Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thankful for, 2020 edition

This year I'm thankful for:

- my ability to get a steady amount of gaming in, even when we had to revert to online-only play

- streaming MST3K episodes to keep me entertained during lockdown

- Megadungeons coming out!

- doomchildren

- and as always, the people who read, link to, and comment on my blog.

Thanks everyone. Enjoy the day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Protection from Evil

Last session we had questions come up with Protection from Evil. Looking at the spell, it's pretty straightforward, but nonetheless questions came up.

What does the DR protect against? It's the Armor spell with a limitation to only affect attacks from evil, basically. So direct attacks of all kinds from things marked Truly Evil (only), including weapons and ranged attacks. It does not affect indirect attacks, like explosions from exploding Doomchildren or shrapnel from the same, or falling damage when they knock you down from your Walk on Air spell, or fire damage when you catch on fire from their spells.

The DR stacks on top of all other DR, right? No. The DR stacks like normal Armor spell DR - so you take the higher of Fortify or Armor, not both. Sorry, no +3 from Armor and then +6 from Protection from Evil.

What does the Magic Resistance work against? Spells. This is not +2 Resistant to Evil Supernatural Powers per level. It's +2 Magic Resistance, per the spell.

Plenty of Truly Evil foes have abilities that are neither physical attacks nor spells, per se. This does not help against them. That might seem a bit unfair, but it's a cheap spell for what you get. and it's very specific what it gives you.

I'll use this page to list any other ruling that matter on the spell.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

So should I get one of the COIN games?

For a long time, I've been interested in the COIN (COunter INsurgency) games. They're discussed here.

I may be on the verge of getting one.

All of the games look interesting. Not a one seems wasted.

I gather Cuba Libre is the easiest and most accessible of them, but I watched a (fun) playthrough and I think that's enough for me. The GMT games website recommends it for a starting game, but I won't drop $80 on a game to learn how to play a different game I get.

Out of the remainder, A Distant Plain is fascinating, and topical, as we're in year, what, 20 of the US involvement in Afghanistan? Kids born after 2001 could be serving there as I write this. And the game's approach - that even your allies are not 100% aligned with your goals - is a solid one.

Here is a video look at it from GMT games.

But I keep coming back to Fire in the Lake. It covers the US involvement in Vietnam during 1964-1972. It's an easy game to divide into four factions: the US, ARVN (the South Vietnamese government and forces), the North Vietnamese government, and the Viet Cong. Each goes into two sides with related but not identical goals. What puts the ARVN into a good position isn't always exactly what satisfies US aims in the region. The VC and NV both want to topple the south, but they don't have identical views on who should be in charge and what "reunification" under Communism means.

I'd be playing it solo, almost certainly. If I got, say, Pendragon, I bet I could get three players to join me. Fire in the Lake, maybe, maybe not.

But it's sooooo tempting. I'm much more interested in 20th-21st century insurgencies than in Roman Britain, say.

Here is a review of Fire in the Lake.

I've started poking around to see if someone has a used copy of FITL 2nd edition . . . if so, and it's more in my budget than an $80 new game, I'll get it. Otherwise, I may just have to think about finding a way to play it and splurge on the game new.

Monday, November 23, 2020

GURPS DF Session 142, Felltower 110 - The Lord of Spite (Part I)

Date: November 22nd, 2020
Weather: Cool, cloudy, dark.

Ahenobarbus Barca, human swashbuckler (286 points)
Aldwyn Hale, human knight (313 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice wizard (145 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (326 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (408 points)
     3 skeletons (~35 points)
Heyden, human knight (307 points)
"Mild" Bruce, human barbarian (315 points)
Sir Bunny Wigglesworth, human holy warrior (286 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (306 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (321 points)

We started off in Sterickburg. The group purchased some potions, spell stones, and gathered rumors. Mostly what they did was stock up for their planned assault against Durak, the Uncaring, the Lord of Spite.

The group headed out and into the dungeon via the trap door under the fallen tower.

They made it unmolested to level 2, to a room near the GFS. They planned to fight the Lord of Spite there, because they'd decided corridor was a bad idea. Probably because the boars smashed any formations to bits with their charge.

