Saturday, October 31, 2015

Frog God & GURPS Zombies sales

Until 11/1/15, Frog God Games is giving 40% off:

Frog God Games

Use the code HALLOWEEN-40%

And it's the last day to get GURPS Zombies: Day One for free if you buy GURPS Zombies:

GURPS Zombies

Use the code GURPSZOMBIES2015

Friday, October 30, 2015

Sincere silliness

I was thinking about why I really like a particular band and it lead to a gaming thought. A DF gaming thought.

Here is why I think my DF game works. And partly why it's lasted so long.

It is sincere in its silliness.

That is, we do all the things that are cool about heroes fighting monsters in tunnels for treasure.

We also do all the things that are silly about that, too, and take them and own them.

We love all of these things.

We do our level best to make them the most appropriately cool, or the most appropriately silly.

And we play them sincerely.

It doesn't matter if the Church of the Good God (Motto: "Good God, y'all!") is silly. It does matter that we love the joke inherent in it, execute it well, and go after it sincerely.

It doesn't matter if it's kind of strange that there are giant megadungeons full of monsters and loot. Again, we make the jokes, embed them in it, and play it sincerely.

It's not ironic enjoyment, but sincere enjoyment of something twisted ironically. It's a hard difference to explain in words, but I can feel the difference between "make it a joke" and "enjoy the jokes." We and the game are in on the same jokes - laughing with the game elements, not at them.

That's why I think it keeps going. No ironic enjoyment here. Nostalgia flavored but looking back for inspiration not elusive fun that was never really had.

Just sincere silliness.

Or, in a single word: sincerity.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Underpriced GURPS disadvantages

I usually post about overpriced disadvantages - the ones that give you more points back than they deserve for how much they hassle you.

In my experience, there are some that are underpriced. You don't get a lot back for what it does for you.

Wounded - this might get takers at -10, but not at -5. Open wound that's vulnerable to strikes and to disease? It's beyond an Achilles' Heel and all the way to Hectors's Sucking Chest Wound. No one takes it because there are many less-worse things around for -5.

Overconfident - people used to complain on GURPSNet-L and the forums (and might still do so) about Overconfident when it was -10. "It's free points for acting like an adventurer!" No, it's points for acting like a better adventurer than your scores say you will. People playing this right tend to take risks they shouldn't because their PC believes he or she will succeed where others would fail. Then the PC fails, and eventually dies from it. -5 is okay, but it's on the stingy side for how many PCs I've seen dead from this one. In a dangerous, 50/50 situation, this is 5 points you pay for in spades.

Berserk - -10 makes it easier to deal with in terms of self-control rolls and enhancements/limitations, but it's also kind of stingy. -10 for having no defenses, plus some bonuses. Yeah . . . I felt it was fair at -15. It's a character-defining trait beyond ones like Lecherousness and Greed and a strong Phobia. In a fight-heavy game, it's a certainty that the points you get for this can't buy you enough to make up for it.

It's a fun disadvantage, but that's not a reason to discount its value. All good disads are fun to have on your sheet. But Berserk seems a little chintzy at -10.

I'm not offering to re-price these (maybe Wounded, though), but I do think they cause more harm than you get back in value, even if only by a small amount.

What costs bother you?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Stonehell part 2!

If you haven't heard, the second book of Stonehell dungeon came out yesterday. I reviewed Stonehell here a while back. (Short version? I like it a lot.)

Naturally, I'm getting this, because I liked Stonehell so much.

Amusingly, I put it in my cart at Lulu and applied a 20% coupon but didn't check out - I figured I'd spend a day trying to remember if there was anything else I wanted to get in print before I did so. Within an hour, Lulu sent me a 15% off coupon to get me to come back and finish the order.

Yeah, listen Lulu, I'll stick with the original discount if you don't mind . . .

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Enraged Berserk Guys With Battle Fury

We had some discussions Sunday about Berserk. Mo the barbarian has Berserk (Enraged, Battle Fury.) It's the first time the player is running someone with either Enraged or Battle Fury, and he hasn't run a berserker in three editions (he's one of my GURPS 1e vets.)

We had a few moments in the fight when it wasn't clear if he was really being berserk enough.

A few notes:

Enraged (from DFD: Barbarians) expands your combat options for Berserk. It's a more controlled fury. But it's still fury. You just do things like defend yourself (to limited effect) sometimes. That's all - it doesn't imply calculating battle decisions about the best long-term move to make right now. Berserkers don't play chess, they play capture-a-piece-right-now.

Battle Fury means you don't even need to get injured to go berserk. That doesn't mean any hostile action triggers berserk, if it makes no sense (my example was long-range harassing arrow shots that don't hit anyone.) But nine times out of ten, it means if something looks like a fight, you get angry and go to town.

You can still fight smart, but you've got limitations. I discuss them in some depth in Melee Academy: Berserker's Wingman. But the key word in all of the "smart berserk moves" is Attack.

Berserkers are this quote, personified:

Forget about winning and losing, forget about pride and pain: let your opponent graze your skin and you smash into his flesh; let him smash into your flesh and you fracture his bones; let him fracture your bones and you take his life! Do not be concerned with your escaping safely – lay down your life before him! - Bruce Lee, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do

Pretty much, what I expect from any version of Berserk (while you are berserk) is that you ask yourself a series of questions:

- Is there a way to attack right now? If so, do that.*

- If there isn't, what's the shortest path to attacking? Do that.

- If there is no way to attack, ask yourself, do I try to snap out of this or is there some other target I should be going after?

* Grappling this turn so you can do something horrible next turn is fine; re-gripping for a better handhold, not so much. Choosing the most effective of your attack options is fine, too.

Notice that there isn't a lot of "Hmmm, I'm in close combat with a wolverine and I've got a shield on my arm. I could attack it, but it makes more sense to try to shake the shield off first because it is -DB to my attack rolls" and a lot of "I bash with wolverine with my shield" or "I head butt the wolverine" or "I drop my fine magical weapon and grab the wolverine so I can choke it to death and throw it at my next enemy!"

Knocked prone and can't reach a foe? Get to kneeling and fight from there. Get to kneeling and someone is right there? Attack with whatever the fastest weapon to come to hand is - and hands are pretty fast, if they're within punching or grappling distance (general, Close Combat). Kneeling and no one is nearby but you've got a throwing weapon? Stand up and charge or throw it at someone! Or both.

Basically, it's attack, attack, attack, attack, attack. All of your maneuvers should be about maximizing your ability to attack right now. Making moves to ensure a better option later? That's not berserk. People fear berserkers because they don't do that - because they'll attack into a disadvantage not caring if they die to kill you. The moment you start making informed decisions about smarter options instead of choosing the best attack to hand, you start to veer away from the disadvantage.

