Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Year in Other Gaming

Yesterday's little DF retrospective was actually really fun to write, so I'll do one for my non-DF gaming.

Swords & Wizardry - I got in two sessions of Swords and Wizardry this year with Erik Tenkar. Good stuff - really enjoyable. It reminds me of how fun playing can be. It also reminds me why I GM GURPS, not a DnD clone, because what's abstracted is what I usually want more detailed and vice-versa. But still, good players, good pace, and a good GM + a system I understand = fun, fun game.

Video Games - I played a bunch of Skyrim, including Dragonborn. I love the game, although I've done pretty much all I was interested in doing with it. Still, utterly beautiful and really enjoyable. An extremely well-timed sale on Borderlands 2 for $9.95 on Xbox Live convinced me to finally pick it up after watching my friend Ryan give it a whirl. I immediately gravitated to Salvador, the Gunzerker, because if you've ever seen me fight in competition, you know I tend to try to pick you off at range, until you hit me and then I charge straight in to point blank and chase you around if you back up.
Borderlands is kind of annoying in that you have to clear whole stages before a save does more than set you back to the beginning with a full re-pop, so I have to put it aside until I have the couple of hours I need to work my way through a stage. More than once I got killed by marauders that repopped when I was just heading back to a vending machine to sell some loot before I quit for the day. Annoying. Still, enough fun that I started a replay through on a harder mode (Ultimate Vault Hunter) and when I get a bit of time I pull out the controller, go gunzerk and spray cartoony world with gunfire. The irony to the good price is the expansions are too expensive compared to what I paid for it, so I've cruised solely on the core game. It's more than enough fun for me. Although I do spend a lot of time tracking down Claptrap just to hear his dubstep song again.

A good lesson in that game is the BBEG taunts the living hell out of you the whole game, coming across as twisted, annoying, and arrogant yet a little insecure. He interacts with you regularly, not enough that you tune him out but enough to bug you. By the time you meet him you're extremely ready to kick his ass. It's a good lesson for roleplaying games, too - all too often the BBEG is just some powerful guy you've never heard of, and have no special reason to loathe. No one playing Borderlands 2 is going to say "Handsome Jack? Was that the BBEG's name?" No, you know him well by the end and can't wait to shoot at him. GMing Tip: Play some Borderlands 2 and have your BBEG in contact with the PCs . . . you won't need rails to get them to chase him down, they'll fly after him willingly.

I played some Halo: Reach, too, but it got annoying after a while and I just stopped. Same with Assassin's Creed - I'm very bad at jumping games, and it's a jumping game. Sorry, I am a ten-thumbed brawler and it's not for me. Black Flag looks awesome, and sounds fun, but I know I'll just be frustrated trying to play it. But GTA:V is on my to-do list for next year.

Board & Card Games - I played a couple partial games of Awful Green Things with a student, but that won't last because there isn't enough hard vocab or difficult concepts to practice (I teach ESL.) I got zero games of Munchkin in this year, sadly - my best partners for it are my DF group and we always prefer that to Munchkin. I played so many games of Fluxx (3.0 not 4.0, no Creepers, just Keepers) with my ESL students I can't even count them. Great ESL tool, because it's easy to explain but they must read the cards and understand the English to have a chance at winning. The faster they read, the better their chances. The newer version with Creepers and Keepers is harder to explain, too hard for beginning readers, and just didn't work well in the classroom because of the difficulty in understanding what to do. Simple with growing complexity is better than immediate complexity for second-language learners. Amusingly I also have that edition in Japanese, and I used to handicap myself by playing with those cards in Japan, which just tells you how many times I've played the game since I could explain the rules even when I couldn't read the characters on the cards.

I also got in a single game of Deluxe Ogre and I hope to get in more.

I played other games, but nothing too exciting - Uno, Go Fish, etc. - purely educational/speaking practice stuff, not actually gaming for fun. Fluxx still manages to count as fun.

Minis - I painted a bit pile of minis this year. Finished my Grenadier Hirelings, painted a bunch of Bones (and took delivery of, and traded off, a lot of my Kickstarter rewards). I backed the next Bones Kickstarter. I did some show-and-tell.
Importantly to me, I finished a lot of partly-done minis I had laying around, like these hyenas, and some guys I love but just couldn't figure out how to finish. They're done now and waiting for their tabletop debuts. I even got a freebie flying base (well, I traded a Bones bat swarm for a couple) to base some flying minis I have.

I stopped painting when it got cold, but I'll start back up when it warms up and I'm slowly stockpiling the art supplies I need for when that happens.

Writing - I wrote a little bit this year. Nothing too much - but Sean Punch and I got a Power-Ups article crammed into Pyramid 3/61. I wrote at least one other article, but it's gotten bumped for space at least once . . . and then once again by my own stuff. It's fine - a thin year for publication but it was still good.

My other works sold steadily - a handful or so of copies of each, each and every month, so the long tail effect of always-in-stock PDFs worked for me. Still, I need to get more done. But Doug Cole and I have been banging around on two articles - one potentially awesome, and one awesomely amusing (to us at least) - so I'm hoping to get at least three items published this year. I have a vague idea for a full-sized e23 book, but it depends on a lot of yes answers.

All in all, combined with a lot of DF gaming, it's been a good year for gaming. I am looking forward to more of the same - more S&W, more video gaming, more writing, more minis painting - but it hasn't happened yet. I won't count as done what's not yet done. Still it was a good year and there isn't any immediate sign the next one can't be good too!

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Year in DF Gaming

I'm not a huge fan of retrospectives, but I found a few things interesting about this year's gaming with my face-to-face gaming group.

Players - We had 8 players place at least one session. This is up from seven the year before. A couple guys had long layoffs (Borriz's player, Honus's player) due to scheduling and work issues, not to mention Honus's player living in Boston while we play in NJ. Another player has been out most of the second half of the year, but he's still in the game and will hop back in when his schedule clears up. Plus we added a new guy just under the wire on our last session. We started back in 2011 with five players - four made it that day due to me messing up the date and thus someone's ability to make it. All of those five still play.

Since our policy is "play with your friends" we've got a solid group. Even if the only thing we do together is game, it's fine. We just ensure these are people you'd like to spend time with, which helps keep the game fun. The biggest personality difficulty we have in the group is . . . sorry, I can't think of any.

Sessions - We had 19 sessions this year. Some of them were in a big clump when I could run game nearly every week. Others were scattered about. But in general, we've kept up a fairly regular schedule.

We've played a total of 38 sessions in the campaign - sessions 20 through 38 were in 2013. It took 15 months to play the previous 19, including a solo adventuring session.

Power - We start all PCs at 250 points. Out of the original batch of five, three are still going, at 297 points (Honus), 308 points (Borriz), and 401 (!) points (Vryce). Perhaps a little surprisingly, the game hasn't really gotten any easier for the adventurers, even with what would have seemed like ridiculous skill levels based on our prior game - Borriz with Axe/Mace-28, Vryce with ST 18 and Two-Handed Sword-26, guys with Magery 6, etc. The more power they gotten the more lethal the challenges, and the more lethal the challenges the more fun we've had. Nothing feels broken. Which is counter to what a lot of folks will tell you about GURPS and 3d6. Skills in the 20s? Eh, too high, it breaks the curse and GURPS doesn't do it well. Nah, I'll tell you right now it does just fine in actual play at those levels. And Vryce at 401 points has a long list of stuff he wants to keep himself alive, Dryst's list of spells he needs hasn't gotten shorter, and everyone wishes they had more HP.

Good Enough is Good Enough - A lot of the systems I threw together just to get us started have worked okay for longer than I'd have expected. A one-off dungeon stocking decision stuck and worked. Maps I drew up and stocked in 2011 are still posing challenges and surprises to the players in 2013. A rough traps system has kept me going until now. Monsters I pulled from various sources and modified on my own have provided a good mix of interest and threat. My XP system has show a few minor creaks but nothing we couldn't address. And more importantly, perhaps, the ad hoc "problems not solutions" approach has made it easy to set up the dungeon and constantly rewarding-yet-risky to the PCs.

A lot of games start hard and fast, and then peter out. Not this one - it's accelerated. I don't expect 2014 to dramatically exceed 2013. It may not even match it, schedules depending. But around the same amount of games would be great. I'm glad my "let's play a DF one-off" turned into "let's play some sessions until we get bored" and then into "let's keep playing for the forseeable future." It hasn't gotten less fun to play, but rather more fun. The group has gotten bigger. The dungeon has gotten deeper, both literally (I drew more levels) and figuratively (it's a richer environment thanks to ongoing play.) I'm very pleased with that.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

DF Game Session 38, Felltower 29 - Golems & Wizard

December 29th, 2013

Weather: Unseasonably warm, but rainy. Some snow still on the mountaintop.

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (250 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (401 points)
     Basher the Thug, semi-human thug (?? points, NPC)
     Father Hans, human cleric (130 points, NPC)
     Shieldbearer Jon, human guard (62 points, NPC)
     Blurk, orc warrior (?? points, NPC)

* Joining later:
Dryst, halfling wizard (324 points)

Still in town:
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Christoph, human scout (258 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (327 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (297 points)

We started in Stericksburg as usual, but this time also including a new character (and new player), Galoob Jah, a goblin thief. Galoob has the odd delusion that humans are just the result of strange elf-goblin crossbreeds, and that halflings are a crazed abomination, so I decided he clearly was recruited by Dryst who had dared him to come adventuring with them. Clearly, Galoob doesn't hold it against him.* Galoob has also met Raggi and had heard endless stories of their prior delves, yet joined anyway.

They picked up rumors in town - Raggi had heard a troubadour ("some jerk with a lute") sing a song called the Lament of Lost Sigurd's Sword, about a lost dragon-slaying sword. The also heard that goblins had been evicted from Felltower by orcs, and that still more goblins (Galoob's tribe) has been looking for work as mercenaries. And one about bloodless wizards - wizards who traded their blood for deathless immortality and power.

