Saturday, May 31, 2014

A GURPS 3e Giant Two-Headed Troll

Apropos the giant two-headed troll picture from yesterday, I found this in my conversion of UK3 The Gauntlet.

Stuff granted by the evil gauntlet are in italics.

Cell 4 - The Gauntlet worn by a 10' Giant Two-Headed Troll.

ST 30 (3/5+2) DX 13 IQ 9 [Special] HT 20/34 Speed 8.25 Move 16 Dodge 9
PD 1 DR 3 (Left Hand and wrist) PD 5 DR 11 - attacks to the arm have a 2 in 6 chance of hitting the Gauntlet.
Combat Reflexes, Ambidexterity, Full Coordination/3, Two Heads, Dark Vision, Immune to Mind Control spells, Regenerates 4 Hits/second (no regrowth), +9 HT to resist cripples (effective 29!), Hard to Kill +4 (24 HT vs. Death), High Pain Threshold, Missile Shield-20 (always on), Panic-20 (twice per day: ), 5x damage to structures for 1 minute, 3x per day: ), Loyalty-20 on touch to any malign creature.


Right Handed Claw: 3d cut C,1,2 Parry 10
Left Handed Punch: 3d+3 cr C,1,2 Will not Parry with the Gauntlet.
+ 1d6 Shocking Touch-20
Bite (x2) 3d cut C,1

If the Sentinel and Gauntlet are touched together, the troll will be immediately Annihilated, leaving only a black smudge on the floor. The four gems on the back of the Gauntlet will be lying in the smudge, and the Sentinel Bearer will be left wearing the ring.


The players of Vryce and Dryst and Borriz fought that guy with Crestlin, Baajikiil, and Boris, respectively.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Revising GURPS Magic: Repairing the Repair Spell (in DF)

The Repair spell from GURPS Magic is both simultaneously a blessing and a curse in my games.

On the "blessing" side, it's very useful to have players able to quickly and completely repair battle damage or re-assemble broken items. It's not a genre-breaking usage, either, in a word where magical healing spells can repair otherwise permanent damage.

On the curse side, it's very powerful. You can repair just about anything, and it means nothing broken is ever really broken.

My players suggested a really ludicrous use of Repair recently - find delicate treasure, bust them up for easy transport, bag them, and then Repair them (at no penalty, thank to no missing parts). While this is really funny, it's one of those things that violates the spirit of DF to some degree. It was an amusing request and it really got my brain churning about ways to modify Repair to fit the "how are you going to get that delicate stuff home?" quandary. At the same time, you don't want to wield the nerf bat too strongly, or it's a wasted spell.

Here are two solutions:

1) Repair is Temporary

Like spells which create, spells which repair are also temporary. The Repair spell duration changes from "Permanent" to "24 hours." At the end of that time, the item reverts to its pre-repair broken state. The secret to permanent Repair (which incidentally costs 10x as much) is a closely-held secret of the mage's guilds and NPC enchanters.

Note: It's a very simple change to implement but a very strong change. It makes the spell much less useful. Another way around it would be to say it's something like 2x, 5x, or 10x cost to do it permanently but anyone can do it.

2) Repair Takes Skill

To repair, you need:

- an appropriate craft skill at 12+ to repair the item. Armoury (Body Armor) for armor, (Weapons) for weapons, Mechanic for machines, Carpentry for etc. If you lack the appropriate skill entirely, you roll at a -4 on Repair. If you have the skill but not at 12+, you roll at a -2.

- to repair an item with missing parts, you need the appropriate craft skill at 15+.

As a bonus, however, if you have an appropriate craft skill at 15+ you can re-roll a critical failure, exactly as if you had Magical Stability (DF11, p. 15). If you also have Magical Stability, you can re-roll twice and take the better result!

Notes: The basically makes the spell a faster, tool-less way to fix things. It also means you really need some expertise to make it fly. On the plus side, solid expertise means you won't mess up, roll an 18, and have the GM say, "Oops, you didn't repair Serena's magical armor, you disintegrated it!"

Still another way to implement that skill 15+ benefit is to just say if you have an appropriate craft skill at all, you can roll against that to turn a critical failure into a normal failure.

3) The Amount of Damage Matters

A trivial repair, where the item is damaged but still fully functional (such as 1-3 penetrations of armor,a crack in a vase, or a hole in a canteen): +3 to skill
Typical repair, where the item is broken and non-functional (such as a typical weapon breakage): +0
Badly damage items (-HP and below): -2 per -1xHP.

A completely destroyed item (-5xHP) gives a -10. Missing parts gives a -5 (common if destroyed with corrosion, burning, or explosive damage, or if destroyed piecemeal or over a large area). Combined, a totally destroyed item with missing parts is a -15 to the spell.

Notes: This takes the most work, although a GM can pretty easily assign a penalty from -0 to -10. This also assumes most "your weapon breaks" results takes your weapon to 0 HP and a failed HT roll, per B483. This gives a range of +3 to -15 to Repair items. Obviously, if you take the delicate glasswear and break it up and put it in a sack, or slice up the tapestry into ribbons for easy carrying by your various henchmen, you're probably rolling at -10 even if you ensure you have 100% of the parts!

This also leverages the HP/Damage to Objects rules from 4e nicely, in my opinion.

Other rulings I've made with repair:

Repair fixes the medium, not the message. In other words, a book that's turned to dust can be repaired into a blank book. You can't repair erased pencil marks, chalk marks, etc.

When in doubt, parts are missing. That -5 for missing parts is critical to keeping Repair as a useful spell but not a way to grind things to portable bits and then re-assemble them, or claim that grenades are re-usable items with a mere Repair roll.

Raw materials must match exactly. "Teak" is "teak," not "some wood." Any gold is fine for gold filigree, like in the example in the spell, but missing bits of your very fine sword must be high-quality steel, broken orichalcum mail links need orichalcum to fix, and broken glass needs glass, not sand. The materials must only need working, not changing. No raw materials? The spell fails.

You must know what it is. Or at least have a pretty good idea. If you don't, it's -5 on the spell. No "I Repair that pile of dust and see what it was!" Find out first to avoid that -5.

What about Felltower?

I'm probably going with option 3, although I really like the "Craft skill at 15+ acts as a stabilizer" from #2, and I think that's a good way to go. I may even allow Complementary use - a warrior with Armoury (Body Armor)-15 can make a flat skill roll (with any penalties for the amount damaged) to see if he can act as a stabilizer to re-roll critical failures.

So yes, the "sack full of broken chairs and crystal goblets and paintings" will work for them, given good enough rolls . . . after all most of those rolls will be at -10 or so.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Beedo's megadungeon best practices

I'm not the only one with best practices from megadungeon play. John "Beedo" Arendt listed his, and they are more concise than mine. They're also a little more directly aimed at class-and-level gaming than mine.

Megadungeon Practices

It would help if you were familiar with his Black City campaign or his current Taenarum game, but even if not, there is a lot to learn.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Easy to Describe Rooms

I just want to reiterate something I said here before.

Make rooms easy to describe.

Seriously. My players went back to a section of the first level I drew in my earliest mapping of Felltower. It's maddening to describe the rooms. Big odd shaped rooms, strange turns, odd intersections, weird room locations, etc.

We took up over half the session in that area, and while that was fun, it was also because mapping it was difficult and describing it took a lot of excess words.

Had I used a much simpler layout, it would still have been a nice area of dungeon, but not such a pain to describe. Using words to describe what you see is tough - I'm trying to reduce what would be visually interesting but not especially difficult to understand with words that just aren't quite up to the task.

Add in a new player mapping because the veteran couldn't follow my descriptions and voila, half a session spent on what could have been more easily done in 30 minute with rooms that were easier to describe.

It's not an especially fun part of the challenge, either. That's why I'm saying it again - it doesn't have to be hard to describe to be hard to navigate, or crazy to draw in order to be exciting.

Monday, May 26, 2014

DF Game Session 43, Felltower 34 - Room of Pools, Eye of Death

May 26th, 2014

Weather: Hot, breezely, clear.

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (250 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (327 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (401 points)
     Gort of the Shining Force, dwarf adventurer (unknown point total, NPC)
     Melchior the Malevolent, human wizard (approximately 125 points, NPC)
     Melchior's Zombie Rebel Crazy Boss, human? zombie (NPC)
     Jon Blackbart, human volunteer fighter (NPC, unknown points)

Still in town:
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Christoph, human scout (258 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (345 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)

We started in Stericksburg, as always. A new delver joined the group, having heard of their massive money hauls, relative paucity of total massacres (recently). He'd met the others during the downtime, and they offered him a full share for joining in based on his obvious skills. That's Bern, the artificer.

They picked up only a few rumors - something about 6 levels or so in the dungeon, one about how flaming skulls, flying skulls, and flying spirit skulls are all undead, and another about how some areas of the dungeon you can only get to by going up from below them. Considering the many cul-de-sac areas they found, that one for sure is plausible.

Galen hung out for a week or so near the top of the mountain, scouting the orcs out. He found out a lot:

- they no longer come to Felltower partly overland, but they have some kind of big settlement north of it.
- they have regular patrols, repair crews, and guards.
- there are maybe 20+ or 30+ orcs on the surface and inside the castle, plus at least two different shaman, an ogre, 4 "devil dogs," and he was sure he smelled ape (maybe gladiator apes?)
- some of the orcs are darker, bigger, nastier orcs who seem to be in charge (not half-orcs, though)
- they've fully fortified the castle and repaired the gatehouse portcullis.
- they are, naturally, most active at night.