Disadvantage - that's a key word. In many games, video and tabletop, berserker is an advantage. You get rage powers that make you tougher, harder to fight against, more effective in combat, harder to kill, etc. and they run out and leave you tired. In GURPS, Berserk gives you points back. You are less versatile in combat. You are harder to kill and knock out, which is a curse mixed with a blessing as you tend to end fights either fine or chopped halfway to hamburger by foes you couldn't beat and who couldn't put you down. You are a danger to yourself and others.

This is why you get points for Berserk.

Monday, October 26, 2015

DF Game, Session 68 - Lost City 2 - Vegepygmies and Thornies

October 25th, 2015

Weather: Varied (mix of clear and some rain)

Characters (approximate net point total)

Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (284 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (257 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (256 points)
Kenner Baumfellen, wood elf scout (250 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (250 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (250 points)

In reserve:
Angus "Mithrilbraid" McSwashy, dwarf swashbuckler (250 points)
Dave, human knight (252 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)

We opened in the trading camp. About half the party camped out to avoid upkeep (and thus received no rumors.) Mo wanted to camp out, but he's got Compulsive Carousing, and the bar is in town . . .

The stocked up on healing potions, clearing out the local stock. All the paut, as well. Somehow Gerry was out 240 sp and up five skeleton servitors, which he equipped with hatchets, light shields, and cloth torso armor. And a backpack for one.

They hear rumors about animal-men, mostly - bear-men in the city, snake-men in the jungle (and were admonished to kill them no matter what they offered for their lives!), and other sorts.

The PCs headed off with their new scout, Kenner.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

DF Game Pre-Summary

I'm not sure I have the time for a summary tonight. But I can give the bullet points:

- No permanent losses today, except maybe for Gerry's arm. He's browsing the Necromancer Foul Arm power-ups since I told him they're okay for his wizard.

- Lots of crippling injuries, actually.

- A bad way to trigger an ambush is to walk into it. A worse way is to plummet 20 yards down and to land right in front of it.

- Vegepygmies!

- Thornies!

- No real loot, but some experimentation was done.

- Passed out the first awesome bonus in a long time, since it was raining skeletons and then raining vegepygmies.

- Watch out for snakes! (Sorry)

DF Game - Making do

We're playing out DF game today, but our usual game host is out, and so is his place.

We didn't realize this was coming, so we couldn't prepare.

So, we left the following at his house:

- the PC's character sheets

- the map of the Lost City

- both of my gigantic Chessex hex maps

- my GM screen

- the community dice pool (which is like 3/4 the host's dice and 1/4 mine. Maybe 2/3 and 1/3.)

- all of my mini status marker rubber bands, coins, and poker chips

- assorted other game-related material.

I have the GM maps and the map key. And GCA files of all of the PCs. So we'll play with what we've got.

It'll be enough, but it will be odd to play without minis. I hope they don't encounter stuff I specifically painted for the Lost City!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Cool disadvantage post

Charles Saeger over at The Lands of Nandêmē had an excellent post yesterday on disadvantages, something that's become an accidental daily theme on this blog for the past few days.

Getting Your Points' Worth

For all that I like to strip down the options for my games, I like to have a lot of options in the first place. The more well-developed rules and options there are, the better I can fine tune the ones I use.

The more internally and externally consistent those rules are, the better.

Charles did a lot of internally and externally consistent expansions and development of existing disadvantages. I like this, because they aren't changes to what is in the books but rather more specific definitions of how that works. I especially like the treaments of Gluttony (so it's not just "I eat extra when there is free food and complain once per session when I'm on normal rations") and Overconfidence. And I already do with Compulsive Carousing what he's doing - your cost of living goes up.

I'd suggest an expansion to Laziness: You're at -2 for any self-directed roll in town. Making your own weapons, brewing your own paut, fixing your own gear, finding hirelings, doing your own research, etc. If something involves real work to do and it's binary, make a Will-2 roll capped normally (14+ always fails) to get around to doing it. If a character with laziness also has a compulsive disadvantage, they must roll against the self-control roll for that before doing other work. The Lazy guy with Compulsive Gambling or Addiction will certainly find a way to be industrious about gambling or getting a hit. Guys with Laziness should consider getting a servant hireling and having them do important stuff for them.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Thoughts on Enemy disadvantages

Enemy disadvantages are good and bad, in my experience. He are the good, the bad, and the ugly of enemies.

The Good:

Enemies are good when:

- the keep you on guard. If enemies mean you can't really relax or let your guard down, they're a real disadvantage. If it means the routine tasks for folks without enemies - getting gear, leaving some stuff behind in town, going shopping, finding a doctor, etc. - are not always done without problems from your enemies.

- they are additional trouble. If Enemies make your life more difficult over and above what someone without Enemy would have, they're a real disadvantage. "Not only do you have to figure out where the Feds have stashed that witness against your boss, but your old enemy Detective Colombo is in town and asking questions about you. The clock is ticking, so get to work but don't get nicked!"

- they limit your options. Like all disadvantages, Enemies should limit your options. Some places, some choices, and some actions should be off-limits because of them. "I can't go to the cops, because the Marshals are after me!" or "We can't ask the Priest of the Good God to help, because the priesthood talks to the Inquisitors and they're hot on my heels." That kind of stuff is gold.

- if they direct your actions at least part of the time. They force you to pro-actively move to limit the damage of your enemies. You want to have sessions when you show up and think, "I have to get some work in on my enemy so things don't get worse!" and that seems like the best possible course of action.

- they cause indirect damage, sometimes. They don't just show up every session and force you to draw down on them in a fight. Instead they sometimes wipe out your NPC allies, or spread rumors about you, or put up wanted posted with your name on them, or DDOS your character's website, or show up in disguise to your hireling hiring fair and discourage people from signing on.

The Bad:

Enemies are bad when:

- they replace normal trouble with specific trouble. In other words, if rolling the appearance of an enemy means "Instead of the normal adventure, today you fight your enemies" then it's just normal gaming troubles with a different face. If it isn't additional trouble over and above what people without Enemy would face, then it's not a disadvantage over and above everyone else. If it's free points for everyone (Everyone has the same Enemy, and adventures are always about facing that enemy), that's not terrible but it's just a campaign approach not a problem per se.

- they are just combat foes. 100% of the players I have ever played with regard having to fight things as a positive. Problems that can be solved with violence, especially lethal violence, are not problems for them. Let me repeat that number - 100%. If an Enemy appears and the players thing, great, we can solve this once and for all by killing them, they aren't a disadvantage. (Editing later: I mean solving them as a problem for a session, not removing them as a disadvantage without paying points to do so.)

- they have no deeper impact. If the Enemy doesn't warp the way you play the character, they aren't a good disadvantage. No one hunted by the Mafia or the Red Wizards of Thay or by the assassin cult of the druid-priests of Tecla or by Mario has a normal life. Enemies that don't impact you except when they show up and cross swords with you aren't really doing much for you as a disadvantage.

