Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Swords & Wizardry Complete: What does the Robe of Wizardry do?

The other night I took a break from game prep and reading for work and browsed the always-enjoyable Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook.

Besides finding an annoying error (an unbolded magic item!) I really took a good look at this item:

Robe of Wizardry: This robe grants the wearer the ability to cast charm, polymorph, and hold spells with a 95% chance of success. The robes may be tied to specific alignments. Usable by: Magic–Users only.

Okay, I can't parse the intent here. Do I now have:

- All charm spells
- All polymorph spells
- All hold spells

. . . useable as often as I want on a 01-95 on d100? 96-100 I waste my round and fail to cast?

At first glance I thought it might mean those spells succeed 95% of the time - that is, I learn them, I memorize and cast them, and then on a 01-95 they just work, no save. It's not like S&W has a spell failure chance when casting spells normally, so "95% chance of success" has to mean one or the other of "use it" or "use it successfully."

The first is a major item, and probably what is intended. The second isn't quite as major of an item, but it vastly improves your own magical ability with those spells.

If you're tempted to answer this question with, "You're the GM, you decide!" please do not. That won't help. I'm trying to parse the author's intent.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

40% off GURPS PDFs, new hardcopies!

SJG is having a rare, very deep sale on GURPS PDFs:

GURPS PDFs 40% off

The last time they had a sale was 23% off. This one is pretty amazing. Now, this also means my royalties will be 40% less, but even so, if you'd like to support this blog and the game I write for, here are my books up on Warehouse 23:

Peter Dell'Orto's GURPS publications

$3.59 for Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3. $4.79 for Henchmen. Ninja, only $2.99 apiece!

Even Martial Arts is only $16.79 in PDF, and the Basic Set only $32.94.

The sale runs until 12/15, so move your Wish List to your shopping cart and get going.

Also, hardcopies for some in-demand books exist now:

You can get Ultra-Tech, Magic, and Thaumatology in softcover from CreateSpace.

Why not Martial Arts?

I don't know. Come on SJG, my book has been OOP for a long time and sells steadily in PDF, print it again . . . even I'd like another hardcopy.

Monday, November 28, 2016

DF Game, Session 83, Felltower 56 - Orc Showdown II

Date: November 27th, 2016

Weather: Clear, moderately cold.

Currently Active:
Dryst, halfling wizard (440 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (308 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (304 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (148 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (316 points)
Naida River, wood wlf thief (250 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (300 points)
Vryce, human knight (493 points)

The group gathered in Felltower, this time with the addition of Naida River but without Dave. Dave had been summoned by his friends Mario and Yoshi to Dinosaur Island at the last second. The group gathered a few rumors and headed out.

The group set up a base camp out of sight of the castle. They then sent up Gale, Dryst, and Has', all with Invisibility and Body of Air to scout out the "bugbear cave." The entrance is a slit in a burned-out foundation's wall, in the "cellar" - and thus out of direct line of sight of the castle. But it's also a collapsing foundation so it's not good concealment, and the tunnel itself requires crawling. Not only that, but scouting revealed it had collapsed in several places. Deliberate collapse or just age - it's been years since it was maintained, and bugbears move around after a while and don't build tunnels to last.

The solution to this was:

- scout it out.

- bring up everyone Invisibly.

- put up a Simple Illusion of things just as they are

- Have the spellcasters dig with Shape Earth.

That's what they did. It took almost 90 minutes of casting, resting, moving dirt by hand (which clogged up the foundation area). The others guarded the rear and watched, Naida from a nearby ruin and the others from the foundation. Mo briefly spotted what could be an orc patrolling the walls, but it wasn't repeated.

Eventually they reached a short stone tunnel that connected to a secret door into the real tunnels of Felltower. That turned out to be blocked by 30-35' of solid rubble, mostly rock and earth, but also some junk (a door, some bones, etc.) Dryst used Wild Talent to learn Earth to Air and got to work. Most of the group had to back out to the surface.

Some time after that, they'd created a hole. The top bits of rubble collapsed down to make a U-shape of rubble but it was crossable. They did so and were into the dungeon.

Using their older maps, they found a secret door to a back tunnel and eventually to an old armoury - long neglected, and with the best stuff long taken. After some map consulting they figured out how to get to the stairs down by a "back way" and did so, passing through one of the room complexes where they'd once fought some orcs while under truce and tossed their corpses into a refuse pit. They passed through a door and located a secret door they had on their map but couldn't reliably open. Some inspection by Gale and manipulation by Naida and it was opened and then closed again and its method noted on the map.

From there, they reached the second level and moved close to the "orc hole." They forced open a door (with Silence once they realized it was barred) and went through. Almost immediately they ran into some orcs - it would turn out to be 13 in total. Arrows flew out of the darkness and started to cause some damage - they used armor-piercers dipped in poison. The PCs moved up and into the fray:

 photo session-83-felltower-56_pic-1_battle-line small_zps34jdvuvd.jpg

The orcs stayed pretty tightly packed but around a corner, allowing their archers to fire occasionally into the fray and their spearman to stab from behind. Hjalmarr opened the fray in his typical fashion - throwing an axe and then dropping his best melee axe on a critical miss. He'd finish the fight with Inquisitor Marco's Mace. Naida popped one with an arrow and wounded him.

Otherwise, it was a mismatch. Vryce was forced to kill one at a time thanks to the orcs keeping pressure on him (with a Rapid Strike Feint-swing to skull combo), and Mo missed a few easy shots thanks to some bad luck, and of course Has' dropped a 3d Explosive Lightning on the orcs and front rank fighters alike, but otherwise, it didn't end well for the orcs. One leader-type tried to run once the fight started to really turn, yelling for help, but he didn't make it - Dryst knocked him flat with a Stone Missile and then Mo ran him down and brained him.

Vryce, meanwhile, hucked a lightstone towards the orc archers, and rolled a 4. It went almost all the way down the hallway and surprised the orcs. Naida shot one (but rolled poorly, and it was bounced by his armor) and Dryst threw a Stone Missile but it was dodged. Vryce got his sling out. The orcs had enough and with a final volley ducked into the "orc hole."

 photo session-83-felltower-56_pic-2_aftermath small_zpsq0y3mrcm.jpg

They brained all of the fallen and Gale quick-looted them, grabbing swords and handy purses. (This started an argument about purses being inside armor or outside. Dryst argued they go outside, Vryce arguing you don't need your money to be quickly accessible so you stash it inside. I guess I know who keeps their purse where.)

They started to advance down the hallway towards the "orc hole" but then fell to discussions about doors. Half of the group wanted to ignore the doors and advance on the orcs, arguing any orcs inside would have come out to fight. The other half wanted to bash them open to check their six. The second group won out, basically by starting to do that thing. Meanwhile the light stone went out - probably Dispel Magic, they surmised.

