Thursday, March 31, 2016

Pyramid 3/89: Alternate Dungeons II

I received a copy of this as a comp, which surprised the heck out of me. Did I write some article, send it in a while back, and it finally got published?

No, although that has happened before.

Turns out I've got an Additional Material credit, probably because of Christopher Rice's article touching on material from my previous books.

Either way, it was nice to have this pop up in my inbox:

Pyramid 3/89: Alternate Dungeons II

(I love that cover, by the way - it's part of the excellent collage of art pieces used to make the cover of Martial Arts.

So what is in it? Here's my quick review based on a read through this morning.

Havens and Hells - by Sean Punch. This is a really meaty article - ten pages top to bottom of a campaign setting. It's basically a fantasy setting where the PCs go out into the chaotic hell of the world from safe havens to recover resources needed by civilization. Like "points of light" settings surrounded by a truly metaphysically different "other"? This is it. It's got some very interesting mechanics for sourcing magic, too, with the mana needed for spells cast in the Havens being raided out of Hell. Also, death is just an inconvenience. A big one, for sure, but it's not the end of your character.

It's not something you can easily nick bits from - the central conceit is that there are no other worlds out there, so it's hard to link this to other worlds. But it's a cool setting in and of itself.

Eastern Adventures - by Christopher Rice. Want a mixed bag Asian hodge-podge Mysterious East to go a-delving in with Dungeon Fantasy? This is it. This article basically morphs the templates of Dungeon Fantasy into a more samurai-and-wushu style setup.

It has some nice stuff you can steal for other games - the Heroic Thrower advantage, for thrown weapon masters, gets a real writeup. It's also got some nice Power-Ups that fit the modified templates very well. And it's got a skill-based dueling system that's quite interesting.

Because the source material expects a bit more "social interaction," some of the templates have a level of Social Regard as a required trait. That makes them slightly less useful out of the box if you port them over to a straight DF game, but it's easily fixable. The upside of point-buy - just take back the points! Some cleric and druid spells are marked as required, as well, which pretty much means you need to buy a given level of Power Investiture and some spells, which effectively bumps up the cost. And so on - lots of little changes that significantly change the feel of the templates. Which is totally the point, in any case.

It's got a very Kara-Tur feel to it, which may or may not be intentional. Kara-Tur was TSR's mysterious east, and it too featured a big main area with Chinese-themed adventurers and an island nation with Japanese-themed adventurers. That might just be an artifact of having the same influences. It's not a bad thing, though - you can go grab an OOP copy of Kara-Tur and go to town.

The Titan's House - by David Pulver. Short version - a drop-in adventure for Dungeon Fantasy centered on the house of a titan. It's got a house, a dungeon, giant chickens, and a plethora of oversized foes. It's ready to drop in and it's interesting. The foes are a little low on skill levels for my taste - I've found that really big opponents with moderate skills = bags of easily slain HP, especially if you're inflicting their SM as a penalty on strikes vs. smaller foes. The bigger they are, the more skilled they need to be to really threaten DF PCs (where skill 17+ is a common starting point.) But still, good adventure and GURPS needs more drop-in material.

Random Thought Table - by Steven Marsh. This article presents a campaign frame for secret dungeon delving. What if it's illegal to loot dungeons, yet very profitable, and also actively discouraged? Yeah, town is safe as long as you don't talk about delving club.

Short Bursts - by Matt Riggsby. This is such an alternate dungeon article that it's not even about dungeons. It's a one-page article featuring Car Wars arenas. Reads well and it's interesting, but mostly serves to remind me that my Car Wars stuff is in a box in a basement (not even my basement) and it's likely to stay there.

Overall, good issue, and I can use bits from it right away and build off some of them later.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mixing Rumors, Events, and Random Encounters

My "rumor table" is probably a bit misnamed. It's not just rumors. In my current game, I mix three things into my "Rumor" tables:

Rumors, events, and random encounters.

Here is what I mean by each.


Straight up heresay, bits of legends, feedback on previous delves, actionable clues, etc. are the mainstay of the rumor table. Here are some rumors that showed up in my game:

"Those six-fingered vampires are supposedly part-elven, so you can speak to them in elvish."
"Ain’t no one ever cracked the main doors of Felltower, and that’s a fact."

As always, these are a mix of true, not true, and in between. For many, I don't even know if they're true or not, but they might become one or the other in play.


Some of the "rumor" rolls actually turn up events. Until someone rolls them, the stated event they hear news about hasn't occured. Roll up "I hear there is a new potion shop in town!" and there is a new potion shop in town. Until it's rolled, there isn't.

For example, here are two "rumors" that were actually "events."

"A family of dwarven armourers has made a deal with the city’s smiths, so dwarven gear will be much more readily available."

"There are snakemen warriors visiting from the deserts of Morthand."

For both of those, once I rolled them the thing spoken about happened. Dwarven gear bumped up a level in availability. My snakeman minis had been finished getting painted and were now available as NPC hirelings with No Legs (Slithers) on their Traits list (which didn't stop them from becoming a giant army of snakemen at war with the orcs).

Random Encounters

Some of the "rumors" are actual encounters for a given PC or PCs (if multiple people make the same roll, I worked that in.) Someone selling a map or an object, a recurring minor NPC with a rumor, a chance to sell something not normally salable, etc. will be on the rumor table instead of just a town encounter. For the encounters, reaction rolls matter - I'll jack up the price if the angry outlander gets the offer, maybe lower it if the desperate gnome meets the gnome PC, an so on. It's really an encounter, but boiled down to just the nugget that affects the dungeon delve or shows the effect of a dungeon delve.

Here is one that spawned its own post:

"Hey, I'll trade you this piece of gold I got - I found it under Felltower almost fifty years back. (Offers to trade 1 gp - with a ape head one one side with a crown or something on its head, and weird writing on the back - with Gift of Tongues reads "All Hail Gorillicus the Great") for 2 gp."

You can see the embedded self-instructions I put in, in parenthesis.

I have occasionally given blanket news items, but even then I prefer to direct it to one person. When Black Jans the Enchanter first showed up in Stericksburg, Nakar the Unseen (a now-deceased PC) received a letter announcing it. Actually, a physically printed letter I gave to the player. I didn't include that on the table, but nowadays that's exactly what I would do.

I do these this way for a few reasons. One is so that socially active PCs get more of these results - better Carousing skill rolls and so on pay off. etc.

Another is to keep the town feeling alive and vibrant. "I heard" becomes "this happened" or "I did (such-and-such)." It opens the world in a way that "roll three rumors, and then this encounter happens!" It also means that news and changes in town tend to be more noticeable. Instead of the GM handing them out to the group as a whole, it's the GM (me) telling it to a single specific play, who now owns that news. The rest of the table hears it (or doesn't, because they're not paying attention for whatever reason) but that PC is now connected to the story or the event. "Some guy in town is selling a map, does anyone in the party do something about this? is nice, but compare that to "Some guy offers YOU a map right now for beer money. Take it or leave it."

I highly recommend this - use it just as you would mix "wandering damage" into your wandering monsters. Try mixing in events and two-bit encounters into your rumors and carousing. It's fun all around, and makes rumor rolls more than just stuff you heard but things you get to do . . . or in a meta-game sense, caused.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Skull-helmet quote

I wish I'd bookmarked this passage to quote in Barbarians:

"The barbarians wore only skins of mammoths and polar bears, along with boiled leather with plates of seal bone sewn onto it, and, instead of helmets, they used the skulls of animals from the Desolate Lands, which gave them a rather terrifying appearance. They were armed with axes and clubs, because they knew almost nothing of about bows and arrows. In battle they often went completely berserk."
- Alexey Pehov, Shadow Blizzard

Still, nice. I'm doubly glad I made sure to include skull helmets in Barbarians (page 29).

Monday, March 28, 2016

Dungeon board game

Way back when I was first gaming, I had the Dungeon! boardgame. Most of it is long since lost - pieces scattered, cards ripped, destroyed, and scattered, etc.

But a couple weeks back I found these two bits - pages 1 and 2 of the Basic Rules (with a big chunk missing) and the board:

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Stericksburg's Status

Next week is my Felltower game.

Stericksburg hasn't really sat idle.*

Here is the current status for equipment and personnel.

All of the following rolls are modified as usual for over-spending on upkeep and for Reputation. Under-spending or bad Reputations reduce them. Not spending (roughing it out in the wilderness with Survival) reduces them all to zero. Only automatically available items are available for you - the rest take shopping time and you spent that time camping out to avoid upkeep costs!


Here are the availability rolls for equipment, broken out by section. Every two points the roll is made by is an additional one of that item for sale. On a critical success, the number is one for every one point the roll was made by or unlimited, depending on which makes more sense. You may make one roll per session for the entire group for a given item.

Mundane Gear: Freely available.

Armor and Weapons: List items are freely available. Custom and prefixed gear is available on a 15-, 12- if it's an odd combination or multiple-prefixed, and as low as 6- for really specific combinations ("I need a Fine Dwarven Balanced throwing axe with a backspike, both Silvered"). You can always special order custom weapons and armor. Custom armor assumes you're staying in town - no getting fitted out for a suit while you're living out in the woods.

Most ammunition is available in unlimited quantities, but special ammunition will be limited based on a 15- roll and one round per point the roll is made by.