- they're too strong or too weak. If they are so strong you can't ever make an impact on them, they're not really a solvable problem and thus have less impact on you (why bother, you can't weaken them). If they are so weak it doesn't matter if they bother you, so you don't care if they are dealt with or not, they're valueless. Even if they are not too strong or too weak on paper, if they are too strong or too weak in actual play, they are bad.

- they give you points but disadvantage everyone else. If you have an enemy so everyone suffers . . . just, ugh. It's fine if everyone gets fallout, but it's bad if you are all equally in the same boat. Or worse, if your enemies attack your fellow PCs instead of you so you are the only one not suffering.

- they give you a free ride, and make the GM do everything. Basically, if Enemy means you get points and the GM just inflicts Wandering Damage on you when they come up, and that's it, it's not really making your character more interesting. It is just offloading roleplaying like it's a chore.

The Ugly:

Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez aka The Rat

Okay, I didn't have any Ugly. But I like Tuco and he's sort-of Blondie's enemy.

Actually, Tuco wants to be a ruthless enemy, and he's certainly ruthless and harder to keep down than the Terminator. But he works out to be an advantage for Blondie. He's a net positive, and provides Blondie with a living, a timely ally, and great chances to show off his skills. He's more like an Ally you have to shoot at sometimes. Or more likely, he's another PC with a really good sense of humor about letting the other PC trick him all the time. :)

In the end, having an Enemy should be just like having Bad Temper or One Eye or a Bad Reputation. It must have an impact on you, and make the options for the character fewer but also drive some play. If it's doing more of the bad than the good, it's probably worth wondering if it's worth allowing.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What I like in a good disadvantage

Here is what I like in GURPS disadvantages in my games.

Player-centered. In other words, the player does the work. I'm not a big fan of "once per session the GM will . . . " But I am a big fan of limitations or forced actions on the player. I got rid of Weirdness Magnet in my DF game because it became 15 free points most of the time, because I was too busy to warp the game to make it count. Enemies, Dependents, etc. are kind of a pain.

Clear limits. I like disads that put clear limits on your actions. Sense of Duty means you don't ditch your friends. Bloodlust means you don't say, "I clearly killed him and he doesn't need a finishing blow." Berserk says you can't be a defensive fighter while it's ongoing.

I'm less of a fan of vague limits, which is why I shoot down a lot of player-created codes or Vows or Obsessions. Either it applies, or it doesn't, but if it only applies when it's convenient, it's not limiting your actions and thus not a disadvantage. None of this "Vow: Only do what I want when I want it!" or "Quirk: Always ready for anything!" kind of stuff. It should be painful to read when you write it down on your sheet.

Not crippling. I hate it when PCs have disads that make adventuring just not work, or which take them out utterly. Especially if they have an escape hatch ("I'm addicted to a ridiculously expensive crippling drug, and I'm fine with it, but useless without it!"). I prefer your disads to limit you, not end you as a functioning character at the table.

Frequently appearing. I don't like disads that never come up. "I hate this one tiny group of guys." Great, who cares? Or a Vow of chastity in a game where sex doesn't come up. Or something so big it's effectively a raison d'etre and not a disad ("Obsession: Become the world's most powerful wizard . . . by adventuring!"). It better come up. All of those are valid if they come up almost every session - if you drive the PCs towards the Lost Lab of Alchemy despite the death traps because each session must be a step toward your obsession, great. If you hate the one tiny group of guys who run the area, perfect! If that Vow means you don't get to, uhm, "interrogate" the attractive NPC for special information and fringe benefits, then it's a good thing. Even a perfectly valid disad that can't affect you often isn't really a limitation, so I'm less likely to go for it.

That's pretty much the kind of stuff I like.

And for the love of everything roleplaying, don't tell people you're being X because your character is X. "I'm stubborn because my guy is stubborn!" "I'm being angry because my guy has Bad Temper!" "Don't tell me guy about that treasure, he's got Greedy and he'll want it!" Just play it. We should be able to tell you your disads just from how you play them.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fantasy monsters that make good Sathar Attack Monsters

Besides being hypnotic ruthless evil space worms, Sathar are also bio-cyber-engineers.

Which in game speak means they take critters and warp them into monsters by attaching weapons and control devices.

There are some cool ones already in Star Frontiers - the Quickdeath (think of a tentacled tiger), laser-firing slugs, dinosaur-like critters with head-mounted energy weapons, slave troopers, etc.

But some fantasy monsters scream out to be SAMs. Here are my top four.

1) The Purple Worm. Add an in-mouth gas expulsion system, a battery pack to power eye beams, and maybe attach an albedo screen to it? It's a natural.

 photo PurpleWorm6s_zps4cd44a10.jpg

2) The Bulette. It's basically already a SAM, except for some reason it doesn't reflect lasers or shoot death rays. Both are easily added.

3) Type III Demons. The Sathar took these poor peaceful creatures and hacked off their hands and added big C-clamp bladed grabbers. They probably made them bullet-resistant, too.

4) Grell. Tentacles beaked brain-looking things that eat people. Add a sonic stunner area attack with pulsating rings in the illustrations and bam! Sathar Attack Monster.

The LJN one with the eyes would have hypno-rays, maybe.

I'm leaving off the Beholder, because those are clearly Dungeon Master Attack Monsters. Even the Sathar wouldn't know what to add to them.

I should mention that one of the inspirations for the Slorn (the big breath weapon lizards in my DF game) were SAMs.

Any other fantasy monsters that are clearly Sathar Attack Monsters?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Rohanians and Sathar

Are Men of Rohan called Rohanians?

I kind of like it. "I found this great Rohanian restaurant, next to the Bhutanese take-out place." Or "I'm half Rohanian on my mother's side."

Monday, October 19, 2015

Why I don't wargame so much any more

Over on G+, Chris Mata posted about a wargame he'd picked up that I found very interesting.

But it's not one I'm going to pick up and play.

10-15 years ago, I might have. 25 years ago, almost certainly.


One thing trainers like to tell people is that you are the average of your five closest friends. In other words, you act like your close friends act, and do the kind of things the people you spend your time with do.*

The five people I spend most of my time with aren't wargamers. Even the five gamers I spend most of my time with aren't wargamers. One might like wargames, if we had any time to hang out together outside of roleplaying. The others would play them a little, I'm sure, but it's not a hard-core central activity. Given even just enough people to run an RPG session (that is, me and 1-2 others) we go for RPGs, instead.

Back 10-15 years ago, I lived 10 minutes from a friend who loves games of all kinds, including wargames. Back in my high school and college years, I both had more time to wargame and several friends who were either into them or willing to play occasionally. But then I moved to Japan and when I moved back he'd moved to the West Coast.

