Friday, September 30, 2016

Dungeon Fantasy RPG review is up

Still on the fence about the Dungeon Fantasy RPG Kickstarter?

My review of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG is up on Bell of Lost Souls:

All You Need in One Box

Last day of the DF Kickstarter

Not much to say except, this is the last chance to get in on the Kickstarter. Please take a look:

If not, remember that any GURPS purchase through Warehouse23 before the end of the Kickstarter will also contribute to the stretch goals.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thoughts on the Bless spell

My last campaign was full of these kind of comments:

"Don't forget the +1 for your Bless."
"Does my +1 for Bless count that?"
"Oh, wait, my Bless might have fired off last turn to stop that."
"Can I use Luck before my Bless takes effect?"

So when we started up Dungeon Fantasy back in 2011, I said, flat-out, we're not using Bless. You can't learn the spell, and NPCs won't cast it for you or on you.

Curse, I left alone. It's a thematically appropriate spell, it's an unresistable penalty for messing with evil high priests, and it's going great roleplaying possibilities. PCs with Curse on them make some very interesting in-play decisions. So Curse is gold as is.

Bless, though, I do kind of miss having having a bless-like effect.

I ended up giving a boon in my DF game - a one-shot use of Luck that the player could choose to activate whenever they wanted to.

It's tempting to allow that as a spell:


You gain the Luck advantage for one use; once used, the spell ends. This does not take an action, it's purely a meta-benefit. This can be lost through your own actions if the GM determines you've been acting evil. Non-good, non-holy, non-believing subjects may cause the spell to automatically fail. At PI 5, you can keep a boon on up to five subjects. At PI 6, you can keep a boon on up to 10 subjects. You can only have one Boon on you at any given time.

Duration: Until activated.
Cost: 20
Time to Cast: 20 minutes.
Prerequisites: Power Investiture 5.

I'm not sure I'll allow it, but it's tempting to do so. The "Boon Limits" means you probably can't march in and make a donation and get one cast on you - this is a serious and limited power only for the top-end clerics. Those that have it might be willing to put it on you for a big donation, but then again, maybe they won't - random wandering adventurers without a lot of pull in the church probably won't get it when the local bishop has others more worthy to get it. You could potentially resolve this with the Reaction Roll Table - if you get Very Good or better, the NPC cleric is willing to do it for you. Cost would probably be a sizeable donation - call it $400, like a magic item price - even so, unless you could make a case for it being free and needed (Excellent or better, say).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

DF Kickstarter - Final 3 Days

So if you guys haven't been following the Powered by GURPS DF RPG Kickstarter:

1) It's funded, so it's coming.

2) If you pledge at the $50 level, you'll get:

- the boxed set (a complete RPG in and of itself, complete with five books, counters, maps, counter bases);

- as of the time I write this three PDFs;

- and Shipping has been knocked down $10 off the estimate, which means it's around $5 shipping in the US, and there are EU and Australia-friendly solutions for people overseas.

3)If you pledge at the $250 level, you get a huge amount of stuff - the boxed set, GM screen, extra bases, PDFs of everything - literally everything - in the DF line, a Pyramid subscription, PDFs of the boxed set, some Pyramid magazines dedicated to DF, a bundled PDF of all the smaller DF related Pyramid magazine articles (including some of mine), and all of the Cardboard Heroes sets (the original 1-10). Here is a graphic showing the current level:

4) There is even a $550 version of the "I Want it All" level that comes with a private game session at GenCon. You can play with Dr. Kromm! I'd be tempted to do this - I've never actually had Sean Punch GM a session for me. Played a couple together, sat in on one of his game sessions, but not GM a play I played. Yet. I'll vouch for this, though - the game session I sat in on was a lot of fun. He's an excellent GM.

Please take a look, and join in the GURPS-powered fun of dungeon delving. No, it's not D&D, but if the abstraction of other combat systems is starting to make you wonder what a different system could do, or you're needing a switch from picking your class and dealing with levels, or you just want a change a pace from those, GURPS is a good system to look at. And this boxed set is a complete game, not a starter set, and all you need to play.

Plus, you'll finally understand all of my session summary commentary. That's priceless.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Revised GURPS Magic: Entombment

The party's druid just learned Entombment. You know, also known as Forlorn Encystment from the Dying Earth books.

This spell was much-used as a utility spell in my previous campaign, which featured three of the same players in my current group of regulars. In a dungeon setting, some of these are probably fine:

- storing chests

- storing prisoners

- caching treasure

- temporarily stopping someone from dying

Some really aren't:

- using it to pass through intervening earth (think, cavern 40' down, spell puts your 50' down into open air and you drop down, no Suspended Animation because the cyst doesn't form)

- if that fails, use it to test depth.

- using it to get rid of doors ("We'll Entomb the door!" - not that this came up)

So here is what I'm planning on:

As written, except replace the second sentence with this paragraph:

The subject remains in Suspended Animation (as per Magic, p. 94), in a tiny spherical chamber up to 50 feet underground. If open space exists where the subject would be encysted, the chamber will be 40' down; if that is also open, it will be 30' down, and so on. At least 10' of earth or stone must be beneath the subject or the spell fails automatically. The caster cannot determine how deep the subject was entombed. The subject remains there until rescued by tunneling or the reverse of this spell. Inanimate objects resist with their HT (usually 12) or the better of the DR or HP of any attachments (chains, hinges, etc.); some objects may not be separable from their attachments and are treated as part of the larger object (you can't Entomb parts of a wall.)

Otherwise works as listed.

I was tempted to make it "animate only" much like most attack spells are, effectively. But if people really want to Entomb corpses and chests, they can. The only doors vulnerable to this are going to be too weak to resist cheaper and more effective attacks. I still might, if my players prefer it.

I'll also rule that it only works if you're within a yard of the ground. A few inches of Levitate wouldn't do to make you immune - you need to be up at least a yard.

I also took pains to make it clear that staying awake is a cast-on-self only option. Also, it's worth reading Suspended Animation before you start making assumptions about what that means you can do with it. It's not Suspend Time . . .

For more revised spells for DF, see my appropriately-named Revised GURPS Magic for DF page.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pictures from DF Session 80

So we're up to 80 sessions, I didn't really pay attention. Twenty more before the century mark of sessions. Not bad for "let's play until we get bored."

andi jones took some pictures last session. Another one my players did, too, but it didn't seem so trivial to link pics off of his Instagram, but here is one of them.

A few notes on these:

- you can see me marking smoke with custom area effect markers made by andi. Also, the poisonous gas, marked with plain area effect markers.

- another andi contribution, tiny rubber bands mark minis by color or act as status effect markets. $1.29 or something for hundreds of them. Generally on NPCs I can mark Axeman (White) or Golem (Purple) on my notes and keep them straight. For PCs we use them to mark "dropped weapon" or "stunned" or whatever.

- I use some GW terrain counters to mark the center, and edging, of the Pollen Cloud spell.

- Never underestimate the value of actual rocks for representing shattered golems. Or representing rocks.

I don't think there are any pictures of the first fight, but here are three of the second and a special appearance pic at the bottom.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

DF Game, Session 80, Felltower 53 - Delving Deeper

Date: September 25th, 2016

Weather: Cool, sunny.

Dave, human knight (258 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (422 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (301 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (290 points)
Vryce, human knight (489 points)

We started in Stericksburg (which, for some reason, Mo now refers to as "the village"), with the group gathering rumors and stocking up. Raggi was nowhere to be found (16 on a 12 or less roll to appear). However, Dave was around, having come from Swampsedge and presumably having met the new crew through Gerry, his only surviving friend from his last trip.

They heard some rumors about a missing dwarven wizard, a werewolf loose in the area, a bit more on the Aruda (they have big heads that shoot magic at you), and a few tidbits they couldn't really follow up on.

Having geared up (this took a while, Dave's gear list was a year out of date) they headed up the mountain to Felltower.

After some debate about things to do (go for the teleporter doors, check the maze again, mess with the statues, try for the Lord of Spite's door, and maybe others) they settled on a trip through the main entrance. Mo was designated their new negotiator since Hasdrubel was sleeping off a hangover and needed to wash his only set of robes. Mo walked up, and the orcs sent arrows after him. He blocked most of them or dodged them, and kept calling up and waving the money around saying they'd better knock it off.

He didn't make a great impression, though. They demanded "double!" and shot arrows when Mo said no. Mo talked them down to 1200, a 20% jump. They went for it, and the usual pass-through occurred.

The group headed down into the dungeon, across the plank bridge across the pit, and through the "noisy room." They wound their way towards the wide stairs to the next level. It took backtracking once or twice as they get confused around one especially twisty and packed set of corridors. One room turned out to have a mantrap - think of an ankle-breaker bear trap - in the middle. They sent in a Created Servant to investigate, but it got torn up by a Deathtouch spell on the entrance. A second was unharmed, but Mo cautiously sprung the mantrap by lobbing a chunk of black glass salvaged last trip onto it. They collected the sprung trap as loot (actually, Mo kept it) and moved on. They eventually reached the stairs.

They re-checked the stairs, but couldn't find any gnome-height markings that might help them spot a trap in the future - he doesn't safety-mark his traps, if indeed it's him.

Once down, they passed the secret door that stumped them last time, avoided the arrow, and worked their way - the long way - across the dungeon to one of the rotating statue rooms, the one with the meteoric iron door. Two orcs guarded one of the doors into "orc territory." Mo told them they were investigating, nothing to worry about, and they proceeded to do so.