Special Items: Most "specialty" items are available on a 12-. If not, you must special order them. Orders take 2d weeks to arrive, not 1d, because we're alternating games between sessions. Just because we're supposed to start up Star Wars and we'll play Gamma Terra doesn't mean it's effectively half as many sessions to wait for special order items.

Magic Equipment: Special order only. Normal enchantment times apply, plus delivery time for special orders.

Low-cost basic enchantments take half as long as listed above, or the normal enchantment time, whichever is higher. Some basic enchantments might be available right away (Fortify, Lighten, ammunition enchantments, and so on.) What counts as "low-cost" and "basic" is a GM call.

Chemicals and Natural Concoctions: Unlimited.

Poisons: Monster Drool is unlimited. Others are available on a 12-.

Potions: Most potions are available on a 12-. Minor Healing, Major Healing, and Universal Antidote potions are available with no limit on quantity.

Scrolls: Available for special order.

Power Item Charging: As listed, overcharging power items is not yet available.


Raggi Ragnarsson: Available on a 9-. It's been a year plus since he's hit Felltower. He might come rolling back in when he hears his new Roughnecks are looking for their leader (heh), but he might not. He's a loot-seeking killer, at heart, and he's not going to hang out not looting and not killing. On a 9- or less, though, he's passing through Stericksburg and he never says no to adventuring.

If not, we'll roll 9- each session. Once he's back, he's at his usual chances: 9- if he got a lot of loot, 12- in most cases, 15- if he's hard up for cash.

Black Jans: Appearance is a per-session roll, never modified by anything! This is a specific exception to the rules. Roll frequency is secret, and made by the GM, and varies based on other circumstances. All visits require a Reaction Roll, also done in secret, and the results of the visit depend highly on this! Bonuses or penalties depend on what the visit is for. Visitors are strongly advised to be polite, be careful, and to only approach Black Jans when other resources have been exhausted.

Hirelings: Normal availability per DF 15. Relatively few veterans still live.
The big war to the south is still going on, but it's Spring so campaign season is just beginning. That means there are still a number of able bodied potential hirelings in Stericksburg. Early financial success by the PCs might keep folks around looking for work. Early failure might poison the well for a while.

Volunteers: Available on a 6-. No one has had sufficient success to get world-be "part members" to just show up and sign on, especially since the pay assumption is "tips."


Because someone has been asking about learning to make Power Items, casting spells for cash, working in town to build up money, and so on:

Jobs: As always, there are just enough jobs out there that pay equal to your upkeep. You can always take a job instead of your one week's upkeep cost for downtime, but this precludes any extra in-town rumormongering, shopping, special orders, etc.

Otherwise we assume you've been working at a net-zero income job for most of the time you were off, paid one week's upkeep yourself, and been able to shop, learn spells, recover from injury, hit the sack early for an early departure on delve day, etc. Examine this too closely and it might break down, so don't do that. It's Dungeon Fantasy, not Papers & Paychecks. And if you really want to make your own Power Items, it's a 75 point Power-Up. It's not worth it in this game, but it's your character.

* Well, it has, but then I went and modified it to preserve that illusion.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Darklands CRPG?

I'm sure I've heard about this game in passing over the years:

It's on sale on GOG for $1.49 (usually it's $5.99). Is it worth it?

It sounds pretty awesome, but it also sounds like a massive time sink, too. I'm curious if it's worth getting for some play and what I might pick up out of it more than "play dawn to dusk until completion." That might happen too, of course.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Disappointing Hirelings of D&D5e

I try to do a 5th edition D&D post on Fridays, because I like the game and it makes me keep revisiting the material so I can learn it better. I've been posting about hirelings, so why not see how D&D handles them?

I started in the DMG, because that's where I expected to find the rules on hiring NPCs.

What does the DMG say about them?

Not much. Page 94 says they aren't terribly important and they "rarely become important in an adventure" - okay, maybe. If we're talking the bartender who serves you a drink or the bosun's mate on the ship who you never interact with.

The Player's Handbook has them listed under equipment, with all of two lines for "unskilled" and "skilled" hirelings. And a cost for messengers per pile, cab rides, and ship's passage and such.

That's really about it besides vague guidelines for some people costing more to hire.

I found this all rather disappointing. I like hirelings, sidekicks, allies, henchmen, and camp follower types a lot. I think they add a lot of value to campaigns. But these rules are pretty sparse. The morale rules mention monsters, and could be used with hirelings, but that probably goes without saying. Are there rules for hiring NPCs, recruiting henchmen, loyalty, costs, etc. out there for 5e I need to be aware of? Did I miss some information not listed in the TOC or index under hirelings, or elsewhere?

If not, I'll need to see about porting over the GURPS or AD&D rules for hirelings to 5e.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Treating the Hirelings Right

So I've been harping on bad delver-hireling relations for a few posts.

How about good delver-hireling relations, codified into rules? Here are two more optional expansions to the Loyalty rules.

Note that Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen already covers a fairly large swatch of good treatment. Successful delves, pay above scale, rescue, etc. Players who hire help would do well to read Loyalty, DF15 p. 30 and do those things. It takes consistent effort and good deeds to build up trust over time, but bad treatment tends to inflict permanent damage on the relationship rather quickly. Hirelings tend to think you are how you act on your worst day.

Gearing Up. Permanent purchases and gifts of new equipment to a hireling should be treated as pay increases equal to 1/2 the value of the gear. (That is, it's slightly better than the sale value of the gear, but people prefer cash bonuses to "Here is this shortsword I found, keep it.")

Trust. +1 to +3 temporary loyalty. Demonstrations of trust can cause temporary increases in Loyalty. These include trusting a hireling with a valuable and/or mission critical piece of equipment, loaning a powerful magical item, or putting your life in the hireling's hands. Assigning jobs that require trust may qualify in some cases. Such circumstances need to be exceptional - the GM should decide if the task is important enough and the hireling would recognize it as a matter of trust and not just palming the job off. At the end of the session, roll a Reaction Roll. On a Good or better reaction, the hireling's Loyalty increases by +1 permanently.

Trusting a hireling with an important job, handing them the Wand of Orcus to use for the session, and otherwise demonstrating that he is in a position of trust and respect may translate to better reactions in the long run. Of course, some NPCs aren't worthy of such trust, but then again, some PCs aren't, either . . .

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Three Minis WIP

I had a little painting time yesterday, after doing all of the necessaries for the day. I did my usual - bang away at minis that are sucking out my life by being hard to paint, plus a new mini.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How do you spend your earned XP?

In general, do you prefer to:

- Spend your points as they come, making lots of small purchases;


- save up and spend them all in a big whack, making either one big purchase or a bundle of small ones?

I personally do the latter almost always. I think that's a combination of things.

- I just assume I'm going to survive. I don't really mind dying with saved points. I haven't had a lot of GURPS PCs die, so that might be part of it.

- I'm always more interested in the big stuff than the small stuff. A +1 to a skill might be nice, or an extra HP. But +2 to ST, acquiring a nifty high-cost Power-Up or getting Luck might change my character's capability in a broad or deep way.

- I can't really make up my mind so easily.

I think that combination is why my Gamma Terra guy spent 10 points on +5 HP and hasn't spent anything since. It's why when I briefly played in a friend's modern GURPS game I never actually spent any points from the sessions I played. I just held on to them.

I get the temptation to spend now - there is always something you can use right now - but I don't feel it.

How about you guys? I really mean how you spend - not until you have a lot saved or as you go - not what you spend it on. That's what I'm curious about.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Mistreating the Hirelings II: Ominous Table Talk

Another hireling Loyalty check optional rule occurred to me - loose and ominous table talk.

Examples of this are:

"It's okay - if they die, we'll just make them into zombies. Zombies are better, anyway, they're stronger and will follow any command."
"The good part is we get 40% value of their armor and weapons after they die!"
"I suppose we can just have the hirelings run in there and then shoot into melee and see if they're immune to non-magic weapons or not."
"The hirelings can run in holding alchemist's fire and then drop them. They can stop, drop, and roll out the flames before they take serious damage."

You know - openly discussing the hirelings like they're not there, and making suggestions of uncaring nastiness.

You might say, but doesn't Team Evil do this all of the time?

Yes, Team Evil probably does. But you hear about mob figures rubbing each other out and rebellions against the dark lord and how you can't trust your evil backstabbing "ally." The downside for being evil, ruthless, and untrustworthy is that people who associate with you are probably the same. Or they're fools, which is why evil henchmen aren't widely known for their faithful and effective service. The smart ones backstab you and the dumb ones fail you through stupidity, and the zombies just get chased away with True Faith.

Team Evil has ways of making you cooperate, or join them, but not generally of making you Loyal.

But I digress.

Ominous Table Talk

If the PCs make the hirelings feel like future zombies carrying re-salable goods instead of actual hirelings, use the following rule.

Make a Loyalty roll. If the hireling passes, there is no effect. They're unimpressed by the commentary. If the hireling fails, reduce Loyalty temporarily (for one day or one delve) by -1. If the suggestion seems to be followed up on, make this reduction permanent.

