Thursday, June 30, 2016

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters: Reviews Roundup

This is probably more than a little self-serving, but here are the reviews that are up that I know of for the Dungeon Fantasy Monsters sub-line of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. Self-serving in that I co-authored one book and wrote another, and I love the middle one myself.

But authors get precious little careful feedback on their work, and I want to highlight the reviews I know of. If I'm missing some, tell me in the comments and I'll add them.

Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1
Bat In the Attic: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1
Let's GURPS: Review: Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1

Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2: Icky Goo
Blind Mapmaker: Review: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 – Icky Goo
Dungeon Fantastic: Review: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2: Icky Goo
Let's GURPS: Review Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2: Icky Goo

Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3: Born of Myth & Magic
Let's GURPS: Review: Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3: Born of Myth & Magic
Blind Mapmaker: Review: Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3: Born of Myth & Magic

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Myth of Encounter Balance in DF Felltower

So my DF game doesn't feature encounter balance.

I even said so straight out, a while back (admittedly, a couple years after we got underway initially.)

"3) Don’t assume you can beat any monster you can encounter. Game balance is for rewards, not challenges."

PC Tips for my GURPS DF Game (inspired by the OSR Primer)

I realize that might seem like railing against "encounter level" and all of that. But that post-dates my D&D play. I can't really rail against it, it's just something I know exists but don't really have a handle on using beyond, "ask someone who knows the games that use it." It's more like warning people it's not a video game. Or even early-edition D&D and AD&D, where mostly the 1st level of dungeons meant for 1st level characters have 1st level monsters (and some 2nd, and some 3rd.) Foes don't scale, foes aren't set to provide a winnable fight (not exactly), and foes aren't set in a gamey way. That's intentionally unlike my experience, where you might have had one ogre or a nest of bugbears in your low-level module but you weren't going to have a mass of giants or a nest of a dozen basilisks - nor the opposite in a place aimed at higher-level play except as an annoyance or time-waster.

To that end, I made the dungeon challenging right from the word go.

I put a trio of trolls on the first level. Worthy foes for DF level characters, murder on weaker sorts - and DF level characters start out as respectable heroes. I put a demon lord who wanders around level 2 pretty often. A pack of wights, each one of which was a match for a single hero. Monsters that needed magic weapons to hit when no one had any. A boss-level fight in one area of level one. A dragon in a cave easily accessible right away. Thirty-three smart and well-equipped draugr off stairs off of level 2, right close to a medusa's lair and some flame lords.

It gets worse, mostly, as you go down further.

I didn't really attempt to balance these, per se. I did make sure mostly encounters scale to the depth of the dungeon - for an old-school tabletop and video game feel - but then rolled on a table and let luck decide what the actual challenge level was.

Yes, I said challenge level. I didn't table out all of the monsters, I just tabled out if they were fodder, worthy, or boss (many = 1 delver, one = 1 delver, one = many delvers, respectively) and then picked things that I felt fit. One boss turned out to be an electric jellyfish. One worthy plus a boss turned out to be more than a dozen wights and an unholy cleric wight leader. Turned out because I picked ones I felt matched the power level. Sometimes things turned out to be pushovers. Sometimes lethal beyond expectations. Sometimes middle of the road.

I do expect people to solve a majority of these challenges from the dwellers using violence. It's that kind of game.* A good chunk won't negotiate, a good chunk can't, many are in the end opposed to what the PCs are coming for (their lives and their wealth.) That's far from saying I expect the PCs to win all of the fights. It's up to them to make that happen and to decide what is to be fought and what to be talked to and what to be avoided.

That's in line with my "Problems but not Solutions " approach. I don't really know how to deal with the situations. I put them in, and let the players draw on their own playing skill and their character's abilities to take care of them.

All of that said, it can be hard to come from a background mix of:

- video games, which are all about balanced fights, scaled encounters, and puzzles with pre-set solutions. And where talking is a second-rate way to deal with anything except scripted "talk or die" encounters.

- mostly AD&D-based play, where published materials and rulebook encounter charts push lower-level foes onto lower-level characters and scale it all up as you go.

- my own GURPS games where violence was a solution, but the goal wasn't looting dungeons, monsters were only fought if they stood between you and a specific larger objective and couldn't be avoided, and money was a tool not a raison d'etra of play.**

- other people's games run who knows how.

Put that into a game where violence really does solve things, violence might be part of your specific goals or a tool to get to them, fights are an integral part of the fun, and looting is the way you keep score . . . and it needed to be spelled out what I was thinking. No scaling - some fights will be easy, some aren't even ones you should try. No balance - some monsters are tough but poor, some weak and wealthy, some neither. Not even the groovy N/scale from DFA1 so you can have a nice play-through of an adventure with variable group size.

So every once in a whole someone remarks about how X or Y is because of the assumption of balanced encounters. Or my players joke, "He must be a level 2 demon lord if he's on level 2." An so on. It's really trying to ram the square peg of DF Felltower - based on a personal set of choices and a GURPS-informed eye to what's appropriate - into the round hole of the D&D gaming lineage that runs right through video games and back out. It's not - it's really a lot more messy than all of that, and a lot simpler. It's just a hole in the ground full of treasure, which generally goes up as you go deeper, filled with monsters, which generally get harder as you go deeper. And lots and lots of exceptions to that "generally."

* Look here and scroll down to "most exciting part." Holmes knew combat was fun, too.

** True story, I gave the PCs something like $500,000 in one big spendable lump. Maybe it was $1,000,000+, I need to look. In a game where $1,000 was starting wealth for a middle-class adventurer type. Why? Because it was just a tool they could use to impose their will on the world, so it wasn't like anyone was going to retire and let the BBEG they'd set into action take over the world.

Spoiler alert: He did anyway. Tactical choices matter.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tika Waylan mini as Not Tika Waylan

I'm trying to get pictures of my Ogre minis for a potential buyer, so while I snapping mini pictures, here is one from collection:

Monday, June 27, 2016

Tactics that worked in Doug's playtest

More thoughts on Doug's playtest and the tactics that paid off.

Staying Together - We didn't use a formation, not by a long shot. But only one of us was away from a one-turn rush and attack from most of the others. And that guy had a long-ranged attack and was effectively screened by the rest of us.

There was at least one chance to run over and dog-pile the bandit chief for Sunshine, but it would have meant leaving a cleric and a fighter in an even-up fight with some potential to be flanks. Instead, by staying more or less in a rough line we made sure none of us could be dogpiled or flanked. Although the line was really more like a V, with Sunshine on the left, the cleric in the point, our fighter on the right, it was sufficient to keep anyone from rushing the gaps.

Staying Mobile - while the fight was still wide open, it helped that we could move. Sunshine had a chance to grapple, and didn't, because that would mean occupying him with one foe instead of threatening one, ensuring a number of them couldn't move freely to pass him. Once the fight turned enough that we had local superiority, someone did grapple, and it was decisive. But until then it denied a lot of good territory to stay mobile.

Ranged and Melee - Combined arms, basically. The ranged attack guys threw spells and the archers shot, mostly at the shieldless guys. The melee-centric guys moved up and engaged and let the ranged folks get off some extra shots. This paid off because the missile guys didn't get overrun and the melee guys weren't helpless if things went badly with melee.

We also got ridiculously lucky on the enemy attacks - they couldn't hit for anything until they dinged some weak attacks off of our armored fighter and then a critical took out one of us. Still, even statistically average hits could have made for a bloody, even fight. We failed to sneak, and they failed to detect us early enough, and we could have had a vicious meeting engagement instead of "adventurers beat up clearly drunken bandits."

But tactically, those are what turned out to be good decisions.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Observed Facts about my DF Felltower World

One central element of my DF Felltower game is that the world is defined as we go.

Players say things off the cuff and they become facts of the world.

Chance elements that come up in play are placed into the world permanently.

Observed facts become parts of a larger tapestry of the world.

In short: I don't write the world then put that into action, we put the action into writing out the game world.

Here are some things that have emerged.

Color Coding - color seems to matter.

Red - the local militia and freelance mercenary forces wear red. Specifically, red shirts. Naturally this is a Star Trek joke at heart. It started because I deployed a few hireling minis I'd painted with burgundy or dark red shirts, and then I started painting new ones to match them. Not all hirelings who come with the party are red-shirted ones, but many are, and it denotes their day job (private guard, guild guard, city guard) or professional background (would-be mercenary.)

Dark Blue - blue is the color of the city of Arras to west, and the mercenary companies that come from that area. specifically, a mix of navy blue and military blue-gray and dutch blue, thanks to my Apple Barrel Colors collections. Why these colors?

Because the mini I painted that was selected as Vryce has blue under his mail, and Vryce's player stated he was a former soldier (specifically, a bidenhander master swordsman, but one who can't handle a shield and thus didn't rate much as a formation fighter). I ended up painting a few more "personality" type minis and some generic soldiery types with the same combo of blue. It stands to reason those guys are probably current or former soldiers, either in the service of a kingdom or Free Company or out on their own.

Garish Mixes - denote the Southern Pirates (on nautical types) or Cashamashians. Because I have some oddly mixed types, mostly pirates. I also have some nightmare mixes of colors on some minis to make them look like they threw together looted gear, but I ended up using them as hirelings from "far Cashamash."

Orcs dress like this too, because they have no taste but they do like bright colors.

Not all people in those colors or mixes fit the description, but many do. Like if I say, "black clad" you think "Ninja" or "Johnny Cash," but it doesn't mean every man in black is Johnny Ninja. But it's a good place to start.

Goblins and Elves Might Be Linked - it's not clear how, but they are. They weren't at first, but then rumors came around saying they were . . . right after one player showed up with a goblin who believed elves and goblins were related. The timing was perfect. So either he's delusional (unlikely), delusional but happens to be right (very likely), or knows something about the origins of goblins (it's possible), but in some way there is a link.

It wasn't planned from the beginning, but it makes sense based on observed facts. I laid all of the groundwork for that to be true, but also enough to make an alternate explanation fit the facts.

And yes, hobgoblins are related to goblins. But they're also very different, in ways that aren't really well explained as of yet.

