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.


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.


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.


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.

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:

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

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.)


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.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

White Plume Mountain part II pre-summary notes

I don't time to write a game summary tonight, but here are some highlights, specific and vague.

- seven players.

- less than seven survivors.

- Whelm and Wave's guardians were overcome.

- Just about every spell the PCs had was cast . . . except those that went down with their casters.

- They faced Nix, Nox, Box, and Cox.

Fun session. Quote of the night might have been from the player who runs our new Scout in DF - "GURPS is both harder and easier." Yeah, in lots of ways. We'll really enjoy getting defense rolls again.

Gaming Logistics I: AD&D, no minis

Unachimba suggested, and one of my gamers echoed, that I should do a post about what I bring to game when we game.

Well, today is part II of White Plume Mountain. What do I need for that?

Not very much:

- three rulebooks
- a module
- note sheets
- AD&D Adventure Log sheets
- DM screen
- some magic item cards]
- bag of dice (not pictured)

That's it. I really don't even need all of that, but I prefer to have it all handy. If it was a Unearthed Arcana-era game, I'd need at least one more book, possibly two (the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide.) That's a fraction of what I "need" for GURPS, but then again, that's because I run GURPS with a hex map in a megadungeon and use minis. My game isn't truly designed around portability, but this AD&D two-shot absolutely is. When I run GURPS Lite at school, I use all of GURPS Lite, one record sheet, one note sheet, and six dice. I don't even need anything except the dice and record sheet, really. My AD&D game is built around that same principle.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Dungeon of Signs on S1 & my comments

There is an interesting and solid look at S1 Tomb of Horrors.

Review: S1 Tomb of Horrors

I have mixed feelings on S1. It's one of the first adventures I owned. I ran it multiple times (my cousin's thief Blackstar went there at least once, and lived). I think I mis-ran parts of it because of the difficulty of the text. It was fun, but it was also a bad influence on us. It set the tone for a lot of play - traps were lethal, often with no save; treasures could sometimes be stingy; games were meant to be hard.

It certainly had to influence the killer dungeons back in the day. DMs often bragged about how lethal their dungeons were. PCs were playing pieces to be expended trying to beat the dungeon. S1 was an example of the type, even if it's more of a puzzle than a monster maze meant to dice up your characters through combat.

But it's an interesting dungeon. It's tough, but it's not impossible. It punishes greed and lack of caution. It's a thinking person's dungeon, and quite possible to get through if you're careful and the GM is fair. It deserves the designation "S" for "Special" but for us elementary school aged gamers it was just one more example of How to Play the Game Right. The modules were gospel, and this was a gospel of strict and lethal play.

It's a module I'd like to run for an experienced group. I like what it's inspired (The Mud Sorcerer's Tomb is an homage that one-ups the original in many ways). But again, it may have been better if we'd never touched it back in the day. We'd have done better with something less special and less lethal.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

GURPS Lite in the Classroom, Session #2

I ran another, very short, bit of GURPS Lite for my speaking-skills student.

First, though, I needed to give him two bits of information about the game.

Skills - I told my student that skills are just what you are especially good at. You can try anything, given the right situation, but your listed skills are just what you do well.

Criticals - I told him 3-4 always works, usually especially well. 17-18 usually means a really bad failure - it doesn't work plus something goes really wrong. That came up his first roll when he rolled two out of three dice and could see he'd failed. Yes, 6 and 5 versus an 11 fails . . . but what if you roll another 6?

Next, we picked up with his character in the dark room.

He carefully searched the room, and eventually found a broken-off wooden handle from what used to be a wooden spoon. (This wasn't planned, but I figured, he searched carefully - I used this Search roll to determine how long it took to find anything, with only a critical failure meaning he'd missed this in his cautious feeling around in the dimness.)

Then he tried to scrape a hole in the door. The door was much too thick for that.

Next he tried to pick the lock with his broken wooden spoon handle. It didn't work; in fact it got stuck. (He missed his default Lockpicking roll by 10.)

All of this woke up the orc guard, who saw the door jammed. Not realizing in his just-woken state that this was a bad idea, he jammed in a key and opened the door. Instead of a shackled prisoner, my student's PC jumped out the door with his wooden shiv to attack.

We stopped there, and agreed to extend the time for GURPS a little next time.

Next up, a simple combat.

And even more chances to explain actions in English, which is practice he needs.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

AD&D Adventure Log sample entry oddities

I have two fully intact copies of the AD&D Adventure Log. I owned one other which I took apart to use in play in various campaigns.

I must have read every single detail of the sample log a hundred times at least. I still quote "Fred 9802 talked back to Odin -- and lived!" on occasion.

It's not a sample of actual play, of course. It barely makes sense as that. But it's fun to look at in any case.

And the are so many oddities on this.

- Who wrote this? It looks like Jeff Dee's lettering.

- The orcs, gnolls, lurker above, fire giant, and umber hulk all have average HP. Most of the HP are clustered right around the average. Many of the PCs? Average on the nose or just off of it. Try it. 7th level ranger? 8d8 HP, 4.5 per die, has 36 HP. Morgan Ironwolf? 43, average is 42. Lakesla? Average is 17.5, has 18 HP.

- the dragon has 37 HP. A huge, adult, black dragon with 37 HP. I guess it was wounded? Actually, it seems more like someone tried to give it almost average HP (4.5 x 8 = 36, 37 is one point higher). If you don't know AD&D dragons, they get fixed HP per age category. An adult has 5 per hit die, and so it should have 40.

- lots of high-ST fighters. Three with 18/01 or better (and Fred 9802 has 18/91 - 99)

- one cleric (who died, heh) out of 10 PCs, yet three thieves. Come on, guys, I know it's hard because AD&D limited multi-class clerics so badly it was pure cleric or purely bad choice, but you can see how you need two here.

- Black Dougal, dead once again. His purpose is to die in the example, I see.