Basically, Galen used Stealth-assisted Observation to gather information on the target. Nice idea.

Once they'd stocked up on the necessaries, they headed out of the river gate, crossed the Stone Bridge across the Silver River, to Stericks Landing past the statue of Sterick, out of the slums and up to the ruins.

They scouted around looking for another way in via the ruined buildings, but found nothing. So they decided to go in and talk to "the stupid orcs." (Galen)

The orcs clearly decided to push the deal - they demanded 200 sp, not 50 sp, for passage, and shrugged off negotiations as "orders" from "the chief." They also told the PCs they'd be escorted out of orc territory - no safe passage wandering around within the orc's area. The PCs agreed, because they felt like they didn't have the firepower to truly manhandle the orcs. They're regretting their deal, even if it was working for a while. The orcs have gotten a bit big and dangerous, which annoys them.

The orcs told them the area near the easy stairs to level 2 was off-limits, and so they headed to the right. They'd hoped to drop down a level or two and explore, but instead they decided to find a way to connect their map up to the level two map. They'd explored and mapped the area before, but that was long before, and that map had been lost in a watery grave with Nakar.

A good portion of the session was just mapping, dealing with traps and incidental monsters, and more traps.

They explored an area they'd been in before, but found a secret door they'd once gotten through easily was trapped. It zapped Vryce for what turned out to be a 3d deathtouch, which Melchior identified with his spells. It was still there after a second touch (ouch), so they waited while Bern MacGuyvered up a crossbow-powered crowbar secret door opener. It worked, forcing the door open without harming them. They moved on and explored the room beyond - nothing special, just a big room they'd visited many times before. After syncing up their maps, they explored an area with meteoric "stall" walls used as a magical target practice zone and a couple empty rooms.

They also saw some webs, and recognized the webs, sound, and so on of acid spiders. So they moved in. They torched webs as they went with a torch wielded by Gort, and a big webbed area was cleared by a Molotovian Cocktail (named after the troll-plagued city of Molotov to the East) gizmo'd up and thrown by Bern. Galen wounded a spider, and they had to choose one of two corridors to clear first - they chose the nearer, with a strong rear guard. They were attacked by 7 spiders from front and back. The spiders didn't last long, despite launching themselves from far off and marching over the front rank to bite Galen in the back as he supported the rear. He was wounded badly and was being scorched by acidic poison until Bern gizmo'd out a handy base he was carrying in his pack to neutralize it. Bern also wounded one badly with his ST 27 crossbow, too, making him a very handy companion to have. They searched and found some victims but only a few gold coins on one corpse to show for it.

More exploration found another trap - a man-trap sitting out in the open. Bern went for it, and clicked the safety . . . but set off a Linked Deathtouch. He was hurt, and tried to get out a potion. Bad move - he dropped, horribly hurt (and if not for Luck dead). They dragged him free and healed him up.

They mentioned the evil gnome who has been setting traps, right after Bern disarmed one. Raggi suddenly had a thought, and gave him the ol' narrowed gaze, and said, "Hey, you're a gnome good at traps. How do we know you aren't him?" "Oh, that's Bramble Bernberry. Totally different guy."

They found a room with a pressure plate and triggered it remotely with an arrow, showering the room with poisoned caltrops. This turned out important later as Bern scrounged a few and saved their poison.

They circled back around and found a way past the trapped areas. They made their way first to the stairs up to the fallen tower (and unlocked it, and found the orcs had weighted the top down to stones.)

They'd hoped to check out some corridors they aren't sure they'd dealt with before but a lurking huge hunting slime - dozens of feet across - convinced them to just back off and forget it. Instead they went through a pair of secret doors to the area they'd once fought the cultists in, and where they'd taken a tunnel down to the next level. But the tunnels were filled last time, and they could see a stone smear where someone had shaped the stone trap door closed.

After that they found a room with a gold framed painting of Felltower in it. Scratch marks on the floor convinced them it was a trap, and Melchior confirmed it was an Illusion. Galen shot some arrows to dispel it, and it revealed the far wall was covered with grasping stone arms. He damaged one with arrows, but they pulled back into the wall. The illusion popped back up, and when dispelled again the arms were back. Clearly something had dragged the loot from the victims back from the grasping arms.

Finally, they moved back to the noisy room area and to the "right" of the trolls/slorn area. They found four niches with tall stone statues of armored men wielding flails. Six-fingered hands were painted on their chests. Beyond them, a door painted with a red tower with a sword and axe underneath it. They recognized the statues as golems, and set up and attacked them. All four sprang down and engaged them. The golems threatened, but Vryce had used a spellstone of Shield (DB +2) and that helped him parry for himself and Raggi despite the flail penalties. Galen even put one down with arrows, firing around Raggi, albeit with help from Raggi's axe.

Beyond the golems (who had no loot - the flails were stone, too) they examined the door. No traps, but it was locked. Bran picked it, and the Vryce forced it. He did so and it opened 3/4s of the way and jammed. Behind it was a dead slorn - long dead and dried, and his shove had broken it up and jammed one of its bones under the door and dragged it tight.

Inside was a big room - 120' across, in the form of a big octagon (I accidentally said hexagon, driving the mapper crazy. Oops.) In it was 13 pools. All were the same size (roughly 10' across), but with varying contents. One was flaming, another was a glowing clear, another dark, another smokey, another silvery - and more. The ceiling was high, too high too clearly - and no one looked at it clearly, either.

Instead, they were distracted by the pools, and by a dessicated body laying on the floor near a smokey pool in the far left "corner." They moved to it. Melchior used Mage Sight to examine it, and pronounced the dead man's robe and staff magical. They he cried out in pain. He dropped. They tried to move him, and he cried out again and squirmed, then again, even as they ordered his zombie to drag him clear.

Only as he dropped unconscious did they look up. Overhead, staring down from the inky darkness near the top of the room, was a 3' diameter eye.

An Eye of Death! - Gort knew it, as he'd fought them back in his Shining Force Days.

Disaster commenced.

With Melchior out, their ranged weaponeers were Galen, Vryce (with his sling), and Bern (with his heavy crossbow). They immediately set up to fire. Galen started dual-shooting at the eye, only to find it was an elegant and quick-dodging thing. He shot, it dodged, and then it would casually nail him with its Gaze of Death and it kept doing maximum damage. He put up a fight for a while but then dropped, right after switching bows after an 18 snapped his bowstring.

Vryce, who'd fired ineffectually with his sling (even trying Luck on one shot), ran to aid him. So did Bern, who'd taken a shot with his heavy crossbow. They got him healed by pouring a potion in his open mouth, then using an Awaken stone (Gort did that). He got up, got his bow ready (he has a spare these days), and started shooting. Bern gizmo'd up a poison area-showering arrow for Galen, and Galen took a shot at the eye. It dodged, but was hit by the poison . . . but sadly for them, it was immune. Then the Eye put Galen back down again even after Vryce healed him up with a Gem of Healing.

The eye wasn't foolish, either, and kept attacking the greatest threat, putting the threat down, and then moving on to the next threat. When Galen fell, it targeted those helping him. When he was up again, it targeted him.

Things do desperate. Raggi ran around cursing the eye, throwing things - first his long knife, then Blackbart's knife, then his dwarven whetstone - all hoping for a critical and a good damage roll. He missed. Meanwhile Bern and Jon grabbed the wizard and dragged him (as loot!) while the zombie dragged Melchior. Gort grabbed Galen's better bow.

Vryce decided to try something risky. He readied an alchemist's fire in his sling. Then, he slung it at the ceiling above the eye. He hit his target despite the range (over 40' up) and it exploded. The eye was ready to be attacked but couldn't dodge the falling spray of burning oil from above. It caught some oil as it dove aside and burned.

It quickly dove for a pool - and Raggi and Vryce ran to meet it. As it came down it zapped Vryce (he resisted, again) and just before it could hit the water Vryce feinted it and then sliced it in two.

They'd won, with their best ranged fighters down, with a chancy and lucky move by Vryce. It was close - if he'd missed, they had nothing else to try, and a long, long slog to the door under constant attack from the eye.

But they killed it.

It was late, so they grabbed their loot (the dead mage - as it turned out) - and headed home. They locked the pool room door behind them.

Their loot was okay - a gem, some coins, a minorly magical staff (fine, Staff spell), and a hooded robe of protection with Forify+2 and Soilproof on it. That was worth a lot, but if they kept it (and gave it to Melchior) it would have not been profitable enough for all. So they sold it.

Melchior was disappointed, for sure. But everyone did take a moderate profit home (and Bern ended up with once again his starting cash, too!). No one died, and they (finally!) found the room of pools.

Amidst their loot was - a broken eyeball-shaped marble (a summoning item? Useless now), a notebook (maybe a diary?) in Eastern Kantish (which none can read), and enough clues to tell them the wizard got stuck in the room with the slorn, used the marble, and either died from his claw wounds (he was badly torn up) or from the Eye of Death. The slorn? Killed by the eye.

Now the group is planning

a) how to deal with the pools


b) how to put the orcs back down, now that they'd grown so strong.

All for next time.

Good game.