There they decided to rest up in the "illusiory library" before summoning Durak. So they did so, but heard a scraping noise outside. They got ready if it was the Lord of Spite, but when they popped open the door a pudding was lurking outside! It smashed its way in and tried to maul Galen and then the others. They cut it to death, but it took a while - Crogar, Aldwyn, and first Wyatt (with a wooden sword) and then Ahenobarbus (with Magebane) cut it up. Of course, Varmus threw a fireball into the fray and hit Aldwyn by mistake . . . and it was an Explosive Fireball, naturally. Bruce got set on fire but they put him out, and Aldwyn was under Resist Fire so he was okay.

The pudding down, they moved it aside and rested more (and healed Crogar with the staff, from his 2 HP fire wound.)

They then headed to the room nearest the stairs. They put on Oil of Puissance (aka Oil of Sharpness in DFRPG Magic Items) on a couple of people's weapons (Bruce and Wyatt's, IIRC), Aldwyn called out Durak's full name, challenging him to come each time. On the third, he felt a lilt and fluttering in his stomach. They waited. Wyatt and Galen were at the top of the stairs to spot the Lord of Spite and his boars coming up.

They waited, 5, 10, 15 minutes (roughly - no one has Absolute Timing or used a timing candle.) Nothing. Aldwyn said his name again . . . and this time, he felt a little worse of a fluttering in his stomach and something . . . he couldn't put a finger on (he blew his IQ roll.) They decided he wasn't coming, so they formed up and rushed down the stairs, not wanting to be caught there. They reached the gate level, and then moved the hexagonal room where a previous group had once used a wish to escape onrushing gnolls. They formed up there, and waited. Still nothing.

The bad air wasn't so big of a deal this time - only Varmus (Unfit since his cut-rate resurrection) suffered a penalty from it thanks to some good rolling.

As they waited, they spotted a slugbeast coming toward them from down the hallway. Aldwyn got his wooden sword ready to fight it, and Galen just filled it with arrows for about 4 seconds and it stopped coming at them. Meanwhile they downed potions - Agility and Strength, mostly. Ahenobarbus downed three Agility potions until he got a "good one." (He rolled a 1, a 2, and a 4.) Several rubbed Dark Vision ointment on their eyes. So they left it there and forced the door. They moved to the cave area Galen had found last time, briefly pausing to send Galen down the baffle-filled hallway to check the area.

They reached the cave, and Galen and some others could hear the "sleeping" Durak - a low rumbling, wetly rattling breath. (One player said, "Like Darth Vader." No, specifically not. This sounds like a wet chest rattle through hole-punched lungs and not a steady, machine-line sound.)

They moved into the cave area, slowly, fanning out. As they did, a blackness suddenly appeared, and then heard the breathing turn to a low chuckle. They heard the drag-STOMP, drag-STOMP and ground-vibrating rumble of steps.

They began to activate spellstones and cast spells. Blur, Walk on Air, Strengthen Will, and others. As they did, devil maws spun out of the impenetrable darkness and a couple of doomchildren ran out. Their lightstones began to wink out, but they had a few glow vials going. Ulf put Protection from Evil 6 on himself and 1-2 others as this went on.

Galen shot down and killed one of the doomchildren, blowing it apart. Wyatt fought one of the devil maws and cut it down with a myriad of slashes. Moment later, more came out - three more devil maws, plus more doomchildren. The PCs waited outside the darkness and engaged the guys who came at them, but otherwise waited.

Then Durak and his two boars appeared. He spoke a word of such vileness that it harmed all around. Ulf resisted. Aldwyn went into a coma and had a heart attack; he fell, stricken. Varmus was deafened. Crogar went into a coma. The others were mostly defeaned . . . Bruce was fine, and Sir Bunny was utterly unaffected (he had ~26 with Higher Purpose and maxed Resistant to Evil Supernatural Powers and Strengthen Will.)

The boars charged into the group, one trampling comatose Crogar and rushing the back-ranked fighters. The PCs attacked them, aiming for the legs. Wyatt, by now under Great Haste, managed to crippled both of one's back legs. It slashes out with its tusks but wasn't able to connect.

Bruce turned his back on Durak and a devil maw to attack the boar, cutting one of its rear legs off. He paid for this as the devil maw grappled him with five claws and held him in place. Then the Lord of Spite smashed him with his club and cut off his left hand with his axe (he rolled randomly, as he usually does.)

Ulf used Rebuke Evil but rolled poorly, inflicting relatively little damage and panicking only a single doomchild.

