Thursday, April 30, 2015

Judo Throw house rule

As written, Judo Throw has two mechanics in GURPS. One is attack-based, the other Quick Contest-based. Not liking two systems for one thing, this is how I've been running this in my DF game:

Offensive Judo Throw

Two attacks are needed:

1) Grapple successfully.
2) Attack to throw. If you hit, and the opponent fails to defend (with any legal defense), your opponent falls.

Defensive Judo Throw

One Parry and one attack is needed:

1) Parry using Judo.
2) Step into close combat and Attack to throw. If you hit, and the opponent fails to defend (with any legal defense), your opponent falls.

And that's it. Essentially, if you have contact with a foe from a parry or your own grapple, you can attempt a throw. It's always an attack. Any defense is valid, but generally if you have grappled a foe you've restricted a lot of defense options (Shields are a liability in close combat, Parry is an issue in close combat for many weapons, you can't Retreat while grappled, etc.) Offensive throws are, in practice, a little easier because you've stepped in close combat already and grappled, nullifying most defenses or at least limited them.

But that's it - one method for both throws.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

There were/are Pathfinder novels?

I see that I'm like four years late to this, but I had no idea these things even existed until I found this on the "free books" pile at work.

I grabbed it. I don't know if I'll like it, but at least two of my gamers will give it a read.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

More notes on Cold Fens 3

Here a few more notes from our last game session, Cold Fens 3.

Oops. The PCs finished off the bandits, and then killed off the wounded. Right after that, they realized they had no way to identify a) the missing Count's men sent to rescue the kidnapped townspeople or b) the missing townspeople. By the time they searched their enemies and realized the swordsmen had matching weapons, matching armor, matching tabards (albeit worn a bit), and matching symbols on their clothes . . . they'd already murdered the wounded.

They'd find out later, when they brought back the swordsman's leader's sword, that the wielder was Sir Balzar, a knight in the employ of the count. His family payed full price for the sword, and the PCs probably didn't mention how they found it.


Double Oops. The PCs finished off the wounded before they realized we needed to finish the game session and they needed to get the heck out of the dungeon . . . but didn't have time to find food. But they needed some.

Nice GM time. I told them I could assume they questioned one of the fatally wounded and got him to cough up the location of the food stores.

So, naturally, they had all sorts of additional questions for the guy. Nope. One benefit per freebie. Had they remembered first, and didn't get this as an "it's late and you clearly forgot" gimme, they could have done whatever they wanted.

Bandit Survivors? There is probably about a half-dozen left. Two spearmen escaped, it's possible at least four archers escaped, and there is at least one wizard. What will happen with them? Hard to say.

Insect Swarms. Just to make my life easier, I've abstracted nuisance encounters. Biting flies and mosquitoes, rats that gnaw at your feet in the dark, spiders that bite, etc. - they show up on the wandering monster table as a big chunk of it (in fact, only 2 in 6 of the rolls are for remotely dangerous encounters.) When they show, it's either 1d-2 or 1d-3 of FP damage. That's it. You can't recover those FP without food and rest, representing a toll of alertness draining and blood loss and misery and tiredness. Most of the time this doesn't do anything, but the group always has people down a few FP and you never know when that'll come bite you.

Plus it conveys the feeling of how much it sucks to get through a swamp, over and above actual lethality. Deep down, I've always thought the Wandering Damage Table was actually at its core a good idea, and implemented it in this manner for nuisance encounters.

Monday, April 27, 2015

DF Game, Session 61, Cold Fens 3

April 26th, 2015

Weather: Chilly, clear.

Characters (in the dungeon): (approximate net point total)

Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (270 points)
     Koric, human guard (~70 points)
     Orrie, human guard (~70 points)
Bjorn Felmanson, human barbarian (252 points)
El Murik, dwarven cleric (260 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (254 points)
Hannibal the Flammable, human wizard (254 points)
Rahtnar the Vegan, dwarven martial artist (254 points)

In Swampsedge:
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)

We picked up in Swampsedge. The group gathered some rumors, include one that certain patches of swamp water will turn you undead (prompting a lot of unsafe sipping of water by Gerald), one about how it was unseasonably misty, cold, and foggy in the swamp, and two words - Swamp Apes. Oh, and root-men. Man-like root monsters.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cold Fens summary preview

We played another session of DF Cold Fens. It took a long time to wrap up, so I don't have time to write a summary tonight.


- a nearly disastrous start took a toll on the PCs, with missed Survival rolls, Boating rolls, and accidentally camping next to a "swamp cow" (read, "catoblepas") lair. Oops.

- Two words: Leaping leeches.

- they met Rahtnar, whose player came late, at the temple. He had smooth sailing with excellent Boating and Survival rolls and no random encounters.

- a knock-down, drag-out fight with the bandits.

- Asher actually rolling better than minimum damage on two rolls!

- actual teamwork and formations!

- a profitable trip.

A long but fun and exciting session.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Gene Wolfe, and GURPS New Sun

I saw this article linked over at Akratic Wizardry. I rarely post about fiction here, because this is my RPG blog - it's got to have some immediate and direct connection to gaming, like detailing a cool dungeon or, better yet, having a game book attached to it. This post has that.

Sci-Fi’s Difficult Genius

It's about Gene Wolfe, know for his New Sun books and the Latro books (I know of two.)

Shadow of the Torturer is a book I remember starting, and then halting, and then re-starting. I brought a set of the series with me to Japan, since I found it much easier to concentrate on dense works when I surrounded by a non-English language. To this day when I think of scenes from "New Sun" I have them connected to vivid memories of certain places in Japan - reading in my apartment, reading while waiting for a train in Aizuwakamatsu, reading while sitting in school between classes. I wouldn't read the fourth book in the series until I returned to America, when I was able to track it down. I'd shortly after pick up the Latro books, and enjoy them as well.

I didn't find those books by chance, though.

I wouldn't have picked these books up, or persisted in them, if it wasn't for GURPS New Sun. I read that book back in 1999, but I couldn't make heads or tails of it. But it provided a useful incentive to read the New Sun books. I'm a credited playtester on the book, mostly due to just relentless reading and rules checking. I didn't know the New Sun, or Gene Wolfe, at all when I did that. My role was just making sure the implementation was sound.*

GURPS is precisely the right system to express what's encountered in the New Sun series. It's probably an odd place to play a game, given the very closed nature of the story. But the spooky, creepy, and unsettling elements of the story (such as the alzebo and the notules) are there in GURPS terms to port elsewhere. The stylish elements (Terminus Est, the Torturer's Grip, the odd high-tech gear) are ready to steal as well.

GURPS New Sun is one of the few 3e books I keep out and ready on my scarce shelf space. It's something I will suddenly feel inspired to pull down and look at, just like my copies of the Wolfe books.

So go read that article. And if you haven't, take the time to read the deeply fascinating New Sun books. You may not love them, but you're unlikely to regret giving them a go.

* Something I did for Planet of Adventure, too, which meant I read the whole series with an odd sense of deja vue. It's often extremely useful to have someone familiar with the rules but not with the material, because you simply read what's there without preconceptions of what you think it implies.

Friday, April 24, 2015

More Russian Knightly Combat. On Ice.

When I posted that M-1 craziness, I forgot to post some real Russians in armor whacking people.

No sword? No problem.

Remember, it's club, club, club, drink, kill with a bucket. I didn't see either of those M-1 dudes doing that last bit, and I'm not sure how you have a truly Russian battle without a little drinking out of buckets.

I just love the happy music playing when the Russian heroes are flailing away at the Teutonic Knights.

