Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Horde Pygmies minis ID'd

So last night I saw this post on the blog At the Mountains of Minis:

Chronopia Unliving = Frostgrave zombie.

I knew that mini line name - those horde pygmies minis were Chronopia.

A few random guesses at names later and I found these:

Chronopia 2346: Swamp Goblin Blowpipes

That's them. Hurrah for the internet. I knew it was Chrono-something, deep down, but I couldn't shake "Chronoscope" and that's Reaper's line.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Sneaking in a Dungeon V: My GURPS Rulings

Here is a reach back to a series of posts I did almost three years ago, Sneaking in a Dungeon.

Since I run GURPS, and my players often use magic to augment their sneakiness, here are some rules and rulings. Be careful quoting them outside of my game, however - some of what is below is my interpretation. Check the page references to see what the rules actually say if you choose to use these.

Boots are -0 to Stealth; the rules assume fairly hard-soled footwear and give bonuses for soft gear. Sollerets are -2 to Stealth rolls versus Hearing, since they're assumed to be stiff and armored all around (even the soles have full DR.) Barefoot is a +1, like soft shoes, but remember that Tough Skin doesn't prevent the effects of contact agents, thorns, spikes, and other skin-affecting or skin-penetrating hazards.

Invisibility gives a +9 to Stealth where been seen would matter (per Invisibility, p. B63) This is to say, it's not automatica perfect stealth. By default, assume the Invisibility spell affects up to Heavy encumbrance.

Levitation and Flight do not include Stealth, Silence, or any other form of anti-detection. It will let you ignore any penalties to Stealth for noisy floors, however, and I also allow you to move up to your full levitating Move without incurring a -5 to Stealth for moving above Move 1 (per p. B222) against Hearing; same with gliding (and most magical flight.) However, the -5 will apply against creatures using Vibration Sense (Air) or other similar powers.

No-Smell removes any chance of Smell-based detection entirely; there is no roll. Normally, you don't roll Stealth for smell - for that, actually disguise your smell or move downwind of your foes.

Gesture is a quiet way to communicate, but you need to be in physical contact or able to see each other. If you can't see the person you are gesturing to, you can communicate only one way. You won't necessarily know you communicated (the person glanced away, misunderstood, is waiting for confirmation, can't see you after all, etc.) without reciprocal sight.

Distance Matters. Don't forget that distance from a target is a net bonus, and being close might cause your foe to notice you. (Editing later - to be more clear here - by "net bonus" I mean the sense rolls of any foe might be lowered by range. You will not get a bonus on your Stealth roll itself.)


Roll Once Against Everything. That is, roll once for Stealth against all forms of detection, and apply the penalties individually. Don't roll per sense. For example, Nakar is Invisible and rolls against his Stealth-12 and rolls a 9. A foe would need to win the contest by more than 12 for Vision and more than 3 for Hearing. Monsters hunting by Vibration Sense would need to win by more than 3, those by Detect Life wouldn't be affected by Stealth, and those hunting by smell would just need a normal Smell roll.

So the best way to sneak? Invisible Mage-Stealthed Ethereal Body No Smell, with Remove Aura tossed on so you don't seem to be alive. Still might not work, if a foe has Cosmic senses or See Invisible, but it's worth a try.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

DF Felltower NPC: Gort of the Shining Force

No game this week, so it's another Felltower NPC this Sunday.

Gort was an NPC volunteer the PCs picked up early. I named him after a character in a video game that one of our players' sons was playing at that moment. When told he was in the "Shining Force," well, naturally so was this Gort. He came for tips and beer money, and because it got him out of the house on Sundays.

Gort told all sorts of stories, usually starting with, "When we were in the Shining Force . . . " They may or may not be true. They may or may not make sense. Was he a crazy old coot? Or was he really a badass adventurer in his old age?

"Got to let ghosts possess someone, then you kill that guy. That's how you kill ghosts."
"Ah, golems. Back in the Shining Force, we called them 'robots.'"
"Back in the Shining Force, we always spiked doors open."
"Most dungeon slimes are edible if you cook them right."
"Back in the Shining Force, we only needed one length of rope to climb anywhere."
"Back in the Shining Force, we used to refer to going back to town as 'Saving.'"

He was a fun GM mouthpiece, too - he might be giving you useful hints from the GM to move things along. Or he might be totally crazy and talking nonsense. It was never clear.

He was also the perfect example of the dungeon explorer. Iron spikes and iron rations. Mallet. Crowbar. Flask of Oil. Etc. He seems to have just the right thing. This isn't Gizmo, it's just he's got one of everything you'd buy off the AD&D Players Handbook equipment list. "Garlic for 2 cp? I better take some. What is Wolfsbane? Who knows, buy some." No 10' pole, because we never took those back in the day.

He's also ridiculously well-armored, as the only dwarf around when the group found some magical scale armor I'd thrown in when I stocked the dungeon expecting Borriz Borrizman would probably end up with it.

Gort is sort-of based on a template from this book:

For more pre-made henchmen from my game, check the DF Henchmen page.

Gort's loadout and gear was based on a mini someone threw in as a bonus when I bought some painted orc minis off of eBay.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Notes on Heretical Campaign 1, Session 1

So last night I played in a playtest game for Doug's rules set.

Heretical Campaign 1 - The Ogre of Northpoint

No point in doing a summary, because Doug did one better than I would.

Here are some general notes:

- it was fun to just play with Vic and Greg, two of my face-to-face gamers, as a fellow player. I've done that with Vic (aka "Love Handles" in Gamma Terra) but not with Greg before.

- one big foe is never as scary as many medium foes. I mean, we didn't blunder into a dragon or something, but piling on is pretty easy when there are no distractions.

- The bonus attacks for a monk are pretty sweet. Sunshine is fragile but capable, and if I can stay on the fringes and move-strike-move, in an "attack and fly out" fashion, he should be okay. And he's offensively dangerous.

- Roll20 does this "roll d20s twice, just in case you've got disadvantage or advantage." Mostly, it feels like rubbing it in when you get a 6 and a natural 20, and you have to keep the 6. It's like saying, "Wow, you suck. If you didn't suck so bad, you could have had this great roll!"

- I probably should have kept my 10 darts, after all - ranged was useful. I'll have to see what missile weapons monks can use in the Heresy.

- I made at least one "Monks can't use flaming oil" comment. Funny how clearly I remember bits of AD&D. Which is why I keep thinking, "Obviously, monks use crossbows!" - where did that come from anyway? Did I miss Bruce Lee playing in "The William Tell Story"?

- we settled on the religion for the area. Boy, are monks out of place in that religion. Good thing I went with a philosopher-acolyte type. A Folk Hero would have been a better choice, but I like my guy so far.

- I needed a better reason to adventure. Or at least a more clear one. I started to develop that last night. Proving his skills and helping the common people is a good start, but then why hire out for gigs? I figured he'll have a philosophy of yin-and-yang, stasis-and-flow, cosmic balance underlying his actions. Why should the merchants pay us to kill some monster harassing them? Because it's good and right that they should pay for what they need. It is good and right for us to charge for it. And it is good and right that the money flow from them to us, and then back into society in a manner suited to our philosophy and needs. We are all part of the movement the cosmos, and things must be done as they have been done before. Traditionalist, after all.

- sandboxes are cool, but it's hard to get initially going. We really wanted to adventure. Doug really wanted us to adventure. But it's hard to adventure from "this person needs help" and "you hear a rumor." We spent a lot of time trying to figure out where the adventure was to be had.

I suggested to Doug (you can see it on the comments on that post) that handing out a job is a good way to start. In a multi-group area, you can even put up a list of 4-5 jobs and say, "pick one for your group" and divvy them out. In a single-group campaign, you can just put up 1 or 2 or simply hand one over. That way the players can get right into adventuring in the sandbox. Then, it will naturally happen that what they hear, see, imagine, and have happen to them will drive future movement.

