'm trying to parse the author's intent.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

40% off GURPS PDFs, new hardcopies!

SJG is having a rare, very deep sale on GURPS PDFs:

GURPS PDFs 40% off

The last time they had a sale was 23% off. This one is pretty amazing. Now, this also means my royalties will be 40% less, but even so, if you'd like to support this blog and the game I write for, here are my books up on Warehouse 23:

Peter Dell'Orto's GURPS publications

$3.59 for Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3. $4.79 for Henchmen. Ninja, only $2.99 apiece!

Even Martial Arts is only $16.79 in PDF, and the Basic Set only $32.94.

The sale runs until 12/15, so move your Wish List to your shopping cart and get going.

Also, hardcopies for some in-demand books exist now:

You can get Ultra-Tech, Magic, and Thaumatology in softcover from CreateSpace.

Why not Martial Arts?



I don't know. Come on SJG, my book has been OOP for a long time and sells steadily in PDF, print it again . . . even I'd like another hardcopy.

Monday, November 28, 2016

DF Game, Session 83, Felltower 56 - Orc Showdown II

Date: November 27th, 2016

Weather: Clear, moderately cold.

Currently Active:
Dryst, halfling wizard (440 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (308 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (304 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (148 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (316 points)
Naida River, wood wlf thief (250 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (300 points)
Vryce, human knight (493 points)

The group gathered in Felltower, this time with the addition of Naida River but without Dave. Dave had been summoned by his friends Mario and Yoshi to Dinosaur Island at the last second. The group gathered a few rumors and headed out.

The group set up a base camp out of sight of the castle. They then sent up Gale, Dryst, and Has', all with Invisibility and Body of Air to scout out the "bugbear cave." The entrance is a slit in a burned-out foundation's wall, in the "cellar" - and thus out of direct line of sight of the castle. But it's also a collapsing foundation so it's not good concealment, and the tunnel itself requires crawling. Not only that, but scouting revealed it had collapsed in several places. Deliberate collapse or just age - it's been years since it was maintained, and bugbears move around after a while and don't build tunnels to last.

The solution to this was:

- scout it out.

- bring up everyone Invisibly.

- put up a Simple Illusion of things just as they are

- Have the spellcasters dig with Shape Earth.

That's what they did. It took almost 90 minutes of casting, resting, moving dirt by hand (which clogged up the foundation area). The others guarded the rear and watched, Naida from a nearby ruin and the others from the foundation. Mo briefly spotted what could be an orc patrolling the walls, but it wasn't repeated.

Eventually they reached a short stone tunnel that connected to a secret door into the real tunnels of Felltower. That turned out to be blocked by 30-35' of solid rubble, mostly rock and earth, but also some junk (a door, some bones, etc.) Dryst used Wild Talent to learn Earth to Air and got to work. Most of the group had to back out to the surface.

Some time after that, they'd created a hole. The top bits of rubble collapsed down to make a U-shape of rubble but it was crossable. They did so and were into the dungeon.

Using their older maps, they found a secret door to a back tunnel and eventually to an old armoury - long neglected, and with the best stuff long taken. After some map consulting they figured out how to get to the stairs down by a "back way" and did so, passing through one of the room complexes where they'd once fought some orcs while under truce and tossed their corpses into a refuse pit. They passed through a door and located a secret door they had on their map but couldn't reliably open. Some inspection by Gale and manipulation by Naida and it was opened and then closed again and its method noted on the map.

From there, they reached the second level and moved close to the "orc hole." They forced open a door (with Silence once they realized it was barred) and went through. Almost immediately they ran into some orcs - it would turn out to be 13 in total. Arrows flew out of the darkness and started to cause some damage - they used armor-piercers dipped in poison. The PCs moved up and into the fray:

 photo session-83-felltower-56_pic-1_battle-line small_zps34jdvuvd.jpg

The orcs stayed pretty tightly packed but around a corner, allowing their archers to fire occasionally into the fray and their spearman to stab from behind. Hjalmarr opened the fray in his typical fashion - throwing an axe and then dropping his best melee axe on a critical miss. He'd finish the fight with Inquisitor Marco's Mace. Naida popped one with an arrow and wounded him.

Otherwise, it was a mismatch. Vryce was forced to kill one at a time thanks to the orcs keeping pressure on him (with a Rapid Strike Feint-swing to skull combo), and Mo missed a few easy shots thanks to some bad luck, and of course Has' dropped a 3d Explosive Lightning on the orcs and front rank fighters alike, but otherwise, it didn't end well for the orcs. One leader-type tried to run once the fight started to really turn, yelling for help, but he didn't make it - Dryst knocked him flat with a Stone Missile and then Mo ran him down and brained him.

Vryce, meanwhile, hucked a lightstone towards the orc archers, and rolled a 4. It went almost all the way down the hallway and surprised the orcs. Naida shot one (but rolled poorly, and it was bounced by his armor) and Dryst threw a Stone Missile but it was dodged. Vryce got his sling out. The orcs had enough and with a final volley ducked into the "orc hole."

 photo session-83-felltower-56_pic-2_aftermath small_zpsq0y3mrcm.jpg

They brained all of the fallen and Gale quick-looted them, grabbing swords and handy purses. (This started an argument about purses being inside armor or outside. Dryst argued they go outside, Vryce arguing you don't need your money to be quickly accessible so you stash it inside. I guess I know who keeps their purse where.)

They started to advance down the hallway towards the "orc hole" but then fell to discussions about doors. Half of the group wanted to ignore the doors and advance on the orcs, arguing any orcs inside would have come out to fight. The other half wanted to bash them open to check their six. The second group won out, basically by starting to do that thing. Meanwhile the light stone went out - probably Dispel Magic, they surmised.

