Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Is megadungeon play really about exploration? (Part II, competition)

Yesterday I argued that in a treasure-based XP system, megadungeon play is about treasure more than exploration.

That is, you explore as needed to get treasure. You fight as needed to get treasure, too. I've often heard combat described as failure, or to be avoided at all costs, but honestly, that doesn't match with D&D and D&D-based systems as I've played them. Combat that nets you less benefit than it costs is a failure. Combat that nets you something you want and costs less than that's worth to you is a net benefit. It costs resources, sure, but so does everything else - light, healing, food, time, even logistical ability to bring out treasure is a limiting factor.

But it's treasure you want.

In other words, combat for combat's sake is a failure.
Exploration for exploration's sake is wasted.
Treasure found and recovered for any reason is success, regardless of if it is coupled with combat or exploration or not. 10,000 gp is 10,000 gp, whether it's in a heap in a corner of room 1 or hidden behind a series of secret doors down on a deep level guarded by demons.

But does this all change if there are other players in the dungeon, competing for access to that treasure? Does that fundamentally change the game to an exploration-based game where treasure is the reward for exploring?

I think no.

Rivals and competition certainly change the dynamic of a dungeon.

In a non-competitive game or single-party game, you can be a lot more relaxed about finding new sources of treasure. You can spend time exploiting loot until you need to move on to look for more.

In a competitive game, though, you could potentially miss out if you don't explore. Your main goal is still loot. But you're more driven to find things first - something not an issue where you're the only group doing so.

You might order a non-competitive game's priorities as:

1. Treasure. Find it and loot it, you need it to advance.
2. Combat. Kill things that are in the way of #1 or #3.
3. Exploration. Discover new areas to loot.

In a competitive game, my own experience of competition puts the priorities as:

1. Treasure. It's still the main goal.
2. Exploration. Being first has potentially great value.
3. Combat. It's to your benefit if your competition has monsters in their way.

Ultimately, then, I think competition just reframes the value of exploration. But only because the pressure to find and exploit treasure first and most makes it so. You can't be leisurely about exploiting finds - or exploring for finds - if you know another group may be more aggressively exploring. You won't spend time thinking, we need to wipe out those orcs/demons/dragons/eyes of death/whatever because they are a long-term risk. You'll be thinking, great, those orcs/demons/dragons/eyes of death/whatever make a great barrier to other groups, let's avoid them and find new places no one has been before "they" get their ahead of us.

Fear of missing out on new areas with new treasures seems like it would drive exploration's value up in a competitive game. Your goal is still identical, but this would become a more of a priority and more of a means you feel you must maximize.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Is megadungeon play really about exploration? (Part I)

Is megadungeon play about exploration? I've heard that it is. It seemed to be a truism back when I was reading material that caused me to launch a megadungeon-based game.

But how exploration-based is it?

A thought experiment

If you have three choices in front of you in a megadungeon . . .

- treasure in a known, already-explored area (guarded, unguarded, doesn't matter)

- a fight that doesn't have any treasure

- new areas to explore

. . . which do you choose?

In my games, you choose the treasure. If I was playing a D&D-based class-and-level system with treasure providing the bulk of the XP, I'd choose the treasure as well.

So my megadungeon game is not about fighting or exploration. It's about treasure.

Fighting is a means to get treasure.

Exploring is a means to get treasure.

If your game rewards exploration, and treasure is a nice thing to have because it enables more exploration, you'd probably explore more.

I'd argue that megadungeon play in a treasure-centered XP system isn't about exploration. You're doing that because it's required to get treasure. Meta-game wise, you're also doing it because it's fun - combat fits this as well. In the game, you fight because some fights are required for gaining treasure or can't be avoided in the process of gaining or finding treasure. Sometimes you fight because you're bored or annoyed or want to try out your spiffy new spell. It might be a bad choice. But then again, sometimes exploring is, too. "Let's just go back down this one corridor and see what's there" dropped my own PC deep down into the dungeon once.

If you wanted it to be about exploration, you could reward exploration directly with rewards - finding new things would give XP, and monsters and other combat encounters would be obstacles to overcome to get to new areas. Treasure could be a secondary objective, or not an objective at all - it might be its own reward as it gives you assets to expend on resources to use exploring.


Tenkar's original B-Team xp approach in the Castle of the Mad Archmage is a good example of a game where the megadungeon play was was heavily about exploration. PCs received an escalating amount of experience points for each new, numbered encounter area explored . . . and since it went up and up, you were driven to go "just one more room" because it was worth more than the previous room. Treasure was a major source of experience but the main XP came from exploration. We still sought treasure as much as possible and avoided fights (risky, least XP) - but we'd explore just to explore. Had Tenkar made treasure XP even smaller, we'd just have skipped known treasure for unknown rooms unless that treasure was trivial to get.


Does any of this change if there is more than one adventuring group exploring the dungeon? I have some thoughts that I'll post up tomorrow.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

DF Feltower: A New Axe for Raggi

So Raggi's axe was sold to fund his return from death.

What he lost was this:

• Dwarven Fine Greataxe (Accuracy +2, Puissance +2, Shatterproof), $49,400, 8 lbs.

It was sold for $19,760, and Resurrection cost $15,000. He has $4,760 plus around some loot money. Not enough for an enchanted axe, but plenty enough to order a pretty good one:

• Balanced Dwarven Fine Ornate Silvered Greataxe, $2,100, 8 lbs.

