Saturday, August 19, 2017

Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game: Brief Review

Here is a brief look at the PDFs from the DFRPG boxed set.

Adventurers - The one-book character generation part of the boxed set. All a player needs to make up a paper man to play as.

Template layouts are greatly simplified and clarified compared to those in DF1. Material that used to be spread across Basic Set, DF1, DF11, a couple of Pyramid articles, and the Denizens books has been pulled together into one place. Not all of it, but a good core of what you need to play.

Nicely, several of the templates have been simplified (the Bard, for example) to make them easier to use. Others have been revised to make them more effective in their niche (like the Martial Artist) or to make them play more like how people want them to be (the Barbarian.) No PCs are SM +1, so you don't have to worry about oversized gear.

Speaking of gear, the weapons are a solid mix of those from Basic Set and Low-Tech, complete with the suggested changes to combat stats that came with Low-Tech. Armor is based on Low-Tech, but where LT was more of an armor design system you've got a per-location picklist with cost, weight, DR, etc. Armor is generally heavier for non-metal armor, lighter for metal, and the costs are cheaper for non-metal and very much higher for metal.

Exploits - The one-book replacement for Basic Set: Campaigns and DF2 (and bits of DF16, to a much lesser extent.)

It's very heavily page-referenced and written up with DF in mind. Cases that would mostly affect DF are written directly into the relevant rules - such as Invisibility into vision penalties for combat, flight into Retreat, and so on.

A lot of little things are simplified - slams use your ST-based thrust damage with a modifier for speed, combat at different heights is a three-case scenario (no difference, small difference, large difference/flying), etc. None of this makes it incompatible with GURPS 4th edition as a whole, it just has the detail dial to a fuzzier, coarser level.

For my money, this is the most useful book in the boxed set - all the GURPS rules you need for DF, written solely with DF in mind, often simplified where that is beneficial, with nothing extra you need to ignore.

Spells - A one-book replacement for GURPS Magic and a Pyramid article clearing up the rules written up in DF1.

A lot of spells are gone, because they involve long explanations and/or extra rules. No Zombie spell, for example. Create Servant is gone, and if you've seen my game play you can probably guess why it might be seen as abusive. Not a lot of summoning except for animals. But the writeups are clear and use the DF prerequisite trees. And the spells are in alphabetical order within their colleges. A pain for a read-through to see what spells are basic and which are advanced, but a huge benefit for the rest of your gaming life when you want to quickly find them.

Nicely spells have had effects revised where previous versions were vague - Stench works a lot clearer than in previous books, for example. Smoke no longer creates opaque tear gas but rather has its effects spelled out in the description. It's just an easier book to use than "look in GURPS Magic, and in Pyramid, and check DF1 to make sure nothing is changed."

Magic Items - no comment here, I wrote most of this with a bunch of additional material by Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch. I will say I like his parts of the book better than my parts, but I'm pretty sure I say that about every book we've ever worked on together.

Traps - The traps are wordy but clear. A lot of them feel like they owe Grimtooth the Troll some thanks. But overall they range from fairly petty traps to lethal ones, all fully compatible with DF and its assumptions. It's a fun book and even players reading it won't save them from all of the traps.

Dungeons - I won't comment on the contents of Dungeon 1 and 2, but I will say they are:

- complete

- well-written

- ready to go

Which is something GURPS Dungeon Fantasy has needed for a while. We've had all of one adventure out there. A good one, but just the one. I'm terrible at writing adventures for other people to run, so this is something I'd like to see more of to get people able to jump right into GURPS.

I can't evaluate the GM's Screen and Cardboard Heroes based on PDFs; we'll see how they are once I have them in usable form.

Next time, I'll post about how I think we'll use this in my ongoing GURPS campaign.

Friday, August 18, 2017


Warehouse 23 is having one of their occasional 23% off sales on physical goods and PDFs.

Full details of the sale are available, but these are some highlights:

GURPS PDFs 23% off

GURPS physical products 23% off

Munchkin 10% off

And there is an $84.90 Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game pre-order bundle with a GM screen and a boxed set.

If you'd like to support GURPS, and this blog and blogger in specific, purchasing any of the GURPS items I've written or co-written would be appreciated.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Role-Playing Game PDFs released to backers

I woke up this morning to find copies of some of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG PDFs in my inbox. They've been pre-released to backers.

I received the boxed set contents and the GM's screen contents. No sign of the add-ons - Magic Items, Traps, and Dungeon 2. I hear that some backers got those, so perhaps mine are a bit late. Either that or I screwed up the pledge process - it's remarkably hard to go back and check what I actually ask for from SJG.

I can't wait to hear what my players think of the rules; they'll recognize some of them as we've be using some of them since I first saw them very early in the review process (slams, some of the spell changes, etc.)

And Iron Llama put up some comments, too.

Origins of the +4 to target a hex?

