Friday, October 31, 2014

Homestarrunner Halloween

This is a public service announcement.*

Homestarrunner Halloween cartoon!

I'd just like to point out that besides awesome costumes like Cochice and Tom Servo, there is also . . . Mean Machine Angel!

We still need GURPS Judge Dredd, but now we also need GURPS Dredd, with the Poopsmith as Mean Machine Angel.

Also, they need to make more t-shirts. The Trogdor t-shirt I wear on game days is getting a bit worn out. It's getting harder and harder to deal TPKs as my shirt gets more and more worn out.

* With guitar!

Okay, no guitar, sorry.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rear Vision spell and helmets, again

Score one for my Rear Vision house ruling.

GURPS Magic Items 1, pg 27, has Sense-Enhancing Helmets

"Note that Rear Vision cast on a helmet will be ineffective unless the helmet also has Glass Wall or Invisibility, or the helmet has an eye slit in the back."

That supports the idea that the spell gives a vision ability but doesn't circumvent obstacles to that vision. I know some might argue the phrase "on a helmet" but the alternatives are a weapon or jewelry, because we're talking magic items. That doesn't mean the subject of the spell is the helmet any more than a helmet with Great Voice or Far Hearing on it puts those spells onto the helmet's ability to speak or hear. Magic items generally put an effect on the wearer or another target, not the item.

The working helmet on the same page that uses Rear Vision also has Glass Wall on it.

The book is admittedly for 3e, not 4e, but the spell in question in unchanged from 3e, so there you have it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rolling Is Fun, Too Much Rolling Isn't

There are two competing ideas at play in RPGs, in my experience:

- Rolling is fun. It is generally entertaining to roll dice and see what happens.

- Excessive rolling is tedious. It sucks do roll a lot for little effect.

So when I play games and when I write rules, I generally try to cut down on the number of rolls.

- If a roll doesn't have any risk or significantly exciting drama to it, I'd rather cut it.

- If a roll doesn't determine anything of importance, I'd rather cut it.

- Conversely, if a roll adds drama and excitement, it's worth adding or keeping.

Out of that approach, I have some guidelines I keep in my head when I'm playing or writing:

Don't make me roll to see if I roll.

Generally, if I have to roll dice to see if I get to roll dice, it's less fun than just rolling once. That kind of doubled roll makes me tired all over just reading about it.

So cut down the number of rolls by making a smaller number of big rolls.

Now, sometimes this makes sense. Look at the GURPS combat cycle:

A) Attacker rolls. If the attacker hits, go to B.
B) Defender rolls to defend. If the defender fails, go to C.
C) Attacker rolls damage.

That's an exciting sequence of rolls. Each is pregnant with possibility and tension. It's totally valid to break off the effect roll from the success roll. You don't need to do that - Rolemaster ties the original effect roll to the success roll (although it does add a secondary, and really fun, critical effect roll to most successful hits).

But I came up with things like Flawless Fast-draw and Flawless Nocking in order to, quite simply, because there isn't a lot of drama or excitement in rolling to see if I get to keep rolling.

Multiple rolls to do one thing is only okay if each part makes sense as a discrete unit.

GURPS has a few of these. For example, there is a Will roll to see if you can get your spell roll if your concentration is affected by injury or defending or whatnot, in GURPS Magic. I'm not a fan, although I haven't come up with a seamless and smooth way to replace it, so for now it says.

It's better to influence a roll than roll twice to succeed.

I love things like the GURPS Complementary Skill Rolls. Roll success or failure to see if you get a bonus to another roll. It's especially cool if I get to roll to see if you get a bonus (or a penalty!) from my help. In that kind of situation you double down on the tension without doubling down on the rolling just to see if you succeed. You get more people invested in the process at little cost.

Combine effects where possible.

If you can merge a table so you roll once and look across it for combined results instead of rolling on Table A then B then C, great. If you have a one-shot roll for wandering monsters that combines "does one come?" with "what comes?" that's better than two rolls.

It's not always easy to do this, but if I can, I will do it.

Second chances are okay.

If I roll and succeed, great. If I rolled and failed, a roll to mitigate failure is fun. Missed your defense roll? Roll to see if you're stunned by the blow. Failed that climbing rol? Make a roll to land well.

In short, you want rolls to be an inverted V. One roll expanding to lots of effects, so roll < effect. If you have a small effect for lots of rolls (effect < roll) it's probably too much rolling to get the job done.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review: A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords

This is part 3 in my series of reviews of the Slavers series of adventures.