This is cumulative! You can rapidly drive a moderate to low Loyalty hireling to desertion or refusal to serve in this manner. Failure to obey or desertion happens when it's most convenient for the hireling. Remember to apply Obey Under Protest.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Quick Felltower note

So in two weeks, we'll be back in Felltower, after more than a year away from the megadungeon.

I'm really looking forward to it. It'll take much less prep than the Cold Fens or Lost City did per-session, and has a lot more literal and figurative depth to it.

Now I just need to shake a little free time to spend making sure I've done all of the restocking, changes, rumor generation, etc. necessary to be 100% ready to roll in two weeks.

Felltower Surface photo Castle.jpg

Heretical D&D5 Playtest

Last night I got to take part in Doug's playtesting of his Heretical D&D combat system.

I played with three people I haven't played with before - Patrick, Stephanie, and Jeffro (who, obvious, I already know.)

It was pretty interesting. Doug's hammered out a nice variation of D&D.

It didn't feel like GURPS, although it did have some of the things I like about GURPS.

It did feel like D&D5e, but with enough differences that I had to keep close attention. Even so, things that work in D&D worked here - flanking/advantage, simple attack choices (hit him, hit some other guy, don't hit anyone), etc.

I used the "charge in and engage" method of fighting. I ran Otto Markmann, my new 1st level fighter. It was a combat playtest, and I didn't really feel like maneuvering tactically so much as brawling and seeing how it all worked.

Some highlights/lowlights:

- I attacked with Advantage and rolled two 20s. It's a shame that double criticals doesn't mean automatic maximum damage or something. I don't think it mattered - I gutted my target - but it would have been nice.

- One of the "boss fight" foes rolled a long string of 20s. That carved up our fighters nicely. I think Doug decided we'd been killed, but technically, we left off with me having made 2 of my 3 death checks, and one in the tank. Science tells me a roll not made has neither failed nor succeeded, so he's still not dead.

- I forgot Second Wind. I never played a character with it, so I had no idea about it.

- I also didn't really have any idea how I'd relieve Stress after a fight, so I didn't. That and the above is probably why I got waxed. Well, maybe - I took so much damage on the criticals even the extra stress wouldn't have been enough to help me, and one extremely heavy wound went straight to injury and put me down.

- It can be frustrating to fight with a guy for a while and not do anything to him, but on the other hand, death spiral! Get in a solid hit and bam, it all starts to spin towards the grave. Fighting is like that, generally, so I like the feel. "He's wounded and vulnerable" not "he's wounded so he's just as dangerous but takes less additional hits to kill him." So you feel like you just need one more hit to make it all go right.

- Naming our group The Dungeon Frolickers.

- Having someone - I think Jeffro - ask, "Do we ever talk to monsters?" Me: "In a combat playtest?" Heh. Probably not the best use of our time. Like my old Shorin-ryu instructor used to say when you'd do something crazy that worked - "Nice move, but that's not what we're doing here." Successful, but not the technique you're trying to learn.

- One of these days I actually need to figure out Roll20. I hand-coded all of my attack and damage rolls, instead of filling in a character sheet.

Good stuff.

Here is Doug's look at it all.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hireling Optional Rules - Mistreating the Hirelings

One thing I never really liked as a GM was the whole "meatshield" and "cannon fodder" approach to hirelings. That is, treating them like suicidal idiots not worthy of consideration unless they turn out to be useful.

That is, treating them like disposable meat.

It's fair to hire potion tasters to taste potions, and guards to guard, and low-rent guys on the basis of "you go through the minefield first."

It feels less so to assume they'll commit suicide for you for low pay, and treat them like dirt at the same time.

Same with hiring soldiers on the grounds that they make great laborers and cooks and torchbearers when needed.

Or hiring torchbearers and laborers and cooks and ordering them into combat when it's expedient.

Feel the same way?

What if that mattered?

Here are some optional rules. They're partly tongue in cheek, but they actually work using the Reaction Rolls and Loyalty scores from DF15.

All of this assumes a basis of risk acceptance, just like the rules in DF15.

Say my name!

It's nice when someone knows your name. New hirelings don't expect this automatically, especially if they hire on as part of a group.

If you address a hireling by his or her actual name when making a request, roll any Reaction Roll at +1. Give a +1 to any Loyalty rolls from hirelings routinely addressed in this manner.

Forgetting a name doesn't affect a roll, nor does, "You, there, with the halberd!" Routinely forgetting a name after multiple adventures or weeks on the job does count as poor treatment, however.

Insulting nicknames are worth a -1 to Loyalty rolls and a -1 to Reaction Rolls from the NPC. These include bu aren't limited to "Mutt and Jeff" or "Itchy and Scratchy" or "Huey, Louie, and Dewey." Really insulting ones ("Hey, Meatshield #2!") might be worth -2 or more, and may trigger disadvantages like Bad Temper, Stubbornness, or Berserk. If a Loyalty roll is failed by 5+, permanently lower loyalty - the nickname might fade from use, but not the memory of it!

Hirelings Not Included

Sense of Duty includes a +2 reaction roll bonus in dangerous situations. This only applies if the Sense of Duty covers the hirelings and the PCs act as if it does. It's fine to have Sense of Duty (Adventuring Companions) with the caveat that this includes your core group but not one-time hirelings, but then you can't claim your +2 to their rolls. They aren't in the group and they know it. The same goes for other conditional modifiers for Code of Honor, Reputation ("Sticks by his friends"), and so on.

Not My Job

Hirelings asked to do something within their usual skills and specialties react normally. Asked to function outside of it, and they might balk.

Outside of their specialty, apply a penalty of -0 to -5, depending on the request. A specialist Skirmisher who totes his heavy crossbow might only react at -1 or -2 to deploying in melee, but at -3 when asked to max out his encumbrance carrying loot he's not entitled too ("Here, carry these 12 broadswords we looted from the orcs. There might be a pittance in it for you if you don't die this delve!"), and at -5 when asked to taste a potion to see if it's actually a harmful elixir or poison. Conversely, a potion taster might just sip that potion without even requiring a roll, but react at -3 when ordered into melee or -5 or more when told to cover the rear while the party pulls back.

This can be handled by hiring for multiple jobs, or raising pay enough for bonuses to offset it. Utterly loyal hirelings - such as minions and most Allies - don't even require a roll! (If using the "Appearance Rolls as Loyalty Rolls" rules from DF15, p. 28)

Exception circumstances may change this - you can usually ignore these penalties when carrying buddies out of harm's way, when forced into sudden combat, etc.

Friday, March 18, 2016

5e Friday: Otto Markman (Fighter)

I like fighters, especially two-handed weapons. Here is a 5th edition two-handed swordsman I whipped up as part of my practice making characters for the new D&D.

His mini has kind of a short-ish two handed sword - more like a longsword - but I like the pose and the sculpt. And I want to use a greatsword. He's a very old Hundred Years War mini, probably Wargames Foundry.

Otto Marksmann
Fighter 1

STR 16 (+3)
DEX 14 (+2)
CON 15 (+2)
INT 11 (0)
WIS 9 (-1)
CHA 13 (+1)

AC 16 (Mail 16, No DEX bonus, disadvantage on Stealth)
HP 12
Proficiency Bonus: +2
Fighting Style: Great Weapon Fighting
Skills: Athletics, Intimidation, Perception, Survival
Proficiences: All armor, shields, simple weapons, martial weapons, dice Set, wagon
Abilities: Second Wind

Background: Soldier
Specialty: Infantry

Trait: 6 (Stare down a hellhound) and Custom (No shit, there I was . . . )
Ideal: 4 Might (Stronger is better)
Bond: 5 (Those who fight beside me are worth dying for)
Flaw: 6 (Won't admit he's wrong)

Languages: Common

Money: 8 gp
Set of bone dice
Chain mail
Greatsword (2d6+3 slashing, Heavy, Two-Handed)
Dagger (1d4+3 piercing, Range 20/60, Finesse, Light)
Shortsword (1d6+3 piercing, Finesse, Light)
Light Crossbow (1d8+3 piercing, Range 80/320, Loading, Two-Handed)
20 crossbow bolts
Dungeoneer's Pack

Otto is a strong warrior but he's a bit foolish, having forsaken education in his youth for learning to fight. He's fairly charming, though, so for all of his errors in judgment he's not without a loyal friends.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

GURPS 101: Patching Holes (Poison, Disease, Influence Rolls)

The GURPS 101: Patching Holes series is meant to help players avoid specific weaknesses on their characters. It also is intended to help players identify a series of increasingly broad and effective solutions to a specific vulnerability or issue.

Today, three scourges of player characters: poison, disease, and influence rolls.


Getting poisoned can be dangerous - the cyclical damage might be low, but it just keeps coming. Many of them come with penalties to resist, often very steep penalties.

Narrow Solution Resistance to Poison (+3) [5] or (+8) [7]. For the fraction of a +1 to HT, you can get a much better HT roll versus poisons. Be warned: some poisons have no resistance check. Without Immunity to Poison, you're just suffering from the negative effects from those, no roll.

Wider Solution: Higher HT. At 10/level, it's a +1 to resistance checks against poisons that come with resistance (many of them). This more broadly impacts your character in any case. Combine with the narrow solution if immunity is out of the question but you need to beef up your resistance.