Meanwhile, doomchildren kept charging in - a total of 13 came in the end. They ran in berserkly (something several players just never noticed - they kept using Feint, Deceptive Attack, etc.) Galen would put 3 arrows a turn into one at a time and kill them. The doomchildren were generally spaced out enough to avoid fraticide although they took some damage from fragmentation. Varmus took some fragments, though, and fell unconcious. Heyden smashed the hamstrung boar on the skull for a huge amount of damage . . . wounding it. Then Heyden backed away from Varmus to lure a doomchild back with him, eventually killing it - but the hamstrung boar crawled over to try to maul Varmus.

Meanwhile Sir Bunny moved up toward Durak, but a doomchild rushed him and critically hit him in the right foot - and sliced it off. Sir Bunny fell. Wyatt stabbed the doomchild to death, blowing it up, and then engaged another one. Sir Bunny ended up getting to his knees, knee-walking forward in the hopes of cutting off Durak's necklace or breaking the skulls, but he was at the wrong angle for either (besides, the necklace is below Durak's mane of hair, and thus not an easy slice.) He swung at a doomchild instead and rolled an 18 and hit himself, but harmlessly.

Durak kept chuckling and swatting at Bruce. He landed a solid club hit to the leg and crippled it; now Bruce is badly wounded and held up mostly by the devil maw. His attempts to break free kept failing - it too easily parried his attempts to reduce the CP on him.

The fight continued, with the devil maws mixing it up with the PCs. They took fragmentation damage frequently but just regenerated it all too quickly.
Galen kept dropping doomchildren, one at a time. One explosion lit Bruce on fire, and another lit him on fire. Meanwhile a skeleton started to hack onto one of the boars and steadily inflict a little damage at a time to it. Wyatt stabbed the eyes out of a devil maw but two more just popped out. Ahenobarbus, now under Great Haste from Gerry, slashed out the legs of another boar and put it down, and then chopped a devil maw repeatedly but couldn't finish it off.

Ulf used Walk on Air to walk up 2 yards and over a devil maw. It just reached up and grabbed him. (I think he was thinking 6' off the ground was out of its reach - nope. It can reach that high - they'd ball-like but not really short.) He was stuck. It got 16 CP on him and he was stuck. Wyatt was grabbed as well, on the right arm. Wyatt managed to slash the arm holding him repeatedly and managed to get free.

Meanwhile Galen was slashed by a doomchild and hit - and it crippled his right arm. He dropped his bow and off-handed drew his shortsword - his blew his Fast-Draw (Sword) roll and just drew it normally.

Ulf prayed to the Good God for help - and sacrificed 8 saved xp to get a +8, bringing him to a 16 (Theology-12, Power Investiture 6, base -10, +1 per xp sacrificed permanently.) He rolled an 11, and succeeded! Coincidentally, his armor tore and he sprang free of the grapple, and is able to walk away in his new War Shorts. He's heading over to Crogar to try and wake him up (and Aldwyn, too, presumably - he doesn't know he's dying, just out.)

We left it there - Ulf freed from the devil maw, Bruce stunned, Wyatt broken free by slashing the arm that held him . . . and the Lord of Spite totally unharmed.


They made a good effort to summon Durak to them. But they had a backup plan or two just in case he didn't come - as Sir Bunny pointed out, the stories said he was spiteful, not stupid. In the end he didn't come to their challenge. When they went down stairs, they heard him "sleeping" (their term), but he didn't seem unprepared for them. They had designated targets, planned how to take out the boars and doomchildren, and so on. They did it all without my input - I specifically didn't even want to know their plans.

Some seem obvious - Galen to kill Doomchildren, in the hopes of causing a chain-explosion-death of them (they're dumb, but they spread out, so that's rare), chopping the legs off the boars and spacing out so they didn't get trampled in turn, Strengthen Will spellstones to beat the utterance, etc. Some of it worked, some didn't. The Rule of 16 saved a few of them from far worse fates.

Durak and his companions have a long run of removing linbs. Sir Bunny lost a foot, Galen's arm is crippled, and Bruce lost a hand and has a crippled leg. Aldwyn going into a coma along with Crogar probably count for something, too. Poor Crogar's player - every big fight, through no fault of his own, he's out for most of it. Luck would have been useful there.

Oddly Bruce lost that leg to a hit that he tried to Dodge, giving up a superior defense to attempt that. I'm not sure why he was "saving" the defense or for what.

