Monday, June 30, 2014

Revised Open Doors in D&D-based games

The many, many subsystems of D&D-based systems irks me. This is probably from not playing D&D-based games for a long time, and playing GURPS. GURPS has a very consistent rolling system - you roll low for skill checks, roll high for effect. Want to hit a person? Roll low. Want to kick down a door? Roll low. Want to do damage? Roll high. Want to see how much this guy likes you? Roll high.

D&D - especially AD&D - is a real mishmash of resolution systems. It doesn't really have to be, though. D&D is very consistently "roll high" in its basic checks - to hit, damage, reactions, stat generation, saving throws. Here is one subsystem - opening doors - that could easily be changed to a single approach.

This was sparked by Doug Cole getting an (incorrect) epiphany during our S&W game. He said, "Oh, so Open Doors is based on your ST bonus?"

No, it's not.

But it could be.

Using S&W Complete as a base:

Open Doors: Stuck doors open on a 5+ on a 1d6 roll. Add your Damage bonus or penalty to this roll. Locked or especially badly stuck doors may require a 6+. Easy to open doors may give a bonus of up to +5 (automatic for ST 3+). Magically held or locked doors, heavy portcullises, and bars that need bending may require a much high roll: 7+, 8+, or more. If multiple PCs cooperate, add their damage bonuses together. Normal sized doors generally only have room for one character, but very big doors or portcullises might have room for 2 or more!

Example: Weak Willie has STR 4, and a -1 damage modifier. He needs to roll a 6 to open a normally stuck door. He cannot open a locked or magically held door at all. Strong Sam has STR 18, and needs only a 2+ to open normal doors. A magically held door that needs a 8+ would still open for him on a 5 or 6!

This more-or-less matches the Open Doors numbers for ST. It gets rid of a stat line entry (you don't need an open doors roll) and as long as you know your damage bonus you know what to roll for a given door. DMs can write door numbers pretty easily, too. "Door (5)" or "Door - Magically held (7) or Weakly Held Door (3)." You can handle bend bars/lift gates the same way. Just give them a number. No more lookups, no more "what's my Open Doors roll? What's my Bend Bars roll?" - it's just "roll 1d6, add your STR damage bonus."

Games like AD&D, though, don't take to this system very well, because you get situations like STR 16, 17, 18, and 18/01-50 all having open doors of 1-3 but damage bonuses of +1, +1, +2, and +3. For a game like thatm you might want to just replace the system with the one above, or use the "to hit" bonus, with a minimum of a 1 in 6 chance to open normal doors. Since to hit goes from -3 (and you've put in a floor of 6+ always succeeds for a normal door) to +3 (which matches the 1-5 of 18/00) you're going to get consistent results.

Anyway, that's one small change you can make to start to put D&D-based systems on a consistent "roll high" basis, and get a scalable and easy to remember system out of the existing damage bonuses built into the system.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Alien Menace, Session 4

What happened to Session 3? I missed it. You can see Doug's writeup here.

We started out on Earth.

Long story short, one of the scout teams the company sent out found an alien structure. Instead of avoiding it and calling in a strike team, they went in. They didn't come out.

So we went to a) pick up the car from the airport (aka retrieve the scout craft) and b) to find out what happened to the scout crew.

We landed near the scout craft and moved in - nothing. So we spent a good number of hours checking the craft, checking the sensors, running analysis, etc., especially since we saw nothing but the structure and the craft.

Once the craft was secure, we checked out the structure. It looked grown, not built. So, naturally, we put a burst into its sphincter-like door with the landing craft's 25mm automatic cannon. They blew right through and nothing responded.

We headed in. We explored a twisted, and clearly emptied, structure. Eventually we found one of the scouts - well, we found a boot sole and some dust. After careful examination, we decided the dust was the scout. We also found what seemed like a slug trail. So the watchword was, "'ware slugs!"

All I could think of was that iconic smoking boot picture from Paranoia.

We proceeded along, until we came to another smoking dust pile that used to be a human, and then into a large room. A.B. was the doorkicker by dint of having the heaviest armor (10d worth, hardened!). 20 yards away he saw a huge slug. BLAMBLAMBLAMBLAMBLAM. Full auto burst from the hip, not even looking down the reflex sight. The +2 for 12 rounds canceled little of the -7 for range, but still two rounds hit for 21 and 23 damage. It exploded in a cloud of green stuff. Expanding green stuff.

I yelled, "Run!" and we did. We sealed that door and retreated past the next door and waited.

Eventually, the more science-oriented team members gathered up some samples of the green cloud once it settled, but it cost us a suit of armor. We explored the whole complex, and found it had been stripped. We took samples and headed back.

On the way to the jump point, our scientist spotted a destroyed-sized craft. Luckily we caught it on passive scans, and it didn't hassle or chase us. It was heading to some planet A.B. didn't care about so he stopped listening. We went our separate ways and returned to earth.

Phase 2 of the mission was in Peru, where a village/town was depopulated in what looked to be a similar attack to the green gas/eater swarm we'd run into on Planet B. We headed there and had a preliminary flyover done, as we got ready to go investigate.

That's when the session ended.


Overall, I had fun, although I'm more generally interested in shooting than investigating. We did make lots of Ghostbusters jokes, of course.

The lack of a ping feature on the FG system was annoying. The customized "Alien Menace" layout was cool, though, and much appreciated.

The only question now is, do we use our hunters to investigate or do we get more scout-like guys for the scouting missions? It's an open question at this point.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

S&W in the Southern Reaches: Session 6 - Castle of the Mad Archmage 3 - Norkers & Teleporters

We played in Erik Tenkar's S&W game at long last on Friday night. For a better, more detailed summary, check out Doug "Rul" Cole's summary here.

Minister, Half-Elf Cleric/Magic-User (lvl 3/3) (Tim Shorts)
Mirado the Slow, Human Fighter (lvl 4) (me)
Rul Scararm, Human Fighter (lvl 4) (Douglas Cole)
Bello the Dwarf, Dwarf Fighter (lvl 2) (Chris Maler)

We returned to the Castle of the Mad Archmage, this time with Bello the Dwarf, who was going to join us before but who was lost due to connection issues. We joked he'd stopped to tie his shoelaces and only now had finished and caught up.

We entered, passing two teens with sticks who were counting adventurers going in for taxing by the mayor. Mirado asked, "Are you coming?" They refused. More fools they than us.

We went right down to level 3, because a) we scored well there last time and b) the dungeon kept putting us back down to level 3.

The first thing we did was blunder into a pit, which Mirado fell into. He suffered little damage but only because he avoided the poisoned spikes at the bottom. He climbed out and we moved on, tapping with a spear in front of us.

We explored and found a "maze of twisty passages, all alike" and fought some skeletal dogs. We found little of interest except
a room with flaming freaking rolling barrels in it. No clue how it reloads, which led us to decide it was the honor system - you're supposed to reset the trap for the next folks. We didn't, though. and moved on to some doors we'd bypassed. From then on, it was doors over escape or passages, every time. We kicked down a few, crowbared open a locked one (and got surrounded with some weird mist that didn't seem to harm us), and in one, the group moved in as Mirado watched from the hallway. The group suddenly disappeared. They didn't answer Mirado's hail. So, he decided it was a teleporter and - since the group did the same for him - went in.

We found ourselves turned around, but the dwarf knew map north so we were good. We explored around the teleporter area, and found signs of a wizard - an inlaid silver conjuring circle, a not-well-hidden-enough spellbook (score!), and then a wizard and his mail-armored cronies.

We were surprised, and the swordsmen laid into Mirado and the wizard disappeared. His spellbooks had included invisibility, so it must have been that. We finally countered and Mirado cut one of the swordsmen, before Minister put them to sleep. The wizard had escaped out a side passage, and Mirado couldn't find him. We headed back to the room and searched until we heard a shouted curse.

Aha! Mirado and Rul charged back to the room with the hidden spellbook niche. We slammed into an invisible mage, and after some desperate (and mostly hapless) grappling, we got him down under Mirado. We set to with daggers until the mage died an ignominious death.

We went back and Mirado, run by a player in a bad mood, killed the swordsmen just to get 2 HP back.

Somewhere around this time, we found a room full of rats who had 2000 cp. Of course. We took it.

We explored more, and kicked down one door that was especially fun:

Inside were some norkers.

Mirado shouted with joy and we attacked. They died rapidly. The next room had more norkers, and they died too - so far, 10 down. 10 more charged us from another room, right into Minister. His sleep spell put 3 down, and they broke and ran. We briefly considered pursuit but then decided a) we can't map and b) they don't have pockets and therefore no real loot. We took their silver (poorly hidden) and left.

We explored more - despite not being 100% sure where we were, we prioritized doors over escape. We dealt with a few of them - including a number of those little dwarf doors. One had a trap of some kind going, but we never did figure it out. We fought more things, including camel spiders (big ones) and some really tough skeletons Minister couldn't turn but Rul could chop apart with his undead-slaying sword.

We took their golden gorgets and pried open the sarcophagus they guarded. Inside was a mummy with nice boots and a gold necklace.

Mirado grabbed the mummified corpse's boots and blew a Saving Throw (despite Luck, good Con, and a Ring of Protection). That got him turbo-rot (aka hyper-leprosy, aka mummy rot) and a pair of Boots of Elvenkind. In normal circumstances, I'd have given them up to, say, the guy who needs to sneak the most. But no way, it cost Mirado 1100 gp for Cure Disease so I figured he'd more than paid for the boots.

We simply headed back to town after that, easily connecting back up with our escape route and getting to the surface. The two teens were dead, throats slit, so Mirado marked two notches in the ground for them and we went to town. They should have come with us.