Here are the previous parts:

A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity
A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade

For all of my reviews, please see my reviews page.

A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords
by Allen Hammack
Levels 4-7
28 pages including one page of maps, plus maps on the inside cover
TSR 9041

A3 is the third of the four Slavers Series modules (not counting the recent A0 that was added to the hardback reprint, or the extras in A1-4 Scourge of the Slave Lords.) In this adventure, the PCs have tracked the Slave Lords down to a volcanic crater, within which is the hidden town and fortress of the group. The PCs find multiple entry points into an underground tunnel system, and have to pick the right one and make their way in.

The initial tunnel system's "choose the right path" bit reminds me of the story "The Dreaming City" and the entry to Melnibone, but it's not quite so developed. You quickly end up on the single path through to the end. The tunnel system ultimately leads to a city, and the city contained clues to the hidden lair of the Slave Lords (since the PCs don't have the firepower to assault their keep.)

Like the other adventures in this series, you get a mix of set-piece fights with mixed foes, clever traps, well-nigh unavoidable obstacles (but ones a suspicious and cautious party can bypass with minimal cost, given the clues they find), and so on.

A3 is both one of the best and worst examples of the Slave Lords series. This is really where the railroad that the A-series is famous for show up. Even in the non-tournament version, there is pretty much one way (and one path) ahead, and one way out. Some of this makes perfect sense - you've got an escape route for the slave lords (the connected a natural cave area to an area near their city) and the path to their hidden underground council chamber. Both are guarded and heavily trapped, but it's also clear how the slave lords would avoid any inconvenience with them. So it does make sense you wouldn't have a lot of options and traps and guards would just be lined up to ensure you can't bypass them.

On the other hand, whether it makes sense in game or not, a railroad plays like a railroad. You go through encounters in order, each is a separate set-piece, and must clear them all in order in one go to finish the adventure. As I said, it makes sense in a tournament but it's not ideal for a dungeon.

This module also has some fairly annoying "X will happen" type events in it, so even cleverness on behalf of the players wouldn't let them get around any encounters in tournament play.

In between the rails is a city adventure, one of the few encountered in any old TSR adventures, especially for AD&D. You need to wander around the hidden city of the Slave Lords on a volcanic island in the middle of a lake, and find a way into their inner fortress. Handily, you are able to discover entry passes and a map, so the players have a map to look at. They lampshade the passes by letting you take them from some slave traders, and during the series it is clear there are a lot of varied traders about so it's not implausible they'd been around, overconfident, and unfamiliar to the guards.

The city adventure is really straightforward. There are folks with clues, lots of places are closed (you arrive at night, and have to keep a move on), and a fair number of people who'll accept bribes. The guards are dangerous but generally no one is tagged as being especially suspicious - I guess when you live in a well-guarded hidden city with visitors from afar you assume to shifty-eye adventurers are just more of the same. It's a fairly easy investigation, akin to ones you'd find later in games like Bard's Tale - open the right door, bribe the person inside, get a clue to the next door and go open that. It could easily be expanded to much, much more, but the module gives only the bare bones.

On the upside, that means you have a city you can quickly digest and be ready to run on the fly for anything, and not a lot of text to plow through that is unrelated to doing that. The writeup of Suderham is shorter than that of Hommlet in T1, and probably easier to run.

The art, like that of the rest of the series, is good and it's evocative. Some of it would be useful as player handouts but give just a wee bit too much information away. The Jeff Dee cover makes the bad guys look especially nasty.

One other thing that I like with this adventure is that the Slave Lords - should you fight them - have a coordinated fight plan. It comes with turn by turn descriptions of what they'll do for the first part of the fight. It was a bit I'd use for my own play, often carefully writing out 3-4 rounds of combat tactics for bad guys and monsters. I don't do that as much anymore, but it's extremely helpful when deploying foes who are supposed to be coordinated and experienced and who have interesting abilities to deploy.

I like their names, too - Ajakstu, Nerelas, and Feetla the pirate (which only decades later did I link to Jean LeFitte).