They tried the iron door's ring - nothing, not even the slightest budge ("Not like my deadlift, but like pulling on the floor?" "Yes, exactly.") Pushing, same thing. So Mo rotated the statue, taking 1 HP and 1 FP (lucky roll) from a zap of black energy. He kept his hand on it and pointed it to door after door while Vryce tried the iron door. Nothing. So Mo tried pointing the statue to the iron door and then grabbing the ring himself.


They come up with some ideas of how to manipulate the statues to possibly open the door, thinking it is a) a puzzle and/or b) a trap, but probably both a and b. But one of the rooms was in "orc territory" and might require going the long way around the whole dungeon since the orcs seemed reluctant to let them pass the short way through their territory.

So they gave up and decided to go to "The Lord of Spite's Room." They went to the magic altar they'd discovered long back, to give Dave, Mo, and Gale a chance to get a boon from it before they took on the Lord of Spite. That took some crawling over a tunnel blockage, but they made it.

Mo touched the altar, and a blue glow washed over him. For one day, all the weapons he carried had Puissance +2. Exactly what they hoped.

Next, Gale touched it, after been loaded with silver in case the silver-to-gold effect happened. Instead, a white glow washed over him, and he was in the glow of health - +2 to HT rolls and Attractive for one day.

Dave went last, again loaded with silver coins. A silver-to-gold glow washed over him. Score! 1d30 x 3 of his silver coins turned to gold. Dave's player (the son of one of the players) said, "I think I can roll and multiple by three." Die drops, and he makes a face. "Three." Yep, one times three is three. Three of his silver coins turned to gold. He briefly debated using Luck, but decided it wasn't worth it.

So they headed to the "Lord of Spite's Door." It is a silvery metal (?) door with a red six-fingered handprint in the middle of it. They stacked up for a battle, dropped the non-essential spells, buffed, put in magically created earplugs, and Mo touched the door. It slid open, sliding into the wall with almost no noise. Slight warm air wafted out.

Beyond it wasn't the Lord of Spite.

Beyond it was a circular room maybe 20 yards or so across. Just inside was a landing, and descending around the outside wall of the room was a staircase.

"Oh, this is the staircase to Hell in the rumors."

They moved cautiously in. The room domed overhead, shallowly, and stairs wound down around and around to unknown depths. The stairs were about 7'-8' wide, no railings, worn, and old. So they went single file, spaced apart from each other, down the stairs.

Mo decided the Lord of Spite lived at the bottom, and he was going to take a leak over the side to get him riled up so they could fight him from the top of the stairs. But there wasn't any sound of the demon lord, or smell of animals (or fire, they seemed to think warm air meant fire - wrong, but worth asking!) So they descended.

After two winds they found another landing, under the other one, perhaps 50-60 feet down, maybe a bit more? There was a silvery wall, but no amount of touching, crowbarring, or pushing and sliding would budge it. So they continued down - the staircase seemed to go forever.

Another few winds, and they reached another landing . . . and found the staircase ended. The "go forever" impression was simply an uncanny painting that created the optical illusion of more depth. There was a silvery door, and this one instantly opened at Mo's touch.

Beyond it was a corridor like the one they'd entered from. Beyond that was a room down a short corridor, and they could see a few green lights. Dim, small, arranged in rows of two or three. They quickly moved to investigate, weapons ready.

The lights turned out to be green stones and green eyes on four obsidian golems. Dryst recognized them - very rare, the secret of making them lost, and very dangerous, but still just golems. They started to get ready to fight and Dryst started to cast Great Haste, and the golems moved to engage them. These, unlike so many others, didn't wait until struck to animate.

As the golems advanced, a high-pitched hum/tone came from them, which penetrated even the earplugs they had in. Two of them sent green beams of magical energy at the PCs, hitting Vryce and Mo. Mo resisted, Vryce was not so lucky - a 3 on the golem's roll. But he has Luck, and used that to force a re-roll and managed to resist. They felt washes of near-paralysis go over them. They moved in. The golems came in fast, and the next two used their rays on Mo and Vryce. Vryce again resisted (with Luck, again, IIRC) but Mo failed and was paralyzed.

The golems attacked Dave and Vryce, as Dryst moved up and started to Great Haste Vryce, then put Vigor on both Dave and Vryce for +5 HT apiece. Dave blocked their fists, and smashed one back with his morningstar, and Vryce chopped into one, put big cracks in it. One of the golems grabbed Mo around the neck with both hands, however. Dave struck that one, damaging it badly, as Vryce destroyed one. The one on Mo tried to snap his neck and did enough damage to tear a normal man's head off, but it was only enough to badly injure the paralyzed Mo. Vryce and Dave went to work on the others, and then when that one let go of Mo they attacked it next. The golems fought cleverly but weren't a match for Vryce, nevermind with help from Dave. One managed to punch Dave critically, right in the skull - and Dave only has a mail coif. He took 12 damage, -4 for DR, x 4 for skull = 32 damage. He went from 21 HP to -11 . . . and easily made his Stunning and Knockdown roll thanks to his native HT and the massive Vigor spell on him.

The golems were dangerous and had good defenses and skills. Dave had to use Luck to avert a critical defense, as well, but in the end, they turned them into rubble in only a few more seconds.

The battle over, or so they thought, they PCs got to business. Vryce and Dave started to look around, Dryst moved to check the broken golems for salvageable bits, and Gale moved back to the stairs to watch their rear. Mo just stood there, paralyzed.

But in about 30 seconds two more golems, backed by a half-dozen humanoid figures, charged up. The figures all cone-hatted, clad in ornate scale armor, and bearing decorated weapons. Five of them had greataxes, one clearly more ornate than the others. The sixth had a long narrow sword, a slender mace, and a buckler - although he was holding something else in his hands - it turned out to be a grenade.

Dave positioned himself in front of them, with Vryce to the side to prevent them from end-rushing around them. It didn't help. Dave stepped up and smashed an advancing golem, but then it limmed him with its eye-ray and he was paralyzed. Vryce was swarmed by the cone-hatted axemen, and one in the back threw a demon ichor grenade near Vryce. Another threw one to Vryce's side, near Dryst (who was invisible, as usual).

A big melee ensued. The axemen tried to pressure Vryce and surround him, and he refused to engage them until he could finish the golems. The one Dave damaged moved to attack Gale, who dumped a Pollen Cloud over the entire fight. It didn't bother Vryce thanks to his HT and the Vigor spell, but it didn't seem to bother the cone-hatted guys either. One of them, the "leader," tried to shoot Vryce with lightning spat from its left hand, which it pointed just in that same way the statues point. It missed (Missile Shield) but clipped Invisible Dryst, who blocked, giving away his existence.

They fought with axes, threw smoke nageteppo to obscure vision, and more demon's brew to attempt to kill the PCs. Vryce was on his heels until Dryst got off Great Haste and then Blur -6 in quick succession. Then it was basically over, although it didn't appear so at first. Vryce chopped up the golem attacking him, wanting to finish it off before its glowing green stones got to full glow. Then he started in on the axemen. They attacked furiously but couldn't get past his defenses, even with flank attacks, runarounds, and piling on multiple strikes. Vryce took one out, stunning him. The one with the better axe engaged him and managed to hit, and even defended against Vryce's Feint-fronted heavily Deceptive attacks. Then Vryce landed a critical hit and a solid hit after a good Feint, and put the axeman down. Next, he turned on one ducking into a smoke cloud. He caught him well and head him fall like a stone after a heavy hit. Then he broke over to help Gale, who was being menaced by a Golem. The golem punched Gale, who luckily defended - but the Mummy's Curse struck him, turning his success to failure. He took a heavy shot to the chest.

Vryce ran up and attacked it from behind, but it spun and avoided one strike - but still took the other, and fell to pieces. ("They have 360 degree sensors?" "No, that's Gamma Terra, this is DF, they have eyes on the back of their heads.") Dryst put Air Vision on Vryce so he could see through the smoke.

The axemen saw the fight wasn't going well, and blanketed the room with more smoke, and demon's brew over both Mo and Dave. Vryce turned and sprinted into Mo, slamming him full power down and out of the poison gas. He kept going, turned, ran though a cloud himself (taking some solid damage) and slammed Dave down and out of the gas next. He kept going, attacking the sword-and-buckler guy. That one stabbed Vryce in the eyeslits (yes, despite Blur -6) but Vryce warded his blow off, ignored two axement try to run him down from behind, and step aside and cut the swordsman down in with a Feint and an attack. Then he turned on the axemen. They tried to fight, but it didn't last long. Within two seconds they went down. Another one was clipped and injured by Dryst with a Stone Missile, and as he limped away Vryce cut him down, too.

The fight was over.

Within a minute, Mo became unparalyzed, then in short order Dave did too.

They started to mess around again, relaxing, drinking potions, calculating rest times, etc. The PCs went for "the leader" also known as "their mage." They ignored the others - cultists they figured - and dragged him behind them. Then Mo stopped and chopped his head off with his axe, heedless of his scale armor. Then he hacked off the hands.

Then they heard a scrap-thump (I actually hit the table). Then a scrape-THUMP. Then a scape-THUMP! (I slammed the table full power, rattling the whole setup, actually ripping my pinky knuckle on the edge of something) They knew what it was - the Lord of Spite. And loud, because he's close, and banging, because he's coming at a fast clip for him. The PCs panicked, that's the best way to describe it.