"Ornate" isn't strictly necessary, but it's only $100 (+1 CF) for a +1, and it'll look nice.

He doesn't have the $10,600 it would cost for a giant spider silk cloth shirt, but he probably needs it for the 2 additional DR. Getting Puissance +1 on his axe for $5,000 is more of a priority.

It's really a shame his magic greataxe is gone. That - like the treasure horde and monster that guarded it - was an exact clone of an encounter from my version of the Forgotten Realms "Dungeon of Death" from my long-running GURPS 1e-converted-to-3e-revised game. It's even the inspiration for a magic item in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Denizens: Barbarians!

Oh well, it's gone now. Perhaps this new axe can carve its own legend.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Player die rolls/details I watch - and the ones I don't

I take a pretty hands-off approach as a GM for a lot of PC details in my game.

For other details, I take an extremely hands-on approach.

I think this says a lot about how I run game.

Hand-On

These things, I pay close attention to.

Die Rolls - There is a short list of die rolls I watch. As in, I stand up and watch the players make the roll. They are:

- Resistance Rolls

- "To Hit" rolls

- Death checks

- Knockdown/Stunning and Consciousness rolls

- success rolls with real, critical and immediate effects

Sometimes I'll watch other ones - almost any other ones - especially if it's dramatically important or really fun (like damage rolls when someone is doing extra damage, or rolling lots of dice such as an 18d missile spell.) A lot of these I watch because of modifiers, margin of success concerns, or to make sure players are rolling against the right number in a critical situation.

Point Totals. I track point totals, XP earned, and advantages, disadvantages, skills, etc. in GCA. If my notes disagree with the players, it's on the players to show I'm wrong. Generally, I'm not, as I'm meticulous about tracking them and doing the point totals in a specific, repeatable way.

Session participation. I write the summaries, so I've got close notes on who was at what game, with what PC, with roughly the right character point total when they participated.

Otherwise:

Hands-Off

Die Rolls - basically every die roll not listed above, I don't bother to look at. It's not that I don't care, it's just that only the results really matter to me. Defense rolls, damage rolls in most situations, spell casting rolls, healing rolls for potion effects, etc. - the players do that. I don't even look. I often find out after it's all over. "Okay, my guy is up and around." Me: "Wasn't he just like 2 HP from -5xHP?" "Yeah, but I roll X, Y, and Z on my healing potions." Me: "Oh, nice! Okay, you're up and around." I don't even look over the screen unless I feel like the roll might be entertaining.

Equipment - I track some gear for the PCs - mostly armor and weapons, just so I have a handy way of telling them damage and and DR and making sure it's added up correctly or modified correctly (or quickly!) when modified by magic. Other gear? Up to the players. I trust them with our very simple, elegant encumbrance system.*

Sometimes gear gets lost - "What ever happened to that ____________?" If you don't know, don't ask me. I don't know. Maybe it's on some PC that doesn't play anymore. Maybe you sold it. Maybe it's lost in the dungeon. In any case, it's gone.

Money falls in the same category.

Energy - players are in charge of dealing with energy costs, spells on, recovery, using Pool A to recharge buddies's Pool B to min-max the recovery rules to finish up 1 minute faster and avoid a Wandering Monster roll, whatever. They do that. I couldn't even tell you how they do it except that when I ask, it's accurate and detailed.

Everything else, really - Besides those specific examples, I don't really track much for the PCs. The players do that. They do it well enough. The game setting is fairly adversarial, but we aren't. I trust them with their roll.





* Also known as "add up the weight in pounds." Heh. Sorry, I know a lot of people love alternate encumbrance systems, but real-world measures is just so easy for me and works well in play.



Friday, November 17, 2017

Golden Swordsmen and Goldcat minis

The gold cat is a TSR Star Frontiers megasaurus:



To make it a magical, interesting, special creature I wanted a non-standard non-earthly color. I pretty much painted that one up gold because, well, why not.

Once that was done, I put it in storage and kept it in mind.


Then I got around much later to painting the golden swordsmen.





The golden swordsmen are I-Kore Flesh Eaters. I got them because I thought they looked fairly Githyanki or Githzerai-ish.


They're intended to be undead but don't look rotted. So I used a paint scheme that made them look like the cover of the Fiend Folio with its Githyanki - gold, yellow, brown.



Once they were in-process I realized they'd match up well with the golden cat. I started to think of a synergistic set of abilities and powers and you end up with deaf/mute warriors with a "pet" with sound-based attack powers.

I'm quite happy with these guys. They had stayed half-painted for a long, long time until I just suddenly rushed and finished them. For all the rush might have detracted from the minis, I think it forced me to paint better and not second-guess my color scheme. Brown, gold, and yellow is a tough combo but they look good on the table.





Thursday, November 16, 2017

GURPS books on RPG Now

This is pretty big news, disguised as small news. GURPS books are now available electronically on RPGNow, not just on Warehouse23.

You can find the full list of them here:



This includes all of the books that are sold as POD (Print on Demand) on Amazon.com and Createspace and pretty much everything else.

Might I suggest starting with a copy of GURPS Martial Arts?




By the way, amusingly, RPGNow only displays for me in Francais. I don't know why, but oddly, it doesn't really affect my experience.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Mo has Dodge what now?

Mo's player mentioned that Mo (his momma call him Kle) has Dodge 14.

How is that, exactly?