War Stories

All that said, I've run A3 a few times and it was fun each time. Okay, the time I ran it with the scripted ending wasn't one time anyone way happy. And once (in elementary school) I ran it with the non-tournament ending and the PCs were getting their butts kicked and then I think a lot of kids suddenly decided to switch to my friend's Star Frontiers game he suddenly decided to run. (We played on lunch break, so the fight was ongoing.) I do remember skipping the city adventure at least once, because it didn't have any fighting, and not handing out the player map because I didn't want to rip it out of my module and no one had access to a photocopier.

It was in acid-based trap in this dungeon that my current player's character Wyvern Intestineater died, too.

I know I ran it other times as well, either complete or using parts of it. The hit-and-run maze dwelling minotaur is a favorite lift, bits of the "throne room" (room A9), and the "cunning cubes" are favorite bits of mine to lift and re-use. But otherwise, there aren't as many liftable setpieces in this one, and the traps are very specific and a bit too elaborate for anything except a specifically designed and well-maintained barrier.

I never did get to run this in its entirety. Even in my later re-run of the series since the party was captured and broken up way back in A1 and never reached it.

How is it for GURPS?

This one is pretty good for GURPS, in that the encounters tend to be of reasonable sizes and present some interesting battlefields. The usual concerns about spells are here, though - one See Secrets spell and a single Shape Stone spell will bypass most of the dungeon, though, so you'd want to think about how the Slave Lords figured those spells into their plans.

Overall, I like this adventure but the strong-arm ending and truly linear nature of it is something I'd only want for a change of pace, not as a standard approach to gaming. Still, the fights are entertaining and dangerous, but it needs a lot more outside support to make it make sense outside of tournament use.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rulings from yesterday's game

A few things came up yesterday:

Parrying in Close Combat. By the rules, when an attacker first enters close combat, you can use a non-close combat reach weapon to parry normally. For example, see Dealing With Charging Foes, (Martial Arts, p. 106 or Long Weapons in Close Combat, Martial Arts p. 117)
However, I ruled that Vryce couldn't do so yesterday. Why?

Basically, because Vryce put himself back to a wall, with no room to get behind him, or even to get out of the 180 arc he has for front hexes. He had nowhere to back up or move. Since my own experience is that if you're cornered it's extremely hard to stop someone from grabbing you, I figured it was reasonable to say that a non-C reach weapon simply couldn't get a parry off in such cramped conditions. To be fair, I should have allowed a parry at -4, per Martial Arts p. 117, but even so, saying no parry but a dodge was fine seemed okay considering the circumstances.

Now, you might say that not being able to Retreat and suffering a parry penalty is harsh enough, but I figured there must be a downside to being somewhere where your opponent can easily get well inside the minimum reach of your weapon with no way to move out of it. So I ruled how I ruled. It's the tradeoff for fixing yourself in place with terrain, in that you have no space to take the inches you need to parry. It's no longer a case of getting your weapon in the way, but rather a case of not being to get it in the way at all - you've got no space to do it.

I'm sure it seemed a little unfair, since I didn't warn folks ahead of time this was the case. But for me the logic of circumstances is the critical bit - like when I ruled that SM +1 Raggi needed to crouch to get through a 6' x 3' tunnel, and that Asher couldn't swing while inside that space. Back against the wall is a bad way to keep your distance from a grappler or knife fighter or biter, and saying if you've taken all your ability to move away you can't get off a parry as they come in seems fair to me. I'd do this again if someone is fixed in place, especially if they've fixed themselves in place.

And to get this out ahead of time - yes, if a foe has Altered Time Rate (say, from Great Haste) and ends their first of the two maneuvers in your hex, it no longer counts as the "first turn" for purposes of parrying, blocking, DB of a shield giving penalties, etc. So Great Hasted grappler can move into your turn on turn one and not attack, thus giving you no chance to Retreat, and then grapple on the next turn, giving you a penalty to parry with your non-C weapon. Just be happy they didn't run around behind you and then grapple since you'd suffer a Runaround attack (-2 to defend) and be unable to parry because he's outside the arc of your weapon anyway and now has standing back mount on you. So it could have been worse!

No, I meant Parrying while in Close Combat. Another one came up yesterday - troll grabbed Vryce, Vryce broke free, and then an orc attacked while the troll was in close with Vryce yet not grappling. Can Vryce parry with his sword?

This one is a bit obscure, but it's actually covered by the rules. You apply the Close Combat striking penalty (-8 for a 2-hex weapon) and thus a -4 to parry normally if you try to parry an attack from outside. This is from Striking into Close Combat, p. B392 and Long Weapon in Close Combat. Generally folks step out of close combat or shoot into close combat, so the answer is always "Try to dodge!" anyway. Not yesterday.