- characters #4, #9, and #10 all appear to have 17 DEX while #2 has an 18.

- 5th through 8th level characters, including three Magic-Users and on Cleric but no Continual Light spells or light noted from magic swords (which are fairly plentiful in the group.)

- All of the multi-class characters have the same level in both classes - no one is at one of those fairly frequent points where one class is above the other.

- I don't think I ever saw a Net of Snaring in play outside of this sheet.

- Divine intervention with backtalk.

- Stat-raising magic chairs.

Still so fun to look at, for me. All of that implied play and weirdness. And that 37 HP dragon.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Prepping for White Plume Mountain, round 2 - notes

Notes about Sunday's upcoming conclusion to AD&D White Plume Mountain.

Replacement PCs?

The new PCs are being generated off the old set of numbers the players generated. If someone is missing theirs, I'll probably let them roll up 2-3 sets of 4d6 drop lowest arrange to taste. That may work out better than their lost set, or worse. It doesn't matter to me as long as a viable and playable (even if not particularly good) PC is generated.

Levels, magic items, etc. will all be done the same way as the first time.

Did the PCs leave the dungeon?

No. The two surviving PCs did not. They're hanging out with the gynosphinx who riddled them in the first session.

I am debating letting the PCs leave and come back, so the characters can heal and re-memorize spells as well pick up the replacement characters. I'm leaning towards not doing that, though, because I'd like the choices made so far to stick in a significant way. That's a little unfair to the surviving PCs, but then again, the surviving PCs have five characters' worth of magic items and some nice loot that is all theirs.


No. None at all. The dungeon stays the same. Little or no time will have passed. The PCs are welcome to explore those corridors they didn't go down last time, find Whelm and Wave in any order they like, double-kill those two bugbears that nearly killed off the Lama of the Lioness, etc. It's still right now.


One tricky bit is that the surviving two PCs are wounded. One is roughed up to 24 HP from his maximum 41. The other went to 0 and dropped negative from blood loss, and canonically needs weeks to recover.

Well, except in the case of the Heal spell. So a PC coming in with a scroll of Heal and Cure Critical Wounds (3d8+3, average 15.5) should take both of them to within a few HP of maximum. Probably, anyway - worth case is +6 HP for the F/T and the cleric is 4 HP off of maximum. But Heal will bounce her back from needing weeks off without me handing out, say, a Limited Wish and having the PCs decide it's better to save it for something else. No chance of that with healing that's needed right away.

More healing stuff?

A little bit, yes. The replacement PCs get what they rolled and a complement of healing potions like what I initially handed out (2-3 potions total). That's that.

One more session of AD&D Sunday, then back to our normal GURPS gaming. This went well, though, and I'd be tempted to try an UA-era adventure sometime in the future or play more early-version AD&D with the tweaks I made to initiative. It's been fun, even if I think GURPS combat and chargen is more of what I'm looking for from my gaming in general.

Monday, April 17, 2017

GURPS Cardboard Heroes: Dungeon Floors in PDF

In case you missed this announcement, the Cardboard Heroes Dungeon Floors are out in PDF.

Cardboard Heroes Dungeon Floors


I'm taking a pass on them for now. I needed this a while back, so I ended up getting a copy of the spiral-bound hardcopy on eBay and so now I'm good on all the ones I wanted. But I'm happy to see this out in PDF. I've been pushing for that for a while, and I think they'll make a fine addition to the DF RPG.

I like these a lot, although they don't match up quite so well with my Chessex maps - the hexes are a bit squished in the paper copy. I'm not sure if that is fixed in the PDF or not. And hexes are hexes - you can't just put any two corridors or rooms side by side like with squares and expect them to line up. That means some fiddling. All of that said, these are nice and they are very useful for tactical combats in a GURPS game.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Ruins of Felltower Castle

I'm not sure I ever named the castle on top of Felltower. Its history isn't really that old in the game, though - it's not the first fortress to be build on top of the nameless mountain north of Stericksburg.

It's only Felltower because the name is cool and then the PCs went and knocked down the only fully intact tower right away.

It has been a lot more important than I thought it would. I selected a ruined castle map from a Judges' Guild supplement I got from a website selling them right around when I first started this blog and got set to play GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. I kind of expected it to fade into the background faster than the terrain between the caves in the Caves of Chaos - there, but you get right on into the tunnels after session one.

It's current state is pretty interesting to me.

- it used to have a thick door and a portcullis that could be raised or lowered. The door was destroyed (I actually can't find which session or between which sessions that happened) and the gate locked down and the mechanism destroyed for looting purposes. The main gate is thus blocked. It can be knocked down, but it'll take some time (it's a heavy portcullis shielded against magic).

- the manor house inside once included a tower with a ghost. The tower was destroyed and the ghost ordered away.

- the manor house's partial roof was once patched up with canvas and hides by the orcs, but it was burned by the PCs in an attempt to discourage the orcs.

- its dry well turned out to be an opening into the dungeon (and thus clearly never an actual water well) but that was broken by the PCs and then the orcs blocked it off.

- the side walls were once crumbling, and usable as an entrance through the walls. The orcs fixed those with rubble-and-wood filled wooden fencing; subsequently someone finished them with magical and/or non-magical shaping.

- one tower held a collection of magical and non-magical treasures stashed by an adventuring group that the PCs looted.

- one tower held some giant maned rats but the PCs didn't explore that tower until long after the orcs claimed the surface and exterminated the rats.

- one gatehouse held the evidence of a previous fight - melted metal and coins and scorch marks of a large fire spell. (My group being my group, they looted the melted metal for scrap.)

As I noted in the Felltower Entrances rundown, the castle is pretty much accessed right now with spells and climbing.

