Saturday, February 28, 2015

Do you use minis with your GURPS games?

Pretty simple question - the single largest part of my mobile gaming kit are my minis cases. My game would be much more mobile without them. But I love painting and using minis, and I feel like they add a huge amount of color and fun and clarity to my games.

Even using a stripped-down combat system, I still have the minis deployed on the map for marching order and to keep everyone straight.

What about everyone else?

If you play GURPS, do you use minis, or their virtual equivalent?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Magic Item: Staircase Carpet, Redux

The other day I posted a staircase carpet magic item based on this picture:

Here is an alternative, suitable for any system.

Portable Basement

When unrolled, the carpet creates a door to a pocket dimension. The dimension is a small, closed up rectangular unfinished basement, furnished with rickety chairs, a re-purposed table, and adequate lighting. Up to 12 people can enter uncomfortably. Each time it is used it re-stocks itself with 12 gamer-days worth of cheesy snack foods and caffeinated beverages. It can be used for up to 16 hours in a row, but then must be rolled up and recharged over the other eight. If rolled up with occupants in it, they are immediately (but safely) ejected.

Practically an unlimited amount of books, papers, dice, and miniature figures can be stored here. Any combat or exercise related gear, or actually valuable materials however, will be quickly buried until piles of character record sheets or messed up by cats and be effectively unusable.

The Portable Basement can be used daily by users up to the end of college. After college, it can be used once per week, schedule permitting. May require spousal permission.

Cost: Priceless. Weight: 5# but bulky rolled up.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thoughts on whiffing in D&D-based vs. GURPS

The other day, Douglas Cole posted a game summary in which his character missed a lot in D&D. I've experienced the same in Swords & Wizardry.

And as a GM, I have had a lot of attacks "whiff" in GURPS - either miss (not that common) or hit but get warded off by the defender (much more common.)

I find that whiffing in D&D feels a lot different to me than whiffing in GURPS. Reflecting on this a little bit, I think this is because of two things:

1) Defenses.

2) Baked-In Options.

When I whiff in a D&D game, I pretty much start to feel useless until I start hitting again.

When I whiff in a GURPS game, it's a little different. First off, most of the time the "whiff" is the net result. I still hit, I still manage to land a blow. My opponent must do something about it. If the enemy Blocks or Parries, well, I'm draining defenses from the target. If he Dodges, I'm forcing movement which potentially could mean falling if he Critically Fails. Maybe he'll Retreat and give up space I want to exploit.

And if I keep whiffing, I can up the ante with Feint or Deceptive Attack or flanking or switching attack modes to something that at least potentially changes the equation. Access to those options really changes the dynamic of what I feel like I can do if necessary. I feel like I have more control, and it's not as luck-based.

DR matters as well - in D&D, once you get hit, you're hit. The blow tells as well as if you had no armor at all - the armor factors into how many of them land. In GURPS, armor factors on hits by reducing them. It might even reduce them to zero. But I find when that happens, my mind starts to turn to, what can I do that isn't impeded by armor? And many options present themselves.

In D&D, in short, I feel like when I miss, I'm useless and my best bet is to hope for better rolls. In GURPS, if I miss because of skill, I can take options to hit more often, and if because of defenses, options to reduce those.

You might say that in D&D-based games, you can try anything. You can explain what you want to do to the DM and he or she will rule on it. But that's true in GURPS, too, to the same extent - you can try anything, and it's equally up to the GM how that goes. But the combination of baked-in options to choose from coupled with a higher hit percentage, which is then coupled with an active roll for the defender to see if it lasts despite counter-action, makes me feel more involved.

That's pretty much what it boils down to - in a straight-up fight, I feel in D&D-based games like my best tactic is to roll better, and I feel a little frustrated and useless when the rolls don't let me hit. In GURPS, I feel like I've got more decisions to make, and that I am less frustrated when it nets out to the same thing - whiffing.

I think this probably says a lot about why I prefer the game systems I do - the more combat is an interaction of factors and not an abstracted one-roll resolution, the more I enjoy combat. And since combat is something I find especially fun in games (and really fun in combat sports in reality), that drives a lot of my enjoyment.

None of which is to say I'm not looking forward to my next D&D game and next S&W game. It's just that I think I have a handle on why whiffing there bothers me more than whiffing in my GURPS games.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Magic Item: Staircase Carpet

I saw this picture on Jason Blalock's G+ feed.

So naturally, I have to stat it up.

For Swords & Wizardry / Basic Fantasy Role-Playing / Labyrinth Lord / D&D 5e:

Portable Staircase. Once per day, the owner may unroll this carpet and use it as a real staircase down. It can create a temporary staircase down through up to 30' of material. The staircase will reach up to a further 10' down to touch the floor. If no open space exists within 30' of the surface it is placed upon, the carpet does not function. It can> open into open air, however. Once rolled back up, the staircase disappears. Anything on the staircase is either dropped back down to the level below or to the level above (50% chance of each) and is unharmed by the process. The staircase lasts until the rug is rolled up, after which the carpet must remain unused for 24 hours to recharge. The carpet can be rolled up from above or below; this takes 1 round. 6' x 3', Weighs 5#.


Portable Staircase. Allows the user to create a temporary staircase down. Treat this as Create Door, but it only functions vertically down, penetrates up to 10 yards of material. The staircase will extend up to 4 yards past this point to touch the floor. Functions once per day. Once rolled back up, the staircase disappears. Anything on the staircase is either dropped back down to the level below or to the level above (50% chance of each) and is unharmed by the process. The staircase lasts until the rug is rolled up, after which the carpet must remain unused for 24 hours to recharge. The carpet can be rolled up from about or below; this takes 10 seconds. 6' x 3', Weighs 5#

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Painted Reaper Ape-X, Ape-X

Way back when I got Bones I, I got a lot of duplicates. One of them was Ape-X, the cybernetic super-ape.

I said at the time, do I trade one? After all, why do I need two gatling-armed super-apes?

I still have no answer to that except to posit that it is, prima facie, kind of a silly question. Why wouldn't I need two gatling-armed super-apes, if I need one?

So I kept them both and painted them. I've been meaning to post pictures of the guys, who are waiting for a Gamma World-themed minis battle or something. I painted them quite a while ago - maybe in the Summer? But then I stuck them in a storage drawer and kept forgetting to snap pictures.

I love the pose on these guys, but I have a sad fact to report - no matter how you stand them, the wide base means they can't actually bump fists. These guys should be able to greet each other like heroes in an Schwarzenegger movie. But they can't, and that makes them . . . very . . .angry.

Just saying.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Arrived: 5e Players Handbook

It took a while for me to break down and get it, but I did finally purchase the 5e Player's Handbook.

I was waffling on it, but it would have been handy when I needed to roll up a guy for Rob Conley's 5e game, and I got a pretty good deal, and I had a gift card to use that covered it.

It showed up today, right at lunch time.

 photo PlayersHandbook5e001s_zpsacb2787b.jpg

At a quick glance, it's a beautiful book, just like the other two 5e hardbacks. I'll be pushing this up the reading list as it's already been hard to put it down once I started to flip through it. I already want to make up a monk, and see how they play in 5e.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review: Against Tsathogga (S&W)

I picked up Against Tsathogga from Frog God Games on sale for $2. I did this on the strength of Fog God Games materials, the lure of a high-level Swords & Wizardry adventure, and on the giant frog monster promised within. It's meant to let you use a limited edition monster mini called Tsathogga by Center Stage Miniatures.

The Adventure

This is a short adventure meant for high-level S&W play - it's aimed at 4-6 characters of level 12+. The short version is that a tunnel complex in a vile swamp is the center of a magical ritual to bring forth an elder frog god-thing and it's up to the PCs to stop it.

Oddly, the module comes right out and says that a) the PCs have NO chance against Tsathogga, but can prevent him from appearing, and b) fudge to prevent them from preventing him from appearing. I'd like to read this as "show them the big scary mini but it doesn't materialize and kill them" but equally it could mean just fudging so they have to fight the unstoppable monster.

The adventure assumes high level PCs, and puts in very nasty diseases, miasmas, and other impediments to success. The swamp interferes with health, recovering spells, and rest in general. The short version is that from the start of the move into the swamp the resources of the PCs are going to be worn away and recovery is unlikely to keep up. This potentially makes for a swift pace to the adventure as slow exploration works against the finite resources of the PCs.

The adventure has a very good conceptual use of a ticking clock - the challenge isn't to kill some foes, but to beat a clock during a fight. Very nice. It's a little unfortunate in that the clock starts ticking at the start of the fight, so it's "X turns after Y" not a fixed time. So in fact it's to the benefit of the PCs to avoid rushing to beat this kind of clock - it won't start if you wait. The adventure handles that with environmental difficulties that can and will encourage speed of adventuring, as mentioned above. Given a choice, though, I'd go with both the environmental challenges and an actual time limit, so there is a benefit to cutting a few corners and rushing headlong into danger to earn yourself just a few more moments to deal with the threat. Right now, the only push is the cost in resources.