Now? We're mostly a roleplaying crowd.

I bought Ogre: Designer's Edition and busted it out twice. Once when my friend came to visit thanks to his company sending him out to the East Coast for an on-site. The other when we had only a few people for RPGing and the players wanted a full house before taking on the next logical step in the dungeon.

I finally got a copy of Panzer Blitz, and it's still sitting in the box. I may solo play it next time I have a few days to have a game set up and left as-is. But it's nostalgia not real need that drove that purchase.

What it comes down to is the people I hang around with, in my gaming group and out of it, aren't wargamers. I suppose I could make time to find new wargaming friends and play with them, but it's not like I haven't filled my schedule up with other things I have to do, want to do, and like to do. Often, all three apply to one. I miss wargaming but not enough to plunk down money on games I won't have time to play and no one to play them with.

And if magically I had that extra gaming time, I'd probably spend it playing DF, or Gamma Terra, or whatever, with my friends.

I still maintain an interest, which is why you see mini wargaming focused blogs in my blog roll, or why I still like model tanks and hold onto games like War to the Death. I find a good chunk of time to play Third World War every few years or so.

But I'm the average of the five closest gamers I know, and they're mostly roleplaying gamers. So as cool as some wargames are, I prefer to experience them vicariously instead of cluttering my shelf and spending out of my gaming budget to get them.

* People love to argue this about themselves, but generally find it eerily true about everyone else. Odd, that. Or they nitpick the number, as if that's the critical element.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Resting in my DF Game

If you look for a rest-related theme in my games and in my posts, you will see two competing strands:

- My players, actively using rest as much as possible. Resting after spells, after fights, after travel, after calamities add extra penalties, etc. is Standard Operating Procedure for my players.

- Me, creating situations that limit rest, penalize static positioning, and otherwise push for continuous action.

Why the PCs rest is pretty obvious - combat and spells cost FP in GURPS, first aid and surgery take time, and identifying and sorting loot isn't fast. The first is the most important - the PCs freely expend FP to win fights or deal with obstacles, but then rest to be ready and fresh for the next one. I'm sure they'd argue that for every near TPK that results from resting in bad areas, there are dozens of situations they couldn't have succeeded in without rest.

Why I make rules and situations to penalize rest might take more explanation.

The reason for rules like Dogpiling, musing on Recover Strength, dungeon locales with Wandering Monsters and net-penalty rest areas (the Cold Fens dungeon levels) springs from three concurrent goals:

Force tough choices.

Punish one-solution approaches.

Make resources important.

Forcing tough choices is all about making it a real decision between "push on while tired" vs. "stay here and hope danger doesn't find us." It forces the choice between "run without the treasure" or "get surrounded by monsters and have to fight your way out.

Punish one-solution approaches is how I word the concept of making players play dynamically. You can just burrow holes through the dungeon, because the cost is high and monsters will come hurt you. You can't always lock the door and rest behind it. You can't always rest, period, because the dungeon makes rest impossible or nearly so, and thus you can't just win every fight with high-cost spells. You can't solve all obstacles with a handful of high-cost high-reward utility and combat spells.

Make resources important is probably the most self-explanatory. If you always have time to get FP back, and thus get HP back, and thus recover fully from fight winning/obstacle defeating expenditures, then FP and HP are a per-fight resource. There is no long-term cost to using them, and no risk to expending them. The campaign becomes a series of individual events with recovery time between then instead of a unified whole.

Those goals drive a lot of my decisions about how to shape the play environment. In order for it all to be a challenge, there has to be a variety of obstacles to overcome. There can't be a baseline assumption of total and safe rest, or it significantly detracts from the play style we're reaching for.

In a very real sense, a lot of PCs have died as a result of resting. Many have lived longer for it, but there are guys buried because they died in a fight that happened with a wandering monster, an ambush from monsters alerted and given 40 minutes to an hour of prep time, or from being surrounded. Equally some PCs have died because there was no time to rest (although the number is much smaller.) Making resting and recovering your temporary resources not always a sure thing means these things can happen, and it means you are making a bet. That my players seem to always take the bet that "rest and hope not to die" is better than "don't rest and rely on momentum" doesn't really change that. It does, however, mean my rulings and thoughts are skewed to "how to challenge rest?" and not "how to challenge lack of rest?"

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Group I Write For

When I write game rules, I write them with an audience in mind. I didn't set out with this audience in mind, so much as evolve into writing for this audience.

The gamer or gamers I write for:

Actually game. Pretty simple. I write for actual play. I assume it's going to get used, or at least tried out before being discarded if it's not what the reader wants from gaming. So it's all got to work, and that takes priority over anything else.

Is part of a cooperative group. This is not to say no PvP, but rather, if PvP is there the players are onboard with it. The group is friendly, and playing together for enjoyment, and is willing to cooperate to make that happen.

Has a strong GM. My assumption is that the group has a strong GM. Not a dictator, not a pushover. The GM (and the other players) make decisions about play and stick with them. The rules provide sufficient cases for the GM to make decisions, but don't need to cover everything. I assume a strong Rule Zero approach.

Pushes the wording a little bit. Not rules-lawyering, per se, but rather wants to get the most benefit allowed under the rules and get the wording and spirit correct. A group that wants cases spelled out so they don't have to waste time figuring out what I was trying to do with a rule. But not a group that needs those words to settle an actual argument or as levers to use against one another.

Not too serious. I expect the person reading wants to enjoy reading game books. There will be jokes, Strongbad references, and implications of smile-inducing gaming fun. Whenever possible I want punchy writing that makes you sit up and want to game right now. Or, get ideas for gaming later.

That reflects my group to a great extent. My friends are willing to argue rules wordings with me or ask about the extended implications of them - but during play the GM's word is still law. Everyone is attempting to have the same kind of fun (or overlap sufficiently that it isn't an issue.) No one is too serious, even if the silliness is more deadly than funny. Everyone actually games, and prefers clarity of rules over good prose.

I know not all groups are like this, and I try to make allowances. But it's hard (maybe impossible) to write airtight RPG rules that prevent arguments and allow people to play with uncooperative disruptive players or who need the rules to do the GMing for them. But in general, when you read my rules, if you see how well they'd mesh with the above . . . it's on purpose. My audience is the friendly group ceding authority to the GM and placing the game over the rules, but using the rules as the foundational underpinning for the game.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dance Bot 3000, or, Want to Hear My New Dubstep Song?

Recently my post about the Great Stone Heads popped up on my blog statistics. So I went to look at it again, if only because of that. The link to the Armorcast figures I used was broken.

A few clicks later on the Armorcast site to fix it and I stumble on this guy:

Dance Bot 3000

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Yet another thing I like about GURPS - making Power-Ups

Another thing I like about playing GURPS in general, and GURPS DF in particular, is how flexible and mold-able it is.