Lots of Lizardmen - So I basically use the same minis for lizard men no matter one - a mix of Grenadier and old GW plastics. (And their newtman friends are a mix of GW Skinks and RAFM Gilla Worms.) I use these guys for troglodyte-types (lizard men with stinky gas glands), lizard men (nothing special, just tough), swamp lizard men (some minor ability differences to the others), dinomen (not encountered yet), and a few others. So obviously they are all of the same base stock. Why do some have stinky glands, others venomous bites, some just brute strength, etc.? That's a mystery. But clearly they are related, because their minis all look the same.

Not Reptile Men, though. Not that I've allowed one yet, but if they come up, they use RAFM Reptiliad minis. Those I've painted in metallic greens and purples with glittering eyes, much like the snakemen. They may be related, or about as related as green snakes and green lizards are - distantly. But the minis are very different (narrow shouldered, long necks) so they aren't the same as the other grouping.

Crazy Wizards are from Cashamash - Not all of them, since some of the PCs are demonstrably wizards and arguably crazy. But the NPC ones? I keep having them come from, or live in, or have some connection to, the city of Cashamash. There is a real feuding wizard culture there of men, women, and things (although some of the things are also people, and vice-versa) down there. Not the "blow each other up with attack spells" kind. It's the "one up each other" kind. It makes for a place to sell powerful magic items, explains why there are so many cursed items (originally meant as a trap for a rival or a rival's minions), and explains why powerful magical items get bought and then disappear from the campaign.

They are ruled by a Prince, though, who may or may not be a wizard. It doesn't seem like it, though. But Prince Valashkalabash IV does have some money to throw around, and he wants Gram aka Balmung aka The Lost Sword of Vryce Dragonslayer. Ruling over a city full of wizards without being a wizard? Clearly, wizards have a healthy respect for some kind of social order and law. Or he's a figurehead. The first of those is much more interesting, though.

Just some things that have emerged from play.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Random Things for Saturday

Just a few random bits:

- Doug would like Darklands. It tracks penetration separately from damage, so you can get high-damage low-penetration weapons, high-penetration high-damage weapons, high-penetration low-damage weapons, etc. And you've got STR (your strength) and VIT (your endurance), and STR drops from pentrating hits and VIT from non-penetrating ones. Not kidding.

- Speaking of Darklands, I re-started with a new group. Chargen is annoying - it took hours to stack up the professions the right way on the right people with the right choices to get where I wanted. And then, oddly, only one of my characters started with armor and only three with weapons (and one of them was a bow, and didn't come with arrows.) Sigh. I should have cheaped the game and stolen the Pre-gen's gear. I'm having fun, though, but some of the 90s interface is tiresome.

- We've got a new player coming for a tryout for our next Felltower game. I hear he's going to run a thief, so just for refreshers, here is the DF Felltower Thief Mod. Sadly they stayed in the dungeon so he can't bring in his PC. Well, I could stick in as a prisoner of the crazies or something, but it would basically retcon a lot and retro-justify the PCs attacking their former allies ("to rescue that poor guy!") And I'd have to do too much explaining. I have two others avenues that reinforce, not undermine, the pattern of my game, though.

- We had a fun but short playtest session last night in Doug's game. He has a writeup here. I enjoyed it, but like I said - too much chitchat. I like to bs to start a session, get rolling and stay on target, and then wrap it all up later to deal with issues. But you know that, right?

- I'm really actually planning on selling my old Ogre Miniatures. But I have so many it's difficult - just organizing them was hard, now I need to decide on lots, take clear pictures, write descriptions, etc. I suppose I can do "giant lot!" but we're talking a four-figure collection, here, not "a hundred fifty or best offer!" That wouldn't even get half of the actual ogres. Yes, I overbought.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Casting Room Historical Miniatures Sale

So, the UK voted to exit the EU, and the GBP has tumbled with respect to the dollar. Might be a good time to get any historical minis from Casting Room, which is also having a 20% off sale on those lines.

Until midnight Sunday 3rd July we're having a 20% sale on the historical ranges listed on our Casting Room Miniatures site (

Enter the code "CRM20%" in the Discount code box when you check out!

This 20% discount applies to all these ranges:
Trojan Wars/Mycenaeans
Ancient Spanish & Carthaginians
Dark Age Warriors
English Civil War
Seven Years War French
Black Powder Civilians/Rebels & Rioters
Zulu Wars British
Street Fighters
Napoleonics: Austrians, British, French, Portuguese, Prussians, Russians and Saxons.

FREE SAMPLES: If you would like to see a (random) sample from any range of your choice just let us know and we will stick one in your next order for you. Or alternatively you are welcome to send us a self addressed and stamped envelope."

Dark Ages types, Medievals, Renaissance, Gauls, Saxons, etc. all make pretty good fantasy fighter types. So, a low pound and 20% off might be enough to justify some extra minis. I have to pass (I've got plenty of the ones I need) but I wanted to make sure any pewter fans had the heads-up.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thrown Weapons, All-Out Attack, and Throwing Harder

Thrown weapons in GURPS are in a bit of an odd spot. They get all of the disadvantages of melee (short range, relatively easy to defend against, weight of the weapons) and ranged (range penalties, reloading/getting a new weapon, and weaker All-Out Attack options).

One change you can make to GURPS that wouldn't disrupt it too much would be a special combat option. If you elect to make it a Technique, it would be Hard and max out at Prereq-2 (it should always be harder to throw at maximum power at the expense of accuracy, otherwise it's just an always-on damage bonus.)

Harder Throwing - A muscle-powered thrown weapon can be hurled with maximal force, trading off accuracy for damage. This gives a -4 to hit, +2 damage or +1 per die. In addition, add +2 to ST to determine half-damage and maximum range. The thrower must make a DX roll after releasing the weapon; failure means you are off-balance and cannot do anything until your next turn; critical failure means you fall down! Can be used with All-Out Attack, Attack, Committed Attack, and Move and Attack.

Can you stack this with Telegraphic Attack? Not normally, because it's a thrown weapon. But if you allow it (an obvious windup and throw), it would net to +0 to hit, +2 or +1 per die to damage, +2 to defenses, DX roll not to fall down. Stacked with AOA, it would be +1 to hit and the effects I just listed (or -3 and the damage, etc. effects without Telegraphic.

Great for that all-out chuck of an axe or hammer or rock to break something.

Another way to do it is to essentially allow it to straddle melee and ranged for All-Out Attack and Committed Attack.

All-Out Attack - Muscle-powered thrown weapons can use the following options for All-Out Attack:

Determined - Make a single attack at +1 to hit.
Strong: - Make a single attack at +2 or +1 per die to damage, whichever is greater. Also adds +2 to ST to determine range.
Double - Throw two weapons, one from each hand, or Fast-Draw a replacement in between. If the Fast-Draw fails, your turn ends immediately, and you must take a Ready action next turn.
Feint - If using Ranged Feints (see Tricky Shooting, GURPS Martial Arts, p. 121), you may use this option normally.

No other AOA options are available.

Committed Attack - Muscle-powered thrown weapons can use the following option:

Strong - Make a single attack at +1 to damage (or +1 per two full dice of basic damage, before other modifiers. Add +1 to ST for purposes of determining range.

Like a melee attack, the character may make a second step at -2 to hit. Active defense penalties are normal for Committed Attack (GURPS Martial Arts, p. 100).

Defensive Attack - Muscle-powered thrown weapons can use Defensive Attack as written. In addition, the attack has -2 ST for purposes of determining range.

Overall, I think that's an fine way to split it. You aren't able to access the full AOA benefits to hit, because you can't have them now. But you can throw harder, throw as hard as possible, or throw quickly and without sufficient force to stay more defensive. And we cover how to use Ranged Feints with hurled weapons. I threw in the ST benefit because it seems like range should be affected, and it's in line with the ST benefit based on Swing.

The combat option is just a way to do this as a special choice without changing any of the attack maneuvers. I probably wouldn't do both of them, or you can get some silliness (-3 to hit, +4 or +2 per die to damage, etc. without any real ability to get there with melee weapons.) But I thought it up and I figured I'd share.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

GM Mistakes Negotiating as Monsters

Courtney over at Hack & Slash linked to my post about player mistakes negotiating with monsters. That reminded me, I never did get around to GM Mistakes Negotiating as Monsters. So here is that post.

Negotiating as a player can be tricky, and it's not hard to take the wrong tack and end up failing.

As a GM, though, it can also be tough, especially if you aren't used to negotiating on behalf of NPCs. Here are some errors I've seen, and I've committed, over the years.

Taking it Personally.

In a word, don't. It's not a negotiation between you and the players. It's between your NPCs and the player's PCs. There isn't a win or lose, it's just you determining the results of their actions.

That's pretty basic GMing stuff - GMing 101, day one, right after, "You run the game, the rule book doesn't run the game." But sometimes you have to remind yourself. Unlike a combat, where dice are determining so much of success or failure between NPCs and PCs, negotiations involves roleplaying between the GM and the players. Especially when you're first starting out, it can feel competitive since it's being resolved with a strong element of out-talking each other.

You can get this subtly, too, where you feel annoyed that the players tricked your clever NPC or thought they'd fall for some crazy proposal.

In really old-school games, there aren't any mechanics (or only reaction roll mechanics, like the one in OD&D) for determining how well the PCs negotiate. That makes sense given the sheer amount of games of Diplomacy the early players played (at least according to Jon Peterson) - negotiating by actually doing so fit their skillset and mode of play. In games with mechanics to resolve negotiations, like GURPS, it's a little easier to disassociated yourself from the sheer obnoxiousness of PC demands - if you stack up a -10 to their roll because they demand both of their partner's legs and then demand he dance and then roll a 3, well, that's a story to tell whenever the game comes up reminiscing. It's like when someone rolls a series of crits and takes out the big bad guy with a lucky shot - story time. Plus you all get to be surprised, which is always a bonus.

Like I said, GMing 101, but it's worth starting out with this one. It's not you and your friend, it's a monster and a PC negotiating. Use whatever mechanisms and distancing you need to just be able to sit back and let it happen.

Not knowing the NPC's interests.

Like I said in a post on the subject, factions have interests.

If you don't know, you can't really effectively negotiate.

Omniscient NPCs.

Basically, negotiating as if they know everything. Unless monsters really do have access to unlimited knowledge, it's bad form to negotiate as if they do. Some might actually have a lot of information - and either conceal this to their advantage or reveal it to their advantage. Or to their disadvantage, for either case.