This is one to keep it mind, though, if you are doing many-on-one. It does mean crowding someone is a great way to reduce their defenses. Of course, attacking into close combat is a good way to accidentally clip your buddies, so this is best left to expert swordsmen and callous overlords who say things like, "Shoot zem. Shoot zem both!"

Rear Vision. The Rear Vision spell gives you the 360-degree Vision advantage. How does that interact with helmets? Basically, I said helmets are a problem. To clarify, vision restrictions are a problem. I just can't see someone with, say, a helmet that gives No Peripheral Vision getting a Rear Vision spell and thus having the exact same arc of vision as someone with a helmet that doesn't restrict vision at all.

Basically my ruling is that vision restrictions due to gear will also restrict the spell. Otherwise, the spell is extremely powerful - if it gives 360-degree Vision regardless of restrictions, does that mean it works even if you can't see? In other words, does it let you put on an armored bucket (no eye openings) and this spell and see with no restrictions?

I feel like there are three options:
- gear trumps the spell - restrictions trump the benefits.
- the spell trumps gear if you can see at all - the spell trumps restrictions.
- the spell trumps gear even if you can't see at all - it doesn't matter what the restriction is, it gives you 360-degree vision even if you can't see at all.

I prefer the most restrictive version, because the spell is easy and cheap, and it makes having ridiculously high DR headgear* restrict even your magical options.

I'd allow a helmet enchanted with Rear Vision to let you see all around yourself, though, because that would be consistent with the above but also interesting. In that case, I'd still argue you must be able to see at least a little bit - no bucket with Power 3 and Rear Vision on it "Always On." In general, though, I like that vision arc restrictions are harsh and even magic doesn't just wave them away unless there is a lot of magic involved.

Reverse Grip Broadswords I ruled that, contrary to a pedantic and lawyerly reading of the rules for Reversed Grip, a broadsword (Reach 1) held in reversed grip isn't perfectly handy and totally unpenalized in close combat. A shortsword, sure, but with a longer sword I'd still want to give it half of the Close Combat penalties for thrusting - essentially splitting the difference between "short enough to work fine in close" and "too long to get a close strike anyway." That makes the shortsword a very sensible choice for a backup blade, not just a poor cousin to "the longest knife possible" aka a broadsword in reversed grip.

In short, this would mean a shortsword is -0 in close combat with reversed grip, a broadsword -2. Seems fair and interesting, and adds another interesting choice to the backup weapon discussion - how much do I value damage over potential close-in utility? You can call this a one-off merging of "A Matter of Inches" (p. 110) and Reversed Grip (p. 111-112)

Still, someone like Vryce is still better off pommel striking with his greatsword or just sucking up the -8 for a Reach 2 weapon in close combat because he gets the Weapon Master bonuses to do so.

Wrestling. Not a ruling, but man, everyone needs this. Vryce's DX+2 in Wrestling is why he wasn't hauled down by a troll and dog-piled by orcs.

* Typical headgear in my games is a cloth or leather cap under a mail coif under a pot helm. Great helm wearers sometimes skip the pot helm or coif. Even the basic trio is DR 11 with skull DR, before enchantment or enhancement. The cap/coif/greathelm combo is a bit more. So I'm not exactly crying for those poor guys who want to see directly behind themselves and have to shuck down to a mere 11 DR.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

DF Session 50, Felltower 41 - Orc Trap Counterattacked

October 26th, 2014

Weather: Cool, sunny.

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Al Murik, dwarven cleric (252 points)
Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (250 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (373 points)
     Father Keef, human initiate (125 points, NPC)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (444 points)
     Gort of the Shining Force, dwarf adventurer (unknown point total, NPC)

Still in town:
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (265 points)
     Mark Strawngmussel, human laborer (62 points, NPC)
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (372 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)

We started as usual, in Stericksburg. Asher's eye was still blind from the stirge strike, but Restoration left him halfway to healed. He wore an eyepatch and suffered some penalties to hit but otherwise was good to go.

The group gathered rumors - not many, because generally they get a lot from "I heard this at the bar I live in" Vryce, but he critically failure Carousing. I ruled he received zero rumors (not even the free one for being in town), but remembers that he heard some really awesome ones if he could just find that bar napkin he wrote it down on . . .