(No subtitles on that one, sorry)

If you've never watched Alexander Nevsky, take the time and do it. It's one of the finest, if not the finest, works of Sergei Eisenstein's canon. You'll finish it and want to repel Nazi invaders of the Motherland. Not only that, but it's got a stark, sharp match with the Sergei Prokofiev score. And if you've seen Conan the Barbarian and marveled at the evil looking bad guys and excellent musical score, this is a good one to look back on.

In my opinion neither would have happened without this - there are a lot of unspoken homages to this masterpiece in that one. Maybe not this one, though. It just goes to show, if you're going to steal, steal from the best!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

We're Lucky Because We Ran Away!

I wrote a couple of posts on fleeing, or the lack of fleeing, and Archon Shiva has take my general issue and my musing on a rule switch ("What if fleeing always works?") and turned it into total awesome.

Defeat and Running Away

Basically, run away in defeat? All your rolls have Luck on them.

It's got all the elements I like in a rule:

- it re-purposes existing mechanics in a logical way.
- its intent is clear.
- its mechanics are clear.
- it doesn't try to be rules-lawyer proof, but instead lays the implementation and removing of abuse squarely in the hands of the GM.

It's also a rule that gives a game mechanical benefit to actions taken that the GM wants to be a valid option. You're luckier when you run. If you run away to gain a larger benefit, it doesn't help. If you've got some doubt about if you're fleeing for advantage or fleeing to get away, it doesn't help.

Not only that, but it's clear how you'd do this in other game systems if you chose to port the idea over.

Also, I like the "Cornered Prey" rule, which further encourages people to let foes escape.

The idea that you shouldn't back foes into a do-or-die situation, instead of aiming to put them there ("they're cornered, they can't retreat, and they can't win . . . so let's attack them!") and that winning is more important than massacring the defeated, is also a sound one.

At the Battle of Ravenna (April 11th, 1512), the French army under Gaston de Foix defeated the Spanish decisively, but de Foix himself was killed during an attack on some Spanish infantry who were retreating in good order. It's one of those painful moments in history - an excellent general died trying to turn an already-decisive victory into a decisive victory with a few more dead on the opposing side. There wasn't anything to win. It cost him everything and his side their best general. Having mechanics that make that a larger possibility is pretty interesting. It's something to see mechanics that encourage you, for your own good, to not do what should cost more than it's worth.

I also like the idea that, of course, if you try to game this ("We run into the dead end and await the orc charge!") the GM is probably going to say, "Oh, bad move. No luck, though, you did that to yourselves."

All in all, excellent stuff!

PSA: The Flayed King, free

Just a quick public service announcement - Tim Shorts, best known for The Manor and for rolling much-mocked ones on the S&W B-Team, has released a new product.

And at least for the moment, it is free.

Go check it out!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Russian Knightly Combat, er, MMA

Thanks to Vic "Bjorn" LaPira for forwarding this:

I mean, what the heck Russia? Seriously? M-1 is cementing its reputation in my head as "Like PRIDE used to be, except crazy."

Thanks to Vic for forwarding this story at ESPN, which is as close to mixing the hobbies I do (MMA, play RPGs) with the sports I watch (ice hockey, plus kickboxing and tennis when I can.)

These are blunt, and fairly flimsy, swords. But in case you wondering how being weighted down with armor would affect takedowns, etc. - not terribly. I love the bizarre mix of muay thai influenced kicks and spinning strikes, takedowns, and Filipino martial arts-looking sword strikes (especially what I learned as "the caveman" - the off-the-shoulder strike with the rear hand weapon.) It's no recreationist sport . . . but, yeah. Just watch it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Writing just ahead of the players

About 20 years back, I was running a small campaign. I had been running a large campaign, but a near-TPK in A1-4 took out more than half of the PCs and half or more of the players. Two guys held on to keep gaming, one of whom still plays in my game and one of whom drops in occasionally to join us as a guest star or for a short session (he played Caveman in Gamma Terra).

One thing about that game was that we'd play every day. We all had jobs, but when my two players would get off of work they'd come over and we'd play for a few hours. Every night.

When a blizzard came and shut down the state, and the roads were closed, they got their boots on and walked across town to game.

But as you might imagine, playing every day meant a lot of GM work. Basically I'd go to work in the morning, keep stirring over material in my head as I fiddled with statistics and so on for my day job, and then I'd write furiously on lunch. Then I'd go home, eat, and then run game.

Repeat day after day for weeks on end.

What made this interesting for me was that I didn't have time to sandbox the game. I couldn't write for all possibilities. But I didn't want to give the PCs no choices - although the situation then ended up in (drafted into a military campaign) meant I could at least partly determine the path. What I was able to do was decide in advance what was almost certainly the way they were going to go. Like perhaps jamming in music, or when you get that flow in a martial arts competition or practice, I just knew where they were going to go. I could lay out choices and then write to the choice I knew the players would make based on their PC's personalities and their goals. I was in a groove. The choices were real and legitimate, it's just that I knew which one they'd choose so I could detail that one and let the others slide.

I didn't know what would happen after the choice was made - lots of dice to be rolled, combats to be had, clever player actions to adjudicate. But I could stay a step ahead.

I kept that groove going until the game ended when the PCs made a succession of bad choices and ended up with a religious geas and the players decided it was time to start over.

Incidentally, it's the first time that this mini showed up and kicked butt.

These days, I've got enough of a luxury of time that I can stock an area and see how they go, but then, it was all knowing the situation, and being in a groove of knowing where my players would go. But I miss that feeling of perfect sync.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? Writing just ahead of the PCs, on a daily or near-daily basis, yet still legitimately giving people a choice? It's one of those times where everything was flowing. Have you had that?

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Party in LEGO

The party in LEGO.

 photo swampsedge-coldfens-2a_metal-vs-lego small_zpstxjfj8nv.jpg

They are Asher (with his weapons oddly reversed), Bjorn, Hannibal, and El Murik.

Photo and LEGOs courtesy of andi jones.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Notes, Casualties, and Mopping up: Cold Fens 2 Part II

Last session in the Cold Fens was just one big nasty brawl between the PCs and some bandits.

So how much damage did the PCs do to the bandits last session?

They engaged a group that - as far as they know - consisted of the following:

5 swordsmen in mail with bucklers and swords
1 swordsman leader
5 spearmen in leather with spears
1 spearman leader
5 bowmen in leather with regular bows
1 bowman leader
5 halberdiers in leather with dueling halberds, one with a peg leg thanks to session 1*.
1 axe-and-shield carrying halberdier leader
1 plate-armored swordsman (the leader?) aka Commodus/Marcus Aurelius/the Centurion/Crismus Bonus.
1 wizard

All in all, 26 bandits vs. 7 PCs, 2 NPCs (Korric and Orrie), 2 zombies, and a fire elemental. So 26 vs. 12, or roughly 2:1 odds, with most of the bandits being around the Korric-and-Orrie level of skill and ability. Still, they fought in units, generally fought fairly cautiously, and had some magical support. This gave the PCs, who started out fighting a little uncoordinatedly, a lot of trouble. They used a lot of the tactics I mentioned in a previous Melee Academy. Those worked really well when they were able to get local superiority, which happens in at least three big phases of the fight (swordsmen vs. zombies and elemental, spearmen vs. Asher, and halberdiers vs. Rahtnar). Despite only 2:1 odds they generally fought 4-6 vs. 1-2, until the PCs massed up.

After the last session, the PCs basically controlled the battlefield but couldn't stay to impose their will on it, thanks to the severe damage suffered by many of their members. The bandits fled, or at least retreated, and took their wounded with them. The PCs rounded up the enemy casualties near them, looted them, and left. No one mentioned dismembering bodies, or taking heads, or whatever, so they didn't do that. They did say yes to finishing the wounded, so no one down on their side of the battlefield lived.