But it's tempting (and probably was my standard when I started GMing as a kid) to have the monsters know everything and recognize everything. Don't. It discourages negotiating at all (the PCs are always at a knowledge disadvantage) and shows the PCs that even if they try they're playing on a slanted playing field.

Know-Nothing NPCs.

Basically, negotiating as if the NPCs know nothing. This may hold true for some, but not all of them. Just like playing them all too smart or too knowledgeable is bad, so is treating them all like they existed in a vacuum until the players showed up.

Omniscient/Know-Nothing Resolution - One way you can resolve this is with an IQ, INT, Wisdom, etc. check for the monsters. You can quickly determine if they understand what's being negotiated, recognize the long and short term consequences on decisions, know the party's reputation, etc. You can basically let the dice take the decision out of your hands and avoid needing to track who knows what about whom.

Also, you know the PCs because you're referring their actions. But how do they appear? Are they grubby and suspicious looking and drenched in blood? Do they wear the signs of their religious affiliations openly (great in some situations, bad in others)? Do they have a reputation, and does this NPC know of it? Use that to determine what NPCs know or don't know. Perception checks are a good way to see what they can see, and IQ and IQ-based skill rolls (or Int and Wis in D&D games) to see what they understand.

Not initiating.

Really simple - if you never have monsters initiate negotiations, the players learn that it's only their side that uses negotiations. They determine if it's in play or not. By using it as the GM, you tell them two things: negotiating is a valid tactic, and negotiating is an expected part of the game.

Over-using Pre-determined Results.

It's okay to have some negotiations doomed to failure. It's okay that sometimes monsters negotiate in bad faith, aiming just to buy some time. Especially moderately clever evil ones, who show just how evil they are by doing so. But don't over do it. Too much "fixed" results in negotiates tells the players they have to guess which monsters they can negotiate with, not assume that basically they can negotiate with most.

This probably rings hollow coming from a guy who has filled two monster books half-way up with monsters that say, "Will not negotiate," "Can't usefully negotiate," and/or "too stupid to negotiate." But those critters should be the labeled exceptions, not the norm. They should be flagged as, "Hey, special feature - these guys don't negotiate, unlike everything else without this label."

Disclaimer: I don't do all of those. I have done all of those in the past. I probably do some of them sometimes, even without knowing it. I should do more of them, and I've initiated some automatic reaction rolls to keep myself on track. You probably don't do all of these - but reading them can't hurt, and articulating them sure helped me clean up my thoughts on the subject. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Keymaster & Gatekeeper on the paint prep table

Here are the minis I'm working on while I do an online seminar for one of careers. Lots of listening, and I like to prep minis while I listen to work related stuff. Painting, too, but I often static stretch while I listen and I can't stretch and paint . . . but I can stretch and file quite well.

Here is what I'm working on:

 photo Keymaster 001s_zpsuelyv8yy.jpg

Left to right: Arnhand Guard (Reaper), the Gatekeeper, the Keymaster, and a Slime Ghost.

I think I need to drill out the Slime Ghost for a flying base, otherwise, it's just kind of a lump that's that usable for much.

Lots of flash to get off, lots of mold lines. But they should be fairly easy to paint. Then I can hand off the Gatekeeper to a friend.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Magic works as written, because it's magic

The other day in game, we had someone throw a Missile spell right near 1/2D range. That surprised some of my players - why do Missile spells have half damage ranges? Especially explosive missile spells?

My short answer was, because they do, and they always have, and GURPS has a history of making spells effectively less powerful the further out you go (be it by effect or by difficulty to cast.) Even if it didn't though, the spells says it has a half damage range, so it does.

I mean, "logically," a thrown missile spell shouldn't dissipate, because it's magic. But equally logically, a missile spell should, because that's how magic works. Logically, a magically created fireball should have issues with a No Mana Zone, except it doesn't, because just as logically it's a physical manifestation of a spell and there isn't any "magic" to the missile, just the creation and launching.

But it does A not B, C not D, E not F, because it's magic and the spell says that's what happens.

That's kind of the point of magic.

It's magic, not science.

First and foremost, spells are magic, not science. You have to look at them through the lens of "and then a miracle occurs" as the middle step between "I cast [some spell]" and "[this thing happens]." It only has to follow physical laws if the spell invokes them. No Second Law of Thermodynamics has to hold back spells that create or destroy matter unless the spell says so. You don't need to consider drag of an subject with the Flight spell on it, just encumbrance carried by the subject, because magic. You can be Invisible and that's that, no "but wouldn't I be unable to see if light is bent around me? Wouldn't robots see me if it was clouding minds? Wouldn't . . . " - no it wouldn't. The spell just makes you invisible, and doesn't blind you, cloud minds, affect light in any strange way, etc. It just does the thing.

That thing may have physical and scientific consequences (Earth to Air the support beams, the ceiling might fall, a Fireball might start fires), but it might not (Create Earth doesn't summon earth from somewhere else to obey a physical law, a Teleport spell doesn't cause an implosion of air rushing in to the spot you left.)

It's internally consistent, not externally consistent.

Spells follow their own logic, not an overall system of logic. For example, the Missile Shield spell averts any missile from hitting you by some small margin. So if I throw an axe at you from one yard away, it misses, because that's what Missile Shield does. If I swing it from one yard away, it does nothing, because it's not an attack covered by the spell. Punch you with a rock in my fist? Not affected. Throw it or drop it? It's covered.

But the Bladeturning spell works regardless of it's a missile or not. But equally, if it's an impaling tip, it doesn't turn that. or even a spear with a cutting edge. Missile or not, because that's how the spell functions. It doesn't matter if that's how another spell does it.

You could tidy up the spells by making them work consistently with each other, but as long as the spell itself works with the wording it's got, and it has consistent effects, it's good. That Sunbolt creates a missile that can't be turned with Missile Shield is totally fine; the spell has its own internal logic and then meets the internal logic of the other spell and wins out.

It works how it works.

Spells do what they say, not more or less. Well, possibly less, but not really more. "But doesn't that mean . . . " is the start of an exercise in creativity, for sure, but it also is a way to expand a small investment in points into a catch-all spell that does everything. The old "Why can't I create air pockets in someone's veins with Create Air or destroy the oxygen in their brain with Destroy Air?" thing is cute, but the spells don't say they do that. There may be spells for that, but you'll need those spells.

This is not to say that you couldn't have a magic system with scientific underpinnings, or which has a consistent explanation across all fields (no Missile Shield spell, only a "weapons between the sizes of X and Y miss automatically," say, or wishing spells affect probability only, or creation spells that actually move matter around but don't create it.) But that's not necessarily the system at hand. It's not the system I run, either. Science and logical consistency across spells and effects is for figuring out edge cases or where specifically invoked. It's not a trump to how the spells are written. And "It's magic" really does count as a valid explanation of why something occurs in a magic system.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

DF Felltower: Staff of Healing

A long ways back, the PCs in my Felltower game found a Staff of Healing.

They lost it not all that long after that.

But last session, they found it again, very close to where they lost it. They'd last seen it strapped to Inquisitor Marco, who was drowning in his heavy armor. Next time they found it, it was coated with a slippery (-2 to DX rolls to hold onto it) neutral buoyancy water-resistant fish slime and in the hands of a fishman of some kind.

Staff of Healing
Power Item: 1 FP
A knobbed wooden staff, useful as a quarterstaff but with -2 to hit and -1 damage. Can cast Minor Healing, once per person per day, maximum power based on Power Investiture. PI 1-3, heals 3 points, PI 4, 4 points, PI 5, 5 points, PI 6, 6 points. No energy cost to the wielder, no charges. Weighs 4 lbs., 7' long. Looks like Moses's staff from The Ten Commandments.

(It doesn't seem like it can turn into a snake, though, but I suppose if you ask and roll well enough on a prayer roll (see Last Ditch, DF2, p. 15) the Good God might do that for you. That's pretty much what Charlton Heston did. I mean Moses.

And it doesn't say so in the description, but it only works for Holy users, and if you're using DF7's cleric variations, it should work only for those gods that lean more towards healing and pacifism, and who have access to Minor Healing and Major Healing. It's inappropriate for war gods, unholy gods, gods of luck or harvests, etc. and more appropriate for nice, peaceful gods of healing.)

Since this is basically a D&D magic item converted to GURPS, I don't really think I can publish it anywhere. I may as well post it up here, I figured. Plus, the PCs know the full details of its use. It's not a terribly powerful item, but it's much more useful than it might seem at first glance. Having a free use of Minor Healing once per day per person that doesn't interfere with a "multiple castings" count makes this helpful. It's fun to watch players try to figure out what's the best way to use it - right away, wait until you need it maxed-out, use it before casting healing spells, use it after because you know it'll work, use it now because you don't have to worry about fatigue, use it later in case you do, etc.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


So I did break down and get Darklands from a GOG sale. I'd mentioned I was looking at it.

I played around with a bit between busy times. So far:

- I've only played with the pre-gens. Why struggle with chargen if I can just wander around and see what the game is like first? This might be the only time I've done this seriously. Usually the pregens are just awful.

- the combat system is a little clunky, but not terrible.

- wow, that's a weak demon.

- but wow, that's a tough demon.

- I really need to sit down and read the book.

It's fun, though, and it's clunky but not terrible. Makes me feel like I'm playing a bloody version of King's Quest.

Friday, June 17, 2016

My "new" combat system for GURPS 3e

Back in my 3e days, I was unsatisfied with GURPS combat as written. I didn't dislike it, but I felt like it could be streamlined and improved to be a better combat system. I gave it a go.

I bring this up because Jeffro said

"If you haven’t designed a completely new combat system because you knew you could do it better, then you’re not old school."

I'm pretty old-school, I guess. I didn't design a completely new system, but I did say, "This system could be redone from ground-up principles to make it all smoother." That and I'm old school because I was old*, and played D&D at school on lunch break.

The system I came up with I saved in a document called, "UCS" for "Unified Combat System for GURPS." Here are some highlights:

- Multiple Attacks were -4 per additional attack, with a -1 to the defender if you used two different attacks instead of the same one twice. There wasn't any hard cap to multiple attacks that I can recall (or find in the document.)