The grapples by the devil maws have messed people up badly, and they're hard to escape from. I get some glum, "Oh well, what else can I do?" responses in these cases . . . but often the same people have 2 points in Wrestling and that only if their template required it. Superior grapplers are dangerous foes, especially in such a wild melee.

Roll20 had a complete outage during our game - our first. It derailed play for a while, though, during the combat.

We finished the next-to-last-turn at 8:48, and the last turn ended at 9:31. Even given a little distraction, that's a good indication of how long it can take.

Rules questions of the night - can you aggresively parry a weapon with a weapon? No, we're not going there. And does Protection from Evil caused a lot of questions - I'll explain what they were and deal with them later this week.

It was that last turn where we saw our first using of character points sacrificed to get a bonus to last-ditch prayer. And it worked! Sacrificing 8 to bring an 8 to a 16 was a good move, I think. Costly but it was going to succeed unless he rolled a 17 or 18.

Note to self for next time: How many people have Glow Vials going? Only a few characters have Dark Vision, the skeletons still shining light are yards back of the fight, and the rest of the light stones were blotted out by devil maws by now.

MVP was Ulf for the epic use of character points to bail himself out of a grapple.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Game Prep - Roll20, Tokens, and Maps

I pretty much spent today's game prep time doing the following:

- Making tokens with Token Maker 2

- Editing those icons so they have sight, so I can control them as the GM, so they have labels, etc. etc. etc.

- Then trying to take my maps of the dungeon area the PCs will likely go to in order to fight Durak, The Lord of Spite, and trying to make that into a hex combat map. Doing that with Dynamic Lighting and all of that is beyond me. I spent literal hours doing Fog of War on a pre-made map in the past. If I was good at turning images into other kinds of images, and editing them, and making fine adjustments to them, and making sure they're exactly as proportional as the minis are, I'd have gone into visual and graphic design like my sibling did. Instead of spending my time on tactics, reviewing the treasure in the area to make sure I'm on the ball, etc. I spent it scanning and uploading maps and trying to convince Roll20 to cooperate. Honestly, if I could just point a camera at a map and ask people where they wanted to move, I'd do that. This is way more time than it's worth, and there is roughly a 75% chance my players do something else and force the fight to occur elsewhere.

I spent a good hour on this already, and I'm not done yet.

I mean, I could leave this all for game time, but it'll ruin tomorrow instead of just messing up today. Roll20 makes me tired all over.*

* Second best line in The Usual Suspects.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Friday Links & Thoughts 11/20/2020

Here is another post on the "Gary Gygax Hated Magic" idea.

Was Gary Gygax Afraid of Magic?

Me, I still see this as realizing you handed out too much power without enough limitations and just adjusted accordingly . . . not hate or fear. Just recognition that hey, maybe powerful, fast, easy, reliable magic wasn't the best design decision for long-term play balance?

James Mal thinks we need large groups. Yeah, I got that covered. We might only get nine people this Sunday. I'm kind of bemused by the people saying it's hard to play online with more than 4-5 people. We've had less than 6 only once, and man, that was a rarity. Zoom holds up well and Roll20 is a pain even with 2-3 people, so 8-9 doesn't make it any worse.

I keep losing the locations for stuff like this, so here it is again: The Magician's Ring story, starring Mike Mornard's wizard Lessnard.

The Magician's Ring

It's really very much a Jack Vance homage, with how arrogant the PC is and how conniving the NPCs are. "Such treasures are not for the likes of mere Mediums" indeed.

Sunday is a game day for us, so I've put what little time I have for prep into it. I'm basically spending a lot of time trying to make Roll20 do things so I don't have to do them on Sunday. It would be nice to game in person for a change so I could just draw a map freehand in 5 minutes and put down the minis . . . instead I needed to make pictures, now I need to make icons, next I need to make the map and hope the players go to the spot I think they're going to. It's annoying prep yet critical for this fight. I may enlist one of my players in it if I'm not able to get it all done by tonight.

By the way, big Foundry sale! I wish I could do nothing but buy their minis and sit and paint them. I don't have that kind of time and money. Well, not money to spend on minis, anyway. And I've had some painting issues. So mostly I look at these bigs sales and think, why, yes, I do need gun-armed Zulus and Swiss pikemen and Hundred Years War archers and Victorian adventurers, plus obviously those Greek heroes. And then I mostly move on, because, I probably really don't. But if you do, get them. I've never regretted a single purchase from Wargames Foundry or Casting Room Minis.
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