Here is the damage the PCs are sure they did:

1 plate-armored swordsman (the leader?) aka Commodus/Marcus Aurelius/the Centurion/Crismus Bonus: Killed, legs cut off at the knees, armor and weapons stripped and taken.
5 spearmen and 1 spearman leader: All killed, no weapons or armor taken. At least two, possible three, burned to cinders.
1 axe-and-shield carrying halberdier leader: Killed, mail armor and axe taken. Potion of Strength taken.
3 halberdiers: Killed, halberds taken.
1 swordsman: Killed, mail armor and sword taken. Shield burned.

So that puts the bandits down 11 dead, between 3-5 of whom are badly dismembered or burned and probably can't come back usefully as zombies, which is a big concern the players have.

How about the wounded?

Most of the swordsman, and one of the halberdiers, and the swordsman leader, were taken out with leg or foot strikes. Some of them certainly will have been dismembered or crippled badly. It's clear the enemy has healing, but isn't able to fully heal all crippling injuries. They also put down the leader of the archers, but it's not clear if he was killed or not. If they nearly all spring back, the PCs still managed to inflict about 40-50% casualties on the group.

Third time is the charm?

Perhaps, we'll see! It's certainly been a painful slog for the PCs, but the bandits have suffered losses from contact each time - and more permanent losses.

* Clearly I mixed up the minis, as the guy I designated to have a peg leg wasn't the same mini that was dismembered in that way. Oh well. Maybe they switched clothes. And skin color. Oh well. Why I didn't double-check the pictures I don't know.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ways to Differentiate Melee Weapons In GURPS

Expanding a little bit on my "pointed swords relatively poor at thrusting should just do less impaling damage" idea buried in the comments on Thursday, here are some ways to make weapons functionally different. As in, ways to let them reflect relatively small changes in weapon design that can have a material difference on how they fight in battle.

Pretty much there are a few ways you can differentiate muscle-powered melee weapons on the actual tables - among them damage, damage type, reach, ST, cost, weight, parry. Buried in the weapon descriptions, though, there are more. All of these examples come from GURPS Low-Tech. This isn't exhaustive, or in order.

Throwability: Can you throw it effectively? That's such a big change it changes the name of at least one weapon (the Throwing Axe.)

Chinks in Armor: Some weapons target weak points well. The estoc and stilleto ignore -2 of the penalty to attack such weak points.

Fragility: Weapons made of fragile materials, such as the tebutje or macauhuitl, which wear out quickly against DR 2+.

Inflicts Defensive Penalty: The shotel is -1 to Parry or Block because its curved tip lets it stab around shields and parrying weapons. The entire category of flails does this too, to a lesser or greater extent.

Gets Stuck: Picks, barbed weapons, and most swing/impaling weapons have this feature. They go in, and do extra damage on the way out.

Hard to Disarm: Rondel daggers get this one - they're designed to pair up with locking gauntlets so you can't drop them or have them disarmed easily, so they resist disarms.

Armor: Some weapons have built-in armor, usually in the form of hand protection - the cutlass and pata have this.

Good at Disarms: Technically a table note, like Gets Stuck. But some weapons are especially good at disarms, and ignore the inherent penalty for using the move.

Remove Foe's Options: Partisans (and boar spears) have a crosspiece to let you ignore the optional rules for foes running up a spear (GURPS Martial Arts, p. 106).

Extra Attack Modes: For these, see LTC2. Some weapon variations have more ways to strike you due to hammer heads on the peens of picks and axes, axe heads on the backs of picks, spiked tips for stabbing, etc.

That's not an exhaustive list, but coupled with basic changes to the weapon, such as giving a sword bad at impaling lower basic damage (so it's functionally bad at impaling), or an excellent parrying weapons a Parry bonus, and so on, you have a lot of options to make weapon variations vary. And those matter a lot in combat, which is yet another thing I like about GURPS.

Friday, April 17, 2015

What I Like About Swords & Wizardry

It is Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day.

I play Swords & Wizardry with Erik Tenkar.

Why S&W?

Well, Tenkar chose it. He's the GM. But it's a choice I'm glad he made for three main reasons:

Simplicity - Really, it's not that complicated. Or complex. It's got a little more depth to the rules that what I saw in the white box D&D set, but not so much there is a lot to learn. It's heavily dependent on GM adjudication, but it's got some very simple systems for resolution that make it a breeze to run. The rules are well-written, too, so it's pretty clear what the intent and the wording are meant to have you doing.

It's a simplicity that makes for smooth additions to the system. If you want to add some detail to a specific area, you can. If you want to port over elements of other retro-clones or D&D, that's easy. Good example? Erik uses different stat bonuses. We roll with 13-15, 16-17, 18 for +1/+2/+3. Nothing else down the line needs to get changed. Perhaps it's just as easy in other retro-clones, but really, the more that is already there the harder it is to add something on without banging into unforseen consequences. S&W had just the right level of "enough to make play go smoothly" without getting fiddly just for the sake of getting fiddly.

Versatility - Do you like Attack Bonus-based combat and ascending AC? Me too! S&W supports that. Crossed your arms and scoffed at such new-school ruinations of all that is Gygaxian and Arnesonian about gaming? S&W does descending AC and table-based combat resolution.

There are a lot of natively-supported options in Swords & Wizardry. That's what I like about it. It's not even "as written except" but "as written." You can pick and go.

Flavor - Look at that cover art (all of them). Read that old text. Look at the way the monsters, items, and rules are written. It epitomizes the old-school feel without a lot of the old-school cruft that came from exploring new ground.

While I single it out for occasionally dipping into "don't tell me what you aren't" it is does what it intends to and does it well.

I'm glad that we're using S&W for our B-Team game.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Little GURPS Weirdnesses

There are some weird little bits in GURPS. Or at least, little bits I've always found weird. Here are two, plus a bonus musing.

Long Weapons & Occupied Hexes. You can attack through a friendly-occupied hex with a long weapon with no penalty, as this is part of the training with a long weapon.

This makes perfect sense for polearms, such as spears, halberds, and glaives. It makes some sense for two-handed swords, especially used to thrust. It makes pretty close to no sense at all for long one-handed weapons, like rapiers and jianns. So I sigh every time someone says, "Have the fencer stand in the back rank, she can stab through the front rank with her rapier!" I just can't see how this works without a lot of coordination by the front rank fighter, and even then, it's not as seamless as a two-handed overhand reach and stab down. It would probably make a huge amount of sense to say this rule only affects pole weapons and naturally two-handed swords while held in two hands (so you can't stick a second hand on your rapier for a long-distance stab.)

Thrusting (sword). Ever since Man-to-Man, GURPS has made the assumption that larger one-handed swords and all two-handed swords are, by default, blunt. Sharp ones are the exception.

I don't think that's true. But even if it is true, I think it would be so much easier if swords were assumed to be top-end models. So you'd have:

Broadsword ($600, thr+2/imp)
Blunt Broadsword ($500, thr+1/cr)

and so on for the other swords. It would save a lot of new player confusing, spare the "is it a thrusting sword?" questions on loot, every single time looting of swords happens, and save a lot of typing.

Small (weapon). Actually, on a related subject of names, I've had players complain about how heavy axes and maces are. Yet the weapon tables contain smaller versions. No one takes them, basically ever, because they want the biggest one with the highest damage. And then moan the weight is too high, historically or otherwise.

Which is probably true. But even if only a few 4 pound war axes and 5 pound maces were out there, it's worth including them on the weapon charts as actual historically available weapons if there were at least a few. I wonder, though, what if we renamed them?

