Monday, November 30, 2015

Rolling when it matters

Just a brief thought today, occasioned by Doug:

When you roll the dice, make it matter

Pretty much, that. Especially this:

"But bringing out the dice should either mean enabling something good, or inflicting/avoiding something bad. Otherwise, just keep moving."

What I said in the comments way:

"Yeah, this. Roll when success matters and/or failure matters. Preferably both. If nothing interesting can come of the roll, skip it. And if something interesting should come regardless of the roll, just go with that."

The first part is pretty self-explanatory - use the dice to settle things that could go either way, when having them go one way or the other has consequences.

This means:

- no "roll until you succeed" rolls unless the number of rolls matters (time costs, energy costs, consequences outside of the roll itself.)

- no "roll until you fail" for the same reasons. If you've got 100 death checks to make, you're going to die. But if it matters how far you get before you die, well, get rolling. Maybe you'll hold on long enough.

- ideal rolls are interesting no matter what happens - they're determining which of a range of interesting outcomes will occur.

But that second bit needs a little explanation, I think.

It boils down to don't roll when only one interesting possibility exists. Don't roll for Wandering Monsters if the game will be far better if something shows up - just have it happen. Chandler didn't roll to see if a gunman would burst in and give Marlowe the business and advance the plot from a stuck point. You don't have to either. Just make it happen.

If the bad guy falls off the cliff and his dying or surviving both have cool outcomes, roll. If only him living has a cool outcome, just select that. And vice-versa.

That way you get a nice mix of narrative interest (of course the daughter of the evil high priest has a weakness for one of the party members, don't make a reaction roll!) and random effect (and that party member is [roll, roll] the horrifyingly ugly half-orc assassin!)

Remember that dice are tools. Die rolls are tools. Rolling the dice doesn't commit you to accepting their outcome (although general, it's worth doing so.) And having dice doesn't commit you to using them to determine everything. Keep it moving, keep it interesting, and use die rolls as a tool. Bust them out when it matters, not just because you've used them in that situation in the past.

Nothing new there, but I felt like I needed to get that out in words.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

GURPS Gamma World, 20th Homeland - Session 5 - Sweep & Clear & Crows

Busy game session - we got a lot done in this one. I probably missed stuff in the summary - details, mostly.

"Hillbilly" (me) - medical specialist
"Short Bus" (Mike D) - computer programmer
"Fatbox" (John M) - demo/EOD
"Momma's Boy" (Tom P) - computer programmer
"Love Handles" (Vic L) - demo/EOD

Present but NPC'ed:
"Caveman" (Jon L) - demo/EOD (back at Bal'Kree)
"Barbie" (Mike H) - demo/EOD (MIA)
"Princess" (Andy D) - cryptographer/sniper (with us but NPC'd)

My Gamma Terra t-shirt

This is the shirt I bust out when we play Gamma Terra, like we're going to today:

Admittedly I own (and wear) a lot of WFMU t-shirts, but that one is my Gamma Go-To.

I'm hoping my PC doesn't end up resembling that guy too much.

As for our GM, he comes head-to-toe in Vault Tec apparel. There is no out-doing a person like that.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Five More Monster Cards

I've been methodically cleaning and reorganizing my gaming materials as I try to neaten up my office.

I found five more of my monster cards. I have all but one of these collections at some point.

Here are the bugbear, stone giant, merman, sylph, and hybsil. I wonder if anyone ever uses the hybsil?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Rolemaster C&T in-joke

I busted out the Rolemaster Creatures & Treasures book this morning because I was reminded of one of their oddball treasures.

I figured I'd look it up and see if I could use it or a variant in my own games. But I stumbled on this:

"Rune of Illiteracy: All within 50' cannot read or write for 1-100 days. (Also known as the Rune of Fluvanna.)"

Pre-internet, that was meaningless to me. No longer. Fluvanna is a county in Virginia . . . and the writers and producers of the book were based in Virginia.


(My old home town gets slammed repeatedly in Futurama, so I'm still one up on the Rolemaster guys.)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Old School Grappling Revised/Revival

There have been a few articles about grappling recently that I'd like to link to:

First is a grappling system for a DnD-based game still in development. The original rules are over at Goblins & Greatswords:

Goblins & Greatswords: Grappling made simple(ish)

And before I could even link it over to him, Doug spotted it and wrote up a really nice look at it:

Grappling at The Flagon

Doug is the man when it comes to grappling rules. He's got a very solid grasp of what's needed and how things work. Not only that, he's simultaneously the guy that made GURPS grappling much more complex and made the core of the rules much more simple with GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling.

Meanwhile, here is a nice spin on the DnD/Clone friendly grappling article Doug and I co-wrote for The Manor #8.*

Dynamic Grappling

It's both flattering and inspiring when someone takes what you've written and gone and worked on it more.

In theory, that's how Doug feels about all the emails I send him saying, "I made TG simpler again by ditching all of your hard work. What do you think?" Heh.

* Standard joke: Doug writes something awesome but complex. I saw, "Make it simpler, like so." Doug fixes it. I claim half the credit.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Vic's D&D 4th and D&D 5th Session Summaries

One of my players - Vic - is also a GM. He's got session summaries up of two campaigns.

The Unlikely Heroes of Nentir Vale (D&D 4th, completed)

Greyhawk's Lesser Known Heroes (D&D 5th edition, current)

Folks familiar with Caravan to Ein Arris will find some of the second group of summaries quite familiar . . .

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Minor DF Page Updates

I updated a couple of pages on this blog:

- The Monsters Encountered So Far list is now current, as far as I can tell. I got a few sessions behind.

- the DF Campaign list of PCs (added Kenner)

- the DF Campaign list of sessions (broke up the listings by setting)

- minor format fixes on Revised GURPS Magic for DF

Just FYI - all are related to my current DF game.

Monday, November 23, 2015

DF Game, Session 69 - Lost City 3 - Slimes, Why Did It Have to Be Slimes?

November 22nd, 2015

Weather: Varied (mix of clear and some rain)

Characters (approximate net point total)

Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (285 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (257 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (258 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (259 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (252 points)

In reserve:
Angus "Mithrilbraid" McSwashy, dwarf swashbuckler (250 points)
Dave, human knight (252 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Kenner Baumfellen, wood elf scout (250 points)

We started in the trading camp.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

DF game pre-summary

We had a fun DF game session today. I don't think I'll have time to do a writeup with full details, so here are the post-game bullet points:

- Army Ants + "Dislikes Insects" + a really bad Per roll to see them coming is funny.

- Even funnier is "Dislikes Insects" and "that includes spiders" and then being the unlucky one who gets bit by a deadly venomous spider.