The first down was locked, though, with a padlock from the hallway side. There was a makeshift bar for the door with orc-made brackets. Naida picked the lock and took it as loot. Mo kicked the door open . . . and THUD! A cord-triggered siege crossbow shot him in the chest (I rolled a 4 to hit, he didn't have a chance). He took 22 injury after his natural DR, and then badly failed a poison resistance roll for 8 injury more. He stepped back.

The room had damp-ish straw, some scat, and the crossbow. No one wanted to risk more traps. As this went on, Ike moved over and started working on Mo, healing some of his wounds. But they'd forgotten to set up to defend themselves and the orcs at the "orc hole" had come back. Ike took an arrow. They quickly put Missile Shield on him as the orcs beat feet again.

The group abandoned the plan to deal with the doors and moved to the "orc hole." There they took arrow fire from two directions - and a Wizard Eye left near the intersection behind them by Dryst showed two orcs with bows. They took arrows, heard a door slam - and repeat. They chased after some orcs shooting from their right - towards their approach last session. They reached the door but then decided to move back. Dryst used Magelock on the door and they moved back. As they passed the "orc hole" they dropped a Pollen Cloud and a Stench spell on it to discourage orcs from coming up. As they passed the siege crossbow Mo tossed an Alchemist's Fire on it since the lantern oil he had (swiped from the armoury above) wasn't assured to do the job thoroughly and the straw was damp. The "orc hole" is in the damp part of the dungeon.

After this, they moved back up to the first level. They basically moved along the corridors trying to draw out the orcs. They took arrows and the occasional heavy crossbow bolt at intersections, which Hjalmarr took on his shield. They gave chase at a quick walk (based on Move 3, maximum speed for the slowest guys) but couldn't catch up. They eventually put up a Force Wall on one side and charged back at some orcs that shot arrows into their backs, but again, they couldn't catch them.

They laid out 5 hexes of caltrops to block a door and then moved around level 1, eventually coming out by the gargoyles. The whole time they tried to walk into clear ambush spots and attract attention, hoping to draw the orcs into a heads-up brawl. But all they got for their trouble was arrows.

The gargoyles were surprised. Vryce stepped forward, and with his default Intimidation (an 11 by default, thanks to Will 16) he said, "Clear out, we're going after the orcs." That was all the cowardly gargoyles needed to hear. Four of them flew off.

From there the PCs burst into the entrance way from the inner side. The pillbox nearest was closed up, so they advanced and opened the metal door and reached a locked portcullis. Vryce and Mo put their backs into it and ripped it out of the ground, despite its locking mechanism - which snapped and gave way. As Mo stood there with all 1500+ pounds of portullis overhead, he took three all at once, all armor-piercers tipped with poison. He was hurt but not down. Vryce ran out with Walk on Air and across the pit, and chased down and killed two of eight orcs he spotted. The others scattered like waterbugs and he was not willing to chase them on his own.

After that, it was anti-climactic. The PCs broke the other portcullis (but couldn't budge it, it's pretty much stuck now), dumped the orc's pit bridge into the pit (they'd later burn it), and explored the castle. The orcs had fled or moved into the dungeon below, they couldn't tell. Their tracker wasn't skilled enough to discern the prints from right now from the heavy daily traffic, either.

The wrecked keep turned out mostly empty, as did some side buildings. A recently-abandoned fire was still burning, and some ale (Mo's favorite - cheap and plentiful, aka Orc Blue Ribbon) and jerky from what he hoped was small deer was handy. He ate some and drank some and scattered the rest and smashed the casks. They burned everything they found - arrows, capes, blankets, food, the tarps the orcs use to keep rain out of the long-burned out keep, etc.

They explored the gatehouse and intact towers, too, finding some very old bones, maned rat bones, a room that had once had four people (probably) fireballed into Hiroshima shadows, and so on. Nothing of value.

So they trashed that, too - they burned the wagon the orcs use as a rolling inner gate. They snapped the chain for the portcullis and ripped off the 100 pound main handled wheel used to crank it and took it as scrap.

They wanted to trash the shutters on the pillboxes but it wasn't practical - they're recessed, small, magic-resistant treated, probably fire-resistance treated, etc. Poking one into flinders with a spear would have been the best they could do, and it would take more time than they had.

Satisfied they'd trashed the orc's area as best they could since they wouldn't come to grips with them, and because it was late in and out of game, they headed home.

Loot was sparse but not bad - enough for a profit for everyone once Vryce and Dryst took zero shares.


The first fight with the orcs took longer than I'd hoped. Again, you put down a battle map and it keeps things clear, but it does mean people spend more time on "I move here, here, and then here, and if I face this way is this arc a flank?" Pretty much, once you want to have Retreat, take advantage of facing and spacing, use your two-hex reach, and have precise knowledge of your hexes it takes longer. On the flip side, having a map speeds that up - mapless abstract is faster than mapped tactical, but mapless tactical is really slow. Like playing chess without a board but not everyone knows where all the pieces are at any given moment.

So Hasdrubel threw an Explosive Lightning spell that, of course, also hit his friends. He said, "I try to keep you guys only on the outer edges of the blast." One of the other guys said, "Thanks!" I said, he just told you that he tries to only shock you a little and you said thanks? Mo's player calls this "Shockholm Syndrome."

I joked the big metal wheel sold for 30 sp to the tavern called the Sign of the Big Metal Wheel, which had lost its wheel mysteriously a while back. It had disappeared about when the orcs fixed the front gate, and this one looks just like the old one! The Sign of the Big Metal Wheel is probably canonical, now.

Not a lot of loot, but enough - the thresholds for guys 349 and under are low, and aren't much higher at 350-399. Still, that's not much of a way to get rich, even with expendables use being pretty low.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Felltower session pre-summary

As always, writing a summary will have to wait - I work much earlier and much later on Mondays, so I'll get the writeup done tomorrow during a break.

But for now:

- the PCs dug their way into the collapsed bugbear tunnels and then into the dungeon.

- they found their way down to the second level.

- there was a brief-ish fight not far from the "orc hole."

- Mo discovered a trap the hard way.

- archers kept harassing the PCs with arrows.

- the orcs played hit-and-run while the PCs played "please ambush us!"

- Vryce scared some gargoyles

- the PCs played homewreckers on the surface.

All in all it was a useful session but a lot less destructive to the orcs than the PCs had hoped. Full summary tomorrow.

(And this is probably the last session until January - Christmas falling on a Sunday and a schedule game of Gamma Terra mean the next Felltower delve is likely in January 2017.)

Felltower preview: Against the Orcs, part II?

We've got another session of Felltower today. As far as I can tell, the plan is the same as last week: kill orcs.

The particulars aren't understood by me yet. I think they mean to:

- go in a different way (possibly the bugbear hole, although that's a tough way to travel);

- plan a different way out;

- possibly attempt to assault "the orc hole" or just attack orcs and then attract patrols, etc. to them and defeat them in a straight-up fight.

- Get rich!*

I know Mo, at least, aims to kill as many "special" foes as possible - ogres, leaders, spellcasters, etc. - and not worry about "regular" orcs. I know this because Mo's player told me this yesterday during a break during kickboxing. I'm sure the others would like to accomplish this, too, but it's not clear what individual priorities are.

