Saturday, January 31, 2015

Do your dungeons re-pop, re-stock, or stay static?

The title says it all.

First, some definitions:

Re-Pop: After a certain amount of time, or intervals of some kind, or after a random roll, the room or rooms re-populate with the original monsters encountered there. Kill the dragon in room 21, after X months room 21 gets another identical dragon (or a stronger one.)

Re-Stock: After a certain amount of time, or intervals of some kind, or after a random roll, new monsters move in to cleared areas. They may move in from other locations in the dungeon, or show up from random rolls on a monster-stocking table.

Static: Anything cleared, remains cleared. Cleared areas are not re-populated, re-stocked, or otherwise changed except through direct player action.

I'll accept a multiple answer - I have special areas that with definitely rep-pop, even if my dungeon is almost entirely re-stock. I find static works well for the S&W B-Team, since we play so rarely that re-pop or re-stock would totally derail exploration of new areas.

But yeah, like it says, do you do those in your dungeons or (especially) megadungeons?

Friday, January 30, 2015

More Wargames Factory Orcs

So I've been slowly fiddling with some more Wargames Factory orcs. I have 24 to make eventually, so there are a lot of options.

The arms are annoying, though, and it's hard to match them to the torsos and weapons with good poses. I managed to make four more I like, though.

 photo WargamesFactoryOrcs007s_zpsb3eb5b2b.jpg

The one one the left is using a flamberge that came with some GW boxed set. No idea which one, as I bought a bunch at once like 12 years ago and cut them into a giant bits box and that's that. I was going to give him a combat pose, but this both looks pretty Highlander and is less fragile.

 photo WargamesFactoryOrcs005s_zpsae995d5a.jpg

The same with the poleaxeman. He's got a pose I think will store and travel well. It gives me a heavy weapon orc, too, which I needed.

 photo WargamesFactoryOrcs006s_zps1f8527a4.jpg

The crossbow is from a GW Empire Militia set, as seen on one of the actual minis it belongs to. It doesn't really fit, but with lots of squeezing, a little glue, and eventually some greenstuff to fill the gaps, and he should be okay. I need an orc heavy crossbowman, because that's a very uncommon loadout for orc minis. I wish I'd put the mini on the base differently, though - I prefer guys on square bases to face a flat side, not a point. It makes them fit in hexes better when fights get close.

Honestly, I think size-wise these guys fit better with my hobgoblins, especially the ones with helmets. I'm vaguely debating re-painting the ones I did already grey and adding them to my hobgoblin pile. But I need orcs and don't need-need hobgoblins.

I also added two more of these, just prior to taking them out despite the cold and snow and priming them.

 photo WargamesFactoryOrcs008s_zps0d0d1138.jpg

That's another poleaxe guy, and then a morningstar fighter. The morningstar is really flimsy. so I broke it off right away, and then glued it to the base and the handle so it appears to be dragging. That seems to have made it much more secure while still seeming pretty natural of a pose. But you can see how I couldn't quite get the right hand to clasp the polearm on the other guy.

So six more orcs (or hobgoblins, if I make that tough call to re-paint) ready for paint. Maybe - the primer didn't come out so well during the cold weather, so I may need to prime them once more before they're ready. I'll try one and see.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

GURPS Spell Option: Healing costs the healed

This isn't a new idea, but it's a fun one I haven't worked out the details of myself.

Healing Costs the Healed. Healing spells - specifically Minor Healing, Major Healing, and Great Healing work as written. As is normally the case with beneficial spells, the target must be willing (or unconscious, which here is assumed to be tacit willingness.) However, the caster pays no energy cost. Instead, the target of the healing spell pays any FP cost and is healed any HP. The caster chooses the level of healing, but if such healing takes the target below -FP the spell fails automatically. Reduced cost for high skill is applied before any cost to the target.

On a failed casting, the caster still pays 1 FP if the spell would have cost anything to the target.

For example, Reverend Al Murik casts Major Healing on his wounded buddy Vryce. Vryce has 15 FP, 30 HP, and has suffered 23 HP of injury and has lost 4 FP due to combat and movement; he's currently at 11 FP and 7 HP. Al wants to heal him fully and specifies the casting at 4 energy. He has skill 16 and thus the spell is -1 cost, for a final cost of 3 FP to Vryce. The spell heals 8 HP x 3 = 24 HP of injury, bringing Vryce to his full 30 HP and dropping his current FP by 3. He's fully healed, but much more tired - he's at 8 FP and 30 HP. Al's FP are unchanged.

Alternative: Both Pay. Alternatively, the caster always pays 1 FP for any spell that would otherwise cost points (in other words, if the net cost to the caster would be 1+, after energy cost reductions). This is in addition to the cost to the beneficiary of the healing spell.

You could probably do this with a lot of buff spells - Great Haste already does this to an extent, since it charges both the caster and the subject 5 FP. If all buffs cost the caster and the subject, you'd see a much more cautious approach to buffing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

5th edition D&D Survey

If you haven't seen this yet, this went up last night:

Fifth Edition Feedback Survey

Wizards of the Coast has a survey up about D&D 5.

You can get as deeply into it as you want, or as shallowly as you want. I rated the things I read, understood, played, and observed in play - and didn't comment on stuff I didn't.

And yes, I said a Rogue is more powerful than a Fighter. My fighter in Montporte felt like a chump compared to the damage the Rogue dealt out! My job was basically to stand and give the Rogue the chance to deal the real damage. When did they morph from "thiefly type" to "heavy hitter" anyway? 3e?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cthulhu gods, or Single Malt?

My friend Thomas Pluck, who is both a professional write and runs Reverend Al Murik in my DF campaign, wrote this awesomely funny piece:

Brands of Single Malt Scotch or Elder Gods of the Lovecraft Mythos?

I've read a lot of Lovecraft and I've tasted a lot of single malts, but there are a few on here that made me pause and think . . . am I sure that's a whiskey? Wasn't Cardhu the sworn enemy of Nodens or something?

All Hail Cardhu, Cthulhu's angry brother.

And the Old Hebridean mythos has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

How is my Secret DF Project coming?

My secret Dungeon Fantasy project continues apace.

It was peer-reviewed, got some playtesting by an experienced GURPS GM and his enthusiastic players, more authorial review, and even more fiddling around with by me. It feels much improved. Usually that's the case after others work on it, but this time more than most. The book feels like a much better book for the input that I received.

Naturally, any of it that didn't spring from my own gaming in the first place got added into my gaming, because generally I like my own ideas and want to implement them.

Last night and this morning I did some re-writing and I hope to get the final comments on it so I can submit the draft. Once that's done, it's (largely) out of my hands.

I'd have gotten this done faster, and indeed I intended to, but a fantastic job came along to take care of that.

Hopefully you'll get to see it earlier rather than later in 2014, but scheduling things like that are far out of my hands. Once you do, maybe you'll recognize the silliness awesomeness I ported directly from my campaign into the book.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Learning New Skills/Abilities in DF Felltower

Buying and improving skills, spells, and abilities is central to advancement in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy.

So how do I do it?

Some important facts about my game:

- it's a pickup game, so characters are only involved and tracked when the players show up and play them.

- I only charge for one week of downtime costs between game sessions. So weekly upkeep doesn't crush PCs who don't adventure because of real-world issues.

- Time passes on 1:1 ratio with the real world.

- We don't use any non-point based learning. Period - no Time Use, no nothing.

With those in mind, here is basically what I do:

Spells: Wizards can learn one new spell between each session, assuming they stay in town and pay upkeep (no Dumpster diving with Urban Survival or roughing it with Survival).

Why? To avoid wizards rapidly expanding their spell list and basically being able to add a wide breadth of coverage each and every session.

New Skills: Depends. If it's not on your template, it's $40/point to learn it and you're limited to one, and it must be cleared with the GM. If it's on your template, you aren't limited at all and there is no cost.