Instead of:

Hatchet (2#, sw/cut)
Small Axe (3#, sw+1/cut)
Axe (4#, sw+2/cut)

Small Mace (3#, sw+1/cr)
Mace (5#, sw+2/cr)

If we had:

Hatchet (2#, sw/cut)
Axe (3#, sw+1/cut)
Heavy Axe (4#, sw+2/cut)

Mace (3#, sw+1/cr)
Heavy Mace (5#, sw+2/cr)


I think you'd have less complaints. "Hey, the heavy axe is really heavy!" Yeah, go figure. Or "I'll take a mace." "Want a heavier one?" "Nah, not worth it." instead of "Small mace? May as well take the normal one." The bottom end ones would still be heavy-ish, although not crazy - 24-28 oz tomahawks and hatchets are available for sale online, and covers and belt loops and such and rounding to save sanity would take care of a lot of that gap up to a round 2 pounds. And if you really need a Small Mace, use the Knobbed Club stats. A really big one? Go get a Gada or Maul. (Incidentally, the maul is only 14#. Know what we called the 16# sledgehammer at the gym I used to train at? The little sledgehammer.) Basically reset what the normal expected weapons are. Similarly you could do this with knives (make the small knife into Knife), although I see a lot of small knives anyway.

I'm sure I'd still get complaining (and probably will in the Comments section) that the weights are still too high. But I think they're close enough, reasonable, and you would see a lot more people using the "small" weapons if they were the normal, expected version instead.

ST and exceeding ST. Back in 3e, GURPS used to let you ignore the re-readying requirement on unbalanced weapons if you had +5 ST over the ST stat (then called MinST) over the weapon. In 4e, it's +50% over. That's nice, in that it's normalizing to ST 10 and then smoothly moving them up as the ST score of the weapon goes up. You got the same, say, Knockback, which was normalized to ST-2 instead of per 8 points of basic damage (something we tossed out years back in favor of just using straight-up ST or HP, which better represents difficulty shifting things with force and is way easier to deal with.)

But it's odd. A ST 12 weapon in 3e would need ST 17 to use without re-readying. ST 12 could lift 20% more than a ST 10 person. ST 17 could lift 70% more. But in 4e, a ST 12 person can lift almost 50% more than a ST 10 person, and ST 17 can lift almost 3x as much (and double that of the ST 12 person.) So in other words, in terms of raw lifting ability, raw ability to move weight around, 4e requires a lot more. I've wondered for a while if shifting that down (to 30% over, or merely +3 over ST in the interest of simplicity) would be better. It would bring the actual physical muscular strength needed to better control the weapon down to more reasonable levels. It wouldn't always work out to be exactly the same amount of lifting capacity change if you went with the plus, but it would be easier.

Those are just some little oddities that I see. Any that you folks want to comment on?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Talisman on my PC

I forgot, or maybe deliberately blocked out, how addictive Talisman is.

I bought the Humble Bundle Weekly Bundle with just enough for Talisman and the other two starter games.

My first taste of Talisman was playing at the original tiny location for Timewarp Comics & Games (the one across the street from where it is now). I played with some guys who would hang out at the shop. I remember my first game was just watching this one guy doing a death march to victory. We knew the basics of the rules, he knew them inside and out, and got a character who could shift Craft points to Strength and used that relentlessly to kill everything and just go win the game while the new guys were still floundering around the board not sure what was a good approach. Same guy would run a paladin in a one-shot I ran and be exactly the paladin everyone complains about - to solve a potentially impossible problem he chose to abandon his quest for a holy artifact and leave the equally LG priest he was helping to die and said that was how LG people would solve the problem. Lucky for me, he wasn't my regular player.
Anyway, despite that taste of Talisman, I always liked the game . . . and maybe it's a good thing I don't have a mobile version of it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Arnegar, aka the Centurion

This guy gave the PCs a pretty rough patch:

 photo swamps-edge-ep-2_pic-2_jerry-is-down s_zpskhftk4m5.jpg

That's him, lording it up over a fallen, ambushed Gerry.

I'm pretty sure, by the time this guy flew up to engage the PCs in Cold Fens 1 while Great Hasted, the player had elevated him to #1 threat. By Cold Fens 2 Part II, I think he'd gotten elevated to a death machine in plate, with DR 10-12+, massive skills, a raft of advantages, and so on. It doesn't hurt that I've used that mini before, but only for pretty tough special NPCs.

In the interest of him not being elevated in death into some kind of unstoppable super-zombie spoiled by a double leg chop, or a knight worthy of a massive party takedown, or the now-dead heart of the bandit force, without whom they are a shattered, empty shell, I figured I'd post him up here. He's basically a boosted-up Squire from DF15, with extra points on top to make him a worthy solo fighter.

Anyway, here are his stats, straight up. In the first fight, he used his potion, and had Great Haste. In the second, he didn't have any buffs that came up in the fight, but still used his Gem of Healing (which he'd kept in his left hand.)

Arnegar (ST 14 (1/2) DX 13 IQ 10 HT 13 HP 14 Will 13 Fearlessness 14 Per 11 FP 13 Speed 6.00 Move 4 SM +0 DR 6 (skull 10/8) Dodge 8+3 DB Parry 12+3 DB Block 12+3 DB. Fine Broadsword w/Puissance +1 (17): 2d+3 cut or 1d+4 imp; Large Shield (16): 1d+2 crush; Punch (15): 1d-1 cr, Reach C; Kick (13): 1d+1 cr, Reach 1; Traits: Born War Leader 2; Combat Reflexes, HPT, Shield Wall Training; Weapon Bond. Skills: Leadership-13. Tactics-13. Fine Thrusting Broadsword w/Puissance+1, $7400, 3 lbs. Large Shield DB 3 $90, 25 lbs. Plate Armor $4040, 89.5 lbs. Knife $40 1lb. Potion of Flying, Gem of Healing.

He's done up with the newest version of my combat writeup, so he doesn't have his skills and stats and disads listed. I played Arnegar as if he had mild Overconfidence, though.

He's good, but he was at best a one-on-one worthy foe. Not a boss. Not a match for either of the front line fighters heads-up. He benefited from a couple of great rolls in the first session. He also fought with a pretty careful approach - mostly swings to the body, Deceptive Attack -1 (for a net 15, risking slightly more critical failures) or Deceptive Attack -2 (for a net 13). He stabbed Gerry with an All-Out Attack (Long), which was risky, but let him strike without putting himself into a bad spot. He mostly made his defense rolls, although not always. He also paid horribly in both sessions with a timely "3" from Bjorn. In the first, that was nearly enough to take him out ( but he got his own timely roll to stay awake and unstunned.) In the second session, that was enough to make him permanently combat-ineffective.

I also made sure to deploy him - after that desperate blocking move in the first session - alongside compatriots. He ambushed the group in the second combat, but only had to hold off people on his own for a short time. It would have been even shorter if not for Hannibal's Smoke spell disrupting the charge. Being a pretty tough fighter backed by allies made him much tougher to kill.

I just figured everyone would like to see the stats of the guy who was able to put up such a good fight. Feel free to use him and his stats for your own.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

DF Game, Session 60, Cold Fens 2 Part II

We left last session off in the dungeon because a big fight had run long and I couldn't stay late. Today we finished it. This might be a little confusing, and there are a lot of little details I left out. A full-session fight, consisting of a lot of little combats, is like that.

I wasn't originally thinking we'd spend the whole session on one fight, but it was a good fight and a good session, so, hurrah for that!

Characters (in the dungeon): (approximate net point total)

Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (270 points)
     Koric, human guard (~70 points)
     Orrie, human guard (~70 points)
Bjorn Felmanson, human barbarian (252 points)
El Murik, dwarven cleric (254 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (250 points)
Hannibal the Flammable, human wizard (254 points)
Rahtnar the Vegan, dwarven martial artist (254 points)

We picked up where we left last time, which was mid-fight in the dungeon.