- I had a basic tradeoff system implied by the rules as written:

"Universal Modifier – the basis of all modifiers in combat is +4/-4.
+4 to hit = 1 attack = 1 feint = +2 to defend = +2 to damage.
All Defenses together – regardless of total – can be traded for a net +4 bonus. All attacks together – regardless of total – can be traded for a net +2 bonus to defend.

+4 to hit or +2 damage = +2 to ST rolls as appropriate. +4 to skill = +4 to DX/skill rolls as appropriate."

- There was "All-Out Move" for people willing to trade their defenses for movement. Usain Bolt doesn't think about Dodging, which is why he gets to move faster than your guy.

- I cut down a lot of the options available to single mechanics.

- I cleaned up those awful, awful, awful 3e Manuevers (now called Techniques) which broke turn order or implied you could attack or move on an opponent's turn or split up your turns. Riposte, I'm looking at you.

- I cleaned up Spinning Strikes, too, and made them into exactly what you see in GURPS Martial Arts. Not a mistake. I went to this document, I'm sure, for my draft look.

We ran a big playtest battle once with a subset of my players. We used their PCs from our regular GURPS-based fantasy game. I distinctly remember one of my players ran his wife's fencer in the system, and cleaned house with her. He stacked up attacks and feints and turned her dominant DX and skill into a fight winner. Overall, I remember being very pleased with how it went. We didn't immediately adopt it, but we talked about it and we started to use little pieces of it.

We only did the one test, but it went well. As I was tinkering with it, though, I got the fateful email from Sean Punch asking me, "Do you want to write a book?" That book was GURPS Martial Arts, and I got a peek at GURPS Basic Set fourth edition. Having seen 4e, I realized two things:

1) I needed to play with those rules immediately, to help me writing GURPS Martial Arts, especially since I decided to move to Japan even as this all went on.

2) My rules were remarkably close to 4e's rules. I still think I did bits of it better, in the sense of "better for me." But I missed a few tricks that 4e included, like Deceptive Attack.

It was a lot of fun doing that document. I won't share it because it contains a lot of block text copied from GURPS Basic Set (3e), since I wanted a one-stop document for rules during our testing and playing. Circumstances altered the need for it, but the idea of "boil it down to only a few tradeoffs and modifiers" really stuck with me. It's why so many of the rules I helped contribute to GURPS seem to have legs, I think. They work because they're just clear statements of a combination of tradeoffs based on fundamental principles that underlay the whole. This is as much a rough draft of my 4e thinking as it was a real combat system, looking back on it from 13 years after I last modified and hit "save" on that document.

* I'm younger than that now.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Alternate Feint for GURPS

Just a stray thought I had while taking a few moments to go over some NPC stats:

One criticism of Feints in GURPS is that they can be very swingy. That is, since it's a Quick Contest of Skills, an especially good roll by a good fighter versus a bad roll from a poor fighter can mean a massive penalty. Conversely that good fighter can roll mediocre or poorly versus a good roll and end up inflicting a small or non-existent penalty.

In other words, sometimes in high-powered play it's "He defends at -20!" and sometimes it's "He defends at -1." Sometimes it's no effect at all. Usually it's neither, and you just get a reasonable penalty that reflects the relative skill levels of the fighter.

Mostly that doesn't bother me. It's generally kind of fun.

Mostly what bothers me is that it's yet another number to track for a GM when a PC feints a foe in the middle of a large fight. Or interweaves Feints with multiple attacks with different levels of Deceptive Attack and native technique defense penalties onto them. It can get hard to keep it all straight.

Here is an alternative way to run Feint. It is, as yet, untested in play. But at first look it seems like it could be a reasonable way of changing how Feint works to address both the "swingy" nature and the tracking of a variable penalty.

Feint - Roll a Quick Contest of Skill vs. your opponent like a normal feint, using all of the modifiers and rules appropriate to that feint. If you win the contest, your opponent suffers twice the usual defensive penalties inflicted by your technique, Dual-Weapon Attack, Deceptive Attack, and so on. If you tie or lose the contest, the feints fails and has no effect.

Example 1: Vryce attacks a lizard man chieftan while Great Hasted, and chooses to All-Out Attack (Feint) on his first turn, naturally following it up his Trademark Move. He rolls his Two-Handed Sword-27 versus the chief's Broadsword-20; Vryce rolls a 15 and makes it by 12, the chief rolls a 10 and makes it by 10 - Vryce wins. His Trademark Move is a Rapid Strike and a Deceptive Attack -4 (-8 to hit). He makes both attack rolls. The chief must defend against each of those strikes at -8, not -4, because he was successfully feinted.

Example 2: Harmonious Sun Fist, aka Sunshine, uses a Feint against a rival for the rank Master of the North Wind. He makes his Feint roll by 6, his foe by only 1. He wins the contest. On his next turn, he swings his nunchaku at his rival, making it a Deceptive Attack -1, and hits. Nunchaku give a -2 to Parry, -1 to Block, and Deceptive Attack is a -1 to all defenses. His rival parries at -6, would block at -4, and dodges at -2! Not surprisingly, he chooses to attempt to Dodge.

Hopefully the examples make the application clear.

Pros: Roll is success or failure. Your effectiveness feinting is based on your ability to follow up. You don't need to calculate the win or loss on a contest or even conceal that one occurred. Vastly less swingy if you dislike those sorts of things. Very predictable for the feint-er. Frighteningly useful for people with flails and who use AOA (Jump Kick) or Counterattack a lot.

Cons: Means Feint is only useful for higher skill attackers, not just those with high relative skill, because high skill is needed to absorb the penalties for DA, DWA, and so on. Cases like Spin Kick and Spinning Strike aren't addressed, however, and would need to be resolved with the normal rules. Makes it really obvious why Telegraphic Attack won't work after a Feint, because giving +2 to defend is useless when you double defense penalties.

Alternative: Instead of doubling penalties for Deceptive Attack, you can say it allows Deceptive Attack at a -1 for every -1, or doubles the defense penalties from an attack. This can get tricky, though, as Trademark Moves that involve Deceptive Attack suddenly have a higher skill or double the penalty anyway, and it can lead to longer fights as players try to hair-split additional levels of Deceptive Attack versus a -1 to skill. (This was my original idea, and I rejected it because of those downsides.)

As a second alternative, you can apply a minimum penalty of -1 for being Feinted, essentially giving a -1 or twice the defense penalties, whichever is worse for the defender.

Like I said, I haven't tried this. I think it's elegant and interesting. It's certainly a change, and I'd bet that my players would reject it because it raises the minimum value but caps the maximum value. That Two-Handed Sword-27 isn't a typo or an aspirational skill level in my DF game. Trading off the high chance of, say, winning by 12+ against the vast majority of foes vs. the certainty of a -8 to defend from your Deceptive Attack might not seem like a good idea. Especially when you need to fight with a stack of penalties that restricts your attack, but not Feints - such as foes with tiny hit locations that must be hit.

(Also see Douglas Cole's discussion of this: Alternate Feints vs. Setup Attacks)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

How I map my megadungeon

I don't know that anything in this post is new, but one of my players asked last session about how I map my megadungeon.

As in, is it digital? Paper? Master copies or copies of copies? Etc.

Here is what I do:

1) Decide on the area size. I pick graph paper size based on that. I use 8 1/2 x 11" or 11 x 17" 8-squares-to-the-inch graph paper.

Probably would have been easier if I'd done hex paper, since I play a hex-based game, but whatever.

2) Draw the map. Next, per lots of posts I've made, I draw the map.

3) Make a bunch of copies. Like, 4-5 copies at least off of the original, which then goes into storage. A copy also goes into storage elsewhere, just in case I have some kind of spill or problem.

4) Stocking Pass. Then I take one of the copies, label it "Stocking Sheet," and do a first-pass stocking. That is, mark special rooms and pre-decided bits (like, "dragon" or "big temple" or "magical spring" or "treasure room.") After that I roll using my stolen from old D&D stocking methods. I mark the numbers I roll directly on the areas I roll for.

5) More detail. On the same copy, I start rolling on my monster and treasure tables. How tough, how rich? This gets scribbled down. ("Fodder, Tough, Many + 10000" or "Boss, single + 0" or "Worthy + 25,000")

6) Numbering. Now, on a new sheet, I go and number the rooms.

And that's it. The numbers get connected to the details scribbled on the "stocking sheet" in the big Felltower.docx file on my computer.

And that's it - we play off of that. Permanent changes get marked on my maps, as do temporary ones. I sometimes go back to the original and make changes there, if I feel it may warrant a re-write of the map as it gets worn. Level 1 and Level 2 maps are badly worn by now, since my players love to tread and re-tread those levels. But generally, it's done at that point.

I really should scan the originals and number ones - and I will, when I get some time with a large enough scanner. In the meantime I'll take some pictures just in case.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Gale, Hasdrubel, Pirate

Here are three minis I finished recently:

 photo Gale Hasdrubel Pirate 001s_zpsjwenxxhr.jpg

I need to re-do the eyes on the pirate, though. He looks shocked on one eye and just weird on the other. Nevermind I colored him like a backup member of a 70s glam band. That will stay, but I do want to fix that one eye eventually.

The others are final, seal-coated and ready for play. Hopefully, they don't die the session they are finally finished. That's happened before . . .

Monday, June 13, 2016

GURPS Gamma World, 20th Homeland - Session 8 - Down go the Ironmen

We played session 8 of our Gamma Terra game on Sunday.

"Fatbox" (John M) - demo/EOD
"Hillbilly" (me) - medical specialist
"Love Handles" (Vic L) - demo/EOD
"Princess" (Andy D) - cryptographer/sniper

Present but NPC'ed:
"Momma's Boy" (Tom P) - computer programmer
"Short Bus" (Mike D) - computer programmer

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

We picked up on the island of the Triumvirate, where we left off last time.

Next up, defeat the Iron Men. (At the end of the session, we'd be reminded they asked us to try to reason with them. Oh, yeah, that.) We needed to attack them, preferably by attacking with all of our force on a single one at a time.

There were four Iron Men - Corpos, Velveteen, Bazzalt and Nogo Pain. Their allies were the four Outlaws, - Holk, Baal, 2-Iron and Psiclo.