Looking at our session, we killed this ogre. What's this loot we found? What about those bandits? The lost cart and horse? The ore came from where? Do those people need help? Are there resource-rich areas we can lay claim to? What settlements are out there? Now we're into it on our own.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Megadungeon factions don't have friends, they have interests

Okay, the title is paraphrased from an equally paraphrased quote about states.*

The shifting alliances in a megadungeon can be looked at in geopolitical terms to get a different perspective on how and why they act in a particular manner. Each group or individual power is an actor. How they interact with each other is tied to their interests.

The idea here is that it's not "Who are the goblins friends with?" and "Do the ghouls have any friends?"

It's "what are the goblins' interests?" and "what are the ghouls' interests?"

Not likes and dislikes, but wants, needs, desires, goals, etc.

A group of PCs is an actor in this arena, too. What is the group's interests? Who do they need to ally with, who do they need to fight, and who do they need to ignore to further those interests?

It's also a reminder that negotiations with folks outside your group of friends is not a personal thing. It's done between people (or things, or things which as also people) but it's not about friendship. It's not about likes and dislikes, although they may affect who you'll actually be able to strike a deal with. Business is business, basically - if it's not good business to continue an alliance, or if your interests lie in ending it, you end it. Of course, this goes both ways. Your ally now can be an enemy later when your interests conflict, or your enemy now can be an ally later when your interests match. If you take it personally, you're confusing a shift in relationships with personal betrayal. Revenge is a personal feeling, it's not really a basis for pursuit of your goals.

This also can help you see more clearly where opportunity lies. If the interest of the goblins runs against the interest of the ghouls, they will come into conflict, even if they seem to get along. You can play on that conflict to foster a split. You can equally bind unlikely groups into an alliance with each other and yourself if you have a greater interest you both need to solve. Maybe you need to keep a conflict humming but not let either side get too strong or too weak compared to the other. If you're reaping a Red Harvest your goal is to cut down both sides but your interest is in having them at parity most of the way along.

I think it's also a reminder to keep your interests in mind when you make any moves. Is a move satisfying right now but bucks your own long-term interests? Do you have to suck up something miserable to get what you want in the long run?

Games with strict Alignment limit you in this in some ways, of course. I play games without Alignment so it's not a big deal for me.

Hopefully this post was thought-provoking. I don't mean to explore the idea fully here, just plant the idea and get you thinking.

* I first heard it from a Kissinger quote about America, and Charles de Gaulle once spoke a variation, but it goes at least back to this one:

"We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow."

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Auto-Pin, DF, and Technical Grappling

Some of the monsters in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy don't grapple so much as automatically pin. Step-and-pin, in a way, or grapple and then automatically pin subsequently.

But I'm using a subset of the Technical Grappling rules, which don't use pin.

I struggled with how to deal with this. Douglas Cole had some suggestions, of course.

A few things I thought of included:

- automatically inflicts the maximum possible CP the monster is capable of with a standard grapple.

- inflict a multiple of CP every turn.

- inflict some capped amount of CP.

- inflicts one of the above, but only if a sufficient amount of CP are inflicted in the first place.

I found them dissatisfactory, in one way or another. Often, this severely nerfed the monster. Instead of "oh no, it's got me, I'm pinned!" it was "oh no, it's got me, in a few turns it might really have me, but no, I attack to break free." Some just went from lethal threats to minor threats.

Ultimately I went with something more simple:

Automatic Pins

Any "automatically pins" or "pins" attack generally works as written. Instead of "pin" effect the attacker inflicts the maximum CP for its Trained ST. A hold of 1 CP or more is sufficient to launch such an attack if it follows from a grapple.

I felt like that was the most fair to the monsters' intended offensive powers, and the most fair and loyal to the Technical Grappling CP-based rules. In many cases this won't be enough CP to pin a large or very strong opponent, but that's how it goes. In other cases this is so many CP an opponent won't be able even attempt anything, even with Extra Effort and Telegraphic All-Out Attack (Determined). This isn't a flaw - character fully engulfed by a purple worm or immersed in a jellied sphere of immobilization should be totally helpless if he's not a massive physical threat himself. Plus it neatly deals with "just how debilitating is that purple worm that's swallowed the giant's leg?"

Does this make pin suck less? No, and it's not intended to. It's just re-normalizing the intended effect (helpless and held target, very difficult to get free) to a new system instead of throwing the intended effect away to slavishly match the new system.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

More on longer delves in Felltower

So the other day I was noodling on about longer delves in Felltower. I got some interesting suggestions, most of which I waved off.

It's probably annoying to give me advice, because my answer is frequently, "No, not that."

Part of this is just me. But most of it in this case is because I'll know the solution I want to try when I see it.

Also it's because my goal in this case is:

- a player-facing solution, with minimum in-game effects;


- a single solution that fits many circumstances;

but also

- primarily addresses the meta-game issues from multi-session trips in the dungeon while keeping the go-and-return delve setup.

Obviously, safe rooms, one-time same zones, helpful-wizard-in-a-room, dungeon towns, etc. are an in-game solution to longer delves.

But all of those add a place for the PCs, mid-session, to rest, recuperate, and potentially resupply. I don't have an issue with that in some cases. Sometimes, that's what I want - and I've put safe zones like that in my game. The PCs know of one in the Cold Fens, at least one in Felltower, and one that they could potentially use as one also in Felltower.

While they'd explain why a PC can drop out and be safe, so would a sufficient amount of handwavium and willing suspension of disbelief. They also fail to easily explain how new PCs would get there, especially if access to the multi-session areas of the dungeon is restricted in some way. You know, "We read the cursed scroll, how did you get here?" "There was a spare cursed scroll." Or, "We jumped through the closing gate, and it turns out we could have waited until you showed up?"

Like I said, though, I don't need them to accomplish some of what I'd like to do. Neither would they solve the rest. And they'd add complications - a "dungeon town" you can rest in means it's possible the game is now based out of Dungeon Town. I might like that, but it doesn't solved the cursed scroll issue. It doesn't help when we're quitting mid-gigantic-combat because people have to leave because of real-world concerns.

And pausing mid-combat if we have to isn't a big deal. We've done that multiple times and I expect to do it again.

When we stop a session, we pause game-world time for those characters. So if you play on 1/10/2016 and do three sessions in the dungeon that last half of one game-day and the last one is on 4/23/16, and then the next time we play is on 5/24/16, how does time pass? Simple. You were in the dungeon on 1/10/2016 until 1/10/2016, left, and were having downtime until 5/24/16.* We do fixed downtime actions, costs, etc. so it's no more or less than you'd get anyway, just more time passed.

It's also an issue that I expect some of these longer delve areas to be planned delves, but others to be surprises. Sometimes you know there is a one-way door, a one-shot access point, a gate that you can only open once, etc. and you go right there and start the delve. Other times, it'll be one last door, I just pull this lever, let's just read the scroll now in case it's healing, this is probably a secret door to a treasure vault not a treasure-filled-temporary sub-level, etc. It's not really about multi-session trips through the deep dark caverns and sleeping in dungeons or how do I do downtime in a dungeon. It's when Players A, B, C, and D do something that takes a couple of sessions and then next session I have Players B, C, D, E, and F.

Ultimately, what I'm trying to figure out is how to still have a pick-up game where people come and go. A game where we start and end in town whenever possible, just for the sheer logistical ease this has for the players and the GM. A game where delves are rewarded, not sessions, encouraging go-and-return delving and keeping a move on, because dragging things out ultimately lowers the rewards earned. But also to have larger areas that will necessarily take multiple sessions. All solved with a minimum of in-game modifications or additions that could have unforseen consequences.