- A new PC joined - run by a new player - a long time buddy of mine yet one I don't think I've ever GMed for and only rarely got to play with. Same guy who returned my long-lost Champions stuff to me, too. He's known my other players, at least some of them, for almost as long, too.

- Two funny things came up - the idea that orcs mark their skulls by territory, which lead to "Know Your Skulls!" work skills posters for orcs. "Goblin Skull - Yield. Human Skull - Stop!" Also, naturally, a "Days Without Death" counter that's perma-etched to "0."

- Eyes of Death can be deadly. They are fragile, and limited, but unless you can give them a steep Dodge penalty, they are just nearly automatic damage every turn. They are smart enough to attack the most dangerous targets, too, which nearly spelled doom for the PCs. Lucky for them Vryce is an utter tank who shrugs off HT-5 rolls as "easy" and seems to have one of everything at this point somewhere on his potion belts or webbing. I've been told they are too frail and too weak, but if they have room to attack from above, you're in trouble. The Scout had a hard time putting one down when it could Dodge so easily and kept hammering his HP down every single second.

They might need a little more ranged power, somehow. But with the EoD, they needed a high-skill shot. Even magic would have been tough against it. Good thing there was only one! This time. I have a number of home-made Eye of Death minis.

My players were quite proud the Eye of Death originated in their games, too. With slightly different powers, but no less nastiness.

- I tried to say "yes" to Quick Gadgeteer as much as I could, within its limits. I said no to "whip up a loaded crossbow," "whip up an alchemist's fire potion," and one or two others like that. But I said yes to the crossbow door opener, an oil flask, an turning contact poison powder into an area-effect poison attack. Seemed okay.

It was a lot of fun. The Artificer was a cool add, because he's got such a wild possibility of clever solution that don't depend on thinking of your needs ahead of time. His combat utility was merely okay, but that's fine - he's not in the group to kill, but to solve problems they can't. The base to counteract 8 more seconds of acid spider venom was inspired, too. He'll be an interesting addition, and I think he was more fun for a starting character than another fighter or so would be.

And once again, Vryce saved the day. Truly impressive - he's an impressive character design coupled with very, very good play. He's won the day more often by skill and good play than by luck, and rolled with bad luck very often.

Felltower today - this is just a teaser

Usually my Felltower game is run on Sundays, but today is a holiday and yesterday was a day with some family plans. So we'll be gaming today.

Keep an eye out tonight for a summary tonight, featuring:

- a first-time GURPS Dungeon Fantasy player (although long-time gamer and friend of mine)

- our first gnome PC (so we'll see what they're like)

- our first Artificer

We'll see how it works out. I've never GMed for a guy with Quick Gadgeteer, so hopefully my reflexive "no!" reactions can be tempered to let him leverage the full value of that 50 point investment. I'm curious how he'll MacGuyver his way through some of the obstacles in front of the group. They won't have the wizard there, due to work, so they won't have any synergistic effects this first time.

Oh, and my Heavier Crossbow rules mean if the gnome hits with his crossbow, bad things will happen to the target . . .

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Easier Counterspelling in GURPS Magic

Riffing off my ideas from this thread on the SJG Forums, here is an easier version of Counterspell. This makes it a much more useful spell, faster in combat, and allows for more anti-magic magic use.


As per GURPS Magic, p. 121, except you may attempt to counter any spell, even if you don't know it. If you don't know the spell you are countering but it's a commonly known spell or you've used Identify Spell on it, your skill in the Quick Contest is at a -5 penalty. Unknown or new spells, or spell-like powers with the Magical limitation, are countered at -10.

Cost: Same.
Time to Cast: Same as the spell being countered, not counting time reductions due to skill by the caster of the original spell; maximum 5 seconds.
Prerequisites: None.


- Breadth. You can now try to counter anything, known or unknown.

- Prereqs. You don't even need Magery 1 for this; Magery 0 (or nothing in a High Mana Zone) is enough to learn this and cast this. A small change, but there you go.

- Time. Basically if you're countering a 2-second spell by a Skill-20 caster (so he did it in 1 second), it takes you 2 seconds to counter (1, if you've got Counterspell-20). If you're countering a 1-hour to cast spell, it takes you 5 seconds to counter it (3, if you've got Counterspell-20).


You may try to Ward a spell you don't know, or know at a level below 12. However, you are at -5 in the contest. If the spell is completely unknown, or it's a spell-like power (one with Magical as a limitation), you may attempt to Ward it at -10.

Otherwise unchanged.

Another option is the Technique. That is, there is no Counterspell spell. Instead, all spells come with a Counterspell element. In this case, you counter a spell by casting the same spell. You can remove a Create Fire area with Create Fire. Cost is 1/2 of the cost of the spell countered; time to cast is the same as the original spell. Any usage triggers a Quick Contest of Skills. Roll against your own skill at -5. You cannot Countspell against spells you do not know.

Then you'd want a Perk, perhaps like this:

Counterspell Master
For each level of this perk, you roll at a +1 in the Quick Contest of skills. Maximum 5 levels. This works for all spells you know - you're just good at undoing magic.

If my players like this, I may try the first option (you can counter anything) - it's a broad power give to wizards, but it means enemy wizards can take Counterspell and Ward and have it actually matter. Dispel Magic is still a better option for brute-force removal of multiple spells, and it can be left alone IMO. It's kind of funny that the "surgical" option (one spell at a time) is easy and the brute force option (all spells) is hard, but Dispel Magic is cheaper and big, and suffers nothing from your lack of knowledge. Counterspell works best under this option if you stick to what you know, but Dispel Magic works no matter what.

I'd limit Dispel Magic to 6 seconds maximum Time to Cast, too, but that's just me.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Greyhawk Had Weirdness, And My Dungeon Does Too

I loved this collection of the published material from Greyhawk and comments from its players that Wayne R. published the other day.

It Was All Weird

Yeah, there are a lot of things that are silly, weird, and dangerous all at once.

Just about the only thing I haven't read from that list is the Bottle City - I missed that one, although I know about it.

Silly yet deadly is a really fun way to go. Greyhawk had Lewis Carroll levels, Diablo II had the Cow Level, so why shouldn't Felltower have something equally groan-inducing yet deadly?

I'm not interested in mixing sci-fi with my fantasy for my DF game, but I can promise some silly weird stuff is down in the dungeons, if you go deep enough, into the right cul-de-sacs, or play with the wrong doors or levers. Rich loot will also be in the weird spots, too - because you should remember plundering Wonderland or Monster Island with a grin.

Still, humor is a bit of a sensitive thing. I've run into "funny" encounters that just made me enjoy it all a bit less. So needless to say what I throw in will be aimed at what I think my players will find amusing but odd. But it is in there . . .

Friday, May 23, 2014

Ways I Challenge PCs in DF

Here is a list of ways I challenge various aspects of my PCs in my DF game, and to a degree in my past fantasy game, too.

I've tried to break them up by category.


- meteoric pins in locks and trap triggers to stop lockpicking spells.

- No Mana Zones to cut down "spells on" and take magic out of an encounter.

- Magic Resistant creatures.

- Low Mana Zones to futz with recovery of FP and casting of spells.

- High-paced fights or successive combats to reduce the ability to recover FP.

- Dispel Magic and Counterspell using foes to directly attack PC spells.

- anti-magic materials and paints to reduce the ability to tunnel through walls and floors.

- meteoric weapons to deal with all-or-nothing defenses like Missile Shield or Blocking spells.

- foes with specifically anti-magical powers that bypass common magic defenses.

- decoy targets to draw false (or useless) positives from Scrying spells.

- Scryguard and Scrywall and Teleport Shield (when not in DF) to counter magic on a specific target or area.

Missile Weapons

- foe with Missile Shield.

- Homogenous and Unliving and Diffuse foes to counter Implaing and Piercing damage.

- high-Dodge foes.

- foes with shields.

- short-range encounters.

- windy areas.

Melee (especially high-skill, high-damage melee)

- foes with Blocking spells or automatically successful defense-like powers.

- ranged-attack foes.

- flying foes, especially combined with ranged attack.

- physical damage-immune creatures or ones with Supernatural Durability (Achilles' Heel: Damage from spells).

- foes with damaging auras triggered by melee attack or in a tight radius.

- Foes with Fragile (Explosive).

- Foes with Binding vs. weapon attacks.

- Diffuse foes, especially with unparryable attacks - Swarms!

- Insubstantial foes.

- bad footing and or dangerous footing.

- specific weapon immunities.

- places you can only reach by crawling or crouching, coupled with melee foes.

High Skill

- Foes lacking weak points.

- Foes with tiny, tiny weak points.

- Foes who can ignore Feints, Deceptive Attacks, etc. (Berserkers, generally)

- Darkness, Bad Footing, etc.

- Invisible foes.


- Armor piercing weapons.

- Cosmic (Ignores DR) damage.

- Electrical attacks.

- Attacks with armor-ignoring followups.

- Very high damage attacks.

- Poison.

- Corrosion attacks.

- Rust monsters!

- Grappling.

High Defenses

- Skilled foes who can Feint or Deceptive Attack.

- Cosmic (No defenses) attacks.

- Area attacks.

- Surprise attacks from behind.

- Invisible foes.

Other (catch all for other challenges)

- obstacles you can only pass singly (ropes to climb, narrow tunnels to crawl down, etc.)

- especially difficult to spot traps, even as far as invisible ones unspottable without magic.

- especially difficult to disarm/open traps/locks.