I don't have access to my pre-4th edition GURPS books right now. But I was thinking about the +4 to target a hex with an area-effect weapon such as a grenade or an explosive spell.

I think it originated in either GURPS Fantasy (for 1st edition GURPS) or GURPS Magic (for 2nd/3rd edition GURPS, the one with the dueling magicians on the cover.) But I can't check from where I am.

Can anyone reading this take a look and see where it originated?

Monday, August 14, 2017

More Bones IV thinking

More thinking about the Bones IV Kickstarter and what I'm getting and not getting.

Gauth - probably trade block / sale block. We'll see. But I don't really need another giant dragon.

Nagendra - nice snakemen. I'm glad to have them. The snakewoman, though, eh. Put breasts on a snake to make it a female? Snake-bodied medusa/gorgons have the same issue, but still, for some reason it doesn't bother me there. The rest are very cool, though.

Ape Attack - Like I need more ape-men. Hahah. They are welcome to join my eight metal Jason Weibe apes and my Hackmaster "ape shaman." These are welcome. I can always use more apes, even as they become more and more fodder to my higher-powered delvers in my game. Plus I like to paint apes.

Tree of Despair - amusing, but what would I do with it? Deploy a tree over and over in my games? Contrive a situation where there is a big tree on my tabletop with vultures and a victim on it and pay $12 plus shipping and painting time to use it?

I am 100% certain one of my players, maybe two of them, are thinking, "HELL YES!" to this question. But it's not going to happen. This is a useful wargame centerpiece, skirmish game objective, or diorama piece. It's a one-time use as a RPG gaming piece in my game, and then really only if we need to have tactical combat in and around it. Even then, I know my group - there is a 100% chance they'll say, "Let's not go back to that tree" and that'll be the end of it. It's like one of those very distinct character minis except more so. At least with a big dragon it can be the same dragon a few times, or be quickly re-painted into a different one. Generic monsters can be more of the same kind of monster. A big tree with victims? Better as a home-made terrain piece or a home-made counter, just to avoid the whole build, paint, and store aspect of this thing.

Dreadmere - cool, mood-inspiring minis. So far, I'll pass. Too many personalities I'd be able to use once, not enough repeat use for my $50. A boat and a raft and a cart are nice, but I can (and have) made them out of square or round toothpicks and parts from other games. This would make a great support pack for a "Dreadmere" adventure path or base play area for a series of adventures, though.

Living Statues - male and females of these. Both are cool. The price is nice and low for what you get. Still, they are very big, and I don't know how often I'd need Ancient Greece-themed figures - especially since I'd have them in Feb/March of 2019.

Chibi Delvers - I don't need or want these. But I'm happy to get them, and I like that it's dependent on Twitter and Facebook shares to unlock them. Nice idea. If I used the platforms they're asking for support on, I'd do so just to help out those people who really like these guys.

The various giants, bonus demons, etc. fall into the same boat. Cool, price is fine, by the time I'd get them I'm not sure I'd need them. Plus giants are kind of a pain for me to paint and store. Many of the others I just wouldn't use - cute baby dragons, dice monsters, skeletal animals. The trolls are tempting, but four trolls and a fanged dog for $12 - probably not. I might just get one or two of those trolls when they eventually come out. I do have a big pile of Bones, Legendary Encounters, and TSR trolls already. And that giant demon - way, way too big for me!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sandboxes & XP

John Arendt aka Beedo asked about flat-rate XP and sandboxes. I have opinions on this, because of the game I run and the game I play and a game I have played.

Here are three ways sandboxes can handle XP - by rewarding in-game action, purely flat-rate, and by story advancement/goal accomplishment.

Dungeon Fantasy: Felltower is a limited sandbox, and runs with goal-oriented experience. The system has gone through three iterations, but essentially, the reward are for loot (primarily), exploration (secondarily), and miscellaneous goals (avoiding death, finding special reward areas, etc.)

Since rewards are based on actions, especially loot, the game is very loot-driven. PCs make decisions that might be unwise from a long-term sandbox for per-session XP reward reasons. For example, the PCs have demolished several potential allies (even former allies) to get loot from them to reach their loot threshold and gain XP. They've allied with clear enemies to their own long-term detriment because it promised loot now.

Gamma Terra is a limited sandbox, and runs with flat experience. We get 5 xp per session, every session, no matter how much or how little we do.

We also get a random bonus every five sessions played, ranging in value from 2 points to as much as 20. So a reader might assume that skews things. But it's random, it's based on attendance not actions, and it doesn't skew anything except attendance.

Essentially, though, getting flat XP per session means we do what the situation demands. We didn't get XP for negotiating with the badders. We didn't XP for fighting them, earlier. We could have talked to the Iron Men instead of defeating them. We could have turned on the Triumvirate instead of allying with them.

The fact that XP is not tied to in-game actions means we don't take any in-game actions in order to earn XP. XP is totally divorced from our actions so we take actions we feel fit our goals in the sandbox.