That's a tough combination, I know that.

Some things I can handwave, sometimes. Others, not so much. And experience when it actually happens will shape it all. But still I need to have some basic rules down so I can see how they work when it comes up. I like the bits I have so far, but the core issue - players coming and going - I still don't have solved. But I expect I'll know what I want to try when I see it.

* Just to simplify further, you ordered a magic item when you left that three-session delve, it would be put down as being purchased on the day you told me you wanted it . . . turns out you forgot to order it until the day you told me. No back-checking, back-ordering, etc. unless circumstances explain that - like when Vryce's player said, "I'll fully re-equip, can I do that when I'm about to run Vryce?" so we back-dated his purchases to then. Because it wasn't back dating since he asked back then . . .

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Minis: Horde Pygmies

I actually can't recall what line these minis are from. I bought a bunch of boxes of minis all at the same time at a pretty low price during a visit to The Compleat Strategist in NYC. These guys must have come in now-lost blister packs.

I had an island full of nasty blowgunning pymgies in my last campaign, inspired by one in Sean Punch's fantasy game. These guys fit the bill. They're not the only blowgunning pygmies I have or used, but I do like them a lot.

Monday, May 23, 2016

New reading material: Isle of the Unknown

I just got an excellent if belated present yesterday (scheduling has been tough):

Isle of the Unknown

At first look, it's nice. It's very pretty, the layout is nice, and it's easy to read and attractively illustrated. It's a sandbox, and a pretty big one. And pictures help a lot - plenty of "you run into this!" illustrations.

On the other hand, it seems like it would take a lot of work to run - it's pretty bare-bones, because of the size - and there are some crazy-odd monsters. Like a ankylosaurus-looking raspberry. An axe-handed rat (life is worse than for the hooked horror, probably.) A killer koala. At least two say "continuously drenched in its own blood." They're unique, I'll give them that.

I think idea was that I'd sure find a way to mine it for ideas. Which I will. I'll dig around through it and try to get a review up when my schedule has a hole in it for writing about what I'm reading.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Longer delves in Felltower?

I'm starting to think about longer delves in Felltower.

One of the central, fundamental decisions about my game is that you start and end in town.

We've had to violate that a few times, where it simply wasn't possible in game to leave the dungeon given the time we had in the real world to play. But that's only happen a bit less than one session in ten. Not bad given the vagaries of time to complete combats, the occasional "shortcut" that dumps the party deeper in the dungeon, and so on.

It also allows me to present "extend the session" as an option, but with a cost. I only hand out XP for delves, and a delve is defined as ending in town. Want XP for a session? End it in town. Spent two sessions in the dungeon, you get one delve's worth of XP for it. The PCs have pushed this to a three-session delve once, and ended up with nothing more than they took during day one. Not a great way to advance your character.

I don't intend to end that "start and end in town" rule. It's a good one because it allows for attendance as you wish. Players can make game-time decisions about which PC to run, which NPCs to truck along, what to do, etc. It's a good basic rule for the game.

But . . .

But my players are beginning to edge towards exploring areas that will have to take multiple sessions. Areas which may not be easy to go-and-return, go-and-return from iteratively. Some areas are absolutely take-it-or-leave-it, one-time offers. I don't want to give away too many details, but it'll be clearer when the players find them. It's fair to spend more time in them. It would be silly to make such areas and then force rapid exploration and immediate return.

On the other hand, I don't want to encourage people to willingly stay multiple sessions in the dungeon willy-nilly, figuring that they'll amortize the fixed costs of getting in the dungeon across a few sessions of delving. That might make sense in a mix of game and real-world logic. However it also means that players that missed session one of a multi-session delve have nothing to do except run an NPC (maybe.) It also means that if you're there for session one, you might have to let others run your guy and potentially get him killed off. That's not fun.

How to deal with that? I have a few rough ideas.*

GM-Forced Multisession XP

One idea is if the GM is forcing a multisession delve, then XP is per session, not per delve. However, XP award needs are based on multiple of the usual needs and awards.

For example, if you need X loot to get 4 xp, then you need 3x to get 12 xp in a forced three-session delve. Failure to meet that means you'd get 6xp. You'd need a very large swatch of territory explored to get bonus XP for exploring. Many lost NPCs and PCs would be -3, not -1, and a clean run would be 3 xp, not 1 xp.

(I could do this by session, period - award at the end, don't allow spending until town, and make a 3-part delve into a series of three individual delves . . . that seems annoying at best, and leads to complications about lost treasures, when PCs die, etc. So, no.)

So yeah, you could potentially go into an area that will require multiple sessions and come out with between 15 and 21 XP (sufficient loot, lots and lots and lots of new exploration, clean run). Of course, you could have done three individual delves and gotten those same points, too.

Who decides?

Almost certainly me, the GM, with some input from the players. "We want to spend just a little more time exploring this sublevel behind the one-way door" isn't going to cut it. "Sorry, guys, this room will implode one hour after you leave it, gone forever" certainly will. It wouldn't normally be for just exploring Felltower. I put in some easy ways to get around (once you get past the crust of defenses, and figure out where they are and how to use them) so this wouldn't have to happen. If you just want to extend your dungeon time because you don't want to pay the orcs another 1000 sp, that's fine, XP is still for one delve.

I say "almost certainly" because the other option is just my decision, with no input. I wouldn't hand this over to a consensus decisions because it undermines the fundamental rule. It would become, more generally, delves are as many sessions as you want them to be. I'm looking to handle special cases, so I need to have most or all of the input on what's a special case.

How many sessions?

I'll probably have to think of a par for each area that I consider like this. If I think something is a two-session-delve area, and you take three sessions, I'll award XP based on two delves.


And there are some direct complications, not just decisions to make, too.


One complication is that I have one day of real time = one day of game time (although the reverse isn't exactly true.) I'll have to decide on a case-by-case basis what that means. If a room is on Elf Hill time, that's fine, whatever time passed out of game passed in game. Otherwise, there may be forced adjustment back in town. "You left on Sunday 5/22/16, the delve was one-game-day, and you took the next seven weeks off to recover. It's now Sunday 7/10/2016."


I'm not at all sure how I'll handle players joining in. Leaving is okay - someone else runs your guy. We've done that even though it's not ideal. What happens if the players are in a multi-session delve and someone shows up?

One idea I have is to put in a new group. If Vryce, Dryst, Mo, Hasdrubel, and Gale are in a multi-session delve and then the next week Mo's player can't make it and Gale's and Hjalmarr's show up and want to play, well, we build a group around them. Vryce's player could run Gerry. Dryst's player could run Angus McSwashy. Hasdrubel's player can make up a new guy. Etc. So long as that group does a normal go-and-return session and won't overlap oddly with the other group, we're fine. We could have:

Group A goes in.
Group B goes in and comes back.
Group A continues.
Group A finishes and returns.

I could do a really weird gamey solution like, "he was following you all along" (we've done it, it works) but in some cases that won't work. "You followed us through the cursed teleporting scroll we read?" That might be a bit much sometimes. So would handing out PC summoning items (Break the stick, and a PC of your choice shows up - why wouldn't you abuse the hell out of that? It creates more problems than it solves.) GURPS Dungeon Fantasy lacks the Teleport spell for a reason, too - not just to prevent bypassing in-dungeon obstacles but also to avoid making "go back to town and get it" or "I'll just ferry us back to town with Teleport" a simple solution to most problems.

For what I'm thinking, it's unlikely there would be interaction beyond, "I'd highly recommend you don't go into that room." Unless, of course, group B is a delve meant to link up everyone for some giant combined session. Not that I want one-player, two-character situations in this campaign. Been there, done that, it was a blast, but it wasn't 250-400+ point characters.