- the PCs checked out the pillars, found another way out (sort-of), discovered an ape-filled cave, explored a "pyramid" (actually a tetrahedron), discovered an illusion concealing a structure, checked out the five towers building, cased another place, found a bit of historical information about the city, and managed to revisit some old stomping grounds.

- the party talked to some headless stone columns.

- not that much fighting, but there were combat rolls that really mattered.

- Sean Punch may have topped me on my players' "most hated monster maker" list. Two words: Icky Goo.

- I do declare that one of the party had a spell of the vapors. It's okay, though, Esoteric Medicine kits include smelling salts and a fan to fan victims back awake.

- 6 XP session, thanks to good loot, no casualties, and lots of exploration. Well, heavy, heavy, heavy loot. 120 plus pounds of it.

Good session - this might be the exemplar of what I was hoping to see in the Lost City.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Two DF game rulings

Here are a couple of rulings I've made in my DF game. And naturally, rulings become rules by repeated use, and I expect to keep using these.

Attacking Crippled Limbs. If you strike an already-crippled limb, you can't do additional HP damage to the target. But you do cause shock penalties normally, and dismemberment works normally. Attempts to use grappling to inflict pain (Technical Grappling, p. 38) work normally, as well.

I will apply a penalty to the HT roll to determine severity of a crippled limb (p. B422) as well if there are repeated strikes to the same limb. Such a penalty generally is in the -1 to -3 range, sometimes more.

Why? A crippled limb isn't a numb limb that's immune to damage. One that has been dismembered is, so if a berserk animal has your crippled hand in its mouth chopping it off at the wrist so you can escape and stop suffering pain and shock is a valid tactic. Not a long-term good tactic, unless it keeps you from dying. Also, this means if you arm lock someone and break the limb, they don't suddenly become immune to pain compliance. In fact, they're worse off . . .

Resisting non-Resisted spells. What if you throw a utility spell on a hostile opponent for some nasty effect? For example, Purify Air on a hostile air creature, or Minor Healing on a Nilbog, or Phase Other on a foe being touched by his own ally for a touch-based buff spell. It's resisted by the better of Will or HT. Spells that don't come with a native resistance are assumed to be poor at overcoming resistance and so targets get to choose their better resistance to stop it. Creatures who automatically take damage from certain effects may not get a resistance roll, but the default is allowing a resistance roll.

Why? Because it's not addressed in the rules, and it's clearly a case that should be. Turning utility spells into attack spells that bypass the rules for attack spells isn't really fair, it's trying to bypass fair. And yes, you can resist Great Haste, so your enemies can't toss that on you while in Ethereal Body and wait until you run down to -FP and pass out. Not allowing resistance is allowing clever loophole-hunting instead of clever play.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Random Notes from DF Template School

One amusing side effect of a rigid "follow the templates!" DF game is that characters of a type resemble each other.

Scouts tend to be loners who hate city folk and have Mimicry (Bird Calls).

Wizards all studied Magical Writings (and a large number like to be Excommunicated.)

Thieves all seem to be Greedy.


Naturally, our group has spun these into a whole system of education for templates. Here are some bits we're come up with at the table.

Swashbuckler School

The written test questions feature the following four answers:

A) stab it in the vitals!
B) stab it in the eyes!
C) It's too tough, we're all going to die.
D) Both A and B.

(If swashbucklers having a written test seems odd, let me tell you about the time I took a kendo written test before I could go on to actually doing forms and sparring to achieve a promotion.)

Scout College

The dorms are all singles. No roomies in Scout school. Also, groups larger than three scouts are only allowed for brief excursions.

Mr. Aragorn teaches Tracking class. He goes on and on and on about that time he tracked halflings in the dark. Also, according to Galen Longtread, Mr. Aragorn is, "a total d**k."

Mr. Legolas's bow class is pretty fun, but again, it's always why elephants count as multiple kills.

Mimicry (Bird Calls) class is the best elective, although none of our scout players has revealed why. Just that it is. Maybe the teacher is hot.

Barbarian School

Barbarians don't have a formal school, but they do seem to have a traditional and formal education system.

They have basketball teams. Played with monster heads, but still, everyone is SM+1.

"Berserk" isn't a personality flaw, it's a major.

Also (and this is Honus's fault), barbarians raise giant frogs. What kind depends on their background - mountain frogs, swamp frogs, jungle frogs, great grassland frogs, snow frogs, etc.

Holy Warrior

They've got a Psychology (Undead) practicum before they graduate. "Acererak, you seem quiet in group today. Maybe you should tell everyone why."

And one tangential one:

We had a discussion going about Gerry the Necromancer getting along with Asher the intolerant holy warrior and El Murik the cleric. His player said, "Gerry doesn't have any evil traits other than Magery."

That right there tells you all you need to know about Wizard school.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

GURPS 101: What does Tactics do?

Doug asked about expansions to Tactics yesterday, and Chris responded.

But what does Tactics do already?

Here is what it does by the rules-as-written. Which you can take advantage of depends on which books you are choosing to pull rules from for your particular GURPS game. I've hit some obvious choices.

What does Tactics skill do now?

Using the Basic Set only:

- Allows a roll at the beginning of a fight to achieve a better starting position and/or cover. (p. B224)

- Make a Tactics roll to determine good places to position your forces. (p. B224)

- Win a Quick Contest vs. an opponent to determine their immediate plans, or to outmaneuver them (off the battlemap). (p. B224)

- Use the better of Tactics or Per when ambushed or surprised to see if you spotted the danger in time. (p. B224)

- Gives a +1 to initiative rolls, +2 with Tactics-20 or higher. (p. B393)

Adding Martial Arts:

- Replaces the rolls from Basic Set with either an Abstract system which allows a character with Tactics to grant re-rolls to his or her allies based on Tactical reasons ("He re-rolls Dodge because I told him where to take cover!")


A Quick Contest of Tactics determines who places figures on a mapped encounter first, giving the winner the chance to seize better terrain or position based on the foe's choices, and re-position some forces at the end of placement.(p. 60)

- Can use Tactics to resist Ruses. (p. 101)

- Can use Tactics to spot Feints against other people. (p. 101)

- Can press more effectively in the "Detailed Method" of tournament resolution. (p. 134)

Adding Action 2:

- You can roll against Tactics to retroactively revise your plans to reflect what your characters would have known to do. (p. 8)

- Gives bonuses to rolls for bodyguards (or assassins) during a hit. (p. 28)

- Acts as a complement to rolls related to sneaking or spotting sneaking opponents. (p. 28)

Adding Dungeon Fantasy 2:

- Allows you to give one ally advice, giving a bonus to certain combat rolls on a success and a penalty on a failure.

Adding Mass Combat:

- Substitutes for Strategy for fights with 1-4 elements on your side.

Shouldn't it do more?

I don't think Tactics really needs a lot of expansion, Doug and Chris's posts to the contrary. Tactics already does a lot.