This will be part II of the plan to grind the orcs down. It'll probably be a multi-session process; there are a lot of orcs and the PCs are still operating on limited knowledge of their foe. The orc areas in the dungeon are largely known to them, and they have some (old) scouting knowledge from when Galen spied on the orcs about the cave-riddled valley they are based in. In between is a large swath of terrain, plenty of space for tunnels, and no clear idea where anything goes but a pressing need to go there if they want to win victories and get loot . . . delving at its finest!

* Your choice: this is either a reference step 3 of the underwear gnome's plan, or a variation of Tank Girl, Jet Girl, and Sub Girl's more beer-centric plan.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Revised GURPS Magic: Fire Cloud, Spark Cloud

The "Cloud" damage spells are pretty anemic right now. They are:

- short duration

- long casting time

- expensive

- low damage

That's a pretty bad combination. Only one of them has been cast in my games. I've decided to revise them to make them competitive with the other spells in the same colleges. The easiest way to do that is make their damage really count - have it mostly ignore armor DR!

These changes are in line with what the various "Touch" Melee spells were like before I weakened them (and made them more consistent in damage with their Missile relatives.)

Fire Cloud

As written, except replace the line "Armor protects normally" with the following:

"Sealed armor and natural DR protects normally. Other armor provides no protection."

Spark Cloud

As written, except replace the line "Armor protects in the usual fashion" with the following:

"Sealed armor and natural DR protects normally - however, sealed metal armor only provides DR 1. Unsealed armor provides no protection."


This seems pretty workable. It's not an instant monster-killer, since even a few DR will stop the lower levels of this spell. It's suddenly useful against armored foes, too.

I should not have to say this, but Spark Cloud does not provide a stunning effect. I know I will get asked. GURPS doesn't normally explain what isn't included, but my players routinely ask on anything sort-of lightning related. And off-topic but related - the reason Lightning spells don't cause fires is largely because they can't do enough damage - tight-mean burning attacks like those need ten times as much damage to ignite a fire. That's 30+ damage in a single hit to light clothing on fire . . . a fireball at that level is incinerating most of what you've got.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Links, Sales, and Other People's Posts for 11/25/16

First, three minis-related posts:

James Holloway has a great idea up on his blog: aquarium jellyfish mounted on inverted plastic wine cups. Brilliant! I can now go and find an electric jellyfish (DFM1, p. 13) mini!

Frugal Gaming Giant Jellyfish

Next, Black Tree Design is having a Black Friday sale:

Black Friday Sale

50% off most of their Dark Ages, Hundred Years War, and Fantasy minis . . . plus Doctor Who and others at a lesser discount. Time for daleks and orcs!

Wargames Foundry and Casting Room Miniatures too, plus it seems like Northstar is as well - probably a good chance to pick some stuff up, now that the USD-to-GBP ratio is so good. Thank you economic uncertainty!

Next, Goodman Games is having a Black Friday sale. It's a good time to get your own copy of Sailors on the Starless Sea. Use the code blackfriday2016 for print or blackfriday2016P for PDF.

There are two excellent posts up about being a good player that I wanted to link to. The first is from Mailanka:

GURPS-Day Cross Post: So you wanna play in a game, huh?

He's got a lot of good points, well worth reading. I think you can sum up a core of it by saying: engage in the world, engage with the other players, and do the things that work best for the game instead of for you personally. That's good advice, right there. It also echoes something Doug said a while back - play the game that you're playing, don't fight it. That applies to system and setting alike.

The second is from Benjamin Gauronskas:

Editorial: Sometimes It's OK If Someone Does Something Wrong

This hits one of my pet peeves about veteran gamers - "helping" a newbie with an overwhelming "here is how you do it right" set of advice. Actually, that's veteran everyone. The trainer or gym rat who will give you an info dump on how to bench press "better" and change your whole program and explain the science behind creatine monohydrate even if you don't ask. The cycling enthusiast who is outlining why you need three bikes to really do the stuff you want as you shop for your first bike. The painter who will explain why you need Windsor & Newton Series 7 brushes and $200 worth of paints and a color wheel before you try to paint your first mini.

It's "help" but it's not helpful. It's a bad human trait - talking instead of listening, trying to demonstrate knowledge, and - more generously - not realizing the value is in the experience of doing. Especially in gaming, there are no real consequences for being wrong or inefficient or whatever. Just do what you want to do - and get a story and an experience out of it. By all means, veterans should step in and help someone who asks. If you play side-by-side with someone and they get something wrong ("Okay, it says I have Broadsword-16, and you said I have to Parry? I have a 16, right?" "It would be 11, not 16.") but otherwise, let them experience it themselves. It's just a game. Let everyone have that terror experience of shooting a wight with silver arrows and realizing you can't even hurt it with those. Don't mess it up for them by saying, "It's a wight, none of your weapons are useful. You should back off, the fighting retreat rules are on page such-and-such of the red book. Don't let it touch you or you'll get level drained. That's really bad because Restoration is a 6th level cleric spell and you'll need a new character instead." Boy, is that a story the person will remember forever, eh? The stark terror of knowing the answer and having someone tell them what to do and all of the related rules?

Just let the new guys try it out. Step in when asked. Fix math errors, at best. Let them enjoy it. It'll be better for everyone.

Finally, there is a good Q&A with Allen Hammack, author of C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness, over on Adventures in Gaming V2.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Culling the megadungeon-wreckers from the DF Druid spell list?

One thing going through my mind right now are top-end druid spells for a megadungeon campaign.

Right now, PI 5 and PI 6 for Druids are pretty sparse:

PI 5: Alter Terrain, Arboreal Immurement, Create Elemental, Entombment, Partial Shapeshifting, Permanent Beast Possession, Permanent Shapeshifting, Plant Form Other, and Shapeshift Others.
PI 6: Earthquake, Geyser, Move Terrain, and Volcano.

We've got a druid with PI 5 and enough points for PI 6 and one spell.

And I'm not sure I like where that is going for a megadungeon campaign. I have some very strong reservations about the PCs using Earthquake, Volcano, and Alter Terrain willy-nilly in the dungeon. It'll be hard thanks to layered penalties of worked and altered stone with magic resistances built in vs. a druid penalized for being underground, but even so - do I want to build a giant multi-level dungeon so the PCs can blow it up whenever they hit an obstacle they aren't sure about?

Do I actually want volcanoes and to have to figure out what happens when levels 2-4 collapse down on and pancake the secret sub-level I designed with such care and wipe out the entrances to levels 5 and 6 because, hey, it says here that "Severe" level casting means we can drop the roof on those orcs? They just might be inappropriate for this kind of game, but something good needs to come with top-end Druidic PI.

Not that PI 5 and 6 aren't in and of themselves useful, but they should at least have a few useful spells.

I'm debating chopping the list down a lot.

Create Elemental is pretty much a "grind the session to a complete and utter halt" spell cast in play; cast outside of play it's useless, so I will cut that off.

