Saturday, April 6, 2013

What would you change if you could reboot your campaign?

Ever have those "It's too late, but I should have . . . " thoughts about your game?

I do. Here are the ones I've currently got about my Dungeon Fantasy game.

If I could do my Dungeon Fantasy game all over from scratch, I would . . .

. . . go with larger, cheaper coinage. I'd make coins 50 to a pound, what the hell. I should have done that in the first place, because it worked for my old fantasy game. I thought 250/pound would make things easier but I find it was a useless change.

. . . ditch Quick and Dirty magic item prices. Oh sure, cheap utility magic is part of the fun of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. I know that. But I think it would have made for a very interesting dynamic if the price per point of energy was just $20 flat, not $1 for items of 100 points or less. Fortify +1 on a whole suit would run you $1000, making better quality armor or just heavier armor a good deal compared to magically enchanted armor. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks this way.

. . . use the Alternate Talent Costs from Power-Ups 3. Just because it would make Barbarians cheaper, and thus have more points to spend on beefing up their character.

. . . invite my two newer players from day one. A no-brainer here. I wish I'd known they both lived close enough to come and play and wanted to come and play from day one.

. . . institute my Shape Earth rulings right off the bat. It's hard to run a megadungeon when your PCs can casually tunnel holes right through the walls whenever they feel like it. A one-second duration on Shape Earth makes for a lot less "we shape some stone down from the surface to block up this trap" type stuff, which means more explanation and less engineering discussion.

. . . put my dungeon a little further away from the city. Not that a day trip dungeon is a bad thing. It would just have been fun if it took a day or two of hiking to get there, opening up more wilderness encounters and forcing more of a decision about when to back off.

. . . I'd put more branching choices in entrance of my dungeon. I like my dungeon entrance, but I think it narrows your choices too much, too soon. A big central location with side passages and staircases down right away, that would have been a good idea. The fortified entrance would still have been cool, but it could have lead right out to a branching-choice main room.

I'dd have run a couple of rules differently, just because I'd like to try them out.

None of this is stuff I can change now, not without some violence to the world, the PCs, and the game. I'm fine with that. But if I knew then what I know now, that's what I would have gone with.

What about you guys? If you could restart your game, what would you change?


  1. I have no game to restart now, but I've learned the hard way to restrict PC races to a standard, socially acceptable set. Now I'll do it in every campaign.

    As for Q/D enchantment, I like the "magic is everywhere" feel too much to look for other dynamics. You know, people fly already. For me it's more like TL3+3^ then TL3^, so I like some magic items to be a mundane household equipment. If I were to change something, those would be armor enchantments. I don't really like this whole set/sum of parts differentiation. But maybe I should just learn to like it. More powerful magic is cast on sets of armor.

    1. I calculate the armor costs backwards - so you figure cost to enchant the whole set, then multiply by the percentage of cost. So Fortify +2 costs 250 x 20 = 5000 for a suit, so a piece that's 10% of that costs 500. Not 250 x 10% + 25, and thus get the Q&D price break.

      Here is a way to do that in GCA, even:

    2. That sounds good. Thanks!

  2. Things I would change in my DF game, which is currently strict RAW:
    * No Q&D enchantment. I like "magic is everywhere" as much as anyone, but Q&D just makes things stupid, with Scouts carrying 4 cornucopia quivers and whatnot.
    * Cheap potions and poisons. One of my favorite house rules is to cut the cost of most potions to 1/3rd normal or more.
    * No dual-weapon attack for bows. Use Ranged Rapid Strike instead.
    * Low-Tech armor weights and costs, or probably modified low-tech armor weights and costs. Making Fine armor only a +3 CF lets people have an armor upgrade at a reasonable cost.
    * A bunch of tweaks through Magic, like removing fixed FP cost reductions and replacing it with an MoS based version. And probably move to Threshold Magic for wizards to boot.
    * Increase the cost of Flight to 60 points. It's way to cheap for what it does at 40.