Velveteen lived out on a barge. The rest, in town. Some in specific locations - others, like Bazzalt, tended to roam around.

After some discussion of a point of attack, we decided the barge was out. We could potentially take it, but then we'd have 3-4 miles of water to cross and then reach prepared and organized foes. Hillbilly suggested we rendezvous with the sheriff, Ajax, and gun up, then advance on one of the the Iron Men in town. If Velveteen wanted to get in on it, great, if not, we'd defeat them in detail.

We went in around 2-3 am, as things in town started to wind down a bit, in the soft glow of the never-quite-dark of this season.

We retrieved our guns from the Sheriff's office. Ajax, the Sheriff, had an old grudge with Nogo Pain, and said they'd handle him. Their flying sheriff, who we'd bribed with a watch last time, would fly cover with her pyro/cryokinetic powers. We picked the cantina as our point of attack - several of the capos were often there, and Corpos lived up on the fourth floor.

We sent Ajax and his deputies ahead, and advanced in a wedge - back left Love Handles, left center Fatbox, right center Hillbilly, trailing a distant back right, Princess. That gave us an M16A4, 12g shotgun, Scar-H, and M110 from left to right. If we needed range, the right handled it. Close-in, left. Love Handles's M16A4 is actually Fatbox's, but better 5.56mm and a 30 round mag than his dinky MP7 (or whatever it is - a H&K PDW knock-off useless for actually killing anything.)

As we moved past the mess hall, some armed finders saw us, and sent two back with the news and six rushed us. Why? Because we had illegal weapons.

They died. We shot down four right away and Princess shot one down as he ran inside. Still, some of the braver of them came out, waving weapons - something like six of them. We shot them down. A couple got to melee range and one slashed Hillbilly's arm, causing him to miss an easy shot. Princess didn't miss, though, and he went down.

Around this time someone moved into the door. Hillbilly put three rounds into him. Her? Who knows. Hillbilly didn't look or care. Move towards us with weapons, or from cover, get shot.

We basically marched down the street, shooting anyone who attempted to interfere with us.

Hillbilly showed remarkable fire discipline. Singles shots and three round bursts, not the usual "full auto." 20 round mags and a target-dense environment wasn't conducive to that.

Once we got to the cantina, trouble came to find us - some better armored and armed Finders burst out the door. We shot them down (they had armor, but not full face masks - Face is only -5, oops for them) but then the door burst open and a big thing with a tiny mount on a stalk surrounded by petals rushed us - Holk. He dodged our bullets with ease, at least for a split second, but a lucky shot or two from Princess scored on him . . . and did almost nothing. Holk put a palm on Love Handles's shoulder and opened his mouth and the flower petals around it - and spewed a yellow gas into his face. LH went down choking on lung-burning pollen or something. Holk turned on Fatbox and spewed a weakness gas on him, causing his muscles to just stop firing well (ST loss, not FP loss), which started to put him below the ST for his shottie. He kept firing. Holk dodged a lot, but took hits here and there.

LH had to choke on his lungs for a while (18 on a HT roll) and then recovered enough to stab himself with one of the recovery pens.

Hillbilly decided to make sure this fight stayed one-on-one, and raked a three-yard area with his ROF 9 SCAR-H. Shoots through schools, as it were, and pock marked the walls. A moment later, as Hillbilly ran his gun dry, part of the wall peeled off and attacked - someone, Hillbilly missed Baal, a humanoid-turned-treeman with chameleon powers and a two-handed chainsword. He luckily dodged some fire and charged LH and carved up his right quad, and then mangled his left hand, and then proceeded to beat him about the duralloy chest plate. Lucky for us, nothing could penetrate the duralloy and it also absorbs impact, so full power hits often didn't even budge the victim.

LH tried to defend, which was cute - he couldn't buy a Dodge (I think he made one all session). He'd roll well shooting, but not defending.

Meanwhile, Holk was still around. Hillbilly charged him low and tackled him, going for a double-leg takedown. It didn't budge him, but he wasted a moment prying Hillbilly off. He took some fire from Princess for that, and then Hillbilly clamped back on. Then Hillbilly pulled out Hoopslayer, his mightly glass knife. Holk spewed some green FP-sapping crud on Hillbilly, but even as that happened Hillbilly sliced Holk with the knife in close . . . and opened him up wide. Princess shot him more just to make sure, and he went down.

Baal kept beating up poor Love Handles, who refused to go down. Fatbox kept shooting his shotgun dry, then reloading, and Baal didn't seem impressed. Once again, Hillbilly went for the tackle. Baal couldn't get free, and a knife slash to the leg slowed him down more. The others shot high and gunned him down - Fatbox providing the finishing headshot with a 12g slug. Hillbilly gave him an extra slice to be sure.

We paused to take turns reloading and stick pens into ourselves for HP and FP.

Then we went into the cantina/saloon.

Inside was Bazzalt, a gigantic stone man, surrounded by Finders.

Hillbilly pulled out his torc grenade, one of the black baseballs from Session 1.

It was all ready for impact fused, max radius, etc.

Except, it wasn't. That was the plan, and I'd discussed it a bunch of times. But I never said it directly to the GM. I mad an IQ roll to see if I'd remembered to actually do it - 15. Missed by 3. Crap.

So the others shot at Bazzalt while Hillbilly cursed at the grenade and himself. Seriously, this is fuzzy here because I was being annoyed at myself and not paying attention. But bullets pinged off of Bazzalt, who didn't bother do dodge. Hatches and axes and spears flew at us, hitting several. An axe hit LH, and a spear lodged in Fatbox's helmet and partly severed his ear. Aargh. The Finders charged.

Hillbilly kept working on the grenade.

Just as the enemy was reaching melee range, Hillbilly threw. It landed just behind Bazzalt, who watched it go but didn't bother with it. Heck, he's stone, what's a dinky frag grenade going to -

And that was it. No sound, no whoosh, just a sudden moment and everything in a 40' radius of the impact point was simply gone. Walls, Finders, Bazzalt, the bar, patrons who hadn't fled, the upper stories right through to the roof. Gone.

The Finders in the lead reached us and fought. Fatbox actually whacked one with the spear that was sticking from his helmet with a sweeping head butt. Hillbilly backed off from one and shot him three times. The others got shot by LH and Princess. In seconds they all went down.

We headed upstairs on one half of the building after Princess used the Bunny X-Ray Scope to verify there was a big flat slug of a man on the top floor, with four guards with rifles.

We headed up, pushing aside from fleeing patrons. Hillbilly took a peep at the top floor - there was a landing with a door cracked open, and man aiming from behind it. Heh. Using banging on the floor to mask any movement, we had Princess move up. He shot the guy in the eye from inside the spiral staircase. Hillbilly stepped up and lobbed a stun grenade (we had three from one of the Triumvirate) and hit the door crack. A sonic whine went off and stunned all of them plus Fatbox.

We rushed the room and killed the guards. Corpo was equally stunned, it seemed, and so fat that our bullets didn't seem to do much to his melty, waxy, Pizza the Hutt form. A couple eye shots took care of that, though. We checked their guns - black powder breech loaders. Hillbilly put them aside and we left - the others loaded up on food from Corpo's feast.

Next up, join the assault on Nogo Pain.

Nogo's tower was burning in patches, and Ajax's deputies were down. Ajax was doing a shoot-dive-run movement pattern while fighting a human-headed amorphous blob (the GM likened it to Tetsuo at the end of Akira.)

We set Princess up to snipe and moved along the edge of the battle so we could shoot. As we got in close, we started to fire at Nogo Pain.

The bullets didn't do much. Not nothing, but not much. We kept plugging away.

Princess, though, heard a hit about 20 seconds or so into this firefight. He glanced to the hiss yelling, "We have a hisser!" He saw a giant, half-black skin half-glass man carrying a fire hydrant on the end of a chain. With him was a lizard man with twin katana. The lizard man disappeared with a hissing noise. Ah, 2-Iron, and he teleports. We couldn't hear Princess over the gunfire, so we kept shooting. In any case, Princess is a pessimist and decided that even if we knew there was a teleporter, we couldn't do anything, so why alert us? That's our scout/sniper. The big guy? Velveteen. Aww, I though he was a giant Hoop.

We kept shooting Nogo Pain, who sometimes dodged and mostly showed that piercing sucks vs. Homogenous. He was especially unimpressed with LH's M16A4's 5.56mm.

Princess drew and threw his torc grenade. He wasn't paying attention, either, and just used the default settings except for a 10' radius. He put it right near Velveteen. Velveteen whacked it aside and it landed in the ruined saloon. A second later, it went off - default is 1 second, not impact. This made for a more costly but more interesting fight.

Princess did a dodge, shoot, dodge routine as V would wind up with his giant hydrant-and-chain and then swing. He shot V, but V blocked shots with his glass side.

Hillbilly ran out of ammo at this point, as as he was dropping his mag into an open bag and fishing out another, he did the usual look-around and saw V. "Big bogie over there!" and pointed. (It's in the Field Manual, I swear it.)

The others looked, and we mostly shifted fire to V. When that was mostly blocked, Hillbilly went back to killing Nogo Pain. Ajax's laser might help us if we could knock him off.

Basically, that's what happened. We shot up Nogo until Ajax was able to finish him off (despite some rough pseudopod blows), and V cracked Princess in the leg and broke it terribly.

V layed off, though, and yelled, "You stupid humans!" in English.

Hillbilly instantly replied, "Yep, that's us!"

V kept cranking his flail, but kept talking, mostly to Love Handles, who wanted to know how he learned English. They had to yell a lot, because once Nogo died (after a Love Handles shot, IIRC), Hillbilly swapped up to V and shot at him. Ajax just pulled out a glass knife and carved up Nogo's corpse.

V told us that we were on the wrong side, wanted to know what would happen when "someone stronger" came to take the Fountain (the nuclear plant) from the pacifistic Triumvirate, what's going to happen when it's in their hands (uh, it's in them know, idiot), etc.

LH seemed pretty taken by V. (ut-of-game discussion started to go to, "Maybe we chose the wrong side." My out of game comment? The Triumvirate has a 20th Homeland trooper in it. Hillbilly has like 50 odd points that say, "Loyal to America and the 20th Homeland and his buddies." We're on the right side.) He talked back. V tried to convince us we were doing a bad thing.