Alter Terrain and Move Terrain don't fit. I might allow them, but just flat out say "outdoors only." If/when we go on wilderness hikes, if the PCs really want to do this, maybe it's okay. In the dungeon, yeah, I put in a lot of work mapping, stocking, prepping, etc. for 1 character point on a single PC and a good die roll to undo it.

Volcano would be gone. I see no way that provides any value to a megadungeon game, and I can see a huge list of downsides.

Earthquake can probably stay, but again, I'll need to firmly enforce a) restrictions and b) consequences. By restrictions, I mean, if any of the area affected has a penalty for druids and/or magic resistance, it affects the whole area (even one bit of worked stone in an area is -3 or higher for the druid, and if it's -10 Magic Resistant stone, well, -13 to cast), make it clear you can't get cute and throw it vertically instead of horizontally, etc. By consequences, I mean, when the dungeon collapses it's going to spill into multiple areas, including where you might be. And it might not even fall. So it'll be largely useless - castles and dungeons won't exist purely on the sufferance of angry druids.

I might expand the list. Spark Storm makes sense. I could make another outdoors version of the Rain of spells to allow druids to call down lightning strikes in an area. Rain of Lightning would be a trivially easy spell to stat up (outdoors only, again.) Maybe a lasting version of Control Elemental. They should have access to at least a few spells of special note . . . but they shouldn't be megadungeon destroyers just because, well, DF1 says they have those spells.

And it's worth noting, wizards and clerics can/t/don't/won't have these either.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Rulings and rules from DF Session 82

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.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pictures from Session 82, Felltower 55

Three of my players took pictures on Saturday and sent them to me. I didn't have time to edit them and sort them and post them until now.

I'll have more game notes later, but for now, here are the mini pictures.

Monday, November 21, 2016

DF Game, Session 82, Felltower 55 - Orc Showdown I

Date: November 20th, 2016

Weather: Cold, windy, first flurries of snow.

Dave, human knight (262 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (439 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (304 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (304 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (147 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (301 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (290 points)
Vryce, human knight (493 points)

We started in Sterickburg, as usual, gathering rumors. One of note was that orcs are "fearless and ruthless, but not very disciplined." You know, just like delvers. They stocked up on paut and healing potions and some other things, including a Watchdog scroll for Hasdrubul.

The PCs also forked out 450 sp for a pig, which Mo named Squealy Dan. They then made lightstones, one each of holy and magical for everyone ("including the pig" joked Dryst), turned everyone Invisible (actually including Squealy Dan), and slowly worked their way up. They headed out and hiked up the mountain, turning left most of the way up and rounding the crest to reach the dragon cave on the west side.

Once there someone casually remarked something like, "You know, we don't actually need to pass the behir to get to where we are going." So Quenton Gale cast Entombment on the pig, beating its resistance, and it was swallowed up by some earth and rock. He's now their backup pig.

They passed through the rock "toothed" cave and into caverns below. Once inside they dropped the Invisibility and moved to the "mushroom cave." It was quiet and peaceful for most of them, but not Hasdrubul, who felt tired and confused (-2 FP and IQ) for a number of hours. All but him ate some of the mushrooms, and the PCs took all of the color-tinged mushrooms they could. Mo ate one and it gave him Dark Vision, but they saved the others until later. Mo also mocked Has', saying, "You wanted to be evil."

They worked their way up the steps to the half-finished tiled room and to the blockage on the stairs to the level still further up. Once there, Dryst cast Ethereal Body and slipped through the wreckage. On the other side he cast Simple Illusion of the same wreckage (more-or-less) and moved back. Then, with a large Silence spell over the particular area they worked on, plus two brute servants Dryst created, got to work. The strongest three PCs - Vryce, Mo, and Hjalmarr - did most of the digging, with Dave spelling one of them for a time. The servants carried the rock into the corners of a nearby room and carefully stacked them. Gale helped by using Shape Earth to get the fill out of the mass of wood, rusted metal, blocks of stone, etc. that made up the bulk of the barricade. It was 90 cubic yards (!) of junk, so it ended up taking nearly seven hours with rest and breaks. By the time the PCs finished, it was after dark outside. Luckily they brought lots of mushrooms from the cave. By this time, Mo's dark vision was long gone and Has' felt better.

They moved up the now-clean stairs, putting another illusion behind them. They ate the mushrooms that gave dark vision and improved poison resistance. They cautiously - but not too slowly - moved to the bottom of the "pillboxes" that guard the main entrance. They forced doors with Silence over them and wedged one shut with a crowbar underneath it, and then Mo went up the left "ladder" and Vryce the right.

Vryce's pillbox was empty except for some quivers of arrows and some spare bows.

Mo pushed his open and found himself face to face with an orc. He pulled himself up as the orc drew his sword and another, behind his position, yelled "Human!" in common. The sword-armed orc slashed him but he parried, and luckily his knife held. They kept yelling. Dave decided to come help and started to run from the room the PCs waited in. He stormed up and grabbed the orc and stabbed at him with his knife while the other one whacked him in the back with an axe. He took three or four very hard two-handed chops with the axe before he could knock out the orc he grabbed with a serious vitals stab. Then he spun him around, then dropped both, drew his morningstar and took the orc out in a second. He was badly wounded.

Meanwhile Vryce saw through the arrow slits that the orcs from the surface were coming across the pit via their "bridge." He couldn't find a way to close the gates or doors, and realized the controls were elsewhere, and headed down.

They healed Mo up a bit [maybe entirely, I don't track that for them] and moved towards the "orc hole."

They reached it after some quick marching, with their three best fighters in the front and Dave trailing in the back. The passed one of the statue rooms, forced the door, and kept going.

As they approached the orc hole, arrows flew out at them. Dryst was hit by one which penetrated his armor - he didn't bother to dodge some wussy orc arrow, but I rolled max damage and it was a poison-coated armor piercer and punched a hole in his dwarven plate. The PCs charged, all at maximum Move, quickly getting spread out. The arrived and found a group of the biggest, darkest, fiercest looking orcs they'd ever seen, backed by a few more normal sized orcs and at least one spellcaster.

Vryce, Mo, and Hjalmarr rushed in. As is traditional, Hjalmarr threw an axe and then drew his good melee axe, did a Rapid Strike, hitting and then rolling an 18 to drop it. Like, you know, every fight. He eventually drew Inquisitor Marco's Mace and fought with that. The PCs engaged in a close-in brawl, with the wizards throwing Explosive Lightning in mostly for the stunning effect, Gale put a large Pollen Cloud over two areas of the fight, Has' followed it up with Stench over the "orc hole" - really a vertical tunnel - to discourage reinforcements. The orcs responded with Spasm spells from their caster and Deceptive Attacks and spear-thrusts to chinks in armor.

Meanwhile Dave rushed up, trying to join the fight, but he's heavily burdened and slow. He arrived eventually. The four of them were too tough for the orcs, even though Mo got a foot crippled by a chance shot. Those orcs took a tremendous beating before they'd drop, but eventually they did. The caster, too, was stunned with lightning and slain, along with a sub-chief type, but several of the archers fled. In the end the PCs had killed around a dozen orcs.