It's a very liner adventure - not a sandbox so much as a direct go-and-raid-this linear adventure. The dungeon is equally linear. There is all of one choice, and both are merely short forks. Each room is challenging, although some seem pretty much arbitrary in their challenge. One room limits magic, for example, but the limitation starts and ends in that room. It would feel better (and probably be more ominous) if the limitations built up and got worse as you went into the dungeon, so you feel as if the resources you had available were getting cut away. Instead it just feels like, "Don't use X to bypass obstacle Y in room Z, but you can use X normally elsewhere."

There are some nasty fights in it, though, and the link between fights and the clock make for a tense setup.


The adventure has a couple of new monsters - the Custodian of Tsathogga and a Degenerate Ranan. Both are quite nasty and interesting. The Ranan come with a promise for more stats on their culture in another supplement, although which supplement isn't specified.

One major issue for me is that many (seemingly most) of the monsters encountered in the adventure are only described Tome of Horrors IV. At least one other is in Tome of Horrors Complete and a further in Monstrosities. Still others, I have no idea where they are - they aren't in the S&W main book nor in the Pathfinder Bestiaries (since there is a Pathfinder version, I decided to check, just in case it was written and then converted back.) You get stats, but missing details which may or may not be important - I don't own those books, so I can't tell you either way. At least one monster can summon other monsters, which is not statted and I don't know where to look for them.

As someone unfamiliar with some of the monsters, this was very annoying. I feel like I got crippleware, because now I either need to make stuff up (which I can do, but I don't expect published adventures to require that for core monsters), or buy another book - and $15 is a lot for a PDF just to check out a few monsters for a $5 adventure. I'd be fine with this if the page for the adventure said, "Tome of Horrors IV required" because I'd have gone into it knowing this, not thinking "I'll flip to end and find their stats" but not have them.

How is it for GURPS?

It's not bad an an adventure framework for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy or an equally high-powered straight fantasy game. GURPS PCs would have a lot more ways to solve the problems within, thanks to a much more diverse set of spells and access to advantages like Resistant to Disease and rest-free recovering energy pools. But it would be easy to bump up the lethality and difficulty to make them suffer to the level appropriate for this kind of "save the world ASAP" high-level romp.

Overall, the adventure is very good. It's appropriately lethal for high level play, and it's extremely rough without being unfair. Some of the limitations on spells and powers seem a little arbitrary (only in room such-and-such) instead of broadly applied (from room such-and-such and deeper in the dungeon).

Major Map Features & Cliches of Felltower

Just thinking of things I've put into my megadungeon.

Major Mapping Features I've used in Felltower include:

- sections of levels only accessible from below.

- dead-end levels (you can get to them, but not usefully anywhere else from them)

- semi dead-end levels (you can get into an otherwise isolated group of levels)

- sub-levels

- partial level changes. (That is, level changes that aren't so deep that I change sheets of mapping paper.)

- caverns

- underground river

- caverns verging on worked dungeon space.

- hidden rooms and hidden areas only accessible with special gear, items, or at specific times.

Megadungeon Cliches I've used in Felltower include:

- Flooded level.

- evil temple area (in fact, the evil temple)

- feuding factions.

- Overpowered monster nodes. (As in, monsters well about the difficulty of the surrounding area.)

- entrance from underwater.

- giant staircase (rumored, not yet seen)

- entrance from a hole in the ground.

- teleporters.

- trick statues.

- 5 degree slopes. (Okay, not 5 degrees.)

- unopenable doors.

- anti-magic zones

- room of pools

- levers with unknown function.

- ridiculous monsters. Lots and lots of ridiculous monsters.

I think although I haven't tossed in a Ye Olde Magic Shoppe, a monster arena, or a gambling den run by kobolds, I've hit some of the key notes I've admired in the published adventures and published tales of adventures from old school gaming. And not a little bit of new-school video gaming, too. Not bad. Now I just need a (secret) list of stuff I need to ensure I put in.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Digging into the Bones

Since I got my Bones II shipment, I've been digging through and sorting out the ones I can paint easily and/or need to paint soon.

I found a couple things:

Mold Lines - Generally, I don't bother to cut off mold lines on the Bones minis. It's just too much of a pain, and so I just clip off tags or excess plastic and otherwise just go with that. They don't look as nice as cleanly filed metal, but there we are.

Gaps - My goodness, the gaps. The multi-piece minis always have these gaping gaps. I've taken to "gluing" pieces together with green stuff backed with super glue on the totally covered interior connection points. I've also started to put green stuff in the visible gaps between parts of pre-assembled figures. Basically, I need it on any multi-piece mini to cover the assembly joints. Annoying. Good thing I have a lot of green stuff.

Bones "Primer" - I've found my Anita's All-Purpose Acrylic Craft Paint #11134 Grey Flannel coats Bones quite well. It's quite thin, but it doesn't pool on the hydrophobic Bones. It's also a nice light grey, which means it's a pretty good base for either light or dark paints.

Good Mix - I've found the Bones II set is a pretty good mix. I like the various critter types I have, and some of the characters are very interesting and probably worth keeping.

As such, I took a few monsters and just started painted them up with the grey so they're ready to take a coat of paint.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Pyramid 3/76: Dungeon Fantasy IV

Yesterday the latest issue of Pyramid came out, and Doug Cole and I have an article in it.

So what else is in it?

- Psychic Swords Against Elder Evil by Sean Punch. A nice call back to his Swords Against Evil swashbuckler article, this one is for folks who channel psi powers into physical blades to chop up Elder Things. It has a template, power-ups, and five new Elder Things.

- Hidden Knowledge by Christopher Rice. Spellbooks, developing over-powered hidden spells, and learning a hidden magic system, all for your delvers into forbidden lore.

- Living Rooms by David Pulver. Inside the living dungeon - with a nice mention of Snit's Revenge, which might be the first published game-related living dungeon.

- The Magic Touch, by Matt Riggsby. Eleven new magic items for unarmed martial artists, from bottles you break on your firsts to extending grappling sleeves.

- Dire and Terrible Monsters, by Douglas Cole and me. Terrible & Dire Monsters came out of a joke that Doug and I decided to run with in the face of many groans. It's both totally silly (the Terrible Bunny) and straight-up lethal DF monster enhancements (also see the same Terrible Bunny.)

- Random Thought Table: Complications Made Simple, by Steven Marsh. It's a nice little guide to how to spin up complications in your DF game (or other game) based on what you know or left undefined in the margins, without a lot of work.

I've read about a third of this so far, and skimmed the rest, and I'm enjoying it. The DF articles are always pretty fun. And now is your chance to see what I think a rabbit's stats should be in DF.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Optional rule for GURPS Magic: Cancelling multiple spells

Here is another optional change to GURPS Magic.

Per GURPS Magic, p. 10, it costs 1 FP per ongoing spell to cancel it early.

It doesn't exactly specify if this is a free action, or takes concentration. We've always rule it takes a Concentrate manuever, since it's a 1 FP cost and that's extremely unusual for something that would count as a Free Action.

But what if you have a lot of spells up?

We've started to think about ways to do this. Here are two options we're considering playtesting.

Cancelling Spells

To cancel an ongoing spell early, take a Concentrate maneuver. For one spell, success is automatic and costs 1 FP. You can attempt to cancel multiple spells, but there is a risk. Roll vs. IQ, with a penalty of -1 per spell you wish to cancel. You must specify which spells are being cancelled before you roll. If you succeed, you remove all of the specified spells and pay 1 FP each. If you fail, none of the spells are cancelled. On a critical failure, ALL of your spells are cancelled, at a cost of 1 FP each. On a critical success, you may choose after the fact to cancel additional spells beyond the first - however, the FP still remains 1 per spell.

Another option is IQ+Magery, but -1 per spell up, no matter how many you want to cancel. Have 10 spells up and want to drop 2? Roll IQ+Magery-10, and if you make it you remove 2.

A further option is -1 per spell you don't want to drop or -1 per spell you want to keep, whichever is higher, which inverts the penalties and says dropping one is easy, all is easy, but picking and choosing is hard. Have 5 spells up and want to drop 2 or 3? -3. Want to drop 1 or 4? -4. 5? -5.

Why not Will? Because Will is pretty cheap, and I like the idea that its a question of magical power (Magery) and intellect (keeping tabs on all the things you are doing) or just intellect and not a question of your force of character.

I'm not sure which one we'll try, but it's fairly certain will will try one of these. I'll run some test case numbers when I have a chance.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Call of Cthulhu vs. Dungeon Fantasy

Inspired by the comments on my previous post, and my own experiences in DF and CoC:

In CoC:

You hear about Cthulhu from moldy books that sear your grasp on reality away, or from the gibbering of insane cultists.

In DF:

You hear about Cthulhu in a bar, from a veteran adventurer who says it ate 1d6 of his hirelings automatically per turn.