Why? To encourage people to stay with their template. It's only a minor obstacle, but it does seem to remind people that "Hey, I'm a Knight, not a Barbarian" or "That's not what Holy Warriors do, generally."

New Abilities: Broadly, meaning Advantages. On your template? Unlimited purchase, no monetary cost. Off-template, $40/point (at least) and it must be cleared with the GM.

Why? To allow people to develop in an unlimited way within their niche, but control expanding the niche and thus possibly undermining the utility of other current or future characters.

New Lens: These can be purchased piecemeal, but when finally adding the lens-specific new skills and advantages you have to pay a new-ability cost for the whole template. At that point, you get access to everything from the lens's base template with regards to skills, advantages, and power-ups.

Why? I like allowing piecemeal purchase, but it's easier to have a flat fee for adding a lens in-game (they cost $2,000) and then let the player work out the best way to get to the lens during play.

Overall, this has worked pretty well. Advancement is fast, but dramatic expansions in magical coverage and new abilities are limited. Within your niche, you can expand freely and become a bigger, better (whatever) without limitation. Outside of it, you aren't paying any more character points, but must expend in-game resources to expand your niche. The result has been a knight-among-Knights, very wizardly Wizards, Holy Warriors who worry about undead and demons primarily, and so on. Plus, it makes your starting choices interesting not limiting.

After playing this way for a couple of years, I'll say that it's been working well.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Felltower Hobgoblins in GURPS/D&D 5

Amongst the original inhabitants of Felltower (and the Caves of Chaos) were hobgoblins.

GURPS stats

In GURPS, a generic, base-level hobgoblin warrior looks like this:

Hobgoblin Soldier
A basic male adult hobgoblin. Females are –2 ST and HP (11/11) and have –2 weapons skills or are non-combatants. Young are –4 ST and HP (9/9).

ST: 13 (1/2-1) HP: 13 Speed: 5.5
DX: 11 Will: 10 Move: 4
IQ: 10 Per: 10
HT: 11 FP: 11 SM: +0

Dodge: 7 (9 w/shield) Parry/Block: 9 (11 w/shield) DR 2

Crossbow (14): ST 13, 1d+4 imp or 1d+4(2) pi, Acc 4, Range 260/325.
Thrown Spear (13): 1d+3 imp, Acc 2, Range 13/20
Punch (12): 1d cr, Reach C.
Weapon (13): Axe (2d+1 cut, Reach 1), Mace (2d+2 crushing, Reach 1), Spear (1h: 1d+2 imp, Reach 1*; 2h: 1d+3 imp, Reach 1,2*), Broadsword (2d cut, 1d+2 imp, Reach 1), or Dueling Halberd (2d+3 cut, Reach 1,2*; 2d+2 imp, Reach 1,2*; 1d+3 imp, Reach 1,2*)

Traits: Appearance (Ugly); Bully (12); Callous; Infravision; Magic Resistance (Thaumaturgic only) 5; Rapid Healing; Resistant to Metabolic Hazards +3; Social Stigma (Savage); Teeth (Sharp Teeth) [1].
Skills: Axe/Mace-13, Broadsword-13, Polearm-13, or Spear-13; Crossbow-14 or Thrown Weapon (Spear)-13; Brawling-12; Stealth-11.
Class: Mundane.
Notes: Notable equipment includes:

• Axe, $50, 4 lbs.; Broadsword, Cheap, $240, 3 lbs., Mace, $50, 5 lbs., or Spear, $40, 4 lbs. or Dueling Halberd, $120, 10 lbs.
• Medium Shield, DB 2, $60, 15 lbs. (except polearm dudes)
• Leather Armor (DR 2 covering all locations except the face), $340, 19.5 lbs.
• Crossbow, $150, 6 lbs.
• Hip Quiver w/20 quarrels, $55, 2.2 lb. (quiver $15, 1 lb.)

D&D 5 stats:

Hobgoblin - As Monster Manual (D&D Core Rulebook), p. 186, except:

- add Magic Resistance. Hobgoblins have advantage on Saving Throws against wizard spells.
- replace Longbow with Crossbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, range 80/320 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d8) piercing damage.


In appearance, I use some GW Mordor Orcs as hobgoblin minis:

I haven't painted mine up yet. I had them queued to paint, but then the PCs slaughtered almost the entire tribe, enlisted the remainder, and then got them killed. The few stragglers were killed off by other dungeon inhabitants. But hobgoblins still exist, so I keep the unpainted, black-primed minis handy. They'll make a good line-painting project when I have time and the inclination to do one.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Silly Game-World Measurements

Inspired by a throwaway line from andi jones about measuring mileage "as the stirge flies."

Gaming measurements

Inch: 10 feet or yards, depending on the presence of a roof overhead. A 10-foot pole, however, is never measured in inches.

Hexes: In game worlds powered by GURPS, all people count things by hexes. "Well, we've got a nice studio updown that measures 11 hexes by 10 hexes."

Half-Moves: As in, "How much is that in half moves?" Used mainly in D&D-inspired worlds in my experience.

Full-Move: As in, "He's like 3 1/2 Full Moves away. I'll never get to him on time."

You'd think with the very standard sizes of some gear, new in-game measures would emerge:

Poles: A measurement, like the inch, of 10-foot lengths.

Rope: A standard unit of length consisting of 5 poles. Rope is only sold in coils of 1 standard rope length.

All of these distances multiply by a factor of three aboveground, if you're running AD&D, which means a standard rope can't reach 1 aboveground rope. Or maybe they get bigger too.

What did I miss? What would you add?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Wilderness Around Felltower III

I updated my map a little bit:

That's the erasable ink version I mentioned last time.

It's getting a little better, and getting close enough that I can start in on the scale based on the travel times I've used in play. Those will be converted by comparing the encumbrance and Move scores of the travelers into mph over the appropriate terrain and then I can tell how far everything actually is.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Reaction Roll from the Universe

Occasionally, a situation comes up in my games that really has no bearing on skill, just on pure luck. Things that may be true, may not be, but are not affected by any skill or power of the PCs.

It's random stuff like the weather, the existence of some thing or place that has no particular reason to be or not be, or even circumstances where success is either automatic or impossible.

This is when we'd call for a "Reaction Roll from the Universe."

Pretty much, this is how it works.

Reaction Roll from the Universe. Make a roll on the Reaction Roll table. The more favorable the reaction, the more the Universe favors what is is you are hoping for. The less favorable, the less it favors it. Generally there are no modifiers to this roll, unless the character has some very broad bonuses to all rolls (extremely rare.) Do NOT use reaction bonuses or penalties; the Universe doesn't care about them.

You can use Luck normally here for re-rolls.

You can use this to set penalties, too:

Excellent: +10 to whatever you are doing.
Very Good: +5
Good: +3
Neutral: 0
Poor: -3
Bad: -5
Very Bad: -8
Disastrous: -10

It's tough to get that +10 unless you have some bonus and roll an 18. Good luck with that.

Alternately, you can do this:

Luck Roll Against the Universe. This is a roll-low success roll. Roll vs. an 10. The more you make it by, the more the Universe favors the circumstances you're hoping for. The worse you fail by, the more the Universe undermines what you are hoping for.

You can use Luck normally here for re-rolls, and Serendipity basically lets you call a 3 here. I say basically because you use it instead, and it just works as written.

If you use this to set penalties, just count the margin of success as a bonus and the margin of failure as a penalty, for a range of +7 to -8. You can also just say a 3 is +10 and 18 is -10.

I've used the former for so long I can't remember when we started. It comes up rarely, but it's a handy mechanism we all agree on for resolving completely random and crazy situations. It's fun, though, and it's never a dull moment when someone asks something and the only real answer is, "Make a reaction roll for the Universe."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The To-Read To-Review List

I took advantage of a lot of sales and gift cards around Christmas.

