Saturday, March 6, 2021

Overpriced Disadvantages in DF: Lecherousness

I've blogged before about Underpriced GURPS Disadvantages.

Here is one that I think needs a little worsening to bring up the point value.

Lecherousness: -15 points

I think I good start on this one is to use Charles Saeger's rule from here:

Getting Your Points Worth

Plus:

You're easily distracted by any potential romantic partner. You are at a -2 to attack and -1 to defend against foes of the opposite sex that display any attractive physical features of the sex that you prefer. This is broad - topless harpies? -2. Iron golems shaped like a Greek Adonis? -2. A succubus? -2. And so on.

I think with that addition and the risk of social disease, you're likely to really live up to the -15 point value in a dungeon-based game.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Random Links for Friday 3/5/2021

Some random links for Friday:

- the history of the home caltrop! I mean the d4!

- Anyone up for a Road Safety Game?

- I'm stalled on Ultima V because of work busy-ness. I can't complain but now I can't remember what I was doing last. It was easier to solve games back when I'd play them all day, every day, until I did so. And think about them at school instead of learning.

- My players have a whole chat going about plans for Sunday. I checked in briefly, but it's probably better than I just get the executive summary later. Like looking at the player-made map, reading their plans costs me SAN points. All hail Call of Cthulhu for the reference that never fails.

- the comments section on my history podcast blog post is full of suggestions. I received additional ones by text from a trusted resource. No, just kidding, from Hasdrubel/Hamilcar/Ahenobarbus's player. I'll listen to those anyway.

Not much for this week - I was too busy to read much and compile a list of things to recommend!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Weird Wizards, again

I seem to have written two different approaches to the same idea - enforced weirdness for wizards in GURPS.

Required Weirdness for Wizards (May 2018)

Weird Wizards (April 2020)

Looking at my current campaign, I do a lot more of the first approach than the second.

Looking at those posts, I really like the direct tie to Magery as it's a very simple approach:

The modified approach I think I'd like is this:

Magery 1: -1 point
Magery 2: -5 points
Magery 3: -10 points
Magery 4: -15 points
Magery 5: -25 points
Magery 6: -35 points

Every 10 points in Energy Reserve, Mana Enhancer, Improved Magic Resistance, Familiar (or other supernatural ally), or Wild Magic is another -1 points in disadvantages and quirks of a "weird" nature.

I think that's a balanced approach. Your Magery 6, Energy Reserve 10, Wild Magic 1 wizard would have -40 of his -55 points in disadvantages in "weird" things. The list from the posts above would be a useful one, plus any other player and GM-agreed disads.

I'm not sure if I'll enforce this in Felltower on PCs . . . but I may use this as a guideline when making NPC wizards. I'll let PC wizards, if they want, be "so normal it's weird." I best most of them won't.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

More Origami Correspondence

Here are a few more thoughts on "locked" correspondence.

- The shape of the folded locking - and the chosen style of folding - can be a message itself. No Gift of Tongues spell will help here - you might be able to understand the words, but the meaning might be obscured because you don't recognize the meaning in the shape.* If the lock is thus-and-so instead of so-and-thus, you know to ignore certain words in the letter, or fill in missing ones, I understand that the "uncle" means the "king" rather than "uncle" meaning "the pretender to the throne" in some correspondence between co-conspirators.

- In a fantasy world, the shape itself may form a magical seal that prevents non-destructive opening of a letter, unless you know the counter-shape. Dispel Magic may work here, but destroy other magic in the letter and/or erase critical bits of the contents. Lockmaster might work, or Undo, but perhaps not - it's a "lock" only in a sense of the word.

- A letter may be folded in a way that opening it properly keeps, say, a magical or poisonous powder sealed off in a compartment, allowing access to the contents. Opening it improperly can result in spilling the poisonous or magical dust on the opener.

- Finally, such things need not be paper . . . vellum, magical paper woven of moonbeams and only openable on a full moon, demon-skin that cannot be cut, and other, weirder materials can be available. A good puzzle letter - and opening it - could be a mini-quest of its own.

* I recognize here that most players really want the spell Tell Me The Answer, or to roll against the Solve Puzzle (IQ/H) skill, but neither are available.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Origami Correspondence

This is a short bit of game inspiration: Locked letters.

I had no idea these existed until I saw this article:

Sealed Renaissance Letter Virtually Unfolded

Meanwhile, Matt Riggsby could probably toss off 2000 words on the subject for a GURPS article in, oh, a day.