People don't use it very often, and I think that's for three reasons:

- they don't know about these options. (This applies to you if you said, "I didn't know I could do that!")

- they prefer more direct actions. ("Why roll Tactics to help my buddies when I can help them by attacking things myself?")

- they don't invest a lot of points in Tactics, so these options don't succeed every time they try them. That pushes the moves down the chain to "if I have nothing else to try." ("I only have a 10, so I lose Tactics contests, so it's a worthless skill.")

That last point is critical. Sometimes people will throw 1 point or 2 points at Tactics, end up with a 9, 10, or 11, and then never use it. It's not going to succeed very often, so why try? I don't try that approach, so why raise Tactics? It's a vicious circle.

On the other hand, the more the skill does, the more attractive it becomes. As written, using all of the above rules, it's a pretty broad skill. It has applications in every single fight where surprise is an issue, tactical position matters (and isn't pre-determined), and it can be used to defend yourself or aid your allies. That's even before just broad GM-determined uses like when it's an appropriate Complementary Skill roll (see Action 2, or Gladiators, for that rule.)

All of this does depend on the rules you are using, and having enough skill to ensure you probably won't fail.

(And to my players, who will otherwise ask - my current game is using the rules from Basic Set and DF2 and parts of Action 2 - the bonuses to sneak/spot in certain situations. We're not using the re-rolls or map setup from Martial Arts - they don't fit the circumstances of how 90%+ of our fights occur.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Let the slog of revision begin!

I started revising my latest GURPS Dungeon Fantasy book tonight.

It's a slow slog of going through comments, finding errors, correcting them, and then re-checking them. It's finding weird formatting errors that crept into Word's Styles because I tapped the keys and typed something with a Japanese keyboard setup (or on my Japanese PC). It's a lot of changing , to ; and ; to , or deleting them both or noticing that I made one bold and italic but the end comma only bold. Stuff like that.

It's kind of a pain.

It makes a better book on the other end, but while you'll hear crud about "you have to kill your babies" and authors fighting editors over a word . . . you don't hear so much about how it's a slog through corrections.

One thing I like about SJG is that they make authors do those corrections. I get a lot of little stuff wrong - but less of them wrong than before. I'm learning to do more of it right the first time.

There is great joy in writing. But writing to spec is tough and correcting to spec is part of the deal.

That's what I'm up to, if my blog seems a little on the brief side for a few days. I'm trying to knock this stuff out, finish my update of The Lost City for game on Sunday, and roll into next week with this off of my plate.

Life in a DF World is Tough

There are some things in GURPS DF that are tough.

So tough that it's almost unfair.

Well, not really unfair so much as extremely harsh.

But still, imagine how hard life is for those 62-point schleps in Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen, considering how hard it is for 250-point delvers from Adventurers.

Here are some of my favorite ways things are just tough.

It should go without saying that my players (maybe all players) hate this stuff.

Exploding Monsters

Some monsters just blow up. They fight until you kill them, and then, BOOOOOOOM. Take some damage for your trouble. Revenge is a dish best served the instant you fail a death check for some monsters.

Automatic Hits

Still more monsters just hit. No attack roll, just hit. Often without even giving you a defense. In close combat with the thorn hound? You're hit with spikes. Within a certain number of yards? Take some automatic death field damage. Hit the flame lord? Burning aura. Nevermind some monsters just auto-hit at range, like the Eye of Death. You have Dodge 15 before DB? Nice, you just get hit.

Cones and area attacks are great for this, too - did you carefully position your mini for the best facing, best Retreat room, and best possible defensive and offensive action? Great. Here's a toxic death cloud that covers you and 1 hex more than your Move score. Don't bother rolling, except maybe against HT.

Speaking of which:

Penalized HT rolls

Want to randomly guess the HT roll for something in DF? Just guess "HT-4." It's not always the answer, but it's the answer pretty often. HT-4, HT-4, HT-4. It's a world where HT 12 and Resistance to Poison +8 isn't "near-total resistance" but "Generally okay against standard threats."

Add on top of that virulent diseases, magical powers, paralytic strikes, etc. - straight-up HT rolls with no penalties are for mild threats.

Cosmic: Ignores DR

Perennial favorite of GMs, it's the attack that ignores DR. Your weakest point has DR 8, the strongest DR 15+? Great, take 1d+1 toxic damage that ignores your armor. Amusing when combined with auto-hit and penalized HT rolls.

Lava Traps

Lethal traps in general abound. But special mention goes to lava doing 8d+2 per second if you're immersed in it. "Use sparingly" is the advice DF2 gives you. Yeah, too much 8d+2 per second damage can really put a crimp in your style. Minimum damage from that puts a normal human to a death check in 2 seconds.

Mind Control

Against the PCs, or against NPCs who otherwise might have been allies. You need a solid Will to shrug these off, and if not, all the lethal powers you built up are now you friend's problems. Plus, it means a lot of the time you have to fight the kidnapped princess (who's probably a ninja, given the way the world works) if you want to rescue her. All the while dealing with attempts to mind control you, too.

I could go on, but those are some of my favorites.

What I think is a positive about all of this is that you can't solve all of your problems with any one approach. You are never invulnerable. You always have another thing you have to deal with - and you can't remove all risk by clever buff spells and investment of points. At the same time, you are challenged to get more skill, more defenses, and more options because all of them are always under threat. It's a rough, tough world.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Miniatures are about visual impact

Miniatures are all about the visual impact.

Let me say that again.

Miniatures are all about the visual impact.

Without an appropriate visual impact, a mini isn't worth anything.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Some Tank Model Irony

So I was taking a look at some tank models, because I'd really like to make a "Hetzer" - a Jagdpanzer 38.

The irony?

It's twice as much over on for a 1:72 "Hetzer" model as for a 1:72 Panther model. Actually, 3x as much but it's closer to 2x once you factor in shipping.

For those of you who just blink and shrug:

Hetzer: Basically a late-war German assault gun built on the chassis of the Czech 38t tank, which was obselete by that point. No turret, more armor, excellent gun, and a low profile made it a great ambush vehicle. Cheap, too.

Panther: A high-end complex tank design equipped with all the bells and whistles of a late-war tank model.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Speed of Advancement in my DF game

What's the current speed of advancement in my DF game?

I've set up the XP system so that for each session:

- the maximum is practically limited to 7 points (5, +1 for awesome, +1 for MVP) for one person, 6 for most others.

- the expected return is 5.

- the minimum is 0.

- the average is around 3-4 points a session.

We can potentially play as often as 25 times a year, although 20 is more like it. That's 60-100 points per actual real-world year if you run the same character all the time, come back profitable more times than not, and occasionally take home MVP.

That's all off-the-top estimates - I didn't go and look at each and every session and calculate, because I'll still be close with a guess and exact doesn't matter.