The gathered up some gear, including light stones from (latecomer) Dryst, and headed up to Felltower. Once there, they stashed some extra gear (blankets, overcoats, etc.) and headed into the orc-held upper works. Some gesturing and pointing and coin paying later, they headed down into the dungeon, accompanied by an axe-toting orc named Blurk. Since the group was pretty thin, Vryce suggested clearing out parts of level 2. Galoob was all for level 3, but Vryce's plan prevailed.

They headed down and to the left, past the gargoyles (who fled when they saw who was coming) and then around to the library and down the trap door.

On level two they spotted a slug trail (using Galoob's infravision) but no monsters, and dropped down. They explored to the right and found one of the statue rooms. One of the three doors in the room was iron (meteoric, Dryst told them later when he showed up to criticize their mapping skills), and showed signs of failed assault on the door and scorches in front of it. They headed out the only door that showed any signs of traffic, and into what turned out to be an orc-held area. Blurk tried to talk to them, but he doesn't speak Common or Goblinian, and they don't speak Orcish, so little communication actually occurred but both sides seemed to think it occasionally had.

They went through the orc-held area and into what turned out to be the wizard-held area, which they'd visited twice before and did little except to get Zed killed.

They encountered fewer guardians than before, but once again triggered a 5d damaging attack (Deathtouch) and a cackling laughter when they moved into one of the rooms. Vryce had set it off, and just stood there to see if it would keep killing him - it didn't, it was one-shot. So they moved on.

They found the room with the smashed wardrobes, and had just decided to head into the one room they really hadn't explored much when Dryst arrived. He took command of this venture, cancelled their foolish commands, and then said they'd head into the one room they really hadn't explored much.

Vryce forced the door open and they found a large, dusty room. After some created servants jumped around on the floor to ensure there wasn't a pit trap, the group headed in. Dryst checked the dust, and it reminded him of his old days learning alchemy. So they left the room and Dryst used Create Fire to burn a section of the dust - but it was nothing, it was inert and safe. They found a single door leading out, iron-bound wood and locked. They found no traps, either by looking or by having a servant touch the door. So Galoob picked the lock (easily) and they moved in. They found they were in a small complex of cells, some of which had skeletons in them. Vryce took out his undead-slaying sword and whacked the hand off of one - which worked out less well then they'd hoped.

Instead of disarming an animated skeleton, they woke up what turned out to be eight flaming skulls. The undead critters ignited and they flew out and attacked. They used their superior movement to dive-bomb the PCs, attacking on the pass and then flying back out of range. Immediately, Raggi charged forward, Blurk's morale snapped like a twig and he ran, Galoob melted into the shadows, and Shieldbearer Jon and Father Hans turned to watch the rear (while Hans drew his holy sumbol, in case they had a Dread.) Vryce did some good work on them with his undead slaying sword, which seemed to be proof even against their Diffuse nature. They did some harm to a few PCs (and Basher) but Dryst got to work and put Resist Fire on himself, Vryce, and then Basher.

As they fought, and as Blurk ran, Dryst presciently said "This is when the wizard and golems attack us from behind." And that's what happened. Blurk ran out, and into the fists of a flesh golem. Shieldbearer Jon saw him go down and cried out. The PCs quickly redeployed, with the flaming skulls going from menace to distraction in no time. Vryce stopped and quick-drew and then quaffed his potion of Hero's Brew, then ran back to block the door, but the golems simply charged liked giant (SM+1) sized linebackers into and through him. They trampled Hans, showed Jon aside, and attacked Vryce. Dryst had started casting Great Haste just in case, and put it on Vryce.

What followed was a wild close-in melee in tight quarters. The wizard (who controlled the golems) threw Stench over the area. Stench is a very brutal spell - 1d damage if you fail a HT roll, and you immediately begin to suffocate (since no one has time to take a breath), which means -1 FP per second. Ouch. He followed it with a Mass Sleep spell over the combatants. Combined, that choked Father Hans, put Shieldbearer Jon and Dryst (who also choked for 1d) to sleep, nearly put Vryce to sleep (Luck), and naturally didn't affect his golems. Vryce fought hard, cutting down some golems (and Raggi decapitated one), but the fight seemed to be turning against them. Dryst out, folks choking and dying, Great Haste winding down, and Vryce even dropped his sword on a critical parry by a golem. He'd cut a golem's legs off, and then couldn't really hurt it with his undead-slaying sword and it had grabbed his legs. All was going badly.

Then two important things happened. First, Vryce (resisting some takedowns from a legless golem who'd grabbed his leg) managed to recover his Puissance +1 sword. Next, Galoob held his breath and plunged into the poison gas to wake up Dryst. Once Vryce had his sword back and he started to cut his way out of the mist and through the golems. And once Galoob woke up Dryst he was able to Purify Air and clear the Stench spell. As Father Hans was desperately crawling away, burning skulls swarmed him, burning him badly. Dryst put Resist Fire on him.

Meanwhile, Vryce carved his way out of the cell area and into the next room - and even Evaded past a golem only to get zapped for 5d of Shocking Touch from an invisible wizard to his side. Naturally, I rolled awfully (16 damage, aka, much less than average), but it was still enough to hurt and stun metal-armored Vryce. Two golems too advantage. One slammed him from behind and knocked him flat, the other crouched and grabbed his ankles. The wizard moved out of range. Vryce desperately wanted to pull his Magebane grande and fling it, but realized (as one golem planted a foot on his back) that he couldn't. So he recovered his sword, and while face down with a golem standing on him swung wildly behind him. He hit a leg and chopped it off, randomly hitting the leg planted on him. The golem fell. He rolled aside only to get grabbed again, just as Raggi stormed into the fray (he'd been sparring with flaming skulls on the far side of the stench spell before this) and killed a golem (with a hard body blow followed by two savage neck shots). Vryce lopped the arm off the golem grabbing him and stood back up as his Great Haste spell wound down.

The wizard turned invisible. The group sprang into action. Galoob ran into the room and slammed the door behind him. Raggi sprinted across the room at Vryce's command and slammed that door shut. The wizard - if he hadn't run fast enough - was stuck in with them. Vryce got his sling ready with a meteoric iron bullet. Goolob tried to spot the wizard's track with Infravision, but it's rough to scan a whole room for barely-warm prints from booted feet. Raggi guarded his door.

Then, Raggi suddenly slumped over, asleep. The door by him started to open - Vryce took a shot at the spot the opener would need to be in . . . but missed. Galoob ran over. The wizard (invisibly) was escaping. Just then Druyt cast See Invisible on Vryce, after failing twice before thanks to range penalties and many spells on. Vryce sprinted after him as Galoob woke up Raggi.

Vryce caught up in the hall of lenses, and saw the wizard at the fringe of his light source, at a full run. He shot, drilling him in the back with a sling bullet. He didn't know it, yet, but the shot was enough to kill the man outright. He took a couple more shots as he advanced, putting a second bullet into him. Once he got to the wizard, against his usual principles, he cut his throat. Can't trust a wizard to be dead, he figured.

They dragged him back, and rest for 30 minutes. All the wizard had was an empty potion belt, a magic robe, and a magic staff (a normal staff with the Staff spell on it). Clearly he lived nearby and didn't tote treasure as part of his battle-load.

Searching around further in the lens room let them map it out and locate all 9 lenses and some doors out. One pair of doors was to one side, a single metal door was opposite the way they came in. The wizard was clearly headed there.

That door was locked, and after ensuring there were no traps Galoob had at it. He popped the lock easily despite its difficulty. Behind it was a maze of some sort - made entirely of some mildly magical metal that seemed ot futz with seek spells. And reflect lightning spells.

They searched the maze a bit, but only found one rune on a floor, which annihilated a servant sent blindly in to take a rubbing. Some extra exploring and Seek Earth spells didn't turn up much, and it was late, so they decided to retreat and come back again with a scout with Absolute Direction.

They never woke the orc back up, simply turning him over to his tribe and telling them, via Gift of Tongues, that next time they want a brave orc. They went back to town and sent Basher on his way without even a tip or a thank you, but he wasn't very useful this trip. The robe was a Hooded Robe of Protection, which would have been awesome for a SM+0 wizard or Father Hans. But if they kept it, Galoob's first trip wouldn't have been profitable so they sold it and netted 975 each including the staff (I said 960 each, but I forgot the Staff and the Fortify spell on the robe). Vryce and Dryst also voted Galoob MVP, because Vryce kicking ass is his job, but Galoob was purely useful and his waking up Dryst (running into poison gas to do it, after overcoming his cowardice) was really the most valuable thing anyone did all session.

Good game, and it's nice to have a roster of 8 players now!

* "Because in spite of his race, this man is extremely valuable to me." Halfing or not, he's a heck of a wizard.


My flaming skulls differ a bit from DF2, and have an Achilles Heel that can negate their Diffuse damage resistance. What does so isn't clear, but both Vryce's undead-slaying sword and Raggi's magic axe seemed to work just fine on them.

Stench is badly named. It's not a bad smell, it's a suffocating lethal gas. It's cheap - and if you can trap people in the area effect - surprisingly lethal. It didn't kill anyone this time, but it almost turned the entire fight.

Vryce is aiming now for human maximum ST and HP. 20 and 30, respectively, and then Striking ST 21 to get to 4d to maximize the Weapon Master bonus for his sword. BL 80 won't hurt, either.

As written, Sleep is like a poor man's Daze spell. You wake up at any loud noise, any slapping or whatever. Daze takes damage or spell resistance to do it. I ruled you need a HT roll to wake up from Sleep, and that loud noise has to be really loud - louder than combat. It really needs to be fixed in the RAW to work as a stronger version of Daze. I also ruled that taking damage from losing FP after 0 doesn't wake you up from sleep. Sorry, it's slow death from system shutdown, not pain.

