Friday, October 31, 2014

Felltower: Where the money is (?)

The last few trips of the PCs to my megadungeon have been a bit scant. They took home a solid haul from the dragon they slew, including a unique weapon.

But after that, lots of very little. Coupled with the way I handle XP - a point-value scaled loot requirement - this has been hard on the higher-point PCs. Generally, the group has been operating at a loss or a near-loss once you factor in:

- upkeep
- replacing potions
- replacing expendable gear
- paying their hirelings and hench-cleric
- research and other one-time expenditures
- healing (they've had to fork out for a Resurrection and Restoration recently)
- bribing monsters

But there is treasure out there. I figured I'd do my players a favor and list some of the place I know they know of that clearly, absolutely, have treasure.

The Evil Temple - they caught a glimpse of strange altar pieces and a bowl of gems in this one.

Pros: Not all that far from their current favorite entrance.
Cons: Guarded by evil demon-undead-whatever-things and a floor that has negative magical effects on you if you walk on it. Orcs can potentially cut off retreat from it. Unknown amount of money. Players assume it's cursed.

Gargoyles: They have all the gems they coerced out of the PCs. May have other gems, too.

Pros: Easily located.
Cons: I don't give XP for re-looted stuff. Flying monsters in a high-ceiling area.

Draugr - there draugr are heavily equipped and each has a valuable necklace, plus there is a bonus reward that probably exceeds the value of the grave-goods on offer.

Pros: The gear alone or the necklaces along would be profitable, nevermind in combination.

Cons: Tough, tough fight (33 barbarian-sized draugr who are demonstrably elite warriors). Orcs can possibly cut off retreat or pounce after.

There are some others which may or may not lead to treasure.

- the maze

- the double doors (the ones near the maze)

- the double doors (inside the main entrance)

- the "airlock door" (which the Lord of Spite once came out of)

- the metal door

- the Sterick symbol door

- the rotating statues

- the headless statues

- the newest doors they've started playing with this past session.

None of this is "new" stuff to my players; I'm just reminding them of their to-do list here. I figured they might be getting a little frustrated finding loot. They've been re-combing over areas for a while. I just figured this might help them remember where known sources of money are.

Homestarrunner Halloween

This is a public service announcement.*

Homestarrunner Halloween cartoon!

I'd just like to point out that besides awesome costumes like Cochice and Tom Servo, there is also . . . Mean Machine Angel!

We still need GURPS Judge Dredd, but now we also need GURPS Dredd, with the Poopsmith as Mean Machine Angel.

Also, they need to make more t-shirts. The Trogdor t-shirt I wear on game days is getting a bit worn out. It's getting harder and harder to deal TPKs as my shirt gets more and more worn out.

* With guitar!

Okay, no guitar, sorry.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rear Vision spell and helmets, again

Score one for my Rear Vision house ruling.

GURPS Magic Items 1, pg 27, has Sense-Enhancing Helmets

"Note that Rear Vision cast on a helmet will be ineffective unless the helmet also has Glass Wall or Invisibility, or the helmet has an eye slit in the back."

That supports the idea that the spell gives a vision ability but doesn't circumvent obstacles to that vision. I know some might argue the phrase "on a helmet" but the alternatives are a weapon or jewelry, because we're talking magic items. That doesn't mean the subject of the spell is the helmet any more than a helmet with Great Voice or Far Hearing on it puts those spells onto the helmet's ability to speak or hear. Magic items generally put an effect on the wearer or another target, not the item.

The working helmet on the same page that uses Rear Vision also has Glass Wall on it.

The book is admittedly for 3e, not 4e, but the spell in question in unchanged from 3e, so there you have it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rolling Is Fun, Too Much Rolling Isn't

There are two competing ideas at play in RPGs, in my experience:

- Rolling is fun. It is generally entertaining to roll dice and see what happens.

- Excessive rolling is tedious. It sucks do roll a lot for little effect.

So when I play games and when I write rules, I generally try to cut down on the number of rolls.

- If a roll doesn't have any risk or significantly exciting drama to it, I'd rather cut it.

- If a roll doesn't determine anything of importance, I'd rather cut it.

- Conversely, if a roll adds drama and excitement, it's worth adding or keeping.

Out of that approach, I have some guidelines I keep in my head when I'm playing or writing:

Don't make me roll to see if I roll.

Generally, if I have to roll dice to see if I get to roll dice, it's less fun than just rolling once. That kind of doubled roll makes me tired all over just reading about it.

So cut down the number of rolls by making a smaller number of big rolls.

Now, sometimes this makes sense. Look at the GURPS combat cycle:

A) Attacker rolls. If the attacker hits, go to B.
B) Defender rolls to defend. If the defender fails, go to C.
C) Attacker rolls damage.

That's an exciting sequence of rolls. Each is pregnant with possibility and tension. It's totally valid to break off the effect roll from the success roll. You don't need to do that - Rolemaster ties the original effect roll to the success roll (although it does add a secondary, and really fun, critical effect roll to most successful hits).

But I came up with things like Flawless Fast-draw and Flawless Nocking in order to, quite simply, because there isn't a lot of drama or excitement in rolling to see if I get to keep rolling.

Multiple rolls to do one thing is only okay if each part makes sense as a discrete unit.

GURPS has a few of these. For example, there is a Will roll to see if you can get your spell roll if your concentration is affected by injury or defending or whatnot, in GURPS Magic. I'm not a fan, although I haven't come up with a seamless and smooth way to replace it, so for now it says.

It's better to influence a roll than roll twice to succeed.

I love things like the GURPS Complementary Skill Rolls. Roll success or failure to see if you get a bonus to another roll. It's especially cool if I get to roll to see if you get a bonus (or a penalty!) from my help. In that kind of situation you double down on the tension without doubling down on the rolling just to see if you succeed. You get more people invested in the process at little cost.

Combine effects where possible.

If you can merge a table so you roll once and look across it for combined results instead of rolling on Table A then B then C, great. If you have a one-shot roll for wandering monsters that combines "does one come?" with "what comes?" that's better than two rolls.

It's not always easy to do this, but if I can, I will do it.

Second chances are okay.

If I roll and succeed, great. If I rolled and failed, a roll to mitigate failure is fun. Missed your defense roll? Roll to see if you're stunned by the blow. Failed that climbing rol? Make a roll to land well.

In short, you want rolls to be an inverted V. One roll expanding to lots of effects, so roll < effect. If you have a small effect for lots of rolls (effect < roll) it's probably too much rolling to get the job done.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review: A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords

This is part 3 in my series of reviews of the Slavers series of adventures.

Here are the previous parts:

A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity
A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade

For all of my reviews, please see my reviews page.

A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords
by Allen Hammack
Levels 4-7
28 pages including one page of maps, plus maps on the inside cover
TSR 9041

A3 is the third of the four Slavers Series modules (not counting the recent A0 that was added to the hardback reprint, or the extras in A1-4 Scourge of the Slave Lords.) In this adventure, the PCs have tracked the Slave Lords down to a volcanic crater, within which is the hidden town and fortress of the group. The PCs find multiple entry points into an underground tunnel system, and have to pick the right one and make their way in.

The initial tunnel system's "choose the right path" bit reminds me of the story "The Dreaming City" and the entry to Melnibone, but it's not quite so developed. You quickly end up on the single path through to the end. The tunnel system ultimately leads to a city, and the city contained clues to the hidden lair of the Slave Lords (since the PCs don't have the firepower to assault their keep.)

Like the other adventures in this series, you get a mix of set-piece fights with mixed foes, clever traps, well-nigh unavoidable obstacles (but ones a suspicious and cautious party can bypass with minimal cost, given the clues they find), and so on.

A3 is both one of the best and worst examples of the Slave Lords series. This is really where the railroad that the A-series is famous for show up. Even in the non-tournament version, there is pretty much one way (and one path) ahead, and one way out. Some of this makes perfect sense - you've got an escape route for the slave lords (the connected a natural cave area to an area near their city) and the path to their hidden underground council chamber. Both are guarded and heavily trapped, but it's also clear how the slave lords would avoid any inconvenience with them. So it does make sense you wouldn't have a lot of options and traps and guards would just be lined up to ensure you can't bypass them.

On the other hand, whether it makes sense in game or not, a railroad plays like a railroad. You go through encounters in order, each is a separate set-piece, and must clear them all in order in one go to finish the adventure. As I said, it makes sense in a tournament but it's not ideal for a dungeon.

This module also has some fairly annoying "X will happen" type events in it, so even cleverness on behalf of the players wouldn't let them get around any encounters in tournament play.

In between the rails is a city adventure, one of the few encountered in any old TSR adventures, especially for AD&D. You need to wander around the hidden city of the Slave Lords on a volcanic island in the middle of a lake, and find a way into their inner fortress. Handily, you are able to discover entry passes and a map, so the players have a map to look at. They lampshade the passes by letting you take them from some slave traders, and during the series it is clear there are a lot of varied traders about so it's not implausible they'd been around, overconfident, and unfamiliar to the guards.

The city adventure is really straightforward. There are folks with clues, lots of places are closed (you arrive at night, and have to keep a move on), and a fair number of people who'll accept bribes. The guards are dangerous but generally no one is tagged as being especially suspicious - I guess when you live in a well-guarded hidden city with visitors from afar you assume to shifty-eye adventurers are just more of the same. It's a fairly easy investigation, akin to ones you'd find later in games like Bard's Tale - open the right door, bribe the person inside, get a clue to the next door and go open that. It could easily be expanded to much, much more, but the module gives only the bare bones.

On the upside, that means you have a city you can quickly digest and be ready to run on the fly for anything, and not a lot of text to plow through that is unrelated to doing that. The writeup of Suderham is shorter than that of Hommlet in T1, and probably easier to run.