Pretty simple:

Speed 6 gives a base Dodge of 9.
No Encumbrance is -0.
Combat Reflexes is +1 to all Active Defenses, for a 10.

He carries a Medium Shield (DB 2), for a 12.

And he has Extra Option (Beefcake Protection), giving him a +2 for full nudity, for a 14.

So Mo's shield-enhanced Dodge is 14.

It makes him hard to hit, and his natural DR makes him hard to hurt with minor attacks, which is how he survives in combat even with Committed Attack as his base move, which drops his Dodge to a more-reasonable 12.

Still, 12 means he succeeds more than he fails.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

DF Felltower, Session 94, Felltower 67 - Golden Swordsmen

We played our latest session of Felltower on Sunday. For general links and previous sessions, please the DF Campaign page.

November 12th, 2017

Weather: Cold.

Characters:
Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (255 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (302 points)
     5 skeletons (~25 points)
Hayden the Unnamed Knight, human knight (255 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (330 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (143 points)
     Antonios, Demitrios, and Leonidas of Meepos, human spearmen (125 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (352 points)
Raggi Ragnarsson, human berserker (?? points)

We started in Stericksburg as usual. The plan was to move down to the bottom of the giant spiral staircase and explore "the nicer area" ("Not that area with the noisy neighbor." - aka the Lord of Spite). The group was able to locate the Meeposian brothers for the delve, as well as Raggi to bulk out their ranks.

The PCs dragged the bridge up to the castle and stashed it outside with their winter clothes, and climbed the walls and went down through the metal trap door. They wound their way around the first level and found their chosen way to the stairs down blocked by spidewebs. There was a clear tunnel in it. Mo tried to shoot an arrow into the web tunnel to get the spider to come out. It wouldn't. So they advanced with Hayden holding a torch to set the webs on fire. A humongous spider rushed out and was quickly slain by Mo and Hjalmarr and Hayden. As they burned up the webs Gerry cast Zombie on the spider and added him to his trail of undead. Mo collected an egg sac and plotted using it to plant near the orcs so they'd have to deal with a lot of spiders.

They headed down to the next level, hurrying past the stirge-choked hallway and to the stairs. They dropped the egg sac just around a corner near the stairs and opened up the door.

Beyond it was an ooze!

The ooze rushed out and snapped a stinging pseudopod out at Hjalmarr. Mo rushed up to hit it. So did Hayden. Ahenobarbus started to get out an alchemist's fire a moment later. The ooze kept attacking, moving in close, sizzling away armor, and dodging attack after attack. The PCs hit it fairly often, but couldn't seem to make much headway - weapons passed through it with little effect (aside from taking corrosion damage!). Mo was hit once or twice and resisted its poison but had his skin scaled by its corrosion attack. Ahenobarbus hit it with alchemist's fire, almost - it dodged and got caught in the splash damage. (The original plan was "stick in it and Mo will hit it" which showed I didn't describe the ooze well, everyone assumed it was like a giant enveloping slime, which is more gelatinous.) The ooze burned with the fire a little bit, but easily moved out of the burning area. It was eventually hit with more alchemist's fire and hit a lot, and quivered . . . and split into two!

The two smaller oozes fled, one down the stairs and the other up the wall and away. Ike tried a Sunbolt but missed.

The PCs took stock of their damage and wiped the ooze's slimy gunk off of their weapons and armor. They needed to go down, and the ooze was going to be there.

They moved down the stairs, single file, and watched for the ooze. It eventually rushed them out of the darkness. Mo slammed an alchemist's fire near it (on it, but it dodged) and the stairs were afire. They kept hacking at it and it kept Dodging when it could and stinging back.

Gerry Levitated a skeleton out into the air, and found it wasn't a NMZ. So he did the same to himself and while Invisible moved up to the ooze. He tried to hit it with his staff with Deathtouch but it dodged. He tried again and hit. That seemed to do it - the ooze broke up and dribbled away. Was it the blow, or the spell? It seemed like it was the spell, but they're not sure. They'll need to experiment more.

They finally got to the bottom, weapons and armor seriously damaged by the ooze, and knowing another was on the loose elsewhere. Someone remarked it would have been better to open the door and find the Lord of Spite waiting.

Once at the bottom they carefully headed to the "apartment complex" where they'd found colored doors and a golden statue on a trapped pedestal.

This time they investigated the door with a face on it. They could see a handle in the mouth, and a keyhole. The door wouldn't budged when pushed, so they had Gerry cast Lockmaster on it. It clicked, unlocked. One of Gerry's skeletons tried the door - and it bit off its fingers!

No one could fit a gloved hand inside, so they had Mo try it. It bit his fingers but the door opened, and he was able to pull his fingers out of the mouth bloody but not seriously injured (he has a lot of DR from being a Shirtless Savage.) Inside they found a pedestal with a red leather book with a face on it, just like on the door. Gerry moved up to investigate it and it leaped up and bit him, biting off his three middle fingers on the right hand! They managed to rip the book off and pin it to the floor. Mo decided it needed to be his shield mount, so he and Hjalmarr started to pin the book to his shield with a hammer and iron spikes nailed into a rough frame. They banged away, enough to keep them from hearing the approach of booted feet!