Otherwise, they heard a few - Gort heard that the six-fingered vampires speak elvish, Raggi heard there is a witch-queen to the East and her witches want something out of Felltower, Dryst heards that patch of weird magic are in the dungeon, and Al Murik heard that the priests who sealed off Felltower back in the day let themselves die out to preserve the secrets of their order. Finally, some merchants from Cashamash were offering money for some horns of a gem-eyed demon statue, but no one felt like track them down.

Amusingly, they've been trucking around a 5-pound silver crown they found, minus its gems, in the dragon hoard. So they gave it to Al Murik to use as a power item (it's worth roughly $5K). I insisted that, to use it, he had to wear it. So he did, on top of his helmet. It was a 17-point power item - bootstrapping is key if you have new guys and a dangerous level to explore. Asher has a fine flaming broadsword for the same reason.

The group did some gearing up and headed out, taking along Gort, the only person to show up besides the regulars plus Raggi.

They went in via the dragon cave, and found a lot of evidence of orc traffic in the area. Despite this, they found no orcs, and headed in.

The group explored, trying to link up parts of their map, and find the big double doors. They thought about raiding the "evil temple" they briefly encountered a little while back, but eventually got focused on the big double doors. They found a pair of doors and tried to open them.

They opened with ease - even a servant was able to get them open.

Beyond the doors was a 40' corridor, narrowing from 20' wide at the entrance to 10' wide at a black-painted wooden door studded with silver and with a silver pull-ring and silver hinges. The corridor was lit by a soft red glow from the ceiling but otherwise was unadorned and undecorated.

A servant was dispatched to touch the door, but the instant it touched it, it disappeared. Dispelled, it seemed - confirmed by a quick Identify Spell. Vryce pitched a slingstone at it and it clunked into the door, but nothing happened. They tried to close the big iron doors, but they couldn't get them to move. So using 4 of 5 of Gort's iron spikes (driven in under Silence) to spike one open. Then they decided to let Vryce try the inner door. He grabbed the door handle and pulled. It opened easily, but very slowly. As it did, the big doors started to close, pinging off all four spikes as they inexorably closed.

As soon as the big doors closed, there was a golden flash and the group found themselves (some stunned, some disoriented) in a 30' x 30' x 30' room with four exits. They realized they'd been teleported. They spent some time figuring out which room they were in, and marked it as a fifth unique "cube room."

They did some exploring, and I think at this point while resting they were discovered by a couple of phase serpents. They were quickly dispatched, but only after they poisoned Raggi and did a little damage.

Some more exploration brought them back to the double doors. They tried them again, went in again, and then tried the inner door - this time spacing the group out more, and trying to look inside the inner door with a Wizard Eye. All that got them was teleported again, to the same place, and a look at whiteness inside (not a white room, just whiteness, like staring into a lightbulb.)

The group did some more exploring, and find another set of double doors, and tried them. Same reason - easy to get in, but the inner door opened as the outer doors closed and - zap - they were elsewhere.

They found themselves in another 30 x 30 x 30 room. They weren't sure where they were, so they started to stand around and argue about the map. At that point, something attacked. A big (SM+2) but man-sized being of earth and stone permeated out of the wall and attacked. Lucky for them, Asher was paying attention and got between it and the group. He fended it off with his shield even as Al put Shield on him, and then Vryce got to work chopping it up. It went down after only a few (albeit extremely high damage) shots. They moved on from there, after locating themselves near the demon-ape room and gargoyles and stirges.

To avoid bother from the stirges, Dryst used Create Fire to put flames into their sinkhole, and then Create Earth and Earth to Stone to seal it, at least for 24 hours.

More traveling and mapping and looping around, and they decided to go up. The only gold a previous Seek Earth turned up was up and to the right, which meant upstairs, and the only supernatural beings they detected was pointing mostly to the whatever is beyond those double doors.

So they worked their way up to the long narrow stairs, sending a Wizard Eye ahead. Once it got to the top, Dryst saw that two orcs were waiting, and clearly alert thanks to the sounds of the party. They spotted the wizard eye, too. Dryst pulled it back and put Walk on Air on Vryce. He moved up the stairs, much faster now that he was walking on air and not on slick, uneven stairs. The orcs moved to the top, calling an alert and throwing oil down the stairs. They lit it, and flames engulfed the stairs. Vryce moved through, after Dryst put Resist Fire on him, and attacked the orcs. He killed both in single blows, and thanks to Resist Fire the group was able to just crawl up through the oil and to the higher level. From there, they moved up towards the level above.