The art, like that of the rest of the series, is good and it's evocative. Some of it would be useful as player handouts but give just a wee bit too much information away. The Jeff Dee cover makes the bad guys look especially nasty.

One other thing that I like with this adventure is that the Slave Lords - should you fight them - have a coordinated fight plan. It comes with turn by turn descriptions of what they'll do for the first part of the fight. It was a bit I'd use for my own play, often carefully writing out 3-4 rounds of combat tactics for bad guys and monsters. I don't do that as much anymore, but it's extremely helpful when deploying foes who are supposed to be coordinated and experienced and who have interesting abilities to deploy.

I like their names, too - Ajakstu, Nerelas, and Feetla the pirate (which only decades later did I link to Jean LeFitte).

War Stories

All that said, I've run A3 a few times and it was fun each time. Okay, the time I ran it with the scripted ending wasn't one time anyone was happy. And once (in elementary school) I ran it with the non-tournament ending and the PCs were getting their butts kicked and then I think a lot of kids suddenly decided to switch to my friend's Star Frontiers game he suddenly decided to run. (We played on lunch break, so the fight was ongoing.) I do remember skipping the city adventure at least once, because it didn't have any fighting, and not handing out the player map because I didn't want to rip it out of my module and no one had access to a photocopier.

It was in acid-based trap in this dungeon that my current player's character Wyvern Intestineater died, too.

I know I ran it other times as well, either complete or using parts of it. The hit-and-run maze dwelling minotaur is a favorite lift, bits of the "throne room" (room A9), and the "cunning cubes" are favorite bits of mine to lift and re-use. But otherwise, there aren't as many liftable setpieces in this one, and the traps are very specific and a bit too elaborate for anything except a specifically designed and well-maintained barrier.

I never did get to run this in its entirety. Even in my later re-run of the series since the party was captured and broken up way back in A1 and never reached it.

How is it for GURPS?

This one is pretty good for GURPS, in that the encounters tend to be of reasonable sizes and present some interesting battlefields. The usual concerns about spells are here, though - one See Secrets spell and a single Shape Stone spell will bypass most of the dungeon, though, so you'd want to think about how the Slave Lords figured those spells into their plans.

Overall, I like this adventure but the strong-arm ending and truly linear nature of it is something I'd only want for a change of pace, not as a standard approach to gaming. Still, the fights are entertaining and dangerous, but it needs a lot more outside support to make it make sense outside of tournament use.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rulings from yesterday's game

A few things came up yesterday:

Parrying in Close Combat. By the rules, when an attacker first enters close combat, you can use a non-close combat reach weapon to parry normally. For example, see Dealing With Charging Foes, (Martial Arts, p. 106 or Long Weapons in Close Combat, Martial Arts p. 117)
However, I ruled that Vryce couldn't do so yesterday. Why?

Basically, because Vryce put himself back to a wall, with no room to get behind him, or even to get out of the 180 arc he has for front hexes. He had nowhere to back up or move. Since my own experience is that if you're cornered it's extremely hard to stop someone from grabbing you, I figured it was reasonable to say that a non-C reach weapon simply couldn't get a parry off in such cramped conditions. To be fair, I should have allowed a parry at -4, per Martial Arts p. 117, but even so, saying no parry but a dodge was fine seemed okay considering the circumstances.

Now, you might say that not being able to Retreat and suffering a parry penalty is harsh enough, but I figured there must be a downside to being somewhere where your opponent can easily get well inside the minimum reach of your weapon with no way to move out of it. So I ruled how I ruled. It's the tradeoff for fixing yourself in place with terrain, in that you have no space to take the inches you need to parry. It's no longer a case of getting your weapon in the way, but rather a case of not being to get it in the way at all - you've got no space to do it.

I'm sure it seemed a little unfair, since I didn't warn folks ahead of time this was the case. But for me the logic of circumstances is the critical bit - like when I ruled that SM +1 Raggi needed to crouch to get through a 6' x 3' tunnel, and that Asher couldn't swing while inside that space. Back against the wall is a bad way to keep your distance from a grappler or knife fighter or biter, and saying if you've taken all your ability to move away you can't get off a parry as they come in seems fair to me. I'd do this again if someone is fixed in place, especially if they've fixed themselves in place.

And to get this out ahead of time - yes, if a foe has Altered Time Rate (say, from Great Haste) and ends their first of the two maneuvers in your hex, it no longer counts as the "first turn" for purposes of parrying, blocking, DB of a shield giving penalties, etc. So Great Hasted grappler can move into your turn on turn one and not attack, thus giving you no chance to Retreat, and then grapple on the next turn, giving you a penalty to parry with your non-C weapon. Just be happy they didn't run around behind you and then grapple since you'd suffer a Runaround attack (-2 to defend) and be unable to parry because he's outside the arc of your weapon anyway and now has standing back mount on you. So it could have been worse!

No, I meant Parrying while in Close Combat. Another one came up yesterday - troll grabbed Vryce, Vryce broke free, and then an orc attacked while the troll was in close with Vryce yet not grappling. Can Vryce parry with his sword?

This one is a bit obscure, but it's actually covered by the rules. You apply the Close Combat striking penalty (-8 for a 2-hex weapon) and thus a -4 to parry normally if you try to parry an attack from outside. This is from Striking into Close Combat, p. B392 and Long Weapon in Close Combat. Generally folks step out of close combat or shoot into close combat, so the answer is always "Try to dodge!" anyway. Not yesterday.

This is one to keep it mind, though, if you are doing many-on-one. It does mean crowding someone is a great way to reduce their defenses. Of course, attacking into close combat is a good way to accidentally clip your buddies, so this is best left to expert swordsmen and callous overlords who say things like, "Shoot zem. Shoot zem both!"

Rear Vision. The Rear Vision spell gives you the 360-degree Vision advantage. How does that interact with helmets? Basically, I said helmets are a problem. To clarify, vision restrictions are a problem. I just can't see someone with, say, a helmet that gives No Peripheral Vision getting a Rear Vision spell and thus having the exact same arc of vision as someone with a helmet that doesn't restrict vision at all.

Basically my ruling is that vision restrictions due to gear will also restrict the spell. Otherwise, the spell is extremely powerful - if it gives 360-degree Vision regardless of restrictions, does that mean it works even if you can't see? In other words, does it let you put on an armored bucket (no eye openings) and this spell and see with no restrictions?

I feel like there are three options:
- gear trumps the spell - restrictions trump the benefits.
- the spell trumps gear if you can see at all - the spell trumps restrictions.
- the spell trumps gear even if you can't see at all - it doesn't matter what the restriction is, it gives you 360-degree vision even if you can't see at all.

I prefer the most restrictive version, because the spell is easy and cheap, and it makes having ridiculously high DR headgear* restrict even your magical options.

I'd allow a helmet enchanted with Rear Vision to let you see all around yourself, though, because that would be consistent with the above but also interesting. In that case, I'd still argue you must be able to see at least a little bit - no bucket with Power 3 and Rear Vision on it "Always On." In general, though, I like that vision arc restrictions are harsh and even magic doesn't just wave them away unless there is a lot of magic involved.

Reverse Grip Broadswords I ruled that, contrary to a pedantic and lawyerly reading of the rules for Reversed Grip, a broadsword (Reach 1) held in reversed grip isn't perfectly handy and totally unpenalized in close combat. A shortsword, sure, but with a longer sword I'd still want to give it half of the Close Combat penalties for thrusting - essentially splitting the difference between "short enough to work fine in close" and "too long to get a close strike anyway." That makes the shortsword a very sensible choice for a backup blade, not just a poor cousin to "the longest knife possible" aka a broadsword in reversed grip.

In short, this would mean a shortsword is -0 in close combat with reversed grip, a broadsword -2. Seems fair and interesting, and adds another interesting choice to the backup weapon discussion - how much do I value damage over potential close-in utility? You can call this a one-off merging of "A Matter of Inches" (p. 110) and Reversed Grip (p. 111-112)

Still, someone like Vryce is still better off pommel striking with his greatsword or just sucking up the -8 for a Reach 2 weapon in close combat because he gets the Weapon Master bonuses to do so.

Wrestling. Not a ruling, but man, everyone needs this. Vryce's DX+2 in Wrestling is why he wasn't hauled down by a troll and dog-piled by orcs.

* Typical headgear in my games is a cloth or leather cap under a mail coif under a pot helm. Great helm wearers sometimes skip the pot helm or coif. Even the basic trio is DR 11 with skull DR, before enchantment or enhancement. The cap/coif/greathelm combo is a bit more. So I'm not exactly crying for those poor guys who want to see directly behind themselves and have to shuck down to a mere 11 DR.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

DF Session 50, Felltower 41 - Orc Trap Counterattacked

October 26th, 2014

Weather: Cool, sunny.

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Al Murik, dwarven cleric (252 points)
Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (250 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (373 points)
     Father Keef, human initiate (125 points, NPC)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (444 points)
     Gort of the Shining Force, dwarf adventurer (unknown point total, NPC)

Still in town:
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (265 points)
     Mark Strawngmussel, human laborer (62 points, NPC)
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (372 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)

We started as usual, in Stericksburg. Asher's eye was still blind from the stirge strike, but Restoration left him halfway to healed. He wore an eyepatch and suffered some penalties to hit but otherwise was good to go.

The group gathered rumors - not many, because generally they get a lot from "I heard this at the bar I live in" Vryce, but he critically failure Carousing. I ruled he received zero rumors (not even the free one for being in town), but remembers that he heard some really awesome ones if he could just find that bar napkin he wrote it down on . . .