In CoC:

Cthulhu has cultists, and, except for their warped magic-using leader, are all degenerate sub-humans who threaten you with illegal firearms and disregard for your life.

In DF:

Cthulhu has cultists, but like their warped magic-using leader, are all degenerate sub-humans with extra powers because Degenerate and Sub-Human are power-increasing monster prefixes, and who threaten you through sheer numbers.

In CoC:

If you see Cthulhu, or even a minor tentacled horror, you lose SAN and then start to lose PCs, too. Any damage suffered is basically permanent.

In DF:

If you see Cthulhu, you make your Fright Check and then start casting buff spells. It's going to be a rough fight. You might lose some PCs, but they can be brought back with Great Wish or Resurrection.

In CoC:

Cthulhu cannot be destroyed. He can barely even be countered. Victory is keeping him from fully awakening.

In DF:

Cthulhu has HP. You may not be able to kill him just by whittling off his HP, but you can kill him or at least his physical form. Keeping from fully awakening is the key to making the fight easier.

In CoC:

The reward for "defeating" Cthulhu is that some of your investigators still have some of their sanity.

In DF:

Cthulhu has treasure. Lots of it - he's a boss monster!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Is my dungeon too lethal?

I was thinking about the possible TPK in the works in my game.

I don't spare a lot of time thinking about the plight of my PCs. They'll figure out what they want to do, and we'll roll dice to see how it turns out. My job ends with presenting the challenge - it's up to them to find a way out, or roll their way out.

But this deeper level of my dungeon has some traits of the rest of my dungeon, only more so because of the depth:

- monsters are more dangerous, even if the base monster isn't especially so.

- monsters are bigger. Yes, the deeper you go the bigger stuff gets. Like in 50s monster movies, the big stuff is down in tight tunnels.

- the treasure the greater. The 5000 in emeralds they found last time was pretty close to "no treasure found" by the standards of where they are delving.

But is the party capable of handling that?

It's a big maybe. Even amped up with a lot of buff spells, magic items, and one-use enhancements they're having a tough time. They knew this going in, after the last session's "entry room" fight with one and then two more purple worms. They know how easy they've gotten off when I dump a huge pile of dice over the screen and do much less than average damage. But the game is about risks.

I think the level is only about as lethal as it should be - and yes, it gets more lethal from here. The water entrance rumors they followed up on found them a way into a dangerous area. They knew it went deep, and that deeper = more risk, more reward, in a dungeon where levels much higher up had plenty of risk already.

So I don't feel like it's too much. It's going to be tough - and if they survive, I expect they'll be less likely to return. Out-maneuvering the orcs might be trouble but it'll be better than grappling with purple worms and giant trolls and unholy cleric ghosts.

But even if there is a TPK, I know someday there will be PCs back to this level, and the players will have a much firmer idea of what they'll want to bring with them to risk it. For their sakes, I hope they find a way out. But I'll keep rolling the damage in front of them and adding trolls to the fray until the level key says there aren't more to add.

That's where the fun is.

Monday, February 16, 2015

DF Game Session 56, Felltower 47 - Ghost, Trolls, and possible TPK - Part I

February 15th, 2015

Weather: Cold, cold, cold. Windy. Also, cold.

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Al Murik, dwarven cleric (277 points)
Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (270 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (395 points)
Vryce, human knight (468 points)
     Father Keef, human cleric (125 point NPC)
     Gort of the Shining Force, dwarf adventurer (NPC)

Still in town:

Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (265 points)
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)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)

We started in town, as usual. The group paid upkeep and gathered rumors.

One especially interesting one was picked up by (or remembered by) Gort. He said, the only way to kill a ghost is to let it possess someone, and then kill them both. That was coupled with a rumor that priests who die on unsanctified ground rise from the death as undead, unholy priests. Those two rumors really stuck out, of course, but they also heard one about a "missing" level between two other levels, and one about an archmage hermit living out in the frozen northern wilderness.

The plan was, water entrance. They knew they could get a few NPCs in, as well, and looked for Raggi. Raggi's appearance roll came up as a 17 - critical failure! Raggi is out this session, and next time he'll only be around on a 9 or less. Gort was around (Gort is always around, he's retired), as was Father Keef.

They departed the north gate, crossed the Stone Bridge over the Silver River, turn right at Sterick's Landing and wound their way through the slums to the edge of the heights and dove for their water entrance.

The water was cold (Sunday was about 4 degrees F, here, which is pretty cold for NJ and Stericksburg) but they managed to make the swim, then had to rest and warm back up. It turned out that neither Keef nor Gort could swim. Vryce's player argued that swimming should fall under his generic dungeoneering skills only when undergound. Heh. They solved that with Breathe Water and two skilled Created Servants with Swimming skill.

They moved in, past the purple worm room, and then into new territory.

The first thing they found was a natural staircase going sharply down. They sent a Wizard Eye to scout, and found it led to a three-way intersection. The left went up very sharply, the right was more-or-less level. The eye scouted that, and found it was at the bottom of a sinkhole. The eye was sent up, and found a cave covered with white snow-like crystals, studded with a bunch of sinkholes, and edged with a (let's say "man-") made balcony of stone about 30' up with a lip sticking out into the room. The eye couldn't see past the edge of the balcony - beyond it was fuzzy nothingness.

The eye was sent to the balcony, but as soon as it reached the fuzzy edge it was dispelled.

The PCs scouted themselves. The intersection gave a weird double echo, and smelled oddly sweet but not good. They checked the base of the sinkhole and the crystals - it was salt. Thinking that salt is 15 sp/ounce meant wealth, they sent a servant to collect some. Sadly, there was only a thin layer of salt over layers of solidified salt crusting the floor. Nevermind, they decided - for now!

They climbed the steep lefthand tunnel. At the top, it widened out into a larger cave area. From the darkness ahead and to the back right padded a lot of trolls. How many? At least 11, one of whom was carried a cleaver-like sword.

The PCs arrayed for battle, but Al offered to talk. Gift of Tongues was cast on him, and he greeted the trolls in what Al insisted was "High Church Trollish" and gave the old "Greetings noble dwellers of deep caverns" speech.

The trolls asked if they were servants of the masters. Al replied that they were neutral but friendly with the masters, trying not to give a sign that they were either allies (bad if the trolls aren't) or enemies (bad if the trolls aren't.) They negotiated, and the sword-armed troll said they could pass to the left or go back, but this was MUNGO's territory. It says that Mungo would let them pass. They decided to offer to help, and the trolls told them of their enemies, the gargoyles.

(Dryst's player said, "This deep, they're marlgoyles." His brother: "What's the difference?" Me: "They're like gargoyles, but made of stone." They also decided gargoyles would be the perfect enemies for trolls - neither could kill the other.)

The trolls told them to go around to the left, ignore the first two lefts, follow the wall to the right, and then go straight up the third left.

Naturally, they agreed, headed off, argued about which lefts counted, and made a turn which may or may not have been the third.

They found the sinkhole from last session, and the lurker above's cavern.

After that, they found another intersection and then a long winding tunnel that ended with a rockfall.

Earth Vision revealed a shattered skeleton under the rock, about 20' or so in, by an equally shattered chest leaking some contents included a gem-and-pearl studded box. Score!

They set up, put a Mystic Mist covering their camp area and deep into the piled stones to ensure the treasure would be in the mist, too.

They reached the bones, just a yard or two short of the buried treasure. When they exposed the bones, a ghost rose out of them. They could see a skull, ghostly limbs, and tattered priest's clothing. In fact, that of a Bishop! Al and Asher recognized enough to know what they saw but not enough to know who it was.

 photo FT1s_zpsec398c80.jpg

The ghost jumped into Dryst, possessing him. It couldn't access his spells, and Dryst was aware, but it could use its spells - and yes, indeed, it was an unholy priest. Al immediately boosted Vryce's Will, and the PCs sprung into action.

They, naturally, tried to talk to the ghost. It wasn't in the mood to negotiate. It cursed the Good God, told them he'd see them in hell, the usual stuff. Asher's knowledge of undead told him the ghost was probably insane, and not capable of being talked into friendliness.

Meanwhile, Vryce waited for the lead types to back away from Dryst, and shrugged off some attack spells from the priest and an attempt to paralyze him. He got close to Dryst and - in what must be a move he's been thinking of for a while - stabbed Dryst once in each leg, crippling them. From the ground, the ghost cast a spell at him. But then Dryst passed out, and the ghost escaped.

It tried to possess Vryce, and failed, and then moved past him to the rest of the PCs. It used its Finger of Doom to paralyze Asher, despite his high Will and Resistance to Evil Supernatural Powers. It tried on Al, but it failed.

 photo FT2s_zps3700295e.jpg

It took over Gort, and Vryce ran up and took out Gort's legs, knocking him down and unconscious. Once again, the ghost left the body. Meanwhile Al woke up Dryst, who promptly passed out again trying to cast spells. Again, they woke him up and healed him. This time he got off a an Affects Spirits spell on Vryce's sword Gram, and then shortly after one on Al's pick. But the ghost dodged through the walls and tried more spells.