Against my expectations, the castle is still really significant. It's an obstacle to entrance, a potential fortress against delvers, and still sometimes holds encounters. I'm glad I put enough thought in it to make it potentially so. I suppose in the right kind of game, the PCs would take it over, rehabilitate it, and live in it and adventure in their basement. I think my gamers rightly fear what happens in games I run to people who do that kind of stuff - they become backstory the next group of adventurers learns about the dungeon.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Review: Tales from the Yawning Portal

For more reviews, please see my review page.

Published April 2017 by Wizards of the Coast
248 pages

Tales from the Yawning Portal is a collection of older AD&D and D&D 3.x adventures, and one D&D Next playtest adventure, converted to D&D5. It consists of:

The Sunless Citadel
The Forge of Fury
The Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan (originally C1)
White Plume Mountain (originally S2)
Dead in Thay
Against the Giants (originally G1-3)
Tomb of Horrors (originally S1)

The adventures aren't linked as a supermodule, with a common thread running through them, but they are set up in order of difficulty so you could start at 1st level in the first one and move your way up to finally challenging the modernized Tomb of Horrors at 12th level plus. Actually it doesn't set a level recommendation for Tomb of Horrors, but you're theoretically going to be 11th level when you start G3 so you should probably be at least 12th when you're finished with it.

The maps are beautiful and full-color, and not difficult to read in general - although the numbers don't pop out quite like they do in monochrome maps. My main complaint is that they aren't very large, and they're embedded in the text - lots of page-flipping to run this, unless you're going to make a full-color copy to work off of. Special areas with extra detail do get picked out with zoomed-in maps, however - White Plume Mountain especially needs and gets these.

Monster stats similarly need page-flipping - nothing get statted in their own encounter area - pretty typical for D&D5 adventures. Some monsters get special stats, however, modifying a typical entry. In actual play this seems like it would mean needing to write them both down in a combined stat list to facilitate play.

The art in the book is fantastic. It's very attractive, and like the originals, pictures a lot of special areas and encounters so you can just show people what they're seeing. I'd suggest supplementing them with the ones from the original modules if you have them, however.

In the conversion to D&D5, the numbers of foes often get reduced, sometimes dramatically. For example, there are 9 trolls in three connected areas in the the converted G3. In the original, there are 56 trolls in those three areas. Another area has 6 instead of 18. The sheer numbers you could deploy, and deal with, in AD&D are not the same in D&D5. I have no doubt those reduced numbers are still a challenge, but it's worth noting that this changes. Similarly, some monsters are downgrades - young hill giants fighting as orcs, not as ogres, stuff like that. They had to resort to some tricks to explain other things - such a dragon's lair becoming an extra-dimensional space to accommodate the physically muck larger dragons of D&D5.

Traps and treasure get downgraded a bit. Traps generally aren't the save-or-die, supra-tetanus of the 1st edition adventures and are usually more survivable. Or at less flat-out dependent on you having access to wishes and raise dead to undo your bad rolls. For treasure, that means some hoards are a bit smaller, magical plusses tend to be lower.

How is it for GURPS?

In a way I think the extra detail that comes with D&D5 (DCs for tasks, for example) and reduced numbers of foes makes them easier to convert to GURPS. Just add some magic to more of the encounters, make the monster tough by GURPS standards, and keep the reduced numbers (numbers are brutal in GURPS, too, in a way they aren't in AD&D) and have at it. The reduced but more detailed magical items suit GURPS DF in a way that the larger hoards of magic from AD&D don't quite.

Overall: I really enjoyed this one. The converted and updated adventures read almost exactly like the originals, they stay tight and focused, and they feel like the originals did. It was just a good read, and I really enjoyed reading the updates of the modules I knew by heart from my AD&D days and getting to look at ones I'd missed from after I stopped GMing D&D.

Recommended. Attractive and well done.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Megadungeon Best Practices XVI: the Usually Principle

I think one of the things that makes a dungeon work is a nice blend of safety and danger. Much of the time you're safe, interspersed with extreme danger. If it's dangerous all of the time, you really have no incentive for either moving ahead or staying where you are and great incentives to just leave. Even S1 The Tomb of Horrors isn't dangerous 100% of the time in 100% of the places.

Equally, if you've got a mix of monsters, traps, empty spaces, etc. without a tie-in the players can't predict dangers ahead well enough to make informed choices. And without informed choices and expectations, you can't pull the old switcheroo of the helpful trap, friendly enemy, trick treasure, etc.

Something usually has to be the case to make the other cases remarkable, and something has to almost always be the case to make the other cases a surprise.

I've started to think of this as the "Usually Principle." It's not a great name, but it's how it sticks in my consciousness while I stock my dungeon. It's something that's fairly obvious, but also easy to forget when you're putting in traps, monsters, "trick" areas, etc. without considering the expectations you've laid out. This is how I've learned it applies to my megadungeon.

The Usually Principle

In order to take advantage of player expectations to make something surprising or remarkable, you have to establish the norm first.

If you want friendly monsters to be remarkable, then monsters usually need to be hostile.

If you want the dungeon to feel like a big, mostly empty place with pockets of danger and reward, areas the PCs explore need to be usually empty.

Trapsare remarkable when they are occasional, because corridors and rooms and doors are usually not trapped.

No Mana Zones and No Sanctity Zones are remarkable when magic usually works well everywhere.

You can cluster things - an area of friendly monsters, a themed trapped area, and area of safety - in order to make them more predictable and reverse this principle. Themes are good. And things can be reversed - S1 The Tomb of Horrors is a good example of an area where things are usually trapped, D3 Vault of the Drow an area where monsters are usually not hostile (if you've taken basic steps to ensure that), town is a place that is usually safe, etc. The exceptions become noteworthy, and are more likely to take you by surprise and feel more rewarding if you encounter them.

It's tempting to put down the numbers from Pareto's Principle here, 80-20, but that's just trying to attach a basic design goal to specific numbers just because they're out there. It doesn't need to be that specific, and it works better if the players don't suspect there is a specific number they can reverse-engineer.