Fatbox and Hillbilly lost patience pretty quickly and shot him, and as V tried to continue to the fight Princess shot him from the back (he'd turned away to talk to us). The Ajax ran up, jumped up, and slammed his glass knife into the glass chest of Velveteen, and let gravity pull him down, slicing him. Pretty cool.

Loves Handles started to sort-of mourn for Velveteen. Love Handles:
"He made sense, and he seemed to think he was on the right side."
Hillbilly: "You know who else felt bad because everyone was siding against him even though he was sure he was right? Hitler. You want to be like Hitler?"
Love Handles, sheepishly: "No."
That settled that!

With him dead, the fighting basically ended. Ajax and the Harpy looked for 2-Iron, but he was gone.

We spent the rest of the session policing up the town. We:

- determined Psyclo never left his chair, which was usually where there was a whole lot of nothing from a torc grenade. Hillbilly assured Princess it was in the center of where Princess's batted-aside grenade landed.

- policed up the weapons and domars. We kept a couple of useful weapons and all of the domars. The rest we eventually turned over to Ajax.

- searched for the card keys. Gone. We decided 2-Iron must have taken them.

- looked Nogo Pain's place, and found old droids, books, and a nutrient tank. Fatbox told the Restorationists the books were theirs, and that Ajax would ensure they got first choice of any artifacts from the Ziggurat. We'd tell Ajax later. If we remember.

- looked V's barge, which had all sorts of cool junk-tech weapons scaled to his SM+2 size.

All in all, we killed three of the four outlaws (probably) and all four of the Iron Men. And the GM only knows how many others. Hillbilly doesn't care and I don't either.

Amy asked us if we tried to reason with them. We talked, we said, but it didn't work. Velveteen was quite learned, said Snowman. "And a racist who wanted to wipe out humans." said Hillbilly. "That, too." They told us the Iron Men had massacred some pure strain humans already, and they seemed to be pretty honest with us. Nothing the Iron Men did belied that.

We started to make plans - enlist the Finders to find stuff for the Triumvirate. Hire on many as a militia, and make finding stuff a job for the town. Enlist the Iron Men loyalists by giving them buy-in (No de-Iron Menification here). Stamp down some control for peace.

Amy is hoping we'll stay on. We won't, and she knows that, but we might have to take some time and help set up the militia, etc.

Next session, though, we need to puzzle out the reactor, and see about fuel for Warbot.


I spent points! I haven't done that since the beginning of Session 4. Maybe before that. I upped my ST from 13 to 15, and saved the rest. I'm debating learning some skills (Fast-Draw would be useful, for mag, pistol, or knife) or upping Guns, now that Guns-17 isn't cutting it. Or knife, or more Wrestling. Or I'll just save. ST 15 was great - raised my loadout Move and my melee damage.

Yeah, speak English and we doubt our resolve. Hillbilly never had any doubt. Our side had a 20th Homeland soldier on it, and that's that. Plus, he felt it was all b.s. by Velveteen. "Waah, waah, waah, if us tough guys aren't around someone will come and take the nuclear plant from the Triumvirate." In other words, like we're doing to you right now? Poor Iron Men, if someone kicks their butts they won't be here to protect the town from the next asskickers. Yeah, that happens, and we're the someone doing the kicking, so STFU.

There is some feeling in the group that the nuclear plant should "accidentally" stop working after we recharge. Hillbilly is 100% against that - "I'm not going around destroying everything just in case someone else might come along and use it." We'll see which side wins that argument. Part of this is Hillbilly as a character, but a lot of it is me. Leaving stuff working is good sense - we can eventually use it. Plus, I'm not a "PC as wolverines" kind of player, where everything not taken must be destroyed "just in case some NPCs use it." The fact that, yes, it's possible the Triumvirate could lose the town and the reactor and bad stuff can happen doesn't mean we need to wreck the controls or cause a catastrophic meltdown to keep Random Unknown Bad People from taking it.

Our formation was set by me, because I have some basic understanding of small unit tactics. You know who should have set our small unit tactics? Maybe Fatbox's player, since he's actually a USMC vet with actual understanding of small unit tactics.

We were aggressive, which I like. How aggressive? What were the special powers of the Iron Men? Mostly, we don't know, because we killed several of them and their Outlaw capos so fast with torc grenades or massive firepower they didn't do anything. That is how I like to fight.

We talked about good old Mark, our android. Where is he? Since we haven't interacted with him in a while, it makes sense we left him in Bal'Kree with Serven. They'd get along. Mark can tell bad jokes all he wants and Serven can write them down as speakings of the android of the old ones.

Somewhere in the session we found out about the headlights - they are operator-powered pre-fall artifacts. And they don't work in pairs. So maybe we have a laser unit, and some kind of shield or teleporter or disruptor unit. We'll have to experiment. Hillbilly is still done with them.

Things to do:

- get some glass shot for shotshells.
- make brass catchers (about time) and start thinking reloads.
- get some glass tipped 7.62mm rounds.
- mod my SCAR-H to hold the glass knife as a bayonet.

Fun session - too bad the other guys didn't make it. The fights really called for an MG and another rifleman, plus, it's more fun with we get a full house.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Gamma Terra pre-summary

We played session 8 of andi's Gamma Terra game today.

Summary will come tomorrow.

For now:

- we assaulted the Ironmen. And when I say assaulted, I mean assaulted!

- only four of us showed up, but I think we burned through a few hundred rounds of ammo, several grenades, and dozens of foes.

- stupidity with torc grenades mean we did a lot less with them than we could have.

- someone tried to reason with us.

- duralloy armor is why we aren't dead.

- my glass knife is why a couple of others are.

- Spoilers: Hillbilly tackled people, Princess shot someone in the eye, Fatbox shotgunned everything, and all of us mocked Love Handles' tiny, inadequate cartridges.

Good game - lots of fighting, nonstop action, and great progress.

And I even spent some of Hillbilly's saved points!

Pulling a Sir Robin

Over on Gaming Ballistic, Douglas Cole is discussing running away. In D&D based games, but of course I play GURPS and D&D based games, so naturally I'm thinking about both.

I posted a response, quoted in full here:

"My experience is that it's hard to run away. Part of this is because PCs often encumber themselves down with fight-winning armor and weaponry, and make movement speed secondary to victory when you finally do get in combat. Second, they're less than willing to discard gear to run away faster (a common historical and realistic tactic).

Third, and most critically, PCs generally try to run away after they're already engaged in a close-in fight and it starts to go badly. Cap that with an unwillingness to quickly choose a rear guard capable of trying to keep the enemy from pressing too close (giving you a few turns of full movement vs. their move-and-fight), and you get a messy retreat that waves between "we have to leave" and "we can't leave, some of our party members are down or can't get away." The term for that isn't a "withdrawal" but a "rout."

I have zero issue with all of this - it's a logically consequence of PC decisions about equipment and tactics, and a logical and realistic consequence of the rules.

If you do like PCs (and their NPC foes) to be able to run away, do a variation on something Archon Shiva suggested and I discussed - give Advantage to any rolls made to simply get away, or Disadvantage to attack a foe that's running away full-tilt. That way you get more survivability, and you still get the realistic effect of those closest to the foe when they turn get killed.

I'll stand by all of that. But I'd like to add some:

Mobility Matters. Running away, more than "get into that gap in the enemy's formation" or "go help a buddy," is where mobility matters. You need some before this is even a realistic option.

"These engines are the fastest in any tanks in the European Theater of Operations, forwards or backwards. You see, man, we like to feel we can get out of trouble, quicker than we got into it." - Sgt. Oddball, in Kelly's Heroes

Cut your losses doesn't mean stop taking losses. Sometimes players will figure, running away ends the combat and we can run. If we're still taking losses, it's not worth running.

But "cut your losses" means you limit the loss, not end it abruptly. You may have to pay a cost to get away - use up powerful magic items you were saving, throw away equipment to get a higher movement rate, ditch treasure to lower encumbrance and distract a foe, or even sacrifice a rear guard or two. "I'll hold them off" actually works, and it's why "rear guard" doesn't mean "guards guarding your back" as much as "guys who stay behind to hold them off." Having mobile characters who can stay behind and fight, then pull back and catch up, can buy you an escape.

If you can't accept losses, you get into the spiral of keeping fighting until, hopefully, a miracle happens and you win.

Run away when your foe isn't ready to pursue. It's worth noting that Sir Robin escapes after distracting his foe and then easing off into the distance while his foe argues with himself. It's not a straight-up contest of movement speeds. That's one way to run. If you're engaged in a toe-to-toe slugfest with foes and you're armored to the gills with heavy gear for the heavy tank battle, guess what, it's him or you. So consider distractions (nageteppo, say, or area effect magic), discouragements to pursuit (caltrops, hand grenades ticking away in their path), actual distractions (send someone to attack them elsewhere), etc.

You reap what you sow. Basically, if you maximize grind-it-out close combat, you have to resolve your fights in there. If you always run down and slaughter your foes because everyone has a 12" movement rate and so do the bad guys, know they can do it back. If you never make any effort to have a plan to extricate yourself from fights, you'll be without a plan when you need to do that.

Sometimes it's too late. One thing you have to accept is, you can't always run. Foes may prevent it, losses amongst your PCs might keep you from it, and disparity of movement speeds might stop it. Just know if you get into a fight, it's not always your choice when it ends.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Another review of DFM3

Over at his (her?) blog, The Blind Mapmaker wrote up a nice review of Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3: Born of Myth & Magic.

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3 – Born of Myth & Magic

I hear the reviewer on a Western focus in the monsters drawn from myths. I was mostly working backwards from, "What is missing but what can I get art for?" I'm sure if I worked harder I could have found some to add in, but I wasn't really looking for East-West balance. I was just looking for monsters that fit around the theme and which I knew I could get written up and illustrated. Plus, I had more existing Greek and European myth-based monsters roaming around Felltower and tramping around in my mind ready to spill out onto the page.

Still, that just means there are plenty of more monsters out there to stat up . . .

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The XP not taken

This came up tangentially in my last session, last session summary, and some offline discussions.

What XP would the PCs have gotten if they cut off the end of the session last time and just departed the dungeon instead of staying to fight their former allies, the Crazies.