Earth Vision on Vryce let him track the ghost, and Al smashed the fallen priest's skull with his pick before dropping it. Then he got out holy water as he scrounged around for the bishop's holy symbol. Al was possessed by the ghost at this point, and took two leg wounds from Vryce for his trouble, and dropped unconscious.

Vryce kept after the ghost. Finally, Vryce got a chance to strike the ghost.

 photo FT3s_zps00112afb.jpg

Two swift cuts and he hit it once, wounding it. A few seconds later he got another, and it faded away.

Gone, for now. Asher (once he recovered) told them it was gone for now, but would be back. They needed to exorcise it. They also needed to rest - multiple characters with crippled legs. They started healing, and figuring out if they could spend 3 hours to do the exorcism.

They got Dryst healed (but sadly, he had a 6-month crippling of one of his legs) and Al, as well. They had a quick decision - drag out their wounded and get the heck out of there, or rest up, secure in the mist, and get the treasure?

So a few minutes of rest later, they heard noises and saw trolls - the trolls had followed, and boxed them in. They briefly talked about negotiating, as the trolls (rather oddly) gently escorted the servants away.

(This was explained by the PCs by the trolls natural hatred of slavery, and clearly they came to liberate the servants. I have no idea how that started, but there you are.)

The PCs decided they may have to fight. So Vryce drank his Potion of Giant Strength, which doubled his strength (so much so he was capped on damage with his sword, at ST 36 and 6d+17 cutting), and they started buffing him up. He advanced to the edge of the mist, and then once Great Hasted ran out and attacked. Trolls started falling, and when they counterattacked they lost arms to his blade. The arms, of course, started crawling around looking for targets. Vryce made sure of the wounded, because they're trolls, and kept advancing.

Meanwhile the priests kept in on the healing and so on, as Dryst levitated toward the fray.

It was going pretty well, with Vryce backing off the trolls and Dryst using Create Fire to light up the fight, when Vryce turned the corner.

There were more trolls. And there was Mungo.

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Turns out, the troll with the sword wasn't Mungo. He was speaking on behalf of Mungo, who clearly rules the trolls by pounding dissenters into paste. He was holding a huge hammer and a person-sized "knife" and scraped the 25' ceiling with his head and shoulders.

Mungo yelled, "Give Mungo loot!" and attacked.

Vryce engaged him, heads up, Great Haste giving him the edge he needed. He was able to slash up Mungo a lot, but Mungo dodged often and even parried once.

Mungo yelled, "Give Mungo food!" and kept attacking. Mungo stomped on a fallen troll, and ground him apart without a second thought as he used him for footing.

 photo FT5s_zps5d176b22.jpg

The other trolls tried to intervene, but Vryce paused to put one down and wound another, even as Dryst started hurling Explosive Lightning and Lightning spells into the fray. Mungo was hurt, but not stunned, thanks to his massive size.

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The fight more or less proceeded like that - Mungo attacking, occasionally being forced to the Critical Miss Table with deft dodges by Vryce, and Vryce was forced to use up all of his Luck. Al threw alchemist's fire into the fray and missed Mungo but splashed oil behind him.

Meanwhile, in the mist, Asher disposed of the crawling hands with his flaming sword, and Dryst charged up more spells and dispelled his own servants, one after the the other.

More trolls kept coming.

Vryce was forced back into the flames, and Mungo just walked right into the flames after him.

That's where we left it, because it was getting late and I just couldn't stick it out. Plus, any potential TPK situation grinds slowly, as everyone takes just a little longer on their turn. I almost cut it short when the troll fight started, but I thought we should play a little bit of it. But time ran short, and we had to stop in the dungeon, for now.

Will the PCs be able to defeat Mungo before he lands a hit? Will they escape alive? We'll see on 3/1.


Raggi's appearance rolls? Simple. 12 or less if he's doing okay. 15 or less if broke. 9 or less if flush with cash. Any critical failure knocks it down a level the next time, too. Critical success pushes it up a level. So a 17 means it went from 12 or less to 9 or less for next time.

Aren't ghosts invisible? Standard ones, yes, but if you can't float around being ghostly and scaring people it's not as fun, so I don't do that.

Why so many trolls? Simple. I always liked the mass troll fights in D1-2 Descent to the Depths of the Earth. If you didn't make trolls foolish enough to all pack into a single 20' radius circle, those fights could be really long and scary. So I added a very large mass of trolls into my dungeon. Not 2-3 or 4-5, but bunches. Then I went out and got a lot of Bones trolls from Miniatures-Giant. I painted them - you can see how the pre-paints I previously bought stand out since I couldn't color match them (also, they don't match each other.)

Why Mungo? Because he was $2.39 on eBay, buying one more figure pushed the shipping down to a discounted level, and I had no idea he was that big. There was nothing to show scale, so I figured he'd be roughly the size of my other trolls. So I showed my brother in law and said, basically, what am I going to do with this guy? He said something like, "Of course a group of trolls is going to have Mungo, the giant troll, who they call out for big fights." I sat right down and statted up Mungo the Giant Troll. I wouldn't have made a troll icepick gripping a person-sized blade myself, but since I have one, that's what he does. He suffers the usual problems of giants in GURPS, though - he's easy to hit and he's only a threat if he can overcome the very high Dodge that the PCs are capable of getting. He's skilled but not that skilled . . . even so, one hit and splat.

Could they have bribed their way past the trolls? Maybe. It's hard to tell. Trolls are smart (Mungo may or may not be) but they're also heartless killers with a love of treasure and a taste for sentient beings. They may go with a deal, they may not - and it's hard to tell which.
The PCs had the amusing comment that with trolls, you can kill a bunch and then negotiate as it's no harm, no foul. Not after fire, though.

I'd mentioned dogpiling before. This area, thanks to what's in it (trolls and worse) and the layout (some looping connections, some dead ends) makes it especially prone to this. The trolls are smart enough to know a group weakened from a fight and in a dead end might be a good target.

The dungeon at this level is very lethal. The treasures are rich but the fights are potentially killers. The PCs are a 50/50 mix of medium-to-high points (Vryce at nearly 500, Dryst at nearly 400) and starting (Al and Asher around 275). That means Al and Asher can't contribute much to combat, and don't have a lot of power to back up their actions. They're not liabilities but it means if Vryce and Dryst can't do the job . . . everyone might need new PCs next session, and no one will be capable enough to survive a delve to recover the corpses and equipment for a long time.

For what it's worth, as they fought the trolls, they decided - next time, fight the orcs. They're not ready for this, yet.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

DF Game - Short Notes

We played a long session of my DF Felltower game today. So long that I can't write the whole session up tonight.

A few things:

- the group headed down to the dungeon via the water entrance again.

- the PCs successfully fought a lethally powerful ghost.

- we had to stop mid-combat in the dungeon, since the PCs got trapped between a rock and a troll mob.

- did I say troll mob? I meant, troll mob led by Mungo the Giant Troll.

- the group is beginning to think that maybe this level is just a wee bit tough for them.

They might be right - we'll find out in two weeks. I'll put up details, and hopefully pictures, tomorrow.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Bones II sorted

So weather shifted my St. Valentine's Day plans around a little, and I had an hour I could use to sort out the Bones that arrives.

Here is my Core 2013 set, sorted (more or less) and ticked off the list:

 photo BonesIIcompletesmall_zpsb20ff0ff.jpg

I have only two dupes (an extra skeleton, and an extra Pathfinder Villain), and one missing (a Pathfinder Hero). I also shot Reaper an email about that missing guy. I don't need him, but I paid for him.

So, let the trade discussions begin!

On the block are almost all of the individual "character" figures, with a few exceptions (Sophie, Mr. Bones, a couple others.) I'm looking for any monsters, any demons, any devils, any animals, and any swamp and water dwellers, pretty much. Characters are nice, but I have plenty of unique figures already, so the more fodder types I can get the better! I also have way too many big bases, so if you need such, talk to me.

I'd consider stuff from earlier Bones sets and other minis, so if there are character types you want, contact me and we'll work something out!

Bones arrived

My Bones Kickstarter arrived.

Now I just need to go through this, crossing out the ones I have to make sure it's all there.

Will I do that today? Probably not, it's St. Valentine's Day and after work I have plans that involve less gnolls and dwarf fighters and random Pathfinder fig identifications. But I'll get started if I can, and post some pictures of the mess in progress.

Friday, February 13, 2015

D&D Cyclopedia on sale for under $5

Drive Thru RPG has the D&D Cyclopedia on sale for under $5.

I have both the Moldvay and Mentzer red box sets, the Moldvay Expert set, and the Companion, Master, and Immortals books. Does this add anything I don't have? Besides the conversion stuff to AD&D 2e, which I don't play or have books for?