They were rushed from behind by six gold-skinned swordsmen holding weird, thick clubs/swords with razor edges. The Meeposian brothers held the line and the swordsmen advanced . . . and revealed a giant scaled cat-like critter. It roared at the group, a road that turned into a deafening BOOOOOOOOOM. It coughed a sonic attack that hurt anything that could hear (I ruled, though, the spider counted but not the skeletons) and deafened and stunned most of the group. The swordsmen attacked.

The PCs fought back, uncoordinated due to stunned fighters, close quarters, and being deaf so they couldn't talk to one another. As quickly as they could, Hjalmarr and Mo got up and moved to the fray. Hayden and Ahenobarbus beat them there. Gerry put Great Haste on himself and then began to methodically put it on everyone else, starting with Ahenobarbus. As one of the Meeposian brothers dropped, Ahenobarbus stepped up and cut down his attacker. Moments later he was cut down and knocked unconscious by a blow from a weird golden falchion. Raggi moved up and eventually found his way forward even as the big golden cat-like thing roared a second time and stunned him and more of the PCs. The tight corridor made the roar dangerous to everyone and unavoidable, and the PCs had trouble moving up past their friends.

Eventually the PCs were able to force their way through, especially since their foes kept using space to Retreat and step back up, allowing the PCs to follow. They did, moving around the Meeposian brothers - one down, one stunned, and one wounded - and engaging their foes. Hjalmarr went for the big cat but was held off by the swordsmen.

Soon, though, the PCs pushed the swordsmen back. Mo smashed one down with his morninstar, Hjalmarr wounded one with his axe, and the cat-thing roared again. This time Gerry was stunned, too. The golden swordsmen kept getting forced back, and another went down a few seconds after Mo injured it.

Then problems struck the golden swordsmen backed down three different corridors. Hjalmarr went around the party's left to reach the cat, and it bit him and held on after he crippled his own arm with a Critical Miss on a parry. He desperately tried to wrench free but didn't make much headway. Hayden and one of his foes both cut themselves with critical failures around this time. And Raggi followed a cagey fighter with a DBZ haircut who kept parrying his attacks and then slashing the now-berserk axeman twice a second.

Then as another swordsman went down, Hjlamarr suddenly felt a strike into his back - for once, he didn't check his flank (and his spiffy new greathelm, a loaner from Vryce, wouldn't have helped him here). It turned out that six more swordsmen were rushing in. Hjalmarr kept announcing that "I'm not left handed!" but they didn't seem to care (later examination showed them to likely be deaf, and definitely mute.)

From there the fight turned into a slugfest. Hayden took out the cat with a massive skull chop. Mo charged out and attacked the new wave of attackers even as Hjalmarr spun, fought briefly and then dropped unconscious (missed by 1 due to a -1 thanks to Unfit, acquired as part of his partly-funded Resurrection). Mo began to clean up, however. Even as he was chopped over and over, Mo managed to Dodge attacks, rolled a few timely 3s and another critical hit on skull blows, and kept smashing golden swordsmen headless. Hayden fought off three but mistakenly stayed a little too close and was enagaged simultaneously by two and wounded badly. He'd drop unconscious his next turn.

Raggi kept swinging, but basically needed a critical to get past the defenses of his foe and couldn't get one. He hit -5xHP from a tough series of blows and dropped, dead.

Mo turned the tide, however, smashing down swordsman after swordsman. His morninstar was tough for them to Parry and he made it tough to Dodge and eventually wore them down. Ahenobarbus was fed potions by Gerry, by now invisibly up in the front, and healed by Ike and then hit with Awaken until he got up. He wasn't able to get back in the fight. The final swordsman dropped - even as it had attacked one on many.

But Mo didn't snap out of being berserk. He turned and had a choice - a Meeposian brother or a skeleton. He hit the skeleton, since Mo loves smashing skulls. He shattered it. Gerry cancelled his Great Haste as Mo went after Leonidas. Mo was blcoked. He went to kill again but finally snapped out of it.

With the foes dead, the PCs quickly woke up Hayden and set him to guard (with some funny pantomime by the PCs, who are really getting into roleplaying deafness). Ahenobarbus was furious at getting knocked out, so he went around stabbing. He noted they seemed to have some protective skin or shield while awake, but were perfectly normally fleshy while unconscious. The PCs looted the bodies, and then carefully checked and looted the nearby rooms with colored, but open, doors. They took a necklace festooned with tiny golden heads like this:



along with a map, jewelry from the bodies (all gold, hard to spot against their gold skin), an odd whetstone (which turned out to be for the weird swords), and some healing potions. One was wearing bracelets which turned out to be Bracers of Force, claimed by Ahenobarbus.

They got out of there after Gerry cast Zombie on the big cat-thing (he has Huge Subjects 2 on Zombie) to help haul bodies. They took a golden corpse with them, as well, to find out more about them.

They returned to town. Raggi didn't have any more money saved up, or at least handy, so Raggi's magical axe was sold to raise money to pay for his successful Resurrection.

***

So this is the second time in two delves that Raggi was slain. This time it cost him his fine dwarven enchanted greataxe, sold to raise the cash to Resurrect him. It's not clear what's next - he can downgrade to a normal axe (and will), but he does show his limits a bit. He pretty much needed to critically hit a foe or wildly change his tactics - neither happened, and he was diced up by a single golden swordsman. He's still a viable character, but he'll be much weaker (skill 13 on his Trademark Move, at least 3 damage less on each swipe) and no better equipped to deal with defensively-strong foes while berserk. And he's totally broke beyond the net proceeds of selling his main weapon and getting raised. He can probably afford a pretty good axe, but that's it.