The idea of a letter designed to be difficult to open shouldn't surprise me but it did. It's a useful thing for games - especially fantasy or low-tech games, where "We just X-ray it and then let it pass on, the contents read" isn't an option.

Game rules? I can think of a few. A straight-up contest of IQ vs. the one who locked the letter. The intended recipient may get a bonus from a clue in a seperate letter, or a pre-agreed sign, or of some sort. If a lock-er has a signature style, and you know for certain the lock-er and that style, this may be worth a bonus of +1 (for a complex or wide variety of puzzle styles or mild clue) up to a +5 (for a completely consistent style or a blatant clue.)

You can also make it a contest of other skills - Mathematics (Cryptology), for one, or Cryptography for another - with appropriate TL penalties either direction! Skill in Hobby Skill (Origami) should work against almost any lock if I'm understanding them correctly.

You could, of course, just cut it apart - but then you can't re-seal it. And some fantasy materials may resist cutting, or magical reading . . . or contain traps (magical and mundane) that make circumventing the puzzle a very bad idea.

Monday, March 1, 2021

History podcast recommendations?

So I've started to try to listen to more historical podcasts on my commute. For a variety of reasons, I have less easy access to a library and books, so this has cut down on my non-fiction reading a lot. I studied history in college, along with Political Science (especially defense policy), so I like to think I enjoy factually rigorous history.*

I'm looking for historically rigorous podcasts, especially concerning:

- Ancient history
- Medieval history
- Renaissance history
but I'm game for the World Wars and the Cold War, too.

I'm mostly interested in:

- Military history
- Political history
- Economic history
with a sideline in religious history as it touches upon the topics above. Legal history, same.

Cultural, modern domestic politics (of any country), purely philosophical, purely religious, true crime, and "fun fact" history . . . probably not.

I already know about these:

The Medievalists (pretty good, although the sound quality on some episodes . . . ugh.)

A History of Europe: Key Battles - just started on this one.

Ancient Warfare Podcast

Military History Inside Out

I'm absolutely not looking for video series. I won't sit and watch a long video very often, and if I need to download it as video and then convert it to .mp3 to listen on my commute . . . I just won't do it. I know of a few, but that's not really what I'm hunting for.

I'm willing to give just about any podcast that hits those topics one or two tries and see if it grabs me.

With that in mind . . . what do you folks recommend?


* FWIW I took courses on American colonial history, Russian history (a love of mine since I first saw a TV drama about Peter I), the Old West, German history (including the Holocaust), Roman history (with a focus on Augustan Rome), Japanese history, and more . . . and pretty much read books on WWII, the Hundred Years War, the Tsars, the Aztecs, the Mongols, the Crusades, European military history, the Zulus, Pirates, Victorian age wars, the age of exploration . . . yeah, it's been pretty broad actually. And my poli-sci classes were fairly varied but I took everything I could on defense policy and wrote my undergrad thesis on how civil wars end. So, broad interest in terms of areas. But it's primarily around the topic clusters I mentioned.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Reflections on Loot Thresholds in DF Felltower

XP in DF Felltower is run off of a "loot threshold" method that I detailed in DF21. I allow unequal splits of loot to allow people to meet that threshold.

The tier we use is "Method 3" - 100 points, then 50 point tiers, like so:

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

I may at some point switch to a full "Method 2" loot threshold, which cuts the first tier from 250-349 to 250-299 and moves the rest down appropriately.

Why?

One reason is because 300-349 point guys taking $200 for 4 xp is feeling lame, especially after having made two full passes through my dungeons revising treasure up substantially (the system in DF21 reflects this revision.) A 300 point character is substantially more powerful than a 250 point character. It's also 10 successful delves worth of trips, yet to still only need $200 (when $150 pays for upkeep) seems weak. You could potentially go from 250 to 350 points in 20 delves taking in a grand total of $4000. You're better off bottom feeding on the lower-return treasures for your first 20 delves, just trying to make enough to get by, than to take any real risks.

Plus, the 349 to 350 jump is a big deal, as it doubles your required return. Players can and do save up for something big so that jump is not just "1 more spell" or "Learn Survival (Woodlands)" or something, but rather "+1 DX" or "Extra Attack" or "buy Weapon Master." (Admittedly, dropping this to 299 to 300 jump might do the same earlier . . . but the stakes are necessarily smaller.) This isn't a problem, but it is a thing.