So I have a lot of stuff to read and potential review.

Physical Copies:

Adventurer Conquerer King System
Swords & Wizardry Monster Book (mostly read, I need to finish it and review it)
Dungeon Master's Guide
Monster Manual (I read this, I need to review it)
FGG2 strange bedfellows
Gaean Reach
In Search of the Trollslayer


Barbarian Class (Labyrinth Lord)
Castle Adlerstein and Environs Map Pack
Chronicles of Mhoriedh Map Pack
Chaos Queen of Ants
Hercynian Grimoire #1
Ogres of the Olden Lands
Realms of Murikah Midzee Map Pack
Vampires of the Olden Lands

And there are a good 3 or 4 GURPS PDFs I need to sit and read through, including:
Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys
Social Engineering: Pulling Rank
Ritual Path Magic
and I'm pretty sure I didn't read all of the final published version of Adventure Guns yet.

We'll see how long it takes to get through all of this stuff I've been accumulating. I have less time to read lately because of additional work hours and some studying I need to do. But it's nice to have a little pile of cool gaming things to read and get inspired by, even if I don't play with all of these. I can prioritze if there is something on the list people really want to know about.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

5e D&D - Montporte Megadungeon - 1/19 Summary of Play

Last night, I was able to make a guest appearance in Ken Harrison's Montporte megadungeon campaign. This was a treat for me on a lot of levels - playing with people I knew but hadn't gamed with, playing in a campaign I readily read the summaries of, and playing D&D 5th edition.

The Montporte guys play on Mondays, but my Mondays are only very rarely free evenings, but someday I hope to make the trek down into the dungeon again. We figured it was sweeps week, hence the guest star.

To make things easier, I eased into the chair of Douglas Cole and ran Nosphryc Azurecoat, his human fighter. That's me, a human fighter for a change.

We started in the depths of Montporte.

While we were resting, we heard screams from north of us. We investigated, not the least of which was because our goal was to return some gnomes home to the west, and the stairs down and west were north and east of us.

We reached an intersection, and found two messily gutted hobgoblins, with blood trails leading east and up some stairs. We discussed the matter while Luven checked for gold teeth and swallowed treasure. We decided the blood trails weren't "survivor crawling off" but "blood-drenched victor walking off, munching on hobgoblin bits." I pushed to go down the stairs - fight a monster, or continue the quest?

We went with continue the quest.

We headed down the stairs. These weren't any minor stairs, but rather 14 miles of stairs. Part of the way down (maybe halfway?) we met five humanoids coming up the other way. They were yellowish but with pointy ears. A female stepped out and held out her open hands ("Spellcaster!" we goaned. "Spellcaster monk!" I claimed.) The pogs for them looked suspiciously githyanki like.


They were githzerai. They spoke oddly, but in a friendly manner, and we were able to parley for information pretty much by being open with what we knew about a friend of ours (an elf mushroom farmer on level 2) that they wanted to consult with. They told us about Ben, who waited below near the "stone folk," and that the gnomes lived below. Nice! Progress.

After some more friendly chatter, we let them pass and continued down.

At the bottom was a gigantic forest with a black path, odd-colored mossy "grass," tangerine trees, marmalade skies, the whole bit. It looked like a Dr. Seuss dreamworld. Dwelling there was Big Ben, a 7' 300+ pound human with a giant axe and a posse of blink dogs, who spoke right friendly like and with a strong Authentic Frontier Gibberish accent.

Long story short, he was friendly, as long as we didn't break his rules (the expected usual ones) and also didn't go up to the Big House (where his wife lives). He brought us food - "fruit," mushroom dishes, lots of pork - yes, pork. We ate up, lead by Nosphryc, because friends do that to their friend's PC.

There were two cabins we could stay in. Ominously, there were filled with garlic, provided with stakes, and easy to long very strongly. Why? Vampires. Don't let anyone in who isn't me, Ben warned. Also, there are hobgoblins and trolls around, and he'd be mighty obliged if we killed any. We said we would, because we'd do that anyway.

In the "morning" we ate up, having bacon and lots of assorted mushroom dishes again. He warned us about green slime, black sticky moss, and not killing anything that didn't kill us first. Mostly to avoid upsetting the "Stone Folk" - stone giants. Somewhere in here, we ended up with Lucky the one-eyed, three-legged blink dog (aka Wink Dog.)

We headed north and followed the path.

How big is Montporte? It contains a hexcrawl.

 photo UndergoundHexcrawls_zpsa6cd4a65.png

As we walked, we saw glowing lights in the distance. Those lights turned out to be giant cave dwelling fire boars.

 photo GiantUndergroundPigss_zps4e5e23a5.png
Monteport Country Club. Mind the green slime pits - that's a one stroke penalty and your friends have to burn the slime off of you.

We did our best to avoid conflict with them, but the ornery bastards kept advancing on us.

Luvan decided to lure them off, and ran across the open fields. Many of the boars followed, but not all. One of those that followed gored Luvan for 26 damage (ouch!), and a pair rushed the party. Nosphryc nailed one of the ones on Luvan with an arrow (I figured, Doug likes to fire into melee), but then the two boars reached us. We engaged. A few glaive strikes bothered one, but the real turning point was when our ninja rogue got behind them and went work backstabbing them. Still, one of them managed to breathe fire on one of our party before the rest of us cut the pair down with a couple rounds of melee. In a nice touch, once they die their fire cooks themselves, so we had roast pork in front of us.

Meanwhile Luvan kept running around, chased by boars and presumably humming The Benny Hill Show theme. He cunningly led them back to a 10' thick strip of black moss, jumped it, and then created an illusion of himself in the middle. The boars - most of them, anyway - charged. The ones that did were stuck in the moss. They moved around, but slowly.

 photo PigFightFinales_zps53eba448.png
Phase 3, 4, something like that, of Luvan's Plan.

Deciding it was pushing things to finish them off, we hurried down the path.

We finished up after finding a fork in the path.


- I didn't roll a single die until Initiative. Not a bad thing, just a thing.

- Monteport is seriously big. We ended up 42 miles deeper than whenever they were teleported to a while back. I need to embiggen my megadungeon.

- Montporte really feels like a mystic wonderland. Nothing seem arbitrary so much as just wondrous and odd. I liked that.

- Ken keeps the group very focused.

- Roll20 is quite powerful when you've got all the options working, but still, I felt like I needed at least two screens so I could put my character sheet off to the side. I'd call it up, click on a roll, then click back to see what the heck I rolled.

Overall I had a great time, and I was glad to be in on a session that made direct, tangible progress towards fulfilling the quest.

D&D 5e & Montporte

So I received my first taste of two things yesterday:

- D&D 5th edition, as a player.

- Montporte Dungeon.

I'll get a summary up tonight, after I get home from work (I'm on lunch now.) My short summary, though:

- D&D 5e ran smoothly. Roll20 made it hard (lots of clicking back and forth to see the map, character sheet, etc.) I like how Advantage/Disadvantage works in play. Combat was scary and entertaining.

- Montporte was fun to explore. The place is so big it makes my "megadungeon" laughably small. It's a true Superdungeon.

- the group was fun to adventure with. Three short, sharp hours of nearly continuous play, and I enjoyed it greatly. I'm sorry Monday is one of my never-fail-to-be-busy work nights, but perhaps I can guest star next time a Monday holiday rolls around. We'll see.

- Somehow, I didn't kill off the loaner PC I had. I didn't try hard enough. I blame myself for that.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Seek, Locate, Exterminate - some Dalek minis

Black Tree Design extended their holiday sale, so I picked up some stuff I was waffling about from my first order.

First and foremost on that list was a Dalek Patrol going for 20% off. Six Daleks plus a Heavy Weapons Dalek, which AFAIK was first seen in the Sylvester McCoy/7th Doctor era. I didn't really A) need a Heavy Weapons Dalek, or B) Seven Daleks, or indeed C) need any Daleks, so you can see how I couldn't resist a package deal that included 7 Daleks for the price of slightly more than 6. When you're buying minis just to have them, buy a set.