Ultimately I've found that's worth keeping in mind that you need a lot of one thing before the exception is remarkable, and almost entirely one thing before the other thing is surprising. If 50% of doors are trapped, then expect 100% of doors to be checked for traps. If it's more like 20%, players might start to get lulled. If it's more like 1%, "I check for traps" will fade long before they open that one trapped door.

Corollary: Rules Before Exceptions - in principle, it's better to expose people to the general, typical case before they run into the unusual case. The friendly troll is more interesting when you've met the typical, unfriendly trolls before that encounter. The mimic works best when you've opened chests and listened at doors for a while that weren't mimics. The weak dragon is interesting when you've fought strong dragons before and can sense your advantage here. Generally - there are exceptions, and if they're telegraphed properly they can work. But if you usually lead with the exception, the normal ones will seem bland when encountered and the exceptional ones won't have the impact you want.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

GURPS and the SJG Stakeholder Report

My main interest in the SJG Stakeholders report is GURPS. Let's look at what it says about GURPS:

"Dungeon Fantasy - Our Kickstarter project to create a GURPS introductory box set has run into more troubles and derailments than we would like. A game that was meant to go to the printer before the end of 2016 is still clogging our pipeline and causing constant distractions. The project was not as far along in the process as it should have been, and miscommunication regarding the game components ballooned our costs. At the moment, barring a miracle, what would have been a profitable project is rapidly turning into a loss. This is becoming an ongoing problem for GURPS projects (see Discworld and Mars Attacks, below, under Failures)."


Double Ugh.

I'm not shocked, based on this Kickstarter update.

I don't really have any secret inside insight - I'm a freelancer, not staff. I do know Sean Punch really well, though, and know he's working himself to the very limit on this project. It's actually pretty upsetting as his friend to read about this kind of problem with the project.

The project will come to fruition, but it's not good for GURPS and no help to RPGs if this gets more and more expensive and costs the company more and more money to do it. Instead of expanding GURPS it could potentially contract it.

Again, no inside knowledge here. I repeat that because sometimes people equate "GURPS book author" with "company insider" and nothing could be further from the truth.

"Discworld and Mars Attacks - We published two new GURPS hardcover books late last year. GURPS fans celebrated, and the books turned out well, but their disappointing performance further supported the unfortunate realization that sales are no longer strong enough to make traditional distribution work for GURPS hardcovers. Today's cluttered market, combined with our insistence on getting it right, made both books expensive experiments that tell us one thing: Do not produce more GURPS hardcovers until we have guaranteed that the sales are there. Does this mean more crowdfunding for GURPS? Maybe! But until we see the retail sales of Dungeon Fantasy, we're holding off on any more printed GURPS releases. PDFs will continue, and we'll revisit the question of "print GURPS?" later this year."

My concern with this is that Discworld and Mars Attacks are interesting GURPS hardcover books, but they're both kind of niche. I'm sure Discworld is beautiful, and what I saw of it in playtest was excellent. But it's Discworld. If you aren't into Discworld, it's not really going to be something you want just because you play GURPS.

Mar Attacks, even more so. I'm interested in it, because I think it's kind of neat. But not enough to pre-order one from a so-called FLGS (Friendly Local Gaming Store) or a bookstore. I checked my loyalty card for what used to be the most local gaming store to me - one down the block from my MMA school. Last time I went was May 2015. The last time before that was November 2014 (possibly 2013 - when I came in that May they made a point of putting the year on it because we weren't sure.) My FLGS is

So the conclusion seems to be tha two niche hardbacks didn't sell very well, so GURPS books in general won't sell. It's frustrating. I felt some of that frustration when the call for pre-orders went out; these aren't books I need and I need my money more than books unless they make my immediate game better.

Overall, I'm happy they actually mentioned GURPS in more than in passing. I'm unhappy with the news about the line and the assessment of the line but I am glad to get actual news. I'm glad they'll make sure the DFRPG comes out - I've never had a boxed set with my name in the credits. I'll do what I can to make the DFRPG successful, because DF is the kind of GURPS book I want to how SJG make.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Steve Jackson Games 2016 Stakeholder's Report is up

SJG put up the latest Stakeholder's Report. For now, here is the link:

2016 Stakeholder's Report

I'll put up some commentary when I have time to sit and type a bit.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Clarification on "First Time Always Works"

I got some nice feedback and commentary on my First Time Always Works post.

I do have some clarifications about it.

It has to be possible or probable.

In other words, this ruling approach wouldn't say "Anything you think of works the first time." It's a "tie always goes to the players" or "edge cases are always in your favor" or "Maybe means yes" rule. It's not a "Yes to everything the first time" rule.

It can't change the facts on the ground.

Again, it's edge cases. Perhaps this time you sharpen a silver coin and tie it to a stick and it works as an arrow against the lycanthrope. But you can't just throw a coin at the lycanthrope and except it'll die, or say, "I've heard they are also vulnerable to gold pieces" and use gold instead. You're getting the favorable bounce, not getting to change the world.

Impulse Buys works, if you have players that use them.

Mine wouldn't spend a character point on a fleeting gain, no matter how critical that fleeting gain is. And I haven't gotten into handing out impulse point pools. So I didn't even go there. But yes, if you're using Impulse Buys, the GM is within this rule by asking you to pay to invoke it.

Significant difference matters.

"We did the jumping off the cliff and half-falling with Levitate and it worked that one time, so let's do it this time with Flight. Or "Last time we did that, it was everyone in the party. This time it's half of the party, so that's not the same thing." Pretty much as soon as there is a last time, that sets the outside limit of precedence.

The GM can still say no.

