Saturday, May 27, 2017

A look at the James Bond: 007 RPG

There is an excellent review of James Bond: 007 over on Penetralia:



James Bond: 007

That is still on my list of RPGs to play. Hopefully play, not GM. I don't have the panache to pull this off as a GM, but I have the foolhardiness as a player to try to.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Minis: Stone Golems

These are a pair of Black Tree Design Stone Golems. This is about 5 minutes of total work.







I primed them black, waited 48 hours for the base goop and primer to dry, and then painted them both in five minutes.

What I did was:

- Base coat them black, quickly.

- When that dried, I spent the rest of the five minutes doing this:

- Wet-brush on Lampost (Dark, Dark Grey)

- Wet-brush on Slate (Dark Grey)

- Wet-brush on Charcoal (Moderately Dark Grey)

Waited a minute, then:

- Dry-brush Grey Flannel.

- Dotted the eyes with a toothpick dipped in Metallic Emerald.

They came out darker than I had planned, but they look great so I'm leaving them as-is. Obviously they'll get used in Felltower. I'm debating using them for PC-summoned elementals or just as smaller golems.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

GURPS Lite in the Classroom, Session #7

For the previous session, click this link.

Rules Explanations

None today.

Recap

I did the short recap again.

Play

When we last left the Unknown Soldier, he had knocked out - possibly killed - the hyena-dog. He ran down the stairs. He went down, through one of the doors in the wall interior level, and felt his way down it in the dark. He reached a door and opened it quietly.

Good thing - two men and an orc were in the room (9 or less for an encounter, 1d6-3 min 1 guys, roll a 6). They had lights and he was quiet, so I rolled Per for all three. They all failed badly and continued on their way up.

He went in and then out the way they came. Bad luck - he ran into a straggling orc in a door way. It demanded to know who he was. "I'm (gave player's name here)." The orc said, "The prisoner!" and drew his scimitar. So he closed the door on the orc and got ready to stab him. This orc opened the door and took a sword in the guts for 8 injury. He was wounded but passed his knockdown check. They fought, and twice the orc slashed the Unknown Soldier and wounded him, first for 6 injury and then for 3 more. He's at 4 HP out of 13 HP, so he's at half-Move and Dodge. He managed to stab the orc again for a lot of injury and drop him, probably dead.

He looted a box of food and stuck beef jerky in his mouth and went down the stairs. He found himself where he'd escaped to back in Session #3.

We stopped there.

Notes

That's it for a few weeks. I'm a little concerned that he's got no idea how to get out. I'm not sure how I'm going to handle it. He had a few clean chances to get out and has really just explored by running room to room.

Now he's badly wounded, deep in the dungeon, and in an alert fortress. I'm not sure he actually can get out. I have some ideas of ways I can put in front of him, though, so we can move on to more challenging language tasks than "search the crate!" "open the door!" and "go down the stairs!"

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Why it matters to me that dungeons aren't random

When I reviewed B3 Palace of the Silver Princess the other day, I highlighted the random monster selection that plagues it. Monsters in rooms they have no reason to be in, monsters generally appearing once per type in the dungeon seemingly to get them all in, etc. Not a lot of sense.

You can explain some of it - there is a curse, some of these could have wandered in, etc. But that you can explain it doesn't really help hold it together sufficiently for my purposes.

I explained why we goofed on the Castle of the Mad Archmage even as we enjoyed it a while back. Again, it was the seeming randomness.

The fights could be fun, the monsters tricky, and the puzzles challenging, but without anything to hang them together it felt flat to me.

I think the reason is clues, logic, and reasoning.

If there is some kind of logic to the adventure, and there are clues of what's ahead (even if subtle, or which require experimentation to find), then you can use your reasoning. You can leverage what you've seen in the past and what you see in front of you to make smart play decisions.

So in B3 you can explain that every monster there is because of Arik and Chaos, and so it should be disordered. But when you hit sensible encounters with a good explanation - folks trapped in the castle, ghosts, Chaos-distorted plants run amok, cultists, guardian statures, rats running loose in the halls, etc. - it makes the ones that don't - beetles in secret rooms, troglodytes just standing around in one room, etc. stand out all the more.

Once you start feeling the logic of the place, and see the clues of what's to come, you can use your reasoning to guess ahead. Sometimes you'll be right. Sometimes you'll be wildly wrong. You'll really be taken off-guard by things that fit but that you didn't plan for or couldn't plan for.

But if there is too much that has no logic, no clues, and is just there for the sake of being there ("Hey, we didn't put in a crab spider, put one in somewhere") then you're back to just guessing. Opening a door is just seeing what's randomly in there. You can't make informed choices because the person who laid out the dungeon didn't. You can't discern a pattern, only make one up on the fly, because it's only a pattern in retrospect. You can't use your player skill and careful play to help out because anything could be behind that door, whether it could have gotten there in the first place or not.

Randomness can still be fun - I still want to take Mirado down into the depths of the Castle of the Mad Archmage again - but when any given move is like clicking any given number in Dungeon Robber, the only choice I'm making is to spin the roulette wheel or not. And that wears on me even it randomly keeps dropping on fun things to do.



As a practical takeaway, I would say this - make sure there is some hint of what's to come. Make sure there is something that holds it together. Make sure the players can correctly guess ahead or see the patterns, if they're paying attention and put their minds to work. If it's all just random you're going to lose some engagement from which good play and good fun can spring.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Bones 3 are on the way

I happened to have a minute at work and flipped open my Kindle and saw my town listed as one of the orders going out today.

When I got home just now, I saw I'd gotten a note from Reaper. Hurrah!

I was right near the end of the 2,000 in the wave. I guess I took too long to lock in my order. But it's on the way now.

Bones 3 Kickstarter is shipping

Reaper Minis is finally shipping the Bones 3 Kickstarter.

They have a self-refreshing page up on their website:

Reaper Bones 3 Fulfillment Tracker

I'm in Wave 1, which is 2000 people, so I can probably expect my shipping notification today (5/23) or tomorrow (5/24) depending on if they keep or up their pace. It'll be nice to finally get these figures.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: B3 Palace of the Silver Princess (Green cover)

One the earliest adventures I owned and experienced was this one. It's long past time to take a look at it here on this blog.

If I get a chance, I'll review the Orange cover version, too, from my copy of the free PDF version. Short version is that it's very different and a lot messier, and not in a good way.

For more reviews, please see my consolidated reviews page.





B3 Palace of the Silver Princess

The background to B3 is that some dwarves found a nice gem, gave it to the princess, but it turned out it was an evil gem (Spoilers - it's one of the hundred eyes of Arik, a banish evil chaos god, which is awesome.) A knight on a white dragon came to help, but it was too late, and the kingdom fell under the spell of Chaos. The PCs are let past the evil wards by a magical being so they can save the kingdom.

The adventure takes place in a two-level palace, with an underground level and an above-ground level sticking out of a mountain. The idea is to penetrate the palace, find one of three ways to deal with the evil gem, and then do so. The place is littered with clues on how to solve the plot, and there is more than one way to get most clues or execute what you've learned on the cues. You do need to figure out a puzzle, but you aren't just trying to guess the one path but find one of the paths.

B3 is designed as a beginner module. As such, it has a pre-programmed section. It's a choose-your-own-adventure style setup designed to be run by a GM (so it's more linear and vastly less page flippy.) The idea is that it guides the GM on the kind of things to say, do, and rule and gives the players an idea of the kind of questions to ask and things to attempt. The entrance to the palace has a magical warding and portcullises to bypass, plus a monster or two, and this walks you through making it past. It's interesting, but for an experienced GM it's actually a detriment as you can't see what's in the entrance area at a glance and just run that. For an inexperienced one, it's fine - and I know I ran it. But I don't think we took any lessons home from it.

Also in the beginner module theme, there is a Glossary with general terms (alchemist to tapestry) and one with characters (Arik to Travis.) The module also introduces three monsters I don't recall seeing elsewhere in early-edition D&D products - the Archer Bush, the Decapus (which I always read as DEEK-uh-pus, because I was 9 or 10 and I didn't know "deca" meant ten until long after that), and Vampire Roses.

B3 really suffers from "frost giant in a 10' x 10' room" syndrome. Many monsters are just there and make no sense being there. There is a secret room with a giant beetle in it - no clue or reason why it's there. There isn't really a fully unifying theme of monster placement - many rooms just have monsters that seemed pulled out of the Basic Set and just thrown in there to be there. Much of it just feels like how the dungeons we made up as kids felt; perhaps B3 (and B1, actually) is why we felt this was fine. Cobra, crab spider, giant ferrets, giant beetle in a secret room, etc. - none of it feels like it fits with the "castle suddenly brought down by malign forces" theme. It's just a smorgasbord of monsters to fight, and usually once you've fought that kind you're done with them for this dungeon.

The writing is clear, the boxed text is generally on point (and yes, for people who hate boxed text, it was there in 1981 when I started), and the art is usable and good. The module is well written and page and encounter references abound so you aren't guessing what area to flip to when you need to find connecting detail.

How is it for GURPS?

B3 would actually work pretty well for GURPS, with a few modifications. Most of the fights aren't very large - they don't depend on huge numbers. For Dungeon Fantasy, you'd want to power up some of the foes and add more magical support - too many would just be fodder given the right spells. The lack of alignment means you can more easily do Order vs. Chaos as a theme without the whole "But aren't white dragons Chaotic?" thing bogging it down.

This one was on the short list of modules to use for my Felltower game before it lost out to B2. Inability to sensibly start-stop, start-stop on this, plus the sheer amount of little fixes I'd want to do, caused it to lose out.

War Stories

All of my war stories start and end with the programmed adventure section, really. Almost all. I remember going through it GMed once by my uncle and once by my cousin (at lunch, in elementary school). I know we played it later because I GMed an encounter with Duchess and Candella, two women trapped in the castle when Chaos fell. But that's about it. We certainly never finished it out. It's really too big for an easy pass through, and too random, and it didn't hold our attention long enough to finish it.

Overall: Not a bad adventure, but it mostly earns respect for its interesting plot (save the Kingdom!) and plot details, little touches like evil cultists and multiple ways to solve the plot, and age. If this was a new product, it would be bashed for its weird monster placement, random treasures, and incomplete development. Still, it's a good basis for an adventure although I'd recommend cleaning up the module before running it today.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Making a World of Felltower Gazetteer

Over the years of Felltower play, many locations have been mentioned. I really should keep better track of them and what's known of them.

I'll keep this page updated as much as I can - generally, as I look back at old posts and find facts, or we make more of them up in play, I'll add them.

World of Felltower Gazetteer

I really should give my players more freedom to make up places. Actually, let me rephrase that. I should really encourage them to use the freedom they've got more often. My cousin, who runs the Barca family of evil wizards, is a good example of that. There is a whole lore of family and country history and culture that just spills out of his mouth during game. It's crazy but consistent. 90% or so of what's listed on that page for the Barca family and their city (which I don't recall him naming) just game out spontaneously in play from him to explain something crazy he's doing or did.