They quickly policed up the swords - the only lootables they care about - and triple-killed the dead orcs. Everyone was in such a rush that they ended up - this is true - spending five minutes "quickly" getting some stuff done. Gale chopped up one orc with Hjalmarr's axe. Hjalmarr and Mo both bashed skulls. Someone else said they'd cut throats, I can't recall now which PC. They used Mage Sight to check for magic items (none), grabbed magical staff off of the orc spellcaster, and put Force Dome over the "orc hole." Has' followed that with Watchdog from his scroll, and grabbed the orc spellcaster's head.

Then they headed back, hoping to encounter more orcs while keeping their path home clear. They worked their way to the incredibly misnamed "Lord of Spite's Door" and made sure Mo could open it - and left it open. Around now Has's Watchdog went off, over and over and over again. Hostiles in that area. They headed back.

They reached an intersection where they once had a big brawl with the orcs. History repeated itself - the orcs were waiting and attacked. The PCs rushed out to the right of the T to attack them. Gale, though, with See Invisible on, rushed out and to the left. He saw a mass of bad guys charging - four devil wolves, two really big owlbears, three ogres (one really big one, too), an invisible orc wizard, and some of those big, dark-skinned orcs. He yelled.

The orcs piled in - from one side, devil dogs charged. From the other, axe-armed orcs backed by spear-armed orcs rushed them. Invisible Dyrst plastered himself to the ceiling and put up a Force Wall in front of the left side - but it takes a second to form, and the dogs and one owlbear came in too fast.

The devil dogs caused havoc, using pouncing to do full-out runs and jumping on PCs. Mo, as is traditional, was bitten and knocked down by one (he rolled just about the worst slam damage possible vs. pretty high for the devil wolf.) Hjalmarr turned and chopped one up but its still-moving corpse smashed into him and knocked him down. Another pounced on Gale and knocked him down, and a moment later he dropped unconscious. Dave broke that one's leg and in a second or two beat it to hamburger. Hjalmarr got up to kneeling and killed the owlbear, first driving it berserk with damage and then braining it before it could smother him with its arms and hug him to death.

The PCs had a nice wall to the right, and Vryce, Mo, and Hjalmarr killed some orcs but once Mo got up Vryce moved to the left, letting the orcs pile through. Vryce was afraid the orcs would dispel the wall and the PCs would be overrun.

One more devil dog rushed through after Has', who yelled "Oh crap" or something or that sort. Dave yelled "Yes!" Has' dodged (against all odds, really) and knocked its bite aside with his staff, then zapped it with lightning, stunning it. Dave smashed its foreleg and body, and then piled more on the second after. Around this time, Brother Ike woke up Gale with a healing tap from his staff and Awaken. Vryce charged the force wall but the orc caster saw him and shouted to his owlbear and ogres. The ogres moved to screen him and the owlbear pulled back. Vryce ran up to the wall and slashed through it (his sword is magical, and can pass through) and killed one ogre - and then double-killed him to make sure after he fell. Unable to be sure where the invisible guy was, he swung wildly around low and high. [The player knew, but his PC didn't.] Has' put up Stench on those orcs behind the wall, which the orc caster Dispelled, leaving the wall intact - clearly, they realized things weren't going well. They put up Fog and Gale blew that away with Wall of Wind.

From here, especially on the right, it was a pretty straight-up brawl. The casters threw Explosive Lightning into the fray, mostly aimed at the floor [I did inflict heavy penalties to claim the +4 to "hit the floor in that hex" when there are 3-4 orcs in between.] Dave, Mo, and Hjalmarr kept killing orcs. The bodies got stacked so high that Dave the Crippler, self-dubbed, had to physically climb them to get at the orcs. More lightning and Pollen Could spells tossed in the back to hit archers and casters messed up the orc's plans, and eventually they started to back off. A few pressed forward to fight, others followed orders, and the PCs ran into trouble when they hit their own Pollen Cloud. As one orc fought on (he'd rushed the PCs despite the order) a wizard put up a wall with Create Earth. Mo charged it and slammed into it, but rolled terrible damage and merely dented it - it wasn't a thin sheet. Moments later, it turned to bronze! Clearly the orc earth wizard was here and he's pretty good.

The PCs let the others escape to the left, and looted and healed up some injuries. They dispelled the magically created wall and followed the orcs. No surprise, they were gone, but had left some nail-studded boards behind. Mo, now snapped out of his enraged status, had moved cautiously and saw them. They were close to their exit, and took it, but not before lighting up some oil the orcs had spread ahead of their path (they heard fleeing footsteps from whomever was hanging around waiting to light it.)

They headed down, and found their way out. By now it was deep into the night, but they managed to get back to town safely.

Loot was okay - a few hundred for most, once they sold the swords and divvied up some minor jewelry from the orcs and some gold and silver coins, more for Vryce and Dryst. But it wasn't enough to cover the costs completely. Still, they were satisfied they'd killed over two dozen orcs, one of the wizards, four devil wolves, and an owlbear. Plus they ensured that yes, Mo's "magic hand" still works post-dismemberment. They plan to come back again next time, a different way in, and assault the orcs again. If their estimates are good, they inflicted roughly 10% permanent casualties on the orcs.

Pictures tomorrow, no time to edit them in! [Pictures are up!]


I tested some time-tracking methods in my game today, they were excellent although counting-intensive. It helped a lot to be able to say "It takes 40 minutes from here to there" instead of "Uhm, let me guess." Once I polish them up more, I'll submit them to Pyramid.

Aaargh, even my players have me calling "orc wizards" "orc shaman" instead. Gah. Hopefully seeing Dispel Magic, Create Earth, and Earth to Stone will change that. It probably won't. I used to refer to them as that myself, until I realized it was totally misleading everyone and shocking them when they had "real" spells. Dryst's player said that "shaman" sounds more dangerous, like they have mysterious powers.

My players aren't terribly happy that Earth to Stone can create metal, but I don't allow the metal spells like Shape Metal. Mostly because they'll see no cool adventuring use and endless amounts of "We can shape the metal door aside." "We can shape the hinges off the door." "We can shape this fine enchanted armor into something else." Etc. Dispel Magic did the trick anyway.

One question that came up - why does Force Wall and Force Dome say it takes a second to form, and Shape Earth gives someone time to move off the hexes affected, but Create Earth just makes stuff instantly? Basically to avoid abusive auto-kills with the former spells. The latter, like most other spells, don't come with a lag time because they can't really usefully function as "win buttons" in an unfair way. You could potentially make all spells that create anything work after a full turn delay, but that would make the vast majority of offensive area spells useless except at massive sizes. It would also make most area-denial spells useless, because you can see them coming and ignore them. I'd rather keep the special cases for the spells which, in my experience, are most ripe for abuse.