This is critical. Again, it's edge cases. It's, "I'm okay with that happening in the world." The GM can still say no. It's the basis for a ruling, not a contractual agreement to say yes. It's more player-limiting then player-enabling, in a way, but provides an understanding of what those limits actually are.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Ruling idea: First time always works

Just thinking about a rules idea, prompted by Denis McCarthy's examples in the comments in this post on AD&D Chargen.

He mentioned using Feather Fall to carry an entire party down a cliff or other drop. I thought about this - it's the kind of thing you would expect would take coordination. If you're going to jump off a cliff holding onto a wizard, you'd probably want to practice that - the grabbing, the coordination of jumps, the timing of the spell casting, etc. etc. You'd want to put some time and effort into perfecting this potentially dangerous task.

Same with, say, timing a charge through an area with a fireball. You move, the fireball is thrown ahead and explodes, you move right in and hack and slash and slay the wounded fireball victims. Time that a bit wrong and it's not unlike untrained troops trying to charge in just behind a moving wall of artillery fire - they're either going to go in too fast and take fire too or too slow and miss out on the effect.

I just think, if you're going to do this stuff regularly, you'll need practice. It's not a given that if it can be done once, it can be done always just because you thought of it. Or because you're assuming you must be practicing this in your copious spare time between sessions.

At the same time, you get times when the party is backed up against a cliff and the wizard says, "Hey, I can have everyone grab me, we can jump off the cliff together, and 1/3 of the way down I can cast Feather Fall and we'll all land with no damage!" You'd want that to work. It's a crazy cool plan. You'll want that "I throw the fireball just ahead of him" plan that allows the PCs to pull off a coup de main or turn a potential TPK into a victory to work.

But you might have those reservations I have above - if I allow this once, does that means it's now a routine action that always works?

Stealing an idea from Discworld, maybe it only works because it's 1 in a 1,000,000 exactly. Maybe it only works that first time because, against all odds, you coordinate it just right under stress. That stuff happens - I still tell the story of winning a grappling match with a move I didn't know and still can't do well.*

So perhaps a good ruling basis would be, yes, your crazy plan works. Perhaps a roll for avoiding calamity ("Don't roll an 18" or "Don't roll a 1.") Otherwise, it's either "Yes" or "Yes, but" or "Yes, also." After that, though, it's subject to all of the if, ands, or buts of thinking it all through. Yes, you perfectly pulled off that cliff jumping to safety. Next time you try to coordinate five PCs doing the same thing there is a roll involved to see if you do it properly, unless you put in some in-game effort to justify making it routine. Next time you perfectly time that fireball, we'll apply this penalty I realized should have applies and just roll on the scatter chart for a miss and see what happens. And so on - you get the benefit of the doubt on your craziness or "it just might work!" plan, but you can't use that as settled precedent for it working in all cases even if easier than the first case.

I think some people would have trouble adjusting to this - especially if you're used to negotiating out "works now and forever" and not "now, we'll see about later." Yet I think it's got promise. It nicely severs the relationship between the worry about allowing something now and then seeing the consequences later, rewards trying new things (the less precedent against it, the more likely it's going to work this one time), and keeps things moving. In my case I'd be less likely to worry that I've just allowed a game-breaking change. Or that I'd turned a ruling meant to keep things moving and reward your cleverness into the basis of all action going forward. "We do the Feather Fall thing over and over until the entire army is down the cliff."

I like the idea of making this a standing, known goal when making rulings - I'm probably going to say yes, but it's likely that it's not precedent. I'm saying you try the cool thing that should probably take a lot of time, effort, learning, practice, etc. and everything just worked out this time under stress. If you want to repeat it, and it seems like it should be harder than it was, that's something we've agreed to. Instead of just saying "No!" because I'm concerned about where it would lead I could say "Yes!" because I know it doesn't have to lead anywhere. It might be precedent, it might just be a one-off set of accidentally perfect circumstances and execution.

* My coach talked me through it in real time, against an opponent who could hear his words as well as I could. Imagine his chagrin when I couldn't pull it off even once properly in practice after that.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

When is the next Felltower session?

As I've mentioned before, scheduling has killed us for gaming this year so far.

Looking ahead, we've got two game sessions on tap before the next Felltower:

- 20th Homeland / Gamma Terra (GURPS), as we try to go and see what they grow up at the Robot Farm and (hopefully) make friends with whoever is up there.

- Part II of White Plume Mountain (AD&D), as additional PCs roll in after the 60%+ casualties inflicted by their weakened state the terrors of Keraptis's dungeon.

Only after those two will we have time for Felltower.

This probably means a session in May sometimes for Felltower.

In the dungeon this means some restocking and reinforcing, naturally, but not a whole lot - I did those passes already recently and the place is ready to play. It does possibly mean some of the alertness that was sparked by the PCs has receded. Who really can keep their attention up, or alertness up, when the intruders haven't returned in a couple of months?

Permanent changes have been made of course. Destroyed doors generally stay destroyed, traps that were set in response to PC actions stay there unless triggered (there is always a chance something else blundered into them), dead monsters generally stay dead. Regular conditions will come up - the orcs keep blocking tunnels and will probably keep blocking tunnels, even if only because of circular actions by themselves and the PCs.*

The dungeon is therefore mostly ready to go. I'll need to do one pass over it and see what could/should/might have changed and dice and decide for that. I'll need to print out an updated roster for foes.

And then I'll just wait for the next time we can play. And see what I can do about clearing out my Sundays better in the future!

* The orcs block the tunnels to keep out the PCs. The PCs dig out the tunnels to get at the dungeon parts they want to explore and kill the orcs for blocking the tunnels. Therefore, logically, the orcs realize they need more and better blocking to keep out those murderous adventurers who keep killing them. That just makes the PCs angrier. Repeat, repeatedly.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Whose game is it, GM or Players? Both.

For a while I've been meaning to sit down and post one of the lessons I've learned from gaming as long as I have.

The Christopher Rice went and encapsulated that lessons in his latest Gamemaster's Guidepost article.