Potentially, then, a character can be generated at 250, and a player can look about 100 points out in terms of advancement over the next calendar year.

I think that for us that's a good pace. Not so fast that your decisions don't have consequence, but not so slow that we're crawling along for years pretty close to your starting character power level.

I set this pace with the assumption that'd we want to advance at a good clip even without a large investment of time. We used to hand out 1-3 points, plus some extras for completion of missions and special events, at set points. So you didn't even get points for sessions. Advancement was slow - 150 point guys were closing in on 300 at the end of the game for the higher point characters. We had to jump start the points of new characters because there was literally no way to keep up or catch up.

That pace will slow in the future, because it looks like we'll rotate in Gamma Terra more often and add Star Wars, but we won't actually add any game dates. We're not playing DF 20 or so times a year do to a limit on DF, but due to a limit on game time.

All in all, though, I think it's worth running the numbers even if in this vague fashion. How often will you play? How many points will that be over the course of a year, or a month, or whatever feels long for your game? What can people aim at?

Back in the day when I used to game daily, even a slow rate wasn't slow. But with twice a month being a good month, we just can't enjoy the game at a slow pace of development. So we sped it up. And that's okay.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

My latest DF draft update, DFT1 Designer's Notes, SJG Stakeholder's Report

Three pieces of news from other blogs:

"• I am about 80% of the way through my review of the first draft of the newest GURPS Dungeon Fantasy supplement from Peter Dell'Orto (peterdellorto)."

- from Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch's livejournal

That's good, because it means maybe sometime next week I can see the notes and start working on my revisions to the draft. I expect a lot of notes, because I often have an accumulation of little things that need addressing, and because Sean is great about giving 100% complete commentary on the draft.

Reading harsh notes on how much you messed up is something you just have to be able to take - it's where improvement comes from. And a better final book.

- DFT1 - Here are some designer's notes for Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 1.

Finally, SJG finally released their Stakeholder Report for 2014. They don't have to do it, and it's always interesting, but I have to admit that by November 2015 I'm not terribly interested in how 2014 went. So I just skimmed it, myself. I'm not even sure when it finally went up. Still, good news for SJG and it's a nice glimpse inside a private company. I'm glad they do it. Here is hoping the 2015 one is in January 2016.

Friday, November 13, 2015

GURPS release this week: Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 1: Glittering Prizes

Just a quick FYI:

Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 1: Glittering Prizes came out this week.

It expands your options for coin sizes, clothing (and armor) materials, and more?

Need magic coins? Randomly shaped coinage for the infernal ape-snakes of the Great Gorge of Level 7? Want to wear a shirt made out of screams?

Got you covered.

Also, there was an update to Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen this week, fixing a skill level error on a template. It's worth downloading the update if you're using sages in your bevy of henchmen.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

High HP and Healing, expanded

Hate the breakpoints for HP 20 and HP 30 and healing? Annoyed that your HP 19 guy isn't getting anything until he finds 2 more points to spend?

Here is an easy option to fix that.

Round all effects down.

Instead of the rules for High HP and Healing (p. B424), use these:

HP <15: Healing is x1.0 effect. HP 15-19: Healing is 1.5x effect. HP 20-24: Healing is 2.0x effect. HP 25-29: Healing is 2.5x effect. HP 30-34: Healing 3.0x effect. Etc. HP 15 folks, rejoice! While you could just multiply all healing by HP/10, it just gets silly. The game has breakpoints - smoothing them doesn't imply the need to get rid of them. And it's easier to remember a few extra breakpoints than apply a formula per casting. And for those you who say, Bah! I want more breakpoints! Well, Christopher Rice has you covered.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Party in Miniature, New Additions

Here is a quick WIP shot of the five minis of the new party members:

 photo Party in Mini Additions_zpsakblya84.jpg

Hasdrubal, Kenner, Gale, Hjalmarr, and Mo

Yes, the left three are taller than the right three. "Heroic 25mm" or whatever Reaper calls it these days means "everyone is very big." Can't be helped. しょうがない, eh Kenner?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Why do RPGs have to give permission for changes?

Earlier today I posted a meaning-reversing typo in Stonehell: Into the Heart of Hell.

It's a meaning reversal because it tells you what you can't do, but ultimately, the book goes on to say (after 3 hefty paragraphs) that

"[. . . ] Stonehell is now yours to do with as you please."

I grew up with the AD&D DMG as my primary learning source. The book is full of admonishments about how to stomp on players who read the DMG. How to answer requests for monster characters (short version: No!) How to befuddle players who know how the game works. How I can't run a proper campaign without time records. Etc. etc.

There is definitely a right way to play, and a lot of wrong ways. It even says so in the introduction - change stuff, and it's not AD&D anymore. Tough talk to read when you're 10.

It's not just the DMG, though. I'm struggling to think of an RPG book that doesn't take pains to either tell you how to do it or else, or that it's okay if you change things.

Why is that? Why do we need special permission to change things? People mod the heck out of video games and we pop the cases on electronics that have sticky labels saying we're violating the warrantly. We jailbreak phones. We get LEGO sets and put them together into new things not shown on the box. We saw the heads and weapons off of minis and modify them, and paint them whatever the heck colors we want.

But RPGs always seem to have this section saying, it's okay to do this.

Board games don't, and we do it anyway (your money is under Free Parking). Workout books often go to great pains telling people not to change things, and they do it anyway (and then typically complain that their results varied.) People sample and re-mix music, without and without permission.

I'm wondering, just as a matter of writing, why we always feel like we have to say that it's okay to change things. Are we fighting a war of words with rules lawyer players? Are we figuring that our RPG books fall into the hands of people who need permission to change things? It's one thing to say, "It's up to you how to use this stuff, we haven't provided guidelines" but why do we need to give specific permission to change things?

Won't we all do it anyway?

Fun Stonehell 2 typo

Or at least, I think it's a typo. Otherwise it's putting Michael Curtis in the running to have "High Curtisian" as a writing style:

"Referees and players looking for complex details on overarching plots and other story elements will not find them here - but that doesn't mean they can be introduced!"

Ah, 't, where are thou?

It's obviously a mistake because the rest of the paragraph is about how Stonehell is just giving you the facts and it's up to you to tie them all together into a narrative whole.

But I laughed out loud and had to backtrack and read that one again.

I make my own share of typos (and even actual outright errors that need fixing.) But rarely are they as funny as that. Maybe Tin Shorts, which I need to stat up as a magic item.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Blog what I blog about

Charles Atkins of Dyvers fame posted over on G+ about other people's posts. Do you chime in, or wait a while so you don't seem like you're piggy-backing?

Me, I'm 100% pro-post here.

An idea shared is an idea multiplied.

If I write something that triggers your own thoughts, throw them in the comments.

Even better, blog about it on your own blog and comment.