So yeah, this is what I'm mulling over if the players do head into areas that really aren't conducive to go-and-return delving.

* None of these are final. None of this is decided. Absolutely none of this applies to our current split-session ended-in-the-dungeon session whatsoever.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Some thoughts on standard arrowhead variations

We had a short discussion of arrows and arrowheads in my last game session. This occasioned some thoughts and comments I figured I'd share.

Blunts: These obviously are "war blunts," since they don't have a penalty to damage or a armor multiplier. A tipless blunt is just a wooden arrow, and those have a bunch of problems. They're half cost, but that's probably because you don't need to put a point or an edge on them.

If you do want no-tip arrows, or you convert an arrrow into a blunt by removing the tip, I'd treat these as cheap wooden weapons, with -1 Acc, -5 to both ranges, and a (0.5) armor divisor.

Cutting arrows: These things do serious cut damage. How serious? A ST 13 composite bow does 1d+3 cutting damage with them. Min/Av/Max is 4/6.5/9. A minimum damage hit on an unarmored HP 10 man will cripple his arm or leg. A roughly average damage hit - let's say 7, because you can't roll 6.5 - would almost do enough to automatically dismember the arm or leg, and 8 or 9 will dismember. Youch. And ST 13 composite bows aren't exactly lofty weapons of legend, either - a ST 11 man with Strongbow 2 can draw one. Bows in my DF game are more usually in the ST 15-19 range, and crossbows even heavier.

So these are clearly not dinky little moon-shaped arrowheads for cutting banners off of poles, but a thrown blade powered by a bow.

One suggestion my players came up with was an armor divisor of (0.5). That would make them still arm-lopping on unarmed foes but quickly drop off the effectiveness scale against more armored foes. Makes sense - who pulls out the crescent arrow or Y- or U- shaped arrowhead to punch through plate or mail or an o-yoroi? Of course, that might seem pretty unfair when you look at any other cutting attack versus armor.

Can they target vitals? Seems like you could aim for the heart with them, but is it going to be as easy to penetrate as with a broadhead? One option here is to say yes, but it changes the injury multiplier from x1.5 to x2, much like cutting the neck does. Only unlike the neck, it's rare for the vitals to be less armored. I wouldn't allow an eye strike except on a very large subject simply because the orbital bone of a skull is well-designed to stop broad-area attacks from entering the brain. Of course, you could just say "no, vitals is x3 injury" but then there is no good reason to use impaling arrows - they're marginally better against the torso but worse against limbs, no better against the neck, etc.

Still, the problem remains - this is pretty much a niche arrowhead, but in game terms, it's making up for a lot of the weakness of the better missile weapons (bows, crossbows), especially versus supernatural foes or solid objects.

One further way to deal with this is reduced damage. They can simply not hit as hard, thanks to the arrowhead's shape, less ability to focus force, etc. The way to do this is give them -1 or -2 damage. Even with -2 that ST 13 composite bow will do 1d+1 (2/4.5/7) and still have some solid effects, but they're toned down. 2/3 of the time an unarmored man will have a crippled limb, but can't get dismembered by the arrows until a ST 15 or 17 bow shows up and rolls well.

I'm not sure if I'll do this - it really depends on how my players feel about it. But I am at least considering the damage reduction overall, but allowing an improved injury multiplier for the vitals.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Top signs adventurers have been here already

Here are some clear signs you've had adventurers come through an area.

All statues are destroyed. Or at least broken up and knocked over. After all, they could have been golems so they needed to be attacked. Then, if they weren't golems, clearly they were housing treasure or covering up some treasure.

Doors are destroyed, or spiked and locked and barred. Adventurers never forgive a stuck door, and slay them utterly. On the other hand, a door that will open clearly can be used to get the adventurers from behind. Those will be locked, barred, jammed, and spiked to the best of the adventurer's abilities. If those doors lead nowhere, so much the better. Clearly there is a secret door they just can't find past it which conceals grave danger.

Traps are re-set. Pretty much, if a trap can be re-set after what it guards is gone, delvers will have done that. A group of thorough and expert adventurers will leave behind a heavily trapped corridor to a locked (and spiked!) vault door to an empty vault. They may add their own traps, just to get future adventurers who might try to loot their already looted places. Great is the fear of, and jealousy of, other adventuring groups.

Furniture is hacked up. Or, honestly, just gone without a trace to be sold to "collectors" the delvers have convinced themselves are out there. You know, the kind that buy moldy old dungeon furniture at a markup. The rest will have been hacked into tiny pieces to ensure there wasn't any treasure hidden inside, legs broken off to see if they're actually staves, wands, or rods, and chair cushions carefully sliced open to check for gems. Mirrors will be broken, in case they spring magical evil twins.

Bodies are dismembered. The intact ones have already walked off as undead servants under the control of the party's spellcasters. The others have been thoroughly rendered lootless. Teeth, possibly valuable organs, skins, clothing, weapons, fingers that could conceal loot, etc. have been cut off.*

Weapons are broken. No adventurer is foolish enough to leave weapons lying around. If they can't be taken immediately to be cashed in in town, they'll be cached secretly for later. If that's not practical (or simply not trivially easy), they'll be destroyed. Hacked up, smashed, burned to cinders, and otherwise ruined. If that's not possible, they'll be trapped and/or hidden.

Dead ends are heavily marked up. A dead end always has a secret door, therefore all dead ends will be scorched, hacked, marked with pick marks, and tapped. They may also be trapped, to nail any rival adventurers attempting to find the as-yet-undiscovered secret door the original delvers couldn't find in their previous half-dozen attempts to find the door that must be there.

More to come in the future I'm sure . . .

* By the way, in any game system, this only takes "one round." That's 1 second, 6 seconds, one minute, etc. - plenty of time for a complete and thorough search that finds all loot. Usually this can be done simultaneously with other actions, such as fighting, running away full speed, casting spells, or looting other bodies.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

DF Underwater Combat Light

Last session in my DF game, we had an underwater fight.

I knew there were underwater combat rules somewhere, but I couldn't remember where. So I just winged it.

What I ruled was:

- Swimming move is per Basic Set p. B354.

- To hit is -4 for attacking into or out of water, 1/10th range (which didn't come up), lightning wouldn't penetrate water.

- No swinging attacks, but I was ready to rule if people sawed.

- Half damage for broad-area thrusting attacks (slams, shield bashes).

- Thrusting attacks unaffected if you're Aquatic, Amphibious, or have Swim on (which ultimately the only fighting PCs did).

- No Retreat.

After the session, as I drove home, I remembered where the rules are - in a digest form in the excellent GURPS Martial Arts: Yrth Fighting Styles.

I went home and looked them up.

They felt both too complicated and too generous for my DF game. Lots of penalties, even for thrusting attacks (a standard spear or trident would be -8 to hit, for example), and pretty weak penalties for swinging attacks. Oh sure, -1 per die per yard of reach isn't nice, but it's basically no penalty in DF. Vryce would go from Skill-27 and 4d+12 cutting to Skill-19 and 4d+4 cutting. Average damage 18 underwater? Eh . . . I could double the penalty so it's basically -1d per 1d, but that's nerfing the weak and leaving the strong pretty well off. Even without a Swim spell he'd be able to fight in the water not much worse than in the air . . . No word on shield bashes underwater, either.

Also, you can Retreat, too, if you have the right skills or right traits (including the Swim spell.) That I still can't get my head around. Maybe you can veer off course while swimming at speed, but go from stationary to one yard back for a +1 or +3 to defenses? I just can't see it, even for pretty nimble fish. Water has more resistance than air, and even if you can potentially move in three dimensions up-and-back it's not going to be as fast. Dodge and move forward for a slip? That I could maybe see. I could see reduced Retreat bonuses, maybe, but even so . . . it's a pretty generous concession.