I had occasion yesterday and today to go and look at some of the power-ups that Sean and I wrote for Pyramid 3/61 and ones I did for assassins in Pyramid 3/50.

Making new Power Ups for DF is a lot of fun.

Making new Power-Ups for GURPS is a lot like cooking - you re-arrange the ingredients into a new recipe. Costs for X are the same across the board, so +2 damage or -1 to defend or halving DR or whatever are all costed the same across the board. I'll even just throw the word "balanced" in here to annoy people who think "balance" is the same as "evil" or "Hurting Wrong Fun."

So it's never a question, for me, of "How much should this cost?" but rather a combination of "Do I really want to allow this?" plus "Wouldn't this ability be awesome?" and "Did I choose the right ingredients to make it?" There is a lot less random judgement calls and a lot more choosing the right elements and assembling them. There is art involved, but the art isn't deciding if something is worth X points but rather saying, "What would work here?"

In DF, since characters are more disposable and power abuse is part of the fun, I feel a lot more freedom to try out ideas and see how they work out.

Every time I see what other people (especially Sean Punch, to be honest) do with Power-Ups it inspires me to make more new ones. I put a bunch in Barbarians and I have a few more racked up and ready to go.

It's nice to have such a solid base for inspiration, a bunch of players to try it all with, and a solid and flexible rules system to tie it all together. There is a little work involved, but it's great fun to go and find out what the system will let me do or how much something costs and not just doodle stuff down and hope it's balanced. Crazy powers tend to have crazy costs, and if someone wants to dump a lot of points to do a lot, DF is the game for that.

I'm going to go finish a couple of those Scout power-ups I've idly mentioned to my players . . .

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How is the latest Star Wars RPG?

So it seems like we might play some Star Wars, using the latest version of the RPG.

We've got a good GM lined up, who ran some Star Wars for us back in 2005 (just before and until slightly after I moved overseas.) It was a fun game, and based on 3.x D&D.

(That's the game I'm assuming we're going to play, since it's the only new one out there I can find that's also an RPG)

I don't have any experience with the new system, though. For those of you who've played it, how is it?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

GURPS Gamma World, 20th Homeland - Session 4

"Hillbilly" (me) - medical specialist
"Short Bus" (Mike D) - computer programmer
"Princess" (Andy D) - cryptographer/sniper
"Fatbox" (John M) - demo/EOD

Present but NPC'ed:
"Caveman" (Jon L) - demo/EOD
"Barbie" (Mike H) - demo/EOD (MIA)
"Momma's Boy" (Tom P) - computer programmer
"Love Handles" (Vic L) - demo/EOD

We started in the Bal Kree camp. We had our plans to get more fuel for Softie, our Warbot. Somehow these plans involved going to a taboo land called "12 Point 7 Mike Mike" partway between Bal'Kree and Ann Arbor, then returning, and then going to check out a nuclear plant that is in the hands of a group we like to tell ourselves is reasonable. That's code for "totally bug-f**k crazy," or it means a 2-3 session subquest. Like the water purifier in Fallout, refueling Warbot is the one thing we set out for thinking it's a simple task but which will probably consume our lives.

We gathered up the men ready to roll out, stocked up on food from the Bal Kree, and headed out. We had a Bal Kree guide to take us "half way" - which means "a fraction of the way and then we'll point the direction."

Hiking to 12.7MM wasn't very difficult. We passed lots of ruins of buildings, and then walked down a river conduit "road" (usually sticking a point man up on breaks) for about 12-15 hours before taking a good long 10 hour break to camp, eat, sleep, etc.

We eventually reached 12.7MM, and entered some ruins.

In the first room of consequence we encountered had a bunch of mannequins holding weapons. One had a M107 .50 cal sniper rifle, another had an axe-bladed rifle. There weren't any rounds or mag for the M107 or the axe-rifle. Fatbox grabbed the axe, it being the most Star Warsian weapon we'd found. We also found some oddly done military uniforms, including a splattered-paint style bright colored camo pattern.

As the others investigated, I heard some noise. I climbed up near the ceiling and heard the faints sounds of George Thorogood & the Destroyers, but couldn't figure out from where exactly. We could tell the sound was coming from above, but couldn't locate a way to it. There was a tunnel out, so we packed up our John Lee Hooker Record collection, and down the tunnel we went.

At the end of the tunnel we found a train station, complete with shops and I Love Michigan tchotchkes. We found nothing of value, really, except that there was a pedal-powered flat train car and a tunnel either way - one dark, one light. On the train car was a box, which Princess tried to open to no avail.

I got in there with my multi-function rescue axe (one of the functions: box opener) and split the box and then pried it open. It was full of military uniforms.

We had a quick vote on which way to go in the tunnel - towards some light, or towards the dark. We voted 2-2, but a mysterious disembodied voice that might have belonged to Short Bus's son who was playing Zelda also voted dark, so we went thataway.

We pedaled into the dark and passed a few small side tunnels, like ant holes or burrowing holes. We eventually reached a near-dead end of collapse and crashed into something - a big something! I pedaled and Fatbox pumped three shotgun slugs into it, seemingly killing it. We reversed course and slammed into what turned out to be nine giant armored bullet-proof pillbugs. They bounced shotgun slugs and 7.62mm pretty easily. As we backed up from them, Fatbox threw a jar of ammonia he'd looted from the mannequin room (which I hadn't noticed, honestly) and that bothered them a little. Next, he whipped out a can of spray and let them have it, only to put half the can into one and cover part of its shell with glass-like metal. Great, we attacked them with DR!

We briefly debated a grenade but I yelled no, because we'd disintegrate the tracks and we needed them. So it was up to the guys fighting to jump down to the tracks and shoot angled up under the raised bellies of the bugs. Bang, bang, bang, bang. It short order we had nine dead bugs. We piled a couple up on the car, shoved the others aside, and started moving. Fatbox checked out one of the tunnels but got a stream of acid squirted onto his leg, nearly crippling it. He got back on the train car and we left.

Then it was light time. We pedaled that way and found another collapse point. Before it was a mass of mushrooms with a NBC-suited dead body in it, its visor smashed and its chest blow open like something had burrowed out. Honestly, after Alien, that's become pretty pedestrian. I worry more about what burrows in.

Princess shot a mushroom - nothing.

So Fatbox went over to the dead body to see what it had. He was attacked by bat-winged eyeball critters (obbs) with claws. They were swift flyers but clumsy once they grabbed. We all grabbed guns and starting picking them off, leaving shooting the ones grappling Fatbox to Princess, our sniper.

We dispatched them all without too much trouble, and grabbed the stuff off the clearly mutant-human corpse. The main things were his damaged rad suit, his two gloves, and two headlight-looking devices.