Otherwise, they heard a few - Gort heard that the six-fingered vampires speak elvish, Raggi heard there is a witch-queen to the East and her witches want something out of Felltower, Dryst heards that patch of weird magic are in the dungeon, and Al Murik heard that the priests who sealed off Felltower back in the day let themselves die out to preserve the secrets of their order. Finally, some merchants from Cashamash were offering money for some horns of a gem-eyed demon statue, but no one felt like track them down.

Amusingly, they've been trucking around a 5-pound silver crown they found, minus its gems, in the dragon hoard. So they gave it to Al Murik to use as a power item (it's worth roughly $5K). I insisted that, to use it, he had to wear it. So he did, on top of his helmet. It was a 17-point power item - bootstrapping is key if you have new guys and a dangerous level to explore. Asher has a fine flaming broadsword for the same reason.

The group did some gearing up and headed out, taking along Gort, the only person to show up besides the regulars plus Raggi.

They went in via the dragon cave, and found a lot of evidence of orc traffic in the area. Despite this, they found no orcs, and headed in.

The group explored, trying to link up parts of their map, and find the big double doors. They thought about raiding the "evil temple" they briefly encountered a little while back, but eventually got focused on the big double doors. They found a pair of doors and tried to open them.

They opened with ease - even a servant was able to get them open.

Beyond the doors was a 40' corridor, narrowing from 20' wide at the entrance to 10' wide at a black-painted wooden door studded with silver and with a silver pull-ring and silver hinges. The corridor was lit by a soft red glow from the ceiling but otherwise was unadorned and undecorated.

A servant was dispatched to touch the door, but the instant it touched it, it disappeared. Dispelled, it seemed - confirmed by a quick Identify Spell. Vryce pitched a slingstone at it and it clunked into the door, but nothing happened. They tried to close the big iron doors, but they couldn't get them to move. So using 4 of 5 of Gort's iron spikes (driven in under Silence) to spike one open. Then they decided to let Vryce try the inner door. He grabbed the door handle and pulled. It opened easily, but very slowly. As it did, the big doors started to close, pinging off all four spikes as they inexorably closed.

As soon as the big doors closed, there was a golden flash and the group found themselves (some stunned, some disoriented) in a 30' x 30' x 30' room with four exits. They realized they'd been teleported. They spent some time figuring out which room they were in, and marked it as a fifth unique "cube room."

They did some exploring, and I think at this point while resting they were discovered by a couple of phase serpents. They were quickly dispatched, but only after they poisoned Raggi and did a little damage.

Some more exploration brought them back to the double doors. They tried them again, went in again, and then tried the inner door - this time spacing the group out more, and trying to look inside the inner door with a Wizard Eye. All that got them was teleported again, to the same place, and a look at whiteness inside (not a white room, just whiteness, like staring into a lightbulb.)

The group did some more exploring, and find another set of double doors, and tried them. Same reason - easy to get in, but the inner door opened as the outer doors closed and - zap - they were elsewhere.

They found themselves in another 30 x 30 x 30 room. They weren't sure where they were, so they started to stand around and argue about the map. At that point, something attacked. A big (SM+2) but man-sized being of earth and stone permeated out of the wall and attacked. Lucky for them, Asher was paying attention and got between it and the group. He fended it off with his shield even as Al put Shield on him, and then Vryce got to work chopping it up. It went down after only a few (albeit extremely high damage) shots. They moved on from there, after locating themselves near the demon-ape room and gargoyles and stirges.

To avoid bother from the stirges, Dryst used Create Fire to put flames into their sinkhole, and then Create Earth and Earth to Stone to seal it, at least for 24 hours.

More traveling and mapping and looping around, and they decided to go up. The only gold a previous Seek Earth turned up was up and to the right, which meant upstairs, and the only supernatural beings they detected was pointing mostly to the whatever is beyond those double doors.

So they worked their way up to the long narrow stairs, sending a Wizard Eye ahead. Once it got to the top, Dryst saw that two orcs were waiting, and clearly alert thanks to the sounds of the party. They spotted the wizard eye, too. Dryst pulled it back and put Walk on Air on Vryce. He moved up the stairs, much faster now that he was walking on air and not on slick, uneven stairs. The orcs moved to the top, calling an alert and throwing oil down the stairs. They lit it, and flames engulfed the stairs. Vryce moved through, after Dryst put Resist Fire on him, and attacked the orcs. He killed both in single blows, and thanks to Resist Fire the group was able to just crawl up through the oil and to the higher level. From there, they moved up towards the level above.

Meanwhile, the usual alert horns were going on. But unlike before, they didn't stop. They heard a lot of loud horns, bangs, and gongs, going on over and over again.

They moved up the stairs, and found that at the top of the stairs the orcs had strewn the room with junk, loose stones, wooden "caltrops" coated with poison, and bent bits of old weapons. An orc waited beyond the room, and when it saw the Wizard Eye it started to taunt and wave as if to say "Come on." So they sent Vryce up and the orc fled and turned left.

They advanced cautiously - Vryce took point and moved into a T-shaped hallway. The eye was sent around the left corner. The rest of the group used a shield and some time to clear a path through the bad footing and poisoned doodads.

They found the orcs were trying to smoke them out - Dryst saw the orcs tossing torches onto prepared kindling to get a fire going, and then the smoke moving towards the group with unnatural speed. He responded by moving up to the corner and using a Force Dome to seal it off. They group moved to the right, exploring what was a familiar battleground when they were clearing the hobgoblins out of it.

The gongs and horns continued, making it impossible to communicate unless you yelled and/or were at close range. Despite that, the PCs moved up, and took a left after some arrows came out of a side corridor and missed a Missile Shielded Vryce. The group kept moving to the corner, and took fire from front and back. The decided this was a mistake and started to turn.

Just then, the horns and gongs started to cut off. They heard a loud BANG of a door being bashed down, and a cut-off scream of an orc. They heard booted feet . . . and then . . . stomp-clomp, stomp-clomp, stomp-clomp and the rattle of heavy hooves on stone. The Lord of Spite and his cloven-hooved buddies. Dryst had called it earlier, that maybe the orcs were trying to get him riled up and get him after the PCs.

They turned and moved back - only to find the orcs had sealed up the hallway with a wall of stone! They immediately got to work. Dryst shaped a 6' tall, 3' wide, 2 yard deep hole in the 6' thick wall. The orcs were waiting, and shot arrows down the pipe and threw in alchemist's fire.

Vryce just charged, head down, right through the fire and arrows and tiny tunnel and slammed into an orc on the far side. He bounced back and then engaged them. There were a lot of them. He quickly spotted a "shaman" and charged after him, but even at full tilt he could only get close to the guy before he was cut off by a troll and a half-ogre with a big shield and a bigger mace. Orcs piled in from both sides.

Raggi went up the tunnel, catching fire as he did, and then getting attacked while stuck in the tunnel. He shoved through and knocked down the orc blocking him and then started attacking. Dryst put Great Haste on him.

What followed was a brutal close-in fight. Vryce was quickly surrounded but put his back to a wall and started cutting down orcs. Raggi jumped into a mass and used Great Cleave plus his Trademark Move (a mildy Deceptive swing to the neck) to decapitate or neck-slice orcs. Asher pushed through next, after Dryst extinguished the flames magically. Following Asher can Al Murik. An orc bottled them up as Raggi went down with a crippled leg from an orc's strike. Despite the leg, Raggi rolled over and lopped the arm off the orc that hit his leg. Al cast Major Healing to get the now-berserk able to stand back up. He also rolled a timely 3 on a Command spell on an orc holding the narrow gap to "Fall down!" and he did; Asher stabbed him in the back and then stepped on top of the surprised orc. Raggi took out more orcs even as he scrambled to his feet.

Vryce kept steadily picking off orcs, but with his back to the wall he had no where to go. The troll moved into close combat and grappled him. Lucky for him, he was able to put off an Attack to Break Free and roll a max-CP effect roll and rip free of the troll's grasp.

As this happened, the hallway ahead was also sealed with a wall of earth, trapping a bunch of orcs on the side with the PCs. The trapped orcs fought on. The half-ogre took a heavy swing at Vryce but rolled an 18 and broke his big mace/club. Vryce knocked him down.

The other PCs kept moving through the gap, into a hallway choked with orc corpses. It took a while, even as The Lord of Spite stomped down the hallway towards them. They wanted to fight him, but not with their backs against a wall and with orcs ready to swoop in and attack if they win at great cost, or to finish them if they lose and the Lord of Spite left them (like last time.) Al Murik and Asher did some damage to one orc before Raggi hacked it to death, then moved across a carpet of bodies to watch the now-quiet right side of the fight.

Once they got through, Dryst sealed the hole back up. It'll only last 24 hours, but that was plenty.

The last of the orcs was killed - they fought on bravely but hopelessly. Raggi and Vryce put down the troll and the last of the orcs, and Raggi's berserker rage subsided. Vryce quickly took out two flasks of oil (the Molotovian Cocktail kind, not the lamp kind) and spilled them on the troll. Asher lit it up with his flaming sword and the troll charred up (it was already well on the way to -10xHP thanks to Raggi whacking it after Vryce carved it into pieces.) As this happened, the Lord of Spite reached the wall and started banging on it with his stone axe and/or club.

The PCs did a quick look - easily spotted purses, easily taken jewelry or whatever, and easily-grabbed bows and scimitars. They also put finishing whacks in on many of the orcs. But they were worried by reinforcements, the Lord of Spite bashing the wall down, and more, so they didn't do a thorough job of any of it. Still, getting some loot, some ensured deaths, and left the orcs less weaponry to pass on to other orcs.

They rapidly fled to the lower levels, and worked their way out and then back to Stericksburg.


The pictures of the fight are courtesy of andi jones, who also did the death markers, flame counters, and walls. We didn't have the heart to tell him they needed to be two hexes since he'd already made so many by the time we realized he was doing them.