Putting Dave in the rear guard was an in-game good decision, but an out-of-game poor one. Dave's player is very young, loves combat but not much of the rest of delving (yet, anyway), and Dave the Crippler has ST 14 and heavy armor . . . so he has Move 3. This means he spent a good amount of time in the first fight running up to the fight. I suggested putting him up front even if it meant having no rear guard in the second fight, and the players seemed like they were already on that page, too. He was much happier getting into the thick of things right away, and his success at smashing limbs and beating down orcs and devil wolves made him and everyone else very happy. Even if his move was higher, you put the elementary school kid's fighter in the thick of the action and let the vets handle them more patience-taxing task of tactical area control.

Remembering that you roll unconsciousness from HP loss on your turn has had a significant effect on the game. No longer is the best way to kill fodder torso shots for high damage. That will work, but a HT 11-12 orc might be stunned and knocked down on a major wound but is unlikely to roll 16-17+ to pass out immediately, and over half the time won't even be stunned. Even if fodder fail their unconsciousness rolls on their next turn, they are still there in the way. Skull shots suddenly seemed like a great idea as they nearly ensure knocked (HT 12, -10 for major wound to the skull = Knocked out on a 7+). It makes the "no wasted damage, maximum hit potential" torso shot approach have a tradeoff vs. "but when I hit, it goes down" skull and vitals shooting. Nice.

Where do PCs keep all of those swords? Really, "we grab all the swords and move on." With the scabbards, this takes time and it's annoying to carry them. Without the scabbards, they are where exactly? I don't worry about this too much, enforcing only the weight, but I have to wonder. "Oh, I have them, I've got plenty of encumbrance cap to spare." But where? I couldn't even schlep two shinai to kendo in a special pack without thinking, this sucks. Imagine ten scimitars you scooped up in battle.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Felltower pre-summary

Busy work day tomorrow, so I'm not sure I can get the summary in - or if I do, it might be light on combat details. But I'll try. In the meantime:

- the PCs went into the "dragon cave" and silently dug their way into the orc-held areas.

- the PCs ended up having two big fights with the orcs and killing a few orc guards.

- the first fight was a close-in brawl with some of the biggest, meanest, fiercest orcs they've faced.

- the second fight was a pincher attack by orcs the PCs had drawn out and moved to engage. This was most lesser orcs, backed by some special shock troops . . .

It was a good session, and packed with action. Long fights even with our modified fodder rules, but good ones and fun. It was also packed with players - seven of them, every one of the regulars plus one of our occasional guest stars.

Quote of the session? "This is the best game ever!" - Dave the Knight's player, our youngest by far.

DF Felltower: Showdown with the Orcs, Part I?

It's game day today, and the rumbling seem to be centered on a theme - "the orcs have to go."

We'll see if that's the case. The orcs are individually fodder, largely, but never come "individually." They're brave, fierce, warlike, organized, and have numbers.* They have wizards, canine (or vulpine?) beasts, the occasional trolls and ogres, archers, and a nearly limitless supply of callous ruthlessness.

What they don't have is power to match the PCs. They do worry the PCs a lot, but they're also a challenge for the GM. I've had to go back and review my own posts on the subject, like this Melee Academy post. There isn't a lot an orc can do against a PC except hope for a 3-4, and hope that superior numbers and well-chosen tactics allows them to take advantage. They'll need to pull tricks out of the trick bag, and use their superior knowledge of the dungeon area to make life hard for the PCs.

Equally the PCs have a lot on their plate. They need to figure out the orc center of gravity. They have to maximize what they do have - striking power that more resembles a special ops team backed by airstrikes than an army - and avoid cases where numbers actually matter. They have to use enough power in every fight to win them without costs, but not spend so much power that victory is essentially Pyrrhic. "We killed all the orcs in this room! Now, let's rest for 42 minutes to get back our power and then return to town because we used up all of our potions, paut, and consumables." That's a Pyrrhic victory, especially if they come back next week and have to fight that same battle over again. They need to determine where to go and what to do, as they don't want to get surrounded but they can't win a decisive victory by wandering the fringes nicking off the orcs that even the orcs consider totally expendable.

On top of all of that, the XP system rewards loot. Loot, loot, loot - they absolutely need loot. They might make some cashing in empties, but it's a tough gig killing orcs, grabbing up some spears, axes, and cheap swords and then selling them for a maximum of 40% list value (usually less - orcs keep their weapons sharp and strong but that's all.) A chest full of silver and gold is the goal, not $40 spears and $200 cheap swords reduced to 90% value and then sold for 40% of that. So the PCs need to do more than just grab some now-used swords and spears and suits of mismatched armor that they've hacked through with swords and axes or charred with lightning and fire.

Their lack of money laying around and poor delves and maltreatment of hirelings by some of their numbers means no one is chomping at the bit to join them. Like all wars, the time you most need allies is when the situation is bleak enough that they aren't always keen to jump in.

It's a tough gig, even against fodder, and it's no wonder the PCs have avoided a fight with the orcs as more trouble than it's worth. Now it seems like the annoyance of tolls and reduced dungeon access has aggravated them to their limit. Turning that intention into a victory that comes with loot will be the challenge today.

I've packed up about 70-80 of my orc minis, my dungeon corridor and room sheets, and we'll see how it goes.

* Not like how the Porka-picts have numbers, though. My game isn't that silly . . . yet.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

How many wizards?

Yesterday I posted about how there are a lot more orc wizards in DF Felltower than in one of the games that influenced it heavily - AD&D.

It leads to a larger question - how many wizards?

If wizardly magic is common enough that:

- orc have wizards and send them on patrols;

- almost every race that can have wizards has wizards;

- some that can't really have them have them anyway;

- PC wizards exist in whatever number they make them up;

- PC wizards are largely exceptional by being a) PCs and b) 250 points;

- NPC wizards have cushy jobs in town like "enchanter" or "alchemist" or "Power Item recharger";

- wizardly spells have affected the world around you (anti-magic paint coatings on walls, vast dungeons shaped out of the earth with a trivial earth spell, magical traps, summoned monsters, owlbears);

then . . . how many wizards is that?

The short answer is: as many as we need.

The longer answer is: as many as we need to do all of that, but not make wizardry so common it overwhelms the fun of being one or having it.

Also, the answer is: I don't know, I can't and won't calculate the answer.

It's really a pretty simple thing - we're playing Dungeon Fantasy, not Demographic Fantasy. So I really don't care how many wizards there are. In a larger game, it's worth figuring out ballpark numbers. It's worth knowing that the PCs are x% of the world's number of wizards, or that given 1,000,000 people in this fictional kingdom there should be Y wizards.

But in a DF game?

A game where going into dungeons for loot is the centerpiece activity of the game?