I'm tempted to get it anyway, but is it just $5 to have it all in one PDF form since I have the rest in hard copy, or does this add things I don't have now?

Alb Irex (D&D5)

This is my character for Rob Conley's Majestic Wilderlands campaign.

Alb Irex (Alb Eye-reks)

Elder of Mitra

Level 4
XP: Min for level 4.

STR 10 (0)
DEX 8 (-1)
CON 12 (+1)
INT 13 (+1)
WIS 17 (+3)
CHA 14 (+2)
HP 27
AC 16

Domain: Life (adds 2+level to healing spells)

Skills: Religion, Persuasion

Cantrips: Light, Resistance, Spare the Dying, Guidance
Spells: 4/3
Spells Prepared: Hold Person, Command, Detect Magic, Cure Wounds, Healing Word, Lesser Restoration, Spirit Weapon

Scale Armor
Holy Symbol
Priest's Kit


I made Alb using the default HP and stat scores. I have to say I really like that - it's just easy and I feel like I have some reasonable choices but don't need to overthink those choices. At the same time, it spares me rolling and writing and spending 2:1 to raise Prime Reqs and all of that. I put his Attribute Increase into Wis, because, what the heck, be good at your job. I see Alb as persuasive and wise and smart, used to using his mouth and brains to solve problems in ways Mitra would be pleased with. He's no physical specimen. He'll fight willingly, he's just going to try brains and spells first.

Speaking of spells, I'd have taken Augury, but I can't figure out what it really does, exactly. I cast it and get some benefit, not a precognitive episode? I'm not following the idea behind it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

DF Magic Item abuse & possible solutions III

Here are two more possible curbs for magic item abuse in my DF game.

This was suggested by one of my players:

Idea 8: One person only. By default, you can put a buff spell on only one target. It could be you or someone else, but only one at a time. You can cancel early, as usual (1 FP cost) if you want to switch targets, but otherwise you have to wait.

Notes: We'd need a d60 to really know where in the ongoing spell you were when a fight starts. Oddly different from how spells work now, but it seems pretty balanced against the other choices.

Idea 9: Item spells on other people count as spells "on." Any spell used on a target other than the magic item's owner counts as a spell on for all purposes, including casting your own spells or using another magic item. On yourself, it doesn't count towards the total.

Notes: This would undo something we've done for a while, which is say items cast by an item accumulate penalties to that item, only. This makes items without the Power enchantment dramatically less valuable.

And no, we still haven't decided. I'm sure we'll decide right before game starts on Sunday.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: A Collection of Presentations, Cartographical in Nature

I got a copy of this thanks to the OSR Christmas sponsored by a lot of generous people and organized by Erik "Ten Posts A Day" Tenkar, of B-Team fame.

 photo MattJacksonPatreonMaps002s_zpsf1fb97d8.jpg

By Matt Jackson
Published by Chubby Monster Games
12 pages, plus printing on the inside of the front and back covers

This booklet includes 11 small, one-page maps. They aren't scaled, or either given hexes or squares. They're simple but attractive pen-drawn maps. These are paid for by Matt Jackson's Patreon campaign.

 photo MattJacksonPatreonMaps001s_zps76c3de8d.jpg

If you're familiar with Matt's work from his Moleskin Maps series (reviewed here), this is pretty much the same thing - only a little more so. What makes these stand out is that are coupled with a story setting up what the inhabitants could be/are, and the overall presentation.

This is just beautiful. It's got a brown cover, interior paper that appears as if it is old and yellowed (but is still new and strong), slightly rough edges in spots, and generally feels like a quality piece of printing.

The writing is clear and evocative, and the maps are the same.

Tim Shorts took a look at it back in July, but I just noted it and moved on. I'm glad I've gotten a copy of my own, because this is just nice to have, hold, own, and (hopefully) use in my gaming. Recommended.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Bones are on the way! Maybe.

I received two ship notifications from Reaper.

Then I received a notice saying, sorry if you got two notices, there was an error. But if you got a Quantum View Email, it's fine. But I didn't get one of those. All I have is an email with a tracking number that may or may not be good.

I'm assuming it's on its way, because I'm Wave 1 and they're on Wave 2 already.

So hurrah, in a few days I should have a big box of minis to dig around in.

Majestic Wilderlands 5e

About time.

Way back in December, 2011 I reviewed the Majestic Wilderness by Robert Conley. Last night, I finally got to play in the Majestic Wilderlands. It was 5th edition D&D, GMed by Robert Conley himself.

I really only got to play because this winter has been been horrible on Monday nights. So I needed a PC I could drop in with and then drop out with.

I played Alb Irex*, a 4th level cleric of Mitra. He wears scale armor, a shield with a big swan on it, and carries a mace. I chose a cleric because I figured I could be useful, do something that had a connection to the setting (Mitra, covered on p. 126), and get to try out 5th edition spellcasting. It made for a convenient cover, too - a PC who had to miss the session introduce my guy to the group, and since I played a circuit priest of Mitra covering an area by walking it and ministering as he went, it was a pretty easy explanation for being in the game, being concerned for the locals, and being able to depart suddenly even if the mission was unfulfilled.

Long story short, we did some discussion and the Lassie (okay, some kid) ran in and said poor Old Man Fish (okay, a boy named Carpe) had fallen down the well (okay, went into a dungeon) and needed rescuing (that part is the same.)

We went down, found some bandits, and attacked them. Tim Shorts, in remakably un-Tim like behavior, rolled a lot of not-1s. We fought some bandits and a wizard. We got lucky when a fireball smacked the lot of us and Tim rolled a critical to slam the door on the incoming fireball. My only combat move in the whole game was to use Cure Wounds cast at 1st level to heal the terribly wounded boy Carpe (the one who had been seized by bandits, appropriately) of his fireball-related injuries.

I also had to depart early, because I had non-gaming things to attend to.

My impression of the game was good. I knew the players already, and Rob runs a tight game and the pacing was fine. 5e runs very smoothly, and the more times I play it the more I am impressed with how light but tight it can be. It's very internally consistent without being clunky. I liked casting spells too - being a healing cleric meant my spell didn't suck, and if I'd needed to juice it up to level 2 I could have. I felt like there was a real choice to be made in "spells ready" but I had the flexibility to cast off the list as needed at the same time. Cantrips also made me feel like my magic wasn't a thing I could do sometimes but rather an intrinsic part of what my character was capable of.

Although I only got to play for about 2 hours, roughly half action, I enjoyed it a lot. I hope I get to come back - perhaps next week, weather depending.

* There is a Japan joke in there I expect no one to get, but it oddly made a good fantasy name. Maybe qpop will get it.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Bones II Kickstarter finally shipping

The Reaper Bones II Kickstarter is finally shipping.

It only took 5 months from when it originally was supposed to happen. But Reaper has been generally good about explaining the delays, and much of it was out of their hands.

I got in on the Early Bird Shipping along with 2000 other people, so mine should be amongst the first 2000 shipped. I didn't add anything truly special or exciting into the mix, so hopefully there won't be a delay.

You can watch the orders roll along here:

Bones II Kickstarter Tracker

I do kind of regret not getting Expansion I. Had I been able to add it on later, I would have. But at the time, it wasn't a good enough deal for me to fork over $50 I wasn't sure I could budget to gaming. Oh well. I'll pick up some Derro on my own.

I got the core set, at least:

I knew this was happening, and I only have space on my shelf for one big box of unsorted Bones. So yesterday I took a little time to unwrap, sort, and box all of the Bones from Bones I that I hadn't done anything with yet. Amusingly I found that one of my boxed set add ons had two of the same piece instead of a left and a right. So I had to send an apologetic note to Reaper asking a replacement piece two years on. Oh well. They still make it, so it shouldn't be too hard to get a single piece.

But there is space on the shelf for my minis, and a slot in the to-paint queue for the cannon fodder they so graciously provided in the mix!

Lawrence Schick & A Secret History of the Known World

My previous GURPS campaign, and one of my Rolemaster campaigns and one of my earlier AD&D games (in High School) took place in, or partly in, the Known Worlds / Mystara.

On Saturday Lawrence Schick posted a short look back on the origins of the D&D Known Worlds:

The “Known World” D&D Setting: A Secret History

I have to say they succeeded in creating a world where a lot of adventures could fit, and that felt like it was surrounded by unexplored lands to adventure in.*

There was room for everything in it, even if some of what went in from the official supplements was truly weird (the Thar supplement) or painful (the LJN Action Figure tie-ins) or just mind-bendingly hard to accept (er, fencing in formation in Darokin?) or too cute (mage-police boats with swivel-magic missile launchers in Glantri). But especially just using the map from the Expert Set/X1, you had this great big space to adventure in that perfectly fit the rules in the box. It was break-out-and-play material, yet wide open enough to put whatever you wanted into it.

I never regretted used the Known Worlds as a play area, and I sometimes miss pinning that map up on the wall in the gaming area for the players and I to soak in no matter what else was going on.