"Honor the arrow." One door had an arrow symbol on it with no explanation. One-way door, maybe? Erik ruled it was a normal door that opened out. So we went on through. By Gygax, we honor the arrow!

I was in a grumpy mood, which might explain the relentless murder. Guys Mirado would have spared died because I just wasn't having a good week. As the man said, so it goes.

I love norkers. Mirado even shouted, "I love norkers!" just before we killed the first bunch. Lucky for us, their morale cracked when faced with a plate-armored cleric/magic-user putting them to sleep. That combined with my terrible initiative rolls lead to 3 PC re-names right there.

We found a spellbook, some cash, and the Boots, a set of Bracers of AC6 (or +4, maybe) (sold!) and like 800 gp or so each counting the sales. But that's it. We've done very poorly for loot and especially for magic items so far. I came into the castle with a magic sword, a magic ring, and some money. I've got less money than when I started and a pair of elven boots. Oh well, it just feels a little poorer than smaller adventures tend to be. Interesting.

I was rolling very poorly, very often. It was rare for me to hit, infrequent to cleave, and frequently I did miniscule damage. I'm not sure why. I'd roll 6s on doors and 1s on initiative. Annoying. I even rolled only a 4 (on two tries!) for my HP, making my new HP 38, the only time I've gotten less than 8 hp per level. I was at 34 at 4th level with a +1 CON bonus, which is 36 HP max. I'm still doing okay, though.

Some gripes.

Teleporter - this was fine, but like a lot of the traps. etc. and other encounters, it feels very . . . random. I don't feel like, "I should have seen it coming" so much as "Oh, yeah, some rooms teleport you and some hallways have deathtraps." I really understand what Courtney means about telegraphing traps so I can make some kind of informed decision. I'd rather say, "Ok, I brought that on myself" than "sometimes you search a room and there is treasure, sometimes you search a room and you teleport away."

D&D based games have too many subsystems. Roll high for this, low for that, but high for this, and percentage for that. It's annoying. I have some suggestions I'll codify into a post this coming week.

Friday, June 27, 2014


Awesome! Man-to-Man is finally out in PDF!

I have it, and I'm going to get a copy.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Good, The Bad, and the Serendipitous

If you ever need inspiration for using the Serendipity advantage in (cinematic) play, look no further than The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Here is a partial list of things that happen in the movie that could qualify as Serendipity uses:

- you're about to die and the plot comes a-rollin' in, in a wagon with a clue to a treasure.
- there is a friendly mission nearby to nurse you back to health.
- there is a cannon nearby, loaded, ready to fire.
- you unloaded his pistol while he was asleep.
- you just happen to hear and recognize someone's gun sound during a lull in nearby combat.
- you've got a couple shovels, which you didn't specify you were carrying.

and my favorite:

- a cannonball hits the hotel, enabling you to escape the noose.

The movie is full of great lines, scenes, and moments, but it's just an end to end trove of "I use Serendipity" moments. The extended version (recommended) has even more.

Lost City of Barakus PDF Received

I backed the The Lost Lands: The Lost City of Barakus from Frog God Games.

It was due in August 2014, but I got a download code yesterday for my S&W version and I was able to log in and download it today.

At a brief glance, it looks good, although I can't take one of the levels seriously - it looks like a three-eyed derp looked at top-down. But otherwise it looks like good stuff.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How does your group run their party?

So I was thinking about how my group runs their delving band.

My group is:

Pick-Up - Only the players who are there make a given delve. There is a large, amorphous "party" that includes something like a dozen adventurers who have adventured with the group. However, the acting band for a given adventure only includes a selection from the ones who are there.

Close Allies - No intra-party sniping or troublemaking is tolerated. This includes NPCs. No stealing, no running out on the party, no backstabbing.

Piratical - That is, all loot is divided evenly by predetermined shares. Generally this is very even - full and half shares are the only common splits. They are also piratical in the "anarchic commune" kind of sense. No one is really in charge, but if they put someone in nominal lead (Vryce in combat, say, or Galen when scouting) they follow them until that specific situation is done. Otherwise, do what you like.

Practical - the person best able to use a piece of gear is given that gear, if they are around. It's extremely common for, say, someone to be given the lion's share of the magical/special treasure if that person can make the best use of it. However, if you're a mace-master and miss the session with the magic mace, well, we sold it. Sorry. NPCs sometimes get the shaft, if they're hireling types, but not always.

The best person to do a given job does that job, too, for the benefit of all. If they also gain some side benefit from that (the Wealthy guy taking a commission, the door-kicker claiming the best armored boots, the mage getting extra mage-only items) then that's fine, just as long as it's perceived to be a reasonable benefit.

Motto: All For One and One For All - If they had a motto, this would be it. The group splits up the loot, sticks to their friends thick and thin, and prizes fairness and success as a group over success as individuals.

How about your groups? How do they run things?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

XP for the NPCs in Felltower

How do I give XP to the NPCs who adventure with the PCs? Basically, Raggi and Gort?

To date, I've been using a very ad hoc system. It basically works like this:

- no XP for NPCs.
- periodically, give them 5-10 points worth of upgrades when they seem to be lagging behind the PCs in their specific niche.
- if the players give an NPC the MVP award (despite it being the Most Valuable PC award), spend it on something cool ASAP.

Otherwise, that's that. No real system.

But I could probably do with one, and here is what I'm thinking.

- NPCs get 1 point per trip no matter what, 2 points if it's a profitable trip.
- NPCs gain any special points that the PCs do. Awesome Bonus, extra points for special discoveries, etc. all are given at full value to the NPCs.

This is for NPCs who voluntarily come with the PCs for a share or partial share of the loot. To date this would be "Red" Raggi Ragnarsson, Gort of the Shining Force, Orcish Bob, and Melchior the Malevolent. This would not apply to hirelings (bargain, or full-cost 125 point ones) or Allies (who promote normally, and 1/2 the speed of their boss PC) or volunteers who aren't special in some way (like Gort).

I think that puts the promotion and importance squarely on the PCs, but means the NPCs do actually get better. Only ones who are acting like PCs get improvement, and it's slow and steady. The for-hire dudes get nothing. The allies advance lockstep at their paid-for levels.

So this way, Raggi would earn 1-2 points a trip. Usually 2, lately (1 last time). I'd just mark them down and he'd get to spend them periodically. He'll keep falling behind but he's lower points than everyone except the two new guys out of the current regulars already. He's just so one-dimensional (berserk warrior!) that he does that well and usefully. So it's not a concern he'll fall behind. However it would mean I'd have a system for improvements instead of just periodically giving what seems like a reasonable amount. It also means that taking on a hire as a paid-for-with-points ally means they go from "locked at 125 points" to "advance in ability."

Any suggestions or comments on this? I haven't tried it - I'm just thinking about how it should go.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

DF Session 45, Felltower 36 - You Sexy Slugbeast

June 22nd, 2014

Weather: Warm, clear.

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (260 points)
     Mark Strawngmussel, human laborer (62 points, NPC)
Dryst, halfling wizard (348 points)
     Father Keef, human initiate (125 points, NPC)
     Brad McBearer, human shieldbearer (62 points, NPC)
Galen Longtread, human scout (360 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (430 points)

Still in town:
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Christoph, human scout (258 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)
     Gort of the Shining Force, dwarf adventurer (unknown point total, NPC)

We started in town, with the adventurers picking up some gear.

Dryst was there initially, but as his player had work, he was out for much of the session and then popped in suddenly. So he was able to gather henchmen, deal with in-town details, etc., something you usually forsake by showing up late.

Galen spent two weeks scouting. He backtracked the orcs from their old, overland route. And he also examined the mountain for a way in around the level they'd been at last time, testing the 12-legged wyrm's word about there being a way out. In reverse order, he found the way out. There is a 50' wide, 20-25' high cave mouth partly obscured and overgrown on the west side of the mountain. It smelled of sulfer and flame - so, yes, it could be a dragon's cave. It was at the right level that if it dipped a little it would reach the depth they were at.

The orcs, on the other hand, have set themselves up in a steep gulch or valley north of the mountain, futher up the V that ends tipped with Felltower. They had caves on the sides, a village of sorts, and so on, concealed from casual view until you got close (although their smoke, etc. was visible.) Galen counted at least a dozen little caves used for dwellings, around 500-600 orcs, and spotted a well-guarded cave to the south. More orcs entered there than left there. So he figured it was the way into Felltower. Seeing slaves sent in but not out, and occasional stone chunks dragged out, made him even more sure of that.

Bern meanwhile sought out maps, but only turned up a reference to the rising river levels turning the Silver River from a forked river (partly fed from under Felltower) to a single river. That coincided, however, with Vryce having pondered the rumor mill (translation - the player re-read all of the rumors). He recalled a rumor of a) blind fish being caught down by the southeast part of the river and b) a man dressed as a southern pirate turning up dead in the river. Since there is no obvious way in, they realized there must be a submerged entrance. They scoured the markets and found there were 7 water breathing potions for sale (lucky roll), but decided against using them to find a new way in.

They also decided against the "dragon cave," although Raggi vociferously argued for it. In the end they headed up, paid the orcs, and took the well entrance. At this point, it was only Raggi, Vryce, Bern, and Galen, plus Marc Strawngmussel.

Down the well, and then down to level 2. They they snuck past some stirges, and Bern rolled a 3 on his first-ever default of Stealth. Long-standing house rules meant he could spend a point to learn the skill, and he did on the spot. A natural sneak! Yet another reason not to trust gnomes.