The ooze fights were both pretty painful. The only weapons the PCs had that aren't nerfed against Diffuse creatures were vials of alchemist's fire. I described them later as a $100 bandaid for not having Explosive or Area spells. Beating oozes to death is possible but unlikely, and they can split - like the one did above. The fight was long, too - more than 90 minutes of slogging, swinging, planning, discussion of how they probably can't regenerate from fire, trying to set the ooze on fire with a torch . . . Diffuse creatures are murder if you don't have the weapons to deal with them. Good thing there was one - if I'd rolled more on my Wandering Monster chart, it could have been a TPK. The PCs still don't know if Deathtouch or Sunbolt even did the job or just were the last bits of damage needed. It seemed like it for the former, but the latter, who knows?

The golden swordsman encounter wasn't painful. This was a fun two-threat encounter for me as a GM. The twin threat of a cone attack (impossible to avoid in a narrow corridor) and dangerous melee fighters made for a tough fight. The players liked it, too - the foes were a clear and lethal threat, but they were vulnerable to normal attacks if you executed them well, PCs were able to use their carefully-cultivated attacks, and they yielded reasonable loot.

Fun session. 5 xp all around with the loot, MVP was Mo.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Felltower Instagram tag

For readers who use Instagram, the tag #Felltower is being used by myself and my players identify pictures from our GURPS DF Felltower games.

You can see pictures like this, from last session:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Felltower pre-summary for 11/12

We played DF Felltower today. Very eventful session:

- a display of why oozes are awful to fight.

- a bloody fight deep the dungeon

- multiple new monsters encountered

- a dead berserker!

- blue-on-blue violence

- and nice loot.

I'll get a summary up tomorrow, time permitting.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Hayden the Unnamed Knight - almost finished

He needs a bit of face touch-up and dark-lining to bring out his features better. He's also oddly unevenly eyed thanks to trying to use a pen instead of a brush. Easily fixable when I have time. But he's otherwise ready for the tabletop. I won't have time to paint today, so he'll be used this way tomorrow.



Hayden is a good example of an odd physical perk. He's small, so he wears elf-sized, not man-sized, armor. That's good for -1 in a game where humans make up the bulk of the inhabitants, where his height will be remarkable (and occasionally mistaken), and where elf-sized armor is much less common as loot.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Assorted Lessons of DF: Come ready, bring the damage, have variety, and more

Here are some things I learned GMIng DF. It's kind of rant-sounding. It's just me trying to be direct, quickly.

Be capable out of the gate. Back when we started the game, Borriz the dwarf did like 2d+8 and had a skill in the low 20s, Vryce had ST 17 and did 3d+8, the wizard had Magery 6, etc. They were highly capable guys. They were designed to maximize their specific niche right from the first step into the dungeons.

This came up recently, actually, where the players had to make some new PCs and use them right away in a very dangerous fight that had TPK'd their more-powerful, higher-point, better-equipped previous PCs. A couple people basically apologized for making their guys specifically ready to step into the fight and be effective. But that's really someone you need to do in DF. If you make a 250-point guy who is going to be hell on wheels at 300 points but need a lot of help until then, you're making a potentially fatal mistake. You really need to figure out a strategy that makes you effective at 250 points. Use those next 50 to become more effective or branch out. It's all stuff you can buy later anyway, so be good now and expand later, don't design purely with a wait-until-I've-bought strategy.

Bring the damage. A party without characters who can deal serious damage - in the high 2d+ to 3d+ range - is doomed against high-end tough monsters. So what do you need to bring?

For casters, have an effective spell you can rely on for the first combat, no matter what it is. Have a 20 in it if you can. You won't regret the point savings. Have a missile and if possible an explosive missile spell. And have as much FP and Energy Reserve as you can. The ability do crank out 3xMagery in dice of damage when you need it will make a big difference.

For damage-dealers, I'd put 2d+4 as the rock-bottom minimum. That's enough to penetrate DR 10 on average, and if you're a melee fighter the party is going to depend on to hurt things, you can't be bouncing off of DR 10. 3d+ is better. ST 17 (or ST 15 or 16 with Striking ST 1 or 2) is a critical breakpoint for raw damage, especially for weapon masters.

For armor-minimizers, such as Swashbucklers and Scouts, damage is less critical but you don't want less than 1d+3. Skill will need to be 20+ as soon as possible, and you'll need to know all of the rules for Chinks in Armor and the downsides of bringing impaling damage to a dungeon. Expect that big boss monsters will lack eyes, lack a brain, and/or have Nictitating Membrane. If they don't, except the later ones will after your GM gets frustrated with one-second incapacitations of encounters they put in expecting it to be a challenge. Bring a variety of arrows or a sword with a variety of damage types. Smallswords aren't really a great choice.

For "DPS" guys, see damage-dealers or armor-minimizers and do that. I'm serious, here. Early on I had a couple of people talk about maximizing their DPS - lots of attacks, moderate damage being better than fewer attacks with higher damage or against specific locations. GURPS has DR, which is a per-attack cost you have to account for. Put them against a dragon or an evil knight or a Golem-Armor Swordsman and they usually do 0 damage per second. Have a plan to overcome or bypass DR, then start cranking up the number of times you do it.