Per our current set of XP award rules:

Loot: Under 20% of the threshold for each character. 0 xp.


"No exploration or no significant exploration is a -1 xp penalty. Exploration of at least one new area of significance (which generally will be clearly significant) or exploring many areas in general is 0 xp. Exploration of many new areas or multiple areas of significant is +1 to 2 xp. +2 xp is reserved very significant exploration, and will be rare."

Tough call - what areas of significance did the PCs explore? The teleporting book was there for a long time, and until the Warden brought it up the PCs totally ignored it even when I mentioned it a bunch of times. In any case, it wasn't a new discovery. The room they teleported to was new, so were the two areas behind the secret doors. One was a lucky find and didn't have anything in it (it's a mild special, a safe zone), the other they couldn't puzzle out. The cave and dragon were clearly significant.

So, multiple areas of significance seems to fit, even if only for the NMZ room and the dragon. I think 1 xp. Why not +2, because a few new rooms that don't lead to anything (literally all were dead ends!), and if this is the top-end of exploration, what do I do when people do major exploration? It'll actually encourage people to only find just enough for a +2.

So, 1 xp here.

Roleplaying - people generally did enough. Still a lot of "my character has (disadvantage X), so he does this" stuff, instead of demonstrating disadvantage X, but I know that's a matter of taste.

Awesome Bonus - None. You can't argue this, this is me saying, "Holy crap this is awesome! Here are some points!" If that doesn't pretty much happen exactly that way, it doesn't apply. "Dragons waking up are awesome" is a valid argument, of course, so I'll give the dragon +1 xp. Heh. Just kidding.

Most Valuable PC - The players voted this, Hasdrubel got it.

Never Leave a Man Behind - A "clean run" is +1 xp. I still think this immediately turns from "bonus for everyone living" to "assume +1, and losses means -1 xp" because all predictable bonuses become expected returns. Even so, they earned it.

In any case, they'd have gotten away clean. 1 xp here.

Total: 0 (Loot) + 1 (Exploration) + 1 (Clean Run) = 2 xp, 3xp for the MVP.

I think I gave the impression that last session's exploration wasn't significant. It was mostly minor, mostly leads to places that could be useful but aren't directly leading to new and bigger things. The dragon and its cave are significant enough to warrant a +1. No +2, because of what I said above, and no "special bonus" or anything. Not even if they'd just gone after it and attacked it, but jumping down the hole and saying, "We're fighting this damn dragon right now!" would have been an awesome bonus for sure.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Luck and other people's critical defense rolls

A few interesting rules questions and situations came up on Sunday. One of them was this:

Luck and other's defense rolls. One of the PCs attacked the pudding during that encounter, and hit. I rolled a 4 on the Dodge for the pudding - a critical success. This sent the PC to the Critical Miss Table (per p. B381). The player wanted to re-roll the pudding's active defense, arguing that getting sent to the Critical Miss Table doesn't feel lucky/isn't lucky/should be something Luck can avert.

I told him he could re-roll the CMT result, but that was it. No forcing a defender to re-roll defenses with Luck, period. He took the re-roll on the CMT after scoring a "crippled your own arm" result.

This isn't really a ruling, though. It's flat-out how Luck is written up on p. B66. You can force an attacker to roll three times and take the worst against you. It doesn't say you can force defenders to re-roll three times because their success (or degree of success) makes bad things happen to you.

Beyond that, though, it's a terrible idea to allow it, even if just to avert a critical defense sending you to the CMT. First, it means Luck isn't a positive stroke in your favor with your rolls or rolls that directly affect you - it's fate conspiring against your enemies, too. Imagine it as a player - you need a 3-4 to Dodge and roll a 4 anyway, and it's a critical. GM says, no, this guy is Lucky, re-roll that and take the worst of the three.

Imagine how potent it would be if you could force a dangerous foe with an iffy defense to roll three times and take the worst.

And dialing it back down to "it should just avert the bad results of a critical failure," well, Luck doesn't do that. It's three rolls, not a change from one condition (I was faked out) to another (he just defended.) You can't change "he hit me and the damage roll was horrible" to "he missed" or "he rolled minimum damage" - you have to let the dice fall three times and pick the best result for you. So even saying, "Spend a use of Luck to convert a critical success into a normal success" is a big upgrade, because that's a new addition.

That's putting aside situations where a person can only critically succeed or fail, no in between, which would mean you'd essentially have to add a possibility to have Luck do that. Adding, "it's still a critical success but not a critical failure for me" is also a big addition - that's a potent thing to have, knowing you can't critically fail because of an opponent's rolls.

So, the answer was no. By the rules, and by the implications of what expanding them to a greater definition of "lucky" that includes rolls that have spill-on negative effects on you and converting roll results into specific non-rolled results.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

DF Felltower Character Roster

Here is the character roster for our DF game. This page will be updated as I go, but I want to cut down on the list at the top of each game session summary. Plus, it's easier to go to one source to cut-and-paste formatted but updated character details!

Bold is a PC.
Italics is an NPC.
NPCs with an indentation are one or more of: Ally, hireling, magically bound being, etc. In practice this is everyone except Raggi, who is a full party member but not a PC. He's sort-of a GMPC with the GM running a crazed psychopathic berserker who doesn't always bother to show up for adventures and always votes, "Let's kill them."

Currently Active:
Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (265 points)
Alaric, human scout (262 points)
Angus "Mithrilbraid" McSwashy, dwarf swashbuckler (267 points)
Dave, human knight (262 points)
Desmond McDermott, human wizard (255 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (435 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (288 points)
     5 skeletons (~25 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (337 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (160 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (340 points)
Quenton Gale Mudborn, human goblin druid (312 points)
Vryce, human knight (494 points)

Significant NPCs:

Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)

Inactive or Retired

Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (265 points)
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Christoph, human scout (250 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (372 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)
Kenner Baumfellen, wood elf scout (250 points)
Naida River, wood elf thief (250 points)

Monday, June 6, 2016

DF Game Session 76, Felltower 50 - Part I, Waking the Sleeping Dragon

Yesterday was a split session, where we closed out one delve and started a new one, which a majority of the players chose to extend to a Part II.

June 6th, 2016

Weather: Warm, intermittent heavy downpours.

Characters (approximate net point total)

Dryst, halfling wizard (399 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)
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)
Kian, human pirate (~65 points)

We started in town, after a three-week layoff in game terms. Mo spent 1000 sp of his loot getting Regeneration on Kian's right arm, because it's always the hirelings you care about that get expensive injuries. She was still out for this session as it'll take a full month for her arm to be fully regrown and useful.

The PCs stocked up on some gear, including iron spikes (but no mallet), and headed up to Felltower. It was only after they'd arrive they realized no one thought to see if Raggi was around. Oh well. They put up with some orcish arrows, then negotiations, then handed over the 1000 sp (all Vryce, this time) and agreed to provide 1/4 of the loot to the orcs, and were taken in.

They went the "long way" - they way they'd negotiated last time. They went back to the "scary pit," intending to kill the ghosts and talk to Big John the troll. (It wasn't really clear to me if "talk" was a euphemism for "kill if he's got obvious loot" in the latter case.)

Once the orcs barred them into the old lizard man area, they decided to go through a secret door to a side passage instead of the way they went last time.

A servant opened up the door - and something rushed them from the space beyond! It came too quick for anyone to close the door and smashed the servant out of existence and crashed into Hjalmarr. It was a crusty black rubbery sphereoid. A pudding! Mo recognized it for what it was, and that they liked to knock foes down and slowly digest them . . . alive.

Once it crashed into Hjalmarr, a close-combat brawl started. Hjalmarr nailed it with his barbed fishman spear, and then drew his axe and slashed. Mo bashed it. Its crusty exterior and rubbery form made it hard to hurt. It smashed at them and eventually knocked Mo over - and then moved right on top of him!

Using our and auto-pin CP rules, the pudding was able to put 40 CP onto Mo, putting him at -20 ST and -20 DX (we simplified the scale for ST-to-DX penalties a lot) and helpless. Oh well.

Hjalmarr and a Great Hasted Vryce were able to cut the pudding up, and Hasdrubel contributed with several Lightning spells but it took a while - they are very hard to kill. They were able to keep it from inflicting any real harm. Using a Created Object jar, Dryst gathered up 4 pounds of saleable goop before they continued to the pit.

They hammered in a spike with a Create Object mallet and tied off the rope and went down. Dryst had his two magical servants jump down. They died. He summoned new ones at the bottom and made everyone wait.

They headed down and called for the boats. The crazies did what they normally do - they sent over someone to check, then sent two rafts to pick up the PCs (they can cram on one or be comfortable on two, especially with two Created Servants.

They were ferried over to the Crazies' main living area and spoke to the Warden. The got a little more information them. The Crazies were chosen by some Great One and placed here. When the guards died, it fell to the chosen ones who had been placed here to care for the welfare of the prison.

Hasdrubel asked if they killed the ghosts to give them more living space, would that help? The Warden said no. (And to be honest, they leave a lot of open space as is, because there is space for several times as many prisoners, enough that the Champion has a private cell block. I guess I didn't make that clear enough.)

Would it be against their religion if the PCs killed the ghosts? No. But no ones goes to the ghost cells and comes back.

Hasdrubel made a few odd mis-steps in speaking to the Warden, sometimes seemingly forgetting he's dealing with a legitimately crazy religious fanatic but not a low-IQ one. But he did manage to veer the conversation to a place that led the Warden to volunteer to let them look at the Holy Stone Book.

So it turns out that this pedestal and cloth-draped stone book they'd seen in the main living area was some kind of holy book. When you get old enough, you can choose to look at the book, or stay with the tribe. Those who look at the book all disappear, never to be seen again. "What if you return?" "No, no one ever returns." The PCs decided this must be a teleporter, not a one-way ticket to Judgement, and asked to see the book.

"If you look, you are no longer part of the Prison."

Hasdrubel insisted they'd surely be back.

With spartan ceremony, the crazies took the PCs to the book. It was on a pedestal that clearly had been taken from somewhere else, and the "stone book" also didn't match the pedestal. Hasdrubel convinced them he needed "time to meditate." Translation: Dryst needed 30 minutes to cast Analyze Magic.