* Although, apologies to Bruce Heard, Alphatia jarred me. It was like panning back from a small house in the countryside and revealing it's 100 feet from a skyscraper. The whole "it's just off the map to the right" thing felt wrong. Across a fairly large ocean would have worked beautifully for me, though, so that's where I put a similar land in my own games.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

My DF Game in 11 Numbers, and 1000 Posts

Felltower started as an unnamed Dungeon Fantasy game.

It didn't start with a megadungeon, although I decided very early on to use one instead of just throwing my players at GURPS-converted AD&D and Rolemaster dungeons.

The game was really meant to give us something to fool around with until we got bored with it, and moved on to other things games. A good default fallback, perhaps, from playing boardgames and card games - something we could just come back to when we couldn't decide what to play. It was a way to ensure the gaming group kept getting together on a schedule and not on a "maybe next month?" basis. After all, we'd been friends for years but all lived scattered far apart from each other, and without a regular game it was getting hard to make sure we still saw each other. So we started played DF back in 2011, first with a playtest of DFA1, then a quick re-boot using what we learned to set up a "real" game.

Here we are in 2015, still playing.

It's lasted beyond my expectations. Not my imagination - there are levels above and below places they'd explored, things north, south, east, and west of the dungeon they'd been raiding, and monsters and treasures as yet unencountered and untouched despite being in place (or in my head) since before the game began. They still haven't visited other worlds or fought dinosaurs or swam in lakes of coins after slaying truly horrid monsters. They may, yet - or may not. It's so heavily player driven I can't tell you if those things will happen, only that it's possible they could.

Remember my "Felltower in 11 Numbers?" post?

Here is my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Game in 11 Numbers.

1 - Number of GMs to run the game.

2 - number of sessions we've set the game aside temporary to play something else - Gamma Terra, run by andi jones.

4 - Most characters run by one player (andi, with Fuma/Kulloch/Christoph/Asher).

5 - Number of races featured as PCs (Dwarf, Gnome, Goblin, Halfling, Human).

5 - total number of game sessions missed by Vryce's player. This does include the Honus Solo Adventure.

6 - total number of players with names pronounced John/Jon, Mike, or Andy. Yes, three names cover 50% of the group. We're hoping our friend Johnny joins and tips the three-way tie into a clear John/Jonathan victory.

9 - total number of different templates used to make characters (Artificer, Barbarian, Cleric, Holy Warrior, Knight, Martial Artist, Scout, Thief, Wizard).

11 - total number of different players to play in at least one game session.

46 - number of sessions in the same dungeon. Also, number of sessions in a row in the same dungeon.

55 - total number of sessions to date.

1,000 - number of posts on this blog as of this one. I've been a bit more prolific than I'd expected.

Here is to 55 more game sessions with these guys. Hopefully they finish the orcs off before then!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Real Sword-Chucks

Thanks to Ken Clary, one of the GURPS Martial Arts playtesters, for sending this along.

It's a Polish martial artist who made, you guessed it:

sword chucks!

Well, technically, they're knife nunchaku.

Is this real, or a good fake? For game purposes, who cares? It's good enough that when someone says, how the heck does your character wield sword-chucks without killing himself, you can point to Kacper Borowski.

I am compelled to mention that GURPS has stats for sword-chucks, in a box of cinematic weapons on p. 223 of GURPS Martial Arts. Largely thanks to Ken Clary and Sean Punch, but there you have it. The cinematic weapons box strikes reality critically once again!

Friday, February 6, 2015

DF Magic Item abuse & possible solutions II

So running with some more ideas for what to do about the old "Maintain for free" item becoming a group-effect-eternal-buff, which I'd started thinking over yesterday.

Idea 4) Create a cheaper, "always on" version of buff-type magic items. That way it's much cheaper to buy an Always On Missile Shield item than an item that allows you to put on lots of Missile Shields on people.

After all, it's not a big problem if 5 people each buy an Always On Missile Shield item, but it's potentially annoying if 1 person buys a Power 2 Missile Shield item and puts M.S. on 5 people, and that it's cheaper than Always On to do so.

One idea I had is to make it 50% of the cost of an item that is 0 to Maintain for such items.

Power 2 (1000) and Missile Shield (400) = 1400, but an Always On Missile Shield item would cost 700. It wouldn't cast the spell, just work. It would still be 400 for an item that lets you cast it. A Dark Vision item would be Power 2 (1000) and Dark Vision (400) = 1400, or also 700. A Walk on Air item would be 750 - it's 3 to cast, but 2 to maintain, and the base item is 500. None of those seem unfair, really.

Idea 5) Items can't even try to cast a spell if their base skill is under 15, and spells on are -1 to base skill. So a Missile Shield-15 item is effectively one target. A Missile Shield-20 item is 6 targets, but costs 3x as much, and the availability is much smaller (Power 20 items taking essentially a circle of master enchanters with Enchant-25, not just a circle of professional-level enchanters with Enchant-20).

Idea 6) Only mages can use items that cost FP, except for Blocking spells. If it costs FP to use it, and it's not a Blocking spell, you need Magery.

In other words, magic items for non-mages are restricted to:
- Always On items.
- Self-powered items (ones with charges, FP reserves, etc. - some of which Joseph Mason suggested yesterday, and which exist in DF canon and in my game - Dryst's Wand of Electricity works this way.)
- Items with spells fully free to cast and maintain (for example, an item that lets you cast a spell at 0 to cast, 0 to maintain.)

Of course, some items that fall into one or more of those categories are still Mages Only, by dint of including Mages Only spells.

Idea 7) Add "Only affects the wearer" to just about any buff spell item. So you can put it on yourself at cost, but not on your friends. A lot of spells have this already - this would just expand it to more.

I have to admit, I really like the idea of a combination of 4 and 6.

4 would mean there is much cheaper access to Always On items, so it solves the whole "It costs a zillion bucks for a Dark Vision ring" problem by coming up with a systematic cost.

6 would mean that non-mages can use a lot of items, but can't buy spellcasting off the shelf. And we have a lot of items like this.

But it would mean a last-minute change - I'll have to see if anything in the game currently violates this. I don't think so, but it any do it's a problem. I'd have to do both in order to do 6, because Vryce already bought and paid for his item. It's fine to say, you get 50% of your money back and it's Always On.

Of course, 6 means it's fine to buy an item and hand it off to the mage to put the spells on people. But that's kind of a niche protection thing - the mage is still the only way to provide magical protection for multiple people. Of course this means the mage can give everyone Missile Shield, or Flight, or whatever for free and maintain it the whole time, but that happens now. That's not a change. It's just charging money to offload some of the cumulative spells on penalty to an item for specific spell.

Idea 7 would be pretty trivial - if it's a buff, it's by default "wearer only." That would invalidate zero items in my game. It would be last minute, but it would do the job pretty neatly.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

DF Magic Item abuse & possible solutions

One thing I allow in my DF game is ordering custom magic items. This includes ones with the Power enchantment, which can allow for "always on" or items that cast spells that are free to maintain once cast.

This has led to a concern. With sufficient access to defensive, buff spells in magic items usable by non-mages, powered with the Power enchantment, you can get a potentially abusive effect.

For example, Vryce has ordered a Missile Shield item with Power 2. Pricey, but once it arrives, he can put Missile Shield on himself for 3 FP, 0 to maintain.

But that's not really the issue. The problem is that he could put the same spell on another party member on a 14 or less. Another for 13 or less. Still another on a 12 or less. And so on - only a -1 for each spell on, and 0 cost to maintain, this reasonably means 5-7 PCs with Missile Shield on, for free, with no real penalty. After all, the -1 per spell accrues to someone who doesn't care, and the failures would occur in town, when it's fine to rest and cast and cast again until you succeed on all of them. Luck can take care of any Critical Failures, even if I only start the clock on regeneration of Luck at the time they enter the dungeon.

We've always ruled that magic item penalties for spells "on" accrue to multiple castings, but only on the item.

Now, I feel like DF is the place to have ridiculous abuses. But I also know my players find some ridiculous abuses to be fun-killers. After all, this is a few investments away from everyone being Missile Shielded, everyone being Invisible, everyone using Walk on Air, everyone having Haste +2 for free the whole trip, and so on. So I offered some suggestions for curbing the abuse. My players had some comebacks, which I'll also discuss below.

Idea 1) Only mages can use magic items that let you cast spells on someone other than the user. So if the party wizard has a Missile Shield bracelet, he can use it to cast on others. The knight wouldn't be able to.

Impact of change: Minor, but it also means you can't have, say, a Scout with an attack spell item.

Player reply: just means they'd give the item to the mage. Better to have magic items accrue penalties to other items or other spells used by the caster. For example, -1 for every 2 spells instead of -1, so magic items merely defray penalties instead of offloading them entirely.

Idea 2) Power is the total per item, not per casting. So Missile Shield (5/2) with Power 2 means one casting at 3, 0 to maintain, a second casting at 5/2, a third at 5/2, etc.