It's basically this: it's not the GM's game. It's not the players' game. It's the GM's and the players' game.

We tend to discuss campaigns as if they belong to the GM. Peter's game. Chris's game. Gary's game. That guy at the hobby shop's game.

But you'll get people who say, no, it's not the GM's game. It's the players' game. If you as the GM think it's your game, you're doing something wrong.

But honestly, it's everyone's game. The GM has to enjoy running it enough to put in all of the effort needed for a good game. The players need to enjoy it enough to keep showing up and put in the effort to make it fun for themselves and others. If either is lacking the joy of their part of the enterprise, it's going to end sooner or (perhaps rather than) later.

Once I really got this lesson deep down, my gaming became better overall. We all have different roles around the table, but it's meant for the enjoyment of everyone. If you put the players' enjoyment ahead of the GMs, or the GM's enjoyment ahead of that of the players, I think you're headed down the "end sooner rather than later" road.

And that's it. It's everyone's game.

Friday, April 7, 2017

AD&D White Plume Mountain Initiative

Running White Plume Mountain, I ran into the issue of the rather complex AD&D initiative system.

I'd downloaded documents like the ADDICT PDF and a by-the-book flowchart for initiative. It's complex. I didn't need complex. It has features that aren't always helpful but can be decisive in very specific situations (weapon length, weapon speed factors.) It has stuff spread all over a number of pages.

I wanted a pretty simple system, but one that didn't depend on arbitrary rules ("Missile Fire Phase" or "No Spells after Melee Begins" or such as that). I also really do like segments as a concept. My favorite initiative system for Rolemaster assigned points to activities and you'd use them to line up who did what, when. Ironically that system didn't go far enough - it had the basis of an overlapping phased system that would like like an overall-round-free version of Champions 1st edition. But it had the effect that not all things took the same time, and starting a long action too soon before someone took a short, opposing action could mean they got to you first.

In any case, I looked at OSRIC and decided it had something to recommend it, but needed tweaking. Here is what I ended up using:

First Round Only:
0) Determine Surprise. Roll 1d for your own side. If the result is a 1, the group is surprised for one segment. If the result is a 2, the group is surprised for two segments. If the result is a 3-6, the group is not surprised. [Segments count as a full round during surprise for melee attacks, but count as normal segments for missile fire or spells, Dexterity Adjustments reduce surprise segments 1:1]

All Rounds:
1) Declare Spells and Actions (For example, cast Fireball, attack in melee, flee, etc.)
2) Determine Initiative (Each side rolls 1d for the other side’s initiative. Each party acts in the segment indicated by the other side’s roll.)
3) Party with Lower Segment Roll Goes (Resolve PC actions clockwise around the table, results take effect immediately. Side without initiative can get specific reactions – hitting fleeing characters, receiving a charge with spears, etc. Spells take effect on the segment indicated by the casting time, even if that’s after the other side. If it’s the same time, flip a coin to see if you get the spell off before anyone attacks you.)
4) Party with Higher Segment Roll Goes (As #3, but for the side with lower segment roll)
Repeat until the battle is over.

Note: Spells are automatically spoiled by a hit during casting. Spoiled spells are used up just as if the spell was successfully cast.

Note: Unlike AD&D, we will not split multiple attacks up into before-and-after initiative attacks. Especially for 3/2, this means every other round we need to remember a second attack AFTER everyone has gone. Instead we’ll treat it as one action.

Then I just set times to do anything - pretty much, 1 segment for any given action. Swap weapons? 1 Segment. Put away your shield and mace, and take out your staff and attack? 3 segments (Put away shield, put away mace, ready and attack with staff). So if your initiative was 4, you'd actually get to go on 7.


In actual play, though, I ended up rolling surprise for the other side. I still don't love 1 = 1, 2 = 2, 3+ = 0 but it's simple. Reaction adjustments can negate (or prolong) surprise, but since we're rolling by sides for initiative they don't affect which segment you go on.

Declaring actions ahead of time is something we've done in other games, so it wasn't a new concept to the players. It worked very well - people didn't spend a lot of time trying to decide their best option for right now, because they didn't know what the situation will clearly be when they actually get to go. Maybe the bad guys will be killed by people before them in the order. Maybe the bad guys will force their hand by fleeing or using spell-like powers. You just choose what you hope to do and then we resolve it as your turn comes up. It certainly pushes the pace nicely and encourages finding and memorizing 1 segment spells you can use during combat.

In retrospect, you don't need to set this up with rolling the other side's initiative number. You could simply roll your own side's, and hope for a low roll. It wouldn't materially change things except you'd be excited by a 1 and disappointed with a 6, not the other way around. I may change this for next session and say, roll your own

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Gaming in the Classroom underway

So at long last I'm getting to use RPGs in the classroom again.

I have a solo young student who particularly needs speaking practice, yet has a solidly high level of English. So I've introduced him to RPGs. It's kind of the perfect tool for the job - his challenge is finding the English words to express what he's trying to express. Give him a paper man, and have try to solve the paper man's problems with his words and some dice.

So I made up a character using GURPS Lite.

The system is simple enough - roll low to accomplish things, roll high for effect. Four stats. Four secondary characteristics. A few skills. A way to roll for skills you don't know.

His guy is a warrior in a generic TL3 world which may or may not be the same one with Felltower on it.

We didn't have a lot of time. I made three mistakes:

- I forgot to do any prep until right before class. I remembered to bring my stuff, but I really did need a little more prep. I'm not sure he noticed but it would have been more smooth if I had more than just a character and a rough idea.

- I should have just started off playing with less explanation.

- I gave him his character sheet all at once instead of revealing stats and elements as needed.