They grabbed the body and ran up the stairs. Imagine fighting two battles in short order, after climbing down a set of stairs, all with no rest, then running. That's what they did. Jelly-legged and breathing heavily, they moved up and up. And below them, a big blue ogre-looking horrid thing with an axe and a club, with two warboars with him, began to scrape-THUMP, scrape-THUMP, up the stairs. They just kept running. The reached the top nearly exhausted, several of them having to stop and down paut just to keep running. At the top, they stopped for a minute to drink more paut and panic some more. Then they ran towards the next level. They managed to make it, closing and Magelocking a door behind them as they heard scrap-THUMP, then yells, they sounds of combat . . . lopsided, unhappy combat.

They managed to find a small room to hide out in up on the top level. And they waited, resting for a little while, deciding what to do. The combat noises were intermittent but continued.

Mo decided he needed the heart of the "leader." He hacked it apart with his axe, eventually sort-of removing a small, shriveled-looking "heart" from its chest. Little blood came out - very little. Most of its wounds didn't bleed at all.

What was it? It had yellow-gold skin, lobeless ears, a somewhat pointed skull, and six fingers. It looked somewhat elven, but had pointy fangs like the orcs do.

Off of it they got its sword, mace, buckler, some smoke nageteppo, a six-fingered silvery mesh glove, and some armor and clothes. Also a vial of Oil of Puissance. And a silver-and-gold necklace with a red "stone" that felt a little warm and almost pliable. After some discussion, they decided to drop the body down a midden soaked in oil, use Create Fire on it, and keep it going "forever" (until Dryst slept, really, or dropped the spell - Dryst can manage that.)

They headed to the surface, but found the orcs had stranded two of their own on the dungeon side of the pit. The pillbox nearest them was abandoned - they'd never seen that. The orcs yelled at Mo (who Dryst put Gift of Tongues on) that "You humans" had riled up the Lord of Spite. Mo said, we don't fear him, we'll get those guys to let us across. The orcs ran past them into the dungeon, not believing him.

They did manage that, though. Mo waved the sword, and said, "If you want your share of the loot, let us across." The toughest orc decided in a snap - "Okay." Across they went, the plank bridge was withdrawn, and Mo handed over the fine-quality sword of the six-finger.

They eventually made it back to town.


Best part of this session had to be the post-fleeing discussions about how they wanted to face the Lord of Spite, how he was damn lucky they were too depleted to kick his butt, etc. Most of that occurred on the walk home from the dungeon.

We discussed "who touched what" - I write all of that down. All of it. Touched the door? I know who touched it. Didn't touch the hand? I know. Touched the altar? I know. I write it all down, and I ask, regardless of whether it has significance or not. Because that way they don't know which ones do and which ones don't.

Two great quotes tonight:

"I'll piss on a demon but I'm not stupid." - Mo
"You can't crowbar your way into Hell." - Quenton Gale

"Crowbar Your Way Into Hell" sounds like a Motorhead album name.

I do really need to sit down and figure out how much time per 10' square in terms of travel, just so I can more easily track time passed. I have some idea but it would be useful if I could tell exactly.

DF1 doesn't say how long those demon gas grenades last. Probably one second, but where is the fun in that? I made it 10 seconds. Effects get lessened over time (2d/1d, then 1d/none over the last five seconds). Stacking them in a hex doesn't stack the damage, but I'd give a -1 to the HT roll for each one to a limit of -5.

Dryst wanted to Return Missile on the first grenade thrown. I said no - if you can cast Return Missile on someone else, and that someone else is the ground, what's a fair cost? Does that even make sense? I saw too many issues and arguments from allowing it, plus I don't particularly like the spell, so I said no.

Not so much loot this time - they got a suit of that Magery-dependent armor, but didn't want to sell it. They sold the necklace, couldn't find a buyer for the heart, repaired and sold the glove (it was a non-rechargable lightning-shooting glove, no one wanted it), and sold the thing's clothes - its boots and cloak, anyway, which were of an unusual velvet-like material and very nice. Only the armor and glove were magical, in any rate.

We had a hopefully useful discussion about the recent issues with, "fight's over, let's just sit right down here and rest." Mostly that's worked out as a problem - wandering monsters, reinforcements, bothersome stirges, etc. - and it will be more so as they go into more dangerous sections of the dungeon. I think it's just a player mental mode - fight's over, combat time is over, so calculate how much rest time and potions, make your rolls, time passes, loot is gathered, now what? Meanwhile I'm frantically tracking time, rolling dice, and things are reacting. It's a difference in perspective that has bit them a couple times, and I think it's mostly just that they have gotten used to some fights that were one-and-done and came with a safe, now-secure place to rest.

XP was 6 for most of them (4 xp for loot, since they're still so new they need little for a profit, 1 xp for finding a new area of significance, 1 xp for a clean run), 3 xp for Vryce (0 for loot since it was a fraction of his needs, 1 xp for a clean run, 1 xp for MVP for the slam-to-safety-then-kill-everyone move).

Pictures and notes were posted as well

Emergency DF session!

Due to logistical issues, we can't play Gamma Terra today as scheduled.

So instead I'm running an emergency session of Dungeon Fantasy.

This is why having a megadungeon/sandbox area like Felltower is so key for me - I really just needed to touch up the notes, finish the rumors, and grab my box of stuff and go. It's all ready for whatever they settle on doing . . .

(Editing the day after - here is the session's summary.)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cool is what you do, not what you are

Just a quick philosophical note, while thinking about my games and my gaming.

You character is cool because of what you do in play, not because of what your character is.

Some people try to craft a character that's special, and expect special in play to follow. Some people design characters who, perversely, are special in the way that they don't do things - loner types, the guy who holds back information, the guy with the special gear he won't deploy, etc.

My philosophy is that your character is special because of actions, not design and description.

Your character can be unique, special, and interesting. But what makes that unique, special, interesting character cool, memorable, and enjoyable to everyone at the table is what you do.

That's the philosophy I keep in mind and generally try to encourage in my games. Don't tell me about your character, tell me what you're going to attempt, we resolve it, and that is where cool will emerge from.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: Chessex Battlemats & Megamats

I try to post reviews of gaming materials I like and use. Here is another one, prompted by a question on an post earlier this year.

For more reviews, see my consolidated reviews page.

Battlemats & Megamats
Price varies
Manufactured by Chessex

Over fifteen years back, I got tired of using printed out white mat sheets for our hex-based GURPS tactical combat resolution. So I purchased a number of Chessex Battlemats and a Megamat. If I recall correctly, I got them as factory seconds, not spiffy new ones. We've used these mats ever since.

The mats feature either 1" hexes or squares, or, for the reversible ones, 1" hexes backed by 1" squares. They're markable with water-soluble pens. They are very durable - they'll stand up to a lot of wear, and as long as you roll them properly, they unroll and flatten out easily.

The maps also have a clear edge - you can't easily lay two end to end to make a larger map. However, if you play most dungeon-distance battles out with miniatures the maps will have you covered.

One downside to the mats is that the water-soluble ink doesn't come off too easily. Once it's been on for a while (a few hours, certainly), it can be difficult to get off completely. You'll end up needing to swipe the map with a rag and cleaning liquid a few times to get it really ink-free. Generally I've abandoned marking them and go with placing terrain and markers on them.

You can see these in action in most of my game session pictures.

Overall: These are amongs the best gaming purchases I ever made. We use out mats so routinely that we keep one on the table at all times. We use the big one for big battles. My only complaint is the difficulty of really getting all of the wet-erase marker off. Highly recommended.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

DF Session Summary 79: Addendum

Our last DF game session ended after a terrific battle - both in the "great" and "causes terror" senses of the word. It was also a long battle, and we glossed over a lot so we could end the session.

There were three items I glossed over in my haste to get things done and get home. So I emailed them to my players.

"#1: The room was a No Sanctity zone. Which didn't matter tonight, because Brother Ike never got off any spells. But it matters for healing - presumably you moved out into the hallway to do healing. Had he not been blasted by lightning, this would have been an issue.

#2: Behind one of the doors were two broken-up skeletons in tattered and broken scale armor, with shattered weapons (axes, probably over a hundred years old now, and no Repair wouldn't make them salvageable), and little bits of personal effects. No money, and importantly, no skulls. They would have been found while you searched the room. Their gear seemed to indicate northerners, probably like those who followed Baron Sterick the Red.

#3: Behind the sarcophagus, there was a small red six-fingered hand symbol on the wall, roughly 8-9" tall. The sarcophagus was also decorated with carved figured that resembled the cone-hatted cultists' uniforms and their symbols, as well.

I gave the players free rein to retroactively declare anything they'd like to do about these things. After all, it wasn't their fault I forgot in my haste to get home. And none of them were things I wanted to have to remove from the game world.

Basically no one had any comment except to ask about Brother Ike's Staff of Healing - no, it wouldn't have worked either, it's Holy.

But when I double-checked a few days ago to see if that was that - as I ready the megadungeon for the next game session, someone did ask to have done something.

Mo touched the hand.

Right or left or something else?

He said, whichever would fit - but it's not clear with the six-fingered hands which is left or right (at least, not always). He went lefty, after we discussed it and it was clear he'd touch it with his morningstar ready in his right hand to smash stuff.