Sean Punch's "Wizardry Refined" helped a lot - we needed to know if Dryst could use Weather Dome. He can't, so we needed the alternate prereqs list, too, for Force Dome.

Vryce's player was a little annoyed he couldn't parry the troll stepping into close combat and grappling him. We usually allow a non-C parry to do so on the initial turn of step in. But I figure you need room to do it, and room to back up - and he was literally against a wall to ensure he couldn't be flanked, so the troll stepped inside his long reach and then grappled. So, basically, too bad, it's a tactic that needs room.

Raggi was pleased and he's back to "normal." He was able to get himself coated with blood from head to toe hacking orcs up like crazy. One reason Cleaving Strike is so useful to Raggi is that he's purchased a rules exemption to let him take a Step and use the strike, not just use it from a standing start. So that lets him really get away with some extra killing - it makes it a significantly more flexible ability.

This session was profitable, although not nearly enough for 444 point Vryce. We used a scaled system for it, to discourage bottom feeding. Still, it goes to show that looting orcs of their gear isn't a bad way to turn a profit.

Vryce finally earned enough points, and as we closed out the session he upgraded Weapon Master (Greatsword) to Weapon Master (all two-handed swords) to cover Gram. As I understand it, the plan is to shatter his undead slaying sword, recover its magical tassels, and then put them on Gram to make it an undead-slaying dragon-slaying sword. Maybe. The other option is to put it on his "regular" magical greatsword to enhance that. We'll see what he chooses.

Finally, MVP was Al Murik, whose Major Healing spell was timely and helped Raggi get back up and keep moving.

Not a bad way at all to spend the 50th session of our DF game. It all started with a one-shot of the playtest draft of DFA1 . . .

Saturday, October 25, 2014

GURPS Magic: What if nothing was free?

Just idly wondering here.

What if the standard GURPS Magic system was tweaked so:

- there was no penalty for cumulative spells "on."

- but no spell could ever be maintained completely for free.

So you could have, say, 10 spells on with no penalty, but a Cost 2 to cast, 1 to maintains spell at skill 15 would be 1 to cast, 1 to maintain?

I'd expect you'd see skills stay close to their default levels a bit more often, and most of the saved costs put towards FP, Energy Reserve, and so on. Socially, you'd probably find Enchantments even more prized and Power Items/Power Stones even more critical.

In combat, you'd get a lot more buff spells cast and attack spells used, since "spells up" wouldn't reduce the cost. But you'd also have less spells kept up, because they'd run down your energy eventually.

Actually, you could probably get away with saying any spell reduce to 0 cost instead had the cost halved to 1 FP per 2 durations maintained. You could extend that to higher levels, so skill 20 would put a 1 to maintain spell down to 1 to maintain every 4 durations. Basically, pay your 1 and get up to 4x the duration. A 1 minute spell with cost 1 to maintain would be 4 minutes (or any fraction thereof) for 1 FP. Or just track fractional FP, I suppose, and say anything reduced to 0 is 0.5, reduced to -1 is 0.25, anything reduced to -2 is 0.125, etc. to maintain. Probably not worth the headache.

Just a random thought here - it would radically change magic as a power, with only a fairly simple change to the rules themselves.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Free Stuff: Chris Gonnerman's RPG Primer

Chris "Basic Fantasy Role-Playing" Gonnerman has written an RPG Primer.

You can find it in print at Amazon, here:

Or download vers. 16 for free here:

Basic Fantasy Forums

I've gone with the free version, since I rarely need to refer back to print versions. But it might round a nice "boxed set" gift to someone just getting into (or interested in getting into) RPGs.

It's good advice in general and worth the time to read it.

And if you're interested, I reviewed the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing game here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review: A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade

Part 2 of a 5-part look at the Slavers series.

Here is my review of A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity.

For my reviews in general, please check out the reviews page.

A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade
by Harold Johnson with Tom Moldvay
Levels 4-7
40 pages, including one page of maps, plus maps inside the cover
TSR 9040

A2 is the second in the Slavers series of adventures for AD&D. Like the rest of the series, it was originally a tournament adventure. Also like A1, it seems to have been two rounds - one above ground, one below.

It takes place in and under a stockaded keep. The setup is that the group found that this fortress is a front and a way station for slavers, not just, er, innocent caravans of evil humanoids going through a dangerous land. The group is tasked with finding out what's going on there, and to find out the next step on the path that leads to to the nefarious slave lords.

Once again, an escaped slave gives you a way in - a slave climbed out of the gatehouse's second floor via a rope of rags, and as the escape wasn't detected the rag is still there. The lack of aggressive patrolling (or cleaning, or housekeeping of any kind) is blamed on the humanoids being pretty lax about security. Either way, done by the tournament, you get right up into an abandoned section of the gatehouse and then need to work your way into the keep proper. The tournament basically bypasses one of the big problems with a fortress - it's not meant to let you access the interior easily.

From there, the party has to deal with a number of monsters, lots of guards, the usual traps and set-pieces that this series features prominently. Like A1, you get a lot of excellent traps and very tactically interesting set-piece battles. One thing I forgot to mention in my review of A1 is that they give zoomed in tactical maps of those set-piece battles, so you can see exactly how the various combatants are arrayed from the start (and, possibly, show to the players to make it even more clear.) The foes use the terrain and special weapons and combined-arms tactics well. None of the big fights are solvable with just a single fireball and some good damage rolls. A few come with pre-determined starts and unavoidable NPC actions, though, which can be annoying. But not all of them, and tactically clever players versus tactically clever foes using their surroundings to give them home field advantage can't help but be fun.

The traps as equally good, and make sense in a fortress - they're generally manned traps, or ones you can see being a minor annoyance to the occupants but a major problem for unprepared attackers even if they're careful and wary. Traps backed by troops is the norm here.

The evil leaders in the adventure are given just enough development to make them stand out and interesting. Markessa, the mad scientist-wizard (and yes, there is an owlbear nearby - it's the zeppelin and monocle of magic-using mad scientists), a blind swordsman, disguised monsters, named weapons (even if non-magical) - there is a lot of flavor here. The leaders are also described in a special section up at the front of the module, too, making it easy to know who you'll need to deal with if the adventurers make repeated delves. The strategy of the fort to repeated attacks is also covered, as is what they'll do with you if you surrender (my advice is - don't.) It is sadly lacking an overall roster and notes about reinforcements, something that would be extremely valuable to a GM trying to actually deal with multiple delves without a lot of prep time in between to figure out who is left and where they go.

Also, the adventure comes with four new monsters - weirdly out of alphabetical order (Phantom, Boggle, Cloaker, Haunt.)

"EXAMPLE VI: The party discovers a fortress and attacks."
- Gary Gygax, The Dungeon Masters Guide, p. 105.

Ever wonder what fortress the DMG is talking about?

It's very possibly the one in A2.

The expanded, non-tournament version is much more lethal. In the tournament foes won't pursue and an alerted fortress merely triggers a few (admittedly nasty) traps, and the fortress is reduced to a narrow path of set encounters. In the expanded version, there are more guards, more encounter areas, wandering monsters (including strong patrols), and pursuit will be active. So there are more enemies, more places to deal with, and they are more alert and more active. Not only that, but a few minor encounters in tournament play (like an haunted section of the fortress) are expanded to be full, and quite dangerous, encounters.

In short, the fortress is bigger (more areas to explore), had more active occupants, and what is there is often more directly lethal and complex.

There are some very cool encounters, too - a madman, slaves, the "caveling" cast-offs of Markessa, and more like that. There are some ways to bypass the traps (since the occupants might need an easier way around), and some chances to avoid combat. A few folks will live an let live, if you do so first. Others will actually ally with you, including some (at first) seemingly unlikely ones.

It all makes sense together, and it's a very cohesive fortress with a lot going on in it.

But generally, a group of 9 3rd/3rd-6th level tournament adventurers can handle the tournament portion, but no way that same group will handle the expanded fortress.

War Stories

For most of the reasons aboven, this adventure was one my players never cleared. It was just too much for the levels and their numbers. No one even got down to level two, few people got far into level one. Considering the age of the guys I was playing with at the time I ran this, it's not a surprise. Mostly people dithered around on the upper levels, alerted guards, got shot up, ran away. No one really got interested in continuing the adventure.

This was also the place where Playing D&D with Juvenile Delinquents happened.

In fact, when I later ran the slaver series, I just skipped this and went right to the later bits.

This isn't to say it's a bad adventure. It's not. It's just that the numbers make it so lethal, the setpieces are so dangerous, that you probably can't get through it at low levels. I'd use this - and I have used pieces of it! - but it's a rough module for its supposed actual use unless you run it strictly as a two-part tournament run. As a ready-to-go evil fortress with secret horribleness underneath it, or something to mine from, it's excellent.

How is it for GURPS?

Like a lot of AD&D modules, it's not bad, but you'll need to adjust the numbers or raise the power level of the PCs. A fortress in GURPS is going to be extremely lethal instead of merely lethal like in D&D. But the set-piece fights and traps will be possibly more interesting since both sides have so many more tactical options. You just need to be extremely careful running this "as written" but with GURPS because of the sheer number of foes. A smart party will sneak in a back way, if they can, and get out - or bring an army and lay siege to it. A straight-up assault is likely to fail. And as usual with AD&D modules, the opponents need a little more access to magical support to prevent simple spells from being win buttons - but not all of them. The leaders generally have some magical support, and unlike many adventures they don't fight one-on-many.