Meanwhile, the usual alert horns were going on. But unlike before, they didn't stop. They heard a lot of loud horns, bangs, and gongs, going on over and over again.

They moved up the stairs, and found that at the top of the stairs the orcs had strewn the room with junk, loose stones, wooden "caltrops" coated with poison, and bent bits of old weapons. An orc waited beyond the room, and when it saw the Wizard Eye it started to taunt and wave as if to say "Come on." So they sent Vryce up and the orc fled and turned left.

They advanced cautiously - Vryce took point and moved into a T-shaped hallway. The eye was sent around the left corner. The rest of the group used a shield and some time to clear a path through the bad footing and poisoned doodads.

They found the orcs were trying to smoke them out - Dryst saw the orcs tossing torches onto prepared kindling to get a fire going, and then the smoke moving towards the group with unnatural speed. He responded by moving up to the corner and using a Force Dome to seal it off. They group moved to the right, exploring what was a familiar battleground when they were clearing the hobgoblins out of it.

The gongs and horns continued, making it impossible to communicate unless you yelled and/or were at close range. Despite that, the PCs moved up, and took a left after some arrows came out of a side corridor and missed a Missile Shielded Vryce. The group kept moving to the corner, and took fire from front and back. The decided this was a mistake and started to turn.

Just then, the horns and gongs started to cut off. They heard a loud BANG of a door being bashed down, and a cut-off scream of an orc. They heard booted feet . . . and then . . . stomp-clomp, stomp-clomp, stomp-clomp and the rattle of heavy hooves on stone. The Lord of Spite and his cloven-hooved buddies. Dryst had called it earlier, that maybe the orcs were trying to get him riled up and get him after the PCs.

They turned and moved back - only to find the orcs had sealed up the hallway with a wall of stone! They immediately got to work. Dryst shaped a 6' tall, 3' wide, 2 yard deep hole in the 6' thick wall. The orcs were waiting, and shot arrows down the pipe and threw in alchemist's fire.

Vryce just charged, head down, right through the fire and arrows and tiny tunnel and slammed into an orc on the far side. He bounced back and then engaged them. There were a lot of them. He quickly spotted a "shaman" and charged after him, but even at full tilt he could only get close to the guy before he was cut off by a troll and a half-ogre with a big shield and a bigger mace. Orcs piled in from both sides.

Raggi went up the tunnel, catching fire as he did, and then getting attacked while stuck in the tunnel. He shoved through and knocked down the orc blocking him and then started attacking. Dryst put Great Haste on him.

What followed was a brutal close-in fight. Vryce was quickly surrounded but put his back to a wall and started cutting down orcs. Raggi jumped into a mass and used Great Cleave plus his Trademark Move (a mildy Deceptive swing to the neck) to decapitate or neck-slice orcs. Asher pushed through next, after Dryst extinguished the flames magically. Following Asher can Al Murik. An orc bottled them up as Raggi went down with a crippled leg from an orc's strike. Despite the leg, Raggi rolled over and lopped the arm off the orc that hit his leg. Al cast Major Healing to get the now-berserk able to stand back up. He also rolled a timely 3 on a Command spell on an orc holding the narrow gap to "Fall down!" and he did; Asher stabbed him in the back and then stepped on top of the surprised orc. Raggi took out more orcs even as he scrambled to his feet.

Vryce kept steadily picking off orcs, but with his back to the wall he had no where to go. The troll moved into close combat and grappled him. Lucky for him, he was able to put off an Attack to Break Free and roll a max-CP effect roll and rip free of the troll's grasp.

As this happened, the hallway ahead was also sealed with a wall of earth, trapping a bunch of orcs on the side with the PCs. The trapped orcs fought on. The half-ogre took a heavy swing at Vryce but rolled an 18 and broke his big mace/club. Vryce knocked him down.

The other PCs kept moving through the gap, into a hallway choked with orc corpses. It took a while, even as The Lord of Spite stomped down the hallway towards them. They wanted to fight him, but not with their backs against a wall and with orcs ready to swoop in and attack if they win at great cost, or to finish them if they lose and the Lord of Spite left them (like last time.) Al Murik and Asher did some damage to one orc before Raggi hacked it to death, then moved across a carpet of bodies to watch the now-quiet right side of the fight.

Once they got through, Dryst sealed the hole back up. It'll only last 24 hours, but that was plenty.