For utility guys, you can ignore some of this - have an idea where you'd go if you did go for combat - but remember that Weapon Master, Trained By A Master, and ST 17+ mean you can't just wade into melee against serious foes and survive. The "you must be this tall to ride this ride" bar is too high in DF.

I've seen many people bring a defensive-minded, "max-DR, max-HP, and then if possible raise damage" approach to the table. That works . . . if someone else brought the damage. Our first two knights were defensively sound and offensively murderous and hung out with a ridiculously sturdy and offensively dangerous barbarian. The guys who weren't offensively powerful found they needed that defense and DR and HPs because they couldn't drop foes fast enough.

Have variety. A variety of attack forms is critical. Don't only have one damage type, no matter what it is. Bring cutting, impaling, and crushing to the dungeon with you. If you can do all three well, you're okay. If you can do two well, you're probably okay. If you do only one well, you're eventually going to be helpless in a fight where you could be contributing. Usually I see this because of a narrow character definition ("I'm Mr. Stabby!" or "I'm a Fire Wizard!" or "I only dual-wield hatchets" or something like that). Broaden it out a bit - perhaps "I'm Mr. Fencing!" or "I'm an Elemental Wizard!" or "I dual-wield axes and maces" - or a lot - "I'm Mr. Sword" or "I'm an artillery mage!" or "I dual-wield anything" - and you'll be much more useful. Start narrow-ish if you like (although with weapons, narrow can be 2-3 damage types!) and widen out quickly.

This goes double for casters. We recently had a situation where basically the entire party was dependent on Lightning. Vulnerable to electricity? We win! Invulnerable to it, or just have high DR and can't be stunned? Uh-oh, let's start discussing when we bail on this fight. For clerics and druids, yeah, your options are limited. Wizards? You need multiple forms of attack. If you depend solely on one kind of energy source or one spell, you will be useless some of the time - and yet it's a problem you can solve with a few points in a new college. If you do focus on one type ("fire wizard" or "cold wizard") make sure you do that first and then expand out. The longer you stay within that one niche, the longer you're betting your ability to survive on not fighting monsters immune to your attack.

Having non-damage ways of dealing with trouble - Sleep spells, area-denial spells, illusions, whatever - are also important. Especially for casters, it's a small investment to get variety.



Finally, have in mind two ways of being useful: solo, and in the group.

Solo utility is simply, can I operate on my own? Am I a liability or at great risk if someone else isn't covering for me? Do I need a specific combination of other delvers to be useful or survivable? If so, think about how to address that.

Group utility is simply, can I contribute effectively to the group? Are they better off with me than without me? Does my character's style depend on putting other people at risk, or come with downsides so large I'm dragging folks down? Do I have abilities that multiply other people's utility or am I merely additive? If so (if not in the last case), think about how to address that.

It's a group game, so the first might not seem so important. But in a pick-up, play-with-who-shows game like I run, solo utility is critical, too.

I hope this helps people making their own characters for DF and the DFRPG.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Felltower Character Generation FAQs

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about character generation in my DF/DFRPG game, Felltower. Many are answered directly or indirectly in the books or elsewhere, but to keep things clear to everyone I decided to put this together.

What templates and races?

All of the ones listed here:

DF Game: Race and Template List

and any of the templates in DFRPG Adventurers.

Can I buy [advantage/spell/skill/attribute improvement] after play begins?

It depends:

Is it on your template, or listed in for your template in DF1, DF11, DFRPG Adventurers, or Pyramid 3/61? (or Spells, for magic)

Then yes. Pay $40/point for training costs. Lenses are available as well - buy them either piecemeal or all at once (any disadvantages must be taken at the end when the lens purchase is completed.)

is it not on your template or listed as a valid power-up in the sources above?

Then no, although non-template skills can be learned with a training cost of $80/point. Ask before you buy. Non-skill advantages may be available on a case-by-case basis - offers will come up in play, they cannot be sought out.

What armor and weapons and equipment can I buy?

Anything in DFRPG Adventurers is available for a starting PC. Once in play, special orders and magic items require in-town rolls.

How should I trade character points for money?

There is an advantage in GCA. Add one level per point, up to 5, using Quirk points. Each point is worth $500. DO NOT reduce your character point value - that is DFRPG standard but it messes up my record-keeping!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Rule Philosophy: Minimize Special Cases

Yesterday I posted about two rules I often fail to apply in my games. One of them is how and when the limited defenses for Close Combat apply.

Dustin Tranberg correctly pointed out that the GURPS FAQ contradicts my post.

I responded that, basically, the rules as written don't really imply that a special case of "the first turn of close combat" should apply to defenses. So, I don't apply that FAQ answer, even if it's canonical.*

This is part of what's been my gaming philosophy, at least recently. You can see some of this discussed back in July 2016:

Conditional Modifiers and Simpler Play


More broadly, though, it's like this:

Minimize Special Cases in the Rules

Whenever possible, avoid special cases in the rules. Unless a special case is so common, applying the basic rule results in a cost in verisimilitude and/or enjoyment, or otherwise egregiously breaks suspension of disbelief, don't create a special rule for it.

Whenever possible, just use a simple, blanket rule. When special cases are created, use them as broadly as you can.