- thick doors (often metal) and thick walls to make forcing/smashing less attractive.

- puzzles that challenge the character and player.

I'm sure there are others, but that's a good list of things I've done to challenge the players and their PCs.

Why do these things?

Because with great power comes great challenges. Magic is a universal tool, but it doesn't mean it needs to be all powerful. Omnicompetent wizards are fine as long as they aren't omnipotent.

I also see all of these as logical results of the existence of these powers. In a world where people can turn invisible and wave a hand at your locks and open them, you'll want to have No Mana Zones and anti-magic locks to foil that, just like you'll have especially difficult locks to open to foil mundane lockpickers. You'll have anti-air defenses to counter flying creatures. You'll have armor-piercing weapons in a world were people can armor up beyond a reasonable chance of being hurt.

I deploy these even when the aspect they are meant to counter is lacking. So even if the party wizard doesn't have Lockmaster there are safeguards against it in some places. Even if the wizard doesn't have scrying spells there are lots of Scryguards and Scrywalls up. Even if the party doesn't have anyone with Flight there are low-ceiling areas to stop flying. All of these things would logically foil existing powers, so they exist and get used, where appropriate. The more secure the place, the tougher the foe, the more well-guarded the treasure, the more of these challenges will show up.

People still get to use their cool powers, and revel in the fun of having them. The knights still get to wade through high-damage attacks and cut down massive monsters that shrug off lesser warriors or bash doors down. The mages get to detect treasure and create whirlwinds and set rooms aflame with magic. The scouts still get hordes of creatures flying or at range so they can show off their bow skills. You really do get to play with your toys. But that doesn't mean the world bends over backwards for you; having those cool abilities and high levels of skill means you also get to face the challenges that would stymie a lesser adventurer. And sometimes you get counters that shut you down completely, and force you (the player, and the PC) to find another way around the problem.

These don't come up all at once.

That probably needs to be said. I use these in different combinations, singly, and in varying frequency. Many foes, areas, doors, locks, tunnels, etc. lack any and all of these features.

Not All Challenges Are Equal

This is important.

Some of these - No Mana Zones, ranged attack flyers vs. melee fighters, homogenous high-DR foes vs. archers, etc. - are total shutdowns. The PC that is shut down needs to find something else to do, because their main power is basically gone. This is the peak of challenge levels.

Others are just making your job harder, and if you succeed, making you seem more often. They can also allow others to step up and show some teamwork, make you pull out backup skills, or make the player come up with something really clever to overcome.

Short version: Most of the time you can showcase your main abilities. Maybe 1/5 to 1/4 of the time, you can't. Some fraction of that time, you can't even use them. And this is part of the fun.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Blocking Heavy Weapons With Shields

This is me pulling together my responses to this thread.

This is basically pulling together rules concepts from a few different places:

- the idea that bucklers (shields held in the hand) are treated like weapons, shields strapped to the arm are treated much more generously and don't fall off if unreadied (or even if destroyed to less than -10xHP!).

- the ready time of an unreadied shield from B382.

- the BL-based limits on parries from Parrying Heavy Weapons, p. B376.

So here it is all together, slightly changed to reflect some further thought.

Blocking Heavy Weapons - A sufficiently heavy or forceful attack can overwhelm a shield. Bucklers can block attacks up to your BL. Shields can block attacks up to your BLx2. Attempts to block anything heavier fail automatically; the attack sweeps your shield aside and damages you normally. In addition, a buckler is dropped; a shield is still strapped to the arm but cannot be used to Block until a Ready action is taken to re-grip it. If the Block is made by the DB of the shield, suffers damage and provides it usual cover protection (DR + HP/4, see Damage to Shields, p. B484).


- Optionally you can let every block provide shield DR/HP as cover if the roll succeeds. I can see some flaws in this - you basically get a roll to get cover DR, and with a sufficiently good shield this can let you block anything. Pretty much any Slam will do no damage to you, even if it's way to heavy to get Blocked. That makes a lot of sense for, say, a man with a large shield blocking an ogre or a bull or something, but a lot less for a halfling with an SM-2 light shield blocking a charging dragon. Especially if it's a nearly-invulnerable faerie-material shatterproofed metal shield. Or a Force Shield - it's sci-fi tech but provides DR 100 and can attempt to block anything, ever, regardless of the weight, and gives you +100 DR if you try; that's especially useful with an All-Out Defense (Double) or when you can't risk Dodging. It feels silly with, say, a 2# light shield providing some extra DR versus a giant's sword blow but your 3# broadsword doesn't do anything but get swept aside without slowing the attack. I'll have to mull that one over.

- It's odd that making your roll marginally is better than making it well - the reverse of the normal case with Block, where a marginal success gets your shield clipped and possibly causes knockback as well. You can fix this by inverting the odds (so if you roll under 3+DB of the shield) is possible, too - but it's an inversion you'll have to remember to apply before you roll.

Basically, you can choose to try to Block a too-heavy attack, but all you get is a roll to see if you get the shield in the way or not. If you make the Block roll you may get some DR from the shield (which gets damaged doing so).

This will work very well with the rules I use for BL-based parries.

Also, apropos blocking and parrying heavy weapons, here is a fun, heroic parry rule:
Critical Success On Parrying Heavy Weapons - When attempting to parry a weapon that exceeds your BL limit for parrying or which automatically breaks your weapon, if you roll a critical success on the parry you somehow avoid the attack hitting you. Your weapon may break, but whether it breaks or not it deflects the attack just enough to miss you. Handle breakage and other effects of normally per Parrying Heavy Weapons, p. B376.

- This can give very unrealistic results - parrying dragon's claw with a cheap dagger successfully, or parrying a charging bull with a sword. But it's kind of heroic, and it gives that bullet-stopper bible or lucky move saving you against all odds effect of fiction. If you use that with the inversion mentioned above, the DB of the shield applies in the die range above the critical successes.

Both of these could use some playtesting, so if you try them out let me know how they work and give me any feedback you can. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Do you like posts about gladiators?

I had some time yesterday between studying, working, and prep for work. So I started to speed-paint some gladiators. I went into one of the Plano tacklebox inserts I use for storing minis to retrieve this old AD&D wizard mini I thought would be good for Melchior the Malevolent (I was wrong, sadly). While I was there I saw all of these Foundry gladiators and said, okay, I'll paint the Retarius.

Then I said, screw it, I'll paint them all as a set.

Here is how far I got:

The skin is a mix of Vallejo "Bronzed Flesh" and Plaid "Flesh" but it's a bit yellowish for me. I'll figure out how to fix that.

Gladiators 001 photo Gladiators002_zpsb563c2cf.jpg

Gladiators 002 photo Gladiators001_zps7d8e5d79.jpg

I have no idea when I'll use that slave dragging off a fallen gladiator mini, either, but I'm a sucker for that kind of figure. Plus Foundry puts out minis in packs - this one is GLAD 1/6 Spirited Underdogs, and I wanted the rest of them. Not for any particular use, really, although years later I went and co-wrote a book about gladiators.

These guys are cool but they're more like true-scaled instead of Reaper "Heroic Scale" so everyone makes them look a bit small.

I have some non-minis posts in the works, but I was suddenly crushed by a lot of unexpected work, so you'll have to wait on those and just bask in the bronzed beefcake of those minis!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New D&D Starter Set - Yeah, I Might Get It

Everyone is talking about it, and so will I.

D&D 5th edition is set for release:

I think for around $16 on (which is where I linked to it, above), I'm probably going to get it. I may not run it, but I'll have a better idea of how the game runs and I'll have a Rosetta Stone for understanding stuff written for it. Plus, it's something I may be able to pass on to someone else for actual use.

I haven't decided yet, but it looks interesting and the price is right.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How do you know when a campaign is over?

It's a simple but big question. How do you know when to put the characters down and fold up the GM screen and move on to a new game?

This is generally a harder question for fans of open-ended games than folks like, say, Bill Stoddard, who routinely run games with an arc of play and an end point.

But how do you know it's over barring a TPK that derails the game and ends interest in picking it back up?*

I know back in my elementary school/high school AD&D days, it was over after Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits. No campaign end party or anything. No plan. But that was the highest level module we had and if you beat it, we pretty much didn't have anything more to put in front of you. PCs made the occasional comeback, but even the one time we played the Q1 vets from one game it was in the elf-world behind one of the gates in Q1. It was a campaign ending finale.

Otherwise, we played until PCs died off or players moved on from lack of interest.

My later games sometimes had a clear end goal, but they were rarely met. The games still ended either from a TPK or a near TPK and a lack of interest in playing any further. My pirate game ended when the PCs got a ship and escaped, and while we talked about running a ship-based pirate game we'd had our fun in the "bust out of captivity and escape to freedom!" campaign.

My DF game, by design, can wrap up whenever we want to. It's pickup basketball, not a league with a championship game at the end. I have ideas on potential cool stopping points, but it's not meant to go out with a bang but just go on until we get bored.

Still it's hard to say for me when an open-ended campaign should end without a TPK. I can plan for it, but it's hard to set an end-point unless the game has a strong story to it, even if that story is just "get to power level X and do Y or establish in-game thing Z."

How about you guys? When do you know you've gotten the fun out of it and it should be put down?

* No, I am not saying all TPKs end games. I'm talking about the ones that do end the game as everyone says, that was fun, but let's start over with something else.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Alien Menace, Session 2: Aliens Draw Blood

Last night we had our second session of Douglas Cole's Alience Menace game.