I'd briefly considered assigning people places they could just develop. I ditched that - better to just patchwork quilt together everyone's ideas about everything than confine them all to individual areas.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Speed-painted Orcs

In as much as 90 minutes is speed-painting. I did this trio of guys in one pass through. Mostly base coating directly onto the black primer.




Next step is a brown or black magic wash (I'll decide later), then highlighting/retouching teeth and eyes and those shield skulls, then sealing.

They came out pretty good in my opinion.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Random Links

A couple of links to get started on Friday.

- Dustin Tranberg put up a nice list of Dwarven weapons. They're not really new, per se, so much as figured examples. I like that a lot.

The Axes of the Dwarves

Generally I don't use lists these days. I put everything in GCA and let GCA sort it out and track it. But I really like the pre-made shopping list of prefixed weapons. If I still made big printed lists for my games, this is a good way to organize it.

- Ernie Gygax put up a gaming story about Tenser over on ENWorld:

Ernie Gygax Shares A Little of Tenser's History

I love these kinds of things, because I grew up with those characters being part of my gaming experience. Spells named after them, Rogue's Gallery entries, etc. It's always just enough to make it feel like there is this huge well of exciting adventure out there I can tap in to and experience. That is part of the draw for gaming for me.

(Thanks to Tenkar for pointing this out.)

- Gaming Ballistic put up the latest GURPSDay post.

- Bones 3 is coming, finally. Not Reaper's fault, really, but man, I wanted/needed some of these minis a while back. I can't wait until it gets here and I can sort out all of the gigantic dwarf minis into the trade pile and get to work on the monsters and fodder I can drop right into my game.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

GURPS Lite in the Classroom, Session #6

For the previous session, click this link.

Rules Explanations

None today.

Recap

I did the short recap again. It felt like it got the ball rolling properly.

Play

When we last left the Unknown Soldier, he had barred a tower door behind him. He spun, and saw a spiral staircase going down, a ladder going up to a trap door, and in the corner was a chained-up cross between a hyena and a dog. The hyena-dog lunged at him, and its chain was just long enough to grab someone on the stairs or the bottom of the ladder.

He wanted to go up or down, and heard banging at the doors to the tower. So he threw his torch at the hyena-dog, missing it. But it flinched away, so he took a running jump and grabbed the ladder! He shimmied up to the top, sheathed his sword, and opened the trap door. He went right up - lucky for him no one was waiting.

At the top was a crenelated set of tower battlements, a tripod-mounted heavy crossbow with stubby bolts, and no much else. He saw orcs and men trying to get into the tower from both doors. (This was important, as he forgot I'd said both doors.)

He saw he was about 40' or so up off the ground, and climbing would be a little tough.

So he climbed back down halfway and jumped to the other door. The hyena-dog lunged at him and missed. But the doors were being battered, and the alarms were going crazy. He realized he couldn't leave that way.

So he ran to the stairs to go back down, deeper into the now-alert fortress. The hyena-dog lunged at him and bit him, failing to penetrate his armor but getting a grapple on him for 2 CP. He tried to hit it with his sword and missed. It tried to haul him down and failed - his Wrestling skill is solid. So he hit it for a lot of damage - 9 cutting against its 1 DR. It was wounded but still up. It tried to bite him but missed, and he hit it again for 9 cutting. It staggered and fell. He quickly ran down the stairs.

We stopped there.

Notes

So my 2-3 session "escape the fort" is turning into 7+ "explore the alert fort at a full run." Players will do that.

What starts as: "You are at point A. Point B is there. You need to get there at all costs as fast as possible."

Becomes: "Okay, I'll explore point A for a while. Hey, it's harder to get to point B now. Uhm, I'll look for some totally unrelated point. Perhaps someday, I can come back to point B, maybe when I'm better equipped. Maybe not."

Heh.

Honestly I'm not sure what I'll do. It's getting more and more likely he'll be surrounded, cut off, and captured again. Which means I need to think of another "escape" scenario to run. I won't kill off his guy unless he kills off his guy (or the dice randomly dictate he's totally dead.) It's English practice, and he'll get more by surviving than by making up a new guy.

Orcs Based

Just a quick pre-work post on those orcs I've just gotten.

I based them yesterday in the usual style:

- cleaned, filed, and prepped them.

- mounted shields w/epoxy.

- embedded them in an inverted slotted base with Kneadtite.

- filled in the open spaces with Golden Gel Medium Coarse Pumice Gel.

Now they're drying. Later today, if the heat keeps up and the humidity keeps low, they'll get black primered. They should be fully painted by the end of the week and in the box for Felltower deployment in no time.



I really should do a step-by-step demo of how I do the cup bases like this. It's simple but people keep asking, and text alone isn't cutting it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

More Orcs

I'm not sure why I needed more orcs, but I have three more - specifically, these guys:



They were on overstock clearance and cheap. They're in the same style as the shaman orcs I have, so maybe these are armored shaman?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Four Truths about My Gaming

Here are four things I find are true about, and define, my gaming.

Why four? I like the number four.

1) I don't play as much as I'd like.

A function of being an adult, playing with adults, plus having a split-shift career, means there isn't a lot of time to game. So I don't play half as much as I'd like to play.

I'd like to play my video games, war games, and RPG after RPG.

It just isn't going to happen.

I recognized this a while back and we've built gaming schedules around this fact. That allows me to play as much as I reasonably can, to maximize the enjoyment I get out of gaming.

2) I think about gaming too much.

Some of my best gaming ideas come to me when I really should be doing other things. Or while I'm doing other things. Names for NPCs, places the PCs should be able to visit, odd ways to use previous ideas, etc. They just pop into my head. I write them down on note paper I keep handy (because electronic notes won't get looked at).

I say too much because sometimes this happens when I need to concentrate on other things. Like how I'm blogging about gaming right now instead of doing extra Japanese or Spanish practice or reading this nice book on back injury rehabilitation. It's something I enjoy, but I do tend to let it get carried away a little bit.

3) I already own more gaming material than I need.

I don't need-need most of what I own. I could get by on a fraction. Given nothing except dice, I could re-create what I need. Lacking even dice, I could come up with a fair system of random adjudication in its place.

This affects what I buy. I often see something neat, sometimes by people I'd like to support. But I don't always jump in on it. Partly it's a function of concern with money, partly a function of my approach of keeping my hobby at an overall net zero or even a profit (I write for gaming for more money than I spend on gaming), and partly it's a realization of this truth. I don't really need most of what I have now. I've made decisions about what I find makes my life better by having, and gotten rid of that which did not make the cut.

I still support my hobby, but I give everything a hard look and think, "Will I actually use this, in play, in the short or medium term? Will this make my gaming better by owning it?" If the answer isn't "hell yes!" it's generally "no."

4) I like the ancillary parts of gaming as much as the main.

Gaming isn't painting minis, reading game books, or blogging about gaming. It's the game you're actually engaged in.

But I like those three elements as well. I like to paint minis - I get a lot of enjoyment out of knowing how it'll hit the table. If I'm not gaming, I'm not as excited about painting minis. They feed into each other in a virtuous circle. The better I paint, the better the reaction, and the more I look forward to the games. So I paint better and I game better.

Reading game books? The same. I get a kick out of reading things that might feed my gaming itself. The gaming itself pushes me to read those things that will feed my gaming. Again, virtuous circle.

Blogging is the same. My blog provides a useful resource for our games. It also provides an outlet that lets me develop ideas for my games publicly and therefore with comment. Again, they feed each other.

They cross-feed as well. I'll finish a painted figure so I can post a picture. I'll blog about something and then go try it in game. I'll read game books to review them, which makes me examine them more carefully than if I'd just read it. Like how I read books where I expect I'll have to pass the information to others (like that back rehab book), I read them more than just lightly and casually because I might have to discuss them.

I don't actually run games because of the blog, though - games are self-sustaining in their nature for me. It's fun I have with my friends. It's made me new friends, developed acquaintances into friends, and reinforced old friendships. That's first and foremost why I do it. But I like all the stuff I've attached to it. I like it as much, even if they don't really self-sustain without the core.

I think those are the four truths about my gaming.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Gamma Terra GM posts

andi, our Gamma Terra GM, posted up a lot of maps, details, description, pictures, and explanations of his Gamma World / Tomorrow Men / 20th Homeland campaign.

The Gamma World of the Tomorrow Men

Like this expanded map:



or this elevation map, which I'm finding is really helping me visualize the world better:



Nice stuff. For the game summaries, click here and look for GURPS Gamma World.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

DF Felltower: How much profit do you need?

My XP award house rules have worked out pretty well in my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game. It drives profit as the main goal, exploration as a secondary goal, and monster killing as a means to an end. It punishes treating (non-volunteer) hirelings nicely and avoiding character death at all possible costs.

However, I think the "profitable trip" requirement also rewards bottom-feeding to a degree that gets larger as you go on. Since a profitable trip is such a low bar - $150 for upkeep, recharge all power items ($0 - $100+, divided by the number of PCs). Less than $200 in most cases, although folks like Martial Artists (with their doubled upkeep costs!) need a lot more. I hadvbasically set it at $200 each and if the PCs exceeded that, they count the trip as profitable. Higher-value PCs (in excess of 350 points) have needed $400 each to profit.

In most GURPS games, point value of the PCs is not a good meter of ability. It's a meter of options they had during chargen, but not a true ranking of power.

In GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, though, point value is a pretty good meter of ability. Very little you can buy does anything except make you a much more lethal fighter, cunning delver, and capable adventurer.

So why not tie the amount of loot you need to your point value? And why not leverage the multipliers for Wealth to provide a set of numbers that mirrors an existing set of numbers in GURPS? Starting wealth in Dungeon Fantasy is Average, and gives you $1000 in starting cash. If it's about $200 for a profitable trip, then you need 1/5 of the starting wealth each trip to be profitable.

Method 1

Required Profit

Up to 249 Points: $100 each (1/5 Struggling)
250-349 Points: $200 each (1/5 Average)
350-449 Points: $400 each (1/5 Comfortable)
450-549 Points: $1000 each (1/5 Wealthy)
550-649 Points: $4000 (1/5 Very Wealthy)
650+ Points: $20,000 each (1/5 of Filthy Rich)

Optionally, every 100 additional points multiplies the need by 10; an 850-point delver would need to take home $2,000,000 to count it as a profitable trip and get full XP.

Failure to meet these numbers for that particular PC reduces their XP This explains why staggeringly powerful delvers prefer to farm out small tasks to lesser delvers and save their efforts for epic adventures against ancient dragons, evil empires, or giant armies.

You could make this a tighter spread, too - instead of every 100 points, make it every 50.