After much experimentation, and headlight jokes, we found that you could project a beam of laser-like light from them with your body energy, if you used the gloves too. Many inappropriate but funny jokes were made. For the moment, I have both gloves and headlights.

With nothing else to do, we went back to the mannequin room. We met a Mark V android cleaning up - it immediately recognized us as "Tomorrow Men." So we talked (actually, we talk a lot in this group - we rarely just shoot stuff that isn't blatantly hostile, or blatantly mysterious.) It said that "Mike" would want to meet us, and opened up a secret door (secret to us, anyway.) We followed it up to meet "Mike."

Mike turned out to be an old man, a survivor of the 20th Homeland's first group to leave the bunker. He had a four-footed cane and an oxygen tank. He also had "something approaching beer" and a willingness to talk. We had to give him back our M107, since it was his.

We learned a lot.

The spray can held duralloy spray, and Mike could make armor plates for us with it to replace our heavy ceramic inserts. Some, anyway. We learned the seasons, and what the "clown vomit" camo is for - when the world goes all Suessian for a few months. We learned Mike made uniforms with the androids and traded them to Yexil, a dragon-thing that would eat them in return for providing some services I can't remember (including scaring the Bal Kree.)

We learned a lot, like I said - what the injectors do, what the graffiti in the bunker meant (that wasn't Mike's writing, though), etc. etc. Also that the "Fit" are ant-like army things (or ant-bots, or something). And more I can't remember to write down. We did have to swear not to reveal him to the Bal Kree.

One odd thing to me was that Mike regards the Bal Kree paternalistically but also as a moldable and to be kept in the dark. I wonder why.

In any case, we left off there . . .


Got off to a slow start, because Fatbox's player was late and we weren't sure who else was or wasn't coming. Also, because I had zero focus and that didn't help.

We also have a lot of decisions to make about gear upgrades with our limited resources. And naturally how long we want to be sidetracked with Yexil. If we come up with more questions for Mike, that would help too.

Overall we got a good amount done in the session despite having little "go" early in the session. Now that we have a plate full of stuff to do the real issue is going to be cutting it down to 1 big thing and 1 small thing to do each session. Otherwise we'll never get anything done. Fun game.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Busy day, summary tomorrow (and Ogre notes)

I ended up with a lot to do today, so I wasn't able to sit down and write anything in the way of a game summary for yesterday.

Over the weekend I did turn up most of my Ogre collection . . . and I have a lot more than I thought. Besides all the stuff I'd mentioned before, and setting aside the Ogres that I'm considering keeping, it turns out I have something like 1-2 of every Ogre I - VI (yes, I seem to have two bagged Mark VIs that I didn't know I bought), and all of the minis I thought I'd pulled out of boxes are extra.

So it'll take a while before I can really get an itemized list and some idea of what they're worth. But I'm moving quickly towards selling them. Although I might pull a Mark VI to assemble and keep . . .

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Gamma Terra preliminary summary

We played GURPS Gamma Terra today, GM'ed by andi jones.

Pretty much, we:

- headed out to a "taboo" land called "12 Point 7 Mike Mike" partway between Bal'Kree and Ann Arbor.

- Looted some mannequins of their displayed guns and heard faints sounds of George Thorogood & the Destroyers, but couldn't figure out from where.

- Found a train station and a pedal-powered train car and a tunnel either way - one dark, one light.

- Pedaled into the dark and found a bunch of bullet-proof pillbugs. Their bellies weren't bulletproof, though. The tunnel dead-ended with some collapsed stone.

- Pedaled back to the light and found mushrooms spread on the tracks near a collapse point. Fatbox went into that spot and triggered off an attack by obbs.

We shot them up and looted a dead mutant humanoid of his rad suit, gloves, and two "headlights" that turned out to work in conjunction with the gloves as body-energy-powered lasers. Many inappropriate but funny jokes were made.

- Went back and met androids cleaning up the mess we made of the mannequins. The android was a Mark V and recognized us as "Tomorrow Men." We followed it up to meet "Mike."

- Chatted with "Mike," a survivor of the 20th Homeland's first group to leave the bunker. We learned a lot.

- We determined that Hard to Kill 2 is a disadvantage, in that if, say, Short Bus took 2 levels of it, we'd say, "You go in front, you have Hard to Kill 2" or "Let the Hardest of us to kill go first!" or "Well, Short Bus has Hard to Kill 2, so he should try that."

- Heard about Yexil and how it eats clothes, and got answers to clarify the annoyingly obscure graffiti in the bunker.

Sadly, though, I did find my mutant powers include Night Vision 1 but don't include either Long Arms or Stretching powers (I tried) OR eye beams no matter how angry of a staring I gave Fatbox. Although I have some points saved up, so you can't be sure yet.

I'll try to get a real summary up tomorrow, work permitting!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Rough Draft: Revised Fit / Very Fit

So I've made it clear to my players far too many times to count that I dislike Fit/Very Fit as written. I allow them, because they are valuable and not-unfairly priced, and because they are extremely popular.

But I don't actually like them.

Mostly it's because it folds a pair of very valuable effects (FP recovery increase, and HT roll bonuses) into a single trait in such a way that it's an almost automatic purchase. It has a way of distorting HT, too, in that it's not worth 10 points for +1 HT unless you a) need +1 to HT to get a whole number in Speed, or b) you already have Fit.

Very Fit is rarely taken, because its benefits are good but HT is perceived as a better choice for the same cost.

But what if we split it up differently? Here is one option.

5 points

Fit doubles your recovery of FP while resting. Instead of 1 FP per 10 minutes, you recover 1 FP for 5 minutes. This does not affect FP expended to power supernatural abilities, spells, etc. or FP lost to starvation.

Fit also gives a +2 to HT rolls against FP loss from exertion from running, swimming, and similar activities (p. B354-355). In addition, it gives you a +2 HT to determine how long you can hold your breath (p. B351).

Very Fit
15 points

As Fit, but in addition you expend half as much FP for physical exertion, such as running, swimming, digging, combat, etc. Very Fit gives a +4 to the HT rolls listed under Fit.

Basically, this nerfs Fit/Very Fit as a cheap way to stay conscious, resist poison, and not to die. It greatly increases its value in games with physical exertion, however, by making its focused HT benefits much stronger. A HT 12 Very Fit character has a 16 HT for holding breath, will be able to run for long distances without getting tired easily, will be able to march around with heavier gear and still be just as fresh as a more lightly equipped friend at the end of the hike, etc.

It also means Fit/Very Fit maps very well to improved aerobic recovery, not endurance per se, so you bounce back faster from bouts of activity.

I'd still do Mana Recovery 1 and 2 as 5/15, and simply have them give 1 per 5 mins and 1 per 2 mins recovery of any/all FP/ER expended to power magic. If you really want to be super-fit physically and recovery magic energy maximally we're looking at 30 points, but I think the two traits above might work well for that.