Complete Solution: Immunity to Poison [15] or Immunity to Metabolic Hazards [30] are the way to go. These are generally available for robots, androids, silicon lifeforms, and so on, but it's not always available for "normal" folks.


Like poison, disease can be a grinding death.

Narrow Solution: Resistant to Disease (+3) [3] or +8 [5]. Like poisons, some diseases won't come with a resistance roll, and some might come with race-specific penalties as well.

Wider Solution: Higher HT.

Complete Solution: Immunity to Disease [10] or Immunity to Metabolic Hazards [30], if they are available.

Influence Rolls

One upside of being a PC is that social skills inflict penalties, they don't inflict reactions. Still, it can be annoying to have to suck up a -5 because someone Fast-Talked you and you want to ignore it and search him anyway, or Intimidated you but you don't want to give in to the fear.

Narrow Solution: Increase Will, at 5/level. This will help against and Skill vs. Will contest centered on social skills.

Technically, Fearlessness [2/level] is the narrowest solution, but it only helps against Intimidation. It's mighty effective against that, however, as it subtracts from the roll against you and adds to your Will to resist, make it twice as effective.

Wider Solution: Indomitable [15] is the next tier up. Unless someone has the appropriate Empathy ability (Empathy, Animal Empathy, Plant Empathy, or Spirit Empathy), influence rolls automatically fail.

Complete Solution: There isn't really one. Combine high Will with Indomitable, but know it's still possible for you to be influenced!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

To what extent do you convert rules?

When you convert another game's setting, adventures, crunchy bits (equipment, monsters, etc.), or game elements (sanity checks, etc.), do you:

- convert them with maximum fidelity to the source rules?

- convert them with maximum fidelity to the end system's game rules?

- just pick something from the end system's game rules that fills the same need?

- convert in some middle ground kind of way?

For example, we're playing Gamma Terra. Gamma World has a random level up bonus chart, so our GM made up a GURPS-compatible version of it. When I ran GURPS 3e based Gamma World years back (my "Mutants & Mayhem" game), I didn't convert that - you just earned points like you normally do in GURPS.

For weapons, we've already seen some very Gamma World-like weapons, like Torc grenades. In my game, I just ignored most of the Gamma World weaponry and instead picked similar devices from GURPS Ultra Tech and handed them out. Where GURPS lacked something I felt was necessary, I just put it in and found something similar to nick the stats off of.

Rules like mutation, radiation, etc. I ignored and used GURPS rules instead.

I've done similar things in other places. I've converted a fair amount of D&D monsters to GURPS in my day. Back in my first games, I often directly ported effects over. 50% Magic Resistance? Roll percentile dice, see if the spell works. These days, I'm more likely to say "Magic Resistance works like in GURPS." My old, old sheets said stuff like "+1 Puissance or silver to injure." These days, more like Accessibility-limited Damage Reduction. When I did a pirates game that was based on a game and setting that had primary, secondary, and tertiary characters, I just did 100, 75, and 50 point characters. And of course when I ran AD&D, "converting" D&D monsters was as simple as just not using the Morale stat and adding "evil" to the end of Chaotic on most alignments.

I'm curious what other people do - I'm sure for most it's a mix. But what do you favor? Pull the mechanics for, say, Sanity right out of Call of Cthulhu and use it bolted on to your system? Change it to something that fits the resolution in your home system? Ignore it and make up a new rule entirely? Pick one that's close enough?

Conversion is a funny thing - what you demand out of them can be very different from another GM. And what you get by the decisions you make can change the flavor of your game immensely.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Leveling up in Gamma Terra

Pretty much how you "level up" in GURPS is by character point awards you spend on your character.

Or advantages gained in play.

But our Gamma Terra game has another twist - a random "level up" table.

I don't have the whole sheet, but it was percentile based and had a wide variety of boosts on it - Charisma +1, IQ +1, ST +1, Hard to Kill, etc.

There was even a 1-in-100 chance of "pick one" and the same chance of "roll twice, pick one."

Me, I rolled DX +1.

Since we started I've picked up 25 points, plus 1-2 levels of Night Vision (a mutation), Distinctive Feature (cool white eyes), and now DX +1 on top of that. I spent 10 of those points getting +5 HP (it was on our list of pre-approved advantages), leaving me 15. I expect 5 more points next session.

Personally I'm debating +2 to ST as soon as I have some downtime to justify bulking up a bit. Or I could improve some skills, or up DX again or up my IQ. Or split it to +1 ST and +1 HT.

I'm not sure, although I'm leaning to +2 ST or +1 to ST and +1 to HT. I like saving up and getting a big whack of power all at once, instead of spending ASAP and getting the most immediate boost I can. 5 points a session means a 15-point advantage every third session, if you don't spread it all over the place. Although Wrestling at DX+2 would be nice, and it's only 4 points, so that might happen sooner rather than too much later.

All in all, I'm about 41-42 points up from the campaign start. Still not enough to survive Gamma World without some smart play and luck, but it's really nice.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Paranoia Classic PDF bundle

Bundle of Holding has a PARANOIA Classic bundle going:

I have all of the main pack and most of the Ultraviolet Clearance set. But if you don't, this is a great chance to get one of the touchstone games in the RPG world. $18 just for the core stuff is a good deal.

The computer wants you to be happy. Happy citizens own Paranoia classic.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

GURPS Gamma World, 20th Homeland - Session 6 - Welcome to Boomtown

Sixth session of our Gamma Terra game today.

"Fatbox" (John M) - demo/EOD
"Hillbilly" (me) - medical specialist
"Momma's Boy" (Tom P) - computer programmer
"Princess" (Andy D) - cryptographer/sniper

Present but NPC'ed:
"Love Handles" (Vic L) - demo/EOD
"Short Bus" (Mike D) - computer programmer

In reserve:
"Caveman" (Jon L) - demo/EOD
"Barbie" (Mike H) - demo/EOD (MIA)

We started out in the crow's tower, where we left off last session. I had Hillbilly spit off the top, because he does that kind of kind, and then we headed down and slept in Softie, our warbot. In the morning we headed out across the water, aiming for a glittering . . . something . . . on the islands. After a while, thought, Softie stopped.

We'd found, basically, the edge of her electric fence. We'd hit her operational zone limits and couldn't contravene them. We ended up taking her along the edge until we reached land, and debarked.

We left Softie submerged and waiting, with orders to move for self-defense but stay in the area until we returned.

We hiked overland, heavily burdened by food and gear. We passed some locals - barnacle-faced humans who didn't speak any of our civilized tongues - English, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, or Vietnamese. Hillbilly mocked Princess for learning a useless language like Japanese. They had freaky barnacles on their faces and heads, and some had little eel-like creatures in tube-worm like growths. Yeah, the radiation here is bad.

We kept going, and passed one of the "glass lakes." Hillbilly skipped a stone on it and it hit without a sound and just zipped out of sight. World record, suggested Princess?

We moved across pontoon bridges and passed through ruins of Toledo into Boomtown. We had to stop overnight in a desert area, and dug some sleeping holes. In the morning, we set off.

There, we met Ajax, the local sheriff. We couldn't talk to him (or his mutated deputies) but a winged one-eyed green thing called Eeyoh could telepathically translate for us.

The deal was, no ranged weapons in Boomtown. We dickered a bit but we wanted in, so we disassembled our guns and kept the bolts and firing pins. The rest went into a big secure vault.

Into the town we went. Eeyoh gave us the 20-domar-a-day tour. Turns out he's got short-term memory issues, so he can't really remember things at all past a few days. So he's a useful guide who can't spy on us too-too well. Or he can, but he's got to report in immediately.

First things first, we needed to find a place to stay.

So we went to the saloon and drank instead.

Drinks were 1 domar (turns out the couple hundred we had were worth almost 3000) except for a 3-domar hallucinogen made from weird lake fish. Fatbox drank that - and clearly, it affected his combat skills.

As we sat, drinking and spending money on drinks for people in return for rumors, we got hassled. Four men walked up to us, armored and toting weapons (two shortswords, one mace, one car-battery topped maul) and said, "You seem to have a lot of domars. We'll be taking some of them."

Hillbilly: "F*** off."

They started to get ready to fight. So I said, "Do you want to fight here, or out in the street?"
"Here is good." They clearly wanted a crowd to watch. So they started to back off and give us room to get up and get ready for a good old four-on-four duel.
Hillbilly doesn't come from a "duel" culture.

As soon as they started to back up, I tossed my drink in the nearest guy's face and went straight into a two-armed tackle right off my bar stool. He wasn't that ready to fight - boom, I crushed into him and started to run him backward before he could really take a fighting stance with his sword ready. Fight's on!

We basically paired off, although that wouldn't last. Another guy with a shortsword took on Momma's Boy, who threw a bar stool at him (he ducked, and it missed, and hit some poor schlep.)

The guy with the mace moved in on Fatbox, who got out his axe.

The guy with the maul turned on Princess, who quickly got out his electro-whip and tagged him in the face, but mis-timed the shock effect and didn't zap him.

My fight was mercifully brief. In about three seconds, I drove him backward, reaped his leg, and bounced him off the floor. Then I put him in a choke hold with both hands from mount and inside of two seconds did some serious damage to his throat. He passed out. I grabbed his blade and stood up and turned to face the fray.