I decided I'd make it a fantasy game, start him off as a prisoner (make him focus on what to do, not what he has) and let him escape from a simple area. Once that's done,

The situation was that he's a warrior-scout who wants to be a great and famous warrior, and he and some other men were scouting the borderlands where the orcs live. They were attacked and he was knocked out. When he came to, he was a prisoner in a 10 x 10' cell and shackled to the floor, and an orc told him he'd be back later. We started there.

(I started him as a prisoner as I figured he'd be less likely to play "find the thing to roll against" given that he had nothing to try and use. I was right.)

He quickly searched around, making a Search roll, and examined the shackle. He found the shackle was meant for his ankle but they'd clamped it around his wrist. He said he wanted to try and work it free. A default Escape roll taught him about trying things you don't know how to do, he made it, and he got free.

(I had decided on these details as I described the room. I was pleased with how quickly he went from "What on this sheet is the answer?" to "Check everything around me and try stuff that makes logical sense." And how well he expressed the idea in English, which is the entire point of the exercise.)

He moved to the bar-windowed wooden door and decided to kick it open. I pointed out that he could do this but it would be noisy - still okay?

No! He decided to listen at the door, and quietly check if it was locked. He heard nothing, and it was locked . . . but peering through the keyhole he could see a snoozing orc guard with the keys on a stool just across from the hall.

That's where we ended. He's got a couple weeks to think it over, and I told him we'd spend 10-15 minutes on this each class if he's finished his other work. Given that he's an enthusiastic and hard worker, that should be no issue.

I figure I'll let him escape from the (small) orc-held fortress and then let him go on adventures with some hired help or recruited soldiers at his side. Maybe I'll use S1 In Search of the Unknown*, or a modified Caravan of Ein Arras, or just make up my own small dungeon or outdoor area to explore.

Oh, and because I get lost in GMing just like players get lost in gaming, I ended up running a bit long. It was like, "What do you do? Oh, wait, think it over until next time, class ended a while ago." Next time I'll keep it tighter. Fun, though, and it's a place and student for whom I think gaming is really ideal.

I briefly considered S&WL or even D&D5, but I decided those would take more explanation than GURPS Lite does given pregenerated characters. Besides, I could run it with no books, no lookups, no nothing - and it's about speaking practice more than gaming. The fragile lethality of S&WL and the complexity of character details of D&D5 seemed like they could get in the way of him getting the speaking practice I want.

Fun, and we'll see how it goes. You may see more updates on this as long as I can easily file off the details enough to avoid any privacy issues.

* Speaking of which, what the heck edition is that for? My two copies, 1st and 2nd edition, are for Basic Set. Yet both feature a Dwarf (race-as-class) with 18/54 Strength, which is an AD&D or OD&D Greyhawk feature (where Dwarf is a race but not a class.) What the?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Mail Call: DCC & Yawning Portal

These two books came in the mail yesterday:

I'd been meaning to get a reference copy of DCC for a while, and I found an inexpensive softcover version. It's still got all I like (crazy magic, amusing setting, interesting mechanics to read up on) and what I don't (contradictory statements, no treasure system.) I'd forgotten just how big it is. It takes up nearly as much space as two D&D 5th edition books and it's the same size across as the GURPS Basic Set hardbacks! Good stuff, though, and it deserves a spot on the shelf if only for its unique twist as a retro-derived system.

Yawming Portal is a fun read so far. Yes, I read White Plume Mountain first. It's a well-done conversion as far as I can tell. And of course Blackrazor, Whelm, and Wave are three of the four example sentient weapons in the 5th edition DMG. Heh.

I'm looking forward to reading the other ways, and it makes me very curious about the Dungeons of Dread version of WPM and the original versions of the other adventures I'm less familiar with. And I think I already see some stuff I can use in my GURPS DF game. Hurrah!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

AD&D Character Generation for White Plume Mountain

Here is how we generated our mid-level AD&D guys for White Plume Mountain.

What levels?

First things first, I needed to know what level people would need to be at.

WPM says it is for levels 5-10 on the cover. Inside, it's more specific:

"at the very least four and at most ten characters, with a combined total of 40 to 60 levels between them. A good party balance would be something like 40% fighters, 30% magic-users, 20% clerics and 10% thieves."
- WPM, p. 2

So I sat down and said, okay, what's the middle range of XP in that? Probably around 80K.

Then just to be sure, and just for the fun of it, I actually calculated the xp that would generate fighters, magic-users, clerics, and thieves at 5th and 10th levels, plugged them into a spreadsheet and weighted it by those 40/30/20/10 numbers.

In the end this came out in the 75,000-80,000 XP range. Heh. Eyeballing was good enough . I tried a few PCs and found that 80,000 would put some PCs right on the "I need 1 xp more" edge of a level, and with triple-classed demi-humans it would be a mess. So I went with 75K, after checking to make sure I wasn't causing any problems, and I said this to my players:

"Roll 4d, drop lowest, six times. Arrange in any order.
Do that for six sets.
Pick one.
You get 75,000 xp (so 37,500 each for 2 classes, 25,000 for 3 classes), yes you can get your Prime Requisite bonus as appropriate

HP are max at first level, then roll."

We actually ended up doing this for most of the group before a session of Felltower, as each person came in and wanted to try a "test set" of rolls. Why test? Just roll and write. We did most of the chargen in a relatively short amount of time, although it did eat into our game session a little.

I did end up modifying the instructions a little:

- no characters with two classes. It's just a big headache, for one, and then I'd need to allow people to hairsplit XP a bit to avoid a dual-classed PC who didn't have access to the first class's abilities yet.

- no Assassins, no evil characters, if only because we knew we'd have a paladin (and we did, although he had to miss the session) and we had another player who'd pretty much said he'd be a LG cleric or a paladin.

- I did say I'd allow a bard, but you'd have to three-way split the XP to do it - no using just enough for your fighter level, just enough for thief, rest in Bard. It's doable, though.