"You took 1 HP of damage and lost 4 FP and felt a deep chill you couldn't shake for a few hours, and the HP wouldn't and didn't heal until you'd rested in town and recovered it naturally.

That's it. Anyone else?

No one else went for it.

Mo was disappointed he didn't get a cool zombie hand or anything.

Is this significant beyond being trap-like? We'll see.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

GURPS Purchases on W23 and the DF Kickstarter

Steve Jackson Games is running an interesting cross-promotion between their Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game Kickstarter and Warehouse23.

Any GURPS purchases on W23 count for stretch goals on the Kickstarter.

Update #23: Thank You! Now, Tackle Stretch Goals! Warehouse 23 GURPS Sales Count Toward Stretch Goals

I suspect that's why the funding dropped a little bit - why pay $8 in the future for a PDF when you can pay $7.99 right now and get it now, with the same effect on the Kickstarter campaign?

Either way, I decided to do my part. I'd been meaning to buy After the End 1 and 2.

I didn't own them, which might seem odd since I had a pair of articles in Pyramid magazine based on them.

I wrote those articles using a preview draft of the books. But I didn't actually get a copy. I like having an official, updated-when-they-update, backed-up PDF copy of things on W23. And even though those are post-apoc, they feed into the Kickstarter for DF.

So I picked them up. I may go back and add a Pyramid issue I'm missing, we'll see.

But if you're interested in any issues of Pyramid magazine or GURPS products, this month is a good time to pick them up. You'll get what you want, feed the Kickstarter for the backers, and - if you're a backer - potentially expand the GURPS line with stretch goal PDFs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Upcoming Auction Additions

I've added a few things to the "to auction" pile:

GURPS Castle Falkenstein

Champions III

and these guys will all be going up for sale:

Gaming Trade List

I added my other minis to that list. I'm still not sure about the Star Frontiers Robots or GDW Space 1889 minis, but the Chariot of Fear has to go . . . I just can't see ever assembling it and painting it and displaying it.

Some of the above are duplicates on that linked page.

eBay auction coming soon

I'm clearing out some gaming gear I don't need anymore.

Among the items I'll be auctioning off:

GURPS Compendium I (3e)
GURPS Undead (3e)
GURPS Fantasy (4e, hardback)
One sheet of Cardboard Heroes Dungeon Floors (the staircase page)
The Black Prince's Chariot of Fear (Ral Partha, lead, open but intact)
A lot of Ogre minis, initially as one big lot:

I'm still debating selling or keeping my unpainted Space: 1889 minis (Kraag warriors, Soldiers of the Queen, and Victorian Adventurers) and some Star Frontiers minis (robots, a few loose starships), maybe clear out the Minis Bones "to trade" pile as a lot. A couple of non-RPG items will go up, too - a Lionel train catalog, some paperbacks, maybe some other things. But I want to finally empty the "to be sold" pile and reclaim that space for things I use. I'll post here when it does go up, but consider this advanced notice. And I'll entertain offers for purchase or trade if you're interested in anything, because it'll spare me the headache of taking pictures and writing listings.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Defend the Village!

A few weeks back, some of my friends and I watched a favorite movie of mine - The 13th Warrior.

It's a classic version of the "defend the village" scenario - one used over and over again in films and as I recall correctly, every single episode of The A-Team. It's a formula that works.

I've used that scenario a number of times in games. The old "defend the village" game works really well in RPGs. Naturally it has shown up in games, too - the Dungeon magazine adventure Grakhirt's Lair let low-level PCs come in the aftermath of a "Defend the Village!" situation. There is a village to defend against bandits in The Book of Lairs. The Battlesystem module H1 Bloodstone Pass featured this on a battlefield scale.*

This is because there is so much to do:

- organize the fighters

- build some defenses

- deal with some internal strife (there is always some internal strife)

- consult an old person for advice

- rescue the people outside the walls

- and then do at least one of these: whittle down the bad guys until there are none left, kill the leader, destroy the source of the enemy, or just hold for time (either your reinforcements, or the enemy is on a time table)

It's also a scenario that is crystal-clear to the players. They've seen at least one of The 13th Warrior, the Seven Samurai, the Magnificent Seven, Zulu (the Rorke's Drift battle, not Isandlwana), or variations of them. Maybe they've played those Sunday Drivers scenarios with the cycle gang coming to town. Whatever. It's shared background.

On top of that, it works well with different approaches:

- The Cadre. The PCs provide stiffening for an existing force. They can't win it without the locals, but the locals can't win without them.

- The Shock Troops. The PCs add some expendable forces to the locals, and can engage in activities the locals can't scrape up the manpower or just power to do - such as scouting, acting as a reserve, or taking the offensive. This works if you want to have a larger conflict - army versus army - or offload leadership because it doesn't suit the PCs or players.

- The Late Arrivals. The battle is over, the village is safe - but you need to go exterminate the source of evil, and the locals are too battered to provide much help . . . and can't survive a renewed assault.

- The Only Hope. There really aren't a lot of locals to organize. Maybe it's a convent full of nuns, a hospital full of sick people, or a tiny farmstead or shrine that can't be moved.

The defeat parameters for the enemy can be as simple, visceral, and just plain enjoyable to the players as the tally list (kill them all, you win) or something more complex. If the enemies are werewolves a vampire and his vampire-spawn, maybe you have to hold overnight. If they're a military unit exceeding their orders, maybe you have to hold until someone else shows up to order them off. If they're hellspawn that spew from a gate, maybe you have to seal the gate once you've headed off a few raids and forced them back . . . revealing their origin.

This is a scenario I've had a lot of fun with. I expect I'll use it again sometime in the future.

*It also featured playable characters who broke AD&D's rules over and over again. Sigh.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

DF Felltower: Ritual and Gaming

In my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy game, Felltower, the PCs are repeatedly delving into and raiding a singularly large megadungeon.

At the start of each session, after we've dealt with in-town activities, spending points, general logistics and bookkeeping, the PCs head up to the dungeon.

At that point, I give the same spiel:

"You head out of the North Gate, across the Stone Bridge over the Silver River, over to Stericks Landing. You pass the statue of Baron Sterick the Red on horseback, his sword and axe upraised, and pass through the slums to the barren track up the side of the mountain."

That's pretty much, word-for-word, how I say it each time.

One of my players commented that the statue of Sterick the Red, which I mention every session, must be important because I mention it every session. That might be true - but I also specifically mention leaving the North Gate, crossing the Stone Bridge over the Silver River, the slums, the path, and so on, every session. Partly it's because the details might be important, but also because I find the forumalaic repetition a good sign that things have begun, and to get things off on the right foot. I had a martial arts instructor - who also trained one of my players, who finished every class with the same line. Ritual is useful, and I find it is useful in gaming, too - whether or not it's in-game important or not.

The use of a ritual signals something to the players. For my starting ritual, it signals the adventuring has begun. You've left town. It's too late to buy a potion. It's too late to spend some points on learning new skills. It's way too late to engage a sage and ask some questions. You're on the road. We've begun.

Similarly, it can signal an end to the game session. Or that we've transitioned from one part to another. One GM I used to play with would end any scene-setting description with, "It's your scene." Until you heard that, you knew to sit and listen (carefully, presumably) and then it was your time to act. No point in interrupting him, because what was being told to you was how things were, not a cue to act. It was a helpful ritual in his games.

So while the statue of Sterick the Red on horseback, with his sword and axe upraised, might be very important, it also might just be part of the ritual. It's not clear to the players, but what is clear is that the game is starting once that speech is going. I highly recommend a "starting ritual" to signal when it's time to end the bookkeeping and start the dice hitting the table.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Villains & Vigilantes 3.0 Kickstarter

Speaking of Kickstarters, one of my favorite artists has his own Kickstarter up:

FWIW, I have V&V 2.0 and played it a few times. It's a fun game. And Jeff Dee has followed through on every single one of his Kickstarters, and it's a pleasure to support his work. I highly recommend taking a look. $15 for the PDF isn't a bad deal at all.

The DF Kickstarter so far

As I write this, the DF Kickstarter has just funded, and is at around 1060 backers. We're pretty close to the 1000-1250 or so I figured the KS would need to fund.

W23 and Stretch Goals

So, one nice thing SJG has done is that, now that the Kickstarter campaign has funded, is that all W23 sales of GURPS and Pyramid count towards stretch goals. So you can go out and get some books (like, cough cough, these) and help expand the Kickstarter.


SJG has also sorted out European and Australian shipping!

Add-Ons and Bonuses

The $250 level is packed full of stuff. One game, one Pyramid subscription, one set of PDFs, one game master's screen, and a plethora of PDFs - a great deal for $250. For long-time GURPS players like me, though, this isn't a great level. I own literally all of the PDFs included. They can add more, but I have those already. I wrote or co-wrote some of them. I could buy them so I could print out two copies, but honestly, I don't need that.

So I'm in at the $70 level, plus some PDFs. I'm debating the extra $5 for the GM screen on PDF, but will I really do anything with that? I'm not sure.

I'd really like to see more free add-ons to that level. Part of what I loved about the Bones Kickstarters was that, as the pledges rolled in, my initial pledge continued to get better. I felt invested in every person getting on board, and looked forward to new add-ons and finding out what more I got above and beyond my initial buy-in. It happened with Ogre, too, which is probably why it's not happening here - they don't want the initial box to expand.

Getting some free PDFs, exclusive backer-only content, or other improvements to the base set would be nice. It doesn't have to expand the box, just expand the take for the base levels.