Not that I'm using either for my DF game, it's too late now, but I like the idea. It makes Fit more about fitness and aerobic recovery, not about being harder to kill, better at staying conscious, and more likely to fend off disease and poison. All of that is what other traits are for!

Important note: It's worth pointing out that if you want to re-tool FP more deeply, you will want to take a look at Douglas Cole's excellent article The Last Gasp in Pyramid magazine. My post isn't about re-tooling FP, or changing how/when/where/why it is expended or recovered. It's entirely about re-tooling Fit and Very Fit so they are less "HT bonus with side benefits" and more "recovery traits." If you like things how they are, or if you want to change things are a far deeper level and in a broader way, the revised advantages above aren't aimed your direction!

Friday, October 9, 2015



 photo Broken Nicole Brush_zpswulfxhfg.jpg

Nicole Size 0, WHY?

Was it because I done you wrong?

Was it because I sometimes looked at other brushes?

Was it because I used the blunt end of the handle to pry dried paint out of my craft paint caps?

Okay, yes, that's what happened.

I was doing some quick paint layering on some troll minis (from that TSR Monster Tribes set I got) after finishing one draft and moving on to the next draft. I stopped to clean out gunked up paint from a paint cap so it would close properly . . . and, snap.

Okay, it's one of my cheap brushes. But it's been my go-to brush for a while now. Long bristles, sharp point, slightly hooked tip that let me get inside shields and under cloak edges with ease.

I guess maybe it's time to bust out the W&N Series 7 I have waiting in the wings and get serious.


Bored Soldiers, Bandits, and Brigands quote

I keep meaning to post this quote from Labarge's Henry V about garrisons in Normandy during the last years of Henry V.

"[The English soldiers] had to be paid with some regularity if they were to be kept in service, and restrained from harassing the local citizens whose loyalty was sufficiently tenuous in any case. The problem was acute. The soldiers, unless actively engaged in campaigning were often bored, and frequently without money. They naturally turned to lawlessness and many preyed upon the inhabitants, since the king's strict regulations [. . .] made desertion and escape to England very difficult. They thus helped to aggravate the problem of brigandage in Normandy [. . . ]"

and skipping ahead a little:

"Desperate bands of dispossessed men hid in the woods and caves, controlled many of the roads, and attacked solitary travellers. Their membership sprang almost completely from the lower peasant class whose security and livelihood were most cruelly affected. The nobles had too much to lose to join this kind of resistance."

During this time, it goes on to say, the number of wolves dramatically increased - so much so that when bandits were killed (or captured and executed) they were buried, to avoid drawing wolves to their hanging corpses.

I like the image that brings - dispossessed people, those with something to lose more willing to cooperate with the invaders, etc. Good gaming material, even leaving aside those opportunists who turn to banditry only when it comes along. Fans of Seven Samurai will know what I mean here - a soldier's misfortune is a peasant's potential gain.

By the way, if you read a lot of Medieval European history books at once, it's amazing how often it comes to "stop having wars for a while and come back home and suppress all the bandits that arose" seems to come up as an activity. It gives you a feeling of barely-suppressed disorder in the homeland, fractious nobles and unreliable allies wanting to get theirs before you get yours, and rulers scraping up armies to go abroad and fight with borrowed money and limited time. It's a far cry from organized professional military forces with logistical trains, solid tax bases to support them, and wars of national concern. Nevermind the convoluted nature of fighting when you've got two rival claimants to a throne, both with strong legal cases to make for it. Or those odd cases in English/French history when the English king rules one part of France in fief from the French King, but also is fighting the French King in his role as English King. Messy stuff. Pick a side, or get trampled underfoot and turn to banditry? Or both?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Recover Energy spell thoughts

Recover Energy is a really odd spell. I'm not the first to notice this. Basically, take the spell at 15+ and you recover energy (FP) at 1 point per 5 minutes instead of 1 point per 10. At 20+, it's 1 for 2 minutes. And that's it.

Generally, people put either 1 point in it (generally enough for a 15-19 with a dedicated spellcaster) and then later buy it up all at once to 20.

That's it. It's more like a cheap, cheap way to recover energy than a spell you actually cast.

It gets tricky if you want to restrict it to only improving recovery of FP spent on spells, too.

You also end up with people using Recover Energy to fuel Lend Energy and Steal Energy for other casters and bootstrapping each other up at an increased speed.

If I could do my DF game again, I'd ditch the spell and figure out a fair cost for Regeneration (FP only) instead. Or just have two new traits that ape Fit and Very Fit, call them Efficient Mana Sponge and Very Efficient Mana Sponge. EMS would give you 1 per 5 mins, VEMS would do 1 per 2 mins. No decrease in outflow.

Ditching the spell would have some spillover effects I think would be interesting:

- You could seal off the entire Healing college to clerics, which means wizards aren't FP batteries for everyone anymore (recover 2.5x as fast as the most Fit non-spellcaster, use Lend Energy to hand it around).

By getting rid of Lend Energy you nix casters helping each other, but then you can make an argument for allowing partial access to ceremonial magic, at least for non-enchantment spells, so wizards who know spells can chip in power to their friends when they cast them. As a huge fan of the Complementary Skills rules, this would be a big plus. You'd want to cooperate on casting, not just fuel each other's batteries.

- Wizards would more fairly be charged for speed recovery costs, since 1 point for 5 minutes and generally 4-12 points for 2 minutes per point is quite cheap. The proposed advantages above would be more on the low end and only a little more on the high end, but would also tie in nicely with Fit/Very Fit.

- It makes for one less automatic must-buy for wizards, who are chained into a lot of odd spell choices in order to optimize their ability to crank out spells.

- It makes having both FP as high as possible and getting Energy Reserve and its concurrent recovery even more attractive, since you recover more slowly overall so splitting into two pools is better.

Has anyone else messed around with swapping out Recovery Energy and costing a replacement?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Tanktober / Orctober Double Post

So I've been greatly enjoying the posts over at The Man Cave, making a game of identifying tanks. I'm not going to have time to build a tank model myself, either, this October. But I do have this old AFV video I took. If you want to guess whose Stug III Ausf G it is, be my guest. I happen to know and I didn't put it in the video notes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Monday, October 5, 2015

DF Cut-Rate Resurrection II: Bring Back the Dead

Here is another option for Cut-Rate Resurrection.

Raise Dead. As the Resurrection spell, but not as quick. 100 energy ($5000 in town), needs PI 4. The newly raised subject is at 0 HP and 0 FP, like normal Resurrection, but also needs a month to recover. Until the subject can rest in town (not carried around in a wagon, litter, by a comrade, etc.) for one month straight, her or she is capable of only limited actions, and is not capable of combat, spellcasting, or adventuring.