In the meantime, Momma's Boy and his opponent traded swipes - machete vs. shortsword. Momma's Boy took a cut but it couldn't penetrate his heavy armor (8d on the torso) and then he grabbed at his foe's wrist and clamped down on it. They'd go back and forth in close trying to cut each other, and Momma's Boy tried to cut off his arm at least once, punch him in the face with the handle, and then finally cut at his leg. The last cut worked.

Fatbox tried to cut down his foe with the axe but had back luck - his foe was good, and dodged or parried everything that came his way. In return Fatbox took a hard smash to the left leg, then took at least two other bell-ringing head hits. He was wobbly but kept fighting, trying to check his foe with his axe handle (parried, easily), cut him (again, parried), and slam (again, parried). He finally faded a little and got push-kicked but was able to slice his foe a little parrying him. But he wasn't able to keep going, slid down the bar, semi-conscious and out of the fight.

Princess was dismayed by his whip failure and grappled his much stronger opponent. His foe dropped the now-useless maul. Princess took an elbow to the face but kept coming, and struck his foe back at least once before getting out his knife. He got punched in the chest - he tried to parry but accidentally flipped his knife a few meters behind him. His foe didn't expect heavy chest armor and didn't hurt him, and instead hurt his own hand. Princess tried to take him down but his foe dodged back and ripped free of the grapple. Princess used Intimidation on his opponent but he didn't want to back down. But slipped down to his knees a second later - again, lots of mis-steps in their fight.

This is when I got back into the fight - as Fatbox was sliding down the bar, I'd finished charging past Momma's Boy's foe and into the mace-man. All-Out Attack (Double), Telegraphic, put one arm around his neck and one around his upper left arm. A second later, a takedown put him face down and mounted. Two seconds after that, he was out, choked well into -HP.

Momma's Boy finished off his foe with that earlier leg slice - he didn't have more fight in him after that and with two of his friends down. He turned his sword down and gestured that he was done. Princess's foe gave up, too, after taking a pommel to the face. Two guys out cold (and hurt), one slashed badly in the leg, the last guy sporting a big face injury.

They gave up. We took their weapons and watched their friends drag them away. I called one over, and said, "Next you come, you come friendly."
"We have no objections."
I gave the bartender 10 domars - enough for 1 each - and told them their next drinks were on me. No hard feelings, they took their beatings like men.

We propped poor Fatbox up and Momma's Boy surreptitiously injected him with a wound-healing injector.

As night fell we went to the lodge and got two adjoining rooms in a prison-like structure. No one bothered us, though.

Next morning, we headed out, and did some rounds of stuff we'd heard about.

First stop was an armorers, where we traded into the two swords and the mace from our buddies for three medium shields.

Next, across the street we visited a scrap buyer. Turns out the guys that hassled us were "Finders." They work for the Iron Men, the founders of Boomtown. They go into a ruin called The Ziggurat and pull out scrap and artifacts. We're trying to decide if we side with the Iron Men (who founded the town, and want the local nuclear reactor) or the Triumvirate (who control the reactor, and who Ajax works for.) The main buyer was a friendly green caterpiller. We offered to sell him a watch from the collection that Fatbox looted. He offered 100, especially after Momma's Boy couldn't figure out how to wind it. We passed, but got some good information. We found out that the Iron Men claim all working artifacts, and the sentence for hiding one particular kind is death - ID cards.

We have two.

I'm sure they'd grandfather those in, right?


Momma's Boy asked him if he'd turn into a butterfly, but he didn't understand. So we left.

Next up, the general store. We sold the pig-like mutant owner the watch when he recognized what it was and offered 250, and told us he'd like more of them. We have 32 more, so we sold him the one. He gave us a 10% discount for the day so we got some tents. Apparently, we need tents. Whatever, we have tents now. We also got information on the Finders and Iron Men.

We chatted about names, too, when we introduced ourselves.
"Only the greatest slayers are given the title 'Princess.'"
"Really? In my language that word means-"
"Yes, ours too, but we only give it to the greatest slayers."
We can't tell the real reason for his nickname, can we?

After that, the "Model Home." A local Restorationist named Cleo runs a museum-like "home of the part" exhibit. Some stuff was clearly wrong, although it's mostly stuff past our own time. We chatted with her for a while. She didn't know Severen, the Bal'Kree Restorationist, but we made it clear we had some past knowledge - not the least of which is we spoke English with her.

Momma's Boy offered her a piece of "great literature" that was often found in ancient houses, hidden away for special occasions under mattresses or between gaming books - a copy of Penthouse Forum from his stash. She was, ahem, a little taken aback, but promised to put it on display in the house.

Finally we spoke to Xorn, a make of glass weapons.



Xorn, the glass weapon maker:

Turns out he makes weapons of unbreakable glass. He demonstrated by cutting my utility knife in half with the blade-weight of a glass shortsword. They also glow in the dark, drain radiation, sometimes store radiation and discharge it on a hit, and slice through anything.

Cost for a large knife? 600 domars. Ouch.

We found out, though, that he couldn't assure us these weapons would absorb, drain, and discharge radiation. For that, he needs "ice" from the center of the glass lakes. He could make more powerful weapons, cheaply. But we'd need to brave strong radiation to get the raw materials. And brave the winds that blow the unwary across the low-friction ice.

We decided to cut it there, with a lot more to do.


One of the regulars was on vacation, another was sick, but we dragged their abnormally silent characters with us this session.

Personally, I want to take some time and re-total my gear. I'd like to get down some encumbrance. We carry way too much weight. Our guns, ammo, and armor aren't light, but we're really restricting ourselves a lot.

From next session, I plan to keep Eeyoh with us 24/7, just to be sure he's not reporting in. I didn't think of that at first.

The duel was fun. Probably more for me than the others, since I didn't roll any bad rolls and I seemed to pick the best possible guy to tackle. Still, choke holds are effective if you can be sure to land it and not get attacked by your victim's friends.

So much to do - we want to figure out if the Triumvirate will give us spare batteries for Warbot aka Softie if we help them keep off the Iron Men, or if the Iron Men will do so if we aid them against the Triumvirate. We're not even trying to be sneaky - we want people to come and make us offers and woo us, so we're waving around just a few flags. Maybe we can get both sides to hire us. To quote Ellie from Borderlands 2: "After this red harvest between the two clans, you're gonna be the last man standing with a fistful of dollars! Yojimbo!"

More notes tomorrow if I think of them.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

TableTopLibrary - a new PDF game seller

There is a new PDF RPG dealer out there:


I set up an account, but I haven't bought anything yet.

As of now, I have files scattered across a few sites:

Warehouse 23


Indie Press Revolution


So do I want a 6th?

I have games across both GOG and Steam, but it's pretty easy to remember what is where. I'm already losing track of where I have files stored. Still, I do appreciate competition and I do approve of multiple purchase channels.

I'm just sure that if prices are equal, I'll stick to already established places just to ensure I have my PDFs all in convenient proximity to each other. If it's cheaper, I'm probably there.

Either way, consider yourself informed of the newcomer!

GW cut-out terrain

I found this in my collection - a sheet of Games Workshop terrain cut-out tiles from 1982.

 photo GW terrain sheet picture 001s_zps5096zr6c.jpg

It's from a set of GW terrain sheets I got at my FLGS (friendly local game store) long, long ago. I long since up the duplicate of this, and the trees, bushes, water, and more. You've seen some of it pop up in the photos of my game sessions.

But I didn't realize I had a full-sheet spare. I figured I'd snap a shot and show everyone. Maybe someone knows the real name of the set? Are these out there somewhere on PDF? I'd love to own the whole set this came with, uncut.

Friday, March 11, 2016

5e Friday: Glorious Sun Fist - aka Sunshine

I'm still working on my fluency with D&D 5th edition's character generation system. That, and exploring what I can do. I figured I'd try making a monk. If I did anything wrong, let me know in the comments.

I went with a standard array, all +1 for being human.

Background was a little tough - none of them really fit with how I'd see myself playing this guy. Well, almost none. Turns out "Acolyte" could make an interesting one. I could make this guy a religious monk. A traditionalist type, wandering the world in service to his spiritual order and kicking butt. Because that's what monks are for.

I almost went Folk Hero, and you could easily swap that in here if you want less "Caine" from Kung-Fu and more "36th Chamber of Shaolin" or the conflict from "The Tai Chi Master." I figured that was harder to do for a dungeon delving game so I chose one that doesn't insist on background conflict to keep things rolling.

I also chose hand axes for weapons, despite the fact they aren't normally an optimal choice for a ST 9 character. I had a mini picked out, after all. Lucky for me, simple weapons that aren't heavy or two-handed can use DEX for the damage bonus. I dumped the free 10 darts. I'm not going to use them.

I went with a name that sounded like what you get when you translate the names of sumo wrestlers.

Money is 5d4 = Is 13 gp standard? + 15 gp for background = 28 gp. I get one simple weapon free.

Glorious Sun Fist (aka "Sunshine")
Monk 1

STR 9 (-1)
DEX 16 (+3)
CON 14 (+2)
INT 11 (0)
WIS 15 (+2)
CHA 13 (+1)

AC 15
HP 10
Proficiency Bonus: +2
Unarmed: 1d4+3

Background: Acolyte.