It only matters how many wizards are in this area. How many these orcs have. It doesn't matter if dwarven wizards are rare if I need three of them for this encounter area - then there are three here, no matter how many are elsewhere. The answer always back-fills the world, not the other way around. If someone makes up a wizard and says, "I'm from a big family full of wizards in a country full of wizards" then there are lots of wizards in that family and in that country. If someone says, "I learned this spell in Necromancy Club in primary school!" then there are primary schools with clubs that specializes in Necromancy. If I put dozens of wizards in a group of orcs or goblins or elves, then it's plausible other groups have dozens, too. If I put one, it could mean the others have one or the others have more - depends on what I need.

It's, again, backstory filled in from play. And it's worldbuilding from actual play outward. I highly recommend it for a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game - or indeed, any other system you're using for beer-and-pretzels gaming.

Friday, November 18, 2016

How many orc wizards?


Tribal spell casters are found amongst the following races of creatures:
spell casters are divided into two types, shamans and witch doctors.

[. . . ]

A tribe will have either shamans or witch doctors, but not both [. . . ] It is suggested you include these figures into those groups that you personally determine, not random groups.


So says the DMG.

But GURPS isn't AD&D, even when running a game deliberately pulling elements from my AD&D experiences.*

The orcs in my Felltower game have a good amount of magical support. Not as in either a shaman of up to 5th level as a Cleric or a witch doctor of up to 5th level as a Cleric and 4th level as a Magic-User. And not nearly as limited.

First off, in GURPS, Magery 1 is a 10 point advantage. 10. Instead of +1 to DX you can have Magery 1 and 10 points in spells. Instead of a few points here and there in Broadsword, Bow, Shield, Brawling, and Wrestling, you get points in Innate Attack and Fireball and Create Fire or Stone Missile and Shape Earth. It's not a big stretch from there to Magery 2 or 3 and some potent spells.

Since I drew heavily on Mirror of the Fire Demon, there are a lot more magical spellcasters.

How many?

Enough that:

- having a spellcaster on a medium or large sized patrol is normal. Having two isn't terribly unusual.

- PC magical superiority is likely, but it's not a one-sided affair.

- magical offense and magical defense will be part of any big fight with orcs.

- "kill the casters" is a great tactic, but it's not a strategy. There are more of them.

- You can't assume the enemy has no buffs, no Knowledge spells, and no magical reserve.

They aren't all that much individually, but there isn't just a single shaman or witch-doctor and perhaps 2-3 apprentices. It's more like a number of better wizards, but lots of minor ones.

I find it's hard to shake that "AD&D ecosystem" thinking that magic is for PCs and wizards, non-humans are generally weak casters, and spells are potent but casters are few. In GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, magic is for everyone, strong and weak casters are all over the place, and spells are more utility than potent but a wide variety are in play.

But as the PCs look to kill the orcs, it's worth noting (for them and from the outside looking in) that magic is something that happens in every fight on both sides.

* Among many other influences - seeing GURPS Felltower as GURPS AD&D is not an accurate image of the game.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Revised GURPS Magic for DF: Great Wish

A couple years ago, I wrote a series of posts about wishes:

Wishes, Part I - Wording & Whatnot

Wishes, Part II - Limiting Wishes

Wishes, Part III - GURPS & My War Stories

This post is a game-specific expansion on some of the ideas in those posts. Where this post contradicts those posts or modifies what they say, this one supercedes them for DF Felltower.

I've used the Great Wish spell in my gaming, but for my DF game, I want to change it.

Specifically, I'd like Great Wish to function a lot more like a D&D/AD&D-era Wish as seen in play descriptions from old issues of Dragon magazine. I'd like to see a lot less of it as a way to give PCs a permanent power boost, acquire a magic item ("I wish for a green ioun stone" being the endless example back in the day), and so on. Not quite at the Arabian Nights levels (geez, Aladdin gets a ring to wish with and a lamp to wish with, and still has trouble) but close. Something like this . . . .

. . . without the "palace full of riches" that would make it a game-ending piece of loot.

Wish as a blanket request to the universe to change things or do something?


Wish as a way to get +1 DX, +3 to a skill, or gain an advantage you don't want to save up for or can't?

No thank you, not in this game. Been there, done that, and it doesn't fit this game.

I thought of a number ways to do this - but not any really good ones. No matter what I came up with, I knew that as long as a permanent boost to one PC is on the table eventually people will settle on that. "Sure, we could save this to raise a bunch of people from the dead, but if we give so-and-so +1 DX that will help us every session all the time." And thus the ring of wishes or the grateful djinn becomes a ring of advantages and a grateful stat boost. Bleh.

Then I realized the simplest approach is the best - do away with what I don't want, leave in what I do.

Great Wish

As written, except that the only available uses are options (1) and (4). Options (2) and (3) do not exist. Wishes can create new material permanently, using the costs in Wizardry Refined as a guide.

And that's it. Beings that can grant wishes, wishing rings, etc. - all will work within these limits if they're using the Great Wish spell to do their thing. A version that allows options (2) and (3) may exist, but they'll be vanishingly rare at best, and may not exist at all. Got a Ring of Wishing? Use it to do interesting stuff, whisk yourselves out of danger (or into it), heal people, dispel the undispellable, etc. - but no using it for permanent boosts to your character.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Downside of Painting Cheap Soft Plastic Monsters

I've painted a couple of "miniatures" that are nothing more than soft plastic monsters.

Here is the downside:

 photo Cheap Plastic Junk 001s_zps8dthechj.jpg

See that missing chunk on the arm? You can't see the paint missing from around the hands or the tiny splits in the shoulder, but they are there.

First the figure got tacky - very tacky - which might have been the primer (I can't recall if I primered it, probably). Then that dried and paint is starting to fleck off.

Oh well. It's a cool figure, even cooler painted, but it's clearly temporary as a figure. Oh well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Only Heroes get to Resist

I recently read an excellent review of the game Crypts & Things Remastered - I'll link to it when I can find the review again.

One element of the rules the review discussed is that, essentially, only heroes get to make saving rolls. The gap between heroic protagonists and everyone else is they get a chance to shrug off spells, resist poison, survive that fatal disease.

I think this is a neat idea easily portable to any game that features heroic protagonists, nameless NPCs meant to be cannon fodder, and terrifying foes meant to be dealt with only by heroes. Any game system, too. AD&D? Same as Crypts & Things. Call of Cthulhu? Only investigators get a chance to avoid SAN loss. And so on.

For GURPS, this fits into a heroic adventuring game quite nicely as a genre switch, much like rules for fodder. You can simply add this:

Only Heroes Resist! - Nameless foes and minor NPCs never succeed in rolls to resist supernatural powers, social skill rolls, poison, disease, and so on. They may appear to try to resist, but they always fail. As long as the roll for the skill, spell, etc. succeeds and there is a chance they could fail, they do. They can freely deploy such powers against each other will the same effect, but if they target PCs and important NPCs, those subjects get to resist normally!

For DF, expand that by saying that Fodder monsters never succeed in resistance rolls; Worthy may (the GM should decide how strongly to implement these rules), and Boss monsters always get to roll.

This actually would have the effect of driving up the effective power level of PCs without increasing their points. A low skill such as Intimidation-12 or Sleep-14 would be plenty - it's always going to work on the weaker foes. Truly worthy opponents and actually scary monsters will provide a challenge.