Either way, if you write a related post, don't be shy about telling me and everyone else. Put a link in the comments (and HTMLize it if you can.) If you take an idea I have and run with it, people who like most post benefit more if they can easily find your post.

By all means expand on the idea. Explain how you'd do it, if it's different. Take the idea and go new and interesting places with it. Link back. The third w in WWW is the "web" part, so connect up. As long as it's not spam, I'm not going to clip the comment.

Posts like the early GURPS 101 posts, Melee Academy, and even concepts like GURPSday (started by Doug) all celebrate multiple writers spinning around the same ideas. Lots of times the circle of GURPS-centered blogs have deliberately coordinated and even more often just randomly sprang off of each other's posts.

So if you have more to say and you can take Post X and make it Post X+1, do it.

Borderlands 2 and Krieg (and mild DF)

If you don't have any interesting in video games, skip this one. This is one of my occasional off-topic-ish discussions of video games.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

My DF Alternate Surprise rules

So I mentioned during what's turned into a multi-blog discussion of initiative in GURPS that I have some not-exciting alternate surprise rules for my DF game. I didn't like the margin of "almost any time you roll one side is going to be surprised" but I liked the uncertainty of rolling to see if one or both sides were surprised, and rolling to see which side goes first.

So I made up some rules, and someone asked me to post them.

So here they are.

Be warned - I don't use these as they are written anymore.

Alternate Surprise Rules

Use the rules for Total Surprise (B393) if one side is totally unready for combat. Characters with Combat Reflexes, as usual, treat this as Partial Surprise.

Partial Surprise
This may occur when the both sides surprise each other, or when both sides are expecting trouble.

Use the rolls and modifiers from p. B393. The GM may apply a bonus or penalty of +/-2 to either side if they are especially alert, especially lax, or otherwise acting at above or below normal alertness for a potentially dangerous situation. A normal, unmodified roll assumes alert combatants expecting trouble.

Tie: Both sides are surprised (see below).
Won by 1-2: Losing side loses the initiative, and acts after the winning side.
Won by 3-4: Losing side is surprised (see below).
Won by 5+: Losing side suffers Total Surprise.

The side that gets the highest roll gets the initiative, and can move and act normally. Everyone on the other side is mentally stunned, and must make IQ rolls on their turns, as described for total surprise, to snap out of it. However, with partial surprise, there is a +1 bonus to IQ on the second turn, +2 on the third turn, and so on . . . even low IQ characters catch on after a few seconds. Note that animals often have Combat Reflexes, which counteracts their low IQ.

Note that certain mentally slow or mindless foes automatically lose the initiative but cannot be surprised. These usually include mindless undead. Others cannot be mentally stunned, but still must resolve initiative - constructs, IQ 0 oozes; slimes; and fungi, and "attacking" traps.

How does it work in play?

Not bad. The 1d roll isn't ideal, though, and I have some ideas for a 3d-based roll instead. It's easy to stack up obscene bonuses - a party of typical DF delvers with a leader with Tactics (+1), Born War Leader 2 (+2), Combat Reflexes (+2) rolls 1d+5, +6 if the foes are less intelligent, vs. 1d-2 for most leaderless monsters. On average, that's inflicting Total Surprise (9.5 vs. 1.5) vs. unintelligent monsters, which wasn't an intended effect. I didn't realize what using the alternate talent benefit for Born War Leader would do to the margins here. We didn't apply that early on, but once we decided to use the alternate benefits it skewed it too much. Foes with BWL are rare, non-organized creatures with Tactics are rare, and mostly the PCs surprise everyone anyway. This system before BWL was already skewed to the PCs; after, it meant the NPCs go second unless they attack from ambush when they haven't been detected and are often surprised.

I've run this a little more loosely recently, getting rid of Total Surprise unless one side was totally not expecting combat. If the roll didn't matter (i.e. the PC leader rolls a 1, and still causes automatic surprise) I didn't bother rolling.

I've been considering doing this as a two-part system - roll for initiative. Winning side goes first. Losing side leader makes an IQ roll for Mental Stun - if successful, the losing side isn't surprised but loses initiative. If the roll fails, the losing side is Partially Surprised and must make Mental Stunning rolls to recover. Basically, most of the time you lose you don't suffer Mental Stun because your leader makes the roll and you lose 0 seconds. You just go after the winning side. I may start doing this. But it doesn't take away from the "automatic victory of DF delvers vs. all monsters" issue.

I also wondered if Born War Leader shouldn't just give a +1, not a +1 per level. +1/level is steep on a 1d roll. On a 3d roll, though . . . I've got some rough notes on a replacement system, using 3d, and a wider margin needed for surprise. But I haven't really developed it out yet.

How Can I Be Stunned?

One thing about initiative is that some players don't like the idea that any party of adventurers can ever really suffer from Mental Stunning from being attacked. After all, aren't adventurers in a dungeon on the ready at all times? Sounds reasonable, except it's not so easy to stay totally ready and on guard for the unexpected at all times without losing your focus. Plus, there is the haunted house effect - you go into one expecting surprises, but people still jump when they happen. Still don't agree with the possibility of Partial Surprise? Buy Combat Reflexes, you get a +6 to your IQ roll along with all of the other stuff. That means surprise is rarely more than one second of inaction.

And the "applies to both sides" thing works here, too - if adventurers delving in a dungeon aren't ever surprised, because they are expecting trouble . . . then no denizens of the dungeon should be surprised, either. They live in a dungeon, and they know it's trouble. It's better to assume that you can't be ready for everything, that sometimes you really do get attacked and don't get off the mark instantly. That can be true even if you initiated the attack, if you weren't really 100% certain what was behind that door you kicked down.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mapped Combat vs. Mapless Combat

So I've made some posts related to combat speed, and mapped combat vs. mapless combat.

Here are what I perceive as the upsides and downsides of both:

Mapped Combat


Agreement & Clarity. Everyone knows where everyone is. It's clear who is facing where, who is in which hex, and everyone's relative position.

Reach: Weapons with a superior (or inferior) reach matter more on a map.

Defenses: By the GURPS rule books, you don't get Retreat without tactical combat, so effectively your defenses are not as good.

It looks cool. The visual impact of minis on a map is tremendous. Players take pictures of the session not only to record it but because it's fun to see well-set up minis in action.


Time. It takes longer. If only the setup time and cleanup time, fights which require a map and minis will take longer.

Resources: You need a map, terrain, markers, minis, and status markers.

Speed. Turns tend to take longer with a map, because of the issues of tactical precision, below.

Double Edged Swords:

Tactical Precision. Your ability to leverage your position, your enemy's facing, you friends positions, your movement score, and everything else is improved with a map. So is the cost of doing this poorly. Having a map means your decision a couple seconds ago to step or turn or whatever can come back to bite you. Your ability to move around can get you into trouble where you can't get help. Moving may shore up your position or undermine it. You get no benefit of the doubt on where you are or how you were facing.