And that's from someone who's PDFs will be included. Who has a stake in this thing succeeding, not just because I love the game, but because I write for the game and my material will get plunked into people's W23 accounts when this is all funded and over. I just like seeing the "base level" set being a good buy-in, and watching it grow.

Add-On Suggestions

Not that anyone is listening to me, but, I'd love Cardboard Heroes Dungeon Floors and Cavern Floors in PDF. I'd pay for those, and they'd fit perfectly with the boxed set. Even as printed-out copies. I said as much on their latest update, since they use the Dungeon Floors set as the illustration! Those things are very useful, and I could use more.

But the good news is, the DF boxed set will come out. I'm very excited.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Recognition as a flat bonus

Yesterday I talked a little about Hidden Lore and monster recognition in DF.

Here is a different game-mechanical way to swap out information skills like that. In the examples below, swap in Occultism, Naturalist, etc. as appropriate. Note that Heraldry doesn't work so well for this rule.

Defensive Knowledge

You may roll against Hidden Lore, etc. to identify the target. If you succeed, and if you have the appropriate Hidden Lore or other skill at skill 15 or better, the creature's attack rolls and defense rolls against you are at -1. If you have the appropriate skill 20 or better, the creature's rolls at are -2.

(aka, the Animal Handling approach.)

Just as a note, it probably makes more sense to use Per-based skills to actually identify targets, and then IQ-based skill level to determine the penalty inflicted. Note that this stacks with Higher Purpose.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

More thoughts Hidden Lore and Recognition rolls

"Can [the forvalaka] be killed?"
"They're almost invincible, Captain.
"Can they be killed?" The Captain put a hard edge on his voice.
[. . . ]
"Yes," One-Eye confessed. [. . .] "Nothing is invulnerable [. . . ] But this is strong, fast, and smart. Weapons are of little avail. Sorcery is better, even that isn't much use."

- Glen Cook, The Black Company, p. 32

See, even in fiction, knowing is half the battle . . . but not necessarily the half that actually helps you win the battle.

So, I have some issues dealing with monster recognition and knowledge skills in play. I've written about this before.


Let's start by looking at the actual written rules.

Recognition (Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons, p. 9) spells out how it's done.

- The GM makes the roll in secret;

- you need the correct skill;

- success identifies the target and gives one "tidbit" - examples include favorite weapon, special powers, weakness, etc.,;

- every 2 points you succeed by gets you another. The GM decides, and if you fail, the GM lies.

And that's about it.

My Game

I do hate getting put on the spot for handing out information. This is especially true when players are flailing about for better tactics or "some way to beat this thing" and arguing among themselves about what's a good tactic. It's strongly tempting to hand the question over to the dice and the GM, and say, please tell us what to do here.

I think you can lose a lot of game interest when it's just a skill roll to figure out puzzles and how to deal with dangerous monsters. Then it's just meet, greet, fight, roll for the answer, apply the answer. On the other hand, I also tend to be a little too reticent when asked in play because I don't want to give out the answer, just hints. My players respond by not depending on Hidden Lore too heavily.

So there is clearly a GM personality and game-approach issue here, combined with the rules and the needs of the players.

As the GM, it's tough knowing what to hand out. It's tougher when the "obvious" stuff is also situationally wrong (mummies aren't good with fire, but this is an alchemist's fire-packed suicide bomb mummy or a mummy who uses Resist Fire). Or when the not-obvious stuff is really what the PCs want to know (we're going to try and suffocate it, does it breathe?).

Leaving the questions up to the PC, in Mark Langsdorf's words, might lead to 20 questions. Well, it really won't, because you'd need to make your roll by 38 points for that, and that's pretty unlikely. But I get the point - players might end up in the "Divination death spiral." That's when you have one divination, one wish, one yes-no question, etc. and spend a good chunk of real-world time debating how to use it. Then you eventually wordsmith the question down to something so specific the GM can't avoid answering specifically, but there is a near-certainty you've wordsmithed out any flexibility for the GM to give you the actual hints you need. You know, "In this world, are vampires or these vampire-like things vulnerable - that is, able to be harmed significantly or killed - by stabbing in a specific vital organ which may or may not be called the heart, with a wooden or wooden-shafted weapon whether or not it's a magical weapon?" "Yes." "Okay, we still don't know what to do." Or the too-vague, "How do we kill vampires?" when there are a dozen ways to do it. It's worse when you've got a bunch, because then you just tick off each question off the list hoping to eventually hit the right one by methodical application.

And one special thing worth noting - it's always much sweeter to the GM, and probably to the players, when the players hit on the weakness of a monster. Not because they rolled it, or put points in a skill, but because the players figured out something. The mummy in my last DF session was like that. Quenton Gale ("That's Mr. Gale to you!") didn't roll Hidden Lore (Undead) and find out the funereal amulet was the key to the mummy's unlife, Quenton Gale's player figured that out, and risked a lot to try for it. The PCs later used Hidden Lore to verify that it was worth trying, but his attempt was all the better as a game event - and a story to tell in the future - because the player did that.

How to deal with that dilemma? Make the skills useful, make the character matter, and have a way to pass in-game information to the PCs who should have it . . . but leave the main decisions and the drama resulting from the ones made up to the player?

Possible Approaches

Keeping with my preference to give out hints, clues, and details, this approach may work, if my players equally buy in:

- Success on the appropriate skill tells you what the monster is, and one piece of information.

- You can either get a grab bag of information picked by the GM (that is, as listed on DF2, p. 9) or you can ask after a specific type of information (weaknesses, vulnerabilities, efficacy of a specific attack form, etc.), or answer a specific question, but only one of the three. The first is one hint for every two points of success; the latter two, just one. You need to Evaluate, Move, or Do Nothing to get this roll or just be out of combat. If multiple PCs have the skill, you can use complementary skill rolls to get one better roll. You can't have everyone roll and hope for a critical.

- Information is going to be just game information, not tactical suggestions, answers to very vague questions ("How do we kill these things?" Yeah, that's the question I'm already answering by giving you anything), etc. Hyper-specific questions are just a mistake, don't ask those.

Knowing a monster's psychological flaws or approaches (Does it go berserk? Do they take prisoners? Are they bribeable?) is Psychology, and knowing where any vital area is takes Physiology. No, Holy Warriors aren't just wasting points on those two skills, you need them. Gamers in general tend to assume it's "obvious" where weak points are, if you can name them. "I shoot it in the heart!" - Really, where is that exactly? What's a good angle to get to it? Does it even have one?

When the PCs ask is also important. If you wait until bad stuff happens and the fight is going wrong, you're basically asking the GM to bail you out. That's not necessarily going to end well. Also, you're expending resources and time and effort before you attempt to recognize something - doesn't that mean you probably didn't recognize it? It's probably better for me, the GM, to have people say, "I have Hidden Lore (Undead)-14 and (Elementals)-13, do recognize it?" right away, then to wait until they've exhausted their player knowledge and then tried to roll away the difficulty.

Anyway, that's pretty much where I am with these right now. It's a tough skill to compromise in my "worst of both schools" approach. But I think it potentially deals with three issues:

- the players can get random, possibly not-specifically-helpful information with a Hidden Lore roll.

- the players can preempt the random information with specific informational goals, encouraging the players to think ahead and guess based on observation.

- the fun of players making decisions and acting on them is preserved.

We'll see how my players receive these, and if this works when we try it out at the table. I have another idea for a more mechanical approach, which I'll try to post tomorrow.

Optional Detail: If you like rolls, have PCs make a Per-based Hidden Lore skill for recognition, and an IQ-based one for knowledge about how to deal with it. You could even allow Complementary Skill rolls against related skills, such as Tactics ("Those are definitely wraiths. Professor Aragorn just would not stop talking about wraiths during Tactics class!")

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

DF Felltower: Rumor Rules Option 3

One of my players commented on my revised rumor rules, and suggested this variation:

PCs can get unlimited rumors, but, duplicates are duplicates. Every PC is guaranteed a single unique rumor.

That means each person gets at least one, but folks with Carousing or Current Affairs might pick up three, five, even seven or eight more rumors . . . but many might be the same things over and over.

It's an interesting variation - it puts in randomness of results twice. You get a number of rumors based on your random roll, but then your rumor table rolls may cut down the useful number by a lot. Essentially you're getting a maximum number of rumors heard, not a fixed number of unique rumors.

I'm not sure I'll do that - we tried the new method and it was fine - but I like the thought behind it.

Monday, September 12, 2016

DF Game Session 79, Felltower 52

Date: September 11th, 2016

Weather: Clear, breezy.

Dryst, halfling wizard (417 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (287 points)
     5 skeletons (~25 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (292 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (283 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (145 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (291 points)
     Kian, human pirate (~65 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (279 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)

We started in town, as usual. Surprisingly, someone made the appearance roll for Raggi, and he was in town and looking to fill out "Raggi's Roughnecks" for a delve. The group gathered rumors, replenished supplies, got magical repairs and healing, and otherwise got ready for the next delve.

They headed off, out of the North Gate, over the Stone Bridge across the Silver River, and so on, and eventually came to the castle.

The negotiations with the orcs were formulaic - wait out the initial arrows intended to kill them, talk, pay 500 sp up front and 500 sp more once inside the gates, ask after Glarg's wife and sons, asked if anything had eaten orcs lately (no, they seemed to have dealt with that last time), and headed down into the dungeon. "These guys are loaded!" said Hjalmarr, which probably isn't far from true.