Before anyone asks, yes, you'll see the Hero's Brew at some point. Maybe in Pyramid, or elsewhere, we'll see. When I finally put all my Felltower magic items together somewhere. Suffice to say it boots your ST and DX and Speed, but at some cost in foolhardiness. Vryce hardly noticed.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Last-minute game prep

Tomorrow we're playing another session of my DF game. Lots of last minute stuff to get done or that I did manage to get done:

- restocking parts of the dungeon (partly done, will finish tomorrow morning)

- packing my bag for game (partly done)

- ensuring I have the maps, mouse for my laptop, and minis (check, check, check)

- re-reading rules for some special attacks, just to be sure I them down right since they haven't come up often (check)

You'd think I'll be all ready what with 3 weeks since last session, but no, it all gets shunted off to "do on Saturday night" and that's when I get it all done.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Review: JD1 Cess-Pit of the Bog Mother

JD1 Cess-Pit of the Bog-Mother
by Jeff Dee
10 pages

This adventure is written by Jeff Dee, better known for his art and for Villains & Vigilantes.
I got mine "free" as a Kickstarter reward - free because I was in at a good enough level and the rest of the folks chipped in enough to get this nice bonus item. But it's also up for sale on RPG Now.

The adventure basically consists of a small tunnel system under a ruined in a coastal swamp. It's occupied by some typical low-level humanoid foes and, as a boss monster, the titular bog-mother. There are also a few new bog-themed monsters.

It's a forked map, but it's a series of linear forks. It's pretty easy to ensure you don't miss much but you do get some meaningful choices.

The theme holds together well, so you really feel like the monsters belong in this ruin together.

It is way too generous with treasure for its challenge. The challenge isn't much greater than other level 1-3 dungeons but the loot is, in my opinion, too much. The consolation to that is the limit of 1 level gain in D&D clones (leaving you 1 xp short of a 2-level gain), so even with that big pile you won't get too far. But it will allow a much more lavishly equipped subsequent trip, or even a large group to go in and level up despite being able to overwhelm the challenges. Refs might want to dial it down or dial up the monsters.

Overall, though, it's a pretty good adventure. There are also some really cool new pictures by Jeff Dee, and the various monsters come with a clear snapshot of the minis based on them/they are based on, even if said minis seem to be out-of-production.

How is it for GURPS?
- Like any other OSR adventure, it's just a question of how comfortable you are converting. The descriptions of the new monsters are clear enough, and the pictures useful enough, to make designing a GURPS version not too difficult. The environment is discussed in enough relevant detail to make assigning HP, DR, and material HT pretty easy, too. It wouldn't be hard to turn it into an adventure suitable for some DF15-inspired "low level" adventurers, or to up-gun it for standard DF.

Is it worth $2.50? That depends, do you need a short pre-made swamp-themed adventure with some new monsters? It's worth $2.50. Do you need some new swamp monsters that your players haven't seen before? Worth it.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: Pyramid 3/60: Dungeon Fantasy III

This is a brief review of Pyramid Magazine #3/60: Dungeon Fantasy III.

There are two previous issues covering Dungeon Fantasy cover-to-cover.

I figured it's helpful and interesting to have a brief look at all of the articles. This issue is interesting to me because I know all the guys who wrote for it. They're my friends, co-authors, fellow gamers, or my editor. I may be biased in their favor but I do tell my friends when the stuff they right isn't useful to me.

Wizardry Redefined - by Sean Punch

One problem with GURPS Magic and GURPS Dungeon Fantasy is that mages have spell restrictions, but the complex prerequisite system can play hell with them. Read strictly, mages could bypass a lot of spell restrictions. Plus, it wasn't always clear what was forbidden and what wasn't in certain edge cases. This would have been covered if GURPS Dungeon Fantasy had been a 240-page hardback, but it wasn't. So Sean covers it here. It's a complete list of the spells you can get as a mage, and can't get, and new prereq chains that avoid the spells you can't have. It's long, but it's useful if you run DF and use GURPS Magic instead of the trendy RPM all the kids are raving about these days.

Eidetic Memory: High-Tech Dungeon Crawl - by David L. Pulver

David Pulver reminisces about having just stocked a dungeon when his players got burned on their game. So he did what anyone would do in his situation when playing GURPS - let them make up guys with guns and then clear the dungeon. This article is part campaign retrospective and part campaign seed.

This could easily have just been "guys with guns in dungeons could be fun, try it!" and it's not. David carefully goes into some of the advantages the group had (guns vs. orcs, for one), pitfalls the group ran into (hospitalization for monster-inflicted wounds), the complications oddly-sourced wealth has in the modern world, and so on. He even looks at it from the perspective of different Tech Levels. Too low, and it's just an edge vs. monsters unfamiliar with it. Too high, and it's easy to toast the monsters but nothing they have except magic is worth going after (The problem of taking $700,000 off that dragon but losing a $2.5 million battlesuit to do it . . . )

If you're going to send gun-armed guys into dungeons, this is worth reading. It's fun too even if you don't want to. Plus, he back-references "Sturmgeschutz and Sorcery."

It's a Trap - by Christopher R. Rice.

Let me just say I have my own traps generation system. It's rough, and it requires a lot of GM work providing details, but it's fast and effective. So I wasn't even sure I needed this one - but in the end, a preview of it by Christopher sold me on it (and the rest of the issue).

My system is just a series of dice rolls that tell me all I need to know about the lethality, ease of disarming, and avoidability of a trap. Christopher's system will tell you everything about the trap you need to know. You can start with a blank slate and end with a trap with all questions answered, even the ones I just handwave. It's a system that takes you from what the trap is, to how much damage it does, to how hard to disarm, etc. It'll answer all of the questions and spit out a trap or trick that fits into the format in DF2, p. 20. It does so very well - everything is rules-compliant, rules-standard, fully explained, and explained in a range of power levels so you can scale them. It even makes use of the N/whatever concept from DFA1 in an appropriate way.

Maybe the real downside to me is that there are, in fact, a lot of tables to roll on. Like DF 8: Treasure Tables you need to roll different dice (a 4, 1, 2 on three dice is different than 2, 1, 4 or 4, 2, 1, for example) and look up a table entry. Then roll on sub-tables the same way. This prevents you from just dumping a pile of dice and seeing what you get. Also like TT, it cries out for automation

I was inspired by one part of it to have, say, a place with a trap that kept-resetting to a new trap effect, using just a pointer to the tables. I experimented and found it would stop my game for a couple of minutes and a lot of rolls before I would even know if they'd trigger it. So I gave up on that.

Like some of the tables in The Dungeon Dozen or The Dungeon Alphabet, they aren't for rolling on when you need something right now but when you've got prep time and want to get it all correct. It does that very well indeed, and I've used it to stock part of my megadungeon with traps. A good tool to have.

Mystic Power-Ups - Antoni Ten Monrós

Basically, if you aren't satisfied with all the cool stuff the Mystic Knight can do, its original creator provides more. Including mystically-created weapons and armor. Neither of which you can use with Imbuements on top, which kind of gets rid of a cool character concept but prevents a metric assload of abuse.

I don't play either with imbuements (too Diablo II for my game) or Mystic Knights (see prior comment), so I can't see me doing which with this. But if you do you will want this.

In All Series-Ness - by Sean Punch

Long story short on this one - it's the history of the DF line, including reasons why it's been released in the order it has and not some precision order, what it might have been (including a hardback), and so on. It's a Designer's Notes in the form of a Line Editor's Notes on the line, basically. Or vice-versa.

It also ends with a new template, the Beastmaster!

Random Thought Table: The Decagoblin Dungeon - by Steven Marsh

Steven Marsh takes a single concept - a room with 10 goblins in it - and turns it into a multi-room dungeon each with a room with 10 goblins in it. But in each room, both the room and the goblins aren't what you'd expect. It's more interesting to read than the play, I'd expect, but it's a good exercise in changing things up and being creative with what otherwise be a dull encounter. It's not thinking outside the box so much as saying, you didn't specify what the box was like, so it could be any sort of box. Which is what fun dungeons are all about.

Odds and Ends

This consists of:

- a bonus trap from Christopher Rice.
- a Mystic Knight wildcard skill from Antoni Ten Monrós.
- a 125-point Eldritch Initiate template from Antoni Ten Monrós that'll turn any 125-point delver from DF15 into a 250-point Imbuement user. Nice!

Overall, I'm glad I got this issue. The traps or Sean's spell listings alone would have been plenty useful enough for me, even at this late stage when I've worked so much of that out myself. But the other bits were really nice to have. I especially liked the Beastmaster, and reading David's take on letting his modern-day gun toting Americans put paid to a bunch of orcs and rescue an elf. Good issue.

Again, you can find it here.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Loot

Merry Christmas everyone.

I received two nice gaming gifts this year - both DCC adventures gifted to me by my sister, brother-in-law (also a gamer), and my niece.

I received this:
Dungeon Crawl Classics #73: Emirikol Was Framed!

and this:
Dungeon Crawl Classics #77: The Croaking Fane

As my brother-in-law said, not my system, but I can mine them for ideas. And I will!

After all Christmas isn't about presents, it's about religious observances and good will towards your fellow man. No, that's wrong. It's about presents. And gaming is about loot. I wrote as much in a post two years ago, when my blog was just a few months old.

Christmas is about presents

Last year I went for coal, and listed out ways to do level drain in GURPS!

Enjoy the day!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Buying some Reaper minis, you can get 5%

I'm going to make a fairly large purchases of Reaper minis over on Minatures-Giant.