We also had Bjorn's player there. Since it was only his second session, it felt less fun to have him run one of the PCs of a player who couldn't make it (this session, only Galoob - Gerald being unconscious). So we went with Option 3 on the Bjornforcement roll. At the suggestion of Dryst/Rahtnar's player, I didn't tell them the target numbers, just success or failure. Heh. That was a great addition.

The "bad guys" (Or "good guys", as I always insist on referring to NPCs as) had gone, and the PCs took their turn.

Rahtnar was now alone, the zombies having fallen. The halberdiers and their axe-wielding leader were closing in on him, and the archers were in the darkness aiming at him (probably). So first Rahtnar engaged the swordsmen's leader and slashed him badly on the neck, inflicting a terrible but not fight ending wound. He then axed his foot and put him down, even as Great Haste petered out. His foes formed up and closed in.

So Rahtnar charged right into the darkness, so no one could engage him. He ran along the edge of the dim light from the Continual Light stone, trying to circle around so he could either engage without risking back shots from arrows or move to a better position. He managed to do so, but just as he circled around and attacked, he was blasted with a fireball from behind that lit his backpack on fire.

Meanwhile the fight at the doorway went badly right away. Asher scored an immediate hit on the sword-armed red-crested swordsman, going for a maxed-out Deceptive Attack and making his roll. The -3 he inflicted was enough to cause his foe to fail to defend, and he hit . . . but roll a pathetic minimum damage and just pinged off of his plate armor. His opponent returned the favor in short order with a swing and a spearman with a stab that put Asher right down, stunned and gravely wounded. They'd follow up almost immediately after that and knock him out, with a slash and another stab. That let them form up on the doorway.

El Murik backed up, as the swordsman moved in and the spearmen and their leader re-arranged to stab more effectively.\

Meanwhile the spearman lit on fire by Galoob kept trying to roll out the flames, so Galoob did an All-Out Attack (Strong), rolled max damage, and pierced his vitals for 15 injury. The guy stayed awake for a few seconds longer, but that was it, and passed out while burning under alchemist's fire, and eventually died.

As this happened, Bjorn dropped down to the top of the stairs, huffing from the exertion of, uhm, running full speed into the fight and not stopping to gaze longingly at the sleek, watery, busty, naked forms of the murder nymphs. Any dampness about his shirtless person was not from groping or clasping or anything, but merely from exertion from running, and you have no evidence to the contrary. (I'd chosen 6- with a +1 each turn, and he rolled a 9 on turn 4).

The other spearman fenced with Hannibal a bit. Hannibal put a Burning Touch spell on his staff, but he didn't get to land it. The spearman and he faced off for a few seconds, but his companions cried out, "Form up, form up!" and he ran back to rejoin them.

Meanwhile Hannibal laid down two one-hex smoke clouds to obscure vision, just as the fiery embers of the Fire Cloud spell wound down and Bjorn ran up.

Rahtnar kept fighting with his foes, but it didn't go well. With a -2 DX for his backpack being on fire, and some terrible damage rolls meant he'd spent more than 3 seconds face-to-face with a lightly armoured inferior foe and barely managed to cripple a leg to put him down. That meant he not only couldn't follow up, but that he was being pressed badly.

Another fireball smacked him from the darkness, but still didn't inflict any harm. His scale armor helped a lot here, as did his native Dwarven DR. The halberdiers pressed him, and their axe-and-shield carrying leader ran wide and around to cut off Rahtnar. Rahtnar maneuvered to keep them all in view, giving up his back to the mage in the darkness, holding them off despite some injuries. But then he failed a defense roll and took a shot to the leg from the axeman and went down with a crippled leg. Although he'd become unstunned and hold on for a while after re-readying his axe from the floor, that's all he did. It would be significant, in that it let the doorway fight wind down first, but he didn't take anyone else out.

The doorway fight continued. Bjorn was pressed back by the swordsman and his spear-toting friends, but a timely 3 put a max-damage shot into a random location - right leg. He did so much damage (26 basic damage!) that it hacked clean through the leg. He made his roll to hit the other leg, and sheered through that, too. Ouch. The swordsman fell face-down, but was neither stunned nor unconscious, and cursed Bjorn! Bjorn responded with an axe to the back, inflicting more damage, but still he wouldn't die.

Bjorn backed up, and took more injuries, including some arrows from the archers who'd fled from Rahtnar's charge and re-formed up by their mage buddy. They fired the bodkin arrows they'd had ready to deal with Rahtnar's scale armor into the steely and Shatnerian chest of Bjorn, which hurt him badly. That, plus more wounds from swords and spears, put him in a bad way. Meanwhile El Murik had engaged in melee and put his pick into a foe, but couldn't take the time to pull it out and simply left it in him as he backed off. Meanwhile Bjorn accidentally hacked himself in the left arm.

Galoob tossed the first of a couple smoke nageteppo to disrupt line of sight, which kept more arrows from coming in.

Eventally Rahtnar passed out, and his foes put in a final round of hits and then formed up and advanced on the door. Meanwhile Hannibal kept up some fireball fire, systematically damage his foes and igniting them on fire - he toasted their leader into a human torch, who fled in raving terror only to die elsewhere from the flames. El Murik put a Sunbolt at the mage but missed, and then had to move to stay alive.

Bjorn dropped unconscious after another hit, even as Galoob handed him a healing potion. Galoob bravely stepped up and stabbed at incoming foes, as did El Murik, who left his pick embedded in a foe he'd engaged in the doorway earlier but tried to shield-bash a foe aside. Hannibal just kept fireballing, and no one took a swipe at him because they had more direct problems to either side until he'd gotten himself relatively clear.

With Bjorn down, El Murik started casting Awaken. It took 3 tries, but on the last one he got him awake. Bjorn managed to stay awake long enough to (Q)uaff a Potion, and grabbed his axe and stood up. Even as he finished readying his shield, the halbierdiers arrived.

It didn't go well for them against the group. Hannibal had hurt them with an Explosive Fireball earlier, and Bjorn dealt some serious damage. Galoob got in a timely and effective vitals stab with his rapier (which stands at least as tall as him). Meanwhile one of the fighters who'd lost a foot had been Levitated and sent into the fray but he was torched by Hannibal and killed by Bjorn.

At this point, the fight suddenly went quiet. The enemy mage put a Darkness(?) spell over himself and his archers, and the PCs backed out of view. Bjorn hacked down the door to use as a mantlet.

They spent a few minutes discussing what to do, even as the enemy was heard regrouping and dragging off wounded.

That pretty much ended the fight - the enemy abandoned the field (which turned out to be 100' long, 70' wide, with another door on the far end and double doors to either side) and anyone out of easy reach. They'd stabbed Rahtnar a good one before they left him for dead, not wanting to mess around too much. They left his axes, mysteriously, despite their obvious value (cough, cough, Signature Gear) but otherwise were gone.

The PCs finished off the wounded, and dragged those with valuable stuff to the surface. They stripped those there and left the dead for dead, and headed out.

Long story short, despite some Boating roll mishaps, they managed to make it safely back, with barely enough food to make it (Bjorn didn't have enough, so they all had to chip in). But they were alive, and well, and had done some serious damage to the opposition.

Final loot was some saleable armor (including the suit of plate, which Asher deemed too heavy), a Potion of Strength (kept by Rahtnar, since Bjorn said, "I AM a Potion of Strength," a fine thrusting broadsword with Puissance +1 (kept by Asher), and some assorted weapons. Most of them were sold, but Bjorn kept a knife and an axe as backup. No cash, because like Col. Bat Guano, the bad guys didn't go into combat with loose change in their pockets. Still, with what they sold, they made enough for full XP.