Overall: Good stuff. The art is excellent, too. Better for plunder than run as written for the levels listed. But for those of you who eye the Keep on the Borderlands and think it's better to plunder the Keep, well, try this stockade on for size.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dying in Traveller chargen, analyzed

I really enjoyed reading this post:

Traveller And Dying Before You Play

For what it's worth, back in the day we generally:

- skipped the death roll
- treated the death roll as "injured and left the service"
- fudged the death roll

I'm not sure how much we really did of the whole dying in chargen thing. It seemed odd. It made for a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon, rolling up guys I'd never play. But at the same time I think it had zero effect on our actual rolled up and played characters.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Secret GURPS Project: Into the finishing first draft edits

This past weekend I finished my "specifics" editing on my draft. Pretty much, this means that all of the "this should be 7 points, not 6" or "You got this wording wrong" or "these aren't in alphabetic order" or "the page reference is to page 21-22, not just 21" kind of edits are done.

Now, I'm re-passing through the draft for the general errors - formatting errors, Rampant Capitalization, missing page refs, ensuring alphabetical order, etc.

So it's coming along nicely. Lots of very specific and extremely sharp comments by Sean Punch have helped immensely, and the draft that goes up for a larger review will be much better for it.

The general edits begin right now, so it's post this post and get back to the GURPS mines to chip out more quality formatting.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

DF Felltower Languages

So what languages do I have in my DF game?

I've studied linguistics, but what I find fascinating about languages would bore my players, so none of that shows here. It's purely color, and it's surprisingly easy to get good at languages in Felltower. It's mostly grossly simple stuff.

Common: The main language of the area. Not actually called Common but I haven't named it. It surprisingly matches English word for word. Odd, that. Alphabetical writing.

Dwarvish/Dwarven: A defunct language. It's like Yiddish in East Coast US English - it's not a language so much as words that pepper speech. You can learn it and use it, especially to read older dwarven books, but it's not a common means of communication anymore. Might be worth schlepping a Dwarven dictionary with you, but it might not. Only your dwarven grandmother uses this anymore, and whichever thing you call it - Dwarven, or Dwarfish - is the term she doesn't use and it breaks her heart to hear you say it that way. Rune-like writing.

Elder Tongue: An old language, out of current use. Used back in the day by evil wizards, ancient scholars, and still used today by ancient beings, usually of great evil. Not a great way to impress your local clergy, who might report you to the Inquisitors if you walk around showing you know this. Of course some Inquisitors will know it well, to better fight their enemies! Ancient magic books are often written in this language. Wizards sometimes (okay, often) learn this in its written form only, to read forbidden texts and learn dark secrets.

Elvish: A lyrical, beautiful language, with lots of gentle and extended sounds. Used by elves.

Goblin: A fast, liquid language - tonal, like Mandarin. Fluid script, like Thai, Arabic, or Burmese. Used by goblins, largely, and some humans who trade with goblins.

Gnomic: The language of gnomes, this is a very difficult language to follow, deliberately obscure. It's full of ambiguous terms and pithy aphorisms and maxims and sayings, none of which are really clear. It almost seems like gnomes are trying to not communicate with you. Or each other.

Halflinglish: Another "dead" language. Mostly its terms survive in halfling speech in Common much as dwarven terms are used in dwarven speech. Its written form is very obscure and mostly shows up in cookbooks, housekeeping advice books, and halfling mafia coded messages.

Molotovian: The dialect of common spoken in the troll-plagued east.

Orcish: A harsh, guttural language that has more swear words than any two other languages combined. Mostly used by orcs, ogres, trolls, and other folks who socialize with orcs. The written form is crude but workable.

So far, that's it. There are hints of other languages, and some races clearly speak their own, but they haven't been named or described yet. No one knows what the six-fingered beings speak, for example, and no one tried to talk to the lizardmen (who have civilization but lack telepathy, so they must have some kind of speech.) Lots of underdwellers use one or more of the above. Gargoyles often speak common, for example, although it's not clear why. Others use Orcish or Goblin, depending on who they hang out near.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Review: A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity

I finally had some time to get back to reviews. Recently the A-series of modules came up in a discussion about capturing PCs by fiat. So I re-read that quickly and then decided to get right onto reviewing the whole series. Unlike the Giants series, these are long - the entire G1-3 is not much bigger than A1, so I will do each A-series module in turn.

I also have - and ran - A1-4 Scourge of the Slavelords. However, although it includes modules 1-4, it also changes substantially how you approach those adventures and fills in things in between. Since they are fairly big changes, I decided I should deal with that supermodule in its own post.

A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity
by David Cook
Levels 4-7
24 pages plus maps inside the cover
TSR 9039

A1 is the first of a four-part series of tournament adventures. According to the module, the original tournament was split into two rounds:

- One round of exploring the upper works, and discovering the way into the sewers.

- One round of exploring the sewers, and eliminating the boss slaver and finding the clues that lead to A2 The Secret of the Slavers Stockcade.

The released adventure is much larger, with an expanded upper works and a much-expanded sewer level with multiple connections up and down between them.

The setup for the adventure is simple - the disorganized lords along the coast have long tolerated the raids of yellow-sailed slave ships, or bribed their way out of them. Recently, the slavers have grown more bold and aggressive and burned villages and ignored agreements. Instead of sending a fleet, they decide to send a few parties of adventurers [tournament setup, right there] to try to infiltrate as potential slave buyers and backtrack the slaver's bosses.

The PCs show up at the ruined city of Highport, set in the Pomarj of Greyhawk. The city is inhabited by humanoids and half-humanoids, and visited regularly by slave traders and outsiders. So they can easily slip in and into the secret back door of the slaver's Highport headquarters, which was revealed by an escaped slave before they left on their mission. The lax guards don't really notice the intrusion.

The module puts a lot of effort into wandering monsters in the ruins, along the walls, etc. - none of which matter at all in tournament play. It only matters if you chose to run the game without the players getting secret inside knowledge to let them get into the place, or didn't allow them smoothly sailing through the ruins of Highport. If you follow the same setup for non-tournament play, the additional detail isn't worth very much. I did like that there is a "Wandering Monster Roster" - as you kill them off, you cross them off, and there is a limit to how many giant crocodiles or half-orc cleric/assassins you can just blunder into. As well, it's made clear that any human-led slave buyers you run into will simply try to deal with you, not fight you, as they aren't there for that at all.

The adventure overall is very good.

It's well written, although often fairly dense - no encounter is just a statline, and even empty rooms get some text and explanation. The box text is clear and doesn't commit the crime of telling you what you do or starting interactions - it's purely descriptive and covers what you can see, hear, and smell.

There are some clear instructions for what happens when PCs try interesting tactics, too, to disable traps, use noxious materials as weapons, and so on.

Not only that, the setting itself is pretty cool. The ruin is clear, and often the PCs are wading through water, dealing with burned-out rooms and timbers, plants grow down into tunnels, and so on. It's a creepy place that feels like an undermaintained sewer under a ruined building turned fortress. Everything in the adventure, including the choices of monsters, supports that. Some monsters are interesting choices (this adventure features dopplegangers at several points, for example) but all make sense. It doesn't feel like a random funhouse but rather like an active yet badly maintained slave pit.

Additionally, many of the fights are tough. Foes use cover, flanking, trickery, special weapons, weapon mixes, and sheer numbers to challenge you. That's even before you get to terrain and special monsters. Several of the fights are potentially overwhelming for even a fresh party but come well after you've had a chance to get worn down. None of it seems unfair, just hard. The tournament version, of course, cuts many of those out. In the tournament version, you get all of the set pieces but not as many foes to deal with. In non-tournament play, you'd almost want to err on the high side of levels and numbers to deal with all of the extras you simply can't avoid unless the GM makes some unreasonably PC-friendly decisions.

As I mentioned a few times, this was a tournament adventure, and expanded for publication. In the tournament, the fact that the upper works is one round means you can't really have half of it unlikely to get explored. As a result, the connection between the two halves of the upper works is simple - there is a small bit of underground passageway you can follow from one to the other. In non-tournament play, that small bit of passageway is expanded into a large encounter area with active and dangerous foes and a connection to the slave pits themselves. In other words, it's easily possible - and in fact, if resource expenditure is even a small concern - to avoid half of the upper works. This is both good and bad. The good is that it means the dungeon offers some real choice, and it's not purely linear. The bad is that generally half of the upper works is ignorable, is better ignored, and takes serious exploration to get to without much reward for doing so besides some assorted loot and hard fighting. As my war stories section will go into, no one did that exploration in my two sorties into this adventure.

The adventure also includes two new monsters (the Aspis, an insectoid race; and the Giant Sundew.) It also has the original tournament scoring, which interestingly placed a higher premium on rooms explored than PC survival. Better to clear the place with high casualties than the not clear it, which meets the mission description well. There are also nine tournament characters, ranging from 3rd/3rd level to 6th. They had great names, like "Ogre" the human fighter with 18(56) STR, Dread Delgath the magic-user, and Phanstern the illusionist.

The illustrations are all by Diesel LaForce, Jim Roslof, Bill Willingham, and especially by Jeff Dee - who did the cover and several excellent interior pieces as well.

War Stories

This module is special to me in that it's the only Slave Lords adventure I ever went on as a player. I ran a solo 6th or 7th-level Archer (from Best of Dragon Magazine III). I pretty much snuck in, went down the sewer levels, ran around fighting aspis for a while, and then fled the dungeon. It was fun, especially when I was pretty much lost and being chased. I never completed the adventure, but it didn't matter.

Years later I ran this on its own, as supposedly part of the A1-4 supermodule, but I used the setup from the original. My players went in the back way and right down to the sewer levels and cleared much of it out before a disastrous fight got them all captured or killed. The couple of players who decided to keep playing were okay with being slaves for a bit, and it lead to a whole different (and pretty amazing) side campaign. I do also remember running this for my Elementary School group, but nothing beyond that - I just have vivid memories of using some critical hit rules in an early setup fight for it. It's possible the campaign ended before they reached A1.