    Things I wouldn't change:
    * Open selection of templates and races. Half-ogre swashbucklers, gargoyle knights, minotaur martial artists, nymph wizards are some of my favorite things in DF.
    * Wildcard skills and destiny points. They can be over the top, but they're fun and simple.

    1. It's funny how different groups react. I've had to put a cap on potion availability in my game, and on poison availability. Otherwise my players buy huge amounts of them. My last campaign was dominated by potion-enhanced combatants to the point where my players agree that limited availability was the way to go.

      And, personally, I don't enjoy the freak show much. I know for some people that's part of the fun of the game but I find the freakier the adventuring group I'm GMing or playing in, the more quickly I lose interest. I like normal folks in a weird situation, not weird/normal or weird/weird. I recognize this is a matter of taste, but it's one I have a hard time enjoying personally.

    2. I think that the silly scouts with 4 cornucopias aren't effect of Q&D enchantments, but of the Cornucopia Quiver enchantment by itself. I'd rather change it's cost.

    3. Getting rid of Q&D costing is a pretty good way to put a floor on enchantment costs for a lot of things - Fortify, Deflect (which gets pushed into full-cost in DF1 despite being 100 energy), and gets rid of players sifting through the books looking for sub-100 energy spells to pick up cheap as utility items.

      Cornucopia is 50/$, arrows are $2, so it's $100 Q&D. Get rid of that and its $2000. You could get the same effect by changing Cornucopia to 100/$ and saying like Deflect it gets bumped up to the $20/point level, but it would still mean cheap enchantments all over the place for other things. It's a question of how widespread you think the problem is.

    4. Exactly. The scout buys 4 Cornucopia quivers because they cost $400 and it's totally worth it. He doesn't buy a Cornucopia of Fine, Balanced arrows because that costs $16000 or something crazy and it's not worth it. If the base Cornucopia quiver cost $2000, then it's not a no-brainer and its not insane to get the upgraded version if you have the chance.

      Fixing the costs of Deflect, Fortify, and every random sub-100 enchanting cost spell doesn't make magic rare. $2000 is not that much for successful delvers (or Very Wealthy knights or whatever). It does mean that there's more magic out there, instead of only Q&D enchantments.

  3. I would have made the fairy races true fairies like in GURPS Faerie. I would have made the mortal monster races be orc-blooded, troll-blooded, ogre-blooded, goblin-blooded and so on. These races would be the offspring of the true fairies and humans and thus would be mortal. This would keep true fairies more mysterious and powerful at the same time allow a dungeon to be filled with humanoids.

    1. I thought you were already doing that in your DF game!

  4. So nice to see that I'm not the only one who thinks about this, and I don't even have a campaign going yet!

  5. My fantasy game (of several years) has just ended, due to an unintentional TPK situation. When we started, the DF range didn't exist, and in any case I wanted to run a campaign of fairly gritty, faux-historical fantasy at that time. We'd never tried GURPS (half the group had never RP'd at all) and it seemed like it would be ideal for what I wanted (and I think it was). My players were happy to go along with that, but I think that their RPG assumptions and preferences were more inclined toward a larger-than-life, cinematic experience than I expected.

    Were I starting over now, I would run a game using Dungeon Fantasy as the base: cinematic advantages; implausible monsters; too-much treasure; realism-be-damned! I also have developed a hankering to run a megadungeon recently (thanks Peter!), which wouldn't really have worked in the previous campaign either.

    1. I gotta ask: how was the TPK unintentional? Foes more badass than expected? Bad die rolls at a critical time? Players use particularly bad tactics? GM got lucky?

    2. A bit of everything:
      - The foes were deliberately meant to be tough, and they ambushed the party (in the first/previous encounter the enemies had tried to scare off the PCs with non-lethal force and got whupped; they weren't going to make same mistake twice). I wanted it to be a hard fight, but I guess I overdid it.
      - Party dice luck was awful across the board (not just the 3 PCs; their NPC companion also crit failed twice). I have never seen dice this consistantly bad; the PCs were usually not this unlucky (plus they all have Luck advantage).
      - Players did not fight cohesively. They seperated and got defeated individually.
      - One PC chose to run when this would expose his rear to AoA from the heaviest-hitting enemy, which dropped him. The player had done this once before, exposing his rear to a wyvern sting which dropped him then; I couldn't believe he'd do it twice.
      - The last PC was berserk, and so wouldn't surrender, play dead or even pass out; the player didn't want me to skip-over it, so I had to slowly butcher her PC to -5xHP :(

  6. I ran a short campaign a few years ago via Skype with my old gaming group from the 70s. I should not have started them with "Death Frost Doom"--they were totally baffled by it.

    I kind of wish I had started my current dungeon campaign with GURPS, but it started as a one shot and I was trying to keep it simple. It is nice to have a campaign take off when I expected it to be one session...the reverse seems more like the norm (expect a campaign and get a one shot).

    1. Heh. Both have happened to me. My throw-away game for two of my friends became a 10-year campaign.

      By the way, how did they like DFD? I think it's a cool and moody dungeon, but it's really "act like adventurers and the world blows up, or quit now and you'll be fine." It seemed oddly like payback for acting like the game and the GM is telling you to act. Still, it's pretty cool stuff.

    2. @Peter D: I think the tone and the overall concept of DFD were amazingly groovy...I hadn't seen anything else like it. However (and you know there has to be one), there are at least two ways for the players to unwittingly destroy themselves and the campaign world. It is kind of like cutting into an apple pie, not knowing there is a landmine inside.

    3. Yeah, that was my impression to. It's a campaign-changer, which is good in a lot of ways. But yeah, to go with your simile, it's saying "This game is about eating pie. Make some pie eaters. Here is a pie. Oops, the pie was poisoned and had a landmine in it. Gee, sorry." I read it and felt like, okay, this would be a good start to a game that's deliberately set up to be "It was fine and then all went wrong." But it vaguely feels like pre-emptive revenge. :)

  7. I've had to take a while to think about this one.

    The only game I'm running at the moment is a play-by-blog game. The format has its own set of particularities and limitations that lead me to one thing I might change if doing it all over again, and a couple of things I've already begun tweaking and which I intend to keep tweaking until they feel right.

    First, I might consider an even simpler (mechanically speaking) rule system. Right now I'm using S&W, which is pretty simple to begin with. It works quite well. In the future, I might actually go with something even simpler like QUERPS. I say this only because PbB moves so slowly, the quicker the resolution mechanisms, the better. This is not at all an indictment of meatier systems; more a recognition of the limitations of the play-by-blog medium, where each round of combat can take 2-3 days to post.

    Second (which I've actually started tweaking), I'd make advancement happen more quickly. We've been playing thirteen months, and (most of) the players have just reached level two. In terms of in-game time, the pace feels about right to me, but in terms of real-life calendar time, it feels like we ground along at first level forever. I've already worked on this by bumping up the treasure available, thereby increasing x.p. I plan to tweak it a bit more in the near future.

    Third, giving more disposable magic items to create variety in what the PCs can do (another one I've already started adjusting). I think this is especially important in the slow PbB format. When the players spend a year at first level, a bit more stuff can create variety. I'm thinking especially of magic-users who only get one spell per day, since an in-game day can take several real-life calendar months to play out. It's an easy fix; just plant more items into the world. Since they're one-use or limited-charge items, there's no risk of breaking the game.

    1. Yeah, real-life time costs matter a lot. If you spend a flurry of posts doing a few rounds of combat, and a year getting up a level, it's going to feel like a lifetime commitment to a game. Why plan for name-level when getting to fifth level will happen sometime after your kindergartener graduates elementary school? Heh.

      A more abstract system + faster advancement (so you're going up a few levels a year, say) might make for a good game. We're not playing every day at lunchtime and then all afternoon after school anymore, so we can't structure advancement based on that kind of frequency anymore. ;)

    2. An advantage of having lots of disposable items is that, if the players find one they really enjoy, you can always drop in a more permanent item that has a similar effect...


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