If you sign up and use my username pdellorto as your referring member, you'll get 5% of my purchase as a reward - probably around $3-$4. It's found money, so before I click "Check Out" in the next few days you might want to sign up. If you buy stuff I get 5% back, too, so hurrah for both of us. Either way, I thought I'd pass along the chance to get referral cash to you guys. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Peter's Do's and Don'ts of Game Book Writing

This is a bit rant-ish, but what the hell. I read a fair amount of game books, and I also write game books, and I use game books fairly often, too. But I also come at them with a critical eye towards making things better or more useful. Or, at least, de-cluttering them.

Tell me what you are, not what you are not.

A rulebook should tell me what the game is and how to play it, and not waste words telling how the game isn't.

If you feel compelled to tell me how different your game is from other games, do it in the intro or do it somewhere else, like a blog post or free ebook. Embedding it into the book and making me read it makes me feel tired all over. I feel like I paid you money to have you tell me what you're not providing to me.

This is especially true when I read some OSR stuff, because commentary on "what this game doesn't do" is aimed at 3x and 4x D&D. Now just imagine you're someone who never played 3x or 4x D&D - do you want or need to be told what the game isn't? If you write "this game does X, unlike how some other games do it" just think about how someone who doesn't play those other games will read it. "We don't provide X gold for monsters of Y level just because." Okay, so that happens in 3x D&D, then? I come from GURPS and AD&D and Rolemaster and I have no idea what the hell you're talking about.

Remember that game writing is technical writing, and I'm going to use this book as an inspiration for game and a reference in play. That's all it needs to be, don't spend wordcount on explaining what it's not doing.

Show what to do, not what not to do.

I have to admit I like Swords & Wizardry a lot, but there is this line in S&W Complete that made me roll my eyes:

"Russell: “Check for traps.”
Referee: “It doesn’t work like that. You can check a small mechanism
to see if there’s a trap in it, but you can’t just illuminate the place with
find traps radar.”

Okay, now I know how the game isn't played, hurrah. This isn't very helpful from a technical, use-the-book-to-play sense. It could have skipped right to "I look for tripwires" and shown me how it is expected to be done. Show me the right way and skip over the wrong way. Lead by example and don't include the bad examples.

Don't tell me how much the stuff I like sucks.

Kevin: "Do you have the new Depeche Mode record?"
Bruce: "Yeah it's over there, but it sucks."
Kevin: "Well, do you have the latest Pixies album?"
Bruce: "Yeah, but it sucks. All that new stuff sucks"
- Kids in the Hall, The Doors Sketch

I don't like it when a book's author, or editor, or designer, or whoever, tells me about how bad other stuff is. Sometimes, I like that other stuff, and that other stuff is why I'm here reading your take on the same or similar thing.

I have a nice set of Conan books that compile R. E. Howard's original stories in their original form - as typed, pre-edit, pre-publication, finished or not. It's a really cool series. But the first book's intro heavily implies (without naming either) that L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter's Conan stuff is a cheap ripoff. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But I loved those books. They're the first ones I read. I like Howard's original stuff better, but I bought those collections of the originals because of the interest inspired by the later renditions of the work. Instead of saying "You might have loved those, but here is the original stuff - and I think you'll find it equally interesting or even superior" it instead comes across as "Liking those was bad, they suck."

Don't do that. It's bad form to insult your audience, and you are putting people who like what you have and like what you don't on the defensive. Sometimes I see this in RPGs - it's a whole "unlike in other games, this game does it right" attitude. You hear it in the "new school games with a sense of entitlement" rants. Telling someone who loves D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder that their game system's underlying assumptions are inherently bad is going to be a turn off. You're not going to win people over with "the game you like sucks."

It can be more subtle, too, when you tell people their play style sucks. GURPS did this, too. The 3e Basic Set discussed simple hack-and-slash gaming in a sidebar which ended with

"If you want to play a more "mature" level, and create a situation that actually makes sense, you have advanced to to level of adventure design. Congratulations, read on . . . "

Gee, thanks, now I feel great about wanting to have fun with my friends the immature way. You know, fighting monsters and taking their stuff in a bunch of tunnels full of 'em. GURPS 4e kept that line, but with a subtle-but-important tweak:

"If you want to create a situation that actually makes sense, you have advanced to the level of adventure design. Congratulations. Read on . . .

See the difference? One makes me feel like a jerk for wanting to kill monsters for their stuff, the other makes me feel like the rest of the chapter is there if I need it for more developed rationales and more verisimilitude in my games. Nothing is gained and a lot is lost with that extra snarky comment.

Think of this when you talk about other games to gamers who play them. Do you want those gamers to love the kind of games you do, too, or love them instead of the games they love now? Which is more important?

Look at it this way - Moldvay D&D doesn't come out and tell you AD&D sucks, or Pendragon sucks, or whatever else sucks. It comes out and tells what D&D is, that you can have basically unlimited imaginary fun with it, and here is how to play it. Labyrinth Lord does the same - it just plunges straight into it, taking as read that you're interested and want to learn the game without sarky asides at different games.

If your game really is inherently better, you won't need to tell me. I'll notice.

If you've told me once, it's enough.

You really don't need to beat stuff into my head. Tell me once, in one place, and refer back to it. Don't keep repeating yourself. By the second time I read something I'm checking to see if it's the same as what you wrote the first time. By the third I'm wondering why you think I need to hear it again.

If it needs to be in multiple places, fine, but use page references to point back and forth between instances of the same thing. Even then, ask yourself, do I need to repeat this rule, this example, or this suggestion again? If you are even a little bit unsure, cut it.

Be Consistent.

Some of us read and check references and remember what you write. So try to be consistent. I recently dinged DCC for this in my review. It harped on how illogical heaps of coins for treasure and sages getting paid in gold for knowledge, but said to pick any treasure system you want (all of which provide heaps of coins for treasure) and then listed sage prices in coins.

Mistakes happen, but so does playtesting and peer review and proofreading. Little bits will get through but you're going to want to ensure the system as a whole makes sense. If you have a consistent message in the writing, it will show through. Consistent doesn't mean rigid, of course. You can stay modular as long as modularity is part of the message. S&W does a pretty good job of this - it provides support for Ascending AC and Descending AC, different Saving Throw breakdowns, and different initiative systems, without any issues I can see. Why? Because it presents them equally and explains how to do them and says, pick one, and trusts the GM to do so. GURPS thrives on this, and is so Rule Zero heavy that you really can't get started until the GM briefs you on what's used and not used.

I'm sure some RPG designers, and readers, have different opinions on this. But the above is stuff I look for, and I notice. You can really sum most of it up as "Be positive and just show people where the fun is. Don't insult them. And proofread for inconsistencies."

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mirado (of the many titles)

This is my S&W B-Team guy. I will be updating this post as necessary, so it'll be a living document. What you see now is current as of the dates listed below.

Last update: 12/22/2013 2/9/14 4/25/14 6/27/14 9/6/14 1/9/2015 4/10/2015

Mirado Giant-Slayer
Human Fighter
Level 6
XP: 1337 (first trip) + 1845 (second trip) +1309 third trip + ? (fourth trip) + 10,305 + 5,573 (Session 7) +7994 (Session 8) + 12314 + 4990 (includes +5% prime req. 13+, +10% for summaries) + 8305 (includes +5% prime req. 13+, +10% for summaries) + 8400 (includes +5% prime req. 13+, +10% for summaries) = 62,461
Needs 64,000 for next level.

STR 17 (+2 to hit, +2 damage, doors 1-4, +30 carry bonus)
DEX 14 (+1 to hit with missiles - stacks with STR bonus, +1 AC bonus, Defensive Fighting -1 to be hit)
CON 13 (+1 HP per die, 100% Raise Dead survival)
INT 11 (+2 max additional languages)
WIS 10 (no bonuses or penalties)
CHA 10 (4 Special Henchmen maximum)
Luck 5
HP 47 (9 from first level, 9 from second, 8 from third, 8 from fourth, 4 from fifth, +1 from rainbow, +8 from sixth)
AC 18 (18 with shield) (plate +7 AC, Dex +1 AC)
Move 12
Saving Throw 9 (also gets +1 for Ring of Protection, see below)
Attack Bonus: +3

Armor and Weapons:
Plate Armor (+7 AC, 70 lbs, ?? gp)
Ogre Head - unknown damage, 10 lbs.
Woundlicker, Longsword +1, vampires 1 HP per hit, costs 1 HP on a natural 1 (10 lbs, ?? gp)
Axe, Hand (5 lbs, 2 gp) - 1d6, thrown 1d6, ROF 1, 10 ft range
Spear (10 lbs, 1 gp) - 1d6, thrown 1d6, ROF 1, 20 ft range
Long Bow (5 lbs, 60 gp) - 1d6, ROF 2, 50 ft range
Arrows (20) (1 lb, 2 gp)
Silver Dagger (2 lbs, 20 gp) - 1d4, thrown 1d4, ROF 1, 10 ft range
Total: 95 lbs

Other Equipment:
Ring of Protection +1, 10' Radius, Saves Only (left ring finger)
Boots of Elvenkind
Potion of Invisibility
3 Potions of Healing (1d8+1)
1 Potion of Exra-Healing (3d8+3)
Backpack (30 lbs capacity) (5 gp, ?? lbs.) (weight isn't listed anywhere that I can see, for any of this gear)
Bedroll (0.2 gp)
Crowbar (0.2 gp)
Flint & Steel (1 gp)
Hammer (0.5 gp)
Iron Spike x 10 (0.5 gp)
Manacles (15 gp)
Oil, Lamp x 5 (0.5 gp) (doubles as Greek Fire)
Sack x 3 (30 lbs capacity) (6 gp)
Torch x 3 (0.03 gp)
Waterskin x2 (1 gp)
Rations, Trail x 2 days (1 gp)
Rations, Dried x 2 days (2 gp)
Slope-detecting marbles, clay x 5 (5 cp)
Holy Water x 4 (?? gp)
Riding Horse, named "Melyngrab"
Carried gear counts as 10 lbs., bringing the total to 103, counted as 106-130 for Move 9.