For example:

Bad Footing. What's underfoot, whether broken cobblestones or sand or bodies, makes for poor footing? -2 to attack, -1 to defend. Grease and ice and actively slippery surfaces get their own rule - and use the same rules as each other. Pretty simple. One main case, one moderate-sized and very clear set of special cases. It's not -2 and -1 for sand, -2 and -1 per body up to X bodies, -3 for loose sand, -4 for ice but only -1 to defend, or whatever. Two cases, basically all situations. This doesn't cover all situations where you're unsteady, but it doesn't have to - yet, if you wanted it to, it could.

Close combat defenses on the first turn?

Much of how I've ruled in my games is slicing out special cases to speed things up. This is one of them.

"You can defend normally the first turn someone steps into Close Combat" is a special case. It doesn't actually need to be there. It has lots of spill-on effects: close-in defenses only matter on the second turn you're stuck in there; being backed into a wall isn't a problem for the first second you're backed in, it's doubly-hard to get in close on anyone armed or not. Also, the rules as worded apply sometimes, but not all of the time. If you follow the rules as worded without this FAQ, this case goes away - Close Combat rules apply when people are in close, no matter when that began. If you Retreat, you can use your full complement of defenses (just like in Basic), and gain the benefit. People generally do this anyway, so you're not really harming the defender, just saying they don't get to pretend that a Reach C-only attack was started at Reach 1 so they can defend as if it was. You can say, but a defender with a shield can get it between himself and his attacker and block his attack before he's fouled up and in too close even without a backward step. Perhaps he could - but in order to do so you need this extra case in the rules that only applies sometimes, just for this.

For me, I see that as a time and memory and rules mastery cost just so shield-armed guys don't have to Retreat and can block even if they've already retreated. Get rid of that case, and you've gotten rid of a need to commit more rules to memory and make more tactical decisions between options.

Even the -DB for shields that doesn't affect first-turn attacks or slams is easy to understand but just a special case you could easily ignore. Slams don't suffer DB penalties, everything else does, don't bring a shield and a Reach C knife together into combat and pretend it's a good combo if you just keep dancing in and out. Finished.

Yet you don't want to get rid of Close Combat as a larger special case - weapons are already privileged enough in reality and in GURPS. Saying "There is no Close Combat, attacks and defenses just work everywhere normally" cuts out an interesting and dangerous sub-section of combat. It's something you could do for a very basic, simplified set of rules - yet for the games I play that's losing a bit of game play option and verisimilitude that I find adds to the game. Rules like that would let you Block or two-handed sword Parry vs. the bite of the disease-ridden rat that's climbing your armor to bite your face instead of getting you to panic-drop your shield or weapon and grab it to pull it off. Simpler, faster, and less special cases - but cutting down something that adds to the fun I want to have to do it.

It's not cut-and-dried.

But in general, when there is a special case or a special modifiers or conditional situation, I take the time to ask - do I need this? Does this add enough to justify the cost of memorizing or calculating it?

For me, this rule gets answered with a No. So it's gone and the rules as written and worded get played that way.


* Although I do keep it in mind when I'm writing posts meant to discuss canonical rules as written without house rule changes (Melee Academy, GURPS 101), or writing for SJG directly with rules-related material.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Two Rules I need to remember better

I've played GURPS since before it was anything but a combat system.

Even so, there are some rules I don't always bring to mind when I need them - in actual play.

Here are some I really need to imprint into my head better. Perhaps by writing them down and posting them, I'll remember them more clearly.

Dodge vs. Area Attacks - I often completely forget to have NPCs and PCs alike get a chance to avoid area attacks. It's a basic rule - p. B377*, in Active Defense Options under Dodge and Drop. I actually have long house ruled that you can earn this +3 to Retreat without going prone if you can step into cover - this makes shooting around corners or from behind cover (and sticking close to it in general) work well. Flying and swimming creatures get to do this without going prone. That means while the best way to nail a flying target is an area attack (think proximity fuses on explosives) it's not negating this built-in advantage to flight.

It's worth noting that this is a defense - if you plunk a 1-hex Area spell into the same hex as a foe they can dive out of the area effect completely. I forget to do this, but I may stop forgetting it now! Against larger spells like Explosive Fireball or grenade (or grenade-like) attacks (cough, torc grenades) - an extra step might be enough to get away or reduce damage to significantly less.

Nothing Special About that First Turn of Close Combat - mostly as a mish-mash of half-remembered rules, I occasionally rule that you can defend normally against a foe when they first move into close combat. That's not actually true. You defend normally for close combat - limited defenses, block doesn't work, etc. prt p. B392**. If you want to use your full complement of defenses unpenalized, you need to retreat. If you can, great, if not, you suffer all of the penalties for defending in close combat. I've had players who dislike this - "Why can't I block his grapple with my shield while he's on the way in?" - and I understand why. But the reason people close to close combat is precisely to use close-in weaponry and attacks and bypass reach-based defenses. If you want to keep a foe at bay or shield-check him on the way in, use the rules in GURPS Martial Arts, p. 106, or use Wait and just check the guy with a Shield Bash or stab. It's a one-second time scale, so you can't be acting as fast as you can and be waiting to check anyone who closes with you. In reality it's not trivial to stop someone from closing and grabbing you even if that's all you are trying to do, nevermind while you're trying your own offense.

Like I said, I sometimes forget this and allow PCs and NPCs to just stand there and defend like they're out of close combat.


* And in DFRPG Exploits, p. 50, under Taking Cover.

* And in DFRPG Exploits, p. 51, under Defense in Close Combat.