Impact: Items are much more limited.

Player reply: Weakens magic items too much. Generally, I agree. Power is pricey, and if all it does is reduce one casting, there is a real limitation built in but no corresponding cost reduction. Something like this would help.

Idea 3) Luck can't re-roll spell failures. This one hasn't really come up, at least not recently, so it wouldn't undermine anyone (Dryst wants Luck to avert critical hits, he's already got a way to avoid critical failures.) But it would mean it's risky to load up a party with a bunch of items.

Impact: Medium, I think. Major when it comes up, but that'll be uncommon.

Player reply: Hoses people who want to force re-rolls on Critical Successes against them. Might work if we limited it to just not re-rolling magical item spell rolls.

One thing I decided to just do, though, is say that any Critical Failure on a magic item spell casting instantly, and automatically, cancels all spells up based on that magic item. An 18 would have even more additional bad effects, but all of them would revoke the spell effects. That would discourage pushing things.

The real question is, how much is it fun to limit magic item abuse? Of course, powerful magic items will be out there. Off-the-shelf items, though, might be worth restricting to avoid the "all buffs, all the time" issue.

Any other suggestions out there? We're just running through a bunch trying to figure out what's a the right balance of fun and abusive.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

All Hail Gorillicus the Great

During the resolution of downtime in my DF game, Al Murik chose to go carousing with Vryce. He picked up an extra rumor defaulting Carousing and rolling well.

The end result was that some old guy sought out Al and made him an offer. He said, "Hey, I'll trade you this piece of gold I got - I found it under Felltower almost fifty years back." He wanted 2 gp in return for that 1 gp.

He should have asked for more - I bet he'd have gotten it.

Vryce plunked down the coins and took it.

What they bought was a worn gold coin, with a ape head wearing a crown in profile on one side, and some weird writing on the back.

Gift of Letters let Dryst read it - it said, "All Hail Gorillicus the Great."

I asked Dryst's player, "Do you?"
"Hail Gorillicus the Great?"
He declined. He probably remembers that guy who kneeled before Demogorgon when told to.

Ancient History for 1000 years told them the coin had sat for years in Stericksburg in a coin stash; before that it was in a humanoid's hoard in Felltower. Before that, it was in the palm of intelligent looking ape, and there was a flash of a sunny sky, swaying trees, and columned buildings of some design. That's all they saw.

But they still have the coin, and lots of questions.

Is this some kind of megadungeon red herring? Not a chance. I'll tell you that for nothing.

The players opined that this is the Planet of the Apes, after the apes were killed off by humans. They'll find a Statue of Ape Liberty, blown up in the sand. Either that or humans are the apes who lost their hair from the chemotherapy necessary to get rid of the radiation sickness from the ape-nuke-war.

Not the coin, but close!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Megadungeon "best" practices XIV

A couple more "best" practices from my experience mapping and running a megadungeon. For the rest of the series, click here.

Mark the Connections on the Map and the key.

Like it says. On each map, mark where the connections go to with numbers.

For example, you have stairs down on level 6, in room 45.
Unmarked stairs? Bad.
Stairs marked "to level 7"? Mediocre.
Stairs marked "to 7-5" or "to 7, rm 5" where 7-5 is room 5 on level 7? Excellent.

On the map of level 6, you want it to say "to 7-5." On level 7, mark the stairs up "to 6-45."

In the key, Room 7-5 should have a note saying "stairs up to 6-45" and conversely 6-45 should have "stairs down to 7-5."

If you're using a digital key, this will allow a quick "Find" for connections. On a paper key, it'll save you some shuffling. Done right, you won't need to spend time dealing with connections but smoothly go to the new location.

Write Down Small Details on the Map

I know some like to put lots of information on the map, and basically dispense with the key. I find I don't like that, because I always want unlimited room to expand on the detail and I don't want to look in two places. But it's a very good practice to mark small variations (exact widths of tunnels, visual cues in the area, presence of tracks or dampness or dropped lightstones) right on the map. It'll make your life easier both immediately (when the party turns back and doubles back on their own paths and you need to re-describe things) and in the long run (when they return.) This information doesn't need to make it to the key because it's only relevant when you're looking at the map anyway.

You want the map and key to support each other, but not have two sets of overlapping information you have to merge live, or have to keep updating.

Monday, February 2, 2015

More purple worms

Here are a few more of the pictures of the Purple Worms from yesterday's session, all courtesy of Tom.

 photo PurpleWorm3s_zpsb2b323f6.jpg
Scond attack, but before the ledge started to collapse.

 photo PurpleWorm6s_zps4cd44a10.jpg
You can see we taped a Bones fire sphere to one's head as it's on fire.

 photo PurpleWorm7s_zps0e8abf59.jpg
Vryce and Dryst, triumphant, but the ledge has collapsed and the second worm is still threatening Al Murik.

Click on any, as usual, to see a bigger version.

Both of these purple worms are Reaper Legendary Encounters pre-paints. I bought one at Timewarp Comics & Games on a lark, because it was pretty cheap. That was one of the things that made me say, I need to run a DF game. I bought another, later, either there or online. But I've had both for a few years, carefully packed so even an accident glance at my clear mini transport case wouldn't let you see the worms. They were a surprise except for the fact that "giant purple worms" is a D&D thing my players probably expected at some point. That I had minis ready to go? Never came up.

I statted to the mini, so the worms are SM+5, 12 yards long, about 4' diameter (and can extend their mouths to twice that), and rear up to strike like giant cobras might. They're lethal if they hit, but like all "normal" animals, they aren't really well suited to armed, armoured, and magically protected prey. Still, hit = death made for tense turns. One critical hit on a Luck-less character or a critically missed Dodge and it's time to think of what you want to run next. Swallowed characters get a free constriction attack against them and not much they can do to stop it except pray their friends kill the worm and carve them out.

I've been tempted to pick up more of these minis, especially at under $2.50 for unpainted ones (I can see these painting up fast.) But I don't need-need more, and I can get away with rows of dice if three show up again next time.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Session 55, Felltower 46 - Purple Worm, Purple Worms

February 1st, 2015

Weather: Cold, cloudy, but with a snowstorm threatening.

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Al Murik, dwarven cleric (270 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (391 points)
Vryce, human knight (468 points)

Still in town:
Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (250 points)
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (265 points)
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)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)

We started, as always, in Stericksburg. We only had a trio of players, and they decided they'd be better off chancing the "water entrance" - the stream that feeds underground from the mountain into the Silver River - instead of raiding the orcs overland. With that in mind, they checked to see what potions were available. There were only 6 water breathing potions available, so they decided not to bring any NPCs at all - even Raggi! Raggi's Roughnecks are growing up and leaving the nest.

They gathered rumors - including Reverend Al, who went drinking all week with Vryce. Lots of rumors, including one about the source of all mana for the area being buried under Felltower (Dryst: "That's mine."), a giant monster sleeping beneath Felltower ("That's mine, too"), one about how dragon's blood can power spells, and a few others. Then they set out.

In the downtime, Al improved his swimming (must have been cold practice), and Dryst learned to swim ("Under protest.") and picked up the spell Breathe Water. That all taken care off, they crossed the river, went through the slums avoiding folks begging for jus' a few silvers to get bread and milk before the snow hits, and then went downstream. They found the spot and sent in a Wizard Eye to scout once it was ruled that it could "swim" at 1/5 its flying speed. Why not. We ruled out casting Swim on it after realizing that allows a huge swath of spells to modify the Wizard Eye for game-changing effects.

In any case, the eye was sent after Dryst put Dark Vision on.

They worried, legitimately, about razor fish, armored sharks, murky water after seeing the waste-choked Silver River (I joked, "the water is remarkably clear - it's only -8 to vision rolls!"), and the existence of all sorts of subterranean aquatic life. Also about dead-ends and distance.

The eye plowed slowly through the water, thanks to the steady current coming from the subterranean feeder. The water was clear - it's pure at its source - and only some carp eyed the eye and didn't molest it. It went up about 50 yards of fully subterranean tunnel that ranged from 3-5' wide/tall (the shape varied) before there was an air layer above. Dryst surfaced the eye. He found a tunnel, and his eye scouted up the tunnel for about a quarter-mile of slowly rising uneven, slick stone. It came to a crevice that split the tunnel, just short of a wider opening. They decided it was worth checking the stream further, so the eye was brought back and plunged into the stream again. A short distance further up the tunnel choked down to about 7-8' accross but only a foot or so high. The scouting was abandoned as it wasn't something they could adventure up.

The party was magicked up with Breathe Water spells and plunged into the frigid stream (Note to self: I forgot to inflict the FP costs for cold water.) They swam up against the current, and that netted out to about two minutes or so of swimming, guided only by Dryst and his Dark Vision. They swam against the current but made solid progress and reached the air-filled tunnel. There they rested, while Dryst created servants and light stones.