You can see his writeup here:
GURPS Alien Menace Session 2

Overall, it was tough. Long story short, we advanced in the same vector as we were last time. We checked some sectoids, and as we did so our rear guard Christine spotted some small (SM-4, 18") floating discs. She warned us and then opened up with considerable effect. She's an NPC, and less points than the PCs, but not by much . . . and anyone worth their weight in transporting to another planet(!) must be worth bringing.

We rapidly headed back, having heard nothing ahead of us. We set up an ambush around the corner. One of our guys was just a little too far forward and ended up in a one-on-one or so fight with the discs. He got shot, badly, in the exchange. We eventually dusted the floaters, and then advanced to engage some sectoids we heard. We nailed them but I think we put ourselves into a situation where we can't bring all of our firepower to bear when we need too. That ended up with Colton getting singed in the chest and getting his arm crippled.

The one downside to group movement is our approach from last time - either move as a squad in overwatch, or send one scout ahead - changed. We ended up all moving up into the combat instead of just getting a glance around the corner and sending 40mm grenades to scout for us. That's how we dealt with 4 sectoids without them getting a significant shot off last time, but this time it became a firefight.

Colton blew down one sectoid with grenades and fragments took care of the other. But once we went around the corner some floaters opened up on us. Colton took one out with excellent grenade shooting, while my guy (A.B. Karabus) put some lead downrage to no avail (lots and lots of bad rolling.) Colton got shot back, too, despite Luck and a Tactics-based re-roll. It just wasn't enough and he's down to one arm and has a quarter-sized hole in his Dragonskin armor.

That's where we left it - A.B. prone in front shooting, Colton prone behind and effectively one-armed, one squad member hauling Ethan around, and the rest of the team moving up. Casualties are making the odds of a successful mission a bit lower, so we need to shape up our tactics and our shooting next time if we want to recover our mission MacGuffin.

Fun game.

Mistakes we made:

- advancing around the corner at all without using smoke or other cover.

- leaving only one person on rear guard.

- all going to look at the dead sectoids.

- setting our ambush so that one shooter (Ethan) was able to engage and be engaged by the enemy before anyone else. Had he been back, say, 2 yards, the enemy floaters would have had to drift into multiple sitelines and been torn up before they could blast him. Honestly, with the scrolling map and no way to spin it and look at it from different angles, or lay down sighting cones, it's hard to tell where is good and where is not.

- no leg armor and wussy arm armor. I know my feeling isn't universal, but I can't see going into battle again without some better limb armor. I bought a ST 17 so I can ignore some of the downsides of encumbrance. Real life shooters might not wear shin guards and thigh guards but screw it, blaster fire is proving to be an instant limb cripple and turns us from fighters into casualties in one shot.

Rules notes:

- My full-auto approach is working okay. Not great, but good enough. As fights get closer in, it will matter more. I also shot on the move or from the hip and didn't bother to aim, just point.

- We did the my-side your-side movement approach before going for interleaved initiative one 1-second time. I'm not sure it made any difference than how I do DF, which is also my-side your-side but never varies from that.

The VTT was Virtual in tabletopishness and Actual in its frustration. Lots of little stuff:

- the all-powerful mouse wheel is how you zoom, unzoom, and scroll the map. It's also how you turn your icon. We got more used to that but it's trivially easy to mess things up.

- the way modifiers zero out makes it unclear if I've set them correctly until I roll. Not sure why, and it makes for cascading rolls (cumulative modifiers) seem like they'd be tricky.

- the difficulty in customize the window sizes and text sizes makes even the 17" screen I use a bit tight. I'm seriously considering trying it through my HDMI connection to my TV next time, but I'm not sure how the headphones/mic will work if I do, since I use my 12-year-old-and-still-flawless Sennheiser HD280 headphones and the laptop's built-in mic. But I need screen acreage.

- my character sheet has picked up nonsensical skills like HT-based Tactics. Weirdness from the GCA to FG transfer, maybe, but I'm too unsure of the VTT to risk deleting anything.

- I actually rolled a few times and had it not count because I didn't get the dice (or the skill roll) sufficiently over the Chat Window to display the roll to others. Honestly, all rolls should be public by default, with a hidden section for the ones you want to hide. Rolling a 5 on 3d when one die misses the chat box and having that invalidate the whole roll just sucks. We joked about "has to roll on a flat surface" and "dice that fall off the table don't count" stuff, but I've never made someone re-roll the whole 3d when that happens, but it does in this VTT. Annoying.

We're getting more used to Fantasy Grounds but still the interface is a distant second behind face-to-face play.

And a random note - I've never seen Firefly, so choosing Adam Baldwin's character from Full Metal Jacket wasn't a double-play on him playing some dude in Firefly. Animal Mother just got on the list because I decided I wanted to tote an MG and then it just grew from there when I started thinking of fun characters who use MGs in fiction.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

BL-based unarmed strike weights for GURPS.

In the day before yesterday's comments, I mentioned that I use a Basic Lift (BL) based "weight" for attacks for parrying purposes.

I can't recall exactly where I picked it up, except that I got it from Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch.

I found Kromm talking about it here:

. . . where he off-hand suggests BL/20 for strikes, BL/2 for slams instead of ST/10 and ST, respectively.

So this isn't remotely my idea, but I figured I'd explain my execution of this nice idea I stole.

What I've been doing is BL/20 for strikes, BL/10 for heavy full-body moves (and two-handed strikes). I haven't been using BL/2 for slams, though, I think mostly because I house ruled that you can't parry a slam. Well, you can, but all you do is get to inflict a potentially damaging attack but still get slammed. We got very tired very quickly of people with unbreakable sufficiently heavy weapons parrying full-sized humans without too much difficulty, so "no" was much easier. Dodge it or Block it.

What counts?

BL/20: Punches, most kicks, elbows, grapples, headbutts, strikers, shield bashes (sorry, shields don't count as weapons of their own weight in my games, because of this), etc.

BL/10: Bites, stomps, body checks, tail swipes, heavy strikers, two-handed combination strikes ("Hits with both clubbing arms" kind of stuff, or multiple-arm grapples).

BL/2: Haven't used it yet, but it would be for slams if I did.

Weapons I've generally been using the weapon weight itself, although for some I'll juice it up a bit or give them an exception if there is some reason why that makes sense.

Note: In all cases, calculate BL by Striking ST for strikes, Lifting ST for grapples. For example: A monster with ST 30, Striking ST 5 for bites only, and Arm ST 3 uses ST 30 for kicks, 33 for punches, and 35 for bites. This is rarely an issue, and you should calculate this ahead of time anyway!

I don't limit Block by weight, although for really heavy strikes I'll pull out the shield damage rules. The 3e ones made shields fragile, 4e extremely tough, but hey, if a giant strikes you for 7d+5 cutting, I'll going to want to check for breakage on your wooden Medium Shield. Of course, that only happens if you make it just by the margin of the DB. Otherwise, you've presented the shield well enough to cause the attack to glance off harmlessly.* Otherwise I've generally been ignoring shield damage as something I don't feel like tracking these days.

In any case, I think this would work fine for anything, not just DF, where I'm currently using it. I'd port this to any GURPS game. Parrying big animals should be tough!

* I've had people question that before, but the example I use is either car windows vs. gunshots (if they're familiar with that from reality instead of fiction) or taking (not checking) a kick. In my MMA training I routinely get kicked full power in the leg. If you turn into the kick and give it an angled thigh to hit, you can take it without much (if any) damage. If you don't turn into it, or you turn a little too poorly, you suck up the impact. Checking a kick is a GURPS Martial Arts Jam, and man that sucks for the kicker if you do it correctly.

Friday, May 16, 2014

More Painting

Over the past few days, I have had time to do almost no writing and little painting. I did, however, take advantage of a nice day to do some spray-sealing and some Quickshade dipping.

I have:

- repeatedly watched this video on using a color wheel. I'm still bad at this, but at least now I have some idea of how to match up colors on a figure to draw out details. I'm no expert - that's my sister, the professional artist - but I am beginning to learn.

- repainted three Pathfinder pre-paints. They started life as some aquatic critters but I re-painted them as undead, because I am never fully stocked up on zombies and ghouls.

- I finished all of my Reaper Bones terrain pieces.

- finished some Reaper Bones vermin. Nothing exciting, really, just next time I need to actually put a beetle mini down I have one. I'm sure I spend 1,000 times more time painting them than it'll take to kill both of them. Speaking of vermin, I'd never use this mini but I'd love to have a painted version of one.

- re-finished an old, old, old mini of a cleric with a cross and mace. He's, uhm, Archiv or Heritage. I didn't paint him, but I did clip his cross into a better crucifix shape and re-finish him.

- I did Anval Thrice-dammed, because he looked easy to paint. He was. Not sure when I need a guy with no shirt but plate armor on his legs and a comically oversized axe, but I have one. I'll find a use for him, I'm sure, but mostly I painted him because he was like 3 colors and 3 shades and 1 dip. Done, done. And done!

- I did some work on some monster figures.

- I finished my Reaper Bones orcs, including a modified one. Big surprise to my players, I'm sure - I have even more orc minis. Galen Longtread finishes them off faster than I can dip and seal them, though.

- I finished Farmer Gam, Witchhunter.