The first down was locked, though, with a padlock from the hallway side. There was a makeshift bar for the door with orc-made brackets. Naida picked the lock and took it as loot. Mo kicked the door open . . . and THUD! A cord-triggered siege crossbow shot him in the chest (I rolled a 4 to hit, he didn't have a chance). He took 22 injury after his natural DR, and then badly failed a poison resistance roll for 8 injury more. He stepped back.

The room had damp-ish straw, some scat, and the crossbow. No one wanted to risk more traps. As this went on, Ike moved over and started working on Mo, healing some of his wounds. But they'd forgotten to set up to defend themselves and the orcs at the "orc hole" had come back. Ike took an arrow. They quickly put Missile Shield on him as the orcs beat feet again.

The group abandoned the plan to deal with the doors and moved to the "orc hole." There they took arrow fire from two directions - and a Wizard Eye left near the intersection behind them by Dryst showed two orcs with bows. They took arrows, heard a door slam - and repeat. They chased after some orcs shooting from their right - towards their approach last session. They reached the door but then decided to move back. Dryst used Magelock on the door and they moved back. As they passed the "orc hole" they dropped a Pollen Cloud and a Stench spell on it to discourage orcs from coming up. As they passed the siege crossbow Mo tossed an Alchemist's Fire on it since the lantern oil he had (swiped from the armoury above) wasn't assured to do the job thoroughly and the straw was damp. The "orc hole" is in the damp part of the dungeon.

After this, they moved back up to the first level. They basically moved along the corridors trying to draw out the orcs. They took arrows and the occasional heavy crossbow bolt at intersections, which Hjalmarr took on his shield. They gave chase at a quick walk (based on Move 3, maximum speed for the slowest guys) but couldn't catch up. They eventually put up a Force Wall on one side and charged back at some orcs that shot arrows into their backs, but again, they couldn't catch them.

They laid out 5 hexes of caltrops to block a door and then moved around level 1, eventually coming out by the gargoyles. The whole time they tried to walk into clear ambush spots and attract attention, hoping to draw the orcs into a heads-up brawl. But all they got for their trouble was arrows.

The gargoyles were surprised. Vryce stepped forward, and with his default Intimidation (an 11 by default, thanks to Will 16) he said, "Clear out, we're going after the orcs." That was all the cowardly gargoyles needed to hear. Four of them flew off.

From there the PCs burst into the entrance way from the inner side. The pillbox nearest was closed up, so they advanced and opened the metal door and reached a locked portcullis. Vryce and Mo put their backs into it and ripped it out of the ground, despite its locking mechanism - which snapped and gave way. As Mo stood there with all 1500+ pounds of portullis overhead, he took three all at once, all armor-piercers tipped with poison. He was hurt but not down. Vryce ran out with Walk on Air and across the pit, and chased down and killed two of eight orcs he spotted. The others scattered like waterbugs and he was not willing to chase them on his own.

After that, it was anti-climactic. The PCs broke the other portcullis (but couldn't budge it, it's pretty much stuck now), dumped the orc's pit bridge into the pit (they'd later burn it), and explored the castle. The orcs had fled or moved into the dungeon below, they couldn't tell. Their tracker wasn't skilled enough to discern the prints from right now from the heavy daily traffic, either.

The wrecked keep turned out mostly empty, as did some side buildings. A recently-abandoned fire was still burning, and some ale (Mo's favorite - cheap and plentiful, aka Orc Blue Ribbon) and jerky from what he hoped was small deer was handy. He ate some and drank some and scattered the rest and smashed the casks. They burned everything they found - arrows, capes, blankets, food, the tarps the orcs use to keep rain out of the long-burned out keep, etc.

They explored the gatehouse and intact towers, too, finding some very old bones, maned rat bones, a room that had once had four people (probably) fireballed into Hiroshima shadows, and so on. Nothing of value.

So they trashed that, too - they burned the wagon the orcs use as a rolling inner gate. They snapped the chain for the portcullis and ripped off the 100 pound main handled wheel used to crank it and took it as scrap.

They wanted to trash the shutters on the pillboxes but it wasn't practical - they're recessed, small, magic-resistant treated, probably fire-resistance treated, etc. Poking one into flinders with a spear would have been the best they could do, and it would take more time than they had.

Satisfied they'd trashed the orc's area as best they could since they wouldn't come to grips with them, and because it was late in and out of game, they headed home.

Loot was sparse but not bad - enough for a profit for everyone once Vryce and Dryst took zero shares.

Notes:

The first fight with the orcs took longer than I'd hoped. Again, you put down a battle map and it keeps things clear, but it does mean people spend more time on "I move here, here, and then here, and if I face this way is this arc a flank?" Pretty much, once you want to have Retreat, take advantage of facing and spacing, use your two-hex reach, and have precise knowledge of your hexes it takes longer. On the flip side, having a map speeds that up - mapless abstract is faster than mapped tactical, but mapless tactical is really slow. Like playing chess without a board but not everyone knows where all the pieces are at any given moment.

So Hasdrubel threw an Explosive Lightning spell that, of course, also hit his friends. He said, "I try to keep you guys only on the outer edges of the blast." One of the other guys said, "Thanks!" I said, he just told you that he tries to only shock you a little and you said thanks? Mo's player calls this "Shockholm Syndrome."

I joked the big metal wheel sold for 30 sp to the tavern called the Sign of the Big Metal Wheel, which had lost its wheel mysteriously a while back. It had disappeared about when the orcs fixed the front gate, and this one looks just like the old one! The Sign of the Big Metal Wheel is probably canonical, now.

Not a lot of loot, but enough - the thresholds for guys 349 and under are low, and aren't much higher at 350-399. Still, that's not much of a way to get rich, even with expendables use being pretty low.
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