Method 2

Required Profit (50 point spread)
Up to 249 Points: $100 each (1/5 Struggling)
250-299 Points: $200 each (1/5 Average)
300-349 Points: $400 each (1/5 Comfortable)
350-399 Points: $1000 each (1/5 Wealthy)
400-449 Points: $4000 (1/5 Very Wealthy)
550+ Points: $20,000 each (1/5 of Filthy Rich)
Every additional 50 points: x10

You can opt for a mixed spread, too . At first it's every 50 points, but as the jumps get higher so does the amount of power needed to require the jump.

Method 3

Required Profit (Tiered, 100, then 50 point spread)
Up to 249 Points: $100 each (1/5 Struggling)
250-349 Points: $200 each (1/5 Average)
350-399 Points: $400 each (1/5 Comfortable)
400-449 Points: $1000 each (1/5 Wealthy)
450-499 Points: $4000 (1/5 Very Wealthy)
500+ Points: $20,000 each (1/5 of Filthy Rich)
Every Additional 100 Points: x10

In either case, there is no bonus for a massive haul - excessive riches are reward enough!

You can reach your required wealth by unfairly diving the wealth. This is totally fair, and encourages higher-powered delvers to either demand a bigger share or push to seek much richer (and better guarded) sources of wealth. i really prefer when people do this in round in-game numbers ("So-and-so gets a quadruple share, his buddy gets a double share, everyone else gets single shares!") than utterly munchkinly min-maxed divisions ("So-and-so gets $4000 on the nose, his buddy gets $1000, this other guy gets $400, and the rest of us divide up the money evenly netting us all $200.50 each so we all just barely make full XP!") Which is odd when they pool the money again to buy people stuff. But if the players enjoy min-maxing their loot to maximize XP, that's fine. I can be hands-off and let them do as they please and we're all happy. They get maximum XP, I don't have to deal with it, and the best way to benefit from the system is to take immense risks for high rewards so you don't have game the system.

What are you using?

After a bit of waffling, we settled on Method 3. It's been working quite well. Aside from my nit-picks on dividing loot it's been a good system. This does drive powerful delvers to go deeper because it's not enough to just cover costs to get full XP. It also means you don't need to pull in extraordinary loot for a while, but by the end you're forced to rack in fortunes.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Random Notes for 5/13

Just some random gaming notes today:

- There is another Black Tree sale going on, and up until Sunday if you put in the code EOE20 you'll get an extra 20% off.

- Speaking of minis, the Bones 3 Kickstarter is finally starting to ship! It seems like the containers took the maximum possible time to clear customs. Once they arrive I'll update my sale/trade list with the ones I don't want.

- Also speaking of minis and Kickstarters, Mantic has a huge collection of unpainted terrain bits up. I need more terrain to carry like Egon needed that extra hole in his head, but in the interests of passing on news, here is the link:

Terrain Crate

- the lack of painting posts does, indeed, indicate just how busy work and studies have left me. I haven't painted much. I'll fix that soon.

- I've got another GURPS DF article cooking, hopefully you'll get to see that soon-ish. Not a blog article, rather a Pyramid one.

- There is a playtest call for HANS's new book, Tactical Shooting: Extreme Conditions. I'm more of a range-bands-and-TDM-penalties guy when I play with guns, but if you crave detail HANS has you covered.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Review: U3 The Final Enemy

I always enjoyed the U-series of modules. This contains some serious (and series) spoilers.

For more reviews, please see my Reviews page.

For my reviews of the previous modules:
U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh
U2 Danger at Dunwater




U3 The Final Enemy
by David J. Browne with Don Turnbull
48 pages and a 3-fold cover with maps and illustrations
TSR 1983

U3 The Final Enemy is the third and final adventure in the U1-U3 trilogy of modules.

Once the enemy has been identified, the PCs are sent out - not to destroy the foe, but to scout them out. This is a tough job as there are hundreds of sahuagin in a largely-underwater fortess. The PCs may have maps (if they handled U2 properly and didn't exterminate potential allies), NPC allies (a sea elf, lizard men, humans from town, etc.), and may be able to recruit more during this adventure if they play it right.

The module consists of a wilderness portion (either sea or land travel to the dungeon) and the dungeon itself. Kudos to a level 3-5 adventure for having a potential dragon encounter, as well! The plot explanations are, like in U2, a bit over-explained. What could have been done once in one section is done twice. But it's not as bad as in U2, and some of the exposition is really needed to make it clear how to run the adventure and what's expected of the GM and the players alike.

The dungeon is, like I said, largely underwater. This has all sorts of consequences. Magic items and spells work differently. Combat is restricted. The foes are all water-native and on their home turf. The adventure takes full advantage of this - there are sharks, fish, seaweed curtains, sahuagin with nets and tridents, and so on. It doesn't just feel like a dungeon reskinned to be underwater, but like a proper underwater adventure.

The PCs have a mission of determining the contents of the fortress, and the module spells out to them in in-game terms what's expected and lists for the GM what should count to satisfy all of parts of their scouting mission.

Another thing I like about this adventure is it continues something in the series - people make mistakes. The Sahuagin made one storing looted objects from previous intruders on the dry level, which allows a group to get a few more underwater-centric magical items to boost their chances of completing the mission.


War Stories

I only ran U3 once. It was as a solo adventure for my cousin's thief character. His mission was the one from the module - scout the sahuagin lair. He managed this quite well, and pulled off a secondary mission and assassinated the sahuagin baron with a backstab and a desperate escape. I can't recall his level and his equipment, but it was pretty high - probably in the high single digits and well equipped. Finding the underwater gear helped immensely.

I'd love to have run it for a smart and cagey group.

How is it for GURPS?

Given GURPS Magic and Dungeon Fantasy, this would be fine for GURPS. The masses of foes are less of an issue because of the mission and GURPS mages (and DF druids and wizards) are far better equipped to get people ready for underwater exploration. You wouldn't need to hand out special magic items, just make sure the PCs knew the right spells.

Overall: An excellent peak for the plot that starts in U1. Special credit has to be given for the nautical and underwater nature of the adventure, and for being a military scouting mission instead of "sack the dungeon." Excellent adventure and well worth the read.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

GURPS Lite in the Classroom, Session #5

This was a shorter bit of gaming - lots of non-gaming work to do, so much that I had to cram it in.

For the previous session, click this link.

Rules Explanations

How cutting damage deals with DR, and crippling injuries, came up. So did quick contests and critical hits!

Recap

I did the short recap again. It felt like it got the ball rolling properly.

Play

When we last left, the PC was face to face with a guard in a tower full of stuff including ropes, boxes, poles, etc.

He had a lot of options - the one he chose was to yank the door closed. The guard tried to stick his foot in the way - we had a Quick Contest of DX. I stated the guard's DX was 11, and I rolled a 9, so he made it by 2. The PC rolled an 8, had a 12 DX, and made it by 4. The door was slammed.

He jumped back, waiting for the guy to open the door and be vulnerable to attack! Good idea, but the guard saw a mail-armored foe out of nowhere so I made a roll for him. He chose to bar the door and sound the alarm.

The player had his unnamed guy run back to the first tower. He ran right past the stairs as the guard he'd bypassed was coming up. He went out the other door - and saw a guard coming at him. So he charged, figuring he could get past that guy.

He did, actually - they fenced for a few seconds, and the unnamed PC rolled a 4 and cut his foe's hand! Sadly he rolled 3 damage, minus DR, equals 3 injury. Enough to get his foe to miss, but not to put him down. He blocked a shot and then rolled and hit again - this time doing 6 damage (7 injury) and crippling his foe's hand. The guard dropped his sword, dropped to his knees (Knockdown and Stunning). The PC ran past, slammed the door and bolted it in the third tower and turned around . . . and that's where we left it.

Notes

Fun segment of gaming, here. PCs never do any of the things you expect. He could have talked, run, fought the first guard and taken rope so he could escape, jumped, fought the guard coming up the stairs . . . whatever. He chose none of those. Gaming is great.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: U2 Danger at Dunwater

I always enjoyed the U-series of modules. This contains some serious (and series) spoilers.

For more reviews, please see my Reviews page.




U2 Danger at Dunwater

by Dave J. Browne with Don Turnbull
TSR 1981
32 pages

U2 Danger at Dunwater is the second of the Saltmarsh trilogy. With a foe identified in U1, the PCs are sent off to deal with them.

U2 consists of a wilderness portion and a dungeon portion - plus, very likely, some heavy negotiations. The wilderness portion depends a lot on the PCs - they may go by boat or go overland. Overland is cheaper and more fraught with danger, by water is less dangerous but will cost money for a boat and crew.

The dungeon itself is well designed. There are multiple ways in - and the relatively strength of guards makes sense for those areas. There are multiple paths around the dungeon, and it is easy to trace lines from communal areas and living areas to rooms, kitchens, etc. It all makes reasonable sense and makes it feel more like entering a lair than a random monster pit.

Where U1 has a lot of explanation but it's all helpful, U2 repeats itself a lot. It spends wordcount in multiple sections explaining the main plot, the political divides in the lizard man camp, the political divides in the potential alliance members, and more. It could have been done once, more concisely. It's well-written, just over-written.

Its big flaw is that if the PCs figure out what's what, the adventure can end pretty abruptly. If they figure it out early enough, almost the whole adventure's text is set aside as you move on to U3.

Kudos to this adventure for putting a dragon in it. Seriously. How many people have played dungeons and dragons without interacting with a dragon? With them held off until later, with later meaning never? Well, there is one here and your 2nd level guys can deal with it.

War Stories

I ran this adventure once that I remember.

It was for my junior high school trio of gamers (JC, JA, JM) and their samurai (fighter), monk, and thief (eventually thief-acrobat, eventually dual-classed to magic-user). They took care of the bullywugs in a split second because two of the three had rolled up psionics (sigh) and both used Mind Blast. They decided it wasn't fun and never used their psionics powers ever again. They went on to fight the lizard men a bit and then talk to them. We didn't move on the U3 for some reason, possibly because I didn't have it yet. They loved the optional end fight, which we played out.

The flaw in U2 - you might need all of the details, you might need none of them - made playing with it tough. Unlike other modules, which when the players would read them they'd still need to deal with the actual fights and traps, this one hangs on "getting it." If you know, you pretty much kick the door down and say, "We come in peace!" and skip ahead. Since it was pretty routine when I was a kid to play with people who'd read the modules, this wasn't so useful of an adventure.

I never seriously looked at using this for GURPS, probably because of the way the GURPS games I started with U1 worked out - with total party kills. They never made it to the end of U1 nevermind to U2.

Overall: Well-written if a bit over-written. Interesting in the context of U1-U3, potentially a lot of fun with the right group, and has a well-detailed lair that can be repurposed.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Review: U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

I always enjoyed the U-series of modules. I've used U1 to launch a number of games, either as part of the series or a one-off. This contains some spoilers.

For more reviews, please see my Reviews page.



U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

by Dave J. Browne with Don Turnbull
TSR 1981
32 pages (one blank, one full-color illustration, one with PC handouts)

U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is an adventure for 5-10 level 1-3 characters for AD&D. The setup is pretty typical - haunted house on the hill, there are monsters in it, the town will pay you cash money to go deal with it.