- I also did my first Pathfinder goblin and I'm satisfied with the results. Others will follow, because I love those guys for all the same reasons I imagine the Paizo guys love them. Lots and lots of personality.

- I finished another 5-6 minis of various types.

All together, I either slapped paint on or finished about 50 minis over the past two weeks, over half in spurts over the last week. That doesn't make a dent in my collection, really, but it does some upcoming encounters in my DF game will have minis instead of counters, which adds a lot of fun to the fights. Both my players and I seem to get a lot more fun out of well-painted (pronounced "well, they're painted") minis to spice them up. Also, I'm now ready for when someone says "My character concept is a shirtless guy with plate pants and a big axe."

Apropos painting minis, I'd like to find a cheaper alternative to quickshade. Is there a wood varnish that's functionally the same as, say, Quickshade soft tone?

By request, a picture.

 photo Minis028s_zpsb42ace57.jpg

Left to right, Anval, that cleric I mentioned, and a Pathfinder goblin still waiting for finishing sealant.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Relative SM House Rules from GURPS Felltower

I use a couple of house rules in my DF game. My players know these from experience, although I haven't really spelled them out. I like using SM as a modifier to hit both in melee and missile combat, but penalizing big fighters for fighting human sized targets really goes against the spirit of DF. In the games and fiction I'm emulating and drawing inspiration from, being bigger makes you easier to hit with missiles but doesn't make it harder for you to hit human-sized heroes. Therefore:

"To hit" rolls are zeroed out to SM 0. You skills are rated for use scaled to a SM 0 human. Don't apply relative SM as a penalty to skill unless the target is smaller than SM 0. In that case, use relative SM.

In other words, positive SM never gives you a penalty to hit a smaller foe unless that foe is below SM 0. You're a SM+3 giant with Broadsword-16 fighting a SM 0 human? You roll against a 16. A SM+1 barbarian? Roll against a 17. A SM-2 halfling? 14. Conversely, a SM-2 halfling with Shortsword-15 rolls against an 18 to hit you, because your SM is +3. And yes, you roll against a 19 to fight another SM+3 giant. Since the game I play centers on SM-2 to +1 PCs, this isn't a huge problem. In any case, SM mods cap at +4 per the FAQ (specifically case

We still use relative SM for small guys: a SM-2 halfling is -2 to hit for a human, but not for another halfling. A SM-1 goblin strikes a SM-2 halfling at a -1; a human strikes one at -2. A SM-10 ant strikes the halfling at +4, not that I ever roll for a single ant.

Why? This keeps giants and big dragons from needing incredible skill just to hit their human-sized foes. It also means they don't get so much greater defenses - giving, say, a SM+4 dragon skill 20 so it can hit a human on a 16 or less means it gets a parry of 13 with its claws, while just saying it has a 16 skill gives it a 20 to hit other dragons and a Parry of 11 allows for a normal attack/defense roll spread.

Relative SM does affect grappling in interesting ways in my games, but I'm using a house ruled set of Technical Grappling rules in my games that aren't ready for prime time reveal yet, but suffice it to say being bigger really helps you grapple people.

I won't vouch for this outside of DF, but it works in its intended setting quite well.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Talking Skulls in Walton's Prince of Annwn

See, I told you magic heads and talking skulls are cool.

From Prince of Annwn, by Evangeline Walton

These quotes are from a conversation between a couple of dead heads, and some even more dead skulls, at the gate of Death's palace.

"Man's head is among the Mysteries. It sees, it hears, it thinks, it speaks. Man has only one other power that matters: movement [. . .] it does not endure, like a skull."

. . . and the skulls keep those powers, in these Welsh-mythology based tales in the book. They see, hear, think, and speak.

"Yet there is great power in a head, the Seat of the Four Powers. Our old folk used to keep the heads of their dead as honored guardians, who could see further than men. They cherished them as loving kinsmen and good councilors."

and get this one, for those who want to unleash the Sons of Morte or Acerak's kids on the world:

"I have heard of a skull that spat upon a woman and got her pregnant [. . .]"

So even death won't stop a good man. Or maybe, not stop an evil man, either.

And yes, I use a lot of talking skulls and councilors beyond death in my games.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Adobe Kuler color identifier web app

My sister pointed this link out to me:

Adobe Kuler

If you click on the photo icon in the upper-right corner, you can load up a picture. Then you can use the little circles to identify the colors in the picture. It's pretty good, although I did have it give me some very odd results when I pointed it at metallics in pictures of minis I painted. Still, for those of you, who, like me, having trouble identifying colors or understanding color theory, it's useful.

It's a pretty useful color wheel, too, if you're trying to identify which colors go together or clash.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Link Recommendation: Ultimate Techniques

Nothing from me today, but there is a fun post over on the SJG Forums about "ultimate" techniques. There are some pretty fun ones in the thread, including the Karate Kid kick.

Martial Arts Ultimate Techniques

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Felltower: Farmer Gam, Witchhunter

So I did stat up that peasant I painted yesterday after all. He'll be available for hire in Felltower. What the heck, I need another potential volunteer.

Now, Farmer Gam is either good, or he's not. Which one? I'll let you decide, by providing two sets of stats. One of them is true.

Farmer Gam, Witchburner

"You want witches burned? We-l-l-l-l-l, I'm not bragging, but I've bagged more than my share of witches. You know they float, right?"

Available for hire. Runs a farm near Stericksburg. Possibly delusional.

If he is delusional, use these:

ST 12 HP 12 Speed 5.25
DX 10 Will 10 Move 5
IQ 10 Per 10
HT 11 FP 12
Dodge 10 Parry (Broadsword) 8+DB

Silver-coated Pitchfork (12): 1d+3(0.5), Parry 9, Reach 1,2.

Torch (10): 1d+3 crushing, +1 burning if lit; Reach 1.

Traits: Delusion ("I'm an expert witchhunter.); Fearlessness 3; Odious Personal Habit (braggart, -2); Obsession (Burn through the witches); Overconfidence (12); Wealth (Poor).

Skill: Broadsword-10; Hidden Lore (Witches)-12*, Professional Skill (Farmer)-12; Spear-12; Survival (Woodland)-12.

Gear: Clothing; Holy symbol; Leather jacket and pants (DR 1); Personal Basics; Pitchfork; Pouch w/garlic, wolfsbane; Shoes (Feet DR 1); Torches (2).

* Not really. Roll against this; on a success, he's got wrong information. On a failure, he's got nothing, but will try to talk witch jargon to make himself sound good. A critical failure means it sounds really correct but it's wildly dangerous information. On a critical success, he's got correct information by mistake. But generally it's hard to know when he's blundered onto a fact.

If he's not delusional:

As above, except remove Delusion, and remove the asterisk from Hidden Lore. He really does know about witches. The things he says are true - even if he is talking up his actual experience killing witches.

Why is a critical failure on delusional Gam a good result? For the amusement factor - I can roll in front of the PCs. If roll a 17 or 18, they know what he says is either dangerously wrong (if he's the real deal) or actually correct . . . what do you do?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Painted Village Rioter: Need any witches burned?

Yesterday I had a little time in the morning, and more in the evening. So in two blocks of time, I took this mini from this:

to this:

 photo Peasant01_zps652aec81.jpg

 photo Peasant02_zpsad0f25ef.jpg

All he needs now is a coating of Quickshade to seal the paint on and give it a little bit of depth to the color, then some spray seal. I'm impressed with the cost-per-oz and matte finish of the Army Painter matte sealer, too.

He took maybe an hour total of actual painting. I base-coated him, then edged everything in black (kind of a reverse approach), then re-did the base coat, then detailed him. My goal was "quick" and "done in one day." So he's not perfect, but I could pour hours of work into him but I'd only make him a little bit better. All of the paint is craft paint, and I almost exclusively used that badly, badly used W&N Series 7 brush I keep saying I'll throw out, but don't. I'll repeat - please come over, find it, and throw it out so I have to use the new and better W&N Series 7 I bought to replace it.

I said almost exclusively - yeah. The black of the eyes is done with a toothpick. I actually do a lot of painting with toothpicks.

Some notes:

- I should find a way to remove mold lines from thin things like the tines of the pitchfork. It's hard to do it with a heavy x-acto knife and it's impossible with a file.

- My approach to fire works better most of the time. This time it's a little too . . . tri-toned. Yellow, then orange, then red. It's usually a bit better. But no re-paints, I have a lot of Bones left and more on the way. I want to try this method that Jen the Mini Painter shared, too.

- I need to stat this guy up. Torchbearer? Laborer? Guard, with Spear, and maybe I Have Hidden Lore (Witches) as a Delusion? Hmm . . .

- I also painted up - ahem - more than 25 minis this week. Either finished, or coated, or start-to-end finished. I have a few in process, as well.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Why the Fiend Folio is awesome

I originally intended to post something else today, but let's stay on the theme with monsters.

So there is this Google+ thread (partly) slamming the AD&D Fiend Folio.

I had to weigh in.

I love that book to death.

It was either the 1st or 2nd AD&D book I owned, either right before or right after the DMG. I paid $12 for it ($15 for the DMG) at Jamesway in north-west NJ. That was a fortune back then.


It goes back to the guys who taught me how to run D&D. They had both books, and all I got to see of them was the pictures. And that cover picture with the Githyanki seared itself into my brain. I remember the older brother of the pair who taught me had a paper route, and we had to go around and collect between him running me through B2 and then him starting a new adventure. I sat in the car, thinking the whole time of that blue cover with that cool monster on the cover.