No Fudging. That is, you can't really just rule people can or can't attack. You can't wing mapped elements. You get locked into a precise set of positions and it's harder to just fast forward to victory or defeat once it's become obvious you are winning or losing without any consequence to tactical decisions made in the process.

Mobility: Movement matters, and slow fighters slog around and speedy ones can take advantage.

Overall, I feel like mapped combat giveth on one hand (more precision, everyone is clear where they are, you can use Reach, Retreat, and Facing to your advantage) and taketh away on the other (you are precisely where you are, positioning matters, and you can have Reach, Retreat, and Facing turned against you.) It costs time, however, and speed of play.

Sometimes you must go mapless, because of real-world concerns (lack of minis, lack of maps, lack of time, fights too big and spread out for minis, etc.)

Mapless Combat

Speed. Less to decide, so you can decide faster. Many more actions are "attack the guy close to me" and just caring who or what is in front of you, to your left, and to your right.

Easier. There is much less to know for the players. You only need to know the combat basics to get through.

Time. Less setup, no cleanup.


More confusing. It's harder to track where everyone is, and it's almost certain people won't have a very solid idea of where all of the combatants are. The larger the combat, the more this becomes an issue.

Spells. Spell casting penalties are tricky without a map. At -1 per yard, you really need to know precisely how far or close you are. You can overcome this with range band-like default penalties, but you can't get around them ("I step forward in the -5 band so I'm at -4!" = Nope.)

Double Edged Swords:

Tactical Precision. See Mapped, above. Basically, you can't really use your tactical understanding of hex map fighting to leverage your Reach, your Facing, and your Move and exploit those of the enemy. And the opposite - you don't suffer any of the major consequences of them.

Mobility. You are not rewarded for higher mobility because there isn't anywhere to move around. You aren't punished for being a Move 3 tank, either, though.

Overall, you have to trust the GM and just take some answers as answers. This isn't to say mapped combat is for players who don't trust the GM (in that case, don't play with each other, period.) It just means if you thought you were set up to hit the guy attacking your buddy and the GM says, no, you can't get to him - you can't get to him. Ultimately it's how the GM pictures it that matters, and you can't argue it very effectively. For players who don't like to cede any information about a situation

Really, mapless combat is just "adventuring as normal" but with violence. Like opening a door or a chest, or when a bar fight happens, or whatever - it's mapless but has consequences. You have to accept some fuzziness and assumption. If you try to have the best of both worlds, you actually end up with some of the pros but all of the cons of both styles. And personally I think no fight or PC has been lost directly due to lack of a map. I've seen a number of people killed make-a-new-guy dead in tactical combat. And as for speed of decisions, I don't see anyone really making better ones with more time spent.

Short version: without a map, you give up the benefits (but also the consequences) of tactical combat elements. Things go faster but you have to be willing to accept the downsides of vagueness to do it. Both options have elements that affect the combats positively and negatively.

Did I miss anything?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Stonehell 2 arrived

I got my copy of Stonehell 2 in the mail yesterday.

It's now on my reading pile - which usually has one Japanese book (practice!), one strength and conditioning book (work!), and one gaming or fiction book.

Stonehell 2 is that last book.

At a glance, it's got a lot of interesting things I'm going to steal use in my own games. I like that about Michael Curtis's stuff.

Quick Initiative Idea

I use side-based Initiative in my DF game. We used Partial Surprise rolls to determine which side goes first, and then all of that side (PCs, or NPCs) goes first. A substantial victory can mean surprise, otherwise, we're just seeing who got started a little quicker. We changed the Partial Surprise rules a little because "win and go first, lose and be stunned, tie and you're tied" thing is pretty brutal - most fights start with even a prepared group being pummeled for a while before they react.

But Christopher Rice put up an interesting post about random rolling to determine place in the initiative order. It's a one-time roll, of course, since GURPS doesn't have combat rounds and thus gets weird quickly with re-ordered initiative (take it from someone who tried that, back in the day, before anyone bothered with Wait.)

One idea that springboards off of one of Christopher's ideas is this:

Merged Initiative/Surprise

Initiative and Surprise are determined randomly.

Side Based

The leader of each side makes an initiative roll per Partial Surprise, p. B393. Add the result to the highest Speed of any character on that side. The side with the higher total goes first.

Individual Based

As Side Based, but add the leader's roll to each inidividual's Speed. Arrange turn order based on that number. Optionally, everyone rolls individually, and takes the bonuses from their leader.

This basically means a side with smarter characters, guys with higher Tactics, a leader (especially with Born War Leader!) will generally go faster. They may even pace the fight against fast foes who aren't as well lead. A leader with Tactics, Born War Leader 2, and Combat Reflexes will be rolling 1d+5, 1d+6 against less-intelligent creatures (and they'll roll 1d-2 for being leaderless, 1d-1 if one has Combat Reflexes.) Very fast opponents can still go more quickly, but it'll be very uncommon. Very tactically organized foes will be a surprising threat.

Just a thought. I haven't tried it, but it does merge the Partial Surprise rolls and rules about the benefits of organization, leadership, Tactics, etc. with a Speed-based random-roll based initiative system.

I should post my Partial Surprise house rules at some point, too!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Mapless Combat & Retreat

One big problem we routinely have running fast, mapless combat is that people want the benefits of the map even without the map. This happens to such a degree that my players have been known to draw a map and put their minis on it (or draw themselves on the map) and use that even if I am not. You can see how that's a problem - we're literally not on the same page, and thus we get the downsides of a map and tactical combat (costs a lot of time) with none of the upsides (we all agree the fight appears a particular way.)

I think there are three big concerns with mapless combat:

- it's hard to picture your position relative to the other combatants.

- no one wants to be flanked.

- everyone wants to ensure they can Retreat.

It often feels like the third is the main concern.

Here are three ways to deal with this.

No One Can Retreat - Simple. No one can Retreat. It's not in Combat Lite (p. B324-328) so it doesn't apply.

Pros: Simple, easy. Speeds up combat because there are more hits.

Cons: Characters who depend on Retreat to live (or Retreat-like moves like Acrobatic Dodge) feel penalized.

Roll to Retreat! - Any time you want to Retreat, make an IQ or Tactics roll. If you make it, you can Retreat. If not, you can't.

DF characters with Born War Leader can use Tactics to roll for someone else, if they spend a turn coaching them (use the same rules as rolling Leadership in DF2).

(You can just make this a flat chance roll for everyone - 1 in 6 for tight quarters, up to 5 in 6 for wide open fights)

Pros: You can't always Retreat, but smarter and more tactically adept can routinely assure they can maneuver around.