What I really like about U1 is its multi-part nature. If the PCs find all the threads, they get to explore a haunted house, find a sinister secret about it, and then pursue that secret into a ship-borne adventure. You go from gathering information in town to assaulting a ship in a few little hops. There is information to be had in town, too - with the option of just skipping it and losing out on what can be very helpful or accidentally misinformative.

There are some nice touches in the adventure, too - a plant by a local in cahoots with the bad guys. It's a fairly obvious one, I've never had anyone fall for it. But I have had a group make the leap to "hey, not everyone in town is on the same side!" which is more likely the actual point. The bad guys make mistakes; this is one of them and the module points that out. There is a clear link to U2 placed in the adventure, and it's another thing that needs to be ascribed to "people messed up" or "trust is an issue with the bad guys." I guess the guys in U2 dealing with the guys in U1 sure don't trust them without putting their own men on the scene. Seems fair.

The are is good, too, and depicts a few of the more interesting rooms, the house itself, the ship's nasty-looking crew, etc.

One thing I especially liked is that the "special notes" for the DM are really helpful. It covers a lot of potential PC action and gave guidelines for handling them, everything from resisting excise taxes to trying to fool their way about ship to using stealth by fairly non-stealthy PCs. As a young GM, that was very useful to me - instead of yes-ing or no-ing things out of hand, I learned how to assign a chance and let the dice dictate it. I recycled some of the bits of this adventure and those rulings in later adventures and later games. It even had specific notes about the characters losing out if the players aren't be attentive when it matters. That suits how I play now - character skill and player skill both matter.

The adventure also carefully details the ship - I've never lacked for a needed detail when running it, and it's informed how I've statted up details for ships in other games. There is a lot of text to read, though, but it's uniformly good and useful stuff. Also, there is a roster of significant foes (or at least, an appendix of stats) and the same details are where they are needed, with the encounters. It makes it easy to run and easy to run after a party comes, leaves, and the NPCs move around.

The place is a little heavy on magic items, in my opinion, but you'd have to play very well and make a lot of good decisions and good rolls to find and get them all.

War Stories

I've run U1 so many times it's hard to keep them all straight.

I remember running it for my three-player game in Junior High School. They cleaned out the haunted house and the ship, and I remember they kept a lot of the silk and brandy to have made into fine clothes and to stock their house. That same trio cleaned out a mansion in a Dragon magazine fold-out adventure and moved in. They'd eventually go on to U2, as well, but never made it to the third module.

I ran my cousin through these with a solo thief. He made it through U1, U2, and U3 as well. He eventually assassinated the sahuagin chief in a nasty backstab-started fight and escaped.

In GURPS, I used the haunted house to start one campaign. A couple players tried it, and lost a few characters in a couple of delves. The first group never found the secret of the house, and just left. The second group just got killed off by some terrible tactical choices. Memorably one guy was killed with the ol' stirge to the eye. This is an adventure very well suited to GURPS, in terms of the types and numbers of foes encountered.

I do remember more than one group strongly resisting paying excise taxes on recovered goods. Just goes to show that taxing PCs is a good way to drive people Chaotic, even if it totally and logically fits the situation.

Overall: This is one of my favorite modules, and even if you don't like to run modules, it can give you a lot of useful rulings, details, set-pieces, maps and ideas for elsewhere. The is one of the better AD&D modules.

Monday, May 8, 2017

GURPS Gamma World, 20th Homeland - Session 11 - Badders & the ruins

We played session #11 of our Gamma Terra campaign today. For the previous session, click here.

We had an unexpected cancellation (Princess) and a last mine add - Caveman! It's been a
long time since Caveman's player got to the table with us.

Characters:
"Caveman" - demo/EOD
"Fatbox" - demo/EOD
"Hillbilly" - medical specialist
"Momma's Boy" - computer programmer
"Short Bus" - computer programmer
"Love Handles" - demo/EOD
"Oinker" - demo/EOD

In reserve:
"Princess" - cryptographer/sniper
"Barbie" - demo/EOD (MIA)

We started in Area 3, our new base, getting things organized. One of the guys who'd gotten out with Newb and the others decided to take a more active roll. (A new player joined, and another player got to pick his nickname - it was down to three, and Oinker won.) A couple of us traveled up to Mike Mike and convinced him to let us move him, his loom, his gear, etc. to Area 3. He hasn't moved yet but the plans were made. We'll set up moving material to Yexil to keep him guarding Van Buren Base. We also moved Mark VIII into our base and set him as the major domo. He was bored with his position and honestly, we need him doing more than keeping a Restorationist happy.

We took some time to get ready, and to analyze all of the various pills we found. Short Bus has Chemistry so he did that using the analytical tools in our base.

From there, we went to visit the badders. We'd dealt with some outer warrens of badders when we'd fought Pink Eye, but Softie scouted for us and found a fort on top of an old five-silo missile base. We decided to fly nearby, walk to them, and visit. We couldn't go with Plan A, which was "fly in with our Warbot, land, shoot up the area to show force, and then negotiate." Turns out Softie has standing basic orders to avoid exposing herself offensively to enemy forces. Sigh. Since badders respect strength, we needed to come off as strong.

We found their fortress and left Oinker outside covering us with his M110, walked around the side and left Momma's Boy out with his M48, and walked down in formation. The guys in back had orders to shoot if they felt like they needed to, or if we got into a fight. We put Fatbox in front of our wedge, which proved to be a momentous decision.

Because the badders sent out five of them, and decided since they put their leader in the middle, that was where ours was, too. It turned out okay, but still, we hadn't planned on him talking so we didn't get over the finer points of what we wanted.

In any case, the badders sniffed at the air and then allowed us inside their fort. We went in. Inside, a honey badder came out wearing a robe and used telepathy to talk to our leader, Fatbox. They went into a building to talk. The rest of us hung around with the other badders and ate fruit. The boss badder got impatient and set up a challenge - smaller badders posed with fruit on their heads, and the boss badder took a knife and chucked it through the fruit on its head. The poor target badder was nervous. The boss pointed at Hillbilly's knife, Hoopslayer, and gestured. Great. Hillbilly can't throw knives except at default.

So Hillbilly took our bullhorn and yelled out "It's good, don't shoot" or something like that. Then he pulled his pistol and put a 9mm round through a piece of fruit. The badders jumped. They'd never seen our weapons before. They guys outside didn't hear the warning, or did but didn't understand it. Both refrained from shooting because it was a single pistol shot. That was totally unlike how we fight. They held fire when Caveman used his SCAR-H to blow a fruit off of a nearby tree.

Eventually the leaders came out. Fatbox yelled at us, clearly feeling he'd really been promoted. But he said the boss said we needed to fight a challenge combat. "To the death?" "No, that would be barbaric." Fatbox chose Hillbilly, because I'd messed everything up by shooting and blah blah blah blah not listening because he's not actually in charge. Caveman gave him a hard time back, saying, "Did you even make Corporal?" Heh.

Hillbilly had to fight, and they called for a sword-and-shield fight. Short Bus loaned Hillbilly his shield, Love Handles his sword, and Hillbilly looked at the badder. It was armed and armored. Hillbilly could clearly see that his armor made him invulnerable to damage. So Hillbilly gestured to the badder to take off his armor, and stripped down to his boots and camo pants to fight shirtless against his fellow badger-monsters*. The badder followed suit.

(Fatbox's player put on "Amok Time" and we got going)

The fight went badly. First, Hillbilly critically failed and dropped his sword. Then the badder pinged his shield. They took turns trying to hit each other, but even so, Hillbilly was barely hitting and barely blocking. Eventually, the badder Feinted and Hillbilly got hit - I rolled a 12 against a 14, and that wasn't close. He got sliced from shoulder to hip and took a serious wound. ("Ooooh, he really gets you. How many HP do you have? "23." "Oh, you're just badly wounded.") He fell, and the badder won.

Still, Hillbilly earned some respect. He could have won out of hand just by being immune to their hits, but honestly, that's lame. No one wants a trophy for winning at bowling with gutter blockers. The badders helped stitch his wounds. Once Hillbilly could walk, he presented an extensible baton to the badder champion and seemed to earn even more respect.

The friendship became more like an alliance - they could freely come and go from our territory, we'd like to trade, we'd help each other against our enemies (we offered to go do that right now, but they didn't have any in mind), we'd treat each other with mutual respect, etc. Fatbox offered our grafefulness in return for any ID cards they could find, but didn't specify what that would be.

We'd brought them gifts, and left them with salt, pepper, ketchup, hot sauce, and mustard. We had a big party with our new Ewok badder friends, and left in the morning with hangovers.

Next up, the Robot Farm.

Softie gave us composite shots of the area:


There is a robot ferry that goes back and forth across the lake, still, all these years later. The plan was, Softie drops us off on the ferry and we go in. She waits underwater, since she can't go into town, and can retrieve us on the way back. But the ferry goes right through a zone of high radiation.

We decided we hated the idea of going through a radiation zone (the red circle on the map.) So we made a boat out of wood thanks to Love Handles's Carpentry skills. We took a week to familiarize ourselves with the boat. Caveman's influence showed here - we stocked the boat, tried different loadings, rolled the boat to test its self-righting ability and our rigging, etc. "And if a week isn't enough to satisfy us we're ready, we spend another week." Yeah, that's Caveman.

Once this was settled, we took two weeks worth of food, five gallons of water each, some spare gear all packed in lead-lined medical disposal boxes, and went on with it.

Warbot dropped us off next to the ferry, then submerged. We lashed onto the ferry and towed behind. Caveman and Hillbilly stayed on the boat while the others formed three groups to explore the ferry. It was covered with plants - every wind-blown speck of dirt had eventually been seeded and overgrown. On the bottom level, amidst rows of parked car hulks, were a dozen or more sword-bushes - bushes with sword-like frond and throwable spikes. They riddled Love Handles and Fatbox. Their torso armor was proof against their spikes as were their gas masks but they took some damage on the limbs - Love Handles had a biceps speared right through and a thigh nearly so. Their gunfire did little except clip leaves. Fatbox drew his chain-sword and went to town. He cut up a couple but took more damage, eventually getting an arm crippled. Meanwhile, Momma's Boy came running down from the upper level with the headlights - the force field generator and laser we'd found on the obb-killed corpse a while back. He fanned a laser across the plants and cut off a lot of fronds. Eventually he managed to get in front of Fatbox since his armor was heavy enough to be immune to the plants. He lased a few more, then swapped for Fatbox's sword and just spent a good 10-15 minutes chopping all of the hostile plants into bits.

"Great, we just massacred the morning commuters." - Fatbox. "Never forget 5/7."

That ended the excitement on the ferry. We reached shore and concealed the boat near a 2000' space needle looking thing. It hummed with power - and we found our battery-charged objects were just charging up. Momma's Boy could use the laser and force field with no energy cost, too, off of the ambient charge. Oooh, broadcast power. Neat.