They got dried off-ish and headed in, marching about a quarter mile slowly up the climbing tunnel, carefully picking their way up the slick stones and uneven floor. It was tiring and slow, but they didn't rush and made it safely. The crevice was crossed with Walk on Air (and Vryce doing a jump, and missing by 1' but the spell made that safe.)

Past it, the group found a large round cavern opened up, with a 20' steep-sided pit in the middle surrounded by a 7-9' wide ledge that crawled around both sides. It looked natural but treacherous as the floor was still slick and uneven. They heard scraping and slithering noises. Vryce took a lightstone and hucked it into the pit. It bounced and came to a rest against a tube-shaped segmented purple-ish something that started moving. In moments it covered the stone, and then moments later exposed it, showing a long black spike for a tail. A purple worm!

The group started into action, readying for the worm as it reared up and rushed them. Al threw his axe but it dodged, and Dyrst Great Hasted and Vryce and Al put Shield on him. The worm mistakenly targeted a servant and wasted a second destroying it. Vryce went to work and attacked. It turned on him, but began Dodging the worm's bites and chopping it for at least a hundred points of basic damage over a few seconds. It went berserk, and charged. Instead of using its distance it came in close, and bit and slammed Vryce over and over. He dodged the bites, once forced to use Luck to avert a 4, but couldn't stop the slams from putting him down. Even so, in relatively short order he was able to regain his feet, and keep attacking the worm until it suddenly dropped. The whole group moved in, to deal finishing blows. Bad move - the worm began to thrash crazily, sending them all flying but without serious hurts. When it stopped, they decided to sit down right there and rest.

Sometimes, when the ref says, "you want to sit down right where you had a noisy battle with a giant monster and rest?" the answer is, "Just kidding, we meant we want to retreat a few hundred yards, put a crevice between us, and not come back out until we're sure any threat has died down."

Within 5 minutes, their rest was interrupted - two more purple worms irrupted from the stony pit floor and charged the group.

We rolled initiative, and pretty much anything but a 1 would win initiative for the group. Vryce's player rolled a one.

These worms fought a little more cagily, since they didn't take the bait of created servents and get whacked into a frenzy. They reared up and snapped in and bit then pulled back. Before Dryst or Al could buff him up, Vryce was bit by one of the worms, critically. He had to use Luck to avert that. Not long after the other worm bit him and he failed to Dodge. It dealt a solid bite, but luck for Vryce, it inflicted just a few damage shy of enough CP to achieve an automatic swallow. It picked him up and reared back, and began to shake Vryce back and forth. The other worm plowed right through the ledge and destroyed a section of it on its way to attack.

It attacked Dryst and Al. Dryst tried to run interference, and it mostly worked until he put Blur on and Al became the prime target over the blurry little speck that is Dryst. But with a Shield spell, he was able to keep the worm from getting a solid hit on him and mostly got knocked around by the impact on his magical protection. Dryst put a flash of Alchemist's Fire into the worm and lit it up, which infuriated it. Dryst started in on Great Haste and then Walk on Air and heading to Vryce.

Vryce, in the meantime, used his Wrestling skill to fend off the worm's attempts to improve its bite and swallow him. This wasn't easy with 26 CP on him, but even so, he managed to get a few sword blows on the worm and start to reduce its hold. Yes, this is ridiculous, but Vryce is ST 20, Weapon Master, has a fine balanced highly magical sword, and Two-Handed Sword-27. The worm tried re-biting but failed a lot, fended off some attacks with its strength and grip, and stabbed Vryce with its poison stinger (to no avail, as Vryce has great vigor.) Eventually, he cut the worm up enough to get it to drop him. Just then, Dryst moved up and joined the fray, Great Hasting Vryce. It didn't help much - as he lay prone Vryce was re-bit and picked up, this time for 28 CP (yet again, a whisker from automatic swallowing). But the worm didn't managed to do much more. It kept him off the ground and stung him, but Vryce wasn't heavily wounded. Vryce kept striking at it once hasted, and the more than doubling of his potential attacks told - and AOA (Determined) to land a few terrific blows helped. He managed to cut his way out of the grip of the worm again and it dropped him. On the fall down he cut it again, then landed and got to one knee. Dryst used Shocking Touch for 6d and luckily stunned the worm.

In the meantime, the "dead" one from the first fight started to raise its head and twitch. Uh-oh.

The stunned worm recovered almost immediately, but the pause was enough to let Vryce get up and get in five solid blows, wounding it horribly. In a few seconds, it was down. Vryce and Dryst rushed the tail of the one attacking Al, who in the meantime had lost his pick and ended up having to punch the worm (it didn't hurt it). Vryce sliced it to shreds with Gram while Dryst put a lightning blast into it from his Wand of Electricity.

Once it was down, they gave it room to death-throe and it did, and then they went to town on the first worm again.

Once it was hacked up badly, Vryce did the same to the other two. They then set one on fire using four flasks of oil and the others got a two-minute Create Fire treatment as the group waited back by the crevice.

The air got smokey and thin, but it held up.

As they rested, they hear soft footfalls and muffled, guttural, deep bass voices. They didn't last, though.

Once they'd rested a good bit (enough to be mostly recovered) and healed their injuries, they investigated.

The worms seemed really dead. The tunnels they'd chewed up had collapsed in on themselves.

There were some "worm castings" that Dryst insisted they search. Vryce agreed, but only with Earth Vision. He saw nothing useful within, but instead found that there was a seem of minerals - maybe gemstones - near one tunnel. Dryst was called on to shape it out, and they recovered what Al said looked like emeralds.

This done, they rested a little more and started to investigate the caverns.

They ended up winding their way around a long tunnel, which was getting less wet and slick but still was bad footing and difficult to traverse.

About another hour or so was spent winding around tunnels and mapping, finding a lot of nothing. But they did find a lot of passages to explore later, a big "sinkhole" that dropped maybe 70-80' down to a cave below, and a large cave with a ceiling-lurking kite-like monster. "A ceiling trapper" is what I think they dubbed it. It crushed a servant sent in to scout, but fled upward when Vryce tried to cut it. He followed it up, keeping to the side, and sliced it after Dryst lured it off the ceiling with a Lightning spell. It fled further and they weren't able to see it again even after they walked around scanning the floor and ceiling with See Secrets and Keep Eyes. They found no loot and made their way back to the corridors.

Once there, they mapped a little more and called it a day (bad weather was coming in real life, and it was almost ending time anyway.)

It took a while in game, but they made their way back, swam to the surface, and headed to town.

The only loot were the raw chunks of uncut emeralds, but they turned out to fetch 5000 sp. Not bad - enough for full XP for all but nearly-500 point Vryce, and enough to pay some of the potion costs (and they ended up not using even one of them.) All in all, a good trip - but a hard way in to a dangerous area of the dungeon, well below where they have been before.


What level was this? I don't reveal my numbering.

Vryce's player said that when the worm grabbed him, he thought it was over for Vryce. But, he thought, that's okay. He wouldn't have done anything differently, it was just rolling poorly on initiative and that kind of thing happens. He survived through a lot of good rolling by him, terrible damage rolling by me for the worms, and the sheer difficulty to kill him built into the character after a few years and more than 50 sessions of play.

The worm's poison was HT-4, which we joked was "Ah, the standard penalty." Venoms in my game after often trivial, but just as often very potent with lethal effects. "Roll HT-5 or make a new guy!"

At the end of the session, Vryce had enough points to buy off -10 of his -15 of sold-back Speed. He's now down to -40 points in disadvantages and up to Speed 7 and Move 8. That's a +1 Dodge and +1 to his Light Encumbrance move.

Not a lot happened beside the long purple worm fight, but it was scary stuff. If Vryce wasn't such a monster, and if I hadn't been rolling utterly awful damage (very few strikes even reached average damage - I even rolled 10 damage on 4d+2 twice) it would have been a potential TPK. Average bite damage for the worms could have swallowed any of them whole and only Luck averted a few Vryce-ending criticals.

Fun stuff. I was wondering how the worms would do. They did okay.

Snowy trek in Felltower?

Today is our bi-monthly Felltower gaming session.

The plan seems to be to trek to the north and raid the orcs overland. But I use the real, outside weather.

So it's around freezing, the ground is covered with snow and ice chunks.

Lucky for me, DF16 covers:

- overland move rates
- snow (it puts you at 0.20 x hourly Move)
- snowshoes (puts you back to 0.50 x hourly Move)
- combined terrain (it's snowy, thickly-forested hills and snowy mountains)
- hours of movement (8, 12, or 24, depending on Survival and so on)
- fatigue for marching

It's all pretty straightforward, too.

The alternative is swimming in to the so-called water entrance. The abbreviated underwater combat rules in Yrth Fighting Styles has me covered there! Nicely, those rules take a little out of the throwaway line in the the Swim spell that can be read to make water effectively into a combat non-issue instead of improving your ability to function there like a native.

I like this kind of stuff being there. I could make stuff up, but it's nice to have a consistent rules base to fall back on when I know ahead of time what's coming up.
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