Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Rulings and rules from DF Session 82

Here are even more notes from my DF game session on Sunday.

Treasure sure is spare.

Well, sort of. I never expected the PCs to keep dealing with the orcs so long. Or to consistently and thoroughly target and destroy any and all groups that could keep those orcs in check. Anything resembling potential opposition to the orcs was destroyed by the PCs. The orcs became the defining factor in Felltower. What is Felltower like? It's this orc-held dungeon. The more the orcs demanded, the more the PCs tried to get the orcs to let them help them more. It was a strategy, yes, but it took time, and ultimately meant the orcs became more and more of the focus.

This meant that the PCs have spent a lot more time in these areas of the dungeon than I expected. Level 1 and 2, and the levels most easily accessible from them, have been largely picked clean (not entirely, though). The orcs don't carry a lot - they are fodder-level, mostly, and have treasure worthy of fodder.

Basically, I expected the PCs to be exploring the level explored in session 80 about 40 sessions ago. No kidding. Like, 150 points ago for the top characters. I aimed it to be dangerous but rewarding for 300-350 point characters, with 400 pointers being pretty high powered for that area.

This is why the orcs lost over two dozen warriors and the PCs lost some HP on their berserker, plus minor wounds to an unluckly druid and a couple others.

So the fights versus the orcs take time, and aren't without danger - but they aren't really threatening if the PCs keep their heads. They also don't have the treasure that more dangerous, more threatening foes do. As I've said many times, the real treasure is deeper down. And the deeper you go, the more dangerous, but also more rewarding. Want six figure treasure instead of scrounging up to four figures? Delve deeper.

+4 to hit the floor. I've said this before, just about every time it's come up for 30 years - I don't like the +4 to target the floor with missile spells. It's annoying on many levels:

- targeting a specific 1-yard hex should not be +4; the Size and Speed/Range Table says +4 means the target is 10 yards. A one-yard target is -2, and you wouldn't get even get a shape bonus because it's not boxy or spherical, it's flat.

- explosive spells do full damage in that hex, so you're better off attacking the floor (+4 to hit, no defenses) than the target you want to hit (SM-determined bonus or penalty, can defend - and may Dodge).

- because this is superior to actually hitting the target, players have a vast preference for it. They will make every effort to hit the floor even through occupied hexes (-4 per hex) because the +4 makes up for it, and the "no defenses, full damage" effect for an Explosive spell is so useful. We spend a fair amount of time peering at the map saying, "If I'm in his hex, can I see the floor in that hex? The one behind the front rank?"

I'm tempted to change this one of several ways:

- say explicitly the +4 is for lobbing a missile, and uses the rules for Scatter - and allows Dodge and Drop, per B414.

- or rule as such but also get rid of it, period, since all of these spells reach maximum range in a moment, and thus aren't ballistic but direct-fire. You can target the floor, but not claim +4 for doing so.

Speaking of ranged spells . . .

Lightning Surge! In order to force a HT roll for stunning from Lightning, it has to cause at least 1 HP of injury. This is a clarification - the spell says "wounded" not "hit," but there was confusion over this from people unfamiliar with the wording. Also, "0 point hits" are not an injury, your armor stopped it. This scales for high HP normally.

Low-damage area spells are a GM's nightmare. My players simultaneously love and hate the Lightning spell. They complain every time about how it's -1 per die to damage. But they use it frequently because it has a built-in stunning effect. But for me, as the GM, it's a huge pain. They'll throw a 2d or 3d Explosive Lightning into an area with 10-11 guys packed in it, and do 4-6 damage. By our method 6 damage would be 6/4/2 in the target hex/next ring/final ring of hexes. That's 10-11 guys I need to deal with stunning, deal with recovering from stun, and whose HP all go down by a few points. Then they'll do it again. It turns into a nightmare. At least with Explosive Fireball it's a flat penalty, and ending the penalty (patting down the flames) is a simple action.

I may do this for fodder-types: Stun recovery is automatic after 1 turn plus 1 turn per 2 damage. No rolls. Yes, this is much less nasty (10 injury should mean HT-5, which is a lot of rolls to recovery from, not just 6 seconds) but means I do a lot less roll-roll-roll-roll-roll-roll-roll-roll and then try to pluck off the markers on the minis and cross out stun marks on my roster and then forget which one made which. Especially since they'll do it again on the next turn to keep the stunning rolling along. With the "true" DF fodder rules, they'll all just drop out of the fight, but I like my method just fine - it just could benefit from this tweak.

My life would be easier if they threw higher-damage spells and just fried the fodder-types down to 0 HP or less, they'll automatically fail their HT rolls and drop unconscious. But that's expensive . . . so I don't expect it. It would make my life easier. The tweak above might help. It would also discourage the "lots of little spells" approach because it'll take longer to cast than to recover most of the time. Why spent 3 seconds casting and 1 throwing for a 1-turn stun, when you could turn it into a 5-6 turn stun if the target is even still standing?