We bushwacked though some old ruins, wasting a good hour or two searching for "treasure" in the ruins. We found a stuffed tiger/panda looking toy. We eventually worked our way to a clear road and moved down it, Caveman and Hillbilly carrying the boxed supplies between them.

We sought out the first of the active electrical sources - it turned out to be a piece of modern art in front of the Sector 30 Bank. Well, bank, bridal shop, and glass collectibles shop. It opened and let us in. Long story short, folks looted the bridal shop of a gown and some wine (hundreds of years old, it was just sludge and dust), failed to convince the self-service bank vault or ATMs to open, and otherwise putzed around. Oinker tried to open a bank account, didn't have personal ID on him, and was shown were the police station would be if hadn't been nuked down centuries ago.

Then our outside scouts reported six Uggies - what we named these little kimono-and-sandal clad sword-and-shield armed dwarves with twin-lobed heads. Hillbilly tried to talk to them with his megaphone but they startled at his voice. He tried Spanish and Bal'Kree, but they wouldn't respond. Two of them looked at each other and fled. Another pointed a big crossbow at us, aiming at each person in turn as if not sure who to aim at. Hillbilly said, "Ignore them." That's pretty much what we did. We probably started them because we speak Robot, aka English, aka the language of the ancient machines. The hope was they'd get more people and either we'd have a big grenade-worthy battle or they'd talk.

We got back to work on the bank. Momma's Boy lased open an ATM and damaged the power receivers, because the building power started to fade. He lased open the other two and we took out a good 2500 domars.

We tried the bank vault with the laser - no good. Hoopslayer could scratch it, but even lasing the scratch didn't do anything. Not a surprise, we'll come back to it sometime if we need it.

We moved on to the ferry depot, which would make a good base and emergency escape point. But as we did, those four braver Uggies ran into the bank. We headed back. Hillbilly's idea was, let's get close and talk. We got close - and one of them used some kind of Psi attack on Momma's Boy. MB is impulsive and angry, so he said, "One of them attacked me!" We switched to combat time. Hillbilly called out "We come in peace!" but MB shot at one as did Oinker. The fight was on. We eventually shot up two of them, but not before they got Oinker with some pyrokinetic power and started to heat him up from within. Once we'd killed off that pair, it went quiet. Oinker stabbed himself with a healing pen, and then Hillbilly, Fatbox, Short Bus, and Momma's Boy moved up from either side so we could see inside the bank. Short Bus and Fatbox spotted two crouched down in the back. One tried some psionic attack (I think) but in two seconds Short Bus put three rounds from his 9mm into one, then three rounds into the other. Fight over.

Two of them were alive but bleeding out. Fatbox face stomped them to death, and we found they had two brains apiece. Neat. Their gear was well-made but low-tech. We took their crossbow, Momma's Boy tried to let the bank scan one's head (no effect) before the power was completely dry, and then we moved back to the ferry terminal and bushwacked our way inside.

We ended there.


* Hillbilly comes from the Fry school of negotiation. "My fellow fish-monsters, far be it for me to criticize your stupid civilization or its dumb customs . . . "

Notes:


- Hillbilly is the medical specialist, but that just means he has Diagnosis and has learned Electronic Operations (Medical Devices). Yet some people call him, "the doctor here" and complain when he's only as good at First Aid as they are. Yeah, he's not a doctor, he does triage and bandaging. He's a doctor like the EOD guys are bomb designers or the computer guys are electronic engineers.

- I leveled up again this session, since this was my 10th session. I rolled a +1 to ST, which is what I'd have asked for anyway. ST 16! I've got 4 points saved, earned MVP, and will get 5 more. So, 4 points to raise Wrestling to DX+2 and 6 more to improve skills I use, or go right for ST 17, my eventual goal? Tough call, I need to think about it. The skills makes more sense, but raising ST has been really helpful in oh-so-many ways. And I prefer big buys. But more Boating, more Wrestling, more Electronics Operation, etc. might be helpful.

- Momma's Boy rolled Arm DX +1 for one arm only, his right. Heh. Appropriate.

- Turns out the Badders are more bad ass than I'd thought. Neat. Hopefully we can keep building friendly relations with them, get some trade going, recruit some of them to fight if we get a war going. I was disappointed when they asked for our help smashing their enemies and didn't have one handy.

- Shucking my armor for the fight was fun. Hillbilly didn't fight well, but he fought a cool fight. The badder beat him, they can feel good about their melee prowess, and Hillbilly got to fight stripped down to his combat boots and camo pants in a howling circle of post-apocalyptic mutants. WOOOOOOOO! Either win decisively or fight cool, that's how you impress people in a duel. Make it win-win for yourself.

- I'm sorry the cornering of the Uggies lead to a firefight. Momma's Boy is vengeful and impulsive. Had we been able to just get some communication I'd have been happy. It was a mistake, in Hillbilly's mind, to corner them. We could have made them dead at any time; it didn't help us to do that. It's much less likely we'll get a peaceful co-existence with them now.

- Next session it's unlikely Caveman will be able to make it, but Princess might. So we ruled he's on the boat, and we can just go get him next time and have Caveman guard our ferry base. It was good having Caveman back even if just for a guest appearance.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Gamma Terra notes

We had a good game tonight. We:

- had a guest appearance by Caveman

- added a new PC

- had a duel fought surrounding by howling mutants!

- made peace with our fellow badger-monsters

- made a bought

- fought sword-bushes

- broke a bank

- and shot up some poor guys.

Overall, good session. I'll get the summary up tomorrow.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What is the Enemy of my Enemy? (Gamma Terra plotting)

Sunday is Gamma Terra. We've got a number of plans going. Not the least of which is heading to a robot manufacturing sight to try and negotiate with the robots there. But also, to try to find the badders we had such a nasty fight with back in Session 1 and Session 2 and talk to them.

Why?

The way I see it, the badders are potential friends. Or at least potential allies. They were our foes when they were being controlled by one of the Bonapartists, But now? They're probably effectively directionless. They're be welcome members of the new state we're forging. If I can think of something to give them, I'm going to bring gifts. Momma Hillbilly said the best way to make friends is to bring pies to the housewarming.

We've got some groups around us we've messed with, and whom we'll eventually fight. We bloodied the Iron Men (mutant humans), the Bonapartists (mutant animals), and we're eyeing the Knights of Genetic Purity (pure strain humans). We have to exercise some care in who we fight and we ally with.

The enemy of my enemy is not my friend.

The way I see it, the enemy of my enemy is my potential ally. There isn't anything here more than a shared interest in reducing an obstacle. We may or may not even have a shared interest in the ultimate outcome - I may just want my enemy's teeth drawn, my enemy's enemy may want total destruction.

I've made this mistake before - you get so wedded to allying with your allies you think you're friends. Or you think if someone hates your enemy, they must like you. Not necessarily true. You can get hypnotized by the rewards of giving them what they want and having them thank you - this is as big of a mistake as thinking you're a total badass and negotiating from incorrectly assumed strengths.

So I think we'll need to be careful. We need to figure out who our strongest enemy is, ally with their enemies, and make sure aren't weakening our own position in the process. Basically work with A to kick down B without making A stronger than us in the process.

Seek to befriend potential friends, and ally with potential allies.

Nothing deep there. We have to find out who are our actual potential friends. The badders, maybe the robots, Crow, the Triumvirate, possibly others - we need to find people who will live nicely with us. Figuring our who is an ally will be trickier, in a way - we need to know who will benefit us short or long term but who isn't going the same way as us.

Ally with those distant, fight those close by.

Just basic stuff I learned from playing way too much Nobunaga's Ambition and Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Europa Universalis II. Secure your flanks, ally with guys who you couldn't reach to fight with. If you ally with close up folks, you are just surrounding yourself with friends and cutting off your own ability to expand.

Not that we really need to expand, exactly, just make our proto-state secure. We can't do that by merely being friends with the strong and aggressive cryptic alliance states close by and hoping they don't turn left after wiping out their foes to the right.


All of that said, if we just wandered the wastes like Caine in Kung Fu, doing good, I'd be even happier. But our GM is lazy and doesn't want to detail all of North America down to the individual mutant and domars. Heh.

Friday, May 5, 2017

GURPS Reprint Bundle + Bonus

If you missed it, there is a bundle of reprints over at Warehouse 23:



If you order the bundle (at $215.60) you'll get 8 softbound reprints plus a hardback copy of Basic Set: Characters and Basic Set: Campaigns.

It's a really good deal for 10 books. The offers ends the end of May 7th.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

GURPS Lite in the Classroom, Session #4

This was a shorter bit of gaming - lots of non-gaming work to do, so much that I had to cram it in.

For the previous session, see this link.

Rules Explanations

None. Nothing new came up.

Recap

I decided to do a quick, 30-seconds to 60-seconds Dragonball Z recap each session just to get things rolling, ending with, "Now, what do you do?" I'm a big believer in game-starting ritual.

Play

Nothing really interesting happened, but it was a good test of my student's ability to reason and explain.

He went up the stairs from the basement of the tower, and found a room with two boxes set up to make a table, two chairs, a burned-out candle, and some dice. He heard pacing footsteps above the enclosed staircase. He checked the boxes and found rolls of cloth (but didn't think to open them - I realized he didn't know cloth rolls usually aren't packed in boxes) and rations.

He headed up to the next level, intent on going straight up to the level above that - bypassing the guard. I gave him a 50/50 shot that the guard wouldn't see him, contingent on a successful Stealth check. He made that exactly, and the dice came up that the guard was around the wrong side of the stairs. He made it past him undetected.

From there, he made it out onto the battlements. Another guard waved at him as he went to the next tower in the box-shaped fortress. He moved into the next tower . . . and came face-to-face with another guard in a tower packed with stuff.

We stopped there. I told him - as a hint of what the game could be - that he could attack, try to trick the guard, talk to him, whatever he wanted to try. We'll see. There is sufficient gear in the tower ahead to allow him to escape. If he does, I have some ideas of what I'd like to do with him next. Either a dungeon, or a town adventure - perhaps something like Caravan to Ein Arris, modified to fit the world as I'm imagining it.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

White Plume Mountain spoilers for my players

If you don't like White Plume Mountain spoilers, skip this one.

If you do, or played it:

Dragon+ has a look at the art of the Yawning Portal version of WPM up right now. There are nice high-res versions of the maps, which is good because it's hard to use the ones in the book itself in play.

There is also a link to this WPM walkthrough.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

One reason I like dice rolling

So I've done roleplaying as part of job interviews in the past. In workshops practicing "people skills" and proper responses to customer questions. I've done it in language classes, too. I was never fond of it; in fact I generally hate doing that.

There are more than a few reasons for this - generally no one takes it seriously (or gets too into it). It's often too heavily weighted, as if practice tells you how you'll do in the actual situation (which is iffy.) It's actually fairly far removed from how role-playing gaming goes, even if you're a pretty immersive first-person roleplayer.