THAT is why I plunked down money on the FF before I bought the Monster Manual. I even had to ask my uncle to show me what a Mind Flayer was so I could understand the Githyanki's background. Damn, they were cool. That Emmanuel cover, and those Russ Nicholson inside pictures.

It's full of cool monsters, lame monsters, and middle-grade monsters. I didn't know it at the time, but it's mostly a collection of monsters from White Dwarf either as-is or reworked for the Fiend Folio. White Dwarf was, like Judges Guild stuff, a white elephant in early 80s NJ game shops.

I've used a lot of monsters from the Fiend Folio in my games. Just at a quick glance, I've used 76 different monsters (or monster sub-types) in play out of the 174 monsters (by my count). That's not bad. A half-dozen or more have already appear in my current game, too.

That book isn't full of must-use monsters - it has some real oddballs, and really special case monsters, and ones I'd never use - but I used as many as I could and I love the ones I used. It's got some real personality. It turned me to reading Charles Stross and even George R. R. Martin, too. It inspired a lot of play, a lot of fun, and a lot of daydreams that led to play and led to fun.

It's one of my favorite books. Partly nostalgia, partly continuing use. It's a book that made a real impact on my life, and which still influences my play. I, to this day, try to impart some of the wondrous impact that blue, black, and yellow-brown cover had on me as a gamer.

Editing later: I said on that thread I linked to that I colored some pictures in. So here are some of the pictures I "improved" as a kid.


 photo FiendFolioColoring1s_zps9f35bd2b.jpg

Lizard guys (very faint green, if you look closely):

 photo FiendFolioColoring3s_zpsb4d4517b.jpg

Flames on the glowing swords of the Githyanki:
 photo FiendFolioColoring2s_zps16cda470.jpg

And click here if you want to see my battered original. I peeled off the "United States" sticker from the bottom right-hand corner. I can't recall now why I stuck one there.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Review: GURPS Abydos

This is one of the overlooked gems of GURPS, in my opinion: GURPS Banestorm: Abydos, by David Pulver.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am friends online with David Pulver, and I playtested this book twice (once when it was abortively slated for a 3rd edition release, and then again for 4th edition.) So I'm not unbiased, but too bad - I'm biased in favor of reviewing stuff I like, and this is one of the supplements I like!

GURPS Banestorm: Abydos
Hidden City, Forbidden Lore
by David Pulver
Steve Jackson Games, December 2008
61 pages
$9.99 (PDF)

Abydos is situated on an island in the middle of a lake bounded by three states in the Yrth setting of GURPS Banestorm. The conceit of that setting is that the world is magical, and dark elves accidentally triggered a magical backlash while trying to summon up an apocalypse against their enemies, the orcs. Instead, they caused a series of "banestorms" that pluck hapless folks from other worlds and dump them on Yrth. These include a wide selection of people from Earth, who brought their own cultures and religions with them. They've changed, but still reflect much of the original conflicts and beliefs of their Earth versions.

Abydos is a city of necromancers - but Christian necromancers. A heretical monk supposedly discovered the lost books of Lazarus of Bethany, the Lazarus who Jesus raised from the dead. Those books extol the raising of Lazarus, expose Peter and Paul as revisionists, and exonerate Judas (St. Judas, to the Lazarite Christians.) Basically, they see raising the bodies of the dead to serve and aid the living as totally normal, natural, and right. Needless to say, the more mainline church in the world disagrees and periodically tries to expunge them, without much success so far. Simultaneously, they've done their best to seal off the island city by wiping it off the maps (hence, why it isn't on the normal maps from GURPS Banestorm) and by denying its existence when not actually whipping up crusades against it.

So Abydos is a medieval-cum-Renaissance city, similar to those of Italy, but with a magical bent, a lot of undead, and a strong Christian tradition (albeit a heresy).

Lots of the elements are really well done - an order of vampire monks explains their inability to tolerate holy symbols as suffering on the cross as Jesus had, and their fatal flaw against stakes as being vulnerable to a spear like that which pierced Jesus's side.

Plus it's not just black-robed necromancers trailed by zombies rubbing shoulders with demons and whatnot - demons are evil, and demon-summoners are actively hunted down as sinners! The black-robed types are monks or priests or scholars.

All of the hersey makes sense, especially if the implication by the more mainline Christians in the setting that the original lord of the city (Lady Ravenjoy) warped the teachings just enough to justify her necromantic studies and

Some highlights:

- the Ravens. A female force of nobles, many mages, who act as cops and rulers (with limitations - there is a council, etc. that provides lots of chances for politicking.) Their current ruler is Gabrielle Boneshanks, who died and had herself raised as a zombie and then Soul Jarred the body.

One example Raven is a little unlucky (for her partners on the force) and an ideal friendly NPC or as a PC.

- the Legion of Polished Bone. A skeleton army (and police force) made up of the defeated legions of Megalos's crusades.

- the Naglfari. A mafia of Northmen, named after the ship of fingernails of the dead Loki would sail at Ragnarok. Don't mess with the Jarl of Jarls.

- Anti-Lazarite Christian Terrorists. They fundraise with crime, which causes friction with the northmen.

- the Flesh Library. Living slaves held in stasis and tattooed with the words to a single spell.

- a (magical) school with fraternities of students and a history of annual bad behavior, duelling, and intra-student rivalries.

. . . and a lot of hooks.

Crunch Much?

On to the crunchy stuff.

- a couple new spells (one of which I think I suggested way, way, back in the day - a mass Death Vision effect, basically*)

- stats for everyone you'd possible fight or want to run.

- a nice map of the city, suitable for GM and player use alike.

- enough details, costs, etc. to play in the city without foundering over big questions (how many people? Where does the food come from?) and little ones (How much is the pheasant special at that restaurant?)

Playing in Abydos

It's very well set up for a Abydos-based setting, especially for either a cop-based game (as Ravens) or a private investigator game. Garrett, P.I. could easily have an analog here, delving into troubles of vampire monks, wizard-nobles, magical student fraternities, spying foreigners, and racial, ethnic, and religious struggles.**

The city is tight but deep, and the writing gives enough details and enough hooks to be immediately useful and easy to expand on, as well. Every NPC has a secret, a desire, or a complication, as does every shop or location. Some are benign, others pretty nasty, and all mean you get a feeling of a living place with interconnected people. It's small enough to let players get familiar with it quickly but deep enough to provide many, many sessions of play. It would do well as a sandbox (lots of crime to work on, or commit) or an episodic drama (a dame walks into your office, with a problem with her zombie husband and his necromancer lover). It's set up well enough to be played light or bleak.

How is it for DF or for non-GURPS games?

If you've got a strongly Christian-influenced church system in your game world, you won't have to change much. But it would take a lot of work to ram this into a Good/Evil alignment system. It might work with a Law/Neutral/Chaos split, though. These are slave-owning, necromancy-approving heretics who are policed by zombies, led by necromancers, and prayed for by vampires. Yet they're believing Christians, society is generally law-abiding, and individuals range the gamut from genuinely nice people (but ones who'd raise their dead siblings as zombies to keep them working in the family shop) to evil bastards fighting on behalf of freeing slaves and throwing down the necromantic order.

Another caveat is that Abydoes uses the standard GURPS Magic system, without any of the clerics vs. mages split of Dungeon Fantasy (or, for that matter. D&D clones). In that setup, all spells - healing, necromancy, fire, earth, illusion, etc. are mage spells. Priests get so special abilities unless they are also mages. It's a big change, and adapting the setting to a clerics & priests vs. wizards approach would take a bit of work. I've done it the other direction (playing D&D settings in a game without clerics getting spells) so I know it's a little work.

A free and easy Turn Undead ability would make the legions of undead used by the city much less scary, and so you'd either need to nerf the ability or buff the undead against turning. For example, "Skeletons cannot be turned while their Raven commanders are alive," say, or "Undead are turned at 2 levels higher," or just make it impossible. After all, they are fellow Christians, and believe just as strongly as you do in the same god . . .

I highly recommend this book. It's atmospheric and cool, and it makes for an interesting place to visit or base out of without being a "standard" fantasy city or a typical "evil" city.

* David Pulver said that he remembers me suggesting it, too. I probably didn't come up with the cool name though.

** David Pulver has confirmed this is how he used Abydos in his own gaming.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Why do we save dragons for later?

It's a good question - I grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons, but it could have more accurately been called Dungeons & Orcs or Dungeons & Treasures or Dungeons & Assorted Non-Dragon Monsters.

I don't think I'm alone in this experience - the Dungeons & Not Dragons experience.


Lots of us are probably guilty of saving dragons for later.

There are good reasons (dragons are scary and dangerous, so starting adventures can't handle them, it helps to have some buildup) and some not so good reasons (we hold them back for the "right" situation, or the "right" level of power of the adventurers). But all the same, it's really common to have dungeons and not nearly as common to have dragons.

Over on Google+, I wish I could relocate the thread, someone talked about running a (Pathfinder?) adventure for a 1st level group that featured a dragon-slaying weapon and a dragon you could kill. I remember the reaction of the veteran gamers being, basically, "lame;" that of the newbies, "Cool!" But I think, geez, wouldn't it have been cool to fight dragons early on, even if it was risky and/or required special assistance and/or turned out to be a fairly weak dragon? Maybe not at 1st level, but is it bad to get into fighting dragons very early?