MVPs: First session, Hannibal (nominated by Hannibal, for his excellent fight-shaping spells), and Bjorn (by everyone, for his timely 3 that double-dismembered the foe they feared the most.)



Why didn't that axe-wielder use that Potion of Strength? You can't take two doses. He'd taken one (and rolled a lousy 1, too, boosting him all the way from a 13 to a 14.) He carried the other because you never know.

We went with the always-5-hex-diameter 1-2/3-1/3 damage bands for explosive spells. Only one was used but it was fun.

The foes in this fight are still going to be there for the next fight - albeit in a reduced state, what with so many casualties. They were mostly much weaker than the PCs, one-on-one, but contrived whenever possible to not be one-on-one with the PCs. That came true in this session more than the last, which is why the PCs suffered for the damage they caused. A good example was Bjorn, who felt a slam attempt against the big guy was risky, but worth it. Almost 20 damage later, and having done nothing but get shield-checked back (a Block), he realized that one vs. many is bad even if the one is much better than each of the many. That probably saved him later - he wouldn't rush ahead to finish the fight, instead they backed off to regroup, use the door as a mantlet, and - as the former U.S. Marine who runs Hannibal put it - stack up, and then advance with cover and in unison.

Having Rahtnar run ahead in the first place was to not "waste" any seconds of Great Haste, but there was some discussion that maybe putting on Great Haste right away on the fast guy was the wasteful tactic - perhaps next time it'll be better to wait until the fight develops, and put it on someone right in the thick of things. That way there isn't the "run out and use this before it runs out" issue to be concerned with. Plus, I think everyone felt like they'd made a mistake frittering away some resources early. They went all-in on the fight, though, to good effect.

Bjorn immediately purchased Slayer Training (Axe/Mace Swing to Neck) and improved Axe/Mace with his leftover points. I like the offensive bent of this guy. He's not defensively weak, although some awful rolls mean that he took a lot of damage. He missed a pile of easy rolls. But when he hit back, you knew it.

Asher is considering putting points into Broadsword and pushing off his Cleric lens until later - he's already bought the +1 IQ, but the PCs desperately need more offensive melee firepower right now. Asher's plan dovetailed nicely with the original lineup, but now he's one of the guys they needing fighting from. We'll see what he does with it. I generally stay out of what they do, but I did let Asher know it's fine to partly buy the Cleric lens, and then come back for the rest later.

I'll post some details on the casualties they inflicted, and some pictures, tomorrow night.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Southern Reaches: Session 11 - Castle of the Mad Archmage 8 - Ogres, Giants, and Illegal Barricades

Last night we played another session of the Swords & Wizardry B-Team, GMed by Erik Tenkar, in the Castle of the Mad Archmage.

We had three players last night - me, Douglas Cole, and Tim Shorts. We hadn't managed to get a session in since January, which was with the same trio.

Naturally Doug posted a summary so fast the virtual dice weren't even done bouncing from the last roll. It's excellent - go read it.

Swords and Wizardry - You can't roll a ballista up a 5% slope

Erik Tenkar discussed it as well, about how he turned it up to 11.


Minister the Morale-Breaker, Half-elf 5/4 Cleric/Magic-User (Tim Shorts)
Mirado Giant Slayer, Human 6 Fighter (me)
Rul "Woodknocker" Scararm, Human 6 Fighter (Douglas Cole)

We bought potions in Town and headed back to level 3, after a long discussion to pinpoint what the heck level we left off on.

We headed to some partly-explored tunnels near where we'd fought the giant and killed off the Grateful Undead. We ended up starting next to some stairs down we'd found.

We opened one door - the second we'd tried for the day. The first defeated us, despite the three of us all having ST 17. The door we managed to open had some non-hostile seeming zombies in it. Mirado said, "Hail, rotting denizens of the underworld!" but they didn't respond. What the heck, yo, Gary sent us. We closed the door, which is Mirado's SOP for anything that isn't made of, or carrying, money.

We found a secret door, which as far as we could tell, led nowhere except a short tunnel. We assumed there was a secret door on the other end, but the dice assured us that there wasn't.

The next door was a bit further on. In it we found a wild-haired Beethoven-looking bust stood in the room, and offered us a word puzzle. It was trivial enough so Mirado answered it, and we received a brass key. I made off-topic "in C Minor" jokes, here. They didn't fly. Tough crowd.

We moved on, kicked down doors and finding little, until we stumbled across a stunjelly. We cut it apart in a few rounds, but not before it paralyzed poor Rul. We dragged him back and used him as a clothes rack in the Beethoven room until we was unparalyzed.

Next, we blundered into some orcs led by an ogre, who weren't surprised by us because they opened the door while we stood around wondering why "5" is the only number we get when we need a 1-4 on a d6. We won initiative and pretty much butchered them. In about two rounds we'd killed the ogre, killed six orcs, put three to Sleep, and convinced the other three to surrender.

We dragged the lot into their room, and looted them. Mirado attempted to convince the orcs to follow us. It worked, sort of, but when Mirado woke the sleeping lot they weren't convinced that Mirado was the chief. "A" chief, they said. Nope. Off with his head. Next? Same thing. Off with his head.

For some reason, the other orcs didn't think Mirado was being very leader-like and fled. One revealed a secret door, leading to the place we'd assumed there was one.

We continued on and followed one screaming orc to some stairs down. But then, a hill giant, two ogres, and a bunch of orcs burst out of a room ahead of us.

Minister fireballed them, wounding the three big guys and toasting the three or five lead orcs (I can't remember now). Mirado put a throwing axe into the hill giant. Then it was melee time.

Melee went badly, but not terribly. Mirado relentlessly refused to a) be hit and b) be hit, which helped a lot. It was close, though, to a TPK. First, Minister went down after horribly wounding an ogre with his morningstar and then his Magic Missile spell. The hill giant went down, but then so did Rul, and Mirado only won the fight with a small amount of HP left (about 16) and a simultaneous strike with the ogre.

The orcs never did enter the fray, cowed by our mighty magic, probably. Mirado kept threatening them with death if they approached. He fed a potion to Minister, who then fed one to Rul. Mirado almost went to take them on, but decided in the end not to. He's convinced to his soul that they had more loot in that room. As it was, Mirado took the giant's head and some gems and a belt worn on his arm like an armband. Turned out later to be a HP-boosting Belt of Fortitude.

We retreated to the surface to recover.

The (real world) night was young, so we went back in.

The orcs had barricaded off the ways to their area. We made jokes about leaving a note telling them the barricade was illegal and needed to be removed. We then tore another one apart. We found seven giant centipedes in the mess. That was actually worrying, since a failed save would kill one of us. We still managed to kill them off, with only a bite to Minister, who was able to shrug it off.

The orcs had set up a gigantic siege engine to shoot at us. They missed (a 17, against Mirado's AC 18), and ran. We torched it with flaming oil and hacked the rope off of it, too, for good measure. The orcs tossed a spear at us, too, as we moved in to where they'd been with the giant - empty. Okay, more searching - empty orc barracks, empty rooms, and not much of anything.

We eventually found a room with three statues. Rul and Minister went in to search, the door shut on them, and one statue turned out to be a mimic. They pretty much beat the heck out of it, and Mirado was unable to get back in (truth is, I had a 1-in-6 chance to open the door, and each check was a 1-in-6 chance of wandering monsters. So, no.) Rul and Minister did fine, and opened the door after all of that.

We found only a couple more places - some dead ends, a room with a lurker above that we dealt lots of damage to before it grabbed Rul and started to smoosh him. We finished it off, though.