For me one of the biggest separating factors is the randomness of dice. You decide on a chance something will work, or the rules designer decides on a chance something will work, and you roll the dice and see. I don't have to convince you it'll work, just convince you it should have a chance and then take that chance and see.

I once did this roleplaying class lesson and had the feedback from the interviewer be, "This won't work at this grade level, what would you do next?" Except I just recycled a lesson I'd used at that grade level successfully repeatedly, which is why I brought it to the roleplaying portion of the interview. Nevermind the awkwardness of "pretend these adults are six year olds!" after days teaching six year olds, the arbitrary judgement felt, well, arbitrary.

Had the main interviewer said, "There is always a chance this could bomb with a particular class, let's flip a coin and if it's tails, it bombed and you need to improvise" I'd have been all over that. After all, my hobby is all about that. It's all about rolling an 18 when anything but that would have been okay. It's all about failing the easy roll and making the hard one. I've got a high built-in tolerance for "things went unpredictably wrong!" or "wildly and unpredictably right!" - if it's generated randomly.

I think that's what I love about dice. When there is a chance it might work, you can just assign that chance. If it's at all possible - which with, say, social interactions, low-percentage but physically possible stunts, or magic - putting it to the dice takes it out of the "GM decided I fail" category. Naturally, some things might just not be possible. But I find that if you can assign a chance, even a low chance, everyone seems to feel better.

"No, it just fails." "Why?" = argument at the tabletop
"Ehhh, maybe on a 3." "Aargh, I rolled a 4!" = resigned groans about that one extra pip on the dice.

So GMs, if you want to make me happy, give me a chance of it working. Players, if you try something crazy and there is a roll, know it's probably the GM trying to let the universe give you a chance of being right after all. At least this once. Nothing mind-blowing or deep here, but it was on my mind.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Three World/Dungeon Building Links

So you want to build a world or a dungeon? Three (okay, four) posters are doing exactly that right now in very different ways.

Crowd-Sourced Building

Douglas Cole is getting a crowd-sourced world build going for Dungeon Fantasy. Want to design part of it? Take a look.

GURPS Hexworld Challenge

Slow Dungeon Building

Matt Riggsby is building a DF dungeon bit by bit:

The Occasional Dungeon

It's much like the approach of Castle Triskelion.

Build As You Play

Justin Aquino is posting about something I prefer to do - build as you play.

World Building as we Play

In the post is a structure of what to decide firmly ahead of time, and what the players bring to the table through character generation, and what gets built afterward. Justin is really big on systems - systematic approaches to solving gaming-related issues of design, play, and organization. I tend to be more loose about it all, but having a system you can replicate and share is a good thing.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Gaming Logistics II: GURPS DF, megadungeon w/minis

I ran AD&D with so little stuff that it could all fit into my backpack. I still managed to bring too much and get disorganized during play, but that will happen.

But when I run GURPS, I run it full-on. Maps. Minis. Handouts on occasion. Small maps depicting large areas that my players then map onto much larger maps.

So what do I bring?


- a plastic "milk crate" with full of:
     three plastic Plano 2-3700-00 tackleboxes with figures (one each Battlesystem, Cardboard Heroes, and Bones/Legendary Encounters/D&D pre-paints/Pathfinder pre-paints/terrain);
     My converted GURPS GM screen;
     two binders (one with DF1-15, stripped down to just what I use in this game; one with DFM1, 2, 3 and my own monsters sheets, plus DF8)
     four-five small boxes of doors (thanks to my players and Archon Shiva), minis (apes, gargoyles, the otyugh just in case), a bag of troll minis, a bag of orc minis, and terrain bits;
     two tea tins of home-made carboard heroes (inc. 33 druagr, thanks to Emile Smirle)
     printouts of sometimes-needed rules and rulings I'd prefer to hand out when they occur (cones, area effect, scatter mostly).

Plus I bring:

- my packet of maps (it's in a folder that says Loved Pineapple on it, because it's made in Korea and was sold in Japan);
- my laptop;
- a GM screen so I can roll behind it and have handy charts;
- printed roster charts;
- my notebook;
- dice.

Then you add a GW 80-mini case full of orcs, which holds about 2/3 of my orc collection. and a Feldherr case over-filled (one extra tray) with all of the PCs, likely hirelings, and what I think will be the monster minis I'll need for the session.

I've managed this in one trip, but it's better with extra hands, usually Vic's thanks to his poor timing coming or going. Heh. It's not heavy so much as bulky, something I like to remind people when they say "Holding that 2 x 2 x 3 chest full of coins and potions only puts my guy to Medium Encumbrance!" Yeah, true, but weight isn't the only issue there.

It's not really heavy, but it's somewhat delicate. I've had minis break in these cases because the minis don't quite fit in the slots and the cases get banged around a bit. That's generally just fragile weapons (cough, cough, Wargames Factory, Dwarven Forge) and odd-shaped minis (GW, Reaper monsters mostly).


If I could change anything this, I'd simply do what we did back in the day: play where I live. That would allow me to have my minis close by.

If the PCs suddenly decide to attack the big dragon, the big dragon comes out of its storage bag in the back of my desk and gets put on the table. But if they do that while I'm away, sorry, no mini. If they plan to and then decide not to, I had to carry a large and potentially delicate mini (I could drop it, that happens) all the way to game for nothing. I have to pack figures in cases and remember where they are (and remember to bring them). I can't pre-set terrain and then just pull it out.

This is a special sort of problem, because a lot of what's in Felltower is an excuse to use minis I've accumulated over time. That's part of the fun and joy that is playing this game - pulling out minis that have sat ready for use since . . . whenever. Figures I'd owned since I was a kid. New ones I bought just to get that reaction from my players when they hit the table. It's combining the minis aspect of my game with the imagination that went into our dungeon and characters.

If it was only the megadungeon, no minis?

I'd need:

- my packet of maps;
- my laptop;
- a GM screen so I can roll behind it and have handy charts;
- printed roster charts;
- my notebook;
- dice.

And that's about it. Felltower is a few files on my computer and a bunch of maps (and I really should make copies of them and off-site back them up, actually). Part of me would like to run things that way. But only a small part. I mean, just wait until you see that dragon on the table . . .

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Some AD&D vs. GURPS thoughts

Here are some thoughts of 1st edition AD&D vs. GURPS based on recently running both of them.

I've tried to roughly organize these but they do jump back and forth as subjects intertwine.

Taking Damage

I've heard it said that in GURPS, if you're taking damage, you're losing. In AD&D, if you're taking damage, you're also losing. More slowly, perhaps, and without the death spiral of "hit means less combat effectiveness" that GURPS can include, but you're losing.

And where GURPS has resistance rolls and checks to keep fighting, AD&D is just "0 HP and go down" and plenty of monsters come with save or spectate powers. You're sturdier in GURPS but have a death spiral. In AD&D you are ultimately more fragile but don't have a death spiral. You trade a possible sudden shift in the combat (GURPS) for a steadier but not safer drain of resources.

Not only that, if the enemy rolls well enough, you're hit. You can't really anchor a combat and fight off the foe except by not being hit as you kill those you hit. The lack of DR means your HP can bleed off very quickly, even if AD&D generally lacks the catastrophic hit potential of GURPS.

Unlike GURPS, where healing casters are limited by easily-recoverable FP and have access to flexible healing spells with fixed effects, in AD&D you've got randomly effective healing spells in limited quantities. Run out, and you can't just rest a short amount of time and get them back.

Dealing Damage

GURPS lets you use your skill to maximize your damage. You can use skill to hit vulnerable locations and apply your specific damage type to those that give you the best potential results. In AD&D, you just take what the dice give you.

This does make it even more critical than in GURPS to pile on and focus your attacks on a smaller number of targets. The fragility of foes (they also drop at 0 HP, generally), their ability to harm you with a single good roll, and their full damage potential until death (or at least unconsciousness) means you need to put them down. If you assume the best thing to do is spread your damage out so none of it is wasted (IOW two fighters attack two foes, "just in case you drop yours in one blow") you're taking a risk. In GURPS this pays off as well, but a wounded foe might pass out seconds later even if just left alone, foes might be reduced in threat by a good roll, etc. You can give yourself more leeway to fight with a foe knowing you can occupy the foe defensively, overwhelm him with skill, etc. and no worry about not removing potential hits back as much. It's a matter of degree, however.

Magic

It's easy to look at the use-and-forget memorized spell system and think that spellcasters have a limited number of shots and then they become a pile of backup abilities. To an extent that's true. But the non-spellcasters are equally in the same boat of limited uses. Yes, fighters can stab away without running out of attacks. Thieves can sneak as much as they want. But in combat you can't assume you get to attack an unlimited number of times - you're generally going to lose HP during a fight. The spellcasters actually have much more control over the outflow of their resources!

Your spells are more powerful, but you pay for that with limited uses and a much more severe limit on utility magic. If you memorized Fireball instead of Fly, it doesn't matter if you know Fly, you don't have it and that's that. If you need it multiple times you need to have it ready that many times. Spell choices are zero-sum.

This also means the GM is more likely to let crazy stuff work. If you can only get off one abusively interpreted use of a spell each day, that's fine. If it's now an abusive spell you can spam all day, such as in GURPS, you're less likely to get a "yes, I'll allow that." It's precedent plus frequency instead of precedent plus a limited zero-sum resource.


Both are fun games - I'm taking pains to point this out because this isn't some game vs. game argument. They're game vs. game observations about how the games seem to flow in play.

Minor Blog Update Notes

I cleaned up and/or updated a few posts/pages:

- the Auction Remnants post is up-to-date.

- my AD&D/B/X D&D module list is up-to-date and now linked to reviews.

- my Reviews page is up-to-date

- my review of M1 Blizzard Pass now has a link to the text, as does my review of M2 Maze of the Riddling Minotaur.

- I've added a GMing page to cover the games I GM that aren't Felltower.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Slaying Enchantment Cost

In my Felltower game, some weapons are "Slaying" weapons. This pretty much means:

- bonus damage against a specific class of target, such as Undead, Demons, Constructs, etc. (Puissance with a standard Bane).

- triple damage on a 3-4 (a non-skill adjusted critical hit) stacked with other critical effects.*

- bonus damage only ignores most special-case immunities and resistances (affects insubstantial versions of the type, for example).

In a previous game, this applied, although it doesn't automatically apply to Slaying weapons in Felltower:

- Targets of the specific class of creature slain with such weapons - if a death check is failed as a direct result of a blow from the weapon - cannot be Resurrected or brought back as undead. Extra-dimensional beings still might be able to come back, terms and conditions apply. :)


* In Felltower, with its use of the most basic approach to criticals in GURPS, this means triple damage on a 4 and max-damage triple damage on a 3.