The PCs had a main goal and a backup goal* when they headed out. The main goal? These stairs:

They weren't really sure anymore if they'd gone down those stairs or not. They knew they weren't sure, and figured it was worth checking.

They headed in that direction. They got lost briefly trying to follow their own maps, got regaled by stories from Raggi ("We killed a bunch of gnolls in this room. Good times.") and eventually found the stairs to the next level. They had to force the locked door on the ogre's room, and headed down the stairs.

They confidently moved ahead, and I had to backtrack the group when they said, "Down the stairs to the door on the right, we open the door . . . " and say, "As Brother Ike steps on the bottom step, it cracks . . ." They walked right into a trap. The bottom step had a new, thin, hollow layer of stone put on it. It cracked open and released a gas. It was poisonous, but no one succumbed, and Purify Air cleared out the gas. It left a thin film, though - Gale identified it as a fungal extract that, if powdered (like it was), was a powerful attractant for stirges. They cleaned it off with Air Jet and a timely critical success (a 4.)

They moved on, and to the room with an arrow carved in the floor. They backtracked to the secret door it pointed at, but - despite See Secrets and Keen Vision - they couldn't figure out how to open it. No one could remember how to do it. So they moved on.

As they moved ahead, some stirges - first six, then maybe a dozen or so, attacked. In a brief and bloody fight, the PCs chopped, slashed, and electrocuted all of them - but in the meantime Mo and Raggi got stirge'd and nearly lost eyes to them, but good Crippling Injury rolls and timely healing dealt with that.

The PCs worked their way to the chamber with the crystal in the ceiling. As their lead servant moved in, it snapped a thin wire tripwire and was sprayed with Alchemist's Fire. It died. Dryst used Extinguish Fire and they moved in, watching their back and front. Nothing, though - only a one-shot siphon that had been filled with the flammable mix.

Mo smashed what was left of the crystal in the ceiling and took a hunk of it as loot and/or throwing weapon. They eventually made their way to a chamber where there were once flame lords, but now was a bunch of mold. As in, hundreds of square feet of brown, crunchy, rough, rock-lichen-sharp mold. Gale identified it as sickness-causing.

They decided burning it - even with Purify Air to keep the smoke off of them - was too dangerous. So they sent a magical servant ahead with a Create Object "snow shovel" to clear it. Dryst had rolled a critical creating a servant, so he got a Brute servant. They sent that one ahead with the shovel.

It last a minute or two of attempted scraping before it wilted until the sickness of the mold-spores.

In the end they decided to just levitate past it. They did, each taking a HT-4 roll from the aerial spores instead of a series of them from stirring them up further. A good number of PCs got mold-sick, and all except Gerry had their clothes coated and food spoiled. Gerry avoided this with Ethereal Body and having his skeletons carry his stuff in a Create Object wrap.

They found a room - marked "snake room" on their map - and moved in. There were two giant glow beetles in the room. Mo smashed one and Dryst fried the other with Lightning. Hjalmarr bravely waited outside, having beetle-related anxiety. Gale harvested one's glow glands, and they rested after their energy expenditure.

They moved into the room with the stairs, ignoring the rotatable statue, and down the stairs after tossing glow glands ahead to test the way. No traps - although they muttered a lot about needing to find "the gnome" and deal with him.

At the bottom of the stairs was a long room, 30' wide and maybe three times that long, with an exit out the opposite side and four archways spaced evenly on either side. They found found many broken urns and scattered bones from skeletons, niches with clearly searched bones (shoved to one side to make it clear which had been dealt with), and broken stone that was what was left of golems. Also, each of the side passages ended with big purple six-fingered hand symbols. They didn't find any loot, and had discussions about whether they'd been there before. Dryst announced they'd never seen purple six-fingered hands before, and everyone else was either a new delver or Raggi, who doesn't care or remember or care to remember things.

The far end of the corridor held a passage lined few yards with bas relief faces, much like the black energy-shooting ones they'd seen before. A servant was sent down to scout. It found only two double doors - big grey metal ones painted with a white axe-and-sword over tower motif. Nothing blasted it, despite evidence the faces did just that in the past - scorches and burn marks between them. The servant couldn't open the the doors.

Hjalmarr went down, after getting Resist Fire, Resist Acid, and Resist Lightning on him. He wondered aloud why he wasn't so shielded all the time, but Dryst ignored that.

Nothing blasted him, and he couldn't budge the doors. More of the bruiser types, plus Dryst, came up to the doors. It took three tries, but Mo and Raggi eventually forced the big valves open.

Inside was a 13 yard circumference room, with a semi-circular dais with a sarcophagus on it, two flail-holding obviously-golem warrior statues on pedastals, and lots of evil-looking decorations on the walls and sarcophagus.

As the group debated how to move in, what to do, etc. the sarcophagus opened. A mummy sat up in it, saw them, and stood up. The two golems animated and stepped forward. (Another "things happen while you debate what to do" moment.)

The PCs cautiously moved in. Raggi charged. Mo lamented, "Raggi shows me how it's done." Raggi doesn't have a self-preservation instinct. The folks in the back - Ike, Gale, Gerry, and the skeletons - ran forward to catch up.

In short, a big fight broke out. The PCs ran in to follow Raggi. He ran right up, got his leg crippled by a golem, and went right down** at the feet of a golem. The PCs ran up. Meanwhile the mummy didn't do much - except to concentrate and starting casting spells on itself and its golems. These would later be revealed to be Shield and Resist Fire - and after the PCs revealed their main missile spell - Resist Lightning.

As the PCs pressed in, two toxic skulls - thinking flaming skulls, except toxic - appeared and joined the fray.

I won't summarize the whole fight, which took hours. The short version was:

- the PCs charged the golems. They turned out to be magically Shielded Elite Juggernaut stone golems layered with bronze plates armed with flails. They fought well but gave ground to use their 2-hex reach to advantage.
- the PCs rolled a lot of critical failures. Dropped weapons and falling down was typical - and only Signature Gear kept Hjalmarr's axe from breaking.
- the PCs concentrated heavily on the golems and skulls and not the mummy.
- Hasdrubel managed to take out their own healer.

The PCs basically whittled down the golems first, but it was costly and ugly. Unable to easily flank them, they were forced to Great Haste most of the fighters and all of the wizards. The flying toxic skulls were an issue, and after Raggi went down - followed by Mo, also with a leg cripple - an attempt to fry one of them by Hasdrubel also fried Brother Ike. He rolled a 17 on his stunning roll and ended up twitching the rest of the fight. A few massive Stone Missile and Skull Missile spells helped weaken the golems, and eventually they went down, but not before Mo and Raggi fought from their backs or crawled for most of the fight. Hjalmarr managed to slash the mummy's leg badly and that trigged it using Iron Arm to deal with his attacks. Raggi even grappled one for around 30 or so CP over multiple turns and dragged one to the floor, in the midst of a Fog spell put up by Gale. Eventually Hjalmarr got knocked out, then woken back up magicaly, and stood back into the fray.

The mummy tried to engage Dryst when he closed but failed - and Kian charged him. He grabbed her around the neck and crushed her larynx, and tossed her skull-first into his sacrophagus's side and left her for dead, mortally wounded. Gale tried to snag the mummy's amulet, successfully guessing it was the key to his supernatural toughness. He barely missed (by 1) and was taken out by the toxic skulls.

Dyrst moved around throwing Air Vision on allies and explosive spells to catch toxic skulls in the area effect; Hasdrubel was much less discerning and managed a lot of friendly fire damage but also finished a golem and badly damaged one of the toxic skulls.

In the end, the mummy ran out of the Fog Gale created to shield his grab at the amulet, Hasdrubel tried and failed to burn it with Alchemist's Fire (sorry, Resist Fire is a natural for a mummy spellcaster), and it just hung out in the flames and made them come to it. Mo tried to slam it (nope, much stronger than him), Gerry used Hidden Lore to determined Gale was right, and they eventually cut off its talisman. Hjalmmar beat it to death in short order after that. They used Extinguish Fire to suppress the flames and recovery their gear and goods.

(I know my players are disappointed at this rough summary - lots of heroics happened. But this fight was hours in real world time, maybe 30+ seconds in game time, and it would take that to re-write it here, even if I remembered it turn by turn.)

Once the mummy was down, took only a few more seconds to deal with the toxic skulls.

They looted the place, taking the mummy's mace (ornate, and magical until it broke on a critical failure, then repaired back to mundane value by Dryst), a candelabra with black candles, six gold passage coins, six chunks of opal, six potions (which seemed to be Great Healing but were actually poison), a charged skull scroll, an unholy symbol, a chalice, and some other goods.

They also found (and I forgot to mention until after game, see below) a six-fingered hand print on the wall, cultist-themed carvings on the sarcophagus, and two skull-less skeletons of northerners smashed up and tossed behind the left door. No exists proved extant, and they had to remove themselves to the bones-ash-and-golem-bits strewn room to rest and heal as this was a No Sanctity zone. Kian, horridly manged by the mummy, died, and they took her back to the surface. Two skeletons were annihilated, and so was the hunchback zombie Gerry had been keeping around since the Lost City.

They passed the mold the same way (suffering more ill effects) and gave the orcs the candelabra and some opal chunks. The orcs asked fore the mace instead, which was a solid gain for the PCs. They went with it, and went home.