Also I think it makes people with less than 350 point character think of themselves as newbies. I've heard a lot of "we're delving pretty deep for our point level" type of comments - although not in so many words - as people delve on levels and in areas originally set up with 250-300 point guys in mind with 350-450 point characters. I've seen decisions made based on trying to get XP from minimized risk. It's appropriate behavior given the incentives, but it does mean we've played DF Felltower for over 9 years and I can count sessions spent below "level 4" of the dungeon on one hand. The number of gates really, truely braved is limited, too - and the vast majority of gate travel has been to one gate, leading to an area of known, moderate risk - the Lost City. Any gate with some actual danger has only been visited ones (Olympus, Icy Gate, Forest Gate, Air Gate) or zero times (all the rest except the Ape Gate.) Why? It doesn't really take that much loot . . . and if you feel fragile, you'll act fragile.

Another reason are uneven splits.

Unequal Splits:

In DF Felltower the split get handled in a very game-y, self-aware fashion. Galen doesn't get 3 shares, or 4 shares, or something, he gets $4000 on the nose if it's possible to get him $4000, or he gets $800 + extra if there is extra after the others get $200 or 400, etc. It's very meticulously plotted out. I don't really care, but as a flavor thing, it's a downside of my approach to keep in mind if you allow unequal splits!

The main issue I see is that this encourages the powerful gusy to "bottom feed." You don't really need that much money to get 2 xp or 4 xp. You can basically take a 450 point guy (4K or 8K) and a 400 point guy (1000 or 200) along with 8 250-349 point guys (200 or 40) on a delve and only need $6,600 for max XP for everyone or $1320 for 2 xp for everyone. $1320 is 5 opponents with thrusting broadswords sold at 40%. It's not a lot. It's not even enough for upkeep for the whole group ($1500).

You get the oddity of guys with Greed arguing to unevenly split the loot away from them so the skilled guys get more XP, because it's the smart move and allows them to make more and more in the future. It's a bizarre artifact of the system. The players get put in a bind where staying in character is pushed against by the needs of a better, more gamist positive result.

Unequal splits of money in a gold-for-xp system like older D&D systems encouraged given the big loot to the lower level guys so they'd learn faster. At least this approach encourages paying the high-end talent more in order to get everyone the win. That's a very serious upside to allowing this! It doesn't always work that way, though. If the whole group is falling short, the loot split tends to reverse - the big guys get 0, and take 0, and give all of the rest to the others to get as many people as possible as much XP as possible.

Although it hasn't happened so far due to the personalities and needs of the top-point guys in DF Felltower, soon enough a generous type will be the rich, high-point delver. They'll happily take the $4000+ for full points (450-499) or 2 xp (500+) and then spend it on gear for their buddies. So it's pass the money up for xp, then pass it back down for gear. Double-dipping at its finest. You get the XP from the money split unequally - and everyone benefits - and then you use the money euqally - and everyone benefits.

The only way to solve that, I think, is allowing unequal splits of loot but assigning XP by the total loot taken divided evenly.

That might also be an interesting way to deal with the "bottom feeding" issue. If you really need $20,000 x number of PCs to get the 500+ point guys 4 xp for treasure, it doesn't matter how many orcs you whack skulking around level 2 and "pruning the orc tree." With 8 players you'd need $160,000 to make it worth the big guy's while, and $32,000 to earn any XP at all.

Putting in both of the rules would be a very abrupt change in how things are done. Putting in one or the other might not deal with the behaviors. I have in the distant past put in fairly parsimonious treasure. I went back through Felltower in multiple sweeps raising the loot to higher levels (which are reflected in DF21 and the random treasure system there.) So more money is there, and has been for a while. Even a single-fight delve against a mid-level boss monster and a handful of minions (such as our most recent session) generated enough for everyone to get max XP. The high-point characters weren't in any real danger, and the lower-point characters were threatened (hey, it's a boss encounter) but not especially so. It's not terribly hard to pull down a fair amount of loot anymore, if you go where it is instead of exploring where it used to be. But the XP system encourages hunting orcs for swords and skimming off loot and piling it on higher-point delvers as needed.

I'm undecided if I'll do one (change to Method 2, the only one seen in DF21 or banning unequal splits for XP purposes) or both. They might need to be done together, to encourage the risk/reward drive to push actually quite powerful delvers to take something more than minimal risks!
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