To be a "Slaying" weapon, you need:

Puissance. This can be general, or specific to the group the weapon will be slaying against, limited by the Bane enchantment. You need Puissance +3 to take advantage of the special effects of Slaying.

Slaying. This enchantment costs 5,000 energy, commonly reduced by the Bane enchantment. Divide by 10 if the weapon is a missile (but then it's one-shot); double cost if the subject is a missile weapon.

An Arrow of Dragon Slaying +3 would cost 100 for Bane, and (500 + 500)/3 for the Puissance and Slaying enchantments, or 1100 x 20 = $22,000. It might be worth it - but selling that sucker in town is really tempting even at 40% ($8,800 is a nice chunk of loot.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

GURPS Lite in the Classroom, Session #3

For the previous session, see here:

GURPS Lite in the Classroom #2


Rules explanations:

This session I got to explain Impaling damage, Cutting damage, Crushing damage (at least in brief), Stunning, defenses, and Damage Resistance. That's quite a lot to go over.

I went over it as needed. I didn't explain anything that the player didn't need to do, but I did tell him the rolls of the opponent (but not why) and then rolled against them.

Play

We started with the still-nameless PC jumping out at the sleepy orc guard with a shiv. He didn't have Knife skill (oops, my bad) so he defaulted it to DX-4 for an 8, and missed. The orc stumbled back and drew his sword. Nameless chased him and stabbed, but the orc failed to parry him and took 3 impaling damage and was Stunned and fell back against the wall. Nameless stabbed him again, this time for 4 impaling, and the orc had to roll HT to stay up - he rolled a 13, and failed.

The orc was too tired and confused and foolish to call for help. This left Nameless in the hallway. He took the orc's sword, made sure he was really knocked out, and saw he was in a corridor going right about 20' to a door, left as far as he could see, lit by torchlight. There were more cell doors but they were open. He checked the door and found it padlocked. He thought about kicking it down but decided it was too noisy, so he went and got the keys.

Sure enough, one let him in. He pulled a torch off the wall and searched the room. His Search roll was so-so, so it took him a few minutes to find his equipment and get into it (mail, shield, sword, pack, personal basics, etc.) and determine the other things were old and uncared for.

He headed back and to the left. There he found a T-corridor with doors. He started to the right but heard what might be voices. So he went left. He passed the doors and found another T, and heard booted footsteps. He moved as quickly as he could move while being quiet (which called for a Stealth check, made by 2) and found the corridor sloped up. He eventually made his way to the base level of what his experience told him was a tower, with spiral stairs up.

We cut it there - it's hard to get a lot done in a 10-15 minute slot in a classroom and I can't spare any more.

Notes:

I ran the orc as a weak orc assigned crappy duty, so he was ST 11, HP 13, HT 11. 14 injury was enough to make him check for consciousness and he failed! The dice helped me out, here - we rolled on the table and I announced the needed rolls before I made them. Yet the orc with Broadsword-13 and a ready weapon got shiv'ed a couple of times and went right down.

It's fun watching someone strain to express what they want to do, and then pull it off in a way I can clearly understand. That's great English practice. My Japanese would be better if I could play RPGs in it, for sure. We'll see where this goes.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

More AD&D?

My players and I played two sessions of AD&D.

Some of the players asked me, when making their characters, if this was going to grow into anything larger. I said no - which allowed min/maxing for a one-shot, like CN fighters alongside a LG paladin (a no-no, but if it serves a greater good for one mission, the paladin can do it) and sub-optimal stat choices like a low INT score for a wizard because CON and DEX would be more useful right now.

And I'm sticking to that. This post isn't reversing that decision.

But it did get me thinking, will we do this again? And what about a campaign?

That's two trains of thought to work out.

Another Module Playthrough?

Yes. Unhesitatingly yes. This was a lot of fun. I'd be willing to run either a pre- or post-Unearthed Arcana module with pregens (if it comes with them) or self-generated PCs (if not). There are a few on my short list that I might do that with - WG5 I've run in GURPS but was fun in AD&D as well. WG6, perhaps would be fun with AD&D instead of GURPS, A4, the Mud Sorcerer's Tomb from Dungeon Magazine #37 . . . that might be it. Too many have read S1 to make it playable as a real challenge and S4 suffers from the same issue plus re-used setpieces in my games.

S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks would be better in GURPS than in AD&D. That would make a great DF small side campaign.

But yes, I'd do it, especially if the players have an itch to scratch and it's not something already plundered for my GURPS gaming or memorized by too many of my players. Something that benefits from a rush of nostalgia or is just structured in a way that the GURPS skill system and magic system won't short-circuit.

A campaign?

Much less likely, but possible.

It would have the advantage of players getting used to AD&D, not getting thrown off the deep end of a mid-level high-challenge adventure that demands you know your spells, the monsters, and the rules well to survive. It would also just be fun, because AD&D is a different sort of entertainment and challenge than GURPS.

It would have the disadvantage of grabbing us by the back of the head and grinding our faces in the nitty-gritty weirdness of AD&D. Tracking XP. 10 gp to the pound (and if you make it 100 to the pound, you really need to drop XP value to 10% to keep the challenge:reward the same). XP divided by level. To use training costs or not. Magic item identification issues. The agony of rolling 1 HP on your level up twice in a row (funny in a one-shot, painful otherwise). The dizzying madness of Resist Fire, Potions of Fire Resistance, and Rings of Fire Resistance all having different mechanics from each other. THAC0 with breakdowns thanks to repeating 20s.

In other words, I'd have to house rule the hell out of it. Do that enough and I'm the path of making a retro-clone to add to the massive slurry of them out there right now. Pick a retro-clone and then ask myself why I'm not just playing another game from the choice pool.

It's doable, of course, and it can be fun. But it's not as simple as it sounds. It would also mean doing that instead of other things, like Gamma Terra and Dungeon Fantasy. It's possible we will do it but it would be more involved than a one-shot.

But I can see more AD&D in our future. It was a fun trip down memory lane, and it makes me appreciate what I have and why I chose to have it.

Monday, April 24, 2017

AD&D Session 2: White Plume Mountain (Part II)

Sunday was Session 2 of our brief side foray into AD&D with White Plume Mountain.

As before, we had a mix of people totally new to 1st edition AD&D, veterans who'd played a long time ago (not always with the rules as written, but then again neither did I), and people who'd played other editions.

Unlike the first session, we had closer to a full complement today, adding in two players who'd had to miss last time due to work and prior commitments, respectively. Those who'd lost PCs in the first session used their extra sets of rolls to make new ones - which lead to, say, an INT 12 DEX 15 CON 17 wizard because he'd never need to learn high level spells or roll for spells known anyway. Amusingly one player rolled better across the board on HP, % for ST, equipment, etc. than his first guy.

Session 1 can be found here.

Feel free to litter the comments with spoilers - the players are free to read the adventure and we discussed the rooms they'd missed since I don't expect to use those tricks elsewhere.




Characters
Andie Angus - N Dwarf Fighter 7
Gerwulf Reinhardt - CN Human Fighter 7
Kamora, Lama of the Lioness - LG Human Cleric 7
Rockford - LN Dwarf Fighter 6 / Thief 6
Moon Goldenshower - CN Elf Magic-User 7
Samuel Payne - LN Human Cleric 7
Sir Chad Biggly - LG Paladin 6

We started up at the three-way intersection where the bedraggled sphinx waits; the new PCs came down and joined the old ones. Samuel fortuitously was carrying a scroll with Heal and Cure Critical Wounds, which was just the thing to bring Kamora back to adventuring capability and nearly full HP and Rockford back to full HP.

The PCs debated going straight and right. They decided that clearly Keraptis wanted you to be tempted to go straight, so they went right. This would prove to be a fateful decision.

They moved along, prodding ahead with a 10' pole. Rockford was very specific last time - he would prod the water and pull the pole out, then prod, then pull, etc. This helped them find a large patch of underwater green slime. They knew fire could kill it, but no one knew they could Cure Disease to wipe it out. So they used a Potion of Flying (sipped, this time, to be sure it would work) to send someone to find the far end, then hammer in spikes and string rope for hand-over-hand crossing. They did that. Right after the slime, though, they hit the first of the wandering monsters - an ogre. It died quickly, but not before whacking Andie (I think) for a lot of damage.

After that, they found a door. The door was stuck initially and took Knock to open it (everyone rolled very badly). Beyond was a room with five golems who posed a riddle. Kamora's player solved it in about three seconds. Like, almost as fast as I could hit the button on my stopwatch for the 60 second timer. They earned a flesh golem companion.

They climbed out of the water and found a turnstile, showing the reach of the evil MTA. They decided this must be the way in, and there would be another way out, so they just walked through the gate.

They quickly found the famous geysers-and-discs jumping puzzle. It was about as lethal as the jumping puzzles in any game. This actually took a long time, and was getting so dangerous

They timed it so after both geysers went, they had a clear idea of how long they had to travel. They gave a Potion of Fire Resistance to Rockford, gave him a coil of rope, and sent him jumping. The plan was, jump, wind the rope, jump, etc. until they'd fixed the chains at least in place and could hand-over-hand from disk to disk between geyser blasts.

This did not work. Since Rockford was jumping to unsecured slick disks carrying a bunch of weight, I made him roll against his DEX to pull this off. About half the time, he didn't manage this. He'd climb back up the rope to the previous disk, and kept taking damage from boiling water from the geysers. He drank a healing potion but it wasn't enough. He got nearly to the end before he got caught a few times with high-damage blasts of hot water from failing rolls to either advance to the end or back off sufficiently to take less damage (hard, given the progression of damage and range of the steam). Finally, he was down to 6 HP and took 7 from a geyser. He tumbled to the boiling mud, trailing rope, and died.

They decided this wasn't working, so they selected their next most agile delver and sent him across, after drinking a Potion of Climbing and casting Resist Fire on him (which works differently than the potion, of course). First they used a couple of Potions of Diminution to shrink many of them down, stick them in a backpack to protect them and had Andie carry them. He eventually made it, although he took a lot of damage on the way. Once on the far side he nailed a spike near the far door and ran the line around it. On the near side, the PCs put Gerhardt on their golem's shoulders and hammered a line in there. They used the line to zipline to the other side. They all made it until the last two. Moon grabbed the line and made a DEX check to see if anything went wrong with his ziplining - basically, checking for disaster. He missed it completely (a 20 versus a 15). He was simply ziplining down on his belt, not secured in any way. He went right into the mud. He had Resist Fire on him, but even so, damage from the fall plus two rounds of being in the mud was enough to kill him. He sank, along with a map he'd been making and some of their potions and scrolls. His only helpful spell was Web, but it takes two segments to cast and much less than two segments to fall 70 feet.

Next, the golem - the golem couldn't manage (too heavy, couldn't reach the zipline), so they ordered him to try and jump disk to disk. They wouldn't come back this way, they reasoned, so who cares if he falls in? He fell in right away and was destroyed.