Trait: 6 (Tolerant)
Ideal: 1 (Tradition)
Bond: 4 (Common People)
Flaw: 3 (Piety)

Languages: Common, Halfling

Money: 13 gp
Equipment: 2 Handaxes (1d6+3 slashing) 2lbs each Light, thrown (range 20/60)
Holy symbol
5 pieces of incense
Prayer wheel
Clothing (I'm assuming my robe is vestments and clothing)
Explorer's Pack (Swapped in Silken Rope for +10 gp)

Glorious Sun Fist, aka Sunshine, grew up a farmer and was sent to a local martial arts school to live full time when he was young. There he was taught the precepts of his religion before being sent into the world to spread the goals of his faith. He's very traditional and defaults to "that's how it's done" but is tolerant and friendly. He's got a soft spot for people like the family he grew up with, although he's more focused on his religion than his long-ago family connections. He sees his role as apart from but helping those in need. He prefers to demonstrate the rightness of his faith, not prosthelytize.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

GURPS 101: Patching Holes - Don't Over-Patch

The GURPS 101: Patching Holes series is meant to help players avoid specific weaknesses on their characters. It also is intended to help players identify a series of increasingly broad and effective solutions to a specific vulnerability or issue.

This post is meant to tell you when not to "patch holes" in this fashion. And it's meant to address some of the issues that come from over-doing "patching" by getting too focused on the specific problem.

A "hole" is a specific weakness a character has. Especially if that weakness isn't intentionally built into the character but represents a poor choice by the player. Or it represents a misunderstanding of how to lower your vulnerability to that particular issue.

Don't Patch Everything!

First off, a character with no holes, no vulnerabilities, no disadvantages to lead him astray, and no weaknesses to anything specific is either one of two things: boring, or equally mediocre at everything for a given point level.

Secondly, if you have many holes to patch, you need to start looking at broad solutions to the problem. If you're weak against death, resisted magical spells, disease, poison, and consciousness rolls, plus you're often stunned and knocked down, you need HT. You don't need Hard to Kill, Magic Resistance, Resistant to Poison, Resistant to Disease, Hard to Subdue, plus High Pain Threshold. You need a higher HT. You may also want one or more of those, but you've lost sight of the forest because of your focus on the trees.

Generally, if you have two or more "patches" that have the same root attribute, secondary characteristic, or advantage at their base, consider just improving the base. If you have three or more, you almost certainly are better off improving the base!

I see this pretty often - HT 13 [30] with Hard to Kill 2 [4], Hard to Subdue 2 [4], and Fit [5] - for a net HT 16 for either rolls to avoid death or a base 16 to resist unconsciousness. That's more useful in a narrow sense than, say, one more point of HT for a HT 14 [40] and Fit [5] and slightly cheaper, too. But it's also less broadly effective - you gain one point on each of the two specific rolls you bought advantages for, but give up a +1 to everything that involves HT and 0.25 added to your Speed, as well.

In a phrase, don't over-patch. Don't be overly focused on improving one area.

Don't Patch Too Deeply

This is a related issue - trying to ensure you cover too many cases, or one case too deeply. Sometimes it's a case of not realizing when you've past "cost effective" into "wasting points" - a real issue in a point-buy game system!

Too much.

If Fearlessness 1 is useful, then 3 is better and 5 is great. Why stop there - 10, 15, 20!

No, stop there.

You want enough of a trait to either make the weakness go away entirely, or make it less of a weakness. Only patch enough to make the character do the thing you want to do better, better.

If you want a complete solution, go for that. Don't spend more points on the narrow solution or the wide solution than you could get if you just bought the complete solution. This isn't to say Fearlessness 10 [20] is useless, for example. But it's definitely less useful than Unfazeable [15]. It's not as useful as Unfazeable [15] with Fearlessness 2 [4] just for those Cosmic Terror-having elder things the GM keeps having pop up out of R'lyeh in front of you.

That said, as a GM I deploy plenty of monsters with Magic Resistance 10. That's a very high, very specific countermeasure. I don't use anything higher - it's more point efficient, and therefore a better choice to retain fidelity to the game rules - to buy immunity-type powers instead!

Too many layers. Defense in depth is a great battle strategy - don't pile everything on the front line and hope no one breaks through. Instead layer your defense so what penetrates the first layer must penetrate a second line before it can move on.

Don't try to make sure you have kick after kick at the can for everything. If you really want a do-over if things go poorly, buy Luck [15] and just get a do-over. That kind of defense in depth is generally superior to layering many different bonuses or many different chances to accomplish the same defensive goal.

This is also the Perfect Defense Fallacy in action. With a limited point budget, anything you spend ensuring that even edge cases don't affect you, or to ensure that you've got a fallback for your fallback, comes out of your broader capabilities. Generally this results in a hole elsewhere. For example, a character with near-perfect combat defenses who is no less vulnerable to magic than a man off the street. Or a character with total resistance to magical domination but a gigantic hole in the form of a (6) self-control roll on an easily exploited disadvantage.

Plus GURPS rarely allows for total and automatic success in an adventuring situation. If it's worth seeing if you can succeed or fail, generally a 17-18 will always fail. Or a 3-4 will always succeed, and might get past your "perfect" defenses. Will 20 is nice, but a 3 on a Will-resisted spell against you automatically overcomes your resistance (p. B241). Don't make the perfect be the enemy of being a capable character elsewhere.

Don't get caught in this trap:

Step 1: Ensure total and perfect immunity to everything.

Step 2: Game ended before I could achieve Step 1.

A word on house rules.

GURPS 101, for me, isn't about house rules or clever solutions. It's the basics you really need to know as a new player, but don't always realize until later.

That said, I expect a lot of comments about a specific house rule on this post, so I want to address them right away.

Some groups house rule that you can "trade in" combinations of secondary characteristics for a higher level of a base stat. The most common example is Striking ST 1 [5], Lifting ST 1 [3], and 1 HP [2] for one point of ST [10], as they're almost identical in function. But this isn't a rule in Basic Set. Not only that, but some traits don't combine so well. Hard to Kill 1 [2], Hard to Subdue 1 [2], and FP 1 [3], plus an extra 3 points seems like it adds up to one point of HT [10], but it doesn't - the problem is that Hard to Kill comes with an additional capability - appearing dead while alive and unconscious - that is not rolled into HT at all. A character "trading in" in this manner is actually giving up an ability. So be careful making partial purchases to patch a hole on the expectation you can "trade up" to a better base ability. Only do so if the GM and other players have agreed on this approach before you start buying.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

80 degrees, 25%, 45 minis - Spray-Sealing Weather

This afternoon, it hit 80 degrees (more, actually) and 25% humidity.

I went out in my shorts and t-shirt and used up at least half a can of Army Painter Anti-Shine Matte Spray on 45 minis.

It took about 40 minutes to do.

I knocked off:

- a dozen orcs, a mix of BTD and TSR

- over a dozen monsters

- some terrain bits (which aren't even counted in the 45)

- re-sprayed an ogre I had that had worn off a bit of matte spray

- Mo, Brother Ike, and Hjalmarr from my game

- two Gamma World mutants

- a troll

- some old character minis

- a pirate

- some demons

I even forgot a few - I had so many minis queued up I didn't even get to them all.

It's nice when the weather really cooperates - warm, dry, sunny.

Attacking Through Occupied Hexes Weirdness

GURPS has always had rules for attacking through occupied hexes.



The rule goes all the way back to Man-to-Man, p. 30 (sidebar).

In Man-to-Man, you had all of two Reach 2 one-handed weapons - the bastard sword (counting both variations as one) and the rapier. The other 2- and 3-hex weapons? Polearms of all sorts, two-handed axe/mace weapons, staves, and spears.

These days with GURPS, you have a lot more options for Reach 2+ melee weapons, from edged rapiers to whips and kusari and two-handed weapons wielded in one hand by overstrength users.

Let me just say I never really loved this rule.

It makes a lot of sense for certain circumstances:

- formation fighting.
- pole arms held in two hands.
- thrusting attacks with the same.

It makes a little less sense for others:

- random melees where fighters just happen get between a friend with a long weapon and a foe.
- swinging attacks.

And almost no sense for others:

- long flexible weapons.
- tight quarters.

I just don't find it plausible that you can freely attack through your friend's hexes, without penalty to you or penalty to them, with any long weapon. The line in the books is "You may attack through friendly characters at no penalty (this is a basic part of your training with any long weapon)." With a polearm, I can buy that. With a staff, maybe. But a rapier? Did they teach stabbing past friends?

What about the person being attacked past? It seems like if I said, "I'll stab people from behind you while you fight. You've never had someone do that, but don't worry, it's part of my basic training with my weapon." It seems like it would interfere with you at least a little, or I'd have to limit my actions to things that I was sure wouldn't have any chance of interfering. If I did that, why am I at no penalty?

We've ended up with results I find really hard to believe, myself. This are these old favorites:

- Formation Fencing. Front rank, heavy fighter with a large shield, high DR, and a Reach 1 weapon. Behind him, a light fencer with a Rapier with Reach 1,2. Stand behind and stab away!

- Unlimited target selection. You can strike with a halberd held at Reach 2 and swing and hit the vitals of a person in front of your friend. Heck, you can strike his foot if you wanted! Hard to suspend disbelief moments include successfully stabbing past your SM+1 friend with his large shield into a human-sized target's eye in a one-hex-wide corridor.