Obviously, I'm looking at a summary subset of the rules from Pyramid and Roger Burton Wests's Fathom Five article.

But even so, I feel like the guesstimates I made on the day were a little more DF-like for my tastes. Underwater creatures are pretty well off. Surface dwellers need magic to get around well. Fighting underwater is limited to thrusts but given the right spells and traits you can triumph.

Short version? Fighting in water should be limited, favor the fish, and be a real change of pace from "I swing and cut it in half."

Here is what I'm thinking . . .

DF Felltower Underwater Combat (Simple)

- Swimming move is per Basic Set p. B354.

- Weapon skills are capped by Swimming skill, unless you have the Swim spell on or are Aquatic or Amphibious.

- No Reach 1+ weapon swinging attacks underwater. Sawing, close combat weapon swings, etc. use thrust-based damage. Based on maximum reach.

- Thrusting and unarmed attacks are unpenalized.

- Attacks into and out of the water are at -4, 1/10 range, -1 per die of damage, some attacks can't penetrate.

- Shield bashes do half damage and are -2 x DB to hit.

- No Parry except unarmed or purely close combat weapons, no Block (but you get DB), Dodge is normal for your move, no Retreat (except with Ethereal Body or Walk Through Water).

Plus the usual rulings as needed. I've already made a fair amount of concessions to "if it looks like a Bond-vs-Frogmen fight, it's not penalized" so I'm not inclined to make more. I'd deal out of a lot of "No, even though you're a Weapon Master with the Swim spell on." You wouldn't need to make a lot of Swimming rolls, or anything else besides "fight more or less normally."

Those rules would explain fishmen with spears and shields (great on land, great offense in the water, no real loss when you can't Block) and saw-edged swords and knives, and encourage special underwater crossbows (spearguns!) and grappling and knife fighting. At the same time, it makes powerful spells powerful, and encourages PCs to do water-specific moves (stab instead of cut, grapple, pick touch spells over Lightning, etc.)

I'm leaning very heavily to the latter. It's both pretty fair, it is simple, and it didn't cause any complaints or weirdness last session, either. A simple set of rules that worked smoothly is probably the way to go. No need for specialized skills, either. Save Aquabatics for the Aquabats!

And yes, Swim is very powerful. It should be, it's cost 6/3 and has a lot of prereqs. Its wording did engender some "doesn't suffer penalties means I fight in water like it's air" arguments until I said, no, "impossible to do" isn't a penalty. And it's not a D&D-like Free Action item that says, basically, throw out the rules and pretend you're fighting on land. Those are lame, really, because they take an interesting environment and say "nevermind, it's normal."

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mini: Undead Pirate Captain

This is a Reaper Warlord undead pirate captain. I used him as a significant NPC in my long-running GURPS campaign.

Big pics behind the cut.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Random Thoughts & Posts

Here are some random thoughts for the day.

Twitter Dungeon - DUNSÖNs & DRAGGANs - Ikea themed text dungeon.

Monster Colors - So there is a whole series of posts going on about monster colors. On one level I feel like, well, yeah, it says it right in the books that even humanoid monsters have lots of different skin colors. But then again just because some other people are just noticing the "odd" colors of some old monsters doesn't mean I'm special because I noticed before them. Still, it's why you'll see my monster minis painted many colors. Nothing says monsters should all be dull earth tones and humanoids variations on human skins.

In my own collection I have:

- goblins that are bright orange, yellow (mine and the original paintjob on some Reaper pre-paints), olive green, and blue.

- blue bugbears.

- purple metallic snakemen.

- yellow, orange, flesh-toned, brown, red, and blue ogres and giants. I use one of the blue ogres as a demon lord. No purple ones, purple is for snakemen!

- golden, red, brown, and blue lizards.

- a veritable rainbow of slimes! (I just like saying "veritable rainbow of slimes.")

- demons in red, white, blue, grey, green, yellow, and more.

- all sorts of brightly colored mutants and monsters and aliens. Any even slightly reasonable excuse to make crazy colored monsters is enough for me.

Okay, sure, my orcs are green and my hobgoblins are grey - shades of both. I like green orcs. I like grey skinned hobgoblins. But it's only a good thing if people re-discover the many hues and colors of monsters. By all means pick duller colors if you like, and picking a single theme for a race or type is probably a good idea just for player recognition purposes. Like red berries and tri-color snakes, it could be a hint of danger, and you can't have look-alike monsters if the looks don't tell a story. But yeah, bust out your other colors. If it takes Gary Gygax's monster descriptions to make you do it, that's fine, just do it!

Lawyers & Litigants - All negotiations and agreements in my game eventually seems to end up in some form of "technically, the wording of the agreement say that the party of the first part shall . . . " line of reasoning. Check the comments in this post. Remember, the spirit of the agreement applies to you; the letter of the agreement applies to them!

Blogging about blogging. - Want to start a new blog? Here are some pro tips for you:

Tenkar's Tavern - how to create a blog and a community.

Mailanka's Musings - how to blog about GURPS, but like a lot of GURPS material it's universally applicable.

and this post by Justin Aquino spelling out some of what he's looking for in posts, which might inspire you to write some.

Me, I pretty much came out of the gate with a plan and stuck to it. But although my chosen career is teaching people how to do things (speak, write, move, hit, etc.), I'm probably not going to blog about blogging. I might encourage you to do it yourself, but that's about all. Good thing others will tell you how to make the sausage.

Usually I post minis on Tuesday, but I'll see if I can't get a mini pic up for tomorrow instead!

Monday, May 16, 2016

DF Session 75, Felltower 49 - Part I

May 15th, 2016

Weather: Warm, cloudy.

Characters (approximate net point total)

Dryst, halfling wizard (395 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (267 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (269 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (135 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (271 points)
     Kian, human pirate (~65 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (267 points)
Vryce, human knight (468 points)

In reserve:
Angus "Mithrilbraid" McSwashy, dwarf swashbuckler (261 points)
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (265 points)
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (372 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (287 points)
     5 skeletons (~25 points) (one is a hunchbacked zombie)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)
Kenner Baumfellen, wood elf scout (250 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)

We started in town, as always. Raggi wasn't available, sadly, but oddly (see the notes.) The group gathered rumors and finished equipping. Notably, this included Vryce and Dryst. Vryce had some money, and during the downtime equipped himself with ornate heavy plate (enchanted) and cloth armor underneath, and had a fine Puissance +1 greatsword made for himself. We did that all this session, but we'd agreed he'd had the downtime to do it but the player didn't feel like sitting down and doing the equipment list until he needed to . . . and he hadn't been expecting to run Vryce today.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

DF Session summary teaser

So I just got home from game, which is about 2 1/2 hours after I was hoping to get home. And I now I have an early client on Mondays, so that's not ideal. So, no summary today. I'll have to get it in tomorrow or Tuesday.

But here is a teaser:

- a long fruitful discussion about how to handle the orc menace.

- the PCs bribed their way past the orcs to get to a door to a new area

- the PCs picked the wrong door

- a descent into the flooded prison

- a meeting with the Warden and the crazies, last seen in session 41

- a promise to clean out some fishmen on behalf of the crazies for a reward

- a fight with fishmen, razor fish, giant electric eels, and a water elemental

- no deaths, but lots of injuries and someone got an arm bitten off

- we find out what kind of druid Gale is!

We ran way over time, so we ended right after a big long brawl with the fishmen. We'll do a split session next time - we'll finish the post-combat mop-up, the consult with the crazies, negotiating with the orcs over their split, and then run a whole new session.