I used more arch-devils and demon princes in my games than dragons. That's kind of sad, really - it's never a bad time to bust out a demon lord but I have to save dragons for the optimal moment to use one?

My current DF game has a dungeon with dragons in it, but the PCs haven't reach the level(s) where dragons are. So even I'm guilty of it, even if I'm more complicit than solely at fault.

Still, I'm starting to think I'm still doing the thing I'm bemoaning here - saving the good monsters for the end. Back-loading the fun.

Something to think about - myself and others. Why don't we put more dragons into the dungeons in our fantasy games? Why does putting dragons front-and-center, early and often, feel like a bad thing? Should it?

I'm starting to think that, no, I should have put them more into the spotlight into my DF game from day one.

I won't move the dragon or dragons in my dungeon, because that would feel lame, but I kind of wish I'd placed them for easier, earlier encounter. Maybe I should have put a dragon on level 1, honestly, and let the PCs work up to tougher dragons . . .

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Four Kinda Weird D&D Monsters I Used Frequently

. . . even if they're a bit odd.

There are dozens and dozens of monsters on my "use frequently" list. But these four are kind of odd standouts, to me - ones you wouldn't call "standard, common D&D monsters" but I used them often anyway.

Norkers - I love Norkers. I'm not sure what it is about armored hobgoblins with a bite attack, but ever since WG4 I've used them often. A couple Dungeon magazine adventures featuring them put them front-and-center in my early GURPS games, too, and they never left the spotlight. They've appeared in my current game, too, and I even bought like 10 norker pre-painted minis to add some fun to encountering them.

Yeah, I don't know, but I've used them often and I really like them.

Vilstrak - The first time one of these popped up for me was in a UK-series adventure I used in an AD&D game to introduce a 1st level monk. The next time I was that adventure was in GURPS, and so I converted the vilstrak to GURPS. And I kept doing so. My previous campaign group missed them, but my DF have fought "rock trolls" based on them, using some vilstrak minis I got when I cleaned some store out of their old AD&D miniatures blisters. I can't tell you quite why I like them, but I do.

Vegepygmies - I loved these guys in AD&D, and I used them there and I used them often in GURPS, too - very memorably for one group, where vegepgymies and thornies wreaked havoc on them. Killer plants are nice, but tend to be limited. Killer plant men, though, are sort of the best of both worlds!

Meazels - I've used these in GURPS and AD&D multiple times. I even drew on my love of them (and those double-creepy boogiemen from Babes in Toyland) when I wrote up the Bugbear for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1. I always ignore the "Number Appearing: 1" because garotting murdering stealth monsters are better in groups, just like in that Russ picture from the Fiend Folio. My current DF game is without one so far, but I did use its spiritual brother, the bugbear, so that counts for me.

How about you? What somewhat unusual monsters do you break out all the time?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Four D&D Monsters I Never Used

In the same vein as my Four Items posts, here are four D&D/AD&D monsters I never used. I've used monsters from the littlest Mites and Giants Rats all the way up to arch devils (one PC slew Moloch) and demon lords (Demogorgon has shown up in multiple games of mine, even before I got this cool mini.)

This was a tough four to assemble, because I have run so many, many modules over the lifetime of my D&D, AD&D, and D&D-inspired games. So even the strangest monsters show up somewhere, and if they were there to encounter, I'm not counting them as "never."

But here are four I noticed I never did get around to using:

Morkoth - a squiddly dude that lives in spiraling tunnels under water. Tough to even find a way to use something like that, I expect. I don't know if one appears in any adventure, but I never actually had one in play. I still can't quite figure out how I'd use one. I've used a lot of underwater creatures, and played some adventures set almost fully underwater (U3, for example), but never did find a use for this guy. The whole setup for it - underwater tunnels - made it seem especially specific in its needed placement, and thus really hard to use.

Slithering Tracker - The Ecology article about these made them seem pretty nasty, but it came a bit late. It's a pretty lethal-sounding thing, though, and it deserves a long, hard look for my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game. I bet the lack of a picture, and the pace of my early games, kept this off my use list. No picture, no inspiration. And it was rare in my games for people to be camping out in a dungeon, or even resting (you just marched around fighting!) so when would one of these guys have come into play?

Son of Kyuss - I love these things, but yeah, never used them. They have all the hallmarks of my kind of play - kinda gross, kind of nasty, dangerous, with a crazy attack that makes them more than just hunks of HP. But I haven't used them . . . yet. I may need to fix that, too. This isn't an especially popular monster (although one appears in Night Arrant) with the name filed off. But it's so me that it strikes me as odd that one never made it in to any of my games.

Modrons - I think these guys have some cool potential, and I loved the modron in Planescape: Torment, but I never found a way to fit them into games. Cool but so odd they seemed to demand some special use, and I never got my head around such a special use. Perhaps if I'd run Planescape, or if they'd appeared in some module somewhere, but they always just seemed interesting without a hook I could grab on to. It's not like evil wizards summon up a modron to help kick your butt.

There are other monsters - oddball MM2 and FF ones, some aquatic types, etc. - that I didn't use. But the above four are all very interesting (or in case of the Morkoth, quite old) yet somehow never found their way into my games.

I rarely used dragons, saving them for high-level play that rarely arrived and comprised only a small portion of play time. But I did use them, so they don't get on this list. Still, I should do a post on "don't back load the fun by saving dragons until never" sometime, too.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Felltower Monsters Encountered So Far

My players have encountered the following critters so far in my DF Felltower game. This list only includes those they know they have encountered, and have correctly identified (or close enough.) Some are missing because the PCs haven't identified them yet. Some are here because they've been identified as these things even if they aren't. Be warned - this is a player-fronting list.

I may be missing some - if I am, let me know in the comments and I'll add it in.

Here are some thoughts on the number of monsters.

Origin Codes are:
Banestorm = GURPS Banestorm
Basic Set = GURPS Basic Set: Campaigns
DFM1 = GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1
DFM2 = GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2: Icky Goo
DFM3 = Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3: Born of Myth & Magic
DF2 = Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons
DF6 = Dungeon Fantasy 6: 40 Artifacts
DF9 = Dungeon Fantasy 9: Summoners
Undead = GURPS Undead

Specials are just linked below.

Those without an origin code are ones I converted myself from various sources or made up myself.

Ant, Giant (DFM3)
Ant, Swarm (Basic Set)
Ape, Dire (including an ape shaman of some kind and a ghost ape) (DF2)
Ape, Gladiator (DFM1)
Ash Spirit (DF6)

Bat, Swarm (GURPS Basic Set)
Beetle, Giant Bombardier
Beetle, Giant Glow
Bettle, Giant Rhinoceros Beetle
Boar, War
Bugbear (DFM1)

Cloak Fiend
Cockatrice (DFM3)
Corpse Golem (DFM1)
Crushroom (DF2)

Demon From Between The Stars (DFM1)
Demon, Ape
Demon, Frog
Demon, Vulture
Devil Wolf
Doomchildren (DF2)
Dragon, Fire-breathing
Draug (DFM1)
Durak, The Lord of Spite

Eel, Giant Electric
Electric Jelly (DFM1)
Elemental, Air (DF9)
Elemental, Earth (DF9)
Elemental, Fire (DF9)
Elemental, Water (DF9)

Flame Lord (aka "Fire Men") (DFM1)
Flaming Skull (DF2)
Frog, Giant
Fungus, Screaming (aka "Shriekers")

Gargoyle (including Ravenous gargoyles, DFM1)
Giant, Cave
Gibbering Mouther
Golem-Armor Swordsman (DF2)
Golem, Clay
Golem, Flesh
Golem, Obsidian
Golem, Stone (DF2) (including a giant one made with custom scaling rules)

Harpy (DFM3)
Hell Hyena (GURPS Conan: Queen of the Black Coast)
Horde Pygmy (DFM1)

Iron Spectre

Killer Cube o' Gelatin (here)

Leech, Leaping (DFM1)
Living Pit (DFM3)
Lizard Man

Medusa (DFM3)
Mocking Beast
Mummy (Undead)


Octopus Blossom (DFM3)
Ogre, Half

Phase Serpent (DFM3)

Rat, Giant (DF2)
Rat, Giant Maned (DF10)
Rat, swarm (GURPS Basic Set)
Razorfish (aka Razor Fish)
Reek, unknown variety (GURPS Banestorm)
Rock Troll (DFM3)
Rust Monster

Shark, Armored
Siege Beast (DF2)
Skeleton (various kinds)
Slime, Ambushing
Slime, Hunting (Giant Sentry Size) (DF2)
Slime, Painful (DFM2)
Slime, Pink (School Cafeteria)
Slorn, Acid (DFM1)
Slorn, Toxic (DFM1)
Slugbeast (DFM1)
Spectre (GURPS Undead)
Spider, Acid (DF2)
Spider, Bronze (DFM1)
Spider, Giant Hunting
Strix (GURPS Basic Set)
Sword-Spirit (DFM1)

Thorn Hound (aka Thorny)
Throttler (DFM1)
Toxifier (DF2)
Triger (DF2)
Troll (DFM1)

Vulture, Dire

Wolf, Dire (DF2)
Wyrm, Lightning (12-legged) - aka "the Behir"

Zombie (various kinds)

. . . and that's it for identified monsters, so far . . .
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