- Perfect coordination. I've only seen this a few times, but it's a highlight reel replay. Front guy goes. Back guy goes, then steps back, leaving a clear hex. Front guy gets attacked and, if necessary, Retreats into the vacated space he senses is open. If he doesn't need to Retreat, the back-ranked fencer dude does Committed Attack to get two steps, and steps, stabs, and steps back. Full defensive flexibility is assured, without any wasted time coordinating with each other!

- Feint from cover! This one is especially technically possible if you treat "Feint" as an optional use of an Attack. You can stand behind your friend and Feint against people in front of him. After all, you can feint against anything you can reach to attack, and if the attack is at no penalty than the feint is, too. Now just imagine it as a Beat. It's plausible that an attack from a second-rank fighter is trickier to stop because you can't read as much body motion (he's obscured by his friend), but equally the second-rank fighter has many less options for trickery because your opponent must be aware of what you're doing to fall for it.

- Far Side, Close Combat. This one is standing behind your friend who is in close combat, and attacking into close combat to hit the person in front of him. Makes sense when the target is larger, sometimes when they are the same size, but it's just weird when you Rapid Strike with feints and slashes at a guy who is choking your friend that you're standing behind.

I've generally ruled in a mishmash fashion. Basically, no penalty to hit, but lots of situation rulings to keep people from stabbing the vitals, chopping up foes with torso slashes with one-handed long swords, and so on.

New Rule?

But what if I just changed the basic rule? Here are several ways to change it.

Long Weapons and Occupied Hexes

You can attack through a friendly-occupied hex with no penalty if you have a long weapon held in two hands that has Reach 2 or more. Not all hit locations will be valid targets!

Slightly more complex versions:

One-Handed Penalties: As above, but one-handed weapon with Reach 2+ can also attack through friendly-occupied hexes, but suffers a -4.

Thrusting Only! As above, but you can only use a thrusting attack. (Great for spears, pushing with staves, etc., and makes reverse-gripped greatswords work really well from the back rank of a melee!)

Thrusting preferred! As above, but thrusting attacks are unpenalized. Swinging attacks are more awkward, and do -2 damage or -1 per die, whichever is worse (note that is functionally identical to the penalty for long swings with All-Out Attack (Long))

Harsh Realism: It's not easy to attack past your friends, if you haven't trained with each other to do so. Attacks through friendly occupied hexes are at -4 if you want to avoid inconveniencing your own friend, or you can attack without the penalty but if you miss or your target Dodges, you are considered to be Striking Into Close Combat (p. B392) against your friend! The Teamwork perk - if you both have the same one and are formed up - negates these penalties. (Best combined with another of the options above - thrusting preferred or thrusting only.)

How I'd run it? Harsh Realism seems like the most fun. "Don't worry, I'm sure I won't miss and then roll a 9 or less, I swing my sword for 4d+12! Oh, he Dodged." The simple one is "two handed weapons, thrusting preferred.

It's probably easy to see this as "nerf the swashbucklers," but it's not really intended to be that. It's more like "close the weird reality-warping loophole that swashbucklers have been slashing through" more than anything else. And it might just be easier to have set yes/no rules (two-handed only, thrusting only) or easy to remember options (two-handed only, harsh realism) than to make ad hoc rulings each time about the validity of cutting off the tentacle that's grappled your friend from the far side or stabbing past your friend's arm and shield and into a foe's eye without bothering your friend.

I'll have to see what my players think, of course, but they might like a clear set of "yes" and "no" over a lot of case-by-case maybes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Protect Your Head in my GURPS DF game

My DF game uses the following armor rules:

- Basic Set armor

- Layering (p. B286) doesn't give a -1 to DX on the head. Although it's not concealable you can wear a mail coif under rigid armor. You can wear three layers on the head, in specific combinations (mail or cloth under a pot helm under either a greathelm or barrel helm). You can't wear more than one "cap" or more than one flexible layer. So no cloth cap under mail coif under pot helm under greathelm combinations. Because Cloth Cap is just 1 DR, maximum Fortify is to +1 (DR 2), and doesn't protect the neck or face, it's generally a poor choice and I left it off the lists. Also, you can't put a face mask under a greathelm, and yes, I've been asked - no doubling up face protection!

- Fortify and Lighten can and do stack.

So this leaves a few really useful combinations of head armor. I figured I'd list them out for my players. This isn't exhaustive, it's just what I see as the better combinations.

Kings don't always worry about neck protection, but sometimes layer armor.

Leather Helm - DR 2, $20, 0.5# (skull, face)
     +Mail Coif - DR 6/4*, $75, 4.5# (adds skull, neck protection)

Legionairy Helm - DR 4, $150, 6# (skull, face)
     +Mail Coif - DR 8/4*, $205, 10# (adds skull, neck protection)

Pot Helm - DR 4, $100, 5# (skull)
     +Mail Coif - DR 8/4*, $155, 9# (adds skull, neck protection)
     +Face Mask - DR 4, $200, 7# (adds face protection)
     +both - DR 8/4*, $255, 11#

Great Helm - DR 7, $340, 10# (skull, face, neck)
     +Mail Coif - DR 11/9*, $395, 14# (adds skull, neck protection)
     +Pot Helm - DR 11, $440, 15# (adds skull protection)
     +both - DR 15/13*, $495, 19# (adds skull, neck protection)

DR listed is for skull, without counting any natural DR (usually 2). Check protection for individual locations when purchasing! And double-check the rules on p. B284. This is just a handy guide post - stuff I left off isn't "invalid" just not listed. Note [4] especially.

So yeah, potentially, you can blow a lot of weight on your head and get DR 20/18 on the skull (greathelm, mail coif, pot helm, all with Fortify +1, and skull), blow even more and go crazy-go-nuts (make the armor Dwarven), etc. I've calculated the maximum as 38, counting the skull's DR, assuming you allow Dwarven on both pot helms and great helms and using Elven mail. That'll be enough to stop an attack up to 6d cold, and most 7d attacks . . . if you can afford the cost and weight! If only you weren't more vulnerable everyone else thanks to inability to stack up as much DR on your torso, limbs, and extremities . . .

Editing Later: My players all know this, but layered armor is bought as a set. That is, you need to get upper layers tailored specifically to go over another set. If you don't, the penalties for mismatching are doubled (and penalties on the head are -1 to DX and Per.) Wearing an "over" layer without the "under" layer is a -1, as if you'd stacked armor anyway. I realized this might not be clear - you can't just snag a random pot helm and great helm and stack them, but you can go out and get an armorer to fit you out with a coif under a pot helm with a great helm that fits nicely over them all.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

DF Magic Item abuse & possible solutions IV: The Solution

A while back I posted on this topic - here are Part I, Part II, and Part III.

With our game rolling back around to the fully-stocked city of Stericksburg, purchases of magic items are becoming a reality again. So we had to make some decisions.

I decided on this - and, for what it's worth, the only players affected by it have absolutely no problem with this. I think they prefer it, actually, because the open hole of "with Power I should do more" meant they felt compelled to use it to its limit. As written below, it's just a non-issue.

Always On Versions

Most Regular spells will have an Always On variation. The energy cost to enchant is 50% of the cost an item that can cast the spell, plus a Power enchantment to reduce the cost to maintain to 0. Spells which have an ending trigger (for example, Invisibility) do not have an Always On variation available.

For example:

Missile Shield - Costs 5/2. Item costs 400, Power 2 costs 1000. Total 400 + 1000 = 1400. Always On version costs 1400 / 2 = 700.

Dark Vision - Costs 5/2. Item costs 400, Power 2 costs 1000. Total 400 + 1000 = 1400. Always On version costs 700.

Walk on Air - Costs 3/2. Item costs 500. Power 2 costs 1000. Total 500 + 1000 = 1500. Alway On version costs 750.

Notes: This is just a way to cost Always On. The Power enchantment is not actually put on the item, nor does the item cast the spell. It merely generates a cost that is not unfair compared to other Always On item costs.

More Power Items

More items can hold power for themselves, using the rules from DF8 and DF18 and my own spin on them.

No Power Enchantment

The Power enchantment is not available for purchase. Magic items may exist with it, but you cannot pay to have items enchanted with this spell.

How does this affect the game now?

Not badly. Only one person had an item with the Power enchantment who is currently playing, and he hadn't received it yet. That is Vryce, who wanted an Always On Missile Shield item in the first place. That's the item that sparked the whole round of "How to keep this from being Missile Shield on everyone, always" discussion. Not that Missile Shield is a big issue, exactly, but imagine when it's multiple items - everyone had Shield 2, Armor 2, Blur 2, Missile Shield, Dark Vision, Walk on Air, Resist Fire, Resist Lightning, and Resist Acid, plus maybe Resist Poison and Resist Cold, just for grins. Even just 2-3 of them is pretty game-changing, even just from an annoyance standpoint of spending time putting on the layered buffs, deciding who needs Shield 3 instead of his default Shield 1, etc.

The other character affected is Galen, but Galen's player is not available to play because of real-life issues. Rolling his Iron Arm with Power 1 item back to Iron Arm only and refunding him cash is fine. It's still a useful magic item, for one. And for another, I still didn't like the effect of ruling that Blocking spells don't get a discount for skill but the mechanically similar Power spell worked.