Or people can just stay in the dungeon for a second straight session, giving up the shot at more character points and some downtime in return for not needing to bribe the orcs to explore more. My preference is the former, but I'll put the second out as an option.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Review: GURPS Conan Moon of Blood

This is the fourth of four reviews of the GURPS Conan solo adventure series. For the previous ones, click on the title below.

Conan the Wyrmslayer
Conan Beyond Thunder River
Conan and the Queen of the Black Coast

All of my reviews are linked on the reviews page.

by W.G. Armintrout
Steve Jackson Games 1989
32 pages
$5.99 in PDF

This adventure is based on Moon of Blood, a Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp short story that is a sequel to Beyond the Black River. This adventure, similarly, can stand alone or be played as a sequel to Beyond Thunder River - assuming you did no better than Conan.

The adventure takes place on the Pictland/Aquilonia border, just after the Picts have taken back lands settled by the Aquilonians.

Friday, May 13, 2016

DF book news

I read this over on Dr. Kromm's Livejournal, regarding DF book release order:

"It looks as if the latest from Peter Dell'Orto (peterdellorto) will come out first,"


Not sure how fast "first" means, but I'm glad the next DF book coming out is mine. I'm still trying to wrangle a contract for another book, but for now, at least my last submitted book is getting going.

Review: GURPS Conan and the Queen of the Black Coast

This is my third review of four looking at the GURPS Conan solo adventures. For the two previous ones done so far, see these posts:

Conan the Wyrmslayer
Conan Beyond Thunder River

For all of my reviews, please click the review tag or see the reviews page.

by Robert Traynor
Steve Jackson Games 1989
32 pages
$5.99 in PDF

This GURPS solo adventure is based on the REH story Queen of the Black Coast. All you need to play is the adventure and the GURPS 3rd edition Basic Set. You don't need GURPS Conan, but it wouldn't hurt to be familiar with it, either.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Conditional Spell Resistance Penalties

Here are a few optional rules for conditional spell penalties. These are just a taste - you can always add more. And since I need to say this explicitly in either the post on in the comments after I get asked - these are not currently in force in my DF game.

This is at best a rule idea and rough draft.

Magical Sympathy

Resisting a spell that enforces an existing condition is more difficult. For example, it's harder to resist fear effects when already afraid, sleep spells when sleeping, loyalty spells when already friendly to the caster, etc. In such cases, resistance is at -1 to -3. Failure (or successful resistance) doesn't undo the existing state; critical success or critical failure will.

Conversely, it's easier to resist a spell that is explicitly and diametrically opposed to you or your actions. For example, a character with Cowardice being subject to a bravery-type spell, a mortal enemy being subject to a loyalty or charm spell, a spell to forget directed at a deeply-seated memory, and so on. In such cases, resistance is at +1 to +3.

Here are some examples:

Sometimes people want to ensure a sleeping guard stays asleep. A GM can rule as follows.

Sleep - A sleeping or dozing subject resists Sleep at -3; successful resistance means the subject continues to sleep normally. Critical spell resistance or critical failure on the spell means the subject wakes up.

Forgetfullness - Characters with Absent-Minded resist this spell at -3; recent memories (within the last minute of the casting) can be forgotten more easily - resist at -2 in these cases.

Here are cases of opposition:

Bravery - Subjects with Cowardice resist at +3! Conversely, those with Berserk resist at -3 - the spell is pushing them in the direction of their normal course of actions and expanding it.

Lure - Subjects with Incurious or Single-Minded (if they're working on an unrelated task) resist at +3.

This has to be solid opposition or solid sympathy - merely wanting or not wanting the result isn't sufficient. Spells already assume "adventuring" conditions - Sleep spells aren't resisted at +3 because a fighter is swinging away in combat (the normal use), but might resist at +3 if he woke up a short time again after a full night's sleep and downed an energy drink. As you can see, this mostly makes sense with Mind Control college spells - you don't take more damage from a fire spell because you're on fire already, or get levitated more easily because you're mid-jump. It also doesn't make game balance sense to allow, say, low-ST characters suffer more from weakness spells or low-HT creatures to suffer more from HT-resisted spells. That's already occurring - it's a conditional bonus or penalty based on basic sympathy or opposition, not a feedback loop of punishment or reward.

Conditional modifiers that already exist supersede these - the +5 for Absolute Direction against Disorient, for example.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Review: Conan Beyond Thunder River

Since I'm taking a look at some of the solo adventures I own, and since I took a look at Conan the Wyrmslayer, here is Conan Beyond Thunder River.

by W.G. Armintrout
Steve Jackson Games 1988
$5.99 in PDF

Conan Beyond Thunder River is a solo adventure for GURPS 2nd edition. It is set in the Conajohara settlements between Thunder River and the Black River, and it's based on the story Beyond the Black River.

The solo adventure is pretty epic. It's 560 entries long, plus one area and eight combat maps, Conan's record sheet, two potential companions, various Aquilonian troops and civilians, six different Pict tribal warriors, and nine monsters (natural-ish ones like giant snakes up to forest demons and man-apes.)

There is a lot to do in the adventure. The over-arching goal is to deal with a Pict uprising - sparked at least in part by a shaman, Zogar Sog, who is taking revenge on some men who wronged him. To deal with that uprising you have to explore the wilderness, raid the Pict camp, defend the fort, and deal with headless bodies and occult threats. You can meet two different companions. You can inspire the troops - or annoy them enough to get into a duel. You can discover spies, or not.

Like Wyrmslayer, there are Plot Words. These provide bonuses or penalties - or open or restrict options - during the adventure. You start with three randomly-selected Plot Words - three rolls, with one of three words, one of two, and one of two more.

Unlike Wyrmslayer, it also has an external clock. The game starts at 6 am on Thursday morning, and as you complete actions you are directed to roll a die to add hours to the clock. As time rolls forward, your options narrow and new choices open up. You literally don't have time to do it all . . . and problems like slow movement from wounds (or carrying companions) or poor decision making can cut down on them still further. There is a clock ticking and you're not quite sure when it'll run out (at least the first playthrough.)

Overall the adventure is dense, with a lot of choices and colorful - but clear and fun - text to read. The options generally make sense. There are a few niggling downsides - at least one entry is a dead end with rolls - fail the roll and die, succeed and realize you're going to die, go to the "fail and die" entry. Annoying. In general, though, the options make sense and are useful, even if only for information.

Like the other Conan adventures, and perhaps more than the others, sense rolls are critical. If you don't have sharp senses, you're going to miss a lot and suffer a lot. You need Stealth, too, ranged weaponry, outdoor skills, leadership, charisma, and some flat-out lucky rolls to get the best possible outcomes. Lacking some or all and you'll find yourself in difficulty. To top it all off, there are character point awards at the end - and you can compare your score to Conan's score in the story.


One thing I liked about this adventure was the variety. You can lose the Conajohara, just like Conan. You can save it. Often you can fight or run. And you can made a wide variety of decisions in most of the cases that come up. Adding in the time element so decisions really do have opportunity costs, and the Plot Words, and it has a lot of replay value.

Plus, the first time I saw it was the first time I saw a character as epic as Conan at 521 points. ST 19 and HT 17. Brawling and Broadsword each with 32 points in them. Multiple languages, and many skills - and those just the ones relevant to the adventure. Conan was awesome - good, skilled, smart, capable. And you can run him. That's critical - many games are set in the world of your hero, but generally they let you aspire to someday meet the hero. This came right out and said, "Here, Conan is awesome. You run him." I couldn't buy the book and get it home fast enough - and I remember having to look at it multiple times at the store before I had the money to get it.