They wound their way toward the labyrinth they'd been hung up on after killing the wizard, running when they heard the whoosh-clunk of a door and then the stomp-clunk, stomp-clunk of the Lord of Spite. They closed doors behind them and moved quickly, and it seemed to lose interest.

They reached a stone-carved altar seemingly dug out of the rock around it. Everyone except Bern had touched it before, so they had him touch it. He felt a glow of good health (+2 HT rolls) and really sharp, even for him (Attractive +1). He wanted another go. But they pointed out graffiti saying, "WARNING: Touch only once!" That was too much for his curiosity, especially when Raggi pointed out they never did that because, duh, sign on the wall. He touched it.

He felt a warping feeling (and, despite Luck) everyone seemed taller. His eye stalks felt fine, though, and his pseudopods flailed with their normal vibrancy. Oh, crap . . . turned out, he was turned into a cute (Attractive +1) but small (SM-1) slugbeast. His gear fell to the floor.

With no way to fix this, and no way to communicate except his poor Gesture skill, he ended up largely unable to artifice much. But he came along, since slugbeasts move pretty quickly, leaving a sticky slime trail behind him.

They ran into two orc guards, who waved them off from the orc-held areas. No more free transit there, it seems. So they moved back, and chose instead to head down to what we're calling level 3.

Once down there, they investigated the "deathtouch secret door." This time, they decided the trigger must be elsewhere. It was - on the opposite wall. They triggered that, and the door recessed into the floor with a quiet slide. They went in, and found a 30' corridor ending in a odd octagon. In the center was a 3" crystal ball in a 4-armed stand, two metal tables meshed into the floor on either side, and two stone benches, facing the ball.

They messed with the ball a little, but couldn't make it do anything, even after Galen deposited 5 sp on the right table. Vryce tried to grab the ball and take it, but it wouldn't budge, despite it clearly not being attached.

From there they headed to the "temple" - yet another place they'd been before. They messed around with the altar. This time (as Dryst showed up), they buffed up Raggi and Vryce with strength potions, Vryce with Might, and threw in the other muscle guys. They all got behind the altar and pushed. Lightning and black fire played across them, but despite the damage they kept on and pushed the altar enough to reveal a 6 x 9 x 20 deep opening below. They rested an hour, and then climbed down, leaving a servant to hold on to the rope and piton (since they were created via Create Object spells). They found a 30' room with an identical way out in the ceiling on the other side. So they sent up Galen to scout. He saw a purplish glow - maybe purplish smoke - and a mirror of the altar room from the other side. Except this one had an altar at the end with a bowl full of gems, a knife, an 8-pointed iron symbol, and brass candle holders. The walls were black shot with veins of purple, and the floor alternated tiles of black and black-and-purple. He reported back, and he (and Bern McSlimey) watched the altar as Dryst created some stone to anchor a rope up. One servant stepped on a black tile and black fire burned him up. The next stepped on purple and moved s-l-o-w-l-y. They chose that instead. Vryce and then Raggi climbed up, standing on the purple-veined tiles. As that happened, everyone except Dryst had their light stones go out. Then, out of the purple mist and darkness ran six figures. They were six-fingered, vaguely man (or ape) shaped beings of darkenss. Demons From Beyond the Stars, for those playing at home, slightly tweaked. They touched several of the PCs with their hands and inflicted a cold chill of unlife on them. Galen shot two point blank - one dodged, the other did not, and it suffered some clear injury. Vryce and Raggi tried to react, but they were slowed and could not (one level of Decreased Time Rate). Then, the lights all went out - the whole place went pitch black, impervious to Infravision (the slugbeast) and Night Vision (slugbeast, Galen). The demons attacked again, inflict a lot of damage. Raggi (barely) resisted going berserk. Vryce called the retreat as Dryst was savagely drained, and then fell 20" unconcious and barely holding on to life. Vryce jumped down the hole, as did Raggi, guided only by their closeness to the hole. Galen ran down, still under Walk on Air.

A hollow voice told them, "Flee, or be destroyed."

At the bottom, the PCs ran. They fled all the way back to the first temple area, and Galen dropped the magically created rope to dispel it, even as something was holding on at the bottom.

They fled all the way to a nearby room, and there set up a perimeter and did first aid, etc., and drank potions and such.

Dispirited by their failure, they headed back to the crystal ball room.

There, Bern McSlimey tried the ball, touching it with his pseudopods. He had a brief, whirling vision of the surface castle, but (with an 18 on Gesture) utterly failed to convey his vision to the other PCs. Dryst used Sense Danger, but nothing seemed dangerous. Only, if the ball was misused, would it be dangerous. So he used his Wild Talent to try Crystalomancy and looked for a new entrance to the dungeons. He saw a watery cave leading to a dry tunnel. So, he confirmed what they suspected earlier - there is a way in, if they can swim underwater a ways.

That done, they decided to check out the green zombie room again. They made it down, but could neither force the door nor unlock it (it's got a meteoric lock, and an iron door.) So they gave up and went back to the first level. On the way they investigated a mysterious pit and found their only loot - a large knife disguised as a scroll case, a gold eagle ($100 coin), and a 4 carat turquoise.

There, they Mage Locked themselves in the pool room and started to systematically use Analyze Magic to check the pools. Since this means a 1 hour casting time and 40 minutes rest, times 13 pools, skipping a few that didn't register as magic, this took almost 17 hours. The pools included:

- one of dry ice.
- one of eternal flaming liquid, with no discernible source.
- one of icy water
- one that, when drunk, healed.
- one that contained alcohol of the greatest taste and purity, but, sadly, it transported badly.
- one full of gold coins (turned out to be an illusion, that faded later - actually they were bronze slugs)
- one that put the drinker to sleep, and had prophetic dreams (Vryce drank, and dreamed of treasure in the flooded prison)
- one containing a gallon (about 115 pounds!) of mercury. They used it to cast Seeker on the 6-fingered guy they sold to the orcs, using his thumb. They got a vision of an orc cave, and Galen's pretty sure which one - one off the gulch full of orcs.
- one that contained an elixir of Mage Sight.
- one full of a pink slime, that Dryst later killed with lightning.
- one with a brass key of unknown usage, with Dryst apportated out.

Once they investigated the pools, they finally gave up and headed home, short on rations and sleep. The orcs let them up, and when they argued the toll should be 150 next time, they scoffed at the PCs.

They headed home, each with 150 sp in their pockets, short of a profitable journey by rather a lot.


The title comes with apologies to Ben Kingsley, who can probably kick my ass. And to Hot Chocolate, too.

Can slugbeasts talk? The template lacks Mute, but they're IQ 2 with Wild Animal, which includes Cannot Speak. So, no. Poor Bern failed every single Gesture roll, though.

30 HP is crazy. Vryce was healing 9 HP from first aid! 9 HP puts Dryst negative. Geez. It's super-normal.

Almost no combat this session, as they PCs realized they were going to die in the dark vs. the DFBTS and ran as fast as they could as soon as the combat started.

They almost took the mercury, since it was worth something like $15K. That would have been a very solid profit. But they realized the mercury, in place, is magically useful. So, profit now or power later? Dryst said he'd stand by the group's decision, and then groaned when Vryce and Galen voted to leave it.

Quote of the session? Vryce wondered if he should push the altar himself, or if multiple people should be involved. Dyrst quipped, "Multiple people. We want everyone to get hurt on this one."

A close second was when Vryce argued Bern could lure the pink slime out of its pool with Sex Appeal. Basically, every Bugs Bunny cartoon ever - Bugs (or some dynamite) in a dress, and bang, love.

Bern needs to come up with $1000 for Remove Curse to stop being a slugbeast. Ah, boy, was that a "what happens if you touch the altar twice" table entry I'd never though would come up.

4 xp base today, 5 xp for Bern for being a slugbeast. Vryce barely made enough to avoid a -2, actually. They'd deserved less except they relentlessly kept pushing to learn more, and left a treasure behind because they feel it's worth more as power. I figured, yeah, that's enough to justify base -1 for poor loot and nothing else.

And yes, the orcs are getting to be a real problem. But now they know there are hundreds of them. So now what? Maybe swim into the dungeons - no telling what level that comes out in to . . .

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Playing D&D with Juvenile Delinquents

When I was still an early teen or pre-teen, my mom did a stint as a school counselor for a school for behavior-challenged teens. Juvenile Delinquents, basically.

I don't really know all the details, but I remember they had records of things like drugs, skipping school, emotional issues, whatever. The kids who couldn't hack the regular schools and acted out, or had issues regular schools couldn't hack.

I've been in contact with the kids a couple of times - at least once a field trip (I remember one kid burning wings off flies, and wanting to kill the fish I'd caught), and once at the school, and at their graduation, too. Probably a few more times, since I can still remember many of their names and faces distinctively.

Anyway, once I was at the school for a short time - maybe on my summer break, or a sick day? I had my usual reading material - D&D stuff. They were interested, and in short order I was DMing A2 Secret of the Slaver's Stockade for them. I gave them the pre-gens but I think they renamed them.

They didn't make it far. Part of that is because that dungeon is a deathtrap - here, assault a fortress! - and the other is because they had no interest in exploring. Or treasure. Or anything beyond combat.

The immediately set to killing each other. The details are vague - I remember being annoyed and disappointed - but it ended when one girl (maybe the one girl who played) found out that fireball had this big blast radius that would encompass the whole party. She threw it, it blew up, and they all died. Maybe even her guy, too.

I just remember looking at the map, describing the gatehouse, and they didn't even make it past that. The intra-party stealing and killing just started right up. I may have tossed the ankheg in - I remember the ankheg coming up.