Or you can be really mean, and do this:

Risky Resurrection. Resurrection costs 300 energy because it restores the victim to life without fail . . . if you get the spell off. The casting cost can be reduced 100 energy ($5000 in town) if you're willing to take a chance it doesn't work. If the spell succeeds, the victim gets to make a HT roll (plus Fit, etc. but not Hard to Kill) with a bonus of +1 for every point the Resurrection spell succeeded by. If the subject makes the roll, he or she is resurrected. If the subject fails, he or she stays dead! One Try - if it fails, you can try full-power Resurrection . . . but the spell is cast at -5 and the subject must make the HT roll as above. If that fails, it's over.

I forgot to mention prereq for the previous version - I'll edit them in. I think Power Investiture 4 or Magery 4, Lend Vitality, and 4 Necromancy spells including Summon Spirit. Mages can bring back the dead, too - heck, let PCs do it. It costs their buddies 26 character points . . .

Random 1st edition AD&D demon/devil/daemon generator

Check out this demon/devil/daemon generator, automating Appendix D of the 1st AD&D DMG.

DMG Appendix D Automated Generator

Handy. Plus you can cycle through them quickly until you get one that's got some kick to it.

Now I just need this for the GURPS random demon generator from 3e, tweaked to 4e.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

DF Cut-Rate Resurrection

One of my players (who runs Mo, El Murik, Al Murik) suggested allowing a cut-rate version of Resurrection. I'm not sure I'll use it, but even so, they'd fit well in my games. If someone dies and the players want to go for this, I might allow it.

I'd want players to state ahead of time their preferences for their characters, since "Don't use Cut-Rate on me because I'll make a new guy worth 250 and my current guy is below 276" is a valid meta-game argument but totally lame when someone does it after they die.

You don't need to go to a real cleric to come back to life. If you don't mind some downsides, you can go to a somewhat cheaper option . . .

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Critical Hit rule ideas

Sparked by a great idea in the comments of my previous post by dripton, I thought of some critical hit variations for GURPS. I haven't tested any of these.

On top of the "margin matters" idea from dripton, here are some options.

You Can Still Defend, But . . .

On a 3-4, you cannot defend against the critical hit unless that was exactly the roll needed to hit at all. Otherwise, you can defend at a -10.

Ex: You have Broadsword-15 and roll a 4 - the defender gets no defenses, roll on the critical hit table. You have an effective skill of Broadsword-4 and roll a 4. You critically hit, the opponent defends at -10.

Notes: Makes it possible to defend against non-3, below-hit-score-needed critical hits . . . but also means a lot more trips to the critical miss table for the defender! Dodging at -10 is a quick trip to the floor. You could say this doesn't affect critical failure, though.

You Can Still Defend

As above, but a non-3 or 4 critical hit is only a -5 to defend on top of any other penalties.

Notes: Basically you get a freebie Deceptive Attack if you critically hit. Much more likely to defend, but perfect shots are still perfect shots.

Roll, Roll Again

If you roll a 3 or 4 on a critical hit, your critical hit always has some special effect. Roll on the table, and re-roll any "No additional effect" results.

Notes: Criticals on a 5-6 are just no defenses, but on a 3-4 they're always special. Beware the "I need a 3 to hit" guys - either they really nail you or, nothing.

Basic Combat Plus

A 3 is maximum damage. A 4 is a table roll. 5-6 are just "no defenses."

Notes: This is a slightly souped up version of the basic combat system, which only rewards a 3 with any kind of bonus. Further note: I use the basic combat rules in my DF game to speed things up, because a table roll for a 1d+6 arrow or 3d+10 sword strike is just wasting time.

Just some ideas. No, I'm not trying any of these in my game any time soon. The last one is nice, but it's still an extra roll I'm not convinced we need.

Doug did something interesting with this idea, too.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Game Mechanic Preferences: Target Numbers & Formula vs. Tables

I was flipping through a fun-but-table-happy game I played fairly recently (Vampyre, by TSR)

It got me thinking about a couple of my game mechanic preferences.

I prefer target numbers to tables.

I'd rather have a result expressed by a die roll with a target number or numbers than a table lookup. Instead of "1-2 nothing, 3-4 something, 5-6 lots of something" I'd rather have "3+ is something, beat the target number by 2 and get lots of something." Then I can freely adjust the target number or the modifiers on the fly without looking anything up.

I'd rather have "6+ does the job, 1 or less is awful bad stuff" for a 1d6 system than a CRT lookup or checking a chart. It just makes it easier for me. This is probably why I like S&W's one "Save" stat vs. the old-style D&D wargame inspired situation-specific saving throw.

I prefer simple formula to tables.

If you can swap a simple formula, like "Divide your Stat by 2 and roll against it" instead of a table of "What is the roll for a given Stat" or "Every 3 points you make it by," for a table, I prefer that.

My own game system of choice, GURPS, has some of these. Damage for your ST requires a table lookup - you can memorize it, but still, it's a lookup on a mental table instead. Something like BL is easier to look up. I played a lot of Rolemaster and it's a fun game and the table lookups are fun . . . but I ran plenty of games using the no-table approach from Rolemaster Companion and it was equally fun.

But "simple formula" is key. Something like, "Combat is based on a roll against your attack strength, modified by situational percentages, divided by the defender's defense strength, giving a damage result" is not actually easier than a CRT.

Tables are Okay, Though

I'm still okay with tables that make sense as tables. Rumor tables, results tables with different results for each digit, hit location charts, etc. They translate poorly to roll-over or formula. I don't mind memorizing them or looking at them. I've played plenty of fun games with tables that had things on them not conducive to other approaches.

But in general, that's how I like mechanics in my game - simple formula or simple target numbers where possible. If you can equally do it without a table, just as easily as a table, you enhance the speed and portability of the game by doing so.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Why no Hiking in my GURPS game?

One of the skills I've merged away, or just wrote away, is Hiking.

It makes a lot of sense, given that my DF game started centered on a megadungeon. No one needed to roll, so it really was a useless point.

But we've had a couple of wilderness settings in a row. But still no Hiking.

Why not?

Basically, my philosophy is to cut away as many rolls from the game as possible where:

- neither success nor failure are especially interesting;


- they have marginal effects.

Hiking is definitely the former for me. It's just a speed issue. It's not like Boating, which can turn a idyllic day of travel into a horrible hell or dramatically speed up your transit to a new place.

I don't mind rolls being of marginal utility, as long as they matter a lot when they come up. My players greatly enjoy mocking Mimicry (Bird Calls), but if it comes up in play, you can be sure it's going to be significant. So that's a keeper.

That's why no Hiking, though - a short delay or a sped-up march isn't that exciting. I'd as soon leave it out . . . so I did, even with a wilderness trek on foot.
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