In neither case did half of the upper level ever matter. Something that was unavoidable and the whole point of the upper level in the tournament, by dint of the changes to the map, was actually hard to encounter. Like I said above, this is good and bad. I kind of feel bad about it, because you miss some awesome set-piece fights there and some trickery and nastiness - all of which, once defeated, makes for great adventuring stories. Bypassing them entirely, not so much. I don't think my players even knew they missed anything.

I like so much about this adventure's set-pieces - cool tricks to introduce reinforcements, use of cover, special weaponry, tricky battlefields, reinforcements, trickery (which is detectable if you play well), and special foes. I deliberately crafted a section of Felltower (the Flooded Prison) to use the sunken slave pits and fighting along the narrow tops of the cages in my current game.

Overall, a good adventure either as a whole or to plunder from.

If you like this review, you might like the consolidated Reviews page.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Guide to Medieval Coins (free stuff)

One of my friends sent me a link to this - it's a free PDF on medieval English coins from 1066 until 1544.

Lots of detail on the inscriptions, many pictures of coins, and good inspiration for your own coinage in your own games!

Introduction to Medieval Coins

Here is a straight link to the PDF.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Melee Academy: Feints, Beats, Ruses

The other day a thread came up on the SJG forums that questioned how feints work. Naturally and inevitably for the forums, the thread derailed into the "feints are marginal, all-too-random, and useless anyway" subtopic. I totally disagree, but I realized it's worth discussing the strategy and utility of Feints. Some people that aren't using them just might not be aware of good tactics you can use to take advantage of them.

This post will work well with GURPS Basic Set, but it does assume some familiarity with the rules and options from GURPS Martial Arts, especially under
Feints, p.100-101, and Feints and Multiple Attacks p. 127

Feints are a maneuver in GURPS that allow you to pit your skill vs. your opponent's skill in a Quick Contest, and if you win, your opponent's defenses are lowered by the margin of success. Pretty simple. But when to use them, and how to leverage that most effectively, isn't necessarily simple.

When to Feint

The short version: Feints are valuable and useful whenever your skill exceeds that of your opponent, and yet you aren't able to reliably penetrate his defenses just by using Deceptive Attack, and/or there are non-trivial costs to attacking repeatedly (Parry U weapon, weapons that need re-readying such as double-dagger notation weapons). Those, in a nutshell, are cases where Feinting is a potentially useful tactic.

The first part is critical - Feint is a way to leverage superior skill to lower defenses. Without that, the odds that it won't do anything at all are too large to make it a reliable tactic.

Some specific cases are especially good for using Feint:

- Where your opponent's defenses don't track directly to skill. Dodge is fully skill-independent. Opponents who rely purely on Dodge may also have low combat skills, making them especially vulnerable to feints. Additionally, opponents who have high defenses because of mudane equipment (shields add DB 1-3), room to retreat (+1 to +3, depending on the defense and the skill involved), magical or superscientific defenses (the Shield spell gives DB 1+), and so on. Direct active defenses bonuses contribute to this: Combat Reflexes (+1), the various Enhanced Defenses traits (+1 or more), or spells like Defending Shield

- Opponents who are hard to hit in the first place, reducing the opportunity to use Deceptive Attack. Small foes (if using relative SM in melee), foes with supernatural hit-reduction defenses (the Blur spell), when coupled with solid defenses, can be a problem. Feint is useful to reduce defenses without reducing your chance to hit in the first place.

- A Feint makes a great setup for a high-value target like chinks in armor, any eye attacks, skull attacks, neck, or veins or arteries. Since those targets have a high (-5 to -10) penalty to hit, they naturally reduce the amount of Deceptive Attack you can use, but since Feint is done prior and separately, you can reduce defenses without reducing your chances to hit.

- You can't attack over and over. With a weapon that needs be be re-readied (such as a double-dagger weapon) or has Parry U (and you need that Parry), a successful Feint will make it harder for your opponent to stop your attack when you make it.

- You need to ensure a hit soon and can't either wait for a bad defense roll or a critical hit. This tends to be a tactical consideration vs. a weak but well-positioned foe.

- Your allies can attack the foe multiple times, reducing his choice to defenses to less optimal ones, which your Feint can further reduce. This is good against high-Parry or high-Block foes with a mediocre Dodge, usually in a case where their high defenses are disproportionally high for their skill.

- You have multiple attacks, so the Feint applies to all of them and magnifies its effects. The rules on Feint and Multiple Attacks (Martial Arts, p. 127) allow you to trade off one part of a multiple attack as a Feint, making this extremely valuable for fighters with Extra Attack, or using Rapid Strike. If you have Extra Attack without Multistrike, you must attack with different weapons . . . but a Feint isn't an attack, exactly, so it's reasonable to assume you could Feint and then Attack with the same weapon using the rules on MA p. 127.

- Your opponent has been injured and is suffering Shock (p. B419) but is not stunned: the -1 to -4 for shock reduces DX for skill rolls, and thus can be converted into a potential defense penalty with a timely Feint.

- When your opponent is using Sacrificial defenses to Parry, Block, or Dodge for a target. Reducing the defenses of the "defense umbrella" can reduce the defenses of multiple foes at once, effectively!

In all of those cases, the basic summary applies: They are cases where your skill exceeds your foe's, and there is some reason not to just reduce skill directly to lower defenses directly.

Why not just Deceptive Attack?

Another effective way to reduce an opponent's defenses is Deceptive Attack. It always works, and doesn't pit your skill vs. your opponent's in a roll of the dice.

But while Deceptive Attack is certain, it is limited. It is always 2:1, trading 2 skill for a -1 for your opponent to defend. Feint is random and may result in no penalty, but any success is on a 1:1 basis. Also, Deceptive Attack and penalties to defend from being feinted stack. A defender who is already defending at a penalty due to Feint can have his defenses reduced to nearly-automatic failure with a high-end Deceptive Attack.

While a Deceptive Attack is useful regardless of your opponent's skill, a Feint comes into its own when your skill is better . . . or where attacking costs you something that Feint does not.

When Not To Feint

Feint is flat-out not worth doing in some cases.

- Your opponent has a higher skill than you. In this case, you're better long odds you will roll much better than your opponent.

- Your opponent's defenses are not very good. In this case, Feint is largely wasted. Don't Feint versus a Berserker, or an opponent who is routinely turning his back on you.

- You need to Telegraphic Attack to follow up. Telegraphic Attacks cannot benefit from a Feint.

- Your opponent has a reliable supernatural defense that cannot be reduced by Feint. Feint versus a wizard depending on his Blink or Phase spell isn't helpful unless you can launch multiple attacks you are certain will hit, because his magical defenses will simply ignore the Feint.

In cases like the above, a Feint just isn't going to work or matter if it does, and it is best avoided.

Feint Variations

There are a number of Feint variations in GURPS, too.

Beat - use this when your ST exceeds your DX, your opponent is using contact-based defenses (Parry, Block and not Dodge), you've grappled, or you are using contact-based defenses. Also, note that it's limited to a single defense (Block or Parry) but anyone can take advantage. This is a good way to leverage your ST-based skill advantage vs. an opponent to allow other people to pile on! A beat by a strong fighter can open up an opponent and allow others - such as Melee-spell mages in a fantasy game, or skilled grapplers, or allies with armor-piercing weapons (or a stake when you're vampire hunting) to get in there and do their thing. This is especially useful if your opponent is using a two-handed weapon or a two-handed parry (Wrestling) and has nothing but Dodge to fall back on.

Ruse - use this when your IQ exceeds your DX. Be careful using it against high-Per defenders as they can swap in IQ, Per, or DX to resist it.

Defensive Feint - instead of lowering your opponent's defenses, you lower his chances to hit. This rarely comes up, because generally if you're skilled enough to feint someone you're generally better off using that offensively. But this is a good tactic if:

- you have limited defenses to draw on, or only penalized defenses to draw on. A high-skill knife fighter versus a heavy weapon fighter, for example, can't even attempt to parry . . . but might be able to mitigate the problem by making it less like he gets hit in the first place. A low-Dodge but high-Parry defender vs. a weapon that can't (or just shouldn't) be parried can benefit here.

- you can't hurt your opponent. Either from poor weapons at hand, high enemy defenses, or just needing to ensure the target doesn't get hurt (at all or by you), this option lets you make it unlikely you'll get hit in the process.

- you need to make sure you are missed. Sometimes, even a successful defense isn't enough (or you don't want to have to make one for some reason).

Like any other feint, this is only useful if you feel your skill can top your opponent's by enough to make it a better choice than All-Out Defend. Because of the AOD option, it has a higher bar to hurdle before it's useful - if you can't be relatively sure of a margin of 6+ you should probably AOD instead.

Perks & Techniques & Feints

The Teamwork perk (Martial Arts p. 52 or Perks p. 8) allows you to do a Feint or Ruse on behalf of a teammate. The similar Pack Tactics perk (Technical Grappling p. 30) allows the same. Note that Beat doesn't get affected, but it also doesn't need to - Beats already work for anyone, but only work for one specific defense at a time.

And in case it doesn't go without saying - if you are in a campaign that uses Techniques and you intend to use this tactic often, learn the Feint technique (Martial Arts p. 73). You can turn 5 character points into a +4 to make and resist feints with a given combat skill.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Two Dice Tricks for Tracking Status

One of my players suggested this a while back. These are little things we do at the table to keep track of things more easily.

Flying Dice - Characters who are flying have their minis placed on a large 6-sided die, with the number representing the height. If you go up higher than 6 yards, we add more dice to the stack.

Since generally people use spells like Levitation in my game, it's rare for high flyers to be zipping around. Especially so in dungeons. So D6s under the mini work just fine!