Cons: More rolling. Not likely to satisfy players who want to Retreat because they will feel their guy should be able to ensure Retreating room. Uncertainty might make players treat it as "No One Can Retreat" since they can't rely on it.

Everyone Can Retreat - Like it says - everyone can always Retreat, unless the fight takes place in circumstances that make this impossible.

Pros: Will definitely satisfy players who like Retreat. Increases the survivability of characters because they routine get a +1 or +3 to apply to their defenses.

Cons: Fights will be longer, because there will be less hits. Mapped combats will be more lethal, because you go from "everyone Retreats" to "some people Retreat sometimes."

It's worth noting these apply to everyone - PCs, NPCs, friends and foes alike. The "Everyone Can Retreat" version, for example, means Dodge-heavy foes get a +3 to defend. So for all it sounds like the best option for PCs, it's also the one that'll hurt the PCs the most. It takes a -3 Deceptive Attack to negate a +3 to Dodge, so the last option is a disguised -6 to hit in return for you getting a +1 to +3 to defend . . .

I may use one of these, if it means faster mapless combats and less reluctance to accept less detailed combats.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Double Dee 's post

Sorry, this isn't about a well-endowed and extraordinarily well-painted miniature figure or anything like that.

But it does concern two crowdfunding efforts by Jeff Dee.

The first is a GoFundMe campaign for his ongoing legal battle over Villains & Vigilantes:

Monkey House Games Legal Battle

and there is also a Kickstarter he has going for his TSR-era art. This time it's A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords:

Jeff has a 100% delivery track record on his art projects for Kickstarter. It's a low buy-in, too, at $5 for a small but attractive print.

If you need more Dee in your life or just want to support his legal battles to recover his game, click those links.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Turning up the value of relative skill level in GURPS

I have been using a few methods to make the relative level (say, DX+2) more important than the skill (say, 16 for DX 14 and DX+2) sometimes.

There isn't anything especially exciting or new here, but I think sometimes people forget you can do this.

Floating the base stat. I think my players, especially the newer ones, are still getting used to this. But I do this fairly often.

Some example:

- Beats are based on ST-based weapon skill rolls. Ruses are IQ-based.

- I've used Per-based Alchemy to smell or spot likely potions, and the normal IQ-based roll to identify them.

- DF floats Traps and Lockpicking all over the place.

- I've allowed IQ-based weapon skill to identify subtle things the NPCs are doing with their weapon skills that the players wouldn't notice but the characters might. Per-based would do for spotting, but IQ does well for understanding.

Relative Level Bonuses. Every unarmed skill has a bonus for exceeding DX. And since we use a stripped down version of Technical Grappling, those unarmed bonuses just keep on coming for grappling. Weapon skills get that for Weapon Masters. Forced Entry gets it for bashing down doors and walls.

Hybrid float-and-bonus. This is allowing a skill with a positive relative skill level to augment a stat. For example:

- In my Lost City game, many of the basic daily rolls vs. exhaustion and FP loss, jungle diseases, etc. roll against the better of HT or HT-based Survival.

(A couple truly nasty things out there roll HT-based Survival, because it's what you know and how well your body fights it off. Default is HT-5 . . . )

- I sometimes limit bonuses to your relative skill level for complex gear - you can only get a bonus equal to what you know to put in. So very fine lockpicks give +2 to rolls if you have Stat+2 or better, but only +1 for Stat+1, and no bonus for Stat+0 or less. You just don't have the skills to make the gear do its thing.

I've found that by sprinkling this stuff into a game, or by liberally using it, people value points in skills. Suddenly munchkiny "never raise more than 4 DX based or 4 IQ based skills" are actively limiting your flexibility . . . because something Stat+5 is more important and useful than a higher stat and lower relative skill.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Melee Academy: Typical Combat Mistakes

I thought I'd get down a couple of points about common combat mistakes I see in GURPS, and it grew into this.

These are errors I see in character generation, character development, and play. I'm not immune to these, myself, but generally I see them more than suffer from them because I'm the GM.

Betting on Airtight Defenses - I also call this the "perfect defense fallacy."

You see this in character design - maximum defenses, maximum possible HP, maximum DR. Buy the maximum protective perks, advantages, and skills you can before you do anything else. Whenever you have a choice between a game-changer advantage, an offensive advantage, or more defense - choose more defense.

This is a fallacy because you don't always get to defend - some attacks are by surprise, or ignore your chosen defense (and you don't know it does until too late), come from behind, or just affect everyone in an area. Further, some attacks ignore your DR, or just don't let your HP matter much (very high damage attacks, non-damaging afflictions, etc.) Grappling makes some of your defenses harder or negates them, once your foe is in close, and takes away more defenses once a grip is secure.

In GURPS, even a ST 25 barbarian with Mountain of Meat and dwarven plate armor with Fortify +5 on it can be one-shotted and killed outright. Avoiding utility and offensive power and game-changing abilities until your defenses are perfect means you're likely to need perfect defenses. And it won't be enough.

Betting on favorable circumstances.

This is an odd cousin to the perfect defenses fallacy. This is, "my defense bonuses will carry me through if I get all of them. Which I will, almost always."

It's an odd cousin because the perfect defense fallacy attempts to cover all of these bases - get a 16+ on defense rolls even when everything is going wrong. This fallacy assumes you won't have to make do. They overlap where the "won't have to make do" approach means you are buying up all sorts of conditional bonuses (shields, Shield spells, limited DR, specific defenses, etc.) in order to have perfect defenses . . . and then suffer because you need those defenses even when circumstances are not perfect.

Retreat - This warrants a special mention. Depending on Retreat to survive is a common error. Betting on your ability to retreat is a featureless plain fallacy. A substantial minority of the time, you will be unable to Retreat at all. A majority of the time when you're fighting alongside friends, you are better off as a group if no one Retreats. But plenty of players will depend on Retreat, especially in the face of non-striking attacks (slams, grapples, grabs, etc.)

Depending on retrograde movement to make your combat strategy work means "room to move" isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. The Retreat-based strategy also means you depend on your friends to give you space, not support - it's an every-man-for-himself strategy. If your friends are close enough to support you, they are close enough to impede your retreat. Or close enough that if you retreat and they don't, enemies will pour into the gaps.

Defensive fighting is smart, but these three mistakes result from putting defense now (or defense numbers) ahead of all other concerns. It's overdoing a good thing.

This approach can also be frustrating for the player, too - you bank on your top-notch defenses and then along come attacks that make them irrelevant. There is little grumpier than the player of a grappled PC with 1 point in Wrestling, or who is attacked from behind despite 8 front-facing DB and a base Parry of 12, or someone who can't fight without his shield once his shield gets broken. You go from "I can Parry anything 98.1% of the time, and I have luck for the 1.9%" to "this game sucks!" or "We've lost this one" in one move.