Choked with corpses.

Back in my D&D days, we'd kill and kill and kill, and that was that. You died and disappeared, apparently, until it was time to search.

With GURPS, this is not the case. The orcs and PCs alike were hampered by the fallen. One hex had five bodies in it. That's a parapet, almost. Fights are literally shaped by the deaths of the front rankers, and a 3-yard hallway is a terrible place to try to rotate front line fighters vs. foes pressing in on you.

Battle maps limit you.

Speaking of battle maps, as much as having one down means yes, you can Retreat for a +3 to Dodge, or claim a -2 on your foe's defenses because you've flanked him, they also limit you. You can't rush up and hit that guy - see, the other guy is in the way. You can't fade into the shadows and backstab, because you have to wait until the actual combat flows that way and allows it. You can't rush up from the rear in a second or two, because you're all the way in the back. It gives and it takes.


  1. Are they making any progress at once again befriending hirelings?

    1. They haven't really tried. Once they get some more success and start bringing home startlingly high amounts of loot, they'll come around.

      Or they can bring home less, but spend some in town on the hiring process. We use the rules in DF15 as written. I meant, I basically wrote them, so I know they're how I want it to work!

    2. It would seem some archers and second rank pole fighters would be very helpful, and another healer (do healers still exist or have they been totally depopulated by now?)

    3. There aren't a lot of 125-point hirelings available at all, never mind specific types.

    4. Everyone wants to hire a healing cleric. If there's anything to supply and demand, the few remaining clerics willing to follow adventurers into a dungeon are going to be able to name their price. "A full share of treasure, Resurrection insurance, heavy plate armor with Lighten -50%, and a fully-qualified bodyguard. Oh, and one of those Created Servants to carry my backpack."

    5. It's true. What they really want is a 125 or 250 point cleric specialized in healing, willing to work for a flat fee, who doesn't come with any special demands like "Worship the Good God" or "Don't be evil all over the place in front of me." Who also has True Faith with Turning.

      What they're more likely to get is what you're saying, dripton. A full and equal partner who also demands fees, special treatment, etc.

      This makes Brother Ike worth the cost in points!

  2. They've unintentionally left the Lord of Spite.

    I have no idea how many Orcs he kills between sessions.

    1. Unintentional, you say?

      The PCs briefly considered trying to rile him up before they left, and left the door open on purpose. The door closes after a while, though, and they didn't go back to check if it was open and they have no idea how long "after a while" is.

    2. I mean if they could have killed him 40 sessions ago then they would have. Orcs or not. I imagine the Orcs would be even stronger without the Lord of Spite there.

    3. That's a big set of assumptions - they, on several occasions, tried to lure him out, so "if they could have they would have" ignores that they actually tried to engage him in the past.

      Further, many of the new guys thought he just lived in a room and didn't realize it wasn't a room but a staircase. Had they known there were stairs down, I would expect they would have pushed very strenuously for finding out how to access them. Actually, let me rephrase - the newer players pushed very strenuously for a way down but thought based on misinformation that "the Lord of Spite's door" had nothing to do with a way down.

      It also assumes the Lord of Spite keeps the numbers of the orcs down. They haven't seen evidence of that except the orcs mocking them over their professed ability to kill the Lord of Spite and their refusal to attack him (until the PCs made a lot of convincing arguments, and then failed.)

  3. I'm unimpressed with damaging explosive spells in GURPS Magic -- the damage falls off so quickly that it's useless against anyone with DR outside of maybe a 1-hex range. Spells like Concussion are so much better, because the "save or suck" effect doesn't fall off nearly as quickly with range. Interested to see if Kromm did anything to fix this in DFRPG.

    Staying on mostly level 1 of the dungeon for several *years* of play time is hilarious. You really need someone with Impulsiveness and Create Stairs.

    1. Mostly levels 1-2 plus whatever the dragon's cave leads to, and some sub-levels off of that (the Flooded Prison, for example). There is so much to do on those levels it's plausible, though, just not profitable. I think level 1 has 75+ keyed areas by number, but once you count connected areas (1-40A, 1-40B, 1-40C, etc.) it's well over 100. Level 2, same. These are big levels. Still, the danger scales with depth in this world!

      As for explosive spells, I have a recommended fix. It's extremely successful in actual play. To sum up, they're all 5 yards diameter (unless blocked by walls, etc.) and damage is full/two-thirds/one-third in the center/next ring/outer ring of hexes, round down. Very easy, very quick. Did 11? That's 11/7/3. Done. Did the maximum at 108? That's 108/72/36.

    2. Your explosive spells fix looks good. Very simple, which is nice.

      The other interesting one I've seen is

      I need to try a few simulated fights with both. (I'm also still holding out hope that DFRPG changes the RAW so this no longer needs a house rule...)

    3. Yikes, too much math! The size of the spell and time spent casting it both matter? Fragments out to varying distances by size? Too much for me.

  4. I find GