Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Great Stone Heads

I've been meaning to take out some of the props from my last campaign to show them off. What prompted me to finally do it today was this post by Zenopus on the Great Stone Face and its possible connection to the Great Stone Head Enigma of Greyhawk.

Either just before or just after I started to run my last campaign (which ran from 1999 - 2010) I got a copy of Supplement I: Greyhawk.

In it I saw this cruddy but inspirational drawing:

I promptly put in a Great Stone Head in my campaign - a big enigmatic pseudo-Easter Island Head. I also promptly picked out one of a set of Armorcast stone heads to represent it. But my idea was twin heads - one a magical pole of power representing life, another representing death. So I needed two identical ones.

So once the players encountered the first head (thanks to a Teleport critical failure*) I called Armorcast and explained I needed a three pack of identical heads. No problem - they hooked me right up, at the same cost as the variety pack. IIRC it was $31 with shipping. Not bad for exactly what I needed for my game.

Anyway, I painted up a pair of them, and they became extremely important in my game. The Pole of Life, aka the Good Stone Head, is pictured here with the diorama I built for him. His hilltop location where the happy local natives made offerings to him and lived lives of pleasant and peaceful ease.

Good Stone Head

Eventually the players interacted with the head, got a Great Wish from it in return for service against the Big Bad Evil Guy (who they'd awakened and served previously - long story), and used the island as a base. Then they headed out to what they called Evil Stone Head Island.

Here is the Pole of Death, aka Evil Stone Head, who was originally based on a bunch of Mage Knight floor tiles in a treasure-filled dark room under a plateau on an island. And island full of killer tigers, blowgun-firing horde pygmies, tigers, a killer vampiress, and loaded from end to end with traps. Deadfalls, pits, whipsawing branches, nets, nooses, triplines - everything, all poisoned and lethal. The players made it through and met the Evil Stone Head, who also gave them a Great Wish in return for service against the BBEG. Oh and all the treasure the pygmies had collected for it, thinking it was an evil god (half right - it wasn't a god).

In either case, both were inspired by that picture in Greyhawk, and by my own crazy ideas and assorted half-remembered vague mentions of fun stuff from other people's games.

 photo StoneHead-Evil

I still have these guys, and I had an unpainted third head as well I meant to sell but never did.

I may use them again - either in their original context, as a callback to my old game, or just as enigmatic stone heads of some other sort. But there they are, proudly an homage to Greyhawk.

* I stole a joke from Sean "Kromm" Punch and had every teleport critical failure by this one wizard put him on the island facing the stone head. So an 18 wasn't just scary, it was terrifying. What was this head? He'd immediately teleport away, which was funny when he later learned it was trying to summon him and it just was a very slow talker. By the time it got to "Hello!" the wizard was long, long gone.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Lucky Once Per Fight

Luck in GURPS is based on real-world time constraints, not in-game constraints.

This can potentially lead to the odd effect of giving an incentive to players to "run out the clock" between dangerous events so they can get another shot at a re-roll.

In combat at least, I decided years back to address that.

Luck in Combat

You can use Luck as if each combat takes one real hour, regardless of its actual time.

Luck is once per hour, so that's once per fight.
Extraordinary Luck is once per 30 minutes, so that's twice per fight.
Ridiculous Luck is once per 10 minutes, making it six times per fight.

There is no cool down time between uses - you can use Luck the appropriate number of times, regardless of the time between those rolls. You can use Extraordinary Luck to affect two consecutive rolls, for example.


We do track usage normally, otherwise. If you used your Luck at 2:55 and get into another fight at 3:15, well, sorry, you have to wait - and you might be dead before it's 3:56 and you can take a shot at it.

I like how this makes Luck into a limited resource to be expended in combat, not an incentive to make fights longer so you can use it more often.

Is this fair? Yes. It applies to everyone.

Is it fun? Actually, yes, and it adds a hell of a lot of tension to the decision to use luck. Fights will start and end without using Luck because people keep saving it for when they really need it, and sometimes the fight is resolved before then.

Does this work in actual play? Yes, it does. I've been doing this for so many years I can't remember when we started doing so. It's fine.

I pretty much use this for any "per hour" abilities. We've made exceptions for very long fights (we had at least two epic battles that lasted multiple sessions) and let Luck work a second time in the same fight. But that's rare, and usually not necessary - it's more "generous fate" than "standard ruling."

So if you find people run out the clock in combat to get Luck in, this might be for you. Or if you just like Luck as a resource not a cooldown power, give it a shot.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Kromm on Multiple Shields in GURPS

So you want your snake-bodied demon to use multiple shields instead of a bunch of swords in your GURPS game? Or some clever munchkin of a player says, he, I'm going to fight with two large shields?

What happens then?

Luckily, Kromm answered that on the SJG Forums here:

Re: 4 arms, 2 large shields, bonus to defense ?

This does bring up the question - what is the best second shield? If breakage isn't a concern, then cost and weight are - you'll want a smaller secondary shield. But then again, that leaves you with a lower DB in the side hex on that side. Ideally you'll want two equally effective shields to cover you with the same level of defense from all angles.

You may also notice that I presciently gave the Ebony Death Goddess two shields, and while she's got two Blocks (and thus two multiple-defense cascades) she only gets the 2 DB from a Medium Shield, not some improved amount for extra shields. So she's Kromm Ruling Compatible as written. That Cross Block he mentioned, though, could give her yet another option for fending off heavy attack.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Three Pathfinder Bestiaries

So I received a copy of Pathfinder Bestiary today in the mail - an eBay auction win, at a reasonable price.

I finally have all three of the beautiful and highly inspirational Pathfinder Bestiaries. Here they are:

Pathfinder Bestiaries

Most of the monsters are old hat, but some of the new ones are fun and some old ones have a nice spin on them I find makes them even better monsters. So I'm pretty happy. This goes right into the "to read" list. Pathfinder might be a bit too rules-heavy for me (yet also too abstract, oddly) but it's clearly for gamers, by gamers - and their stuff is just beautiful and well done. Oh, and Doug Cole has a series on it, too, if you want to see what a GURPS player who is also a Pathfinder player thinks of it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How long of a session do you play?

Yesterday I wondered How many players do you GM for?

Well, when you do GM, how long are your game sessions?

My game sessions theoretically run every 2 weeks, but we cancel any of those weeks if we have insufficient players (less than two, with rare exceptions), or if there is a holiday that occupies myself or sufficient other players, or if I'm working (which I do on Sundays a few times a year). That's why we've only managed to get in 30 sessions over now just about two years of play. 31 sessions in just over two years, if you count our one-shot MOTFD playtest.

So with that in mind, we play sessions that run from between 5-6 hours (mostly back in the first half of the game so far) and 8-9 hours (lately).

Since we can't play often due to family/work/travel/scheduling concerns, we play for a long time when we can. It just works out that it's easier to have a long session less frequently than to have short sessions more often.

I miss the days I could come home from work and run game nightly for my friends when they got home from work. Or run it at lunch at school and then on weekends. But those days are gone - I can't even commit to playing a video game solo that often, or blogging that often, because there are much more critical things that I want and need to do. But when I did play that often, I remember lots of long sessions mixed with short sessions. A nightly 3 hour session, say, or playing until our parents told us to clear off the dining room table for dinner, mixed with marathon whole-day sessions that would start back up the next day as well.

But like I said, that's not going to happen. It's an average of 15 times a year, take it or leave it.

So when we play, it's as long as we can make it.

How about you guys?

Monday, August 26, 2013

How many players do you GM for?

Eric Tenkar has started to read an old book by Gary Gygax I've long wanted to read but have yet to track down - Role Playing Mastery.

In his first post on the subject he's talking group size, and ideal group size. Gary Gygax expressed an opinion that a fairly smallish group is ideal, but a lot of old school D&D legend is of gigantic groups and massive campaigns full of a huge rotating base of players. How true that was, I'm still not sure, but either way, for all the Mordenkainen and Robilar solo adventuring ("solo" as in "one player" not necessarily "one character") you think of RPGs as having a party of adventurers, not Conan going solo.

I started my DF campaign with five players plus one guest star (he can't commit to even our intermittent games). We ended up adding two more, for a total of seven plus one. We had a potential newbie guest star who ended up not making it. We have a line on a potential eighth player.

We've had one session that I recall with every one of the regulars there although we've been close. Usually it's closer to 3-4 players, and we've recently had a few sessions with only 2 players. Two of those, if I remember correctly, went down to one player for a while since one of them had to pop out to work in the middle of the session to take care of a few things before he got back.

I could run a game with more, but mostly we want a bigger pool because it's more fun when you've got 4 or 5 people instead of 2 or 3, and scheduling wipes out plenty of play time for everyone. We just can't reliably get that many people there. So we're always keeping an eye out for a friend we can lure back into the dungeons and who is in the right frame of mind for this kind of deliberately light game. Still, it works out to less than 5 people per session just about all the time.

So how many guys do you run for? What's your attendance rate like - lots of missed sessions, rotating pool, or play only when everyone is there?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Shout-outs to GURPS authors in Playing At The World

If you haven't read Playing At The World, you're really missing out.

Jeff Grubb just did a nice review of it over on his blog, and the author has posted bits of gaming history on his blog as well.

What amused me was running across the names of a couple of GURPS authors in the history of D&D.

First was my Low-Tech co-author Stoddard. He's also, appropriately, the author of GURPS Fantasy.

Jon Peterson mentions Bill Stoddard's possible influence on the Bard class for D&D.

"Bill Stoddard of San Diego equipped the Poet (for whom the 10th level title is "Bard") with an "Entrancement" ability which can hold an "intelligent creature immobile while the song lasts" - Playing At The World, pg. 543

It also points out that some of his level titles predate their use in the "official" Strategic Review version of the bard.

Over the years Bill has occasionally discussed playing white box D&D back in the day. So it was amusing to come across his work in a serious academic look at the history of RPGs as a having written rules back in the day.

Lee Gold is also all over the place for "Alarums & Excursions," but Lee Gold also wrote the first edition of GURPS Japan. Lee Gold was doing pretty much the same the decade before that book first came out - making, extending, and writing game rules.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Absolute Direction and the Megadungeon

In GURPS, the Absolute Direction advantage really gives you a lot of bang for the buck. It's limited in ability, but within its niche it's basically foolproof. As the text says:

"You always know which way is north, and you can always retrace a path you have followed within the past month, no matter how faint or confusing." - GURPS Basic Set: Characters, p. 34

I have mixed feelings about this advantage.

For a game based on multiple dungeons, such as a dungeon-of-the-week game or a traveling game, this is mainly positive for both the players and the GM. The players don't have to worry so much about mapping, or getting lost - either above or below ground - as long as they keep their Absolute Direction-having PC conscious. The GM doesn't have to worry about folks getting lost on the way to the dungeon, or frittering away a good portion of a session working on their maps, or having suspension-of-disbelief issues with describing rooms ("There is a door in the West wall near the south corner" "How do we know it's the west wall? The stars? We're underground.") In my previous campaign, which ranged around a largish play area and where locations were fodder for one or two visits, and the overarching conflict is what the players were on about, this was fantastic.

For a megadungeon game, it's not quite as fun for the GM. Always know which way is north? Gets rid of lots of trick rooms and disrupts the fun of non-Euclidean geometry. It even makes mapping less of an issue, and turns "get out of the dungeon safely" from a test of player memory, player mapping, and player attention into "the scout has Absolute Direction and retraces our steps."

Not fun, in my opinion.

So I modified the advantage for this game.

Above ground, it works as advertised.

Underground, well, it's not so simple.

You keep the skill bonuses for things like Orienteering and Body Sense (great when you're teleported).

But you don't get the path retracing, nor the knowledge of north.

Instead, you get two things:

- exact distances. This is something I don't do by default. When I describe rooms and corridors to a guy with Absolute Direction, it's exact. Not "roughly 20-25 yards away is a big door." It's "20 yards away is a door that's 6' wide." Not "A rectangular room about twice as wide and three times as long as the corridor you entered by" but rather "a 25' wide and 35' long room." "He's kind of far away." No - it's "He's 17 yards away."

- recognition of places you've been before. Even if you come at the place from a different angle, or strange entryway, it doesn't matter. So long as it's other than a warping/teleporting method, I'll tell you if you've been there before. And roughly how recently ("You were here before today" or "you were here a few weeks ago.")

This isn't the letter of the advantage, but it preserves some of the spirit - you're less likely to get lost because your maps are potentially better. You can rely on the GM to tell you you're back in recently-explored territory. But it's still up to you not to get lost, to figure out if that room spun you around, or which way points closer to the stairs down. It's changing it from a more output-centered, automatic-success advantage vs. a narrow set of issues (getting lost) into a input-centered, automatic improvement in information quality advantage. It makes it something that's still 5 points of value in a game where knowing North underground and retracing steps automatically is clearly more useful than anything else similar to it that you can get for 5 points.

For a game where "explore the strange environment" is a good part of the fun and the challenge, I am finding it works very well indeed. All it takes is some re-jiggering by the GM and reasonable players who accept the change without griping. I've got players like that, generally, because I'm not nerfing their power but making it fit the spirit of the game better. They hate it when the scout isn't there and their map gets a little "off."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Of Dice and Men" Radio Interview

I just heard this on my work commute - it's a short interview about Dungeons & Dragons on Marketplace.

It's just a short conversation between the host and David Ewalt, the writer of Of Dice and Men.

Here is the interview:

Niche Game, Big Business

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bones Skeleton WIP

Here are three shots of the skeletons I'm doing.

So far, just simple base coating. White on the skeleton's bones, brown on the inside and edges of the shields, black on the front of the shield, black and then gunmetal grey on the swords.

Skeleton WIP 1

First steps, really, and they aren't close to done. But the easy part is done - they're started and they are ready for the details to start getting picked out.

Skeleton WIP 2

Skeleton WIP 3

I may put some bronze on the shields, I'm not sure yet. Or bronze the swords, since I think that goes well with skeletons. If not, I'll put a rust effect on the skeletons.

I'm working on some other minis too, of coure, but these are spoiler-free. If my players don't know I'm going to use skeletons on them by now, they really haven't been paying attention for the past 20 years we've been fantasy gaming together.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Painting Bones & More Bones

Just a few notes on painting Bones.

- One thing I like about painting Bones is that you can often bend the mini into a position that makes areas easy to reach. Space between the head and the sword too tight? Bend the sword aside, paint, hold it until the paint isn't totally wet, and let it go. It works fine, and since the material has memory it'll eventually return to its true pose.

- I'm painting some Bones skeletons (because, you know, the dozens I have aren't enough). I'm using this guide from 1000 Foot General. So far so good. I'm doing the swordsmen, because the other skeletons are too bent and I need to boil-and-bend them.

"My" method is to paint white (prime first if metal or hard plastic), then wash brown, then wash black, then highlight, then seal. Or if I'm using Quickshade, I'll basecoat the whole mini, then wash it with Dark Tone and/or Strong Tone, then highlight, then seal.

I used to prime white, ink wash brown, and then paint the bones white. But that takes a long time.

I like the first method, but inks seem to have dropped off the Reaper and GW product list.

- I like the lightness of the Bones. But it's making me wonder about basing - should I base them (on penny-sized pieces of metal, or washers, or in 25mm round bases), or just leave them "loose" without a base? I'm going to try a few without bases, and see if they're stable in play. I hope so, because if I can get by without basing them they'll be less fragile, easier to pack, and take more punishment.

- I'm trying to jury rig a clear "flying" base. I had one for a mini, and it got broken somehow. I can't fix it, so I need to replace it. But the cost of a pack of bases is crazy high for what you get. I need to find some kind of thin, clear plastic that I can turn into a base. Anyone have a good idea for that?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Melee Academy: Keeping Your Reach Advantage

This month's GURPS Melee Academy discusses reach. Here are some basics you need to keep in mind if you want to keep your reach advantage.

For the rest of this month's Melee Academy, check out:

Gaming Ballistic - Melee Academy: Reach basics
No School Grognard - Melee Academy: Using Your Friends to Keep Your Reach Advantage

In GURPS, a weapon with a longer reach can provide the wielder with some serious advantages. But GURPS doesn't make this advantage automatic, nor total, nor intuitive to get. You need to use your reach carefully if you want to maximize its benefits.

GURPS does not automatically hand small-i initiative to someone with a longer weapon. Long reach can be an advantage, but you can't fritter it away.

Take a fighter with a spear in two hands (Reach 1,2*, held at 2 in this case) versus one with a broadsword (Reach 1). If the spear fighter is 3 yards from his foe, he's able to Step and Attack. His foe, however, needs to use Committed Attack (taking two steps and a steep set of penalties), All-Out Attack (risking fatal retaliation), Move and Attack (badly limiting his attack), or attack the spear itself.

If the spear fighter does step in to 2 yards away and attack, however, he's within the reach of the broadsword fighter on that guy's turn.

The spear guy can use Committed Attack himself to Attack and Fly Out to start and end his turn at 3 yards away. All Out Attack (Long) allows for a deep lunge, but leaves him defenses against his foe if he manages to close (or just whacks your spear). But he can't just strike with impunity while denying his opponent a chance to attack on his turn.

What the hell, right? That spear's reach is no advantage at all!

Well, it is, but it's not a total advantage.

The irony of a good reach is you need to stay out of your reach to maximize its benefit. You have to keep re-establishing your reach to make it matter. Your best bet is to stay beyond your easy attack range and force him to close through your reach to get to you. And you have to keep ceding the decision to suffer that reach advantage to your opponent. If you want to keep a foe where you can stick him and he can't retaliate without taking some risk, it will take some work - and some space to back up.

If you keep closing with your foes - move to 2 yards away and attack - folks with a Reach 1 weapon can step in and attack you. This isn't unrealistic, otherwise all long weapon vs. short weapon fighters (or kickers vs. boxers, or something similar) would end in total automatic victory for the longer reach. This doesn't happen because distancing is hard to keep while being aggressive. It's easier to keep when you're backing up.

So, what to do?

Some things to keep in mind:

You need to keep moving . . .

You need to keep moving to keep your opponents closing. Your longer reach weapon is only an advantage while your opponent is moving into your reach and before getting to his weapon's reach.

You really need to play a cagey game of maneuver, and not think "I strike first because I have long reach." You don't. You just have the option of forcing your opponent to either get aggressive or cede that first strike to you. You can't blithely move forward and try to get in a strike before your opponent can do anything. GURPS uses a one second time scale, and if you want to be interposing your weapon's point between you and your foe you can't also be aggressively stabbing out with it, too. The more you make them come to you, the more your reach advantage plays into your hands.

Corollary: Retreat is useful and dangerous. If your opponent presses you, or attacks your weapon, just Retreat to add extra distance. But be wary of backing yourself into a bad spot, and be wary of foes skilled enough to sideslip and retreat forward, in order to close in on you and negate your advantage.

Or not move at all . . .

The Wait option to Stop Thrust allows you to plant your longer-reach weapon on the ground and thrust into an oncoming foe. But you can't move around and do it - you're going to end up being stationary.

You'll need to wait for your opponent to come to you, but that makes your effective effectively area denial if they refuse to take the risk of coming within your reach. Not great if you need to be aggressive or your opponent can wait you out, but excellent if your goal is to stall for time!

The other option, really, is to fight from behind friends - the true advantage of a 2-hex reach weapon is that you can attack over the heads of your 1-hex reach friends, forcing anyone who closes with them to suffer two attacks.

Threaten many, attack few. A long reach weapon will let you threaten a broad swath of hexes on a battlemap, with or without a Step. So you can effectively create an "area of attack" in front of you, where everyone has to worry that they could be your target. This limits their options - if you're wielding a Reach 2 weapon, you can potentially attack anything within 3 yards of you with a Step and 4+ with Committed Attack, Move & Attack, or All-Out Attack (either through stepping, or using Long). Opponents need to keep you under threat (to make CA and AOA risky) and avoid putting you in their side or back arc.

Done properly, you can effectively limit the aggressiveness of enemies, cherry pick vulnerable foes, and force them to adjust their battle plans to keep you under threat. You're a wide-area problem.

Corrollary: A flexible reach is better than an adjustable reach. In other words, Reach 1,2 beats 1,2*. The problem with a * Reach weapon is that you have to adjust your weapon ta specific reach.

So yes, a $900 thrusting greatsword (1.2 for swing, 2 for thrust) is a much better "spear" than a $40 spear (1,2* when used with two hands) is. Not really surprising the more expensive and versatile weapon is the better weapon, is it? If you're using a weapon with a * reach, you need to invest in Reach Mastery as soon as possible so you can re-grip it at any length as a free action. Otherwise, expect to waste time re-gripping to a shorter reach once your opponent closes, and then you'll have to stay there.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What do you need to start playing?

I started my DF game with:

- some players. Not all of them, just some. Five guys started, and now we're up to 7 with some talk of adding more if we can think of local folks we'd like to spend Sundays with.
- a list of playable races and stats for them. Those races had about 1-3 sentences of fluff text.
- a list of acceptable templates (for you class & level folks, read as "class" or "profession.")
- a dungeon to bash on for a few sessions.
- a map from the civilized spot to the dungeon, in case they went a bit astray.

I was able to put that stuff together in only a few weeks, an hour here or an hour there, as needed. I could have done all of it in a day if I needed to. Thanks to using GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, I was able to do this stuff by simply picking out what I needed and discarding what I didn't. I didn't need to make much up.

I didn't have:

- religions mapped out. I put "Good God" as a placeholder on the cleric's sheet and he ran with it, all, Good God Y'all style. It went from placeholder to real name.
- a name for the world. I still don't.
- a map of the play area. I still don't.
- a name for the megadungeon I was planning to add ASAP. Or anything more than a vague idea of where it would be. I wasn't even sure if the game would be "convert AD&D and Rolemaster stuff and roll around from dungeon to dungeon" or "have a base and a megadungeon" or not. Not 100%, although I was leaning to the latter.
- most of the details of my game world you might know from reading our session summaries.

I write up monsters as I think of them or need them. NPCs, too. I map just ahead of the players. I write down the crazy crap they say and make it true about the game world. I make crap up and make it stick. I rule stuff off the cuff ("rulings not rules" is a good way to roll during a session) and then I write them down and use them again if we like the results (because that's how you make rules).

The upside to this kind of approach is, you get the game rolling quickly. Your enthusiasm is up. So is that of the players. You're three sessions in and on a play schedule before you realize it. You left so much blank you can afford to let the players fill it in. Strike while the iron is hot, don't wait until you've figured it all out.

Why not? Takes too long. You have to write it up, then teach it to/pass it on to the players (instead of letting them decide what it is), and then make sure what's going in fits in with what's there already. Why not just start playing?

Monday, August 12, 2013

On the Limited Abuses of Create Servant

You may have noticed my players abusing the living hell out of the spell Create Servant. They post them as lead and trailing guards, send them into rooms, make them touch/push/lick things before they touch them, use them to try and open doors.

The wizard has the spell, and he's reasonably good at it. So he can create servants not-too expensively and maintain them for free, in any number he chooses. He's limited more by the "Spells on" rule than by any other constraint. Therefore you see them use and abuse servants constantly.

What are they good for?

They walk ahead and set off traps, spring ambushes, take the first attack, provide inadvertent cover (literal meatshields), and so on. They trail behind and prevent an easy attack on the rear guard by providing a disposable body to block attack. They carry light sources and occasionally drag bodies or tote gear.

It does seem to take a lot of the risk out of exploration. Created Servants are like free hirelings who will listen to any command you give them, attempt anything that isn't inherently combat related, and inspire no need for soul searching when you send them to their deaths. They're as alive as a fireball, and you don't shed a tear when your fireball hits its target and perishes. It's just a manifestation of magic. No one cares if they die, and there is no legal or social cost to getting them killed. It's like people fretting over a bomb-disposal robot getting trashed, if bomb-disposal robots were free of charge.

They're pretty good for all of those uses, too.

But they have some serious drawbacks, too.

What's the downsides?

They're weak. ST 9 is weak. They open the lightest possible dungeon door less than 50% of the time, and an average door never, unless they've got a crowbar and roll a critical success. So unless the door is going to open anyway, without force, they aren't budging it. They can't carry much, either - ST 9 is a BL of 16 pounds, and with Move 4 (they have Speed 4.5 and Move 4) they drop to Move 3 with 16.~ to 32 lbs of gear, Move 2 with up to 48 lbs, and Move 1 with up to 160 lbs (Heavy and Extra-Heavy both drop Move to 1). That's not even an unequipped adult male adventurer in most cases, meaning they need a wheelbarrow, dragging sledge (which is noisy), or another servant to carry a wounded person.

A Brute Servant is more expensive but with ST 16 is a much better deal for carrying things - up to 510 lbs for the same Move. But again, expensive to cast and maintain.

They're clumsy. DX 9 gives a default for most physical skills in the 3-5 range, average 4. So they don't climb well (no roll with a ladder, good thing, because they have skill 4. A rope gives 4 minus 1 = 3 going down, 2 going up). They aren't stealthy. They have Stealth roll of 4, so they can't sneak very well, either. No party with Created Servants ever makes a Stealth roll. They aren't ghosts or light-footed utterly silent Jeeves-Ninjas, they're shuffling magical morons.

They're stupid. IQ 9 isn't bright. It's a little duller than average. That also gives them Per 9, too, and that's pretty bad even with the +10 for In Plain Sight. They default Search to 4, Observation to 4, and have a Per-based Traps roll of 4.

They're weak in the HT department, too, with another 9. Not that it matters - they rarely get hit with anything and not just fold up and disappear according to the rules of the spell.

So they can't accomplish that much.

What about skilled servants?

Yes, some of this is mitigated by skilled servants - you can create them with a skill. One non-IQ non-combat skill at a 16 is good - and Stealth isn't a combat skill. Traps is IQ based, so that's out. You could conceivably give them Search or Observation, though, because they're Per based, but that's a real stretch - Per derives from IQ, so does this fall under an IQ based skill? I'd say yes, otherwise Servants can be given IQ-based chi skills and other oddities. So no Search or Observation, either. Even if they could, they're more expensive - 2 to maintain means you need skill 20 not to pay 1 FP/minute to keep one up. A steady walk down a long dungeon corridor could end in a 50-minute rest as you try to recover from keeping your servant active.

They aren't totally useless, but like Brutes, they come with a cost that's hard to pay over time.

What does this mean as suicidal scouts?

They won't really spot anything. This isn't a problem when you're using them as a suicidal mine detector, setting off traps. It's a problem if you intend to deal with a trap without setting it off, or if the effects aren't limited to killing the servant.

They won't really see anything that's not in plain sight, spot anything hidden, or understand what they see. So they can "scout" in the sense of "go see if anything kills you." They can check for contact traps that don't require a more solid set-off - a hair-trigger trap will nail one, but what about a "fire on door opening" trap?

The way they just disappear if "killed" makes it hard to determine what killed them except via direct observation.

They're vulnerable to No Mana Zones. On the bright side, they detect them automatically. Heh. But so does a Continual Light spell, or even a regular Light spell walked ahead of the party via concentration.

They're not free willed, so they don't make an decisions on their own, making them useful only as a remote drone you have to talk to (loudly, possibly, so they can hear you.)

They are cheap (3/1) but not free, so they do require some effort to put out. And again, spells on - a -1 for each of those servants.

So if you were wondering why I allow all of this with no complaints, it's because I think they're generally using the servants in a way that's fair and consistent with the rules. They lose out a lot - I can think of at least two situations off the top of my head where a servant being used instead of a person cost them some valuable intelligence. They're happy with the upsides, and don't seem to mind the downsides. But it's more "clever play and making a trade you can live with" than "rampant abuse." If it wasn't for the suicidal "go pull that lever" uses, a living hireling (or better yet, actual professional adventurer) could do all of it better and faster. So no, they really aren't a big problem.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Highlander / The First Heroic Archer

One of my former gamers and still best friends just got back from a trip to Scotland. Naturally, being a MMA-doing former-blade-collecting author, he went right for the most important spot in Scotland:

Conner MacLeod's castle.

Here he is, on his blog, posing with Kurgan's sword.

Technically he's posing without it, and his (professional designer) wife Photoshopped in the sword. But it's still ten kinds of awesome. And I'm not just saying that because he throttled me with a great pressure choke on Saturday morning at MMA class.

Tom has the distinction of playing what is very probably the first Heroic Archer in the history of GURPS. The advantage was written for, and introduced in, GURPS Martial Arts. Tom was in my gaming group when we tested the rules, and used a Great Wish granted by a magical giant Easter Island head to get the advantage for character, Renos. Renos was a lazy guy who turned bounty hunter with the aid of his gigantic Neapolitan mastiff Strego because that was less work than raising dogs with his dad. Renos was a fun character - eminently quotable ("The snake - nature's flail" or "A coward dies a thousand deaths - but they are all fake") and extremely good at what he did (Tracking-24 or 25 or something, pretty good Bow skill, too.)

The advantage wasn't really a perfect match for Renos. It helped him stay relevant in combat in a game full of flying magic-using weapon masters, hyper-skilled Trained By A Master fencers, high ST half-ogres, and fight after fight after fight to the death against the forces of evil. Renos was more temperamentally suited to being a bow sniper - Weapon Master (Bow) and a pile of Zen Archery probably was more his style. But that only became clear in play. But he was the very first one I know of, and gave the advantage a test in actual play that was invaluable for knowing that what we'd written worked as advertised (and where it didn't.)

Oh, and the Kurgan? I've got this suspiciously Kurgan-looking mini I need to paint . . .

* Rules sticklers will complain that, technically, you can't do that. They'd be wrong, because in my game a Great Wish was as much an excuse to blow saved points on supernatural powers as it was a direct grant of a specific amount of power.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Grenadier Hirelings, Finished

I've posted before about what is just about my favorite boxed set of minis:

Grenadier Miniature's 2004 Hirelings from their Advanced Dungeons & Dragons figure line. Such a favorite that I tracked them down on eBay, bought them, referenced them in a book, and, naturally, painted them.

I finished them two days ago, and it's finally a complete set.

Here they are, half done.

And here they are, complete!

Hirelings Complete

Hirelings Complete Closeup

Most of them got the quickshade treatment, which worked well making these guys look weathered and grungy. The halfling torchbearer and the team really gave me a hard time.

My only regret on these guys is that I didn't hit on my "Guild of Hirelings" official red shirt color scheme until after I'd done a couple of them. Otherwise they'd all have red shirts. The only guys who don't are clearly employers, like the lead trunk bearer, who's armored like a real adventurer.

You've seen these guys before in my games. Shieldbearer Zed uses the potion drinking mini. The pack bearer has stood in for a created servant. And I'm pretty sure the lantern bearer has seen use as a generic hireling before as well.

I'd like to thank JCoo for this great explanation of painting fire. Without it, the torch on that halfling would still be keeping me down.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Some obstacles to GMing DF Felltower by internet

I'd really like to run my DF game online, so I'm trying to figure out the obstacles in my way. Or at least the things I need to deal with. This isn't meant as a list of excuses, as much as a to-do list.

Schedule. Biggest obstacle first - I work early mornings, and I work a lot of nights. I also work Saturdays. So while I have free time, sometimes a lot, it's not regular and not terribly convenient for other people. So I need to work out when I can run game.

Game Length. My sessions are generally a small number of times a year (we've been playing since 2011, and we've had 31 sessions total) but long. So I'm a bit geared to 7-9 hour sessions. 2-3 is more reasonable for online, but then how do I do "enter the dungeon, leave the dungeon same session" for episodic play? I may need to relegate all non-dungeoneering stuff to email before or after game. That shouldn't be an issue.

House Rules. I use rather a lot of house rules, if only little ones we'd made and keep going with. I also use a limited set of the standard rules, which I'd need to delineate. I'd really need to list them out so people don't find them out at awkward times. Which means I need to assemble them into one place.

Maps. My maps are on tiny gridded home-printed graph paper. So I couldn't easily shove them into Roll20 or something. It would need to be old school - I tell you what you see, you map if you want to. But sometimes I just lay out a room because it's too hard for me to describe or we're just not sure what "it goes 10 feet in and turns right immediately" means to each of us. Does it go straight 20 feet total, the second 10' block has a sharp right? Or the far wall is 10' away? I can't just say "Here is what you see" without prepping my maps for partial reveals, which means scanning.

Minis. I'm very visual with combat, so we use minis a lot. Even when we're playing fast-and-loose combats, we put them down. I need to figure out a substitute. While Roll20 was okay in the games I played, but it's not natively friendly to GURPS's "facing changes with steps automatically" approach. And I'd need to find icons for my monsters.

Practice. I need to practice running a game by Skype or Google Chat or Google+ Hangout or whatever, and find out what's wrong with how I play for that medium.

Anything else I need to work out, technically, to get a game rolling?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Making Fights Tough(er) in DF

Back in March, I wrote about how to make DF fights tough.

Here is another couple of ways to make things tougher.

Mixed Enemies - Instead of just one kind of enemy, mix some together. An example of this came in my last session, but the players diffused it. Had they not managed to fight their enemies piecemeal, they'd have fought a combination of strong but slow stone golems (very high damage melee fighters) while fending off swarming ash spirits (moderately damaging blinding clouds of evil ash). The weakness of one (moderate damage, fairly obvious weakness vs. wind) is covered by the other (high damage, can walk through a Windstorm without difficulty). The strength of one (blinding attack) feeds into the other's attack (high-damage moderate skill flail strikes).

Set foes - literally put there as guards - should generally have some mix or have some terrain to make them viable foes. Otherwise it's too easy for a diverse group to stand off and kill them (or charge in and kill them) once the weak point is discerned. A diverse group of guardians, guards, assassins, or what have you, is a much greater threat due to the need to deal with multiple avenues of attack.

One I discussed before, but which needs some reinforcement:

Magical Support - Even if the enemies don't have allies, or pets, or coincidentally occurring inadvertent aid, and even if they're a homogenous mix (a tribe of orcs, a pack of stirges, etc.), they might have a supernaturally adept member. The foul bats from DF2 have their own special leader types. Certain demons have spellcasting versions. Orcs might have shamans, or holy men, or demon-summoning spirit-callers. Defensive spells (Missile Shield, Shield, Bless) or dispelling attacks (Dispel Magic or Purify Air vs. Fog or Stench) can keep the PCs from being the only ones to bring magic to the battlefield.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Play Dungeon Robber

This is where my free attention is going:

Dungeon Robber

The game of "seriously, the AD&D DMG random dungeon maker is freaking crazy." Okay, more like the game of dungeon bashing, but the first description is accurate, too. It's really way more fun than it seems like it should be.

I keep playing it. You know . . . just a quick trip down, grab some loot and I'll get back to what I'm supposed to be doing . . .

You can comment on the game here.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Finding Stuff in Your Pocket in GURPS

Long Actions in GURPS really grind on people. Anything that takes more than a second just feel like forever when you can die between now and when you finish. It's not that people hate the rules, or feel they are unreasonable - they just feel like they're standing in gunfire looking for their keys instead of ducking and firing back.

The other issue we've had is that, what happens when you roll 11 seconds to find something but you'd never spend that time?

It's artificial and game-y to roll 11 seconds on 2d, and say "I know it'll take 11 seconds, so I'll stop looking immediately."

Worse, it feels like cheating to stop, so people feel compelled to keep looking.

What my players suggested, and do, is announce ahead of the roll the maximum time they'll spend looking. "If I don't find it in 5 seconds, I stop." So they have a predecided out, and it doesn't feel like a prescient decision since they don't know how long it'll take, just how long they'll spend.

But I had another idea this past weekend, and I'm trying to think of how to expand it.

Another Way To Roll

In Sunday's game I tried something else - don't roll for time, roll to find it. Instead of 1d6 seconds to pull something out of your pocket, you've got a 1 in 6 chance of finding it. After 6 turns, you just find it. It added a lot of fun, because it was "do I keep trying, or just give the hell up?"

That second part is generous - it never takes more than 6 seconds to find something, which anyone who's looking in their backpack only to eventually need to dump it over to find something will attest.

For a loose item in a bag, it's 2d seconds. This is trickier - with 1d it's clear you have a 1 in 6 chance of any given result. For 2-12, it's not so clear. But on average you'll find it in 7 seconds, and your maximum time is 12 seconds. I'm still mulling this over - it's a question of what the right chances would be. If I wanted the odds to be the same as the 1 in 6, I'd just say roll a 4 or less - you've got basically the same odds as rolling a 1 on a d6. That seems a bit generous, though - you shouldn't have a 16.66% chance to find it in 2 seconds, then 16.66% chance to find it in 3, etc., should it?

So I'd like to come up with a number for it, but math isn't my strong suit. Anyone? Doug? Bueller? What is a "good" roll-under number to match the odds that, yes, sometimes it'll take 12 seconds to find things but most of the time it won't.

Is there another way to do this? - Yes, you can simply have the GM roll in secret and announce when they find the object. This both get rid of the "meta" question (they really don't know how long it will take) and leaves the normal system in place. But I'm not a big fan of things that make me roll in secret, track it in secret, and otherwise take rolls out of the hands of players. If it's possible just stick odds on a roll and let the players roll (and debate using Luck to get it out faster, or bitch about how they rolled all the 1s out when they did damage, and complain about people rolling their dice), I like to do that.

Rolling is fun, so I like to hand as much fun to the players as I can.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

DF Games, Session 31 - Felltower 22

August 3rd, 2013

Weather: Rainy, Cool (@ 70 degrees)

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (251 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (288 points)
     Father Hans, human cleric (130 points, NPC)
     Shieldman Zed, human guard (??, NPC)
Galen Longtread, human scout (311 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (346 points)

Still in town:

Borriz, dwarven knight (310 points)
Christoph, human scout (258 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (297 points)

We started in Stericksburg, as usual. After the fiasco last time, no volunteers came forward - in fact, attempts to recruit new NPC hirelings were at a temporary -3 because of the extensive deaths and heavy injuries! As will be seen later, this was probably for the better - this was a dangerous expedition even for the well-prepared. Raggi was around, though, and so was Father Hans and one of the shieldbearers they used last time.

The group paid their upkeep, gathered rumors, and so on. They also all kicked in 500 sp each (2000 total) to hire a sage to do research on the Lord of Spite, that blue ogre that kicked their asses back in session 23. Coincidentally, they rolled up a rumor about the Lord of Spite being an ogre-lord or demon-lord that hates everything. Also, one about orcs being created by the gods as pure evil. That didn't stop Galen from learning Orcish, making him the solid linguist of the group (he speaks and reads Common, and speaks Elven and Orcish, and a bit of Goblin, too.)

They purchased potions and gear and headed up to the dungeons.

Once again they found a lot of traffic out of the ruins, and a clear path showing where they walls had been taken down to provide an easy passage. They decided the orcs are fortifying the dungeon, based on this scanty evidence.

They headed down the well entrance, which bothered Vryce - he's not fond of using the same entrance because it makes them predictable. But nothing else looked better - the bugbear hole meant crawling, the front gate meant possible sniping, the tower trapdoor was locked from below, and that left the well. So they went that way.

They made it safely down, and quickly headed down to level 2 via their usual path. Nothing molested them, although they heard more rock-thumping in the distance. They decided it was probably more rock-men and moved on.

They made it all the way to the first statue room, and Vryce said, let's go downstairs. Instead of trying to solve the statue puzzle and fight orcs, he needs more serious loot and that means down deeper. So they went down the stairs, and found the only room they'd explore for the entire session.

At the bottom was a long, dust-covered room, 30' wide and maybe three times that long, with an exit out the opposite side and four archways spaced evenly on either side. Also, two statues of BIG men with two-handed flails on either side, standing on pedestals. They decided they were clearly stone golems, and got ready to attack them. Raggi and Chuck took one, Vryce the other. Chuck did a Power Blow and smashed his hard, followed instantly by Raggi. The golems jumped off their pedestals to the attack as Vryce hit his.

And just like that, they were in a melee. Two more golems came running from the far end of the room, and also attacked. Raggi immediately ate a flail hit to the torso, took 20 damage past his armor (they did 4d+8 crushing) and blew his consciousness roll. He was knocked back, and cleanly unconscious. Father Hans rushed forward to heal him. Normally this would be a waste, since he was unconscious from injury and could be out for 15 minutes or so - but Raggi has Recovery, so that's only 15 seconds for him. Meanwhile Dryst threw a lightning bolt, but critically failed and hit himself - he bounced it off the wall and ZAP! hit himself. And, naturally, rolled the most damage he's ever done with that spell, seriously wounding himself. Things looked bad.

The four golems fought hard, but not cleverly, with their flails. One tried a few times to clip Chuck Morris but his acrobatic dodges saved him. But then he took a shot to the left leg and it was crippled (broken, as it turned out). He rolled away as a Great Hasted Dryst ran up and used his staff and Shocking Touch to try to attract the golem's attention to himself. Meanwhile Vryce kept fighting two other golems, having trashed one with some help from the cutting-head arrows of Galen. Chuck got himself standing with a ludicrous Acrobatics roll, and Vryce worked to back the golem up to him - Chuck hit its leg repeatedly from behind but barely bothered it (crippling a leg on a high-HP golem is tough; you need to exceed HP/2 with one shot). In the end, though, just steady pounding from a now Great Hasted and Shielded Vryce, constant intervention from Dryst (Great Hasted and Shielded), and steady arrow fire from Galen and hits from Chuck did them in, and all four golems were down. Just as Raggi woke up (about 1 second after the fight ended.)

The PCs looked around as the group rested and healed, and splinted up Chuck's leg. They saw the corridor out the opposite of the way they came in was lined with painted black open-mouthed faces every 10', and that under the dust were scorch marks, black stains, and blast marks. Uh, yeah, seen that before.

The archways led to 8' tall, 30' tunnels with burial plates in the walls. 60 per tunnel, 8 tunnels. Each tunnel ended in a well-painted purple six-fingered hand symbol. So, they figured, these guys must be buried with loot like the previous ones! They cracked open a niche.

Inside was an entire skeleton, disassembled but all there, along with two silver coins (the eye coins) and a small gold "passage coin" worth 10 sp (about half of a usual gold coin). But as they skull hit the floor and they grabbed the coins, some of the dust in the main room was swirling up, and two red "eyes" formed within it . . .

Combat began again, since some of them were waiting for the other shoe to drop. Swirling clouds of funereal dust, with red eye-like orbs, coalesced and swirled in one them. They cloud blinded, as well as momentarily formed a solid "fist" to punch with before letting it swirl away. Galen started shooting out the eyes, and Vryce stabbing them, but they soon realized it was merely a special effect and not a real vulnerability - they'd wink out and then form new ones, without any loss of efficacy in their attacks. In short order there were eight of them attacking the party. They did little damage most of the time, but they dodged attacks with relative ease and threatened blindness and defeat by attrition. At this point Chuck Morris was temporarily blinded.

What followed was a few scrambling seconds before Dryst decided on the toxifier-killer - a Windstorm. He started to whirl one up, and then used Wild Talent on Air Jet and let one have it with a 4d blast. He did serious damage to it, and that seemed to bother them - four of them pounced on him just as his windstorm kicked up to full speed! They blinded him, pounded him unconscious, and then found themselves stuck with Dryst in the eye of the storm.

In a typical "Vryce the Hero" move, Vryce charged into the storm. He dropped his sword (it's on a lanyard), grabbed Dryst, and pulled him out of the eye of the storm and into the windy part that repelled the creatures. Then Chuck moved into the storm and started to All-Out Attack into the eye where four of these things were intermixed (All-Out Attack Double, plus Rapid Strike, when you have Extra Attack, is potentially 4 hits a second). Meanwhile, the other four attacked the rest of the group. Raggi got nailed a few times, Father Hans got blinded and knocked out, and Galen got bothered. Vryce yelled for everyone to get into the storm (Leadership helps a lot sometimes), and then physically pushed out to grab Father Hans and drag him into the storm. Meanwhile Raggi finally dropped from injury just inside the storm.

Once in the storm, they kept attacking the ones at the center, ignored the ones outside (now temporarily harmless), and dragged the wounded together. Windstorm forces a ST roll to stay standing, but even Galen is pretty beefy (ST 13) and Chuck Morris has Immovable Stance, making them pretty stable in there. Once the wounded were basically piled up, and hit with an Awaken spell stone by Galen. It worked brilliantly, and woke them all up. All the while they were trying to kill the ones inside with sheer amount of hits. This eventually worked - the four-jump-Dyrst move ended up making them fish in a barrel and unable to effectively Dodge and Retreat and so they got hit, often several at the same time because of being over-packed.

Once those four dissipated, they went to work on the rest. Dryst took some time to examine them and realized they were Ash Spirits (DF6), and undead, not demons. Vryce headed out to attract the other four - and Dryst went to trap them with a Windstorm. Unfortunately Raggi couldn't be restrained and he charged out and distracted two. So two more got caught in a new Windstorm (and eventually slain by Chuck Morris and Vryce, who was Great Hasted by this point and had swapped his magic sword for his undead slayer). Raggi fought outside, as did Chuck, while Galen moved out and started shooting. Vryce's sword wasn't a panacea but it clearly hurt them more than his other weapon. But eventually, some bad luck told - Galen shot into Raggi's melee with one and hit Raggi in his unarmored arm, and knocked him to -21 HP (he's got 20). Death check. HT 12, Hard to Kill 2.

Dice drop - 6, 5, 3. A fourteen. Not dead, just looks dead! Raggi was down.

The last of the ash spirits was eventually dispelled, leaving the party exhausted, battered, and worried. So they quickly got to healing (Father Hans on duty, once he drank some healing potions belonging to his boss, Dryst) and looting.

Meanwhile Dryst went and Magelocked the door leading to this area, while Galen checked the corridor ahead. It ended barely in their range of vision with a pair of big metal doors painted with an axe-and-sword crossed over a tower motif. Baron Sterick's symbol. Hmm.

So they looted the 480 niches, smashing each one and taking the coins within. Serious grave robbery here, but they were sealed off in a dangerous and hard to reach area so nothing bothered them. They took 480 of those gold coins and 960 silver.

They finished and got ready to go - dropped the Magelock, etc., and sent a servant down the face-lined corridor. Nothing happened. They ordered it to try and open the door - nothing. Couldn't do it, not blasted by traps. Suspicious that it needed real life to set it off, they called the servant back and headed home.


So PCs at 300+ points need at least twice their upkeep, etc. to justify full XP for a profitable trip. The idea was to avoid rewarding people for farming the upper levels for minor loot. It sure worked.

Amusingly, the fights last week all cried out for a Scout to finish them quickly ("Those would be two hit fights - I hit them, they hit the floor.") This one, like the one two sessions ago, featured high-DR high-HP mobile rocks. Heh.

That would have been a much more dangerous fight had the golems and ash spirits been attacking at the same time. But the PCs made a smart decision to assume they were golems and attack right away; the ash spirits weren't triggered by the golems fighting but by molesting the niches. Had they left the golems alone and molested the niches, well, it could have been uglier.

As it was we spent 7 hours of an 8 hour session in one room in the dungeon. Still, two nasty fights they barely won, split into two fights because of their actions. They took home solid loot (with the flails from the golems, they netted 1200 each for the five-way split of Galen, Raggi, Dryst, Vryce, and Chuck) and realized there are some very dangerous spots in the dungeon. I can't say it wasn't fun, although sometimes I wish they had another way to fight diffuse creatures besides "hit them twice for every HP they have!" as a tactic. They're getting closer with Air Jet, though. So, despite almost no exploration, they took a risk on a deeper path and fought potentially TPK-level danger. 5 points, MVP to Dryst.

And that's it for weekly playing, as my schedule has changed and I'm back to be busy again. Next session will come in 4 weeks, maybe sooner, but it was a fun run while it lasted!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Third World War ends in disaster


Just aargh.

I was partway through my game of GDW's Third World War by Frank Chadwick

. . . and I smacked into the corner of the card table I was using.

The entire front went from neat piles of divisions and brigades, disruption counters, odds markers, strike markers, etc. to a smear of randomly strewn units.


There was just no way to re-assemble it. I've been playing it slowly over the past weeks, so it's not like I knew which divisions were in which stack in which hex, with how many disruptions.


It's a slow game, but a fun one, but I can't see me getting another chance to play it for at least another six months or more.

So depressing. Next time, I'm playing it on a sturdier table, one I can't move even with a hard bump. Next time I'll probably play a faster game, like Arctic Front or Southern Front. Persian Gulf is the most fun, but it's more than twice as big as the game I was playing and I have no table space big enough to set it up anymore.


Revised GURPS Magic: Merging Stone to Flesh/Flesh to Stone

Another "fix" I made to GURPS Magic for my current DF game.

GURPS Magic takes two approaches to "reversible" spells.

- this spell costs 10 to cast, but also lets you cast the reverse of the spell for 6 points.

Flesh to Stone, Stone to Flesh - these are two separate spells. Stone to Flesh's only effect is to undo the effects of Flesh to Stone (or similar supernatural petrification).

I'm not a big fan of separate spells that essentially provide a spell and a way to reverse it. I don't mind if a given spell Summons X and another Dispels X, or one Destroys Y and another Creates Y. It's the spells that only counter another specific spell that I find to be a bit crufty. All Flesh to Stone does is reverse another spell; it's not separably useful. It can't animate a never-living statue. It can't turn a wall of stone into a wall of flesh to let you cut through it to escape a trap. It doesn't do anything except counter a specific other spell's effects.

So in my game, there is no Stone to Flesh spell. It's subsumed into Flesh to Stone. Cost to cast is the same, and you still need the same prereqs to cast it - so if you're lacking Magery 2, say, you can't reverse the spell. Essentially I got rid of one spell by taking Entombment as a guideline and putting them together.

What about clerics? The base DF cleric can only cast Stone to Flesh, not go around petrifying people. That's fine - they get a more limited version of the spell. Cost is unchanged, but then again, they don't need to provide any prereqs for it aside from the right level of Power Investiture, so it's fine. They get the spell but can't use it to petrify people, just fix petrification.

Why not Earth to Stone and Stone to Earth, too? Because neither is a pure counter to the other. The first will let you turn any old earth to stone, the other stone into earth. Neither is limited to only countering the other spell. The goal is to eliminate cruft, not merge all possible reversible effects.

Any other "this spell only reverses this other spell" pairs I'm missing? The is the only one that's come up in play, so far.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

700 Monsters sold

Just a quick self-congratulatory note - GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1 has sold 700 copies.

I'm pretty pleased - that's 2100 21,000 monsters I've helped unleash on the gaming world. Now, off to work on more . . .
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