They seemed to have fun, and I never did run game for them again. Probably for the better. But it's still such a distinct memory. Especially B~ throwing the fireball to kill them all.

I can look back on that and criticize them or me, but it doesn't matter. They enjoyed themselves, and I have a memory for life from that. It's not a good way to run a long campaign, though - starting out by killing each other off. Still, it wasn't the first time I played with people who played it "wrong" but got the fun they wanted out of it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

How I (try to) avoid House Rule Suckage

I was thinking about the house rules I used to make for my games.

My house rules pretty much break down into two categories:

- simple, elegant rules that make something hard into something easy, or make something more fun.

- the rest.

I've had a lot in "the rest" category. Usually, they came about when I:

- had a desired end, and wrote rules to achieve that end no matter how I got there.

- replaced a working, simple rule with something complicated for no greater amount of fun.

- had no real idea what I was trying to add to the game, other than to simulate, replicate, or otherwise emulate something.

I still make house rules, but I keep trying to stick to a simple idea - make it easier, or make it more fun. Preferably both. If it doesn't make it easier, and/or doesn't make it more fun, it's useless cruft in my game.

So adding detail, if that detail gets everyone leaning in over the table to watch the resulting die rolls? Awesome! Good rule.

Simplifying something hard into something easy, so it takes less time to resolve something? Nice! Good rule.

Does both? Try to publish it.

Does neither? Probably dump-able crud.

Reality, complexity, verisimilitude? All unimportant if the game isn't running more smoothly or it's more fun to run.

I don't always achieve this, but I try to make myself ask that question whenever I come up with some "enhancement" to the games I play.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thoughts on Technique Mastery and other GM-tool perks

So Douglas Cole and I had some discussions by email about something, and Technique Mastery came up. I ended up writing something that might seem a little rant-ish, but it's intended more like "peer into the mind of a rules writer."

I'm partly responsible for "Technique Mastery" being in the GURPS canon. While writing GURPS Martial Arts, I pointed out to Sean Punch that we needed to model the one "one-trick pony" guys from the movies. The ones who have poured their lives into mastering some technique that is otherwise limited to only the base skill. That guy from the kung fu movie who knows that one kick, the master of the Snake's Strike exotic hand strike, the guy who can throw anyone, if he can get his hands on them.

But, along with some other perks, it's sometimes used a bit more expansively than that.

There are some perks I feel are related - including Technique Adaptation, Weapon Adaptation, and Extra Option. Probably Rules Exemption, too. All of those, along with Technique Mastery, allow you to be an exception to the rules in some way.

The thing about those is, they're GM tools. They're meant to be allowed in limited ways, with select options, in a rather reserved fashion. Used willy-nilly, with open season on all abilities . . . yeah, you can do some crazy stuff.

Technique Adaptation is pretty much there to fit those guys who learn concepts, and then can spend points to apply those concepts broadly. If you have Technique Adaptation (Feint), well, you can learn the Feint technique with anything, even stuff you didn't learn in a style. No real issue, there, although you may not want to allow every possible Technique Adaptation out there, if only because some don't fit so well (Low Fighting and Feint, fine, Return Strike, maybe not.)

Weapon Adaptation is great for adding a single weapon to a style's skills without requiring a separate skill. Learned to use heavier swords to fence, did you? Well, stick a backsword into Saber, it's fine. Learned to use a halberd with your Knife skill? It gets called out for extra attention for a reason. Still, a GM needs to take a look and decide how okay it is. Not all results of sticking a weapon into a different skill will give logical or balanced results.

Extra Option is great for that guy who seems to exceed reality, whether through mild supernatural abilities or just out of color. Rules Exemption does the same, forgiving you dealing with some issue everyone else has. But again, it's not blanket permission sans GM approval.

Technique Mastery especially gets pulled out, almost each and every time someone mentions maxima on techniques at all. I think Technique Mastery is problematic only if:

- you assume the GM says "Yes" to everything, or that there is no GM approval necessary at all.
- you assume it gives you +4 to everything (it doesn't, it's +2 if the max already exceeds the prereq - something sometimes overlooked)
- you assume anything written as a Technique is valid, period, no exceptions.
- you assume you can back-write your own techniques to get around the "not written as a technique" thing.
- you take a very narrow vision of "core use" of a skill, to allow yourself to exceed the maximum.

The bit about GM approval is important. Just like player-designed Techniques, player-designed advantages, and player-designed martial arts styles, there is the assumption that the GM checks it, clears it, and approves the results of allowing it. Without that, yes, exceeding the normal maxima for techniques is potentially going to cause problems. That's why the maxima are there in the first place - they represent some combination of simulation and game-balance concerns that levels off at a certain point. This class of perks is allowing you to say, screw those limits, I'm an exception. Bad things can happen as a result of that, but they are there to provide a framework for when you allow them and how much you should allow the maxima to be stretched.

It's a great tool for modeling movie characters, and for fighters who have a signature move in real life that is clearly above and beyond their overall skill. Or for characters who ape either one - you too can be one of the Shaolin Soccer dudes or play a guy like Crocop - but it's not all of what it gets made out to be. It's not a free pass to improved maxima for everything. And it requires GM judgment, something sorely lacking in the "I broke the game system, HA!" type of gamer.

I think the thing with Technique Mastery is - by default, the GM should say no, unless there is a compelling reason to say yes. Much like Weapon Adaptation, Technique Adaptation, Rules Exemption, or Extra Option ("I can get bulletproof nudity for one point!"), the default should be "GM must say yes" not "the rules must explicitly say no." They are tools to allow GMs to create special circumstances in their games, allow for specific fighters to ape something from fiction ("I am the master of the Floating Butterfly Fist - aka Exotic Hand Strike!" or "Our fencing style uses anime-sized swords!"), and model fighters who apply concepts outside of their normal niche ("We understand Ground Fighting so well, I can learn it for anything!") or characters who exceed reality ("He dodges better with the shirt off. Weird.")

If GURPS was written as an adversarial GMless PvP wargame, those perks would likely not exist. They require a GM's hand and thought about the consequences of them. This isn't really a flaw, in my opinion - perks like that are there to enhance a GM's ability to run a good game, not as an exploit to get one over on the system.

Those perks are great, and I'm glad GURPS has them, but they aren't meant to be used for everything, always. Allow the rules to change for one character, and expect some consequences. They can be good, or bad, depending on what you want and how far you let it all go. It's a tool.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Origins of the term "mana."

My brother-in-law sent me this. An interesting read on how the Austronesian term and concept of "mana" made its way into video games.

The History of Mana: How an Austronesian Concept Became a Video Game Mechanic

It's a good read, if you're interested in the origin of gaming terms like I sometimes am.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Original Ranger class

So I had occasion to go back and look at The Strategic Review #2, at the original Ranger class by Joe Fischer. Boy of boy, is that an uber class. They were toned down later, but not by a lot - even in 1st edition AD&D the Ranger was a major league heavy hitter at low levels and a one-man party at high levels.

The original ranger had:

- 2d8 HP at 1st level.

- Earned 4 xp for every 3 until 8th level. (! - a +33% bonus to earned xp)

- Surprised only a 1, not a 1-2.

- Tracking.

- + versus giant class creatures (Kobold-Giant, it says).

- 2-24 followers, the least of which is at least 2nd level.

- cleric spells at 9th level.

- magic-user spells at 10th level.

- not a terribly steep XP load to level (2500 for level 2, aka 1875 thanks to their bonus - less than a Fighting Man)

- at high levels they can use all magic items that enable scrying or telepathy or telekinesis or teleportation, including scrolls.

Even their "disadvantages" were really hidden advantages or non-disadvantage color:

- limited henchmen . . . but those henchmen were always special characters (and some with special powers.) They can't hire any mercenaries . . . until they're above 8th level (see below), when they can replace killed mercenaries but not their automatic special followers.

- can't own more than they can carry - in other words, spend it or lose it treasure. Not a big deal, really, because you already got the XP for it (and then some.)

- Strength as a Prime Requisite, but no prime requisite bonuses, instead you got that +33% I mentioned above.

- "- Only two of the class may operate together" - In other words, only one of my friends can make up a ranger. No one else can come and upstage our coolness. Your PC choice restricts the choice of others, but your choice is not restricted.

Even the wording of those disadvantages was vague, because it says

"Until they attain the 8th level (Ranger-Knight) characters in the Ranger class are relatively weak, for they have a number of restrictions placed upon them,"

. . . which implies the restrictions might not actually last past attaining 8th level. I'd choose to read them as an example of their weakness, not a "until 8th level," but hey, maybe I'm wrong. After all, you can clearly hire mercs at 8th level and above.

Oh yeah, and you have to be Lawful. Not a terrible restriction, I'd say. It is if you're a murder hobo, but if you're a stalwart monster slayer type, the (original) Ranger is a bit crazy. Like I said, it got toned down (before it was beefed back up a wee bit come Unearthed Arcana, thanks to Weapon Specialization). But it sure needed it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Writing Rumors

The most potentially difficult but most fun part of "restocking" my megadungeon is filling back up the rumors table. Since I use a d30 and a 30-rumor table, I have to keep a large number of them on the table at once.

Basically how I do it is to open the Rumors doc file, and systematically go through the table filling in blank spots. Stare until something comes, and then write it down. If I end up with extras, I stick them at the end of the table for next time - they aren't rumors yet, just ghosts of rumors future.

I have a few guidelines I follow.

- Write down every crazy rumor I think of, as I think of them. Whatever pops into my head. I fine-tune them but I don't erase them or agonize over them. I'll need hundreds of the lifetime of the game, so why get picky?