Great Haste D10s - We count the 10 seconds of the Great Haste spell down by using a d10 from ye olde dice collection. At the end of each turn of the spell, the dice is turned to the next number down. It makes it easy to track the length of the spell.

We've done a few others over the years, but those two have stuck forever.

I am thinking of digging out my poker chip collection - bought precisely to use for status - so we can track people who are stunned or used AOA (in a really big fight, those can be hard to remember!) But I don't know if they'll stick like the flying dice or Great Haste tracking d10.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Which order should I read them in?

I rarely blog anything about fiction, unless it directly pertains to dungeon fantasy.

But recently the reading order of some books has come up in discussions on G+, with a friend wanting to start a (completed) book series, and even elsewhere.

Reading order. How important is it?

My basic attitude is, ideally, you want to find the "best" introduction to a series. The first book, if possible, especially if the series is fundamentally one long story. But in the end, if the series if good and your interest is high, it doesn't matter.

At all.

Some examples from my own experience:

Conan. The first Conan material I ever encountered was the movie, Conan the Barbarian. Then, Conan the Destroyer. After that, Marvel's Conan comic books, and I read a lot of them. Not the comic-book adaptations of the novels, either, but just the stories written for the comics directly. The first actual Conan book I read was in college, and it was the Bjorn Nyberg's Conan the Avenger.

All this did was whet my appetite for more. After the Nyberg book my friend Tom gave the catalog of a used book dealer and I ordered one of every Conan book in the list, and plowed into the REH stuff, Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp stuff. I loved it. The later stuff by other authors, not so much.

Pretty much, if you asked someone the "proper" reading order for Conan, they'd never in a million years tell you to start with the movies, then the comics, and then a (not very good) work by an author writing for the Howard estate. Yet, here we are.

Vlad Taltos. My first exposure to these was the comic adaptation. I still have the Jhereg graphic novel. It seemed really cool, so eventually I found a copy of Jhereg and read it because I liked the graphic novel. From there, I read them in whatever order I found them in the bookstores. I've re-read them in chronological order (interesting) and published order (you can see exactly when the author's life gets complicated in real life) but I read them all. I probably started at a pretty good spot for these, since Jhereg was the first book written. But it felt long and slow after the comic version, and I sure as hell didn't read the rest in order. The next one I read just might have been Phoenix, now that I think about it.

Still, I read them all (even the musketeers pastiches he's done, which I read like homework. Love Dumas, don't love copies of Dumas). Reading order didn't trip me up.

Elric. I read these early - I got the first one of my books in Junior High. I bought Weird of the White Wolf because it was the earliest book in the series they had at the bookstore and the silver cover was so cool. So my first story could have been The Dreaming City - a great place to start. It wasn't. My first story was the prologue story with Aubric that explains the origin of the Young Kingdoms, which was hard to get through with no background. Then it was The Dreaming City. But it was luck, and I think I read Bane of the Black Sword next, then read them in nominal order. I read the Corum books in order sometime in the middle of this, and then Count Brass, an endcap to the Hawkmoon books. Didn't affect my enjoyment of them very much, although Count Brass could have been better if I'd read the original series first. Maybe.

Garret, P.I.. I was a big Black Company fan and someone (My PBM buddy Vance) kept pushing me to read these. So I grabbed the first one I found, Deadly Quicksilver Lies. That's a fairly late point to get into the series. But it was fine. They're written and set in chronological order but it took until I was caught up for me to be in order, too. For a while these were hard to find.

Again, not in a good place to start, but a great series so I was hooked. I generally tell people to start with one of the earlier books if they can, even Sweet Silver Blues if possible (they are chronological and connected, after all) but it doesn't matter. On the hardboiled subject, the first Chandler I read was The Long Goodbye, also not a theoretically good starting point. It was fine. I loved his prose and learned how to make a gimlet.

The Dread Empire, also by Glen Cook. I read the prequels before the middle series of books. In fact, I read the prequels before I even had all of the original three books, and then read a sequel before I read the book that it's basically filling in missing bits of (An Ill Fate Marshalling, which fills in missing bits of Reap the East Wind.) Not a problem. Starting with the second of the two prequels was impossible, because I had no idea what was going on, but once I got the "first" book I was okay.

These are ones where putting them into a different order can make them more enjoyable and change the experience a bit, but me reading them in the wrong order didn't dim my interest in them.

Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. First thing I read was "Two Sought Adventure" and I wasn't impressed. I put them down and didn't come back to them until I'd gotten the Lankhmar city setting for AD&D and looked at some story summaries. Then I went and got Swords & Deviltry and started in on their chronologically ordered adventurers with The Snow Women. Slow, but once I got to Ill Met in Lankhmar I was hooked forever. At that point I think my tastes had changed a bit and they stuck.

The Cthulhu Mythos. First stories I read weren't any of the really famous ones. I can't even tell you which one I read first, except that it would have been in the collection The Doom that Came to Sarnath. It might not haven even been Lovecraft. I only sort-of liked it, but the RPG looked cool and everyone liked the guy, so I kept at it, and found stories I liked a lot.

By the way, same guy who cajoled me into reading these until I liked them was the guy who got me the catalog with the Conan books.

So it doesn't matter?

Not really.

Generally, if a series is a single connected story - not a series of short stories - starting at the beginning is ideal. It might be the only way to go. I don't think I could have ever gotten anywhere with the Books of the New Sun if I hadn't started at the first book. Same with a lot of tightly plotted novel series. But short stories? A series of connected but basically independent works?

In my opinion, in the long run, it won't matter at all. Just grab the nearest one at hand and get reading. It'll be fine. You might not think so, but if the books are good, it doesn't matter.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mapping & Describing the dungeon

How do you describe the dungeon? What assumptions does that make about how adventurers progress through the dungeon?

I think when I learned to describe places, it was much like this:

"10', 20', 30', 40', 50', and the corridor ends in a T."
"We go left"
"10', and you find yourself in the middle of the west wall of a 30' x 30' room with a door opposite the way you came in."

- describe the area of the map you are in right now, with no assumption you can see much further than a few feet in front of you.
- assume you continue to move in the direction you said you'd go unless told otherwise.

In other words, you see the square you're in, and once you say "We go left" you keep going left until you say stop.

But I don't do that anymore.

What I do now is:

- describe what you can see from where you are right now.
- assume you aren't moving unless told otherwise.

My PCs generally have very bright light sources. A torch casts a flickering light over a relatively small area, but a bonfire-bright continual light spell throws a steady, even light out to 4 yards and gives you dimished vision out to 12 yards, according to DF2. So at the very least, I need to give some idea of what's out to 36' from the PCs.

Then you can couple that with the common access to Night Vision (reduces vision penalties, if there is any light) or Dark Vision (you can see in the dark, period) and I need to describe out from where people are. Characters with superior vision might see beyond that, or to the very edges of light with great clarity. In my GURPS game, I have a guy with Night Vision 6 and an 18 or less vision roll using a Continual Light stone. Compare that to a normal man with no Night Vision and a 10 or less vision roll and the same light source, and you can probably see why I assume the former can see very clearly on the fringes of the available light.

Not only that, I assume people are moving cautiously and are ready to stop at any time.

So what I do now is more like this:

"You see the corridor extends at least 40' into the darkness. It seems to continue past that."
"We move up the corridor."
"You move up about 10' and now your scout can see the corridor ends about 50' ahead in a T."
"We move up to the T and look left and right."
"To your left you see the corridor goes 10' feet and enters what appears to be a square room, 30' x 30', with a door opposite the way you came in, just on the edge of your light source. To your right [etc.]"

Big change.

I think that happened not only because I changed systems, but also because I spent so long running games outside of dungeons, with horizon-limited and terrain-limited LOS, flying characters, and so on. Not a lot of "you go 10' and it ends in a dead end" kind of stuff. So I lost that habit, perhaps, and pulled the feeling of "you can see far, and I'll assume you aren't moving until you say where to move" play from there to my dungeoneering.

Not only that, but I got used to parties moving in "patrol" fashion instead of "ranked formation" fashion. We don't have 6 characters marching 3 across and 2 deep like in an old-style video game (or like the example party in the AD&D Dungeonmasters Guide.) We tend to have one in the lead, one or two behind, and then a trail of PCs in pairs or singly, with a clear rear guard trailing at a short distance to deal with threats from behind. So I can't even assume they all singly move together as a unit - or that once they turn a corner what's ahead is in view to all and what's behind is lost to everyone.

So my mapping description has changed a lot, even if I didn't describe distances vaguely ("about 30'" or "roughly rectangular, maybe 100' by half that.") and directions relatively (left, right instead of north, south)

How do you do it, and has your style changed over the years? Is there anything you do that seems to work extremely well in getting the description across, keeping things moving, and yet doesn't needlessly confuse or make assumptions for the players?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

DF Session 49, Felltower 40 - Empty Delve

October 12th, 2014

Weather: Cool, clear.

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (250 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (372 points)
     Father Keef, human initiate (125 points, NPC)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (444 points)
     Gort of the Shining Force, dwarf adventurer (unknown point total, NPC)

Still in town:
Al Murik, dwarven cleric (250 points)
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (265 points)
     Mark Strawngmussel, human laborer (62 points, NPC)
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (372 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)
     Demetrios, Antonios, and Leonatios of Meepos, human spearman (unknown point totals, NPC)

We started as usual, in Stericksburg. Money had been raised for Dryst's Resurrection spell - $6K each from Galen and Vryce, and $3K in assorted cash Dryst had. It succeeded, and Dryst was alive and had two weeks to recover and did so. I could have enforced a longer recovery, but that's no fun - he could heal 9 HP in a week or so.