Did I say 2nd edition? Yes, 2nd edition, not third. Maybe 1st - I ran it with first. The ranged weapons have PB, Inc, 1/2 DAM, and MAX for ranges, for example - he's 17 yards away, how many increments is that for this weapon and my ST? Mail is weak against impaling, not crushing. Running adds Skill/8 to Basic Speed (and Conan has a 16, for a full +2), Block is Shield/3, not Shield/2, so even Conan's Shield 16 gives him a 6 Block with Combat Reflexes. The good old, bad old days.

If you have a first edition, first printing like I do, you'll want this errata sheet from SJG. These are pretty significant ones, too - they affect the story, Conan's potential encumbrance, a map error or two, and give Conan a skill he lacks but may need in the adventure. I don't have the PDF but they generally update with all of such issues when they update the product, so only 1st printing folks like me really need to be concerned.

This is an old adventure in an older system . . . but it's a good one. It would probably be easier in 4e, if only because you're more likely to have better skills, better rolls outdoors (if you take the right talents), and better Per - but it's still going to be a fun ride. Recommended.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Minis: the Meeposian Brothers

Three occasional NPCs from my DF Felltower game are the Meeposian brothers.

Here they are: Antonios, Demitrios, Leonatios of Meepos.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Review: Conan the Wyrmslayer

After reviewing several solo adventures for D&D and GURPS, I decided to pull out one of my favorites: Conan the Wyrmslayer. It's for GURPS 3rd edition.

I know I said I'd get to MV1 Midnight on Dagger Alley but I'd like to play through it before I review it, which pushes it back to later in the week at the earliest. I will get to it, though.

by W.G. Armintrout
Steve Jackson Games 1989
32 Pages
$5.99 in PDF

Conan the Wyrmslayer is a solo adventure for 3rd edition GURPS. All it needs is the 3rd edition Basic Set - GURPS Conan would potentially be useful for a new character but it's not necessary. It is based on the Lin Carter / L. Sprague de Camp story "The Lair of the Ice Worm."

The basic story is you're Conan or your own character, you're out in Ice Devil Pass trying to make it back to civilization, and adventure intervenes. There are beastmen to fight, a horse to try to preserve, and a girl to rescue. And an ice wyrm to fight when things go, as you pretty much hope they will, towards "danger" and away from "and nothing happened, the end."

The adventure takes place across 273 keyed entries that cover the glacial surface and some hidden ice caves.

The ice caverns are handled with a map that is generated as you go. It has a start block with (potentially) three exits, and a series of larger rooms connected by smaller possible connections organized into rows and columns. Roll the dice and they tell you what openings there are, and then what entry is in what room. It's simple enough but leads to quite a lot of wandering around looking for your goal.

It can get frustrating flipping around page after page, then rolling, then flipping, then rolling, then coming back. But it makes for a unique maze each time, and there is just enough pre-programming to ensure you'll get to the worm . . . but only after you take some risks searching the icy and not-uninhabited glacial caves. Don't take the risks and don't search around and you'll end up with nothing (including the option to just leave) but if you push you'll eventually face the main monster. It works in play, but with a lot of flipping.

The surface is handled with a battle map and rolls.

All of the results in the game are straight-up GURPS; there is no novelty change-up or fixed results. You get to make reaction rolls for the NPC woman you can save, morale checks for some foes, try to keep your horse from panicking, etc. and move them all around on the battle map. Most of the fights are one-on-one, and the big group fight is handled smoothly with a roster full of check boxes to cross off thrown weapons, dead or demoralized foes, and tally up injuries.

One nice mechanism is the use of "Plot Words." As you do (or don't do) certain things, you gain Plot Words. At certain junctures, these can provide bonuses, different effects, penalties, forced choices, and other changes. You track the words but don't know all of the effects of "DEVESTATOR" or "WARNED" or BURDEN" until they come up. It's easier (and more intriguing) than "If you did A, turn to X, if you did B, turn to Y, for all others turn to Z." That happens in a few cases, but actual in-play decisions end up with plot words not memorizing your choices.

This is a tough adventure. It's almost depressingly easy to get killed off even as a 23-year old 375 point Conan. Even with good decisions, bad die rolls can end you. On the other hand, though, there are relatively few "roll or die" situations. And it's even possible to get through the adventure saving the girl, avoiding the wyrm of the title, and just getting to safety. On the other hand, you can fall down a crevice, freeze to death, or just die in combat with any of a half-dozen different foes. And fighting the ice wyrm straight-up is winnable, but pretty risky. Good decisions, good play, and reasonable rolls can see you through. A comedy of bad rolls or terrible decisions can get the dreaded "your adventure is over." And disadvantages can force your hand - good luck playing a savvy and cautious Conan with his Impulsiveness and Overconfidence.

Notes and War Stories

I must have played this a half-dozen times. I know I ran a friend through it, too. Each time I play it, even knowing the story and the adventure, I still end up with results I wasn't necessarily hoping for. Or aiming for. Once I finished the worm with sheer combat. Once like in the story. Another time I ended up pretty much wandering off and making it home without any real issues (good skills and good rolls did that.) Most of the time, it doesn't end well for my horse or my companion.

Last night I went through it - I didn't play out the whole initial combat. After three very successful turns I just assumed I'd win and moved on for the sake of finishing it out quickly. But I'd play it again given the chance, and it's a good example of a challenging but fun solo adventure. Even if you don't play GURPS, but like Conan and like solo play, it's worth checking it out.

I ran it again using 3e, but it would go smoothly with 4e. You just need to swap in the mechanics as necessary; few are so radically changed as to make a huge difference.

It's a fun adventure and I highly recommend it. Lots of multiple-playthrough value, and good material to grab for a GURPS game. Got to put a Yakhmar in my game, now.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Signature Gear & Weapon Bond & Gear-Destroying Monsters

Here is a ruling from my Felltower game.

Signature Gear, Weapon Bond, & Gear-Destroying Monsters

I run a game with rust monsters, creatures that shatter weapons, and corrosion attacks all over the place. This is a problem with people also have Signature Gear, which basically says that gear has plot protection. If it's lost through no fault of your own, you get the points back. Weapon Bond is a one-specific-weapon-only +1 to skill.

What I've done is this:

- if your Signature Gear/Weapon Bond item is damaged or destroyed by a monster, enough remains intact to use magical or non-magical repair (as appropriate) if this is at all possible. This gear is so part of your character that somehow enough survives to make it at least possible to get it restored.

- if that isn't possible, the item is destroyed or lost and the PC can get the points back - or move them over to a new item that just so happens to suit them as well as the previous one, player's choice. This can be a found item, if the value is roughly similar (for Signature Gear) or suits the character (Weapon Bond), again, player's choice.

Notes: I could have gone one of two ways on this. Way one would be "rust monster destroys your Signature Gear sword, you get the points back." Way two would be the above. I went with way two because of two issues I saw with way one. One is munchkinism, where you use Signature Gear to get good stuff that you can't lose but if you want to upgrade it or trade it in, you fight monsters that can destroy it and box yourself into a case where you must lose the gear. Argument ensues. The second is it feels meaningless to have Signature Gear if it's just going to be found again if you lose it but otherwise is just as vulnerable to nasty monsters.

And that's how I have rust monsters and Disintegrate spells co-exist with plot protection in my Felltower game.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Participating in GURPSDay

Douglas Cole is the organizing force behind the GURPSDay posting phenomenon. He started the whole "Thursday is GURPSDay" tradition, and he started doing the weekly roundups of GURPS blog posts.

Now he's actively looking for more people to participate.

I'd like to encourage this, too.

The GURPS blogging community started out pretty small, but it's become a vibrant and prolific community.

All you need to do to participate is write a blog about GURPS. Your experiences. Reviews of the game materials. Characters. House rules. Monsters. Worked examples. Anything, really.