Otherwise, that put people between 6th level and 8th level, which multi-class characters generally one level behind (two classes) or two (three classes). That seemed about right given that we had between six and ten people who wanted to play. If everyone could make it, centered on 7th level would be fine, and if only six did, we'd still be closer to the top end, and I figured that was a slight handicap since they hadn't played AD&D in a long time (some never had) and the extra HP and spells would help buffer against the difficulty.


Gear was a different issue.

I said, unlimited mundane gear. Take as much as you want. However, only gear in the PHB. No "there are silver daggers, can all of my weapons be silver?" No, silver daggers, silver arrows. Otherwise, help yourself. By this level, you should have more money than you know how to spend on adventuring.

For magic items, I turned to Appendix P in the DMG on page 225-227. I had though of handing out a budget and a theoretical amount of money - like in C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness. But I decided that would take a lot of time and debate, get switched last minute as people rationalized a different choice as better, and might make for very lopsided decisions. Random was better, in my thinking. I almost picked a selection based on tournament PCs from similar level modules (which pretty much means the other S-series modules) but again, random seemed more fun. "I got plate +1 and a shield +1!" beats, "Okay, we should give the fighters all plate +1, and save this shield +1 for the druid because he's our backup healer and needs a better AC, and . . . "

So Appendix P. We calculated the percentages and rolled.

Let me tell you, it's hard to get a well-equipped party that way. We had an 8th level druid with three different +1 weapons and a 7th level fighter with nothing but a single +1 shield. The percentages seem high, but they really are not, and you can't even have a chance of a +2 item until you're above name level for most classes (except Rangers with chain armor and magic-users with magical daggers.) Druids get a lot of chances for different sorts of magic weapons and fighters get one chance at one. You can't even technically get a broadsword, two-handed sword, or bastard sword as a magic weapon because that's not listed.

What we did was honor those * and ** entries, but ignore the qualifies on sword types except for class restrictions.

I also assumed that the scroll % chances were rolled for each type of scroll based on the footnote about thieves. We further assumed that you'd get a number of potion rolls equal to the maximum number of potions.

I allowed PCs to pick the kind of scroll of protection they got, or any spells (although we rolled for levels.)

And then in the end, I gave the group some items and upgrades, specifically:

" 2 potions of healing (2d4+2)
- 1 potion of extra-healing (3d8+3)
- a single +2 weapon for one of your characters*
- an upgrade of any of your current magical weapons from +1 to +2**
- Bag of Holding (500 pound capacity)
- One each of Cloak and Boots of Elvenkind
- Wand of Negation (20 charges)
- Necklace of Adaptation

* Pick any one person.
** Pick someone who has a +1 weapon, make it +2 OR if you've got a cleric with a +1 weapon you can upgrade the cleric to a Staff of Striking (20 charges) instead of his +1 weapon.

Divide them up as you see fit."

When we got down to 5 players, I threw in an extra each of healing, extra-healing, and one chosen or randomly-rolled potion from the chart on DMG p. 227, and said that instead of a swap the cleric could just have a Staff of Striking in addition to anything he had.

Amusingly that Bag of Holding weighs 15 pounds empty. Geez. Who needs Detect Magic? "I grab that empty sack! Oof!" Plenty of "hand this to people, don't throw it to them" jokes abounded.

How was it?

I mentioned some above but:

- we ended up with about half the party in magical plate mail, and half the party in mundane armor.

- Urf Nightsoil ended up with Bracers of AC 6 and a Ring of Protection +2, giving him AC 2 with his Dex adjustment.

- two fighters ended up with 15 bolts +2. I love how there are no magic arrows on the list.

- I had to provide those +2 weapons because some monsters in AD&D need +2 weapons to hit, plus these guys are level 6-8, someone would have a +2 weapon by then.

- I needed to provide miscellaneous items by choice to avoid getting things too good (Wings of Flying, say, or a Rope of Climbing) or too useless in the adventure (enjoy this Wand of Wonder).

I picked items that seemed useful in the context of the adventure but weren't too tailored to it, and were likely pickups from the kind of things I'd hand out back in the day (or would hand out now.) The Wings of Flying and Rope of Climbing were specifically not on my list. Although the latter is fairly common, my players agreed after the session that had they had one everything would have been "How do we use the Rope of Climbing here to get around this?" or "Just use the Rope of Climbing!" instead of "How do we get past this obstacle?"

Replacement Characters

So last session, three characters were turned to frosted corpses and need replacement. The players have their six sets of rolls, and used one set - I told them to simply get the next set they want to use and use that to make their PC. XP will be the same, simply because it's easier to use what's gone before and because the adventure is going to be hard enough without being lower level.

Magic items would be rolled as before, even given the oddness that results, and I will probably give the new group one or two healing potions on top of that. Probably. We'll see.

If I could do it again . . .

I'd do chargen the same. It worked great. It was fun to do, it gave reasonable characters without either too high or two low scores, and made "roll then choose" compatible with "but I really want to run a _____." On top of that, you weren't assured of at least one 18 (I think no one had multiple 18s) and at least one player picked a stat set that lacked an 18 because they needed more prereqs for a given class.

Appendix P isn't so great, though. It gives you a potentially lavishly equipped (with +1 weapons) guy but until name level you aren't really getting anything impressive. Plus, you can get odd results and some of the reasoning isn't clear. I'm only using it again for replacement guys because everyone's characters will be on the same system.

Next time, I'd probably use the magic item tables for NPC parties on pg. 176. I'd probably roll percentage for each one - so a 6th level guy gets three 60% rolls for table I and two 40% rolls on table II. What you can get for gear there is more random, but also potentially more useful. I'd allow certain swaps (so a magic-user rolling Splint +4 on Table II could choose the Bracers of AC 4 instead) but otherwise, that might be good. Plus you can get some sweet stuff no sane GM would just hand to you but which probably would be fine in play anyway.

And that's how we ended up with our AD&D party.
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