Here are even more notes from my DF game session on Sunday.
Treasure sure is spare.
Well, sort of. I never expected the PCs to keep dealing with the orcs so long. Or to consistently and thoroughly target and destroy any and all groups that could keep those orcs in check. Anything resembling potential opposition to the orcs was destroyed by the PCs. The orcs became the defining factor in Felltower. What is Felltower like? It's this orc-held dungeon. The more the orcs demanded, the more the PCs tried to get the orcs to let them help them more. It was a strategy, yes, but it took time, and ultimately meant the orcs became more and more of the focus.
This meant that the PCs have spent a lot more time in these areas of the dungeon than I expected. Level 1 and 2, and the levels most easily accessible from them, have been largely picked clean (not entirely, though). The orcs don't carry a lot - they are fodder-level, mostly, and have treasure worthy of fodder.
Basically, I expected the PCs to be exploring the level explored in session 80 about 40 sessions ago. No kidding. Like, 150 points ago for the top characters. I aimed it to be dangerous but rewarding for 300-350 point characters, with 400 pointers being pretty high powered for that area.
This is why the orcs lost over two dozen warriors and the PCs lost some HP on their berserker, plus minor wounds to an unluckly druid and a couple others.
So the fights versus the orcs take time, and aren't without danger - but they aren't really threatening if the PCs keep their heads. They also don't have the treasure that more dangerous, more threatening foes do. As I've said many times, the real treasure is deeper down. And the deeper you go, the more dangerous, but also more rewarding. Want six figure treasure instead of scrounging up to four figures? Delve deeper.
+4 to hit the floor. I've said this before, just about every time it's come up for 30 years - I don't like the +4 to target the floor with missile spells. It's annoying on many levels:
- targeting a specific 1-yard hex should not be +4; the Size and Speed/Range Table says +4 means the target is 10 yards. A one-yard target is -2, and you wouldn't get even get a shape bonus because it's not boxy or spherical, it's flat.
- explosive spells do full damage in that hex, so you're better off attacking the floor (+4 to hit, no defenses) than the target you want to hit (SM-determined bonus or penalty, can defend - and may Dodge).
- because this is superior to actually hitting the target, players have a vast preference for it. They will make every effort to hit the floor even through occupied hexes (-4 per hex) because the +4 makes up for it, and the "no defenses, full damage" effect for an Explosive spell is so useful. We spend a fair amount of time peering at the map saying, "If I'm in his hex, can I see the floor in that hex? The one behind the front rank?"
I'm tempted to change this one of several ways:
- say explicitly the +4 is for lobbing a missile, and uses the rules for Scatter - and allows Dodge and Drop, per B414.
- or rule as such but also get rid of it, period, since all of these spells reach maximum range in a moment, and thus aren't ballistic but direct-fire. You can target the floor, but not claim +4 for doing so.
Speaking of ranged spells . . .
Lightning Surge! In order to force a HT roll for stunning from Lightning, it has to cause at least 1 HP of injury. This is a clarification - the spell says "wounded" not "hit," but there was confusion over this from people unfamiliar with the wording. Also, "0 point hits" are not an injury, your armor stopped it. This scales for high HP normally.
Low-damage area spells are a GM's nightmare. My players simultaneously love and hate the Lightning spell. They complain every time about how it's -1 per die to damage. But they use it frequently because it has a built-in stunning effect. But for me, as the GM, it's a huge pain. They'll throw a 2d or 3d Explosive Lightning into an area with 10-11 guys packed in it, and do 4-6 damage. By our method 6 damage would be 6/4/2 in the target hex/next ring/final ring of hexes. That's 10-11 guys I need to deal with stunning, deal with recovering from stun, and whose HP all go down by a few points. Then they'll do it again. It turns into a nightmare. At least with Explosive Fireball it's a flat penalty, and ending the penalty (patting down the flames) is a simple action.
I may do this for fodder-types: Stun recovery is automatic after 1 turn plus 1 turn per 2 damage. No rolls. Yes, this is much less nasty (10 injury should mean HT-5, which is a lot of rolls to recovery from, not just 6 seconds) but means I do a lot less roll-roll-roll-roll-roll-roll-roll-roll and then try to pluck off the markers on the minis and cross out stun marks on my roster and then forget which one made which. Especially since they'll do it again on the next turn to keep the stunning rolling along. With the "true" DF fodder rules, they'll all just drop out of the fight, but I like my method just fine - it just could benefit from this tweak.
My life would be easier if they threw higher-damage spells and just fried the fodder-types down to 0 HP or less, they'll automatically fail their HT rolls and drop unconscious. But that's expensive . . . so I don't expect it. It would make my life easier. The tweak above might help. It would also discourage the "lots of little spells" approach because it'll take longer to cast than to recover most of the time. Why spent 3 seconds casting and 1 throwing for a 1-turn stun, when you could turn it into a 5-6 turn stun if the target is even still standing?
Choked with corpses.
Back in my D&D days, we'd kill and kill and kill, and that was that. You died and disappeared, apparently, until it was time to search.
With GURPS, this is not the case. The orcs and PCs alike were hampered by the fallen. One hex had five bodies in it. That's a parapet, almost. Fights are literally shaped by the deaths of the front rankers, and a 3-yard hallway is a terrible place to try to rotate front line fighters vs. foes pressing in on you.
Battle maps limit you.
Speaking of battle maps, as much as having one down means yes, you can Retreat for a +3 to Dodge, or claim a -2 on your foe's defenses because you've flanked him, they also limit you. You can't rush up and hit that guy - see, the other guy is in the way. You can't fade into the shadows and backstab, because you have to wait until the actual combat flows that way and allows it. You can't rush up from the rear in a second or two, because you're all the way in the back. It gives and it takes.