Of course, this won't necessarily stop players from thinking, "I need Sleep-30 so I can use it on boss monsters!" but it does mean they're wasting points and effort.

It also means you don't need to scale up challenges - you can effectively play at lower points. If having, say, HT 13 means you resist a normal poison 74.1% of the time and a minor NPC have a HT 13 means they fail 100% of the time, then normal poisons are already really scary. It makes resisted spells suddenly much more potent as crowd-clearers, as all you need to do to wipe out a mass of foes with Mass Sleep or lull them with Mass Suggestion or send they fleeing with Panic is to make your roll - no worry about margins, just succeed and these lesser mortals will succumb.

Or you can use it to simply speed up play - minor foes just wilt under supernatural attack, flee scary challenges, melt before your withering stare, fall like ragdolls under your incapacitating magic. You - and the big, important foes - get to resist.

And for the genre it's pulled from - running, say, GURPS Conan - it's pretty much how it works in the stories. Conan resists the poison. Conan breaks free from the jaws of the foe. Conan shrugs off the magic. Or, rarely, he doesn't, setting up more adventure later. It's not assured, but it is pretty much assured the nameless types all succumb. It's a very in-genre thing, and probably a superior implementation than giving bonuses or penalties just from the perspective of ease and speed.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The B-Team's back and there's gonna be Trou-ble

Hey-la-di-la, the B-team's back.

I heard it here:

Back in the Saddle - Prepping to Return to the GM's Chair for some Swords & Wizardry Light

S&W Lite and White Star - I've played them both. I'm not sure if I'll get to dust off Mirado and Velo Kalavas or need new PCs. I'll imagine Mirado shaking the dust off of his ogre head flail and put a fresh edge on Woundlicker.

If I need a new PC, it's tempting to run something that isn't a human fighter.

No, just kidding. I love human fighters. Maybe because I spent so much time as a kid running everything but - elves and half-elves, mostly, and lots of multi-class types the rare times I got to play. Humanoids in Gamma World, never anything but. Vrusk in Star Frontiers. Elves in Elfquest (well, duh). I wanted some of everything, with lots of powers. These days, I want none of anything, and no powers. Just asskicking and seeing what the raw basic system of the rules brings to that to make it fun and interesting.

Besides the raw fun and interest of fighting that is. I just flat-out like combat.

Anyway, I digress.

The B-Team will be back again in December or January, and I for one feel way overdue for a session.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Felltower Prep Rundown

As usual, it's Sunday, so it's a game report or Felltower on the blog.

Our current plan is two sessions a week apart, mostly because this weekend was bad for some people and terrible for me - I have deadlines rolling up this week for a couple of very work-intense projects, so I couldn't really spare the time for prep work.

I run a megadungeon because, once the dungeon development is done, preparation for game isn't very heavy. But it's not nothing, and I have basically nothing in the way of spare time until, oh, next Saturday.

What I need to prepare depends heavily on what the PCs actually do. My experience with players in general is they'll strongly debate either Plan A or Plan B, rehash why if they'd done things differently Plan C would have worked, decide on A then B or B then A, then immediately put Plan D into effect without any prep. Usually Plan D being something everyone is opposed to or at least not interested in doing yet, but isn't as specifically opposed to as either A or B and it doesn't involve arguments over C.

Naturally as a GM you need to ready for all of them.

I see a number of possibilities:

Sorry everyone! Let's Try That Again.

I can see them attempting to negotiate with the orcs again. That is, go for a reset. "Look, mistakes were made, we said we'd kill the Lord of Spite and instead we've twice gotten him all riled up and he killed some of you guys. Third time's the charm!"

So I need to prepare for that. It's almost a dead certainty they'll want to try this no matter what.

Dragon Cave

Next possibility is the dragon cave. This can lead a few ways:

- Go in and try to dig out the blockages put in by the orcs to prevent people from doing exactly what the PCs want to do. That is, go in from the surface, come up from inside the orc's fortifications, and attack them.

- Go in, try to kill the "behir" because he's got it coming because . . . I forget why, honestly, but "kill the behir" is on the to-do list.

- Go in with Plan A or Plan B, directly above, and then get distracted by the Big Doors.

- Go in with no plan except, "Let's figure out those big doors."

So I need to make sure this whole area is up to date, familiar, and the minis are packed.

Just attack!

The PCs might just roll up to the castle, do the old favorite of "Super _____" (fill in anyone's name, in this case, probably Vryce) and put about 10 buff spells on that one guy and have him solo attack the place. So it'll be invisible flying shielded Vryce with Might, Strengthen Will, all the Resist spells they know, having quaffed an Agility potion and probably some Haste ones, Great Hasted by an invisible Dryst who's also flying nearby, probably will some buff spells I'm forgetting now. After all the reachable orcs are dead, the party will come up and try to get inside.

Not sure this will happen, as it's been tried before, and I'm basically ready for it - little prep here. But it's possible.

Overland attack.

The PCs might just opt to spend time hiking around and attacking the orcs on the surface. I'm not sure this will happen. I'm prepared for it, but I'm not sure they are. It would require Gale and really play to the orcs' strength (numbers, ranged attacks, fortifications) and not the PCs (one-on-one power, melee, close-in magic).

To save the dungeon, we had to destroy the dungeon.

Or parts of it. Gale may learn Earthquake soon-ish, with the intent of using it to collapse the section of the dungeon where the orcs come in.

The orcs do come in from a tunnel, but it's hardly shallow - it's under the V-shaped point of mountains (Felltower sits at the tip of the V), which means it's not really vulnerable. The point(s?) where it debouches into the dungeon will be, but a collapse there will also collapse part of the dungeon. And has other risks, too.

So I need to prepare for that, even if it's a session or two away - just in case they starting working on it now so that way next next session is "show up, Earthquake, Step 2, Profit."

Maybe there is another way in?

Not that they know of. But I'm expecting some hopeful probing towards, "There must be a secret way in to the depths that totally bypasses the orcs." It's a frequent request.

Sadly, as many entrances as I put from the surface (there are about six they know of and have used?) there are nearly that many entrances that have become inaccessible thanks to PC action or inaction. Or are flat-out too dangerous.

But I do need to prep for the investigation hoping to find one. There are other ways into the dungeon. They aren't remotely accessible giving the resources and knowledge of the PCs, and it's a hopeless task for right now. Also, they aren't easy - none of them. Some of them won't really be ways in until the PCs discover where they come in to by already being in the dungeon. All that said, the players really want something like this, so even a hint of it means working on it, and I need to have all my prep ready for it.

Plus I need to make sure I've dealt with lingering issues from last session, and double-checked all of the level areas they can reach. And write rumors, and write extras because I'll only have a (very busy) week in between to fill in more.

Fun stuff - I love my game - but low-prep does not equal no-prep. This coming week is work and prep.

Hopefully this was a fun read, it helped me organize my thoughts about what I need to get done for game next week and the week after.
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