Then, you need to contact Doug and get included. Just check his post:

May is GURPSDay recruitment month

You don't necessarily have to keep writing about GURPS. Even a one-off about that one time you played Man-to-Man or how you plundered GURPS Vikings for material for your Harn-based D&D game is fine. All you need to do is write about and tag a post GURPS, and when that happens you'll get pulled into the weekly roundup. Fame, fortune, and cross-linking are just three of the things that could happen from doing this. Not all are equally likely, but you'll get the GURPS community's eyes on your blog.

And if you've never blogged before, it's trivially easy to set one up, even if only for a single post. We'd all love to have more people in the conversation.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Review: M2 Maze of the Ridding Minotaur

This is a look at the second of the two Dungeons & Dragons solo modules I own - M2. I also looked at M1 Blizzard Pass. I'm aware of BSOLO Ghost of Lion Castle, but I never owned, played, or read a copy so I don't expect to review it. Hopefully someone else will step up and do so!

For more reviews, please see my consolidated reviews page.

M2 Maze of the Riddling Minotaur
by Jeff Grubb
TSR 1984
A Solo Adventure for Character Levels 1-10

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Review: All In A Night's Work

Since I usually do a GURPS post on Thursdays, and I've started reviewing my solo adventures for D&D/AD&D, why not look at the first GURPS solo adventure?

All In A Night's Work
Introductory Solo Adventure
by Creede & Sharleen Lambard
Steve Jackson Games 1985
14 pages

All In A Night's Work is a solo, introductory adventure for GURPS. The copy I have came with the original 1st edition boxed set, and is back-to-back with an inverted Caravan to Ein Arris. In the words of the adventure:

"You can start playing right away - even if you don't know the GURPS rules yet. [. . . ] It's a lot more fun to play through and see how everything works, rather than try to read 150 pages all at once . . . "

Yes, that.

Like a fair amount of solo and one-on-one adventures I've seen, this is an adventure for a thief. Seems reasonable - it's easier to solo capers than have people hang around while you're on them; also, being sneaky helps when it's just you. It's also good for an introductory adventure - clear mission, low social interaction, lots of skill checks (sneaking, climbing, etc.), risk-reward decisions (push for more loot, carry extra and suffer penalties, fight or run), and low but not necessarily no combat.

The adventure is 14 pages and 175 numbered entries. Start at entry 1, make decisions and make rolls, and keep going until you eventually get to either 175 or another entry that says, "Your adventure is over." Or you die, which can happen.

Combat, skill rolls, etc. are all handled with straight-up GURPS. No coloring, no pre-determined rolls for the opposition (except for reactions - they react poorly to thieves in the house!), nothing except the normal game rules. They're often explained in short form so you can just try them and go.

It's a fun adventure with solid replay value - and nothing is so programmed and forced that you'd play it once and then skip it. It's short, solid, fun, and challenging without being too hard. It really is a good way to learn 1st-3rd edition GURPS.

Notes & War Stories

All In A Night's Work was possibly my introduction to GURPS per se. Not to the system in parts - I'd played Man-to-Man a lot since it came out in 1984. But to the actual 1st edition boxed set? I played through this adventure, probably with Dai Blackthorn, the example character.*

I'm sure I played it a couple of times just to get different endings, and I know I ran someone through it to teach GURPS. As an introductory one-on-one or true solo adventure, it was excellent.

As far as I can tell, it's not out for 4th edition GURPS yet. That's too bad - it's a solid introductory adventure and it teaches you the rules. And with a skill-based system, it has replay value - just because you know the best choice is A not B doesn't mean your skills are up to doing A successfully.

And for other people's war stories, check out this post and the comments for more on All In A Night's Work.

* For what it's worth, what's with low-ST example characters in GURPS books? Man-to-Man had ST 9 John Falcon, GURPS one-upped that with ST 8 Dai Blackthorn, and my players made a whole series of ST 7 wizards. Examples can be a bad influence!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Review: M1 Blizzard Pass

First of three related reviews here - the second will be on Friday, the third should post on Saturday if I finish on time. I'm taking a look at three modules I don't see talked about much - M1 Blizzard Pass, M2 Maze of the Riddling Minotaur, and MV1 Midnight on Dagger Alley. All three are solo adventures meant to be played truly solo - one player, one character, no Dungeon Master. Today I'll start with David Cook's M1 Blizzard Pass.

For more reviews, please see my consolidated reviews page.

M1 Blizzard Pass
by David Cook
A Solo Adventure for Thieves Level 1-3
for Basic Set D&D
32 pages

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Minis: TSR Gamma World Mutants

You've seen one of these before, but here are all three of the mutants from this old pack of TSR minis.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Limits of Stericksburg's "Safe" zone

As my players discuss some plans for next session by email, the limits of "town is safe" came up indirectly.

Here is how "safe" works.

North of Stericksburg are some run-down slums. All that's there are run down houses, tents of the truly poor and desperate, some criminals and exiles, and a few shops and stands that provide a modicum of a market for all of them.* And yes, the statue of Baron Sterick on his horse, arms raised holding his axe and sword.

These areas are not explicitly safe. Although I generally don't have encounters in these areas, trouble can follow you from the dungeons to these areas if you attempt to make a run for town.

Not accidentally, the North Gate, that leads to the Stone Bridge over the Silver River, is closed and guarded in the small hours of the night. You can leave town during these hours, potentially, but you can't easily get back in. During the day, the guards would be quick to seal off the North Gate if trouble is seen coming, without really caring if some delvers made it inside before they did.

Short version?

Safe stops at the southern bank of the river. Don't raid the dungeon and flee to the slums to wait it out.

"Town is safe" works as a central conceit of the game only if you aren't trying to use it like base in a game of tag. Not that my players have done so, or even suggested doing so - but like I said, it came up indirectly and I figured I made as well explicitly explain my thinking.

* Obviously, this includes a stand that sells cursed frogurts that contain potassium benzoate.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

DF Felltower NPC: Marc Strawngmussel

Here is another NPC from my DF Felltower game. He was last seen during the dragon session. For more henchmen see my DF Felltower Henchman page. For the template used to make this guy, see Dungeon Fantasy 15.

Marc Strawngmussel

Marc is a big, strong, beefy chunk of man. He's not unattractive, in an assembled-out-of-slabs-of-muscle sort of way. He's slightly tanned, curly haired, and smells slightly of certain powders and supplements. He's rarely seem without a pec-revealing shirt of some kind. He likes long strolls along the beach while doing farmer's walks for distance, watching the sunset while doing 21s for his guns, and quiet nights by the fireplace . . . deadlifting.

Marc is available for hire for carrying things or kicking sand in people's faces to inspire them to buy training programs, although he only really likes the former.

ST 13 HP 13 Speed 5.5
DX 10 Will 9 Move 5
IQ 9 Per 9 BL 65
HT 12 FP 12
Dodge 8 Parry (Knife) 7

Meaty Fist (10) 1d-1 crushing, Reach C,1.
Large Knife (10): 2d-2 cut, Reach C,1; or 1d impale, Reach C.

Traits: Compulsive Bodybuilding (12); Fit; Lifting ST 5; Odious Personal Habits (Inappropriate flexing); Temperature Tolerance 1 (Cold).

Skills: Animal Handling (Equines)-9; Brawling-10; Carousing-12; Climbing-9; Knife-10; Lifting-12; Packing-8; Wrestling-10.

Equipment: Boots (DR2); Clothing (includes sleeveless mesh top); Large Knife; Personal Basics; Pouch; Wineskin (1 quart capacity).

Notes: Can carry 390 at heavy encumbrance (Move 2) and 650 at extra-heavy (Move 1).
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