The last of the orcs was killed - they fought on bravely but hopelessly. Raggi and Vryce put down the troll and the last of the orcs, and Raggi's berserker rage subsided. Vryce quickly took out two flasks of oil (the Molotovian Cocktail kind, not the lamp kind) and spilled them on the troll. Asher lit it up with his flaming sword and the troll charred up (it was already well on the way to -10xHP thanks to Raggi whacking it after Vryce carved it into pieces.) As this happened, the Lord of Spite reached the wall and started banging on it with his stone axe and/or club.

The PCs did a quick look - easily spotted purses, easily taken jewelry or whatever, and easily-grabbed bows and scimitars. They also put finishing whacks in on many of the orcs. But they were worried by reinforcements, the Lord of Spite bashing the wall down, and more, so they didn't do a thorough job of any of it. Still, getting some loot, some ensured deaths, and left the orcs less weaponry to pass on to other orcs.

They rapidly fled to the lower levels, and worked their way out and then back to Stericksburg.


The pictures of the fight are courtesy of andi jones, who also did the death markers, flame counters, and walls. We didn't have the heart to tell him they needed to be two hexes since he'd already made so many by the time we realized he was doing them.

Sean Punch's "Wizardry Refined" helped a lot - we needed to know if Dryst could use Weather Dome. He can't, so we needed the alternate prereqs list, too, for Force Dome.

Vryce's player was a little annoyed he couldn't parry the troll stepping into close combat and grappling him. We usually allow a non-C parry to do so on the initial turn of step in. But I figure you need room to do it, and room to back up - and he was literally against a wall to ensure he couldn't be flanked, so the troll stepped inside his long reach and then grappled. So, basically, too bad, it's a tactic that needs room.

Raggi was pleased and he's back to "normal." He was able to get himself coated with blood from head to toe hacking orcs up like crazy. One reason Cleaving Strike is so useful to Raggi is that he's purchased a rules exemption to let him take a Step and use the strike, not just use it from a standing start. So that lets him really get away with some extra killing - it makes it a significantly more flexible ability.

This session was profitable, although not nearly enough for 444 point Vryce. We used a scaled system for it, to discourage bottom feeding. Still, it goes to show that looking orcs of their gear isn't a bad way to turn a profit.

Vryce finally earned enough points, and as we closed out the session he upgraded Weapon Master (Greatsword) to Weapon Master (all two-handed swords) to cover Gram. As I understand it, the plan is to shatter his undead slaying sword, recover its magical tassels, and then put them on Gram to make it an undead-slaying dragon-slaying sword. Maybe. The other option is to put it on his "regular" magical greatsword to enhance that. We'll see what he chooses.

Finally, MVP was Al Murik, whose Major Healing spell was timely and helped Raggi get back up and keep moving.

Not a bad way at all to spend the 50th session of our DF game. It all started with a one-shot of the playtest draft of DFA1 . . .

Saturday, October 25, 2014

GURPS Magic: What if nothing was free?

Just idly wondering here.

What if the standard GURPS Magic system was tweaked so:

- there was no penalty for cumulative spells "on."

- but no spell could ever be maintained completely for free.

So you could have, say, 10 spells on with no penalty, but a Cost 2 to cast, 1 to maintains spell at skill 15 would be 1 to cast, 1 to maintain?

I'd expect you'd see skills stay close to their default levels a bit more often, and most of the saved costs put towards FP, Energy Reserve, and so on. Socially, you'd probably find Enchantments even more prized and Power Items/Power Stones even more critical.

In combat, you'd get a lot more buff spells cast and attack spells used, since "spells up" wouldn't reduce the cost. But you'd also have less spells kept up, because they'd run down your energy eventually.

Actually, you could probably get away with saying any spell reduce to 0 cost instead had the cost halved to 1 FP per 2 durations maintained. You could extend that to higher levels, so skill 20 would put a 1 to maintain spell down to 1 to maintain every 4 durations. Basically, pay your 1 and get up to 4x the duration. A 1 minute spell with cost 1 to maintain would be 4 minutes (or any fraction thereof) for 1 FP. Or just track fractional FP, I suppose, and say anything reduced to 0 is 0.5, reduced to -1 is 0.25, anything reduced to -2 is 0.125, etc. to maintain. Probably not worth the headache.

Just a random thought here - it would radically change magic as a power, with only a fairly simple change to the rules themselves.
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