GP: 328 1052 1042 1050 1030 2304 1854 1840 2935 4268 8668
SP: 7
CP: 27 0
Gems: none

History: Mirado is a warrior seeking his fortune in the world. He has some pie-in-the-sky goals about ruling a kingdom, but otherwise he's pretty down-to-earth. He changes his title as fortune smiles or spits upon him, as he sees it. He's brave but not especially foolish.

Titles used: the Sharp, the Attractive, the Butcher, the Bloody, Ogre-Foe, Ogre-Slayer, the Merciful, Orc-Tricker, the Slow, Lizard-Friend, Beetle Battler, Gargoyle Friend, Blue Beaten, Music Critic, Giant Slayer.


- Needs to sell that mace and his bastard sword, they are too heavy and not needed.
- Marked off 10 gp for replacing oil, arrows, torches, and rations. A bit more than necessary (it's 9 gp plus change) but I don't feel like marking down fractional treasure.

- Bought a round of horses for everyone!
- found plate armor, has a spare suit of chain armor
- rolled 7 for 3rd level HP!

- fell down a slope to level 3 by being a completist.
- found full plate armor
- rolled 7 for 4th level HP.

- rolled 3 (+1=4) for 5th level HP.
- found Boots of Elvenkind.

- took home 2681 gp

- took home 1833 gp, 7 sp, and a Potion of Invisibility

- took home 2180 gp.
- spend 20 gp in the dungeon.
- lost silver dagger in a duel.

- took home 2095 gp.

- took home 665 (actually 2165 gp but I spent 1500 gp on an Extra Healing potion.

DF Felltower NPC: Basher the Thug

Here is another NPC from my DF Felltower game. He's a volunteer hireling, and kind of a dirtbag. He's made up according to total whim, not a template or anything else. His race truly is unknown, and the nice thing about GURPS 4e is that you can do that - the it costs what it costs aspect of the rules means it matters little if he's ST 15 because he's non-human or because he's just that big.

It's worth noting that my players like this guy a lot, because he's so tough, and they aren't afraid of his untrustworthy nature at all.

Basher the Thug

Basher is big, he's swarthy, he's hairy, and he's going to bash your face in if you look at him funny. No one, including Basher, is quite sure what he is. Semi-human is the joke. Human-ish. Ape-like. He looks like someone crossed a human, an orc, and a gorilla with an angry ogre and then strategically shaved the result. Basher is pretty simple - he likes to hit stuff, drink stuff, and loot stuff. You can trust him as far as you can kill him, pretty much, but he's strong and durable, and that's hard to turn down in a hireling.

He is up for hire, but also will volunteer to go on trips to Felltower when he needs money.

ST 15 HP 15 Speed 5.75
DX 11 Will 9 Move 5
IQ 9 Per 9
HT 12 FP 12
Dodge 8 Parry (Club) 9

Oversized Knobbed Club (14): 2d+4 crush, Reach 1, SM+1 weapon.
Large Knife (11): 2d cut (C, 1) or 1d+1 impale (C).

Traits: Barbarian DR 1; Bloodlust (9); Bully (6); Fit; Giant Weapons; Greed (9); Hard to Kill 1; Mr. Smash 1; Wealth: Poor.
Quirks: Only picks on people a lot smaller than him; Thinks everyone is just as trustworthy as he is.

Skills: Axe/Mace-14; Brawling-12; Carousing-12; Knife-11; Stealth-10; Wrestling-12.
Equipment: Boots (DR2); Clothing; Light Leather (torso, arms, legs); Oversized Knobbed Club; Personal Basics; Pouch; Wineskin (1 quart capacity).

Notes: Death check is at a 14 thanks to Fit and Hard to Kill; on a 14 he does appear dead but he's still okay. On a 15 or 16 he's merely Mortally Wounded.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

S&W in the Southern Reaches: Session 2 - Ogre Head

Last night six of us played in Erik Tenkar's B-Team S&W campaign. Included in the group was first-timer Doug Cole, who I bugged to join the game because we never get to game together otherwise. For an extremely exact summary, you can check Doug "Rul" Cole's take on the trip.

Irban and Mirado adventured together, along with Banduros the Ranger (not Banduros the Druid) once before, as described in my summary of Session 1.

Mirado the Bloody, Human Fighter (lvl 1) (me)
Bandorus, Human Ranger (lvl 1) (Ray)
Irban - Half-Elf M-U/Thief (lvl 1/1) (Jason)
Rul Scararm, Human Fighter (lvl 1) (Douglas Cole)
Starlander Bek, Elf M-U (level 4?) (Joe D)
Ellis, Elf Assassin (level ?) (Paul)

We opened up the session right outside our next dungeon. Long story short, when the A-Team accidentally wiped out all the high-level good adventurers, there was some spillover effects like undead arising and fortresses exploding. So we were standing at the entrance to a former "Adventurers Guild" HQ, or at least the underground bits that still remained after it imploded and/or exploded.

We lit up a lantern, set our marching order (fighters in front, mages in rank two, druid and later assassin in the back) and went in. We found a room with some boxes and barrels, and a door at the end as well as a tunnel out. Skylander used his wand of undead detection to sense undead in front of us, and powerful undead to the west. Some of us searched the barrels and boxes, Irbin checked the door, and Rul and Mirado went to watch the tunnel.

We saw, and were promptly seen by, a ghast. It loped at us and attacked - bad initiative roll meant it was on us before we could do anything. Its stench overcame Mirado and at least one other of us but Rul shrugged it off and speared the ghast to death. A quick once-over revealed nothing on the ghast, but Mirado's bloody thoroughness lead to hacking off the head and hands and feet of the ghast. Off came his head, and a gold necklace we'd overlooked in his loose and rotting skin. Nice. Into the stash.

We followed the ghast's path back through some newly dug areas. We found a dwarf, dead and partly eaten, and naturally we looted him of his mail armor and put it back by the entrance with other stuff we'd recovered.

Past the ghast was a lot of nothing and the bottom of a sinkhole with some scattered coffins. We looted them, but took a pass on a stone coffin sealed with magical seals and protection wards. I saw no profit in risking the trip opening the "vampire coffin" unless we decided to just do that and then return home. So we went on and tried the rest of the dungeon.

We went back and breached the door out of the first room, after Skylander poured holy water under it to back off any zombies. We went through and found a passage forward (partly blocked) and right (less blocked). We went right and found the zombies in a room. Instead of forming up, like idiots we just opened up on them with missile weapons. I wasn't even clear on this so I was still holding my sword and couldn't attack. Then the zombies rushed us and we fought a wild melee. A couple guys went down, severely injured - Banduros and Ellis (I think). We managed to kill all five zombies, although Mirado continued totally sucking in combat and I don't think he hit once.

We finished them off and found there was a secret door to the side and a mirror in the room ahead. I was just about to volunteer to go look into it when Irbin did . . . and the mirror spawned five Irbin-zombies. Skylander wasn't putting up with that crap so he webbed them. We tossed 3 or 4 flasks of oil onto them and toasted them.

Surprisingly, Irbin felt a wince of some kind as they died, and then gained 1 STR and lost 1 CHA. Gah. That sucked for him, but it would have been sweet for Mirado (ST 17, CHA 10 to 18/9 would have been fine with me.) Oh well. We took the melty-mirror, now non-magical, and headed through the secret door.

We looted a room full of weapons - and I took the only longbow there was in the room before Rul could. I'd pay for this later. Heh. We did find a magic dagger with fish motifs on it and let Skylander hang onto it.

We also found a tunnel to a flooded sewer-like brackish water filled tunnel. This room cost much dignity, and treated us to failed rolls, a naked Skylander, and a partly broken ladder. We tried to hook a rope across the river and failed badly, hooking the grapnel on something under water. Several terrible heave-hos later (I rolled, badly as usual) we found it was totally stuck. Skylander shucked his robes and dove in the water with the knife handy, rope around his waist. He even tried to breathe water to see if the dagger would let him do it. Nope. And the grapnel was stuck hard into a log.

We ended up crossing the old fashioned way - across the ladder and under fire. Goblins with slings attacked us, and two jumped Skylander and grappled him. We hauled back on the rope around Skylander's waist and pulled him free from the goblins and (I think) into the water. One goblin died and we followed, slowly, after we'd all crossed.

Beyond the "river" was an empty cave with a missile-firing position (empty), then a cave with abandoned food (a roasting boar, and some fish). After Skylander found his magic knife really filleted fish well, we headed out the only other way.

We came out into a cave with a big crab statue, with some stairs going up by it. There was also a big ogre with a mace, and 13 goblins.

The big ogre started to talk some shit about tribute, territory, or some other crap. Mirado learned to negotiate from Conan - "Enough talk!" The Ogre was demanding tribute, and Mirado didn't drag his ass down into the dungeon and start killing his goblins to bring money but to get it. So I threw my axe at him. The rest of the party followed suit, probably with the same idea. I hit him (barely) and did minimal damage (3, my minimum). But still, it was the start of a short fight with the ogre. Starlander threw a Sleep spell on the goblins and put 11 of the 13 down, asleep in the water. Gurgle, gurgle. The others fled, I think, even as the ogre charged and we rushed back. It swung a mace at us and missed, took some shots from the rest of the party, and then Mirado - having chistened himself "Mirado Ogre-Foe" seconds before - rolled a crit and a lot of damage. The ogre went down. Since I wasn't sure if there were more goblins, I figured the best way to deal with them was to march in swinging their leader's head by its hair. I hacked it off, then readied my sword and the head. It would prove an auspicious and surprisingly effective combo. Mirado re-christened himself Mirado Ogre-Slayer.