Back in town, Kian was laid to rest with Final Rest.

* The missile complex at Laputa. I mean, something else - I'm not sure what they settled on.

** One of Raggi's two typical moves - charge and kill, charge and be killed.


We ended late, so I forgot to mention the hand on the wall and the skeletons behind the (left) door). It didn't matter for the session, but I will allow any ret-con actions that fit the moment before we start play next time. It was late - more than two hours past my maximum end time, thanks to "Monday" getting turned into "Tuesday plus Monday" on my schedule. Even so, one player had to leave earlier than the end of the session.

The players couldn't recall if they'd ever been to this area before. I know the answer, but I'll let them figure it out. They're certain they've never encountered purple six-fingered hand symbols, though.

I thought it was an interesting choice - ignore the spellcaster boss and work on his heavily buffed golem guards first. It worked, but it wasn't cheap. Or quick. They expended a serious amount of resources to win this fight. It wasn't intended as a lesson, but I expect the players will understand how I feel when they take guys with defenses in the high teens and put Shield +5 on them and then Retreat for a +1 to +3.

The mold inflicted stat and defense penalties - and these often proved the difference between success and failure.

XP was 4 each - everyone hit their loot threshold (4 xp), they only explored a single new area (0 xp), and they did not have a clean run since an NPC died (0 xp). The "clean run bonus" effectively is required unless you get a lot of loot and also do significant exploration. That was the tradeoff in the XP system we agreed upon. Some of the players will argue that any new areas should be worth +1, but then I end up having to reveal if they've found a new area (sometimes, they aren't sure) and encourage "find a new room, stop exploring" in order to get 6 xp (loot, exploration, clean run). I prefer to keep it more nebulous.

I'm not a huge fan of "I roll Skill X, what do I know?" I let it fly this time, but I vastly prefer using it for answering questions. The "What do I know?" question puts me on the spot - what do I reveal, what values the roll and the skill level properly, what is too much, what isn't enough? The "Do I know if they are X?" is easier - it's yes or no, and a skill roll success tells me to answer. It's a quandary.

My players tried some totally useless tactics - Mage Sight to see through the fog, Dispel Magic to kill toxic skulls, and a few others - which leads me to think they don't always pay attention to the text of spell descriptions. Oh well.

MVP was Gale, because he correctly determined the mummy's weakness.

Fun game, although it took longer than I though it would.

(Pictures are up: Sunday's Game in Pictures)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

DF Session pre-summary

We played DF again today. No time for a summary, but we had:

- stirge attacks

- mold, mold, mold

- a big brawl with a mummy, two golems, and two toxic skulls

- a delver death

- and some serious loot.

More tomorrow . . .

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Black Tree Design sale

I forgot to post about this earlier, but luckily, the sale was extended until tomorrow. Black Tree Design has 50% of most infantry, 30% off most cavalry, 30% off Doctor Who, and more:

"Weekly Sale

We've added 2 more days to our best sale ever so no one misses out. It will definitely be ending midnight Sunday 11th September so come on over!

We're finishing off our Summer Sales with a blast. It's our last huge sale of the year so it's a monster. Historical and Fantasy Infantry packs are 50% Off. Cavalry, Chariots, Vehicles, Artillery, Battlefield equipment and Giant Monsters are 30% Off.

Our Doctor Who packs are 30% Off for a short time only. Remember guys and gals these packs haven't been in production for decades so they're a finite resource. If the sale on these goes nuts we're going to have to cut it short. And don't order tons of the more obscure figures or we'll have to void the order. Give everyone the chance to own a Voord Warrior or an Algenon Finch.

I think I'm good for now on minis, but if you aren't, they have nice Romans, Vikings, fantasy monsters, ancients, etc.

DF Felltower - How I Get Player Engagement

So over on Christopher Rice's blog, Travis Ellis wrote a guest post about Dungeon Fantasy. We had a nice little exchange in the comments, and I wrote something I wanted to preserve here, too.

How do I get player engagement? How do I get people puzzling over how to apply their skills and abilities, balance short term needs versus long term growth, and otherwise do something other than just - as Travis puts it:

"simply kick down the door, kill what’s inside, and the only question is if the loot it had was worth the effort, because the path to glory and riches is just a few bloody combats away."

Here is how I do it. Warning: link-fest.

I put forth Problems not solutions.

I hand out actionable rumors.

And I play in a limited sandbox, which forces you to consider both short-term and long-term.

That is pretty much it - a limited sandbox, with repeated delves to the same areas, actionable rumors, and problems the PCs need to solve that don't come with pre-decided solutions. Those things drive the players to, as [Travis] said, "puzzle out how they should apply their talents and skills, fretting over how best to set short-term goals in favor of the long-term progression."

There isn't an external social engagement structure of significance to the game. There aren't political-social ramifications to actions.* But merely going door to door looking for treasure . . . no, coming back to the same dungeon after all causes all sorts of behavior to emerge. Most of that is in the form of player-driven effort and decisions, and player-centered decisions and tradeoffs. Gangsters and politics and dungeons and orcs, it's really the same, if you put the sandbox in front of them and let real quandaries emerge from their actions.

* Although there are economic ones.

Friday, September 9, 2016

New Release: Dungeon Fantasy 19

Yesterday, Dungeon Fantasy 19 came out:

It's the first GURPS book written by Antoni Ten Monros and Christopher Rice. Naturally, that means it has cool powers and an alternate magic system.

I just got mine last night and I'm starting to read through it. I'll post more about it when I've finished. And no, Greg, I'm not planning on adding it to the game so you can make a new PC based on it.

But you can read more about it now, on Christopher's blog:

DF 19 Designer's Notes

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Dungeon Fantasy: Steal Which Bits? - Part II

Here is Part II of my posts about Stealable Bits from Dungeon Fantasy.

Here is Part I


Another usable, stealable bit from DF are the Power-Ups. I mean this in three ways - wholesale, the execution, and the concept.

Wholesale means, just take them and use them. They're good pre-packaged power increases, and often flavor changes, that you can just take and use. They're hack-and-slash oriented, but expanded levels of Higher Purpose or Magical Stability or the Flagellant's Blessing or a Zombie Arm might really fit into certain games. Read them through, pick the ones that fit your game, and just use them outright.

Excecution is where Power-Ups make life easier. Instead of Techniques like Dual-Weapon Attack, you just buy Two-Weapon Fighting and you're done. You want an additional option of All-Out Attack to slice apart multiple foes - get Cleaving Strike instead. You are seeking ways to make backstabs more effective, you go and get Backstabbing. It's an on-off approach where you aren't slowly increasing from Skill-4 to Skill-3 and so on, you go from Skill-4 to Skill-0 and you're done. For new players and GMs juggling a lot of PCs all at once alike, this is much easier than the slow investment approach. You just sudden get the ability, and deal with it in chunks instead of knowing who has what particular gradation.

Concept means, the entire idea of buying powers later. Most games I've run, and games I've played in, severely restricted purchases of advantages after play began. You might pick up Combat Reflexes or raise DX but couldn't add Eidetic Memory or levels of Magery if you wanted to. The idea that you can pick anything from a pool and add it on - but that the pool you choose from doesn't fully overlap with all other pools - even in play, even after chargen, is powerful. It frees up a lot of players from the angst and melodrama (and point-shifting optimization) of trying to get just a few more points. Or building a nearly unplayable mess of a character who has all of the "can't get later" bits but none of the stuff that would logically come with it. The Magery 3 guy with 5 spells or the Weapon Master with the minim points in a weapon the GM will allow, or the vastly talented Outdoorsman who has maybe 2-3 of the skills and expects to learn them in play. Opening up a larger pool of advantages to purchase later, as a concept, makes for more flexible character generation and development.

Warning: The assumption of DF is hack-and-slash dungeon delving. Perks like Butchery (from Denizens: Barbarians) or power-ups like Mana Bolt (DF11) make assumptions about the game and the world. Butchery assumes you'll need to take foes to -10xHP, say, but there is a real cost to doing so. Mana Bolt assumes you want pew-pew wizards firing "magic missile" shots with no cost. They bring their own flavor and world changes to the table.

Supplements useful here: DF1, DF11, Pyramid 3/61 Way of the Warrior, Denizens: Barbarians.

Magic Items

This one is pretty simple. If you want magic items for your games, especially if they tend towards heroic gaming archetypes, just steal the ones from DF. There are a lot of them, and they are good.

Supplements useful here: DF6, DFT2

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Dungeon Fantasy: Steal Which Bits? - Part I

So I mentioned that DF products, especially thanks to their hack-and-slash, keep-it-simple approach to the material, are good sources of stuff for other campaigns. Well, what stuff is that?

Here is what I found useful. More tomorrow.

Changes to Magic

This is two-pronged.

First, if you really like the Cleric/Druid/Wizard split - god-granted powers/nature-derived powers/black knowledge from moldy old books - DF has that built in.

Admittedly, it has it baked into 250-point templates centered on dungeoneering, which might not be your game. You can't just grab a cleric or wizard template and dive into a plot-and-social or lower-powered (or both) campaign.

But the basic rules are sound:

Clerics get a pick-list of spells, only those spells, but ignore prereqs. Even in a game where Power Investiture 6 isn't a no-brainer starting character choice, the actual spell lists and approach works.

And DF7 might not fit my game, but it's a great source of variant cleric approaches for games where, yes, there is a Cleric of Thor and a Cleric of Odin and a Cleric of Hermes and they all seem to just have that one god kicking power down to them.