- I don't decide if they are true or false. I don't mark them for accuracy or veracity. They could be true, they could be false; they could be true but lead you astray, they could be false but lead you to a real truth. It's not really up to me to decide ahead of time - play and the players will determine what really turns out to be true.

- Use them to pass along hints and background detail. No one wants to read an essay about the dungeon. But they'll cheerfully put up with history given a rumor or two at a time. It'll all start to fit together organically.

- Add some the players ask for. If they're researching demons, maybe some extra demon rumors come up - after all, people hear you've been talking to Thaddeus the Sage and they know something that ivory tower fool won't tell you. And who knows, they might have a tidbit that helps (even when it's wildly wrong.)

- Have some rumors come with handouts - maps, letters, etc. Do it sparingly, but do it. "Some guy hands you this burned piece of paper he found crammed into his uncle's old "hiking" pack." "You find this half of a map while researching spells." "Someone sketches this symbol for you and says he saw it in a dream." Whatever.

- Feed the player's own ideas back to them. Write down some of the crazy crap they say and forget they said, and have a drunk old man tell them that in town. Especially if their crazy ideas are probably true, or impossibly false ("See, I was right! There is a beholders-only level 4.5 levels down!")

- Use the rumors to occasionally explain puzzle bits, oddness, or strange things the players can't figure out on their own. It makes the dungeon come alive when the players meet the son of the guy behind the Kilroy carvings or who can explain why that arrow mark is on the floor. The occasional rumor that badly messes up stories of what the PCs did too, can be fun. "Some guys must hate doors - they trashed every door on level 1" "Heh, no, we missed a few."

- Make sure to keep a list of the ones they heard, so you don't repeat yourself word for word. Repeating partially is great, though, by accident or on purpose. It reinforces the knowledge gained so far.

And just keep writing them down.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sell me on Fractal Mapper 8.0

Fractal Mapper 8.0 is on sale for $10 on RPGNow.

Fractal Mapper 8.0

I've checked it out, and checked out some of the videos. It looks very cool.

But I don't really need a world mapper so much as a good tool for mapping dungeons, caves, etc. - one I can use to blow them up and print them as sectional battle maps, even.

How is it for that? I haven't found a tutorial showing it being used to create either hex-based or square-gridded dungeons. Does such a tutorial exist, and if so, where?


Luck House Rules

I was reminded by this post by Joseph Mason about my Luck house rules. I'm sure I posted these before on numerous mailing lists and forums, but here they are again. If only for the edification of my new players (who run Bern and Galoob) in my Felltower game.

Luck: Luck is by-the-book, except in combat. Each combat is treated as one hour of time, regardless of actual elapsed time (in game or in the real world). Therefore, Luck allows you one re-roll per combat, Extraordinary Luck two re-rolls, and Ridiculous Luck six re-rolls. The time between uses doesn't matter - you can use your Luck on consecutive rolls if you wish - Luck comes in streaks in combat!
Once Luck is used in a fight, you cannot re-use it until the fight ends and the appropriate time interval has passed. For example: Bern uses Luck at 4:38 pm in a fight. If the fight ends at 4:45, he may use Luck again at 5:38 pm or later. If the fight is still going at 5:38, he has to wait until it's finished.

Exceptions will be made for exceptionally long fights, such as multi-session battles. In such cases Luck will usually reset between sessions - but it's at the GM's discretion.

That's how I've run Luck for a long time, especially since my previous campaign featured a number of PCs with Luck and a lot of very awesomely long fights (like the three-session fight against Lurg No-Teeth, Orc Boss) and end-of-session battle starts. It also nicely discouraged people from stalling in combat to get their luck back - not that people did it, but why even have such a temptation on the table?

We've used this rule for so long I think we sometimes forget to tell anyone, because the assumption is it's practically the rule as written.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I see your Deluxe Car Wars, and raise you . . . almost everything.

So Erik Tenkar dug out his copy of Deluxe Car Wars.

So I went to my mom's house today on my way to a family party, and took a quick pair of pictures of my Car Wars box.

 photo CarWarsBox001_zpse0baa6e4.jpg

I didn't have time to unbox it and spread it out, but in there is:

- most of a run of ADQs, including many of the mailers (like the Ogre in Unlimited Class duels one on top).
- Deluxe Car Wars
- Dueltrack
- two pocket box editions of Car Wars, Sunday Drivers, and Truck Stock
- Convoy
- and every supplement up to 9, including all of the Uncle Albert's, Vehicle Guides, and arenas.
- Allston's Car Wars-compatible supplements
- Autoduel Champions
- a Kampfgruppe box and a Broderbund Ancient Art of War box, each filled with counters.

The only things not in there are both editions of GURPS Autoduel (on my shelf) and Boat Wars (in a box.) I don't have the Tanks supplement, though - that came and went before I could spend my money on it. Just as well, it came out at the tail end of us playing.

I miss playing the game. It got a little too gonzo at the end (too many fights with Can-Ams with laser-guided rockets and trikes with HESH-loaded RRs and sedans with blast cannons and such) but it was fun stuff. Many hours were spent playing out many seconds of death. Plus I still get reminded of the story "Serendipity" when some farging icehole tailgates me.

Sadly, nowhere in my also-stored GURPS 3e books could I find the updated GURPS Lensmen. I know I own it, playtested it, and read it, but I can't lay my hands on it. Everything else seems to be there but that one is not. I wonder where I stashed it?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Here Be Adventure: Bounding a Limited Sandbox

In Wilderness Adventures, it says:

[. . . ] most campaigns benefit from confinement, if only for the GM's sanity. Confining adventurers is tricky. The old standbys of writing "Here Be Monsters" on the map and telling horror stories about what waits beyond the Mountains of Insanity won't work on fearless monster killers."

He's right. "Here be monsters" is a signpost adventurers go toward, not away from. The book has a lot of suggestions to keep adventurers in the sandbox area. But I have a simple one I usually rely on:

Stamp the sandbox map with "Here Be Adventure."

In other words, there is a whole world out there - but the exciting stuff is happening right here. The sandbox area has the greatest concentration of adventure - the artifacts of great power, the people of consequence (including the PCs), the great treasures, and the events that will affect the world. It's the hotspot of the world. Within its bounds are the main exciting things in the game.

Yes, you could leave the sandbox area and see what's beyond the mountains or past the northern-, southern-, western-, or easternmost edges of the sandbox. But it's not going to be quite as exciting. What's more, it will be hooked back into the sandbox. The magic items you find will need identifying by someone in the sandbox. The map you find leads back to a hidden spot in the sandbox. The bad guy that gets away? She flees to her allies - yes, back in the sandbox.

I've found this method works pretty well. I just tell the group this before play begins, and generally they stick around in the area I mapped out. People want adventure, and they're generally happy to have you say, "this is where it is."

It's better to give a pointer to the fun than try to hang up warning signs about where the fun isn't. It's easily coupled with any in-game explanation (the Mountains of Insanity drive you insane, the Infinite Ocean requires a special ship to cross, it's illegal to kill and murder for loot outside of Krail's Folley, etc. But on a meta-game level, "go here for fun" works.

What about exploration?

This can put a damper on a game of exploration, unless the sandbox either a) is a place to explore or b) has places that need to be explored. If the game is about exploration (instead of conquest, trade, dungeon-delving, or whatever), just make the sandbox the area you explore. Maybe town is off the map, and you just go there and come back. The Isle of Dread works on this principle. There is a map of the "Known World" but the adventure itself isn't there, it's on the island. The Known Worlds are a place to sell your stuff and recruit new adventurers in an X1-centered game.

Some players just won't be satisfied with a bounded area. In that case, you can either satisfy them with occasional forays into the lands beyond the map edge, or just ditch the whole idea of a limited sandbox. Usually the occasional forays will be enough - that big trip to the Imperial Capital, the 5 or 6 session trip to the Island of the Evil Stone Head, a brief trip to another world. If it all hooks back, it both helps the GM by limiting the game prep to the main sandbox area plus a side trip area, and rewards the players for both going on the excursion and for coming back to the sandbox to exploit their rewards for the trip.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures

The usual disclosure here: I write freelance for SJG, I play Dungeon Fantasy, and I've played GURPS since 1st edition (and before, if you count playing Man-to-Man). I'm also friends with Sean Punch. That out of the way, here is what you get when you get Dungeon Fantasy 16.

Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures
by Sean Punch
Published by Steve Jackson Games, June 2014
60 pages
$9.99 (PDF)

Wilderness Adventures
is the latest in the Dungeon Fantasy line for GURPS. It's a series of drilled-down books giving simplified rules for hack-and-slash fantasy gaming. The kind where "kill it and take its stuff" is the point, and the deeper world is just there to explain why it's okay to kill those things and where you sell their stuff.

One big hole in the line to date has been details for wilderness adventures - slogging through swamps, exploring lost islands full of horde pygmies, and dealing with forests gone mad. This books fills that hole.

This book is useful enough that I busted it out and used rules from it right away in my megadungeon-based game. The group climbing roll and options to "go it alone" worked out nicely, and solved the ol' "enough people rolling means someone will probably fail" problem.

It's dense - there are a lot of rules in here. But like the rest of the DF line, it's all simplifications of more complex rules and/or special cases. The book goes out of its way to say when to skip detail and when to zoom in on it. It's good advice and it's pervasive - it's a good reminder that a game doesn't need to select its level of focus ahead of time, but can rather adjust freely on the fly to deal with changes in importance. Wilderness is just what is between you and the dungeon of the week? Use the simplified stuff in Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons. Wilderness is the adventure? The deeper rules in Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures.