We moved on after looting (and slitting the throats of the goblins) and then up, shoving aside some thatch over the stairs with our spears. Sunlight!

We decided to go back to the start overland to avoid the ladder/water area. We went to the one area we hadn't hit before, and found a room padlocked shut with a warning note telling everyone to stay out (This means you!)

So we picked the lock and busted into the room. Beyond was a hexagonal room with a big chest and four miniature toy soldier looking automatons. They banged their miniature spears on the ground and a portcullis fell behind us. So they locked themselves in with us. They lasted all of two rounds. Skylander damaged one with his magic missile wand, then Mirado struck with the ogre head and bastard sword (dual-wielding) and crushed the damaged one and then destroyed the one next to him. Rul did almost the same, trashing one and damaging the next. It stabbed one Rul for 1 damage and then we trashed it. The portcullis raised, so we didn't need to go lift it.

Heh. The ogre-head was just for scaring the goblins, but it became something entirely more fun once I decided it was worth keeping out for the coolness factor.

Beyond it was a chest, possibly trapped (I got distracted), then we opened it and found a pile of coins as well as 3 potions (healing, extra healing, flying), leather armor, a bow (claimed by Rul since I grabbed the previous one), and a cloak.

We took the lot plus all of the weapons in the armory and everything else we could sell and went back to town to sell it. This was Skylander's idea, and it was a good one. We healed up and came back to open that sarcophagus, after some research that said the coffin was probably that of a morally flexible warrior of some ill repute.

That we did - with Irban the Slayer and Ellis behind the sarcophagus, Rul and Skylander and Bandorus by the exit, and Mirado crowbar-ing the coffin open. It popped open and cold wafted out. So did a dessicated undead warrior with a longsword (which we knew was magical, thanks to earlier Detect Magic by Skylander). We attacked. It was tough but Irban got the jump on it despite a terrible initiative roll by me, it tried to retaliate but couldn't hit Irban. The rest of us piled on. Magic missiles, sword blow by Mirado (eventually), an arrow from Rul, dagger from Ellis, and spear from Banduros. It sucked up about 40 damage before it dropped, only getting in one swipe and rolling a 1. We took its only loot - a sword - and dumped holy water on his corpse.

In the end, we did really well with loot - 4243 gp worth once we sold off the gems, jewelry, wine, glass vessels, weaponry, etc. The magical loot was even better - +1 leather (Irban), +1 cloak of protection (Starlander), a copy of the spell Invisibility (Starlander and Irban will learn it), +2 long bow (Rul), +1 dagger w/better crits (Ellis), and Woundlicker, a +1 longsword that vampires 1 HP per strike, but sucks out 1 HP on a 1 (Mirado).


Prior to the start of the adventure, I traded Mirado's ring of protection +1 (from the slain dwarf) to Irban for his ring of protection +1, saves only, 10' radius. My theory is that I'll eventually get magic armor (ring doesn't stack), and that a 10' radius lets me cover the whole front rank and second rank of the party and make me more valuable. Irban was good with that so we traded.

I'm risking a lot with that sword. My rolls this session with Rol20 weren't any different than last time - a pile of really bad ones punctuated by awesome crits and high damage. So I expect to lose a fair amount of HP now that I have it, but it's still awesome.

I leveled up to 2nd level (and I'm not far from 3rd, actually). I rolled my HP and got a 1+1 for Con bonus = 2. Ugh. But Erik told me he always lets people re-roll ones. I re-rolled and got 8+1=9 HP. Maximum, nice. So I have 18 HP now. I would have re-rolled with Luck if I'd rolled below 5, because it's too important not to. I finally feel like I'm not one hit from a new character, which is nice.

We need to coordinate a bit more when moving into contact - we suffered badly against the five zombies and had to use up our healing potions because we didn't stay in formation, or coordinate our attacks (maybe we all shoot the same 1-2 zombies, not attacking at random.) I'll try to pay more attention to that in the future.

Now, what to do with this ogre head?

Rul raises a good point - carrying an ogre head and making into a flail is pretty badass. But so is making it into a helmet. Hmmm . . . I'm liking the whole bit channeling Shagot the Bastard carrying the head. But it's not the most useful thing. If I could find a way to make it a magic head, that would be cool. But maybe a helmet. I need to think about this. Swinging the head = awesome, Ogre Skull Helmet = also awesome.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thieves in DF Felltower

Ultimately here is what I did with the Thief template in my GURPS DF game.

Use Thief as written, except:

- Remove Filch (saves 2 points)

- Remove Smuggling (saves 2 points)

- Remove Shadowing (saves 2 points)

- Move Perfect Balance from a required Advantage to an Optional Advantage

- Reduce Urban Survival from Per+1 [2] to Per [1]

Put the 22 points from this into:

- 20 more points of Advantages (total 50)

- raise the Melee Weapon skill from DX-1 [1] to DX [2].

- raise the ranged weapon skill from DX-1 [1] to DX [2].

Also, although I normally restrict new PCs to just the abilities on the template itself, for the Thief I do allow unrestricted purchase of any Power-Ups. While I like the idea of a restricted startup set and Power-Ups as those first new things you get to learn, many of the Thief Power-Ups are too important to a Thief's success right out of the gate.

And don't forget, in DF, picking locks and removing traps are both DX-based tasks, not the more realistic IQ-based task it is in Basic Set.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

GURPS 101: DX, Speed, and Basic Move

This is the start of a multi-blog series on the basic and secondary attributes in GURPS. If you're new to the system, what are some things you'll want to think about? GURPS is point buy, so it's not the dice but you that decides what level your stats are. Today we tackle DX and two stats derived from it (at least partly) - Speed, which is figured equally from DX and HT, and Basic Move, which is figured straight from Speed.

For other looks at DX, Basic Speed, and Move, check out:
Gaming Ballistic
RPG Snob
Ravens 'n' Pennies

For more in this series, please Gaming Ballistic's GURPS 101 page.

How much DX do I need?

The more, the better. Generally, for combatants, DX will be one of your highest stats, if not your highest. Skill trumps just about everything else in importance in GURPS combat, and DX is what you base most of your combat-related skills on.

From a pure min-maxing perspective, you're going to want at most 4 physical skills that you improve past 4 points invested; beyond that you're better off increasing DX. DX is the "physical skills generalist" ability. The more DX you have, the better you are at dozens of physical skills and all combat skills (ranged, melee, and unarmed). A specialist - someone who dumped the points you put in DX into one or two skills related to a specialty - will kick your ass in that specialty but you'll be better off over a broader area of ability.

When you're designing your guy, keep that in mind - DX is a good way to get broadly good at physical skills, but you're still going to need to focus on the specific skills you need to succeed.

DX also does a few other things:

0.25 Points of Basic Speed - Every point in DX gives you +0.25 Basic Speed. See Speed for why this matters.

DX Rolls - There are a lot of non-obvious DX rolls built into GURPS, very often to not fall down. DX roll not to fall after a kick. DX roll to not fall when slipping. DX roll to not fall after knockback. But that's not all - over on RPG Snob Jason Packer has a possibly exhaustive list of DX rolls in GURPS.

DX & Defaults - A high DX helps a lot when you do something new, because you get a favorable default. A trained person will usually be better unless your DX is obscenely high or the task is extremely easy. But a good DX will let you get pretty far. A character with a DX of 15 (pretty damn high) can try any physical skill that can be defaulted at between a base 9 (for DX/Hard skills) to 11 (for DX/Easy skills); compare that to a trained DX 10 person with 2 points in any of those skills (9-11).

As I mentioned above, specialized skill matters, but DX lets you try a lot of stuff with a reasonable chance of success. Think Michael Jordan playing baseball - he just couldn't excel. DX + lots of points in skill beats DX + few points in skill, but high DX meant MJ could still make a go of it . . . I couldn't hit .200 in AA ball. In GURPS, that could be because he'd get a superior DX.

How Much Speed Do I Need?

As much as possible, as usual, but most people just stick with what DX and HT provide for them. It's not cheap (20/level, the same as DX and double that of HT) and you tend to get a pretty good score if you get a reasonable DX and HT (12 in each will give you Speed 6, a solid score). Plus, since it's not a double dip like DX and HT (which do a lot besides increase your Speed) you can usually find something else to spend your points on. Still, it's a good thing to have.

Speed - Encumbrance Level = Dodge - Dodge is the best damn defense in GURPS. Let me just repeat that. Dodge is the best damn defense in GURPS. It works against just about everything - some attacks cannot be Parried, others neither Parried nor Blocked, but few can be Parried or Blocked but not Dodged. It also, barring optional rules, doesn't get reduced for multiple uses in one turn.

And Speed is your basic Dodge score. Dodge is so good that Enhanced Dodge costs 15/level and all it does is raise Dodge; Speed is 20/level and also helps you move faster.

Initiative - Initiative in GURPS is fixed-order; once set, it stays that way. If you use Speed-based initiative (not like my lazy round-the-table initiative) your Speed (including fractions) helps determine when you go. Since GURPS resolves effects immediately and vigorously supports death spirals (the worse off you are, the more likely you are to keep getting worse off), going first is a nice little edge.

Fractional Speed - Just remember you can buy up fractional Speed. So if you have DX 14, HT 12, and Speed 6.5, you can spend 10 points and get Speed 7. This is especially tempting if you're 0.25 off from a full level, since Speed's effects on Dodge and Move drop all fractions.

Basic Move

I could spend a whole day talking about Move, which I think is gravely underrated, especially in internet featureless plain fights to demonstrate the superiority of one style over another. In actual play, Move has determined what people do this turn (or the next one, or many in a row) more than almost any other single stat or score.