Druids draw power from nature. Again, they get a pick-list (and some nifty powers, which can be expanded on) and spells that only they can use.

Wizards get everything else.

Secondly, that "everything else" has been modified. Spells like Enlarge and Invisibility are changed to make them less game-shatteringly important. The economy-breaking Create spells no longer turn out permanent high-grade materials such that no wizard with them would do less than turn a faux-medieval world into Star Trek's post-scarcity society. In other words, if you basically like the GURPS Magic system but have concerns with the abusiveness of some of the spells, DF goes a long way towards fixing them.

And you can always release the handbrake and allow those "off limit" spells - Gate spells, Teleport, and so on - if they aren't really sensibly off-limits in your game world.

Supplements useful here: DF1, DF7, Pyramid 3/60.


The Dungeon Fantasy line has a lot of monsters. Three books worth and part of a chapter in Dungeon Fantasy 2. All of them suit fantasy games, since DF is nothing if not a scaled-up stripped-down fantasy game.

So you have book after book of monsters to steal from. Some of them, at least some of the ones I wrote, came straight out of a long-running, plot-oriented, originally moderate-point game where the power level apex was about where DF starts out. Trolls, dinomen, horde pygmies, and more are right out of that game's notebook of monsters. They don't need to be in deep dungeons guarding dollar-sign bags and trapped chests brimming with gold and jewels. They work just fine lurking in forests, being fodder in the evil lich-king's army you're trying to avoid, or whatever.

Warning: The monsters are powerful and assume 250 point characters. For less-powerful less combat-optimized characters, monsters are proportionally more difficult. Generally, you need to use fewer types of monsters per encounter, and fewer monsters per type, when placing them into a lower-point game.

For example: Fodder monsters are probably Worthy (one-to-one challenges for PCs), Worthy are nearly boss-level (one-to-many) and bosses are going to be very special challenges. A Broadsword-14 Parry 10 orc with a medium shield (DB 2) and Scale (DR 4) is a one-turn kill for a Broadsword-20 DF Knight with ST 17 (3d cutting, 1d+4 impaling), but for a Broadsword-16 PC with ST 13 (2d cutting, 1d+2 impaling) he's going to be a challenge. A DR 17 golem-armor swordsman is going to go from "tough fight, aim for Chinks in Armor at -8 and wear it down" to "well-nigh-unstoppable, aim for Chinks in Armor at -8 to even have a chance to hurt it, if you hit"

Supplements useful here: DF2, DF9, DFM1, DFM2, DFM3, DFA1.

Part II will follow this week. If you've found bits of DF useful, please post what bits in the comments. Please keep it positive! I'm looking for what's broadly useful outside the game as written rather than critiques of the game as written.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Painting Table WIP

I got to work on three of those four minis I posted about the other day:

 photo Casting Room Adventurers WIP 001s_zpstqsucn8k.jpg

The Gatekeeper is still white, though - I found some flash lines I hadn't noticed pre-primering, so I filed them off and I'm waiting for a low-humidity day to get started on her again.

The middle guy is mostly done - he needs edging on his armor, a wash, and some eye and face highlights. Then he's done. The eyepatch dude is mostly base coated except for the detail around the head. The thief is partly base-coated. The downside to starting in white is that some of my dark tones take 2-3 extra coats, like the base brown for his checkerboard coat. It'll look better than if I started with black once I finish - but it will take longer to finish.

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Tone of DF, and Using Bits Elsewhere

So the utility of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy outside of the DF books, and its tone, have come up repeatedly. Maybe constantly.

The Tone of DF

DF books, at the very least how I write them, is a little off-center of serious. The other authors do pretty much the same. I gather that puts some people off.

As I've said before, I'm not laughing at the genre and thus laughing at you for liking it. I'm laughing at the inherent silliness of it with you. I'm like Monty Python mocking King Arthur in The Holy Grail - if you like knights and King Arthur, you don't come out of that feeling like they're mocking you for liking it. They like it too, they just see so much scope for poking holes into the stories the way they are told. I'm poking fun at the silliness of going into tunnels in an a-historical mix of armor and weapons and fighting monsters for treasure at the same time as I'm saying, oh yeah, this is so much fun I haven't stoppped playing these games since I started when I was nine. I'm just not demanding, like Cole Jenkins says, a deconstruction to enjoy it. That can be fun too, but rather, I'm sincerely enjoying it.

That's why I write that way. I could in theory ditch any hint of this being something other than a solemn and serious game, the basis for something "more" and "deeper" than dungeons. But I probably couldn't keep that up, or enjoy it. Like the games I started playing when I was nine, the "more" I want is more play time, and the "deeper" I want is deeper dungeons. I want to acknowledge the oddities and smile and enjoy them. That the line does this makes it all the better, and makes it more enjoyable for me. I can't really imagine doing it differently and liking it the same.

Like I said, though, I'm enjoying it sincerely. And there isn't a hint of mockery in my pointing out the silliness inherent in this great genre.

The Game is Fun As Written

I've mentioned my "this is awesome" moment.

I got that DF was a good game. I didn't doubt that. Really, though, I didn't really get how good DF was until I sat down and played it. I got it on paper and I got it intellectually. But I didn't get it in my gut until we started playing a DF game for a time-killer, until we decided to do something else.

Actually keeping the game limited has made it more fun than I'd expected, and kept it running for years. It's not boring yet - the closest things to complaints from people I've gotten is "I want to play more often" and "I want to get more things done in the dungeon." Pretty much, more of the same, and more on the days we play.

I did a serious, 10+ year game (1999-2010 or so, with long breaks between sessions for three of those years). I used bits of DF in it - golem-armor swordsmen, toxifiers, spheres of madness, eyes of death, obsidian jaguars, horde pygmies, dinomen (which were re-skinned into dinomen from what was in that game), trolls, and a few others showed up. I had a Heroic Archer who is echo'd quite accidentally in the Scout (since Sean wrote that without any reference to my game). I grabbed rulings from DF2 and recommended DF2 to others for the same, even for people running gritty mostly-urban fantasy games that lacked dungeons entirely. So I have drunk from the well of "use Dungeon Fantasy line materials in a lower-point, non-DF game." There is nothing wrong with doing that. But the product as written and created is really an excellent one, and I think it plays better than it reads. It's worth the honest try to see how it plays out.

And I think it works best if it stays that way - an inherently light and focused game raidable (like other GURPS works) for bits. It's useful in and of itself, yet avails itself of the greater GURPS collection to expand into - or be used in - something different from itself.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

DF Felltower - Revised Rumor Rules

Rumors are a big part of my DF game. However, certain PCs have gotten so good at garnering them that I'm regularly needing to make up 15+ new ones, sometimes more, each session. That means lots of redundancy, repetition, and - based on one player's opinion - much more chance for falsehoods and red herrings.

So I tweaked them a bit. Here is the replacement set:


Rumors represent the filtered nuggets of potentially useful information you get from:

- hearing the latest news and gossip;
- chatting with old-timers;
- interacting with people in your profession (wizards at the guild while you're getting Power Item charges or learning spells, fellow guards for knights, at the church for clerics or devout PCs, etc.);
- information stumbled across in general research or other activities (scraps of maps found in the marketplace, notes in margins of books, chitchat between sages you've hired, etc.);
- actual official pronouncements.

Who Gets Rumors?

PCs, and major NPCs or designated minor NPCs, are eligible for rumors. Most hirelings, henchmen, volunteers, etc. do not come with rumors, nor do Allies. (Basically this means Raggi comes with one, so did Gort, and other "knowledgeable" types might come with one.)

You get one rumor automatically if:

You stay in town. Living off the land or otherwise bypassing upkeep costs means you don't get to hear any of the latest news and gossip, or chat up old timers. You may hear bits and pieces of larger news but don't get the filtered bits of news that amount to rumors.

Plus, you may get additional rumors.

Carousing. A Carousing roll costs 30 sp (or your extra costs for Compulsive Carousing, if you have any.) Success gives one (1) additional rumor plus one (1) for every two points of success on the roll to a maximum of three (3) additional rumors. Critical success will give an additional rumor, for a possible total of six (6) including the automatic rumor.

Example: Vryce has an effective Carousing-17. He rolls a 12, making his roll by 5. He gets one rumor for staying in town, one for succeeding on Carousing, plus two more for making his roll by 5. The GM rolls for five rumors total. Had he rolled a 6 or less, he would get six rumors total!

Current Affairs, Propaganda, Research, or Streetwise. As Carousing, above.

Any of the above rolls are in lieu of doing actual research, and you may only choose one. PCs with Compulsive Carousing can only choose Carousing unless a self-control roll is made!


Rumors are rolled on my big d30 Rumors Table.

Another option would be unlimited rumors, but repeats are retained - sometimes, the same rumors keep coming up. I chose not to do that, because the people with one rumor always feel badly when they get a repeat. I don't mind making up a lot of rumors, I'm just trying to limit the number of times I'm making up and giving out 15-20 rumors per session.

I'm debating letting Carousing, etc. give only one additional rumor (two on a critical success), but letting the player choose a topic. Then I'd choose off of the table. But my concern is that instead of a quick roll, this becomes an issue of people wanting to use Luck, debating for a long time about what to ask for, wordsmithing to find just the right words they think will get me to tell them something that might not even be on the table, etc. So better to just cap the number, I feel.
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