We kicked open one final door, and the walls were adorned with olde tyme theater masks, which began to speak to us. Mirado handled this in the traditional fashion - he closed the door. Erik shared the puzzle with us, since we'd abandoned it. We headed home.


All in all, fun session. Almost getting killed in the ogre-and-giant brawl was excellent stuff. Lots of fun. What I game for, besides the fun of hanging out with people I liked a lot.

I really wanted to attack the orcs, but with both of the others down, it seemed like a bad idea. But it felt like it was a good time to crack their morale and rout them and get more treasure. Mirado did take the giant's head, so I should uprgrade my "head-flail" perhaps, don't you think?

I had a good claim on the Belt of Fortitude, but I need +6 HP a heck of a lot less than Minister needs +5. Any doubt on that score was settled when Doug chimed in too saying Minister needed it. So over his objections that a front-line fighter should get it, Minister was given the belt. Good thing - that might make the difference between life and death for our life-saving cleric/magic-user. This only serves the make the every-man-for-himself magic item jealousy of some of the old-time game stories sound weird. We're team players to a fault.

The spell progressions for clerics in S&W are just weird - level 5, you have level 1 and 2 spells. Level 6, you get 1,2, 3 and 4th. Level 7? You get up to 5th. 6th level spells wait for level 11.

Single saving throws, ascending AC, and match-or-exceed AC using Attack Bonuses = a really simple system. The "roll low for doors, high for most other things" drives me nuts. I still like the door solution I suggested.

As always, we goofed on the Castle of the Mad Archmage, but we keep coming back to it. There is fun there, even if part of it is us making 5% slope jokes and filling "covered with two feet of dung" and adding ". . . in clown suits and carrying ukeleles" to the end of monster descriptions. Maybe partly because of.

Friday, April 10, 2015

PWYW for Computer Board Games

I saw a news article about this:

Humble Bundle

It's Pay What You Want (PWYW) for Talisman and two other games, and if you pay more than $7 you get Settlers of Catan and a few more games on top of that.

I'd really like these in a format I could run on my Kindle Fire, not my PC, but if that's an option I don't see it. But I might go in for the lower level, just to get Talisman. Settlers is immensely popular, but that's the main reason I am interested in it. It must be popular for a reason. But I'm not a build-and-trade kind of guy. I'm a tactical or strategic wargamer type. But Talisman - yeah, Talisman. I want that. It was free for a bit but that was before I had my Kindle and I couldn't bank it without a device to deliver it to. So this might be my chance to play that classic game.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

DF Holy/Unholy Puissance

So you want an actually holy sword or evil sword?

For your clerical NPC enchanters:

Puissance (Holy) - This enchantment is functionally the same as Magery-based Puissance, except it is unaffected by No Mana Zones. In addition, its bonuses do not apply in combat against good creatures or inanimate objects. Normal animals, evil foes, etc. are affected normally. Weapons enchanted with Puissance (Holy) will detect as holy to anyone with any level of Holiness or Power Investiture on a Per+Holiness or Per+Power Investiture roll. In addition, Holy Puissance will give its bonus to any roll for True Faith with Turning, if the weapon is presented boldly while concentrating.

Puissance (Unholy) is identical, except its bonuses apply against all opponents, good and evil, animate and inanimate, alike. It is affected negatively by Sanctity on a 1-for-1 basis (An Unholy Puissance +1 weapon is +0 in High Sanctity areas, a Puissance +2 weapon is +1, but would be +0 in Very High Sanctity areas *). Optionally, bearers of such weapons cannot use them to directly harm the truly good or innocent.

Holy and Unholy Accuracy are logical extensions of this, and would work the same way - evil vs. everyone, but affected by sanctity, while Holy is only vs. living foes, either unaligned or malign, but not versus fellow holy types.

The idea here is that Holy weapons aren't especially good at smashing up physical objects and can't hurt good people (well, can't hurt them extra, anyway). They shine through even in evil Unholy sanctuaries, though, and show up as Holy when see. Crusader types can present their weapons as they turn the undead. And the usual shields against magic don't apply here.

Cost on these is double that of the normal enchantment (double the energy cost, then calculate the price), and in general churches will only enchant such weapons for the faithful. Evil types might be more free with it, but in general would be greedy and unpleasant types to deal with, and using such weapons would mark you as a tool of evil. Not good, in most game worlds, and perhaps a good excuse to pick up Social Stigma (Excommunicated)!

* I re-wrote this to use level names, not shorthand for level changes like I did originally. You could also go with Power levels, which would, in general, mean Unholy Puissance at Power 15 does nothing in a High Sanctity/Low Unholy Sanctity area. Or you could just go ahead and say that Unholy Puissance +1 or +2 do not function at all in High or Very High sanctity holy areas, and that Unholy Puissance +3 is reduced to +1 in High and does not function in Very High. You shouldn't be able to march around into the high holiest sanctuaries with evil stuff and have it not be affected, but "bring your blessed blade to clear out the temple to Hell" makes perfect sense. Corruption is turned away by good, not matter if it comes to the good or the good comes to it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Wrestling Out Of The Troll Corner: The Manor 8

Tim Shorts put up sneak peak at The Manor Issue 8.

What's in it?

An article about grappling written by me and Doug Cole. It's inspired by some of the effect-roll based grappling concepts of GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling and the simple rules that underpin Swords & Wizardry.

I can't wait to see the final release!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

One Scale for Everyone: Another thing I like about GURPS

One scale for everyone.

I like that about GURPS. (It's not the only thing I like.)

By "one scale for everyone" I mean the things that rate a character in the system are used for any character in the system. It just makes everything easier. Not necessarily simple - a system using advantages, disadvantages, skills, limitations, enhancements, and so on doesn't lend it self to completely simple.

But it does make it consistent, and gives you only one scale to worry about. Monsters have the same set of stats as humans. If a ST 20 human and a ST 20 ogre swing an axe, it's the same damage all other things being equal.

I grew up with AD&D, basically. Monsters have HD, and use a Hit Dice based system for "to hit." Humans have level, and use a level based system. Monsters have set damage, or "by weapon +" but don't have a set strength score so they'd be playing on a slightly different scale than PCs. So many ad hoc additions meant that you couldn't really apply rules across the board so easily. The ability to put things on a single scale really clicked with me when I picked up GURPS. I can learn where things sit on that scale, and go from there. I only need to learn the one language of stats and skills and rolls and apply it broadly.

Not that everything in the entire game works this way (you could make a robot a character, or a vehicle, say, and not handle them the same way). But that core of monsters and characters using the same stats? That makes my life easier and makes it easier for me to have consistent results . . . and thus less "whataminute" moments that disrupt the flow of game.

Monday, April 6, 2015

MORE Wargames Factory Orcs

As if I didn't have enough orcs, I was just given another box of 24 Wargames Factory orcs.

I'm going to need a much bigger orc army transport case - my current one is full, and I didn't even get half of my current crop of Wargames Factory orcs built, painted, and ensconced within. With this new box I've got to have well over 100 of the little green guys.

Maybe, like I mentioned here, I need to make them into hobgoblins or something. Of course, that would mean I'd have to repaint the ones I did already, but then I'd have almost as many hobgoblins as orcs.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Bjornforcement Roll

Next Sunday we'll play Cold Fens 2.5 - the second half of the delve that got cut off by time constraints in the middle of a combat.

Normally, in a situation like this, I'll do a split session. We'd finish the fight, people would return to town, and then we'd do the downtime activities and go back into the dungeon.