Basic Move is equal to your Speed. It is sometimes modified by traits like Gigantism, which gives +1 Basic Move, or by direct purchase of Basic Move at 5/level.

In a "normal" game, you usually want a Move score between 5 and 7; 8+ is great but it's not critical to have. Below Move 5 and you're starting to be kind of a slug on the battlefield. Below Move 4 and you're a slug. Move 2 or 1 and you're limping along hoping the fight comes to you.

Move and Encumbrance - Move is also influenced by Encumbrance, based on a multiplier (so No Encumbrance is x1, Light is x0.8, and so on). This is where ST matters a lot, because a moderately-fast but strong guy can load up and stay moderately-fast, but a weak but speedy guy needs to keep unencumbered to stay fast. Your ST plays a role here, too, because your BL determines how much you can carry without dropping down in move. I've seen players spend time number-crunching to determine if +1 Move or +1 ST (potentially just +1 Lifting ST) was the better way to ensure they could add more gear and stay at Move 4+ (5+ if at all possible).

Move and Slam - Slam damage is figured off HP multiplied by Move, so every point of Move you have is 1 more full multiple of HP you get to leverage in the slam. Even a very high HP character cannot do much without a solid move score.

Half Move - Half Move is how much ground you can cover on an All-Out Attack and you move at half Move when badly injured. When doing All-Out Defense (Increased Dodge) you get to move at half of your Move score. It's worth keeping in mind these when designing a character who'll want to cover ground on all-out assaults or shimmy to cover more easily when All-Out Defending.

All Move really does is help you cover ground, but one a tactical map being able to cover a lot of ground lets you be the one to decide where to fight, where to go, and who to deal with and who to avoid. It's simply that, but that's a very big thing indeed.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Replacement Characters in DF Felltower

Over on the SJG forums, there is an interesting thread dealing with the problem of replacing a permanently dead or retired character.

How does it get done in Felltower?

It's pretty simple - your new character is a starting character.

Regardless of whether you are replacing a dead PC, or adding a new guy to the group, or just joining play in the first place, you make up a new character from scratch.

- 250+50+5 (250 points, 50 max disadvantages, 5 quirks).

- You start with $1000, although once you show up it's fine (and normal) to get helped out by the vets. You just can't get that money on your initial loadout, so equip yourself how you'd want to be equipped for your first trip.

- You are assumed to either know, or know a friend of, one of the group. Or have met them off-screen so you're ready to be integrated into the group as soon as you show up.

It doesn't matter how or why you died. It doesn't matter how or why you retired. This game is all about taking you from the (very solid) starting point of DF and fighting your way to death or glory. No one gets a let up on their starting abilities.

I don't play that way all the time, but it's the name of the game we're playing these days!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Discouraging Bootstrapping If You Prefer To

My post the other day generate a lot of discussion, here and on Google+. Some people have some negative feelings about what I called "bootstrapping" low-level PCs. That is, high level guys providing gear, escort, support, extra shares of treasure, etc. to get those low-level guys to level up faster.

Although my remarks were related to class-and-level games, it inevitably got mixed together with point-buy GURPS since I play that and many of the commentors do as well.

But let's say, in a class-and-level game, you want to discourage low-level guys from wanting to pal around with high level guys on their early adventures and discourage high-level guys from trying to smooth the path too much. What can you do?

Here is what I've come up with.

Divide all gold XP regardless of shares - if the groups hauls home 2000 gp for 4 members, levels 4, 3,, 2, and 1 and the first three toss all the gold to the last guy . . . too bad. They all still get 500 xp for it instead of 0, 0, 0, and 2000. The lack of division doesn't matter, the reward is for the finding and bringing back and the finding and bringing back is equally shared.*

Divide XP by level - A pretty brutal approach, but divide out XP by level. If the 4-3-2-1 team above split that gold XP, it would be 4+3+2+1 = 10 shares at 200 each. 4th level guy gets 800, 3rd 600, 2nd 400, and 1st 200 xp. I call this brutal because it means slower-level character types will always lag behind faster-leveling types and this method reinforces that level after level. Rich get richer, poor get richer much more slowly than before.

Go All DMG On Them - Use the AD&D rule about dividing too-low level monster XP (p. 84-85); this will reduce the value of monsters slain (and possibly treasure gained.) You'll still survive longer when your 1st level guys go adventuring with Jack's 8th level cleric, but you won't get much XP and will level more slowly for doing so.

Defacto Henchmen - If a character is at least X levels below the average party level, or at least Y levels below the highest party member's level, then, like NPC henchmen, they get 1/2 XP. The XP is still divided normally (so that 4-man group would get 500 xp each) and then the defacto henchmen would get half of that (250 xp each). Setting this to 3+ levels is probably okay in old editions of D&D, since the party would still fit into the generally 3-level range of suggested levels in modules.

You can also put a level cap on this - once you reach level Z, it doesn't matter anymore. Let's say that's 5th level. Once you hit 5th level, you gain full XP even if you go adventuring with Lord Lordington the 9th level fighter. You're not going to pull as much weight as him but you've reach some minimal level of ability. Now you're just taking extra risks. Have fun in White Plume Mountain, Mister.

Any and all of those tricks can discourage people from trying to bootstrap, if you're opposed to it.

Me, I'm not - it makes a lot of game-world sense as well as meta-game sense. And while being level 1 is really fun, you don't always want to spend a lot of time there. But if the group wants to discourage it, those are some game-mechanical ways to do it in a class-and-level system.

* This came up elsewhere - isn't this the RAW? In Basic Set D&D, it is - and page 4 of B2 The Keep on the Borderlands makes this explicit. But Holmes Basic says differently on page 11, merely saying treasure (and thus experience) is "usually" divided evenly, even singling out thieves stealing extra gold and not dividing the experience up with the others. OD&D doesn't have an example of multiple PCs earning experience that I can find. So while the editions moved towards dividing it evenly, the RAW wasn't consistent cross-edition back in the day.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Megadungeon Best Practices XI: Multi-Room Encounters

This is part of the Megadungeon Best Practices series, linked here.

This one might seem pretty obvious, but it's nonetheless a good "best practice."

Use Multi-Room Encounters

A megadungeon is by definition, big. Big enough that monsters, factions of monsters, and even adventurers can spread out and still leave some no-man's land between their areas. Partly because of this, encounters can spread across multiple rooms - it doesn't need to be one door, one room, one monster.

Spread out bits of a single treasure (or a single failed adventuring group, or whatever) across multiple rooms.

A room with pieces you need to fetch from other places in order to complete a puzzle, a dorm complex with assorted connected rooms, a series of temples to different aspects of the same god, etc. - all of these leverage the megadungeon's size so going into one room opens up the possibility if not need to go into other rooms.

Corollary: Use Multi-Room Monsters

Monsters don't need to all hang out together in one room. Obvious, but still, it's something I sometimes forget. When you place monsters, sit back and look at the map for a while and figure out where they might hang out, move around, and who/what they might interact with.

Here are a few ways you can do this:

The Group - the monsters form a group, just geographically spread out. They will act as a group against attackers. This may be intelligent and coordinated, or a chaotic mob, or just all-out rout and return after the PCs leave the area. Groups can be homogenous (a hobgoblin tribe, a pack of phase spiders) or heterogeneous (orcs and their ogre allies, trolls and their pet lizards, etc.)

Bait Monsters - the monsters in one area are bait for another. Different from guards, these monsters are really just there to draw attention while the "main" monsters decide when, if, and how to wade in and attack you. These monsters, especially if set as guards, are likely to be in a position that makes them look vulnerable, wealthy, or otherwise important to clear out.

Opportunists - Some monsters aren't affiliated with anyone, but rather are ready to jump in to a fight if they feel like they have a chance to profit. They may be in the area on purpose or just wander in.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

DF Felltower Goblins

As requested, here are the goblins from Felltower.

10 points
Choice Professions: Scout, Thief.
Marginal Professions: Barbarian, Knight.

Goblins are gray-, red-, orange-, or yellow-skinned little guys. They aren't as stupid as most other goblin-kin, and are quite agile, but they are weak and small. Their cowardice doesn't help them any, either. They are often found being bullied by Hobgoblins or enslaved by Orcs. They aren't as inherently unpleasant as orcs or hobgoblins, and if they can overcome their cowardice they make passing adventurers and hirelings. Goblins aren't any less smart than normal humans, but they love to act like they don't know, don't understand, or don't get something so they can avoid either work or danger.

Attribute Modifiers: ST-1 [-10]; DX+1 [20]; HT+1 [10].
Secondary Characteristic Modifiers: HP+1 [2]; SM-1 [0].
Advantages: Infravision [10]; Rapid Healing [5]; Teeth (Sharp) [1].
Disadvantages: Appearance (Ugly) [-8]; Cowardice (12) [-10]; Social Stigma (Savage) [-10].

Goblin PCs can buy up the self-control rating on Cowardice (to 15) and [-5], bringing racial cost to 15 points, but never fully buy it off.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Do you bootstrap new PCs?

Erik Tenkar was reflecting on PC death, and also referencing my favorite two-katana wielding character, Groo.*

In the comments and on some unrelated Google+ threads I was perusing recently, there was talk about the short lifespan of characters in OSR games.

I was thinking - don't people still bootstap up new PCs?

By which I mean, don't you use higher-level types to ensure low-level guys live and win gold and get levels faster than you did?

It's the Greyhawkian Dream. You work hard so your kids, er, low-level friends, don't have to.

Back when I played in elementary school, we didn't do this. When we got older, preventing bootstrapping was something we actually had to rule on, otherwise folks would escort low-level types to get them up levels. And when I played video games like Wizardry, the goal was to get one or two guys up to level 3+ and then use them to backstop lower level guys, and then repeat the cycle until you had a solid core of guys with the money to resurrect any slain.