The book also features a "Wilderness Trained" lens to tack onto a non-wilderness savvy template. It also has a lot of very specific advice for each template about how to be useful (and how to be munchkinny) in the wilderness.

It's easy to enough to use it as a rules catalog, select what you want to use, and then just use that. The rules are generally simpler than the specific rules in Basic Set. Fighting higher or lower foes is broken into three strata - vs. same level (unchanged), vs. a higher/lower foe (penalty/bonus), and vs. flying/ground (bigger penalty/bigger bonus.) Other examples include making potions with herbs, foraging, weather, affronts against nature, climate, and mounted combat - all are given easy, concrete rules you can pull out and use as the focus of the game and interest of the GM and players determines is necessary.

Rules I especially like include the camping rules. These are neat - roll vs. Survival, and on a success you can pick two of comfort, concealment, and line of sight. A critical success nets you all three, a failure one, and a critical failure none. It's up to the rolling player, so you can choose what you sacrifice and what you prioritize, and it's hard to ensure you get everything. It's that kind of combination of player choice and character-driven results that I like in my games.

Another one I like, and a good example of the book's utility, is the rules for time spent on daily travel. You get an hourly breakdown of how long you spend doing what, how to reduce it, how skill affects it, and how your tactics (scout, don't scout, everyone scouts as a unit, etc.) affect it. It's even got details on how far you can see based on flying scouts vs. popping up on treetops. It's good stuff.

Finally, the book has some great advice on sandbox games. This includes advice to basically just plunk down some towns, some terrain, and get some wandering monster rolls going and play. It's not like you need a lot to get a sandbox going. The advice comes right to the point, showing how to get the ball rolling and how to feature the wilderness skills of adventurers.

Overall, the book is extremely useful if you're running any kind of DF game that features wilderness adventures, or even wilderness areas in a dungeon. If you're not running GURPS, it still has good advice but it's very GURPS-centric advice. Recommended!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

DFM1 Monsters stat blocks - Why Isn't Trait X listed?

This is a question that comes up occasionally - why doesn't Monster X from Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1 have Trait Y or Disadvantage Z?

I answered that here, tagging on to a legitimate question about the Watcher at the End of Time from DFM1.

Basically, DF monster stat blocks in general and DFM monster stat blocks in specific lack traits that are explained elsewhere.

The goal wasn't complete writeups of the monsters, but rather instantly usable foes.

Things commonly left off the Traits list include:

- Sharp Teeth
- Innate Attack
- Claws
- Striker
- Affliction
- Flight
- Super Jump

. . . things easily shown in the stat block itself. An Eye of Death moves at 6 (Air), so I didn't need to say it has Flight. A Karkadann has striker (horn), yes, but it lists that as an attack mode, so we're covered already.

Basically, it's spelled out where not including it adds to word count (Arm ST and Striking ST being good examples), or where it might not be crystal clear from the description or benefit from reinforcement(No Fine Manipulators for the Corpse Golem). It also clears up issues like "Do Horde Pygmies sharpening their teeth mean they have Sharp Teeth?" No, it's not a listed attack mode, so they aren't sharp enough. The stat block and attack modes section spell it all out.

In all cases, if it affects combat, it's there or it's already built into the stats.

This does mean it's harder to make them into allies, into PCs, or find out the true cost of some of the odd stuff we constructed for the book. But the goal wasn't a supplement of allies or cost demonstrations. It's just a source of ready-to-go opposition.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Possible solutions to the "extreme DB" problem

Yesterday I mentioned the way you can stack DB up very high in DF. In RAW DF, you can potentially get 19 DB from your front arc, 13 for your shield side, and 5 from everywhere. Potentially higher with more than normal Magery. How?

Shield: Large Shield (DB 3), Deflect +5 = 8.
Armor: Deflect +5 = 8, and it's all-directional (not that you can defend from back shots, but this affects flank shots)
Shield spell: +6 DB (with Magery 6)

So with, say, Dodge 4 (3+maximal encumbrance), you'd have a 23 Dodge. 26 with Retreat. Seems fair, right? You can still fail on a 17 and critically fail on an 18, or be critically hit.

Yeah, right.

One thing I do, mostly to avoid the headache of needing to know where someone hit before you can calculate your defenses, is eliminate Deflect as an armor enchantment. Gone.

But I thought of a few ways deal with this:

Step 0: Remember the Rules

First, as written, DB is not passive. It's an addition to active attempts to defend yourself. It must be coupled with an Active Defense.

Second, a shield only covers your three front hex arcs and your shield side (and that at a -2). A Shield spell only covers your three front hex arcs.

Third, a higher DB shield gets hit more for purposes of Damage to Shields (p. B484) and Striking at Shields (Martial Arts, p. 112). That makes it both more likely to take damage from a direct hit and easier to hit on purpose.

Option 1: Limit Maximum DB

Cap DB at a given level; 8 DB is recommended (see below).

Notes: Simple option here. Why DB 8? The most you can get for a Deflect +5 large shield is DB 8, so just say the most you can get from all sources is 8. Have a large shield (DB 3) with Deflect +2 (total DB 5 now) and your buddy puts Shield +3 on you? You've hit the max. Exceeding the max is only useful to avoid the higher DB of your shield from causing it to get hit more by putting on a separate source of DB. You could set it lower, if you like - say, 6, matching Magery 6. High levels of Deflect only appear on very small shields, probably combined with metal construction and Shatterproof!

Option 2: All margin-of-DB defense rolls still suffer contact effects

When you make any defense only by the margin of your DB, your shield (magical Shield spell or whatever it is) takes the hit and you suffer knockback per p. B378

Also, since DB represents an impact, follow-up effects may be triggered normally. If a HE round hits the DB of your Shield spell, you may still suffer damage from the explosion and shrapnel. In short, treat magical DB as effectively infinite rigid DR - nothing that hits it can penetrate, but effects that follow on may still affect the target.

Notes: This may in fact be intended by the RAW; it also may not be. But either way, it means putting DB on yourself doesn't make it easier for you to slip an attack entirely, just not get hit squarely for damage. You might still get knocked back or down, or suffer from a fiery explosion or something like that. Note that this doesn't mean Cosmic (Ignores DR) attacks are also (Ignores DB), but a corrosive splash effect that comes with an attack, an explosion, etc. are still considered to have gone off in the same hex as the target. You're basically just saying all DB rolls are "Damage to Shields" but the shield has infinite DR, like a superscience force shield does, but that doesn't mean the flaming oil, etc. just disappears.

Option 3: Use the Highest DB Source

Instead of adding up DB, just choose the highest level of all of your sources.

Notes: Effectively this means the Shield spell is mostly useless for guys with good, magical shields. But maybe not - the shield is still there to Block, and if your large shield has DB 3 and you have Shield on you for 4 DB, you get a +4 to defenses and still get a Block, which someone without a shield does not get. You aren't stuck only with Dodge vs. missiles.

Chris Bower mentioned this one yesterday, so I took the idea and expanded on it a bit here.

Option 4: DB doesn't affect Close Combat

Treat all DB from shields, Deflect, etc. as a shield. It does not cause any penalties, but also no benefit, in close combat.

Notes: Like it says. Pretend it's a shield and suffers the "too close to use" effect.

Option 5: DB can only add +100% to Active Defenses

There is no limit on DB; however, your Active Defense + DB can never exceed (2 x Active Defense). For example, Alphonse has a DB 3 large shield with Deflect +2, and has Block 10 and Dodge 7. With DB, his Block is 15 and his Dodge is 12. If he is injured to half Move and Dodge, his Dodge is 4, so his shield can only bring that up to 8, not 9. Penalties apply after the cap is applied, so if Alphonse was on Bad Footing (-1 active defenses), he'd have a Dodge of 7. His shield would be hit squarely on a 4-7.

Notes: Do whatever you like, but you can only benefit if your skill or move is high enough to make use of your excess DB. You can be more generous and say the cap applies after modifiers, but that'll mean Stun (-4 active defenses) will have little or no effect given multiple DB sources.

You could stack a few of these, but they all have some nerfing effect on the Shield spell and Deflect enchantment. Only 1 and 3 - capping DB or taking the highest - merely say you can only go so far, so it wouldn't really affect anyone until they got silly. The last takes a little math, but it would mean your crazy DB only helps if you've got the underlying defenses to back it up.

Personally, I like the idea of 1 and 2, where there is a cap and you do still get whacked, but it bounces off your invisible force field (Shield spell) or your shield somehow gets in the way despite being too small (Deflect). It also nicely makes the Defending Shield enchantment worth a lot more than Deflect for Block because it is always uncapped.

I'll see if my players like any of these. It's not really a "nerf Dryst" thing, although it was his extremely effective defenses will mind-numbers, retching, and cornered by much bigger foes that partly triggered this thought. That fight made me think, well, how freaking ridiculous can it get? In my opinion, a little too ridiculous. So I'd like to try at least one of these.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Notes and Pictures from yesterday's DF game

I snapped two pictures of the big brawl yesterday.

Cloaker Battle Phase 1 photo Gaming095s_zps0aef6ef1.jpg

Cloaker Battle Phase 2 photo Gaming096s_zpsacda6c87.jpg

I have to feel for my players a little on this one. It was a fight against a mixed set of foes backed by special powers, with melee opponents who made melee chancy thanks to a potentially incapacitating aura, on bad footing (so all attack rolls were at -2, defenses at -1, and movement cost doubled) vs. sure-footed foes, with a low ceiling (so Dryst couldn't float out of harm's way). And they did a lot right:

- They had a rear guard, and refused suggestions to call him forward. Good thing.