They managed to get past a metal door at the far end with needle-sized holes in it after carefully ensuring it wasn't trapped. They detected evil but no soul. Inside was Ctenmiir, a vampire, in a room of permanent darkness. Well, for a moment - Samual used Dispel Magic to clear that. They fought the vampire but drove him off with turning. He turned gaseous and fled for the required 3d4 rounds. In the meantime, they moved his coffin (and then chopped it up) and found a nice with Whelm and some potions and money. They took the hammer, giving it to Samuel (Andie Angus was the wrong alignment). They put down garlic to keep Ctenmiir away, but he came back while they searched the room for the secret door that had to be there - how could it be a dead end?

Ctenmiir came back and attacked again, having regenerated back to full HP. This time, he managed to charm Samuel and get him to attack his friends. The PCs damaged him - but fatefully Gerwulf sliced him with Blackrazor, eager to get those sweet levels from soul-sucking him. Instead, his was sucked into Ctrenmiir, buffing him up and costing Gerwulf 13 HP (he rolled max HP for the missing level). But in short order Kamora turned him.

The PCs then piled onto Samuel (using the proto-Dungeon Grappling rules from The Manor #8). They used Remove Curse to get rid of the charm (I ruled that seemed like it should work - Andie Angus's player claimed it should not.) They started saying they should destroy him, but Kamora argued a) the mission isn't to destroy him and b) there was no way to find his backup coffins. (This actually went on for a bit until I said, out of game, guys, he has off-map coffins, if you really want to smash the floor and eventually find him you can, but that's not part of the adventure and won't be easy.)

Returning was not as tough as coming across. They simply sent someone climbing up the rope (Gerwulf, I think) with the help of a potion and moved the zipline angle. They went back, one by one, and somehow made it without too-too much damage.

They made it back to the turnstile and as they puzzled out what to do, Ctenmiir attacked them from behind. This time they reduced him to 0 HP and got rid of him for the duration, but not before he bit Samuel and drained him from level 7 to level 5.

The PCs eventually bent the turnstile with a good Bend Bars/Lift Gates roll from Gerwulf and found their way back, but not before running into two wandering gargoyles. They hurt the PCs a bit before they died, but that let Gerwulf get his level back and get a pool of temporary HP. At this point, he was swinging at +5 to hit and +8 damage, which is major in AD&D, so he was hitting most of the time and killing most things in one or two shots.

They encountered a wight at this point, but it was wounded by Sir Chad Biggly and driven away by Kamora.

They tried the center passageway next, and ran into two bugbears. They died in moments. After that, they found an alcove with a pit. They explored this with Kamora's Necklace of Adaptation and found a value. They opened it by sending down all of their beefy guys holding their breath and the water began to drain.

Next they found a flooded room. As they worked their way around the edge, two Kelpies emerged. The Kelpies randomly tried to charm Kamora and Gerwulf. This succeed on Kamora (who just missed the save) and failed on Gerwulf (who, the Kelpies clearly failed to realize, was carrying Blackrazor and was immune). Kamora jumped right into the water, intent on joining her seaweedy companions!

(I'd forgotten, totally, that Kamora was a female human since her player is male. So I guess these Kelpies weren't helpless against females. Not going to undo results just to match monster descriptions.)

Luckily Kamora could breathe water, thanks to her Necklace of Adaptation. But charms last a long time - what to do? They tied a rope to Sir Chad, who dove in after Kamora. He swam down, grabbed her (again, using the proto-Dungeon Grappling rules) and held on. Kamora couldn't escape and with multiple ST 18/something fighters they dragged her out easily. They sat on her while Gerhardt borrowed her necklace and swam down and chopped up the Kelpies and looted their lair. They found magical chainmail superior to Samuel's non-magical banded armor so he put that on.

After that they found a valve-like metal door and a wooden door. They detected evil and souls - both to the East. So, clearly, the metal door was a trap and the wooden door led to Wave. So they forced the door. Finding a swirly-patterned oil-slicked rotating tube 30' long confirmed this - each weapon was behind a funhouse obstacle. Andie Angus argued they should ignite the oil, but he was convinced the oil would help him slide down the tube with a rope. So, he backed up, ran, and jumped in. As he slid, a flaming arrow came from ahead and landed in the tube. FWOOOOSH.

They managed to drag back a burned but living Andie Angus. They charged up the tunnel, taking arrow fire (ineffective, in the event) and reached a loophole and a door. They forced the door and rushed into combat with a mailed fighter and a wizard. Samuel started in on Hold Person, Gerwulf used Haste from Blackrazor, and the others waited - except for Andie Angus, who charged. The wizard, Snarla, got off a Web on the tightly-clustered party and caught everyone except Andie Angus. He slew Burket, the fighter, in a couple of rounds despite Burket getting Haste and Snarla putting four Magic Missiles into him. He sliced her - and she transformed into a werewolf and bit him! He killed her the following round before she could act again.

They looted the group, found Snarla's bedchambers and no other exit. A chest had some gems, which they took, but no Wave.

So they went back and forced open, and spiked open, a series of metal doors and found a dome-roofed tunnel of some weird material.

Gerwulf shoved Blackrazor right through it. A jet of boiling hot water hit him. Oops. So this was the bubble? They decided not to stab it anymore and that it was good that Moon Goldenshower had died before he could kill them casting spells.

They found the bubble, and a gigantic crab! It attacked. The PCs attacked back, except for Angus, who decided to run around it to get the chest beyond so he could use Wave. The crab was having none of that, and backed off to keep him in front of him and attacked Andie exclusively. The fight was only like three rounds, but that as time enough for Andie to get sliced up. He tried to Parry (per the PHB) but the crab rolled a 20 and hit him anyway and sliced him in half. He died instantly, at -12 HP, and never found out the magic plate he'd donned was Armor of Vulnerability and fell apart with him. Heh. (I didn't even mention it at the time, now that I recall.)

The PCs finished off the crab. They carefully checked the chest for traps, set up their shields to stop firing darts from shooting out to puncture the bubble and kill them all, and opened it up. They found Wave and some magical treasure. Sadly, only Andie had been the right alignment to use it.

They headed out. At the exit, though, Keraptis put up a Wall of Force and told them to surrender to Nix and Nox, twin efreeti. They refused and attacked (and were annoyed that Protection from Evil didn't work because efreeti are Neutral). They managed to cut down both efreeti in only a couple of rounds, taking only a single hit in return! (I rolled very badly for them). Keraptis sent in Box and Cox. They did much better, getting off a Wall of Fire and fighting Invisibly. The PCs used Bless before melee and again rolled well, and concentrated on one as much as they could. In the end, Box and Cox went down, too. Keraptis said, "I'll just have to steal those weapons back again . . . " and left it at that.

The surviving PCs left White Plume Mountain.

Our final roster:

Survivors:
Kamora, Lama of the Lioness - Human Cleric 7
Gerwulf Reinhardt - Human Fighter 7
Samuel Payne - Human Cleric 5 (Restoration can fix him back to C7)
Sir Chad Biggly - Human Paladin 6

Casualties:
Faolan McDermot - Human Druid 8 (killed by Cone of Cold)
Urf Nightsoil - Elf Magic-User 7 (killed by Cone of Cold)
Wolfgang Reinhardt - Human Fighter 7 (killed by Cone of Cold)
Rockford - Dwarf Fighter 6 / Thief 6 (killed by geysers, fell into boiling mud)
Moon Goldenshower - Elf Magic-User 7 (fell into boiling mud)
Andie Angus - Dwarf Fighter 7 (cut in half by just about the biggest crab you've ever seen.)


Notes:

Overall, I'm very proud of how my group played this. The players who became casualties right away stuck it out as spectators without complaining. They did pretty well given a lack of experience with AD&D - especially recent experience, sometimes any - and getting thrown into a dungeon full of dangerous fights, tricks, traps, and nasty set-piece fights. Some of the inexperience showed - Moon repeated Urf's spell loadout, which meant 100% damage-causing spells and no utility spells. We'd just had a pre-game discussion where I'd argued that Fly is the best 3rd-level M-U spell and two of my players argued it's Fireball. Fly would have been more useful - this might the contempt of familiarity, since those same two players Levitate all over the place constantly in GURPS DF.

The players occasionally screwed themselves up thinking, "if it's one-way, there must be a way out" - that's a feature of modern video games and Jacquays maps, not a basic feature of reality. Or of funhouse dungeons. Nevermind they'd find that the foe at the end of the path didn't need a second way out to get past the crazy obstacles. Basically, instead of dealing with what was in front of them, they used what was in front of them to postulate other things that must be there. In a normal dungeon, that might work. In a trapped series of linear channels meant to try and kill you for the amusement of the designer, no. Sometimes a funhouse is just a funhouse.

They also occasionally caused themselves trouble by equating "souls" with "guardians of the weapons" and "evil" as "guardians of the weapons." In other words, "no souls, no evil means it's a dead-end trap." I assumed Blackrazor's "detect souls" ability only detected the things it was meant to slay and devour - humans and human-like souls. So, it wasn't Detect Life, and was useless against kelpies, crabs, etc.

But like I said, overall, they played very well. Had they been playing AD&D for a while they'd certainly have done better and learned from less-lethal errors in the past about spell selection, combat tactics (they did vastly better this time against much harder foes), and erring on the side of "it's a trap!" Also, one player had played in WPM before, but as he said, only after bad stuff happened did he remember. "Oh, right, Nix and Nox." "Oh yeah, the oil is flammable." Etc.

We had the fun of inconsistencies in AD&D - like how a Potion of Fire Resistance and the spell Resist Fire don't work alike, how specific Haste is about what it does, how annoying Protection from Evil is, etc. Speaking of the last one, it says evil foes are -2 to attack you and you get +2 to saving throws caused by those attacks. The players hoped that meant +2 to all saving throws, always. I disagreed. In a campaign, I'm not sure how I'd do it - if it's always, is that where Paladins get their +2 to all saving throws, or is this in addition? I'd say in addition, otherwise it works against animals, traps, landslides, etc.

I probably should have made the checks friendlier to crossing the disks, but honestly, it's written as just short of lethal if you try jumping one to the other. I don't think I was unfair, but it felt harsh. I went and looked up after how it was written for the later S1-4 Realms of Horror, and it's like my solution in some ways but harsher in others. I'd purposely not looked it up so I'd run it by feel not later re-writes. The lack of prepping to not fall from the zipline cost them their wizard, though. I'm not sure why they didn't tie him to the line so he couldn't fall. Sadly, if they'd saved their Potion of Flying (or a Fly spell) it would have been trivial to bypass this obstacle, but no one wanted to risk a failed climbing roll to get past the green slime. So it goes.

If anyone has their own stories of how they got past the disk puzzle, my players really want to know. And we'd love to send Lawrence Schick a thank you card for two awesome sessions. Or at least a thank-you email. As well to Erol Otus, Diesel, Jeff Dee, and Jim Roslof for the illustrations that really made the adventure pop.
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