I may still put in items which break the rules, but that's my prerogative as the GM. This way, players don't need to hunt through GURPS Magic for items with a low Maintain just to stack onto their item with the Power enchantment.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

GURPS After the End 1: Wastelanders

This past week saw the release of GURPS After the End 1: Wastelanders.

It's a toolkit for post-apocalyptic adventurers much in the same line as Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers or Action 1: Heroes or Monster Hunters 1: Champions. It's a prepared set of templates, equipment, and options for a given genre. It's cause-agnostic, though, so if you're thinking "collapse of the oil states" or "zombie virus" or "comet strike" or "radiation that makes mutants" or whatever, you're good here.

I happen to know the "1" isn't aspirational, either - there is a 2 out there in the future. So if you're thinking of going post-apoc, this is a good start.

There are two issues of Pyramid Magazine that can buff this out, too. 3/88 and 3/3 both deal with life after the end times.

Editing later: For a review, check out the one at Gaming Ballistic!

Friday, March 4, 2016

March Forth - How Gary Gygax influenced Felltower

March 4th - aka March Forth - is GM's Day. It's the 8th anniversary of the death of Gary Gygax.

I thought I would reflect on some specific ways Gary Gygax has influenced my current GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game.

Besides the really obvious one, of course, in that I got my start with D&D and Dungeon Fantasy cheerfully romps through the tropes and cliches of the genre spawned by that game.

There are very specific homages in my game. Here are a few:

A megadungeon right outside a growing city? Obvious source. Here is a little background written by Gary.

Pickup game with a rotating cast of PCs? Right out of the original approach I'd heard Gary Gygax used.

Black Jans the wizard pulls from many sources, including my own previous games (Zavian, Jans Yama, and a few others - my players will know). But putting him in a tower in my city? That's partly from the idea of the Wizard in the Tower from Greyhawk. Scroll down to "Getting Even Puts the Other Guy Ahead" in the link.

Orcs taking tolls from the PCs in return for safe passage? The PCs actually initiated this (Session 35), but it's something I had in mind to use based on the elves in The Black Reservoir. That story is written in Gygax's signature fantasy prose.

A dark, water-filled level (first plummeted into during Session 19) also partly inspired by The Black Reservoir. There is yet another inspiration from that story in my game as well.

The gem in the statue trap (Session 40) is partly from Traps & Treachery but also partly from "Lesson #6: Dungeon Hospitality - Falling for the Obvious."

Prisoners you can rescue? That's a Gygax feature I copied out of B2 The Keep on the Borderlands but also from G1-3 Against the Giants. Several of the guys in my campaign were just fleshing out Gary's NPCs from the original sources.

There are more, of course. But those are some the players have interacted with and might recognize. I deliberately drew on Gary Gygax's material to help populate my dungeon so I could pass on the enjoyment to my players. It's one thing to pass the stories on - another to turn them into my own bits and pieces and then make them into new experiences.

Stories like The Magician's Ring and The Giant's Bag are very cool, but didn't get any direct homages.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

GURPS 101: Patching Holes (Death, Fear, and more)

Sometimes players leave gaping holes on their GURPS characters.

Sometimes it's assumption - I have high ST, DX, and combat skills, so I'm probably hard to scare. My guy has great Will, so his disadvantages won't bother him so much. And so on.

Sometimes it's just not realizing that GURPS requires specific coverage of certain areas if you want to be good at them. If you come from a game that merges concepts that GURPS splits out, or splits out ones that GURPS merges, you can get stuck.

Other times it's just not recognizing the solution that's out there. It's making a man without fear and not knowing how to do that. It's deciding near-immunity to magic is the goal but not realizing the hidden costs.

So how do you cover all of your bases?

Here are some solutions to common concerns: Death checks, Fear and Fright Checks, Disadvantages, and Magic.


Don't want to die? Not hard enough for you? Beyond adding Damage Resistance, higher defenses, and more HP (so you can roll less often in the first place), here are some ways to make that roll more reliable.

Narrow solution: Hard to Kill. At 2/level, this is a flat +1 to death checks and lets you (well, makes you) play dead very effectively.

Wider solution: Higher HT. At 10/level, it's a +1 to death checks (which are HT rolls anyway). This more broadly impacts your character in any case. Combine with the narrow solution for precise levels. Don't forget that rolls to avoid death aren't penalized and are effectively capped thanks to the automatic failure rules.

Complete Solution: Unkillable. This is 50+ points, and it's generally not available. However, if you really want to not actually die, some level of Unkillable is what you need.


So you don't like failing Fright Checks? It bothers you when your half-ogre death machine turns into a terrorized coward and runs in the face of a fearsome foe? Here is how you design your character so your stats match that concept.

Narrow solution: Fearlessness. Get the Brave perk, as well, to raise the cap versus Fright Checks (normally, 14+ fails no matter what.) 2/level for a +1 to Fright Checks. Even with the maximum, you can ignore higher levels of penalties by exceeding the maximum as your base score.

Wider solution: Will. Increase your Will, which affects Fright Checks, resistance to Fear magic, and many other rolls. Technically IQ is an even wider solution, but it's more costly than the complete solution.

Complete solution: Unfazeable. If your character concept is really "I'm not afraid of anything, not even fear itself," this is the way to go. 15 points and you just aren't scared. It's possible beings with the Cosmic enhancement on their Terror ability will still scare you, but for "normal" situations you just get to not roll.


Hate how your disadvantages really limit your options when you want to ignore them the most?

Narrow Solution: Higher self-control rolls. Don't forget that the default is (12), but you can make it easier (15) or harder ((9) or (6)) to resist your disadvantages. Be Greedy (15) [-7] instead of Greedy (12) [-15].

Wider Solution: Quirks. Don't be Greedy (6) [-30], being Greedy [-1] and you can just decide on a case-by-case basis what that means. Just talks about getting rich but it doesn't really let it affect his choices most of the time? Quirk.

Complete Solution: No disadvantage. Just don't take disadvantages that force you into actions you don't want to take! Find an alternative, or talk to the GM. Maybe you don't see your guy as Greedy, per se, but rather power hungry - he'll ignore a giant pile of money if it's too risky but he can't resist snagging the Evil Item of Power and giving it a try. If your disadvantages force you to act a way you don't see your character acting, they really aren't the disads for that character!


Want to shrug off magic like Conan does at the climax of every Conan vs. wizard fight? Hate how failing your roll versus Flesh to Stone feels? Think save or suck magic takes away your agency?

Narrow Solution: Magic Resistance. At 2/level, you get a -1 to have spells cast on you and a +1 to resist them. Or just +2 if it's an area spell. Add Improved (for 5/level total) if only hostile magic reacts badly to you and you can still quaff potions.

Wider Solution: Will and HT. Will is 5/level and HT is 10/level, but they'll each improve your resistance to a subset of resistance spells. They also have broad positive benefits for your character.

Complete Solution: Mana Damper. Make yourself a one-hex No Mana Zone. Add Cosmic or Switchable if you want to let good magic through. Like Unkillable, this is generally not available, but it will work if you use it!

Hopefully those will help you understand some of your options. There may be other ways to make these things happen, but the three-tiered approach above will at least get you started.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

More notes on Sunday's game

Here are a few more notes on Sunday's DF game.

Windstorm really does need to do some damage to vaporous creatures, or at least move them.

I'm thinking it should do 1d at the normal level, 2d at the tornado level. That's the same as Air Jet equal to 1/4 the power of the spell. At the same time, it should fling the Diffuse or vaporous creature out with knockback appropriate to the damage done, or outside the radius, whichever is larger.

So a ST 0 diffuse air creature would get knocked by as if it had ST 1, and go 1 yard per point of damage. Most swarms would be badly damaged, but hey, a windstorm should do that to flying bug or bat storms. Kill a few or a lot, disrupt the weaker ones completely.

That's still enough to disrupt most flying and diffuse swarms in a few seconds but it's not as effective as just attacking them directly. If it's too weak I might double it to 2d/4d, but it's a very effective spell right now, which is why it comes up almost every single fight. I do need to play up its disadvantages more.

We talked a bit about the spell - if it really did tornado-force winds and all that entails, from wind force to damage to flinging objects that could hit with lethal speed, etc., the cost per area would have to be staggering. So it's just a swirling wind effect that mocks real winds. Effective, but not "wouldn't a real tornado just rip the whole fort out of the ground?" level.

Techniques came up for the first time in a while. Is it worth trying Acrobatic Stand at -6? What's the penalty for Head Butt? Etc. Some we use so often it's not a big deal - long weapons in close combat, for example - treating it more as a situational modifier than anything else. But all the varieties that don't come up except very occasionally in DF? I have a solution I need to spend some time writing about.

GURPS Character Assistant is my go-to tool for maintaining current copies of all of the PCs. I wish it had a few features, though. One that would really help me in play would be if instead of capping your stats and skills at their actual maxima, it would allow you to break them but flag them in red or highlight the box. That way when I have a human knight with the maximum ST 20 and someone puts Might +4 on him, I can just add 4 to his ST and have everything reflect that. That would just be very handy. I could make another tool that does this, but I'd rather just have that little feature in my current tool!

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