But this time, the fight promises to be as least as long as it's gone so far. And a player who missed last session will be there. He'll end up either running someone else's character for a bit, or wait bored while the group fights out the battle. That would be fine if people reacted to close, dangerous battles by speeding up, but they don't in my group. They react by slowing down, and carefully considering every option - this is why the partial TPK we had couple sessions back took an entire session to resolve what turned out to be the result you could have predicted hours before.

Not only that, but the trip back to town and then back to the dungeon will take some valuable play time, half of which Bjorn's player will sit through.

What I'll do instead is make an exception for this session and just let the delve continue. It'll count as one big delve for XP purposes (MVP is still per-session), but Bjorn (and anyone else) will just show up.

But he won't just show up. Oh, no. I'll do what I do for the bad guys - roll for appearance.

On Bjorn's turn, make the roll, he can move onto the map (drops down from the trapdoor, turn ends.) But what roll?

I'm debating a few different ways:

1) n in 6 - Probably 1 in 6. If it turns up n or less, he appears.

2) Flat Roll-Under - Something like a 9 or less. Roll 9 or under, he appears.

3) Escalating Roll-Under - Something like 6 or less, but then each turn, increment the roll by 1. So 6-, 7-, 8-, etc. until he makes the roll an appears.

I played a game once that had reinforcement totals - you'd roll dice and record the result, and when you got enough points you could "buy" reinforcements from your off-the-board list. So I could even do a total here. I won't, because I like the roll-under.

I'm not sure which one. I should do the odds and pick one that gives the cumulative progression of success that I like the most. But I like the idea that the players can't just plan on him showing up on the next turn, or after X turns, or whatever, and plan their actions around that. They'll have the desperate fight they've gotten themselves in to, and Bjorn will or will not show up on a given turn and move in to the fight.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Get your 3e out of my 4e

I've been playing GURPS since Man-to-Man. Some of my group has, too. And for many of them, most of their formative experience was in the 3e era. So we have a lot of 3e-isms that have survived. These serve mostly to grate on the ears of the GM and confuse new players.

My shield gives me +3 PD.

No, it doesn't. It gives you +3 DB (Defense Bonus). 4e ditched Passive Defense, for a lot of sound reasons. Although it does have some odd effects (a berserker with a large shield isn't any harder to hit, and the shield never gets in the way) it's a generally good change. But my players love the term PD.

I cast off of health.

My players say this one all of the time. "I cast off of HT." They mean, "I cast a spell fueled by my HP" and back in 1e-3e GURPS, HP were derived from (and generally equal to, for human-like PCs) HT. Just once, I want to let them. Sure, you can cast off of HT. Spend 3 HT and make your roll. Your wizard's HT just went from 11 to 8. Have fun with that death check later in the fight.

You can learn the Feint maneuver.

Technique. They're called Techniques, because having two different things called Maneuvers was tough. But many times "maneuver" just comes out.

Does Strong Will add to consciousness rolls?

This hasn't come up recently, but it used to come up a lot. Back in 3e, Will was equal to IQ and the only way to improve it was the Strong Will advantage. That also added to rolls to stay conscious. 4e made Will a derived stat and got rid of Strong Will (and Weak Will) and just lets you mess around with the level of that stat directly. As a side effect, your strength of Will doesn't affect consciousness rolls. I've had people argue those rolls should either be influenced by your Will, or floated to Will instead of HT. That might be interesting, but it would require mucking around with a lot of other things (Hard to Subdue costing, HT costs, why it's a good idea to let you float a roll from a 10 point attribute to a 5 point secondary characteristic). In any case, it's a 3e question.

Make a Will roll to avoid going berserk.

Will rolls for disads have been replaced by Self-Control rolls. So, no making Will rolls for this kind of thing.

An honorable mention goes to, "It was that way back in 3e, but they changed it." Why? Because that's not always true. Sometimes it was never changed at all, and people just remember it wrong. Or they're remembering a house rule (that came up recently with Tip Slash - someone mentioned it was overpowered and we'd house ruled it. Yes, we did . . . but the way we ran it became the official, by the book way to run it.) Or things that aren't true now, and were never true.

None of this stuff really impacts play - it's just old holdover language. But it's interesting to see how

Any 3e isms that have crept into the conversations around your 4th edition GURPS table?

Friday, April 3, 2015

DF Felltower/Cold Fens Explosive Spells II

Speaking of Explosive spells, we did one other thing.

We removed Explosive Fireball and Explosive Lightning.

Instead, any non-ammunition using Missile spell can be cast as "Explosive" for 2x cost as part of the base spell. You don't need to learn the explosive version - it's a built-in way of casting the spell. Generally this means either the projectile explodes, or sends out a cluster of like-formed projectiles around them.

For example, an Explosive Fireball explodes, literally, and sends flames out in all directions.

An Explosive Stone Missile bursts into a series of like formed projectiles to hit the whole area.

An Explosive Acid Ball bursts much more like a fireball.

"Solid" explosions are projectiles, though, and Missile Shield works normally against them.

In short, it's just a way to double up the cost of a missile spell, and then hit everyone in the area with it. It's worked out well enough in actual play, and it stops channeling every wizard into one of Concussion, Explosive Lightning, and Insanely Overpowered Explosive Fireballs.

Car Wars Arenas kickstarter

There is a new Kickstarter campaign for Car Wars, for an arena supplement. This is for Classic Car Wars, aka the old version not the 5e re-start or the eventually-being-done 6e version.

It looks good - an old-style boxed set of arena maps, scaled for the countermix and rules I'm used to.

I'm holding off, for now, for two reasons:

- I have the supplements these maps were taken from, and in fact I've hand-drawn at least two of them.

- I haven't played Car Wars more than twice in the past two decades (!) and not even once in the past decade. That tells me these maps aren't likely to see a lot of use.

I may eventually join in, if I stumble across an unused gift card balance or just decide I like all of the extras enough to jump in an support SJG and a game I love and played so many times. But for now, I'm just passing along the word.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Reworking Berserk

Berserk is one of my favorite disadvantages in GURPS. But it's got some wording issues that go all the way back to Roleplayer #1, where it originated.

Right now, strictly read:

- If you trip, your are down and can't stand back up. Change Position is not a valid choice, so, you have to crawl.

- You can't re-ready a weapon that takes readying to use. Double-dagger stat on your weapon? Swing it once, then it's done, you can't do anything about it. No greataxes for berserkers, it's a bad choice.

- If your opponents are too far away for All-Out Attack, you're in luck - Move or Move and Attack, and get defenses.

But honestly, I think the disadvantage works best when it's:

- you lose all defenses, no matter what you do.
- you must attack an enemy if you can reach it.
- you can use Ready to prepare a weapon if it's one that can be done without thought.
- you must attack as frequently and effectively as possible, choosing violent attack over your other options.

How I run it:

When berserk, you lose all defenses, regardless of your maneuver. You simply do not defend, even if your maneuver would otherwise allow it.

You must take All-Out Attack or Move and Attack to attack anything. In the case of M&A, you still can't defend.

You may Ready (or re-Ready) a weapon, if you can ready it without thought (such as Fast-Draw). In general, you will attack with what you have in hand if it's at all effective.

You may Move if that's the only way to get to an opponent, or to Slam.

You may Change Position to regain your feet, get closer to an enemy unreachable without it.

And that's about it.

None of those are exactly written in stone. If any of the above can be lawyered to somehow not act like a frenzied killer trying to deal death to whatever enemy is closest and not stop until those enemies are fallen, then I won't allow the action. If it does, I might allow it anyway - but you still don't get any defenses.

And that's how I run it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Pictures from Sunday's Cold Fens 2

Here are some pictures, as usual courtesy of Asher "andi jones" Crestfallen. Or vice-versa.

All of them took place in the dungeon in the Cold Fens, during Cold Fens session 2

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