Here they are, as yet in pieces.

 photo Daleks001s_zpsb5569b22.jpg

They're pretty small, in that even Dryst's mini would come up to the disruptor and plunger on these guys. But nonetheless they are extremely cool. They've got the details right and after some careful prep work I see no reason they shouldn't paint up well. It's just a question of color - grey, black, or white and gold? Probably grey, I always liked that scheme for Daleks.

 photo Daleks002s_zps74adf484.jpg

It's unlikely I'll have a gaming use for these guys, right?

I've got the FASA Doctor Who game, a needlessly overcomplicated game if I ever saw one, even compared to Space:1889 or Space Opera or Aftermath. And the only supplement I got was the Dalek set.

 photo Daleks004s_zps2f6d318c.jpg

But I'm not going to run Doctor Who (heck, I don't even watch it anymore - last eps I saw were years back, re-runs broadcast while I was in Japan and watching literally anything they'd show in English on BSN.) I can't see where else I'd use them offhand.

Although, there is this Jim Holloway picture for inspiration, and at least one set of Dalek stats for a retro-clone . . .

 photo Daleks003s_zps0424b645.jpg

In GURPS they'd be overwhelming unless you found a way to tip them over. Or fought them around stairs, the (IMO silly looking) flying Daleks aside. I'm more of a fan of Daleks solving the "stair problem" by leveling the building or using their time corridor tech to go back and kill the inventor of stairs, not adapting to silly humanoid contrivances. They are the superior beings!

But once they're done, I'll have my own patrol ready to Seek, Locate, and EXTERMINATE!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Wilderness Around Felltower II - Rough Sketch Map

This is part II of my slowly running series about the wilderness around Felltower. For Part I, click here.

This is the rough sketch map I have so far of the wilderness around my megadungeon.

 photo FelltowerAreaSmall_zps924b3e08.png

My drawing is laughably bad, but it at least gets across the relative location of things. I can try to clean it up over the next week or so when I have spare minutes and get a better map than that.

I toyed around with Fracal Mapper a bit for it, but I have the free version and I can't save. Plus, the learning curve isn't shallow enough for me to just start mapping. Hexographer looks okay, but I hate installing lots of JREs on my computer just to run programs (my experience with Java is largely centered on the words "Java Runtime Error" and "Java Vulnerability", not "How awesome is Java?") Either way, with software I spend a lot of time learning the software and less time mapping.

Besides, I'm not sure I want to do a hex crawl. I have some good hexcrawl rules I can use. But I can forsee lots of issues with trying to hex map the terrain, have players try to skirt the whole "each hex costs" or "you are in this hex" questions by edging around features or whatever. It's possibly just easier to have a map and scale and a ruler and go with that. I'm not sure yet. I've played with both but never rarely with an exploration angle.

So for now I'm still sketching on paper.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Attunement in D&D 5e and GURPS 4e

I've been reading my way through the DMG, and naturally, I started with the treasure and magic items because there weren't any monsters to start with. Many of the items require attunement, which is covered in the 5e DMG, pages 136-138 (actually, 137 is all tables, so it's just a few paragraphs spread over 136 and 138) and p. 285. Basically, you spend a short rest with your new, powerful magic item and attune to it before you can use it. Not all magic items need this, and you're capped to three.

Ken Harrison switched his existing Monteport game to 5e, and implemented attunement, triggers posts about it from Douglas Cole and Tim Shorts. I jumped in with comments. What I mentioned over on Gaming Ballistic is that attunement basically is a tradeoff between curbing abuse and curbing the awesome.


Abuse - turning a magic item into a magical problem solver for everyone, or the stacked effect effect. The ugly side of allowing immediate and full use of any item is clear - everyone dons the Efreeti Mail to walk through the fire trap one by one. The Ring of Regeneration is passed around from person to person to heal them up. Using the Boots of Striding and Springing to get everyone up that cliff and then toss them down to the next person. That kind of stuff.

The stacking abuse is the "two Rings of Protection +3 and a Cloak of Protection +3, for +9 AC and +9 on Saves!" kind of thing. Or wearing Elven Mail +3 under Plate +2 and claiming a +5 bonus.


"Awesome" is basically when passing around magic items or accumulating them does cool things. The last man standing gathering up his friend's Sword of Sharpness and continuing the fight. Putting the Ring of Warmth on someone freezing to save them. Finding and donning that ring you found in the darkness and finding out it's a Ring of Invisiblity and works right away.

It's also stacking up everyone's Rings of Protection on the guy challenging the enemy champion one-on-one or opening the trapped chest, or buffing up the wizard before he teleports someone risky and dangerous, and otherwise taking the resource that is magic items and focusing it in one place to do something otherwise impossible or impossibly risky.

So attunement needs to walk a line between curbing abuse ("Don't Bogart that magic ring, dude!") and curbing awesome ("Take my sword . . . and have a short rest so you can attune to it . . . and keep after those orcs who kidnapped the princess!") Ultimately, though, it's only there because of the wish to curb abuse. It's not there to make things more awesome, at least not as written. As Tim said, I cuddle with my new item for a while and now I can use it . . . doesn't sing a song of the sagas to me, anyway.


What I've done in my own games is similar, so I can't just point at attunement and say "Bad Wrong Fun!" or even "Bad Rule!"

For certain items, especially those with potentially abusive effects, I tend to put a delay on them. Ring of Regeneration? Wear it for 1d hours (or even 1d days) before it starts to actually work. Or, alternatively, the effects ramp up (First nothing, then Rapid Healing, then Very Rapid Healing, then renegeration starts.)

This sort of approach works best when the effects are either very great, and abuse by passing it around are especially worrisome. Or, if thematically an item should just not work until you've fiddled around with it.

For specific types of items, you can restrict the number of attuned items and still be very, very GURPS-like. Look at Powerstones (standard GURPS Magic) vs. Power Items (GURPS Dungeon Fantasy). The first is restricted only by recharging interference, as stones close than about 6' apart will suppress the recharging of lesser sized stones . . . but you can tote around as many as you can afford. The second is a single item, period, so no caster can have more than one, and trading up is better than accumulating more. In fact, the single item is so ingrained into the game that some races pay for a perk to have better (more powerful) Power Items.

You can even go as far as charging character points. In other words, don't make an item a power grant, make it an excuse to buy a power at a discount. Find the Ring of Dark Vision, and you can buy Dark Vision with a discount for being gadget-based. That's a bit more super hero game like, though, in that magic items in supers games tend to stick around forever with that character, which isn't the case in fantasy so much. You can extend the idea, though, and charge some kind of meta-game currency (character points, points for Impulse Buys, uses of Luck, temporary disadvantages, etc.) to those who want the item to work. Then it's not something you can pass around ("Okay, pass around the Helm of Telepathy. We all pass the mind-lord's telepathy test and win the prize, and we all have Migraines for a week from adjusting to it.")

What are some alternatives?

Douglas Cole posted a series of good potential alternatives over on his blog. Here are a few I like:

- Allow both attuned and non-attuned usage. Splitting the effects you can access makes sense - anyone mage can pick up a Staff of the Magi and go to town with its basic Flaming Sphere spell (or Fireball, in GURPS), say, but you must study it and unlock its secrets and/or master it (Quick Contest of Will, don't lose! - or maybe a Content of Will for a really tough item) before it does much else. A Ring of Regeneration might give only slightly improved healing until you attune to it.

- Ditch it. It's not like attunement is so central to D&D5e that you can't just get rid of it. Come up with some alternate rules about stacking effects, limits on the number of like items (one magic ring per hand!), and don't worry about abuse. Ken did this, ultimately.