The Wunderwaffen Fallacy - Basically, "and then a miracle happens, and we win the fight!"

Summoned monsters, one-shot monster summoning items, potions, alchemist's fire, poison, spells, etc. all fall into this category. Instead of being used as an assistance to the main effort of the group's offense or defense, they often make up the main effort.

Either they get deployed as a first-strike wunderwaffen ("I'll throw this poison gas bomb and sit back and reap the rewards!") or as a last-ditch attempt to save the day ("They're tearing us apart! This statuette that summons a 40-point imp will save us!"), or both. In both cases, they're often deployed with unreasonable expectations of success and thus without support - you send the summoned monster in alone, you throw the grenade in, you change nothing about your approach but down a potion to do it a little better.

In my own games, I have given items that will save the day, and which have done so. But they're vastly outnumbered by the ones that just are helpful to a good strategy but which won't bail you out of a bad one. It's rare to have a one-shot win button magic item or spell or piece of gear, but very often people treat any one-shot item or summoned creature as one.

Not enough offense.

It's one thing to get a solid offensive ability and then diversify. It's another to have, basically, a weak offense.

That generally springs from a few issues.

Not enough offensive variety. Because putting all your eggs in one basket is point-efficient, it's very common for GURPS characters to be one-trick ponies in combat. They end up really bad at everything except their chosen skill, and thus prefer to use that in all cases. It's also monetarily efficient to has one great weapon instead of two not-as-great ones. So resource management pushes for one skill, one weapon.

This is why you see people swinging flails, two-handed swords, shields, and axes while grappled instead of using knives, grappling back, head butting, etc. Even with the penalties for doing so, the other options are often so neglected they won't work in the circumstances they're made for.

A lack of damage variety is another - only cut, only crushing, only impaling, only piercing, etc. - often means you are exceptionally good against opponents vulnerable to that kind of attack. If you are an expert against eye shots, you better hope your opponents have eyes and didn't take Injury Tolerance (No Brain) or its equivalent. If you only have cutting attacks and your foe is vulnerable to crushing, you're giving up an advantage by sticking to one damage type. And so on.

No distance variety. - A subset of this is a lack of ranged attacks. You get the occasional thrown weapon, which are bad against foes with shields or a solid parry skill. But generally guys are "melee" or "ranged" but rarely both. After all, 4 points "wasted" in Bow is a +1 to your melee skill you didn't take, or vice-versa. Even with a thrown weapon, it's often too valuable to throw away and the range doesn't stack up - it becomes more of a special case for melee than truly ranged.

No offense, period - Support-type characters tend to have this - no way to usefully contribute to a fight. They bring a pistol to a rifle fight, a knife to a gunfight, and an emergency backup weapon to a swirling melee. Since they can't do much, they end up doing nothing - foes can ignore them (or try to victimize them, to draw a reaction). This is often a side effect of the one-dimensional no-range-or-no-melee character design. "I'll just stand here."

Time is wasting!

This came up in my discussions of suicide by Great Haste. There is a pull towards maximizing what you do this turn.

It's possible to waste opportunities. It's possible to do too little and not contribute to victory. But the fallacy springs from thinking that you must do as much as possible each turn to create opportunities. This can lead to forcing ones that don't exist, or taking risks that aren't warranted to try to create a payoff. Just realizing that if there is nothing good to do, Waiting or some non-attacking move (taunting, inspiring friends with Leadership, getting into a better position, etc.) can be the best option available. Pushing too little is bad, but so is pushing too hard. It's this mistake that drives lots of running around the battlefield trying to attack the best target every time, breaking up formations, or doing costly attacks with little benefit to yourself or your friends.

Those are some of the combat mistakes I see pretty often in my games, and from reading other people's game reports.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Lost City vs. my other DF areas

I was thinking about my Lost City vs. the Cold Fens vs. the Borderlands vs. Felltower.

Wilderness Conditions - For all that my players dread the flooded swampy boat trips of the Cold Fens, the jungle is worse.

Edmund Blackadder: "I hear that conditions in your army Jungle wilderness are appalling."

Duke of Wellington: "Well I'm sorry, but those are my conditions and you'll just have to accept them."

Movement is a huge key. Everyone is mobile, but no one is mobile enough - and "carry it home with minimal difficulty" trumps "just light enough to get it out of the dungeon." On top of that, the PCs need disease-curing ability, poison-curing ability, a good reserve of FP, and a little luck (augmented by skills) to get through.

Exploration Heavy - The Lost City demands you explore. There is a buttload of treasure-less monsters out there, plaguing the jungle and the city ruins. Even the treasure-owning monsters leave it behind when they come out to engage with intruders/potential food. Finding that treasure takes exploration. Exploration takes time - and time is at a premium.

This has come up in game, offline, in email, and on this blog - taking a long time to fight things means less exploration. The players need to choose between combat resolution detail and time to explore - and this place is exploration-driven.

Fighting is less important - Fighting is a means to an end here. In the Cold Fens fighting some monsters was required, and in Felltower fighting some monsters will open up avenues to explore now or later. Here, it's just a time killer even when you must fight them to get things. Time is running out, and you can't get loot without any fighting but every fight saps your ability to exploit loot before the PCs need to leave the area.

Requires specific targets - As my players found out last session, you need actionable intelligence and specific targets. Even then, you might choose poorly and come up blank. The more details you can get, the more places you can cross out on the map as being less-than-certain to have treasure, the better. If you go in expecting to find a way in, find some stuff at random, kill and loot, and go home . . . you will likely fail.

Skill Focused - Getting into and out of the Lost City requires some or all of:


Usually multiple rolls of each, often for everybody, with consequences for failure that can get ugly. After all, it's an isolated city ruins. It's used as a proof of adulthood/proof of innocence of a crime because it's hard to get to. The original ways in and out aren't accessible to the PCs, yet, so even getting out of the dungeon is tough. This is unlike Felltower (you just walk in) or the Cold Fens (two people with Boating was enough, and Navigation was a once-a-trip issue thanks to an easily navigable path (especially on the way home - roughly North was enough to arrive "home.") Non-combat skills can make or break your trip.

Those are what I think are the biggest, most obvious differences between my other locations and the Lost City.

Latest DF Draft submitted

I can't say a draft of what, exactly, but the first draft of my latest GURPS Dungeon Fantasy book went in to SJG today.

As always, much of it was developed in my own game.

As always, you'll recognize some of it when it comes out.

And as always, I can't say much about it.

So why the post?

Because getting a draft in feels like a big accomplishment, and I have no problems using my personal gaming blog to acknowledge my own personal gaming work getting done!

The previous book I put in is still selling pretty well - it's down from the initial spike, but Barbarians is still going pretty well.

And Ninja sold pretty well, too. Hurrah!
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