Monday, November 6, 2017

2000AD line ending at Wargames Foundry

Wargames Foundry has a 2000 AD / Judge Dredd line of minis, but it's ending:

"


2000AD CLEARANCE SALE

Last chance to buy! Clearance sale on our entire 2000AD range. 25% off everything.
After the 15th November our 2000AD range will no longer be available.


FREE 4 page colour leaflet with every 2000AD purchase 'Judge Dredd Painting Guide' by Kevin Dallimore. While stock lasts.

Buy the entire collection (77 models) for the reduced price of £240 (down from £354).

CLICK HERE to shop our range.
"

I wonder if another company has picked up the line?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Origins of Sterick's Tomb

The PCs solved the puzzle of Sterick's Tomb, and slew the still-living (or still-undead, or still-something) Sterick.

Before the rescue/revenge mission, though, the church provided an accurate map of the area. This was because:

- the area had been thoroughly mapped, marked, annotated, and largely cleared.

- the players had been asking to "someday" see the real map so they could compare their usable but wildly inaccurate map.

So I gave it to them.

Sterick's tomb was set in one of a couple of areas I directly swiped from published adventures and previous campaigns' dungeon maps that I quite liked. This one?

It was the second level of The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. I couldn't find a good picture it online, but this 4e version is pretty sweet:




The "dragon cave" was added below the map, connecting to the area in the bottom-right hand corner of the map.

The stairs up to the lesser caverns of Tsojcanth are the stairs to the next level of the dungeon.

The "behir" sits in the upper-right hand corner of the map - another place where I added an exit.

The blue-glowing area is the destination point to a number of teleport traps that bring in monsters.

The main puzzle was taken intact from the module, then modified to fit the game. Monsters summoned in by gates, compelled to stay and guard the area, teleports rigged with silent alarms and attraction magic to increase the security of the area. And a special area designated as safe for those close to the church.

I gather that Gary Gygax swiped this map, or portions of it (like the central chamber) from a Rob Kuntz map. I wish I can find where I read that. So this is a map swiped multiple times. Like I said, The World is Your Geomorph. Just add stuff you like directly into your megadungeon.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Where did the Kickstarter money go? (How it should be done)

I just want to draw attention to this post by Douglas Cole:

Lost Hall Cost Estimates

Often when a Kickstarter ends, you just sit around wondering what happened until you get your stuff.

Or don't, and then Erik Tenkar will probably get after you.

What you don't often get, maybe really ever get, is a solid breakdown of what the costs are.

Doug is doing that with this post. It's not the first time. Doug does his homework, crunches his numbers, and has them handy. He's not guessing at funding levels or where a stretch goal should be funded. He's not asking for money to help him make a product, he's asking for funds to complete one.

And he's not afraid to show his math.

I wish more Kickstarter creators did this.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Edestekai WIP

Here are two Star Frontiers Edestekai I've finally started painting.



I think the Zoidberg-inspired theme I've used for mutants would fit so that is what I'm doing- orange and mauve. I'll make their fringes dark brown, and then probably decorate them up with bright colors as tribal markings.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Vow: Delve until irrevocably slain

The idea of PCs retiring in my DF game has come up on this blog. Not in my game, just on this blog. The blog doesn't always reflect actual play. This is one of those places.

The smart move in my game would have been to sell off the $250,000+ worth of looted gear and treasure from Baron Sterick the Red and retire on it. Buy a tavern, go back home and buy a farm, get some rental property and get income in perpetuity while you work a nice, safe job. The foolish move is to gear up with that stuff and think, okay, let's see if I can't get even more! These guys hit the jackpot and spent it on lottery tickets, basically.

One of my fellow gamers joked that everyone in our DF game should have a disadvantage that keeps them delving until they die permanently.

In a way, they all do. It's not as blatant as the title of this post, but it may as well be. Here are some of the ones that feature in my game - all of which are standard Dungeon Fantasy / Dungeon Fantasy Role-playing Game template fodder:

Greed - so there is this dangerous mountain full of tax-free loot. You didn't get it all. In fact, you may not have even gotten a sizable fraction of it.

Obsession - so many of these. Becoming the world's best . . . whatever . . . involves delving. Best swordsman? The best swordsman doesn't back down from seeking the best blades and best goes. Most powerful wizard? Rumor and actual evidence suggests the megadungeon has the secrets you seek. You could go the slow and steady route, but you also took 20-30 other disadvantages that have their own pull to do this more quickly. Plus, many of them end with "at any cost!" That doesn't sound like avoiding the potentially best way to do it because it's dangerous is even a topic of discussion.

Intolerance - of orcs or evil, or dragons, or whatever. The dungeon has these. You don't like them at all. And you've got the power to do something about them.

Sense of Duty - your friends keep going there.

Overconfidence - coupled with any of the above, you know you're more than capable of defeating the dangers that guard the loot/secrets/etc. that you want.

That's just a quick list. Really, it's not complete. Just some standard disadvantages that explain why your PC does this silly thing of risking death until it comes. And then risking death again after it's fixed for a cost far beyond their means when they start out. The combinations make them especially lethal. That's really ideal - not for the player character, but for the player. You don't have to set aside your paper man until it's just paper representing a character long-gone.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Hayden the Unnamed Knight painting WIP

Hayden the Unnamed Knight (or is it Hayden the Unnamed, knight?) is coming along nicely. I had some time yesterday during a listening exercise to do some painting.

I plan to darken down his clothes a little, but not too much - I like his brightness.

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