- They kept their scout off on the rear-flank with a clear line of fire and channels to support their front-line fighters.

- They instantly deployed alchemist's fire, Great Haste, Armor, Shield - they went right for full firepower.

- The usual good tactics by Vryce to ensure he was the one determining fight distance.

- When attacked from behind, they moved to keep the onslaught from cutting them in half.

But some wrong, too.

- The rear guard was only Gort - not even a tripwire Created Servant to alert them through its death. Gort is a wise old NPC, but his skills are badly off their peak.

- A ragged line thanks to hurrying forward to try to snag treasure instead of securing the room and then snagging treasure. Although Overconfidence and then Greed may have played into that - it's why you get points for disads.

- Not quite enough coordination early on meant Bern was in the front line when their fast foes charged them, and he's poorly equipped for that even against less-worthy foes.

- It's deeper in the dungeon than they've been before - at least 50', probably more like 60-65', below the 3rd level. It's a place that demands more caution than they showed. They were more worried by traps or the treasure being a fake than by being hit from three directions by a prepared foe.

I don't mean this as second-guessing them. Just noting what I think helped, and what I think you won't see quite so much of in the future.

Overall, even if they'd been setup perfectly it would have been a tough fight. If it wasn't for the fortuitous possession of a specific magic item, it may have been a TPK. It was a set-piece meant to be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes those don't work out, sometimes they do - I generally just set it up and see how it goes. This one was a little tougher than I'd expected, and I'm glad, because that cloak fiend mini came out so well:

Cloak Fiend Front photo CloakFiend01s_zpscdabb5d6.jpg
Cloak Fiend Back photo CloakFiend02s_zps831112c9.jpg

Lucky for them, the enemy was content with beating them - had their foes been aiming to kill before winning, they might have lost a few PCs and NPCs there. Raggi was wide open for death when paralyzed; so were Galen and later an unconscious Gort and Mark. But the "trogs" were trying to concentrate on fighters and trying to win the fight. So the victory came with relative lack of lasting damage. But it was within a whisker of total defeat, and that wouldn't have ended well. The calcified "sculptures" spoke to that pretty clearly.

And yes, Mark Strawngmussel's name was inspired by The Many Names of David Ryder from MST3K Ep. 820, Space Mutiny.

The smooth talking to get by the wyrm without a fight was good, too. It initiated talking, but the on the way back, it may very well have tried to eat them . . . and they weren't exactly loaded for it. It would have been a harder fight than on the way in.


Some more notes:

Shield: Boy, the Shield spell plus a magical large shield is a ridiculously effective combo. Dryst was retching and nauseous and dulled by the cloaker's hum and still had a defense well above 50%. I'm not sure how I'd address that, though, but I can easily see someone with a Deflect 2 or 3 large shield (DB 6) and a Magery 6 Shield spell (DB 6) having a Heavy Encumbrance no-Retreat Dodge of 14 or 15. It's a lot of power and money to do that, but would it be fun? Would anyone want to fight that guy as an enemy? "He defends with ease, every. Single. Time." A cap on bonus DB might make sense.

Resist Poison: I figured, immunity means the ongoing effects stop, and ruled it that way.

Iron Arm: Bad wording implies a failed Iron Arm has the caster "parrying with his arm." Sounds like "I get an unarmed parry," doesn't it? I don't think so, I think it's just poor word choice, since other Blocking spells don't give you a backup roll. "I Iron Arm, and if it fails, I defend normally, and if I chose AOD Double I get yet another defense!" - That's lame. So no, it's Iron Arm, and if it fails, your opponent either hits your arm or the original target, his choice.

Universal Scrolls: I'm not sure I'm using these. I'm absolutely not using Universal cleric scrolls. I'm not using tattooed/etched scrolls on gear at the moment, either. Sorry.


One note for myself: I need to write down the visible armor of the PCs, because sometimes I've had enemies attack a PC and then the PC says "Oh, that's where I have my heaviest armor, unlike my leather-clad legs" or whatever. Appearance of weak armor should be a trigger for aiming there.

Wizard Eye: The addition of Wizard Eye will really affect exploration, I think. Invisible Wizard Eye isn't available in my game, so it's not a secret scout. But it's still going to change things.

Another note: We're using TG, so I need to get everyone's 1 handed and 2 handed grapple and Trained ST on their sheets, so I don't need to figure it out for them when I misplace my "handy" TG reference card with those details on it. I may need to make a "one handed grapple" and "two handed grapple" weapon listing and tell GCA how to implement it. Since I'm using a modified form of TG, I can't just go get other people's work.

Describing caves is tough, too. Maybe I need to just make a player-facing copy and figure out a way to deploy it in chunks, or deploy it covered, or something. Worth thinking about, as there are more cave-like areas in the dungeon.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

DF Game Session 44, Felltower 35 - Cloaker & Trogs & Wyrm

June 8th, 2014

Weather: Hot, breezely, clear.

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (255 points)
     Mark Strawngmussel, human laborer (62 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (347 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (347 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (408 points)
     Gort of the Shining Force, dwarf adventurer (unknown point total, NPC)

Still in town:
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Christoph, human scout (258 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)

We started as usual in Stericksburg, with what seems to be the core regulars right now - Galen, Dryst, Vryce, and Bern. They organized their gear, stocked up on potions, and ordered some gear for next time (spellstones, mostly, but also noteably Galen splurged on a powered Iron Arm bracelet for himself for something like $22K.)

They gathered rumors, including some odd ones. There was a run of crazy old guys this week. Bern met one guy in a bar told him his uncle (just prior to dying from an infected monster bite), told him there was a special place hidden in Felltower and he'd carved an arrow on the floor pointing to it. Vryce met a crazy old guy who told him he'd bought his false teeth with a gemstone pulled outta the wall of Felltower in a tunnel full of gems sticking outta the walls. Then on the way home a man ran up to him and said "Be Ye Going To Felltower? Beware the Aruda!" and then collapsed - but didn't recall any of it when awakened.

They also heard a barge carrying liquor was pirated off the river, and the merchants blame the orcs. Raggi told the group they should heist it back and sell it for a nice profit - he's a raider at heart. They also heard that some rooms in the dungeon have doors that connect far-apart rooms together. Galen groaned, "As if our maps aren't bad enough."

Once they'd gathered all they could, they headed out, with a laborer in tow carrying Bern's stuff.

The orcs hadn't fortified the castle any further. They were clearly done. They let the PCs in after they paid the toll, briefly trapping them between portcullis and wagon before letting them through. This time, they said the main entrance was off limits, and ushered the PCs down the well using orc-owned ropes. They'd cleaned it out after having previously blocked it. They had also put a parapet of sorts around most of it, with only a small gap to climb down through.

The PCs went down, and quickly down to the next level below that. They found the carven arrow on the floor they'd assiduously avoided in the past, and a careful search found a cleverly hidden secret door. But they couldn't find a trigger for it. A hunch to check a nearby alcove, though, paid off - there was a notch in the wall with a depressed stone "button" in it. That - pressed by a Created Servant, opened the the door.

Behind it was a bare room, 10 x 10, with a red six-fingered hand on the wall. They looked for other features, but found nothing, so they closed it back up and left. They heard stirges ahead so they raced deeper into the dungeon and down a bend.

They headed up the old "fire-men" corridor but when they reached the corridor's end they found a big yellow ooze or slime waiting for them. It rushed at them - hunting slimes can be fast - and they counterattacked. Dryst created a wooden sword for Vryce at his request, and Galen shot arrows into it. His arrows plunged deep into it but with no apparent harm, and quickly disintegrated. Vryce's blows did nothing, nor did Raggi's axe. It slammed into Vryce and held on by trying to envelope him. Meanwhile Bern gizmo'd up a vial-tipped crossbow bolt full of a base mix and shot it into the ooze. It went in and shattered, carving out a section.

At this point Gort said, "We fought yellow slimes back in my Shining Force days. Cold and zapping them worked." So Dryst started in on lightning, as Vryce backed off and Raggi got slammed and held and partly engulfed. Then Bern hit it with a "dry ice" bomb and froze a section; Galen then shattered that section into fragments ("Slimesicles - very refreshing in summertime," said Dryst.) Dryst zapped it with lightning twice, both times also zapping Raggi, who went berserk (but he was also stunned from the lightning, and kept blowing his recovery rolls.) Vryce grappled Raggi and pulled him partly free of the grip of the slime (hurrah for CP-based grappled.)

In the end the second jolt of lightning did it and "killed" it, and Raggi managed to control his rage.

After that, some meandering around found them unable to get to the next set of stairs down thanks to a fresh barricade of rubble blocking a hallway. So they circumvented that by clambering over a shaped passage through a hobgoblin-set barricade of stone. Once through, they checked a side room (nothing in it, just some marks of previous inhabitants), and headed down the stairs.

They decided to check out the statue on the landing. It detected as magical, but had no signs of movability or use. Dryst sat down and did Analyze Magic on it - and found it had a False Aura on it to detect as magic. Nice. So Vryce pushed it over, which broke its head off. The resulting noise attracted attention - they heard a horn echo, and booted feet rushing around - probably orcs above them.

They checked under the base of the statue and found it had been turned - how long ago, no one could say, but it didn't always face the way it did. But it was otherwise just a statue.

They headed down to the lower level. They briefly checked the "deathtouch" secret door but saw no easy way to open it, fuddled around with some iron hooks hammered into the first room's wall, and then headed to the roper's cave.

It was filled with bats (more than before), and there were dead rats and bats on the floor. The ropers were gone, no sign of what happened - and no drag marks, either.