The Known Worlds/Blood Dogs campaign featured story-based XP. As the PCs made progress by accomplishing in-game goals - clearing areas, finishing off story arcs, etc.* As the PCs finished what was essentially an area-based series of activities, they earned XP. Loot, slaying monsters, negotiation with potential enemies or allies, etc. weren't individually rewarded. Getting the group - the Blood Dogs - closer to their goal of defeating the evil wizard they'd unleashed and made central to the game was rewarded as they dealt with a block of linked issues. Plus I gave a small, minimal reward to players that attended each session to bulk out the rewards. But the largest percentage came from the story-arc rewards.'

Because of this, the PCs didn't worry about money except as they wanted or needed it. They didn't fight monsters except as they were obstacles. They didn't make friends or enemies except as they felt they needed to (and in the latter case, by their actions.)

Overall I think a sandbox works just fine with flat rewards. If you reward in-game actions, you get in-game actions centered on earning those rewards. A sandbox in an old-style D&D game will involve PCs aiming for loot. One in a later D&D game with most XP coming from monsters means they'll focus on slaying. A sandbox in a GURPS game with purely flat XP rewards means the PCs will just do what they feel like doing (or feel they need to do.) But it's totally doable do any of those three. My recently played and run games have been sandboxes, and the method of XP reward has affected how the players interact with the sandbox.

They all work, but they all give a different feel to play.

* I've said this before, but it bears repeating - "story-based" doesn't mean railroad, and doesn't mean a GM-centered story. The PCs essentially drove the plot with their actions, but it was the plot that determined their rewards.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why I don't sweat long-term fatigue issues in my game

One reason I don't really fret the generous fatigue point (FP) rules in GURPS is personal experience.

At the moment I'm doing some MMA training in Japan, as well as visiting old friends - the experience blends, as almost all of my Japanese friends are my MMA training buddies from living here and past visits. I do this routine of doing every single class while I'm in town, travelling to friendly associated gyms and training there, hunting down old friends and the toughest-seeming new guys to train with. I push nonstop, make some Carousing rolls in between, and sleep little thanks to an early dawn and early rising neighbors where I stay.

This isn't the first time I've done this. My record is training the same day I got off the plane, and then training 12 days out of 14 (two Sundays messed that up) including at least one extra mid-day class. Going hard 4-5 days in a row on minimal sleep (5-6 hours, not my usual 7-8) while jet-lagged and doing almost every round of training isn't that hard. I'd do all of the rounds but sometimes partner switching means you really can't or lack of mat space means waiting. And I'm always here when it's brutally hot and humid except when there is a typhoon. Plus my carefully arranged diet goes out the window in favor of randomly selected foods and travel-ready portions.

It's a pace that burns the candle at both ends but generally gets bracketed by a short break before (albeit with travel stress) and a long one after. Not a big deal if you don't do it every single day for a long time.

The individual bouts of combative training and fine, too - I generally feel like I've got as much power at the end as the beginning.

Anyway, this informs my opinion on whether I should enforce long-term fatigue penalties or more strict FP recovery issues in my GURPS games.

My DF game is a case in point. Megadungeon delving is a lot like this in my campaign. The PCs are off for a while. Then they gear up and do a half to a full day off walking, fighting, sneaking, healing, running, dragging, climbing, searching, etc. with only snatches of rest here and there to make up for FP spent in battles or movement. And once FP are back, they're back - no Last Gasp or Long-Term Fatigue rules wanted, needed, or used. After a day of this, the PCs take their haul back to town, sell it off, and presumably get some rest before doing whatever they do in Stericksburg that pays for most of their upkeep.

Even the overland isn't that bad - travel for a few days by boat (Cold Fens) or by foot (Lost City of D'Abo), spend a day or two trashing the "dungeon," then repeat. You might be tired when you get there but not enough to really bother anything.

The fact that no one took Light Sleeper helps, too - no one is literally asking for points in return for special issues with travel and fighting and lack of sleep thrown together.

There is nothing wrong - and a lot right - with the rules I referenced above. They just aren't appropriate in my game.

I don't like to generalize from only my personal experience. But I do find that my personal experience provides a nice explanation for why the delvers in my game aren't slammed for many delves in a short time or intense delves in general. And why I don't fret cumulative effects of hard combat beyond that caused by direct injury. Here is where the generous rules do match my experience with doing this in the relatively short term - intense effort is possible even when tired, especially combative effort. Penalizing the PCs for it doesn't seem that fun, and would run counter to something I've done personally. So yeah, thanks to my own "vacation" plans ("Let's full-contact spar for 9 out of 10 3-minute rounds with 15 second breaks!") I don't worry about the PC's fatigue issues ("Let's kill orcs for 12 seconds and then hang out for 15 minutes resting and looting, then fight again in two hours.")
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