This is something you can easily do in a tabletop fantasy game. Send your 5th level fighter with a bunch of 1st level guys, ensure they win, give them all the gold (you don't need it), and don't fret the miniscule XP you all get once it's divided by 5 for your high-level guy bashing low-level foes. They level quickly, and avoid the lethal entry point. Seems like a very logical way to avoid the lethality of low-level play and maximize the benefits of higher-level friends, and to avoid the sometimes slow slog of early leveling up.

In fact, once I hit level 4+ in Erik's S&W B-Team game, remind me of this - I'll be happy to throw you extra gold, etc. to ensure you level faster.

This kind of thing is probably easier in a re-stocking megadungeon, where you can just escort them to level 1 or 2, bash the big guys and let them kill and loot the easier stuff, heal them up and send them back into the fray, and otherwise act like a parent standing on the curb while they trick-or-treat in the dungeon.

Is this behavior common these days, or rare?

My games these days are GURPS, and you don't need to do this - or benefit much from doing so. But you still will see players giving out gear to new PCs. They'll tell new guys to take sword skill but skimp on a sword because they can just loot him or buy him a better one, or skimp on armor enchantments because someone else can trivially get that done for you, or not worry about consumables like food or healing potions because they have that covered.

It just seems like, although there is risk in being low-level, the real risk is being low-level without high-level friends. Once you have them, I'd expect a lot more bootstrapping . . .

* True story, I once met Sergio Aragones, and my sister got him to sign a copy of Groo to me. Nice guy.

Friday, December 13, 2013

My Players & GURPS Calvinball

There is a real downside to playing a GURPS game with a GURPS author.

One of my players said this last game - "It's like playing Calvinball."

Well, not exactly - it's not like we only use a rule once. It's quite the opposite.

But when I make a ruling, it often really becomes a published rule.

Oh sure, Rule Zero - the GM's will trumps the books. So to some extent their experience isn't unusual.

But it's still a bit different when you're playing with a game author. The rule books can really back him, because even if they don't now, they will later. The joke is basically this:

Player: "Hey Peter, can I do [blah blah blah]?"
Me: "No."
Player: "Does it say anything about that?"
Me: "Uh . . . hold on. [type type type type]. Yes, right here, in the latest GURPS release! It says you can't do that."

My rulings don't just stay as table rulings, but so much of what going into my game is reflected in my writing for the game.

Plenty of stuff my players like went into my books. Monsters they'd created by off-hand remark (Leaping Leeches!) Perks for their characters like Flawless Fast-Draw. Rulings that favored the way we played.

But just as often rulings I made that undid rules abuses they'd found. "Let's use Telegraphic Attack to get skill 16+ and max out our critical chances!" "No, let me fix that."

Me, this makes me happy. It means they're getting that "D&D with Gygax" thing going - the actual published rules can and will reflect the crap they have to put up with having me as the GM. I just don't call out specific players by name (Jim!) like he did in his books . . . except when I do, by using their characters as names on the rules aimed at or for them. I'm liking the comparison to Calvinball.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

GURPS 101: Strength and Hit Points

This is the start of a multi-blog series on the basic and secondary attributes in GURPS. If you're new to the system, what are some things you'll want to think about? GURPS is point buy, so it's not the dice but you that decides what level your stats are. Here are some things you'll want to know about Strength and Hit Points.

Also see posts on Gaming Ballistic, Ravens 'n' Pennies, and RPG Snob on this same subject, and the GURPS 101 page.

How Much Strength Do I Need?

As much as you can afford. No one ever complained they were too strong. But you rarely have unlimited points, so you need to make some decisions.

If your character depends on muscle for damage (melee weapons, thrown weapons), there are breakpoints you need to know.

Thrust Damage: ST adds one point of thrust damage for every two points of ST, on the odd numbers. (So ST 11 and 12 do 1d-1 thrust, but 13 and 14 do 1d). Since adding more dice to your rolls helps in a lot of ways (see below), three breakpoints to keep in mind are:

ST 13 (1d thrust) - not the first time you do 1 die, but the first time you do 1d without penalties.
ST 19 (2d-1 thrust) - the first time you do 2 dice.
ST 27 (3d-1 thrust) - the first time you do 3 dice.

Thrust damage doesn't go up very quickly, so people who depend on thrust (people with stabby weapons, unarmed strikers, and biters) tend to want to look at maximizing their bonuses, not their raw ST score.

Swing Damage: ST adds one point of swing damage for every point of ST, so any ST score makes you do more damage with swinging attacks. Still, the "more dice" points are worth knowing.

ST 13 (2d-1 swing) - the first time doing 2 dice. This makes ST 13 a really sweet spot for ST for a cut-and-thrust low tech warrior.
ST 17 (3d-1 swing) - the first time you do 3 dice.
ST 21 (4d-1 swing) - the first time you do 4 dice.

These breakpoints for more dice are important because there are advantages (like Weapon Master), skills (like Karate or Brawling), maneuvers (All-Out Attack Strong), and techniques (Jump Kick) that add damage per die. So +1 per die adds +1 to a ST 13 thrusting attack, but adds +2 to a ST 19 thrusting attack.

An example of this big shift came up in my DF game recently - a character with net ST 16 (2d+2 swing), a swing+4 weapon, and Weapon Master (+2 per die) went up to ST 17 (3d-1). That is a 1 point shift in average damage, but the dice shift meant that he went from 2d+10 to 3d+9 (+4 for the weapon, +6 for Weapon Master). That's 12-22 (av. 17) to 12-27 (av. 20.5). Now, there are optional rules for converting bonuses to additional dice (p. B269) that would take this character's damage from 2d+10 to 4d+3, and 3d+9 to 5d+2, but either way, the jump in +1 ST made for +3 in additional Weapon Master bonuses which is really where it matters. Plus, All Out Attack (Strong) would do +3 damage (+1 per die) not +2 (the flat bonus for AOA Strong).

Weapons ST - Weapons have a ST stat, usually (but unofficially) called Min ST. Basically, you need that much ST to use the weapon without penalties. Weapons are also limited in damage to 3x their ST stat, which is why stronger folks need sturdier weapons.

For high-tech weapons, ST is rarely a determining factor . . . but the more ST you have the more powerful firearms you can use, and the further you can chuck a grenade. At a high enough ST you can start using heavy weaponry like light weapons (MGs fired off the tripod or bipod, one-handing assault rifles like Arnie in The Terminator), etc. And there is always a need to carry more ammo . . .

Basic Lift - This is a figured characteristic of ST. The next thing you want to be aware of for ST is the often-overlooked BL. This is another spot where every point of ST really matters. Each bit of ST you add makes you able to lift more, which means more weight carried at less encumbrance.

In my DF game, even a heavy fighter like Vryce is at Light encumbrance (max 2xBL) because of his high BL. He's got a bit more than 100 pounds of weapons and armor and can still move freely around the battlefield and not get too fatigued after a fight.

BL also makes a difference in some strong guy moves like Piledrivers, and makes a difference in how far you can throw things, too. A high BL character is a great asset to have around. Check the chart on p. 17 and you can see how a little more ST can make a loadout that much easier to deal with. And for rapid-fire modern weaponry, you need to expend a lot of weight on ammo.

What about Striking ST and Lifting ST? You can buy up Striking ST if you really just want to improve damage (it's 5/level), and Lifting ST (3/level) if you only care about picking stuff up (or grappling, with Technical Grappling). If one part of ST is of critical important to you, those are worth considering. These tend to be limited as well, but they give you yet another option for narrowing in on the characteristics you want for your character.

How Many HP Do You Need?

First, just note that HP = ST initially.

Crippling Injuries: Crippling in GURPS for limbs is more than HP/2, and more than HP/3 for extremities. That means HP 12 takes 7 damage to cripple a limb and 5 damage for a hand, HP 15 takes 8 and 6, and so on. Eyes are more than HP/10, which means 2 points up to HP 19 and 3 at HP 20.

Maxima: - The limit on extra HP for non-supers/non-nonhumans is +30% over your ST, although some perks in later books let you bring it up to +50% over ST (such as Special Exercises), or even +100% (Mountain of Meat, which is totally unrealistic but fun). One thing about GURPS is that you can suffer a large amount of damage in a single blow. High hit points can mitigate the effects a bit but even a nearly-supernatural level of HP won't matter in the face of a rifle bullet to the vitals. So HP aren't a panacea.

But they make it hard to die, and give you a wider margin of failure when you do blow a defense. You die at -5 x HP no matter what, so even a single extra HP gives you 6 more damage you can suffer before automatic death.

Healing: - If you have a lot of HP, you heal faster (to scale to healing effect to you.) At 20-29, you heal twice as much. From 30-30, triple, and so on. See High HP and Healing, p. B424 for more.

Slams: - HP are a proxy for mass in GURPS for rules where mass matters. Slams are collisions, so your HP (multiplied by your current speed) are the factor that determines how much damage you do on a slam or a charge. You can also easily get damaged slamming folks, so you really need to increase your HP if your mode of attack is putting people down. The more HP you have the better for you, offensively and defensively. This is why sumo wrestlers qualify for extra HP in GURPS Martial Arts!

The more HP you can get, the merrier. And in a combat-heavy low-tech game, they are critically important. You can probably get away with just staying with what you get from ST, but if you're going to fight a lot give getting some extra a look.

So, does this mean I should only buy odd-numbered ST scores, hunt for breakpoints, and otherwise min-max my ST and HP score? If that makes you happy, do it. But it's not necessary (or, in my experience, especially common). It's a good set of things to know when you're making a decision where to drop some points, or when you're thinking about the edge cases. ST and its related characteristics are too useful to shave down just to save points and stay at the breakpoints. I look at those breakpoints as things to strive towards ("Get at least ST 13 if you can!") not the only scores worth buying ("ST 14 is useless, stay at ST 13.")
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