It was a teleporter, all right, and it would take anyone within about 10' of the reader. The PCs gathered in, whisked off the cover, and looked in. Hasdrubel was totally unable to puzzle out the rune on the book, but Dryst could read it, in the split second before they teleported . . . somewhere.

The place was totally black. There was a splat of the pudding good on the floor, but then nothing. Quiet, but black. No light stones. Okay, cast some spells. No, no mana. Well, Brother Ike can . . . no, no Sanctity, either.

Lucky for them, Hjalmarr actually carries a torch. And they hadn't decided to go swimming to drain the fishmen's area (which had been one plan - to spend some time digging out the oakum and rags to let it drain.) After some slow fumbling around in the dark, he managed to get it out and get it lit.

They found themselves in a rectangular room with one one exit - an iron door, very slightly rusty in some spots from age, with no handle or keyhole. Some tentative tries wouldn't open it up.

Where were they? Gale started casting. No Mana, no Sanctity? Eh, it was only a -5 for his Druid spells. He used Know Location to find that they were close to Felltower castle, so they didn't go all that far.

Vryce and Mo put theirs backs into a combined slow drive against the door to break the hinges or lock. They did, although it was a close thing (Vryce used Luck, and made one of his rolls by 16.)

The door swung open and bumped into an old, urine soaked bedroll that prevented the door from clanking into the wall. Behind the door was a wooden bar, fitted for integral slots in the iron door, which had a clear lock from this side. Clearly, a cell. They put Silence on the area and Hjalmarr hammered in two spikes to keep the door open. By now, they decided they were lucky it wasn't barred (true) and that they could get that book and use it to teleport to this area whenever they wanted!

Long story short, they put See Secrets on Gale and explored around for a while. They found they'd stumbled onto an area they'd explored a long time back. They fiddled with some previously explored doors and a pedestal behind magic-resistant bars and searched for secret doors on dead ends. Eventually they realized this, and that they were exploring part of level 1 from a tag-end hallway they'd never gone down.

They headed back to level 2. They chatted with an orc patrol after they surprised each other. They found the stairs down, but also something new. Gale's superior Perception allowed him to notice a long-hidden secret door. It was well concealed and proofed against magical detection, but he still managed to spot it. Beyond it was a secure room with clean, fresh air provided by a Link and Purify Air.

The went back to the pit and climbed down. Again, thanks to his Perception and See Secrets, Gale spotted a secret door. It took some work to open - you needed two people to trigger it, and it slid into the floor. It revealed a hidden room with cracked anti-magic lacquer on the walls, holes where something was possibly once mounted along three of the walls, and it was a Low Mana Zone. They couldn't figure out what it was, despite spiking the door open and smashing the walls with a morningstar. They moved on.

They went to the balcony and dock and called for the boat. One came, and then fled.

After a while, another came back, stayed out in the darkness, and it contained The Warden.

Hasdrubel told The Warden they had been sent back by the Great One. The Warden couldn't accept this. "Lies! You are not who you claim."

"We have the manacle of friendship you gave us!"
"Show me!"
"Uh, it's not here . . . " (they'd scrapped it and sold it, and Vryce lost his original one)

They kept trying to convince The Warden, who responded that they were lying, no one comes back, the Great One doesn't send people back, etc. They even Levitated Hasdrubel so he could ascend, but didn't try to put illusions on him to gussy him up because they're pretty sure The Warden isn't affected by them (he never seemed bothered by Dryst being invisible, and even looked at him and spoke to him in that state in the past.)

Invoking Vryce's long-ago vision of a trap door down here with treasure under it, they demanded to see the trap door.

The Warden was shocked. How did they know of this? How did they know of the Secret Escape Tunnel, which must never be spoken of? The Secret Escape Tunnel that, one day, the Savior would return from and rescue them?

That convinced them. They sent over a terrified boatman in a raft. They crammed on, and were taken to the far dock of the crazies' living area. They passed a cage full of feral children, some families with much less feral looking kids, and were taken to a big cell in the back corner. The Warden produced a home-made key and unlocked it, and showed them a loose stone in the floor that concealed a 2 1/2' tunnel down and then bending off to the right.

The Warden told them to go down after The Savior, and to "Never return."

Gale used Shape Earth to widen the hole enough to get them down in full armor. Vryce went first, oddly going feet-first. Luckily, it opened out into a 30' x 30' x 20' semi-star-shaped cave with a 10' wide sinkhole over by one side. They all went down, and the crazies sealed the hole up. The place was stale and stank of sulphur and the air was very acrid and not so easy to breath.

Dryst sent a Wizard Eye down the sinkhole, with Dark Vision on himself. Down about 30' or so, it opened to a large cavern. Stalactites, stalagmites . . . many broken. In the middle was a dust, rock-covered mound, narrow on one end, wide in the middle, and narrow on the other end.

How big? Maybe 60' long overall, 15' or so thick in the middle, but high in the middle. The eye zoomed around. No ways out, though. But there was a tremor.

Dryst sent the eye closer. Hmm. The lump shifted. A tremor happened again, and dust fell. Closer, he saw two stalactites move and more dust feel and rocks tumbled and broke. Again, the mountain moved.

Dryst ran the eye away as a head broke up from the rocks.

It was a dragon. Buried under layers of dust and rock and detritus, a really big dragon. Big enough to bite that other one in two. And they'd woken it up. It opened its eyes and then its maw, there was a blinding flash, and the Wizard Eye was gone.

Dryst reported a "giant monster" but wouldn't say dragon, since Hjalmarr's goal is to kill one. (Bizarrely, someone said if he failed his Self-Control Roll, he'd have to jump down the sinkhole to fight the dragon if he survived the fall. Er, what?) It's not like he didn't figure it out. They started to talk about what to do when a wave of gas welled up the sinkhole and sent Mo and Dryst into nausea and Hasdrubel to his hands and knees vomiting. Guess that's what happened to the poor Savior, who had told the crazies in times past he'd go for help and then come back with help.

No sign of its hoard, but the entire floor was covered with dust and loose stones from the earthquakes and so on, so it's quite possible it is there.

Gale cast Shape Air to get some air moving, and someone cast Purify Air. Ike tried to tend to Hasdrubel with Neutralize Poison, which didn't help too much.

The PCs scrambled back up in no real semblance of order. Gale was first. He pushed the stone off and confronted two surprised members of The Warden's bodyguard. He said, "I saw The Savior! He's amazing!" and similar things. They paused for a few seconds, but then threw spears at him after The Warden shouted out something they couldn't understand.

The PCs piled out of the hole as best they could. Gale threw a Pollen Cloud, which took two tries, and drove back the bodyguards. Seeing them come back from the hole also scared off four crazies who were carrying a big piece of rock, clearly to put on top of the floor stone. They dropped it and ran.

Long story, short, Dryst Lockmastered open the crude lock and Hjalmarr threw open the gate. Gale canceled his spell and Mo and Hjalmarr ran to fight the crazies. Vryce walked, chuckling at how the new guys run to fight things. The two bodyguards went down quickly - Mo smashed one's arm, Vryce caught up and cut one down, and then Mo finished the wounded one. They charged down the hall and caught and killed the four fleeing crazies, who were kept from escaping by long-range Lightning and Explosive Lightning spells from Dryst and Hasdrubel. Three of them died, and one had his arm destroyed and was left as the PCs got up.

Meanwhile Dryst drifted up near the ceiling. He felt a sharp pain in his head, but nothing came of it. He floated down. Dryst cast Vigor on himself after a few failed tries, to help ward off the Warden's head asploding power. The Warden didn't try again after that initial attack.

The PCs caught up to a rafter desperately trying to pole away - and in his terror, he hadn't thrown off the rope. Mo jumped onto the raft and cracked him in the body with a weak shot, but put him down wounded and winded.

At this point, the PCs could take the raft and go. They couldn't easily get the raft away with them, but they could leave. And it was as late as I could play, in the real world. Leave, or stay and fight the crazies?

A majority of the players voted to finish them. Or at least, kill the Warden, demand all of their treasure, and then take off. We'll start next turn with the battle between the PCs and the crazies.


Pretty much, the logic for the vote was:
- if we don't do this now, we'll never come back here;
- even if we do come back, it's too hard to steal this raft so we can have a way to paddle over and attack them;
- we need loot, they must have some;
- we have to kill them, because they attacked us.

A few players weren't too convinced but didn't insist on return, and they weren't swayed by me pointing out that means one session worth of XP for two sessions, and that 1-2 points for this session beats even 5 from next session - there will not be a split session next time due mostly to real-world logistical issues like vacations.

If it seems like the crazies lost a good chance to bottle the PCs up in a hole and fight them while they were at a severe disadvantage, you're right. It was late, and I was giving the PCs an avenue to leave the dungeon after a short skirmish. If I'd known how this would tumble out, I wouldn't have had them back off. They're likely to fight ferociously, because the PCs have violated a number of their taboos, and because they're cornered and on their home turf.

The pudding was fun. There was some digression into, "It depends on how these were converted from D&D" but I pointed out that it's from Sean Punch. It's not a D&D black pudding in GURPS terms, it's a GURPS monster that shares a name with them, made by someone with a related but very different idea of monsters than me. I managed to head off some really useless "if this is a black pudding, then . . . " discussions. Sometimes recognition of a monster is hampered by the player's knowledge.

How do NMZs work? No Magery-based magic, including any items or potions affected by Magic Resistance. No Sactity means no holy spells or items or powers work. Druid spells, though, ah, well, they're not either, they're affected only by the environment, so Gale was extremely useful in this session. That seemed like the most fun way to do it. The best you can do to druids is utter despoiling of nature for a -10.

How does the Warden's power work? Is it a mental magical attack or Psi or some pseudo-Psi attack like those of at least one monster in DF2? Will a PC get his head asploded? Would Instant Regeneration heal that? No. You'll have to wait until late June or early July for the rest of the answers . . .


Good session, although lack of loot drove lots of decisions. I probably missed some little details because so much was going on. And they finally found the big dragon I'd been telling them was there. Did anyone thing I bought a big dragon mini and started to painted it to never use it? The players argued the dragon was a "significant find" for XP, but I said no way. It took 76 freaking sessions to find it, and then woke it up and ran away. I don't give out XP for that.
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