- Limit it. Keep it, but limit the items that need it to a rare, abuseable few. I keep bringing the Ring of Regeneration because it's so easy to abuse.

- Expand it. Keep it, expand it, but allow more attunement. Basically make the problem smaller by making it a feature of all permanent/charged magical items and then increasing the number of covered items.


If you look at attunement solely as a game-balancing rule, it gives you a little perspective on how to use it. It will also affect the world - a world where you can pass around magic items to gain their effects immediately is different from one where you need to attune to them and are limited in the amount of such. Making a decision about attunement seems more like a campaign switch than a rules balance concern. All in all, I approve of Ken's decision to ultimately chuck it, but it's a good example of a rule that can have subtle or not so subtle effects on the game and the world the game takes place in.

Friday, January 16, 2015

D&D 5e Armor as DR

D&D Armor As Damage Resistance

Douglas Cole wrote about this on Thursday - essentially, porting the approach of GURPS combat to D&D 5e.

Here is how I think it could be implemented.

Armor reduces damage, bonuses improve AC - Armor doesn't provide improved AC. Only Dexterity, magical protection, shields, etc. provides improved AC. Actual armor (including pluses from magic armor) just reduces damage via a mechanic called Damage Resistance (DR).

For example, Plate is AC 18, no DEX bonuses. You get +2 from DEX, +1 from a shield, and +1 from a Ring of Protection. Because of the heavy armor, you ignore the DEX bonus. You have AC 10+1+1 = 12 and people roll vs. that to hit you. If they do, subtract (18 - 10) = 8 from their damage.

Chinks/Gaps in Armor - You can attempt to bypass some of the armor of your opponent. The attack is at Disadvantage, and you can't do this if you are already attacking at Disadvantage. If you hit, your opponent's DR is halved, round up.


There are a few challenges.

Monster AC - You'll need to note the DR of monsters, which would be AC - Dex adjustments - non-armor bonuses - 10. So a critter with AC 16 (Natural Armor) and a DEX bonus of +2 would have 16 - 2 - 10 = 4 DR.

In addition, you need to know if their armor is Heavy, and thus is already forgoing a DEX bonus, or not.

Balance - D&D and its hit points are balanced around the abstraction that armor reduces hits, not reduces the damage of hits. Low damage monsters will become harmless, which reduces the effects of bounded accuracy (the relatively low ACs of 5e monsters.)

Lots of Decision Points - You will need to constantly evaluate magic items, effects of powers and spells, and so on for their ability to reduce hits (increase AC) or reduce damage (increase DR) - nothing can be used just straight-up.

These aren't small, but springing off of Doug's idea, this seems like something ready for playtest and to run with if you prefer the GURPS-like effect of armor reducing damage instead of reducing the number of hits.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

GURPS, Kachin Bando, and Lethwei

One of the entries in GURPS Martial Arts is Kachin Bando, and it mentions and breaks out Lethwei. This has its own history behind it, as I found an article written by Phil Dunlap on Kachin Bando in Thomas Green's Encyclopedia of the Martial Arts and decided to find out more. Later I'd find out Phil lived close to me, and I ended up invited to train at his school. To this day I still train with the style he taught me.

Recently he posted links to some videos of Lethwei fights.

You can see in the amateur/youth matches that it doesn't take more than a single good blow - or a short, sharp series of lesser blows - to end these fights. The loser isn't - generally - being knocked out, but is quickly being made unable to continue. You can see they're much more extended in the pro fights that are up on that Youtube channel, but they match the same basic fury - quick exchanges of blows, real damage done, and a rapid decline in combat power (IOW, a death spiral.)

The attacks are close to all-out, and aren't aimed at scoring points but rather at finishing the fight in a single strike or combo, which is why I wrote this about Kachin Bando:

Feints aren't common, while full-bore attacks are; a Committed Attack (Strong) or even All-Out Attack (Strong) with a punch, kick, or Knee Strike is a favorite way to knock out the enemy. Defenses are similarly hard: the Bando man likes to use Jam against kicks and Aggressive Parry (often with the elbow) to stop punches.
- GURPS Martial Arts, p. 152

In the videos you will see a lot of Committed Attack (Strong) and All-Out Attack (Strong), and quite a number of elbows, head kicks, and elbows used to defend. Head Butts abound, too.

These guys take a lot of punishment and just keep coming.

Mikio kicked the stunned Burmese fighter in the spine and bounced his face off the cage. The man fell with a groan.
Reeves smashed his knuckles into his little opponent's nose with little effect. "Don't these guys stay down?" The little man shook it off with a glazed-eye smile, and his fallen twin again crawled to his feet. Reeves rolled his eyes. "They're like zombies!"

- Blade of Dishonor p. 332

Realistically, unexpected, non-sporting match fights tend to end quickly, usually with one person finding out the hard way that the other person is a fighter. But fighter vs. fighter, they last longer. Letting combat sports athletes buy Damage Resistance (Tough Skin), max out their HP, pick up Hard to Subdue (and more HT in general) and otherwise get more capacity to stand up to strikes is a good way to go. The list of Optional Traits for Kachin Bando lists those and more. It's not unrealistic - you do learn how to take a punch in combat sports, and you'll shrug off what would have put you out of the fight before you trained. Part of it is physical, but part of it is just expecting the damage and knowing that you're not out of it.

When I wrote up Kachin Bando and Lethwei, videos like this were extremely rare. But it's becoming more common to see them posted, and that's really nice. I'm glad to see that what I wrote based on my training and interviewing my coach and former pro Lethwei fighter came out so well compared to the videos going up now. I figured I'd share and show why the styles are written up the way they are.

And if you want to see how styles vary, there are a lot of videos of Muay Thai and Lethwei trained competitors fighting each other. You can get a good look at the different aggressiveness, the different kicking styles and standing hand positioning styles, and so on, by watching a number of those matches.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Felltower Rumors from Sunday

During my summary of our Felltower game on Sunday, I realize I forgot to talk about the rumors heard.

Since I just edited the rumor file, I figured I'd just post the actual rumor text from my file. The way I do it is to maintain a huge Word doc of rumors. Every rumor heard gets bolded, and then between sessions I cut and paste them to the bottom, unbold them and trim the numbers, and then go back and fill in the missing numbers and make up rumors for them. That way I have a single file with literally every rumor I've written and used in the game.

Here is what they heard. Editorial commentary follows on some.

There is a level made entirely of metal. (No, this isn't a Greyhawk "machine level." I'm not into that. This rumor is merely okay - not good, not great.)

You can summon a demon by calling his true name three times. (Gort said, "For example, Demogorgon, Demogorgon, Demoouchmyfoot!")

Some monsters eat people to gain their knowledge and skills. (Dryst said, "We have to find them and eat those monsters!")

The orcs have been skirmishing with city scouts - they don't pursue but they won't let anyone near the castle anymore. (Dun, dun, dun! Actually, they're said to be behind the disappearances from the slums, too.)

There is a treasury in the dungeon protected by unopenable doors. (Rumors of unopenable doors and of a hidden treasury in Felltower have come up before.)

There are unlimited levels down – the further you go, the bigger the dungeon gets. (Does this mean the dungeon is just bigger and bigger as you go deeper, yet never ends, or that it gets bigger as you go deeper, and thus going deeper makes the dungeon larger? Yes, probably one of those.)

Those cone-hatted guys mentioned something about black hands and a black brotherhood. (Dryst said the cultists are the remnants of that brotherhood.)

Some dungeon apes are pretty smart, I heard. They can even summon demon-apes to aid them. (Everyone just groaned, as I recall.)

And that's what they learned, perhaps, on Sunday.

One note - since the orcs clog the dungeon, and no one has been getting in and out, I'm considering reducing the amount of rumors. Either just dropping from a d30 to a d20, or putting more outdoor-focused ones, or something of that sort. The orcs are choking off the dungeon, basically, so there isn't much else people will talk about. Plus many of the rumors are springboarded off of what I think people will say based on hearing about the previous session, and the PCs haven't penetrated far into the dungeon in a while.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Art that Inspires Gaming Thoughts

While I was on vacation, I saw this excellent piece of art for the first time.