The group gathered rumors, including some really interesting ones. They heard that the northern barbarians have sent emissaries to the orcs, and might be allying against Stericksburg (don't forget the kingdom is at war in the south, so it's not strong enough to repel a big invasion.) Others included one that all magic swords - all of them - are cursed. Gort patted his non-magical sword and said, "That's why I carry this baby." Two about Sterick - one that he collected the heads of his foes, and one from an old vet that said he saw Sterick walking around plain as day under Felltower - he's alive down there! Another mentioned a special key to a staircase that goes down hundreds of feet, another that dwarves can learn to smell gold with special training, and that some magical creatures can only be hurt by certain weapons.

Also, those cone-hatted cultists put a bounty on orcs from Felltower, if you can prove the ones you kill are out of Felltower. Or so rumor says.

They found out the symbols on the doors suggest one of the Inquisitor orders (there are a few) may have been behind the door designs. They also cast Ancient History on the silver crown from the dragon's hoard and found it once held red gems, and was used to crown a man and later crown a statue designed to accept a crown (not Sterick, at least not the one in town.) No spells of any kind found anything out about the metal bracelet they found last time.

They got some potions and other miscellaneous magical doodads, found Raggi, and headed out. Gort was ready and waiting for them - but no one else. A near TPK and a big cost for the last delve scared off potential volunteers.

They headed out out the northern gate, across the Old Stone Bridge over the Silver River, past Sterick's Landing and the statue of Sterick with his arms upraised, and up the mountain. They turned off to the dragon's cave mouth.

Once there, they headed in carefully, spotting some signs of camping in the cavern and more signs of orcs (graffiti, food scraps, scratches and scrapes of stones) obvious even to guys without Tracking.

They moved into the cavern system and started to check the side passages. They found they dead baby dragons they'd left were gone, leaving only acid burn marks from their blood. Some broken egg shells as well.

Most of the session was spent connecting up the map, and marking the cube rooms. They eventually marked four of them, so there are at least that many of them. There was a lot of looping around and doubling back and double-checking. Naturally, some of this meant useless and profitless encounters with critters, but generally everyone agreed it was something they wanted done and was worth the effort. They the whole time with See Secrets up, to make sure nothing deliberately hidden stayed that way.

One of the first things they ran into was the screaming fungus they'd found on a previous trip - and their light set them all keening loud and long. They fled from there to a nearby room and (despite the painful keening) waited there while Dryst filled in his map. They moved out and right into an acid spider, which picked off the lead servant before it was killed outright by a pair of sword slashes by Vryce. They watched for more while Dryst cut out its acid sacks (wisely putting Resist Acid on a precaution.) They got 11 doses worth.

From there they moved checking the tunnels and caves, and decided they needed to start marking the cube rooms (so-called, they are 30' x 30' x 30' and feel faintly of old magic.) Worried they'd have their marks removed, they a) came up with a symbol system (pictures of dinosaurs, because one player uses dice decorated with dinos) and b) marked them in chalk on the ceiling (Dryst levitated up.) I have to say this is smart.

They shortly found themselves in the crushroom room and found a dozen miniatures (10" tall) crushrooms growing. They hacked and stomped them and moved on.

Next they passed the "killer floor" room and found a colorful room with a low ceiling (20', mostly they're at 25-30') and a series of columns in rows. The walls were (natural) strata of many different colors, mostly yellows, reds, blues, and purples. There was another way out, but they decided to investigate further. A servant walked to the other end, but found nothing. So they used Shape Earth to rip a cubic yard hole in the left wall near the entrance they came in, but found the strata colors were just that - natural colors. Yet another mystery for successive generations of adventurers. (Why the hole? It must be a tunnel. No one would rip a cubic yard out of the wall for nothing!)

They decided to check further, and move in, in formation. As they passed the first columns, Dryst spotted some tentacled critters just as they moved on them (they were the color of the stone around them, and crammed into unseen cracks near the ceiling.) They recognized them as Tentacle Worms, but quickly dubbed them Cave Squid (later, Short-Armed Cave Squid). Four attacked. Dryst narrowly avoided one, while another grabbed the helpless Vryce from behind for 10 CP(his Greathelm made it a cinch.) Two more moved in on them. They were four-tentacled beaked worms with hooks claws on their bodies and tails. Vryce tried to smack the one on his back with a Wild Swing but missed, while Asher waded in and slashed it with his flaming broadsword on a tentacle. Raggi ran up and chopped the one bothering Dryst down in a single blow. Vryce tried to fight off another coming at him but failed. The one on his back bit him but couldn't chew through his armor. Asher sliced the one on Vryce badly, and then Raggi killed it and another one. Vryce killed the last one in two big swipes.

 photo cavesquidss_zpsc5780d81.jpg

They searched for treasure but found nothing - just these critters, and nothing on them was valuable. They hacked them up a bit just to make sure they were really dead.

From there, some wandering brought them to the "ape demon room" from the other direction. There they ran into two big blue serpents. They recognized them (somewhat tentatively) as the phase serpents they fought once before. They waited as the snakes advanced. But their swings passed right through the serpents. One bit Vryce on the foot but couldn't get through his sollerets. Dryst put Affect Spirits on Vryce's sword just as Raggi got lucky and creamed one with a critical hit and killed it in a single blow. Vryce went for his and cut it apart, putting it well below -5xHP with two blows.

 photo spiritsnakess_zpsc45186df.jpg

They moved on, connecting up rooms on their map. The soon found one with a sinkhole in it, flapping noises, and scattered (but mis-placed) boulders. Out of the sinkhole boiled two dozen stirges and attacked. Without Galen to shoot them down with casual ease, they got swarmed. They flapped all around the group. Dryst put Armor on himself as Asher went down with an unlucky defense that failed to stop a strix from shoving its spiky beak into his left eye. He went down unconscious, badly failing his stun roll. Raggi luckily fended off the ones on him, but one got a beak into Father Keef's face and started to feed. Dryst had enough. First, he put Armor on Keef and then rolled a 4 on Resist Fire. I gave him a 1d6 hex radius Mass Resist Fire, and he got a 5, enough to cover everyone. Then he lit the whole area on fire with Create Fire. The feeding stirges let go and flew off, as did all the others - except one strix cut in two by Raggi and another by Vryce.

They couldn't wake up Asher but healed him. His eye (thanks to a blown roll) was a long-term crippling injury, so they need to get him back to town for healing. So Raggi hoisted him up on his shoulder, gear and all.

With that, it was getting towards the end of the session time. So the PCs decided to bag it and head home - but not before attacking the boulders. Suspecting they might be rock mites or rock trolls or something of that sort, they shot one with a sling bullet. Clunk. Nothing. Probably not animate.

The PCs headed back (mostly) by the route they came before, seeing nothing new excepts some rats getting after the acid spider corpse. They wound their way back, left the dungeon, and headed to town.


Overall, this was a fun session, but short. I got there by 2, everyone else between 2:30 and 3, and we finished by 7 pm. So if it seems short, it was.

- I had Dryst's player roll his own Resurrection spell against a 15, since it would have been done immediately upon return to town last session. It was reasonable to assume that they'd dealt with access to the money ahead of time since they talk about "What to do if someone dies" all the time. He rolled a 14, but just before his brother showed up we casually turned one die to make it a 16, and then showed it to him. Couldn't resist. Maybe in true old school fashion, cumulative Resurrection spells should take a penalty . . . and I have some ideas for a Reincarnation spell I need to play around with.

- I gave Raggi a 9 or less to show up. Secretly, I gave him a 13+ to decide to head back to his tribe for 1d+1 months. So there was a chance he'd show, a chance he'd miss the delve, and a chance he'd be gone for at least two months. Dryst's player rolled and got a 7 or 8, and there he was. Since Raggi had what he'd consider a good trip (lots of killing, and he killed a lot!) he'll be back to his usual next time. But I figured him getting pasted has really bothered him, and he's no deep thinker. One more solid delve and he'll shrug it off. One more really bad one and he'll maybe give up on this whole thing.

- Asher was officially perma-loaned the fine flaming broadsword they found in the wight's sarcophagus in the Caves of Chaos back in session 8 and Vryce carried around or kept ever since.

- Why do some things attack servants, others don't? It depends. Intelligent beings decide to or not. Others attack sources of light, others sources of vibration, others sources of heat, others by smell. Those that hit the first two tend to attack servants thinking they are food. The latter two mean ignoring a servant, which has little heat and certainly no living-being like smell. (Although, who knows, maybe they smell like apples, like Ray Liotta.)

- I used four Grick minis I picked up like 15-16 years ago on sale, painted grey with ivory beaks and claws, and never did get to use. The stats are based on a mix between the mini's characteristics and some stuff I figured they'd need to do to not suck as DF encounters. Some of that might actually be what real Grick do.

- It's been so, so long since an eye shot to a PC and a shot that wasn't so high-damage that death immediately followed that I had to look up the rules for major wounds to the eye. -10 to your roll, FWIW. I knew it was like -5 or so, and that missing by 5+ meant you dropped, but it had been a while. Too many PCs with Luck and/or ridiculously heavy skull armor.

But still, this is why stirges are scary. Unarmored and alone, you're doomed. Armored, you'd generally okay . . . except they have a reasonable chance to get the eyeslits and they can and will go for them.

- I need to bust out the Tactical Mass Combat rules and get ready, because they are talking more and more about a direct assault on the orc's valley base some miles north of the dungeons.

No profit, and a fair amount of cost, but they feel like they got things done and no one suffered to do them. Except for Asher, and Al Murik should be able to fix that. There is money in the dungeon, but not necessarily easy to get to from where they are entering. Getting some freedom of movement back in the dungeons might help a lot, because there is awesome stuff in there, but so much of their trips now is spent navigating around profitless obstacles. We'll see how they handle that challenge.
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