So the group threw a lightstone off the cliff, and seeing it was safe (enough), they used Silence and an iron spike to drop a knotted rope down. At the bottom they found a rough and probably natural tunnel that lead slightly up and then down to an intersection. At the intersection, however, they were suddenly swarmed by stirges!

Not as in a few, but as in 3 or 4 dozen. They swamped the group and made protecting your buddy impossible. In the chaos, Mark was impaled by two bloodsuckers, Gort by one, Galen by two on his face, and Raggi by three. Bern got one on his face, too. Lucky for them all, no one was hit in the eye. Vryce made short work of them, killing two a second with his sword. Bern tried to grab his off his face, but then Galen shot that one dead and let Bern just pull it out (painfully.) Galen shot down a few before his face-grabbing stirges made that impossible. His response was to shoot them off his face. He made the impossible shot, loading his bow, reversing it, and foot-dragging it back and releasing to shoot upwards through the stirges, killing both. He'd earn MVP for that because no one did anything more amazing than that.

Dryst whipped up a Windstorm and drove the remaining stirges away, while they killed and removed the stirges from Raggi and Marc and Gort. They hurried ahead into the unknown rather than back off and face going through the stirges again. They'd killed 20 (Galen nailed at least six) but there were at least that many more.

Beyond was a larger cavern . . . and in it was a twelve legged wyrm (they decided it was behir) which reared up and advanced on them. As they got ready to attack, it spoke in Common and asked to parlay with their leader. Bern started talking, announcing they were sort of an anarchic collective, so it decided Bern was the leader and spoke to him. Long story short, it claimed to be famous for its knowledge of the area, and it would answer questions in return for food (eying Marc, now unconscious.) They offered stirges, instead - and made a deal for four questions for six stirges, after sending Galen back armed with a gizmo'd up anti-stirge stinkbomb and an alchemist's fire.

The wyrm told them there were four apes with treasure past its lair, and also a way out of the dungeons . . . and a dragon. They made a deal - in return for one dead ape as food, it would give them passage back past it's lair. It agreed - and this would be important later.

They headed to another intersection, and Dryst send a Wizard Eye with Dark Vision on it to scout. He found a long carven, and oddly symmetrical square intersection room, and a pillared room with treasure in it. They decided that was the dragon's lair and whisked the eye back. Then they pulled down a dead end corridor, covered a section up a bit from the end with an Illusion of a dead end, and quietly rested and ate. Then they headed down a tunnel away from the "dragon" and through a different oddly symmetrical square intersection room. Galen noticed a feeling of old magic (despite no Magery) and Dryst felt it clearly. Like some great magic had occurred in the past in the room.

They also heard - Galen also heard - a nearly subsonic hum coming from the left tunnel. So they went that way.

They went around a J-hook tunnel into an oval-shaped cave. In it they saw:

- two ways out.

- a pile of treasure near one of the ways out.

and when a servant checked the treasure to see if it was real, it said it saw "stone people" down the corridor with the treasure headed in front and near the far wall. Even as that happened, they all felt a numbing hum hit them - and only Vryce and Bern shrugged it off. They were a bit lethagic and sluggish and demotivated (-2 DX, IQ, Will).

They decided it was a medusa or something, especially when they heard some a-rhythmic hissing come from the other way out.

They headed over to the treasure and saw the stone men - actually people, posed in very odd poses (almost dance like), positioned under stalactites, covered with a shell of stone. They felt like something had posed them there to calcify.

They started to scoop up treasure to get some cash and skedaddle. But instead from the far exit a group of lizard men rushed in! They soon found the lizard men exuded a nasty stench, and dubbed them troglodytes after the AD&D critters. They immediately engaged. Vryce whipped out an alchemist's fire and threw it at the entrance, splashing too with flaming goo and creating a burning hurdle. They all ran through it, but in the ensuing melee, many of them fell because the minor burns they'd suffered charging through coupled with the damage they suffered later put them just over the threshold to falling. Nice.

What followed was the usual confused melee. The "troglodytes" massed around the PCs, trying to nauseate them with their stench. The PCs fought back, leaving only Gort to guard the rear. Raggi charged. Dryst Great Hasted himself and then Vryce. Galen shot "trogs" with his bow, frustrated greatly by their shields and good blocking skills. But it went badly from there. Four more "trogs" attacked from behind, and a berserker "trog" with a greatsword engaged Vryce. Raggi chopped one down and intimidated another that was coming for him into backing off. And then a cloak-fiend of some kind (we all called it a cloaker) hoved into vue from down the treasure-choked exit. It let out a hum and Raggi was instantly paralyzed. Uh-oh.

Vryce quickly put down the berserker leader, first hurting him and then putting his eyes out (and his brain out) with two quick stabs after fending off a blow from the moaning, clearly magical, greatsword of the berserker. But he only got one shot at the cloaker shortly after and it easily avoided his swings before it pulled back and the trogs mobbed him again. The cloaker hummed again, setting a wave of panic into Galen - Gort and Vryce, both mostly fearless, ignored it, as did strong-willed Dryst. But then it sent a hum into Galen and paralyzed him. They were down to two fighters, as Bern was knocked out by a "trog."

Gort tried to hold off the rear attackers but a critical hit put him down. Marc went down to a clubbing strike to his back. And Dryst - heavily magically shielded and armored - succumbed to the nausea and began retching. Anyone else would have been helpless, but he'd layered so much magical protection on himself (and covered himself in so much heavy armor) that he was still largely immune to most attacks.

Basically Vryce fought on alone. The cloaker seemed to realize he was shielded from him - the players realized it was due to the magic headband of silvery material they'd taken from the crazy boss. It backed off, not trying to engage, although it came out once more and tried to paralyze him. It zapped him and lucky for Vryce, rolled poorly - Vryce rolled a 15 vs. his 17, making it only by 2. Lucky for them, or the fight would have been over. Vryce started to get nauseous from the "trogs," so he drew a Resist Poison spellstone and used it on himself, which I ruled neutralized the effects of the poison in him, too. He fought on, without the penalties form the stench.

Meanwhile poor Dryst was knocked around by three "trogs," who cornered him and pounded on him. They only hurt him a little, but knockback kept him down (and retching kept him useless, even under Great Haste.)

The fight went on - the cloaker retreated, Vryce kept killing (and had to kill a "trog" who dropped his weapon and shield to try and retrieve the champion's sword.) He wanted to retrieve that sword himself, but he didn't get the chance.

The fight finally wrapped up as Vryce dropped the last of the "trogs" - even the three who abandoned kicking around Dryst and engaged him - even as his Great Haste dropped away. With the trogs down, he snapped up the magic sword and they waited. The cloaker didn't come out. Dryst bid his Wizard Eye to go check on it, and found he could see three cloakers in the shadow-shrouded depths of the treasure-choked corridor.

They waited to see if their friends would recover. They did, so they quickly fed potions to the few wounded (most had been taken out by paralysis), scooped up the treasure, and headed out. They dragged the lead "trog" to offer as food to the wyrm.

They made it back, looking little worse for wear - Gort was a little wounded, and Marc unconscious, but he had been when they met the wyrm the first time. They offered the "trog" but the wyrm recoiled and said it wouldn't eat it, and that they needed to trade food for passage. They didn't want to fight it, so they offered two apes next time. The wyrm said reasonably, "But you don't have an ape now." So Vryce said, if you let us pass to the surface we'll come back with a PIG.

"A live pig?" it asked.

Sure, they replied. They even bargained to bring one pig for this trip, and a second live pig for next time, and it agreed they could pass out now and back past it next time if they brought two pigs.

After that, they headed to the surface. The orcs, somewhat reluctantly, let them up. They headed back to town.



The dead rats and bats on the floor sparked a whole tangent on how this was the "neutral zone" between the rat level and the bat level, and the ropers had been the arbiters of rat-bad disputes. Now it was a warzone between the species. Heh.

We used the group climbing rules from DF16 for the climb down. Simple, easy, reasonable results.

Galen shooting the stirges off his face while grappled by them and losing blood? I said it was -10, plus whatever other penalties, plus -4 for shooting into a melee. He still had like a 15 or so and made both shots easily.

They got a nice haul - a few thousand silver each from the gold, silver, copper, gems, and coins they found. They also found a magical beaker than can pour out one major healing potion a day for up to 15 days, in a difficult to break beaker. They found some incense that can be ignited to create a Stench cloud. They also scored a magic shortsword (claimed by Galen), a wand of electricity, and a suit (well, torso, arms, legs) of scale armor sized for a dwarf that was Lighten 50% and Fortify +3. Bern and Dryst voted to sell it, but Vryce and Raggi said to give it to Gort. So they did. They also had that magic, moaning sword. That turned out to be nicely magical, but also gave the bearer Bloodlust and Berserk and once swung in combat it couldn't be let go of until it killed. Lucky for Vryce, he hadn't swung it.

They found a buyer for it for 5,000. Not bad for a cursed sword of berserking.

Overall, a good session. And I got to bust out my cloak fiend mini I'd painted so long ago I can't even remember when I did it. Probably well over 10 years ago. They ran smack into a set-piece I'd put together - the cloaker and the "trogs." It had the impact I expected, but it was also a much, much closer run fight than anyone would have hoped. I had fun though.

They also spent a good deal of time trying to figure out a way out - an idea we'd discussed before. Between sessions, Galen will scout for traffic going in to the dungeon from other places (including back-tracking the orcs.) They also will hire sages, and there was at least some talk about buying maps and asking sages about other ways in and out.

Note to self: check pig prices for DF.
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