Thomas Cole - Expulsion. Moon and Firelight (ca. 1828)

I don't only think gaming thoughts when I'm in museums, but when I do, I think these kind of gaming thoughts.

That beautiful piece demands to be a set-piece wilderness encounter. Gate to hell, gate to heaven? Gate between realms? Pathway between darkness and light, night and day? It's got a lot of gaming potential.

I also saw this one, which made me happy I finished painting my skeleton minis, and made me think I need to do that Citadel grim reaper I have.

Pieter Brueghel "the Elder" (Ca. 1562)

That's a spectacular piece face to face, and just interesting from a "maybe 1 HD skeletons don't cut it" perspective. Maybe the walking dead are unkillable, being already dead. That's the kind of undead invasion you can't fight except by turning back the force behind the skeletal hordes, because they won't be stopped. Horror-fantasy, perhaps, or heroic horror fantasy if you can do this with sufficient butt-kicking or reading the right ritual in the pit of hell while holding off the hordes.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Amazing D&D Skirmish Minis Battle

This is completely amazing.

New Years Dungeon Bash

Those pictures are why I like to play miniatures games, paint minis, and use minis. The visual impact is amazing, and the game looks like pure fun.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

DF Campaign - Session 54, Felltower 45 - Raiding the Orc-Held Castle

January 11th, 2015

Weather: Cold, sunny.

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Al Murik, dwarven cleric (267 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (389 points)*
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (468 points)
     Gort of the Shining Force, dwarf adventurer (unknown point total, NPC)
     Antonios, Demitrios, Leonatios of Meepos, human spearmen (unknown point totals, NPCs)
     Father Keef, human initiate (125 points, NPC)
     Sssra Ssys'lak, snakeman warrior (unknown points, NPC)
     Korric and Orrie, human guards (70 points, NPC)
     Jon Greenbow, human archer (?? points, NPC)
     Deadeye Slim, human slinger (125 points, NPC)
     Orcish Bob human(?) squire (125 points, NPC)
     Melchior the Malevolent and his zombie, human necromancer (130 points, NPC)
     6 Assorted archers and crossbowmen, human (?? points, NPC)

Still in town:
Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (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)

We started in Stericksburg.

The plan was, raid the castle the orcs are holding, kill all of them that could be found, trash the place, and get into the dungeon and kill more orcs if possible. At least, as I understood it.

Because of this goal, and a series of extraordinary rolls by Vryce's player, many NPCs were available. They took them all, including a snakeman from Morthand, Sssra Ssys'lak, Melchior and his zombie (who ran home after running off a session or so ago), Orcish Bob, Gort, and more. They came for their usual - Gort for tips, most of the lesser NPCsd for 30 sp for the day, the better ones twice that, and some for shares. Sssra asked for 400 sp or a share, whichever was more, with the 400 in advance. Dryst groaned and asked for a discount since they were raiding orcs. Sssra replied that this was his discount rate. Since he seemed skilled with his twin swords and bow and pretty well armored, they took him up on it.

Vryce also decided to contact the cone-hatted cultists. He rolled a 4, so I figured that was good enough for a peaceful contact. Then, how about their reaction? Vryce rolled a 16 for the reaction roll, +1 for his reputation, -4 for having killed a bunch of them before, -2 for Overconfidence, for a net 11, which still isn't bad. So they offered 5 sp per orc left ear, and someone (they decided Raggi) would have to submit to a Truthsayer to verify their origin. They weren't interested in coming along.

The PCs got their rumors and and stocked up on potions, spellstones, healing stones, etc. and headed out. They marked a rally point halfway up the mountain, and then headed to the dragon's cave mouth. They didn't enter, but instead geared up and sent up a Wizard Eye to spy on the castle. They saw that the orcs had closed off all of the exits, covered the roof of the central structure with tenting and wood, filled the well, and otherwise had fortified the place. They had a few guards in some of the towers, but otherwise no watchers or patrols.

So the plan was, send up an Invisible Dryst, Levitating, to the wall. Use Shape Stone to dig a tunnel through the wall, covered by a Simple Illusion of the intact wall, and then sneak as many people in as possible and storm the orcs.

So that's what they started to do.

It started well. Dryst picked the closest section they could charge and went to work, despite the -10 penalty from Magic Resistance on the walls and its fill. But they realized the enormity of the task. The entire thickness of the wall had been painted or mixed with anti-magical material, so it was all -10 and 6x cost for being worked stone. Next, the wall was 9 yards thick (they'd assumed it was more like 10-12 feet, despite the map in their hands, since no one had marked the scale on it.) Also, the tunnel needed to be 6' high, so it was going to take 9 castings to get through with heavily penalized rolls.

Despite this, Dryst got to work. He got through 5 iterations of casting, resting, moving stone, etc. before, suddenly, he had to resist a Will-based spell. Without hesitation he put on Invisibility (which he'd dropped to do his work) and Flight (at the faster level) and blew out of the hole. He just missed two "orc ninja" - orcs with twin long knives and blackened armor - and flew back to the group. The orcs punctured and removed the illusion.

As the PCs rested and tried to decide what to do - realized a sneak attack was now out of the question - the orcs went to work. More orcs climbed up the wall, then down, and started moving the loose stone Dryst had shaped back into the hole. They worked furiously, covered by archers above.

After about 40 minutes, they scurried back up ropes and then down inside (all witnessed by the overhead Wizard Eye), leaving four archers on the wall despite the glaring sunlight. They took the ropes with them inside, so attackers couldn't fly up the wall and seize the ropes (the orcs and time having removed all other ways up and down.)

The PCs decided a direct attack was still in order. So they buffed up Vryce with all sorts of magic, Strength and Agility potions (he rolled a 4 for ST and 6 for DX< giving him ST 24 and DX 20), put a Flight spell on him (for Move 12) and made him Invisible and sent him in to hold a bridgehead. They also used Create Object to make a bunch of rope, since they hadn't brought enough.

Vryce flew up, and as he left the rest of the group started to move across the snow - slow going, at 2 movement points/hex and 150 yards of uneven terrain to cover, plus a steady slope at the end. Vryce reached the orcs quickly, and executed the first one. He moved down the line on the other three, ignoring their arrows (thanks to Missile Shield) and killing them with massively deceptive attacks at the end of his long steps. All four died quickly.

Vryce saw some wooden structuring built into the ruined castle and some tarps and tenting below filling the gaps (vs. snow, rain, and sunlight, FYI). So he tossed an alchemist's fire onto it and lit it all up. Alchemist's fire being what it is, it made short work of the oiled tarps and wet wood below where oil and flame would have done relatively little. It got a fire going that kept going for a while.

Meanwhile, two arrows came out of the gatehouse's nearer ajoining tower.

Felltower Surface photo Castle.jpg
(The place they're attacking, with the damaged parts fixed with wooden walls filled with shaped stone rubble mixed with more wood, to annoy Shape Stone users. Click to see a bigger version. Original is from JG's Castle Book II)

Vryce flew to the door there, tried to kick it in twice and failed, and then started to hack it down with Gram. It held up well enough, but even a heavy ironbound door can't take too much 5d+23 attacks (Gram, plus Forced Entry @ stat+2) and started to buckle. But Vryce decided he was vulnerable and turned to check his six - and saw an incoming arrow just miss him. An orc with an axe and shield and one with a bow were below by the fire, so he flew down and engaged them. A couple seconds of combat put them down - and he had to resist a Will-based spell from an unseen foe, and he returned to the door. He finished cracking it down and flew in and then up to the next level, into the waiting axe of an orc. Claaaaang! It bounced off his armor. He finished flying up and chopped that orc up, and then dodged another who tried to shield rush him into the ladder hole. The orc hit the wall and then Gram took him apart. Vryce flew down.

That was all of the resistance on the ground level. The rest of the PCs arrived, and Vryce flew got and got the ropes and secured them. Then, he helped ferry up the poor climbers as the others climbed up at combat speed (1 ft/second), and then reversed the process except now with the archers and crossbowmen covering the ruins below.

They stormed into the ruins and cleared the rooms, finding evidence the orcs used them but no habitation or garrison.

Then they checked the trap door entrance in the ruined tower and Vryce was zapped by black fire (1 HP damage, 6 FP). So they headed to the main entrance:

Felltower Entrance photo felltowerfortifiedentrancesmall.jpg

Below, checked via Dark Vision and Wizard Eye, were fully manned pillboxes and three spear-armed orcs apiece near the opened portcullises. After some discussion, they decided they couldn't crack the main entrance - no bridge, no ladder across, and no way to open the soon-to-be-barred metal doors. So Vryce flew in and attacked the orcs on the right. They died quickly, and the ones to the left fled, with the portcullis dropping behind them. Both metal doors were shut and barred. Vryce stopped, under arrow fire, and took their left ears (even off one who was simply horribly wounded, but not dead - he complained before he passed out) and flew back. Missile Shield is sweet.

They went back to the well - nope, full to the surface with wood, stone, dirt, and other crud (yes, this includes orc waste and probably corpse bits.) So the only way in was the trap door.

In the meantime, Melchior created a zombie, Raggi killed the wounded orcs and took ears, and the archers were set up to ensure no orcs stormed out of the main entrance.

Since it was essentially an armored disk with a plug in the middle, they figured out where it probably ended, and dug a < shaped hole in the ground at some excessive mana cost. Once they did, they checked it with a wizard eye. It was safe, so Vryce climbed down. The trap door was sealed with a layer of solid shaped stone. Dryst came down and tried to shape it, but a spell hit him and Vryce. Dryst used Wild Talent to cast Boost Health at +5, which was good, because both he and Vryce made their HT-based resistance rolls by 6, exactly enough to succeed. A Counterspell wiped out his Shape Stone. He tried again and it worked, and they opened the hatch and let in the rest of the party (minus Raggi and a bunch of NPCs guarding the surface.)

They explored around the lower level, finding someone had moved some loose rock into the twinned secret doors to the room they'd once fought some cultists in. They decided it could be trapped and used Detect Magic to check, and sure enough, there was magic. A second check showed it was indefinite, and they figured it was a Link. It was, to a Counterspell that frizzled the first Shape Stone cast by Dryst. They got through in the end, though, and checked the room but avoided its trap door down. They explored a little, and linked up a couple of maps by finding a big room and a "magic testing area" they'd found previously, and then finding someone had shaped shut the way from this area to the orc-held areas. Shaped over, and then worked with tools to increase the cost to re-shape it.

With that, and it getting late (in game and out of game), they decided to return to the surface. They did so. There, using some wood and flint and steel, they lit the remaining wood and cloth on fire and tore down as much of the structure as they could to inconvenience the orcs. Then, Dryst finished clearing the un-shaped stone in his tunnel through the wall so as to make it cheaper next time (shaped stone is cheaper than worked stone). Then they collected their NPCs, climbed back to the outside of the fort, and trudged home with some ears and weaponry as loot.


How often do my players use Defensive Attack? So rarely Vryce's player said this session, "Can I trade some damage for better defenses?" Yes, he could, using a rule we're had in our games since at least 2005, probably earlier. 4d+13 on a DA would be 4d+9 and +1 Parry. On the other hand, I bet they all know the rules for Committed Attack by heart. You'd think with so much damage on tap DA would be used more often, just to trade excessive damage for excessive defenses. But "I can get an extra step and attack one yard further away with Committed Attack" they just know, and use often enough, but ultimately no one feels secure trading away damage I guess.

The PCs spent a lot of resources but the only successful attack against Vryce did no damage, so they didn't suffer any injury.

Little loot this time. 13 orc ears, some spears, swords, axes, and bows. I think it was 121 sp each for the PCs and share-claiming NPCs. Sssra was wise to ask for either/or, and he did no work to get it.

Speaking of Sssra, apparently snakemen can climb. I didn't consider it, but what the heck, No Legs (Slithers) could just mean he wraps his lower body around the rope and more slowly arms it up the rope.

Returning to the room where they fought the cultists was interesting. The guy who won that fight for the PCs - Galen - is run by a player currently away from the game while he's recovering from some medical issues. He's sorely missed. Not just because Galen's bow would be decisive in any ranged encounter, but also because Galen's player fit right into the group perfectly, as if he'd been playing with us for years. Which he has been, just not as many as it seems.

The attempt to attack the orcs was interesting, and probably necessary, but the inability to follow up the defeat of the orcs on the surface meant it was not decisive. Vryce's player pointed out that this is where the forced downtime of "one day of game time equals one day of game time" hurts them - they can't garrison the surface and then just keep the orcs pinned in. They ended up paying a lot - at least 2000 sp + in potions, paut, etc. and close to 1000 sp in wages - for a fraction of that in loot, and didn't have the ability to deal a hard blow to the orcs once they cracked the surface.

What offensive spell was on those Link spells? What spells were cast on Dryst and Vryce by (presumably) the orcs? I only reveal spells by effect, or if Identify Spell is cast. So, I won't tell.

All in all, not a great session for the PCs. I gave them 3 xp each, erring on the side of generosity, and Vryce took home 2. MVP was Dryst, for no reason except resources expended. The orcs were mildly hurt, but the time and cost it took to get inside plus the inability to explore much meant that the expedition was expensive and inconclusive. Next time they hope to raid overland against the orc-held ravine to the north, in the hopes of dealing a serious blow to the orcs - I think, anyway. There was talking "hitting them where it hurts" so if so expect some overland travel (presumably, they'll find some NPC barbarians and/or scouts to help them) and a raid on the orcs. I'll see if I can't squeeze the time in to finish the wilderness map.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Southern Reaches: Session 10 - Castle of the Mad Archmage 7 - Three Sought Adventure

Last night we played a session of Erik Tenkar's B-Team game. It was a long break since last session because of Erik's job. For a probably more complete summary, check out Doug's summary over on Gaming Ballistic. You can also read Tim "Minister" Shorts's explanation of why he rolled so few ones over at his blog, Gothridge Manor.

Minister "the Tick Master", Half-elf 5/4 Cleric/Magic-User (Tim Shorts)
Mirado Music Critic, Human 6 Fighter (me)
Rul "Woodknocker" Scararm, Human 6 Fighter (Douglas Cole)

Only three of us made it to the session, and I was late (actually, I was early, but G+ didn't pop up any of the invites to join the Hangout, so they sat in the background even as I messed around on G+ looking for the invites.)

We discussed the arena level but decided we weren't too excited by it. Also, that there was too much risk of encountering a group of lethal, organized foes without having Joe D's fireballs to help us out. Deeper was even riskier. So we went back to level 3 (the level of "damaged by pink") and decided to play explore-the-unexplored. The more doors we kick down, the more loot we find, the more XP we gain.

So we went right down to level 3 and started poking around places we'd missed before.

We blundered right into a group of duergar - grey dwarves. We surprised them and plowed right in, quickly putting one down and wounding more. But even as that happened, the doors on either side of the room opened up. To the right were six duergar with light crossbows, ranked to fire. To the left was a plate armored boss duergar. Minister immediately put the six to the right to sleep, and Rul and Mirado continued to melee the group in front of us. The boss duergar attacked Minister, who tried to use Hold Person on him . . . but to no avail. We tripled up on him and generally missed a lot, as did he. Eventually we landed a few blows and put him in a bad way. He tried to shapeshift into a larger form, but just as he did so we finished him off. He melted into a pile of half-shapeshifted goo.

Mirado, who'd been wounded several times in the fight, slit the throats of the sleeping foes. (Tenkar suggested he may have to revisit non-combat kills for Woundlicker, Mirado's sword, and if so I'll wake them up one by one next time and kill them in single combat if I have to. Personally, "I can kill this sleeping dude to get 1 HP back" seems exactly what blood-drinking swords are supposed to do to your sense of right and wrong.)

These guys has a lot - 50 gp but also 23 gems! Even if they're only around 100 gp each that's a sizeable haul.

We left them after taking the loot and the leader's weaponry, just in case, we headed to new areas. We found a room with three dessicated corpses. Minister went in to look, and a giant tick dropped on him and bit him. We jumped in and helped by attacking it, but it kept sucking blood out of poor Minister. Erik ruled that we could attack at -4, or risk hitting Minister on any 1s. We attacked straight-up. Once it was dead, Mirado ripped it off of Minister along with a chunk of Minister's flesh. Oops. Mirado is not Mirado the Healer.

From there we found a secret door, and opened it up. A spiked ball swung to head level for Mirado, but he ducked it with ease (I think I rolled a 20 on his saving throw.) Inside we found a chest. We looped a rope around it and dragged it out, making a hell of a racket. It attracted a "verlang giant," which based on its combat stats I think may have been what Joseph Bloch is calling a Verbeeg. It attacked, and we slugged it out with it. Rul put an arrow into it, Mirado slashed him twice (and took a hit in return), and then Minister unloaded the 7d6 Lightning Bolt spell we'd found on a metal scroll last session. Zzap. The giant rolled a 20 on his save, but that spelled 14 damage to it. We finished off the comically charred giant and looted him of the basically nothing he carried.

We couldn't pry open that chest, and later failed to kick down innumerable doors despite three tries at STR 17. Yes, we're all STR 17. We figure Minister spent his time in the Academy of Magic's gym working on his squat, dead, and bench, and put the smart kids in headlocks and gave them noogies until they agreed to teach him spells and do his Magic Missile homework.

In any case the chest resisted all of our opening attempts, so we hammered off the lock with Mirado's pick. Inside were 8871 sp, which is 88.7 pounds of silver. We divvied it up and moved on.

We walked down one corridor and found ourselves teleported to another. Some exploration off of that found us a way back to a familiar area, but also some new rooms. One section had some giant rats - we quickly slammed that door shut and moved on. Unlikely the rats have anything worthwhile, and they aren't worth much XP either.

We did find a room that looked like a doctor's waiting room gone bad. We joked that there were old magazines with a misspelled name on the label ("This one is to Mack Archmage.") At the end of the hall where this chamber was situated was another door, which opened with ease.

We opened the door and in it was a doctor's office looking room, with a bat-winged horned red skinned woman wearing a skimpy little "sexy nurse" outfit. Mirado immediately said, "Helloooooo Nurse!" It had about the same effect as when Yakko does it.

She asked if we had an appointment. We said no. She said we could make one now, and even as Mirado was backing out Rul said his name was "Lurr, with one err and another err." She said we could see the doctor now, and another door opened. Mirado kept backing out even as Lurr cancelled his appointment (despite clear threats of penalties from his insurer, Metal Cross Metal Shield) and we closed the door and took off.

We had a brief debate about whether she really was a succubus. Someone asked, would you put a succubus on level 3 of the dungeon? I said, "Yes!"
Mirado coined this rule:

Mirado's Rules of Megadungeoneering #73: No one puts a fake succubus in a "sexy nurse" outfit.

And this one:

Mirado's Rules of Megadungeoneering #74: The deeper you go the stronger the "megadungeon goggles" effect.


Mirado's Rules of Megadungeoneering #11: A wooly rhino on level 1 is an illusion.

A little more exploration from here put us into a large room with a five-piece band of skeletons playing flutes, lyres, harps, etc. with a hat. Buskers. Undead buskers.

Mirado attacked, putting the flautist down. The others fought back, and managed to club Minister with a harp before Rul put down the remaining four with a single swipe of his undead-slaying sword.

We kept on, and found a room from which we heard partying noises. I joked it would be four groups of 99 berserkers.

Close. It was 50 berserkers partying it up with endless mead and a cornucopia roast boar served by 8 blonde shieldmaidens.

What an amazing fight that would be.

It wasn't to be. Mirado waded right in and asked for a drink and some boar. Brothers! He yelled. We're here!

That defused any potential problems, except when they mentioned a band and Mirado said he'd killed them. The berserker didn't want to let that go, but Mirado explained that a) the band had a flute player, and thus had to die and b) I love you man! I'm sorry! You're the best bro! And hugged the guy.

That worked.

We drank up for a bit and then left, seeking more treasure.

We eventually found it, stumbling across some ghouls. One slashed Rul and he resisted paralysis, and then we killed the bunch of them.

We did a little more exploration after this, but wound it down as it was getting late.

Good, fun session. We need more firepower to go deeper. We found a few flights of stairs (circular and normal) up, in case we want to visit level 2 again. And once we get more people on a delve we have a way down to level 4 or 5 or possibly deeper.

We took home 8504 xp (and 2095 gp) each, putting Mirado about 10,000 xp short of level 7. Maybe another two trips or one spectacular one.


Editing later: I forgot we also fought some giant blue-bottle flies, had a Magic Mouth spell riddle at us, and found rooms with rat dung. It was late and I was tired on Friday, so some of it didn't stick out so much.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Is this is the stuff for Magic Wash?

Is this what they call Future these days? It doesn't even say "with Future Shine" on it or anything.

 photo MagicWash_zps1f616916.jpg

I'm hoping to mix up some "magic wash" but if this isn't the stuff, it's not too late to return it.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bespoke Wooden DM screen

For the true DIYers amongst you who can't stand how flimsy carboard screens keep falling over all the time.

Wooden DM Screen

Pretty cool, actually. It really would be better than me knocking the screen over whenever I gesture wildly towards the battlemap. When I was a kid in the good old days, I had a black suitcase big enough to hold my gaming stuff. If I opened it, it would lock open like an L and I could play from out of the box. It worked very similar to this.

Grimmsgate, MCMLXXV, and Strange Bedfellows arrived

I received a package with my Tenkar's Tavern OSR Christmas gifts:

Here they are:

 photo OSRLoot001s_zpsc3472c64.jpg

Thanks to Keith Nelson for donating these and sending them to me.

They're pretty cool, although Grimmsgate and MCMLXXV are exactly the same aside from the covers. I may need to do my own giveaway after deciding which cover I like better!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Wilderness Around Felltower - Part I

I'm back from vacation. While I had some spare moments on my trip I did a little bit of mapping of "the world" around my megadungeon.

Not that much, though. Keeping consistent with off-the-cuff descriptions, stuff I've got in my head, and what specifics I've told the players is tough.

For example, the mountain that contains the upper levels of Felltower is north of the Silver River and Stericksburg. It's at the end of a V of mountains, so it has sort of a "lone peak" feel from the south but it's just an inaccurate impression.

The larger world is pretty vague, too. I know the city of Cashamash is to the southeast, near the desert of Morthand. The city of Molotov is off to the east, near the Troll Marshes. The city of Arras is off to the west, near-ish to Falcon's Keep and the Caves of Chaos. There are barbarians to the northwest, including Honus's tribe but also some rivals. I know orcs marching overland could reach Felltower on the surface, and I need to back-calculate the distance that implies.

Making that kind of mess into a hex map is going to be tough. Even making it into a player-facing map is going to be tough.

All I ended up with so far is a rough outline map of what's where with few details on it at all.

Next up, I need a more detailed area map. I may have to try Fractal Mapper again, just because I don't have the patience to draw it all by hand at the moment.

I'll see if I can't scan what I doodled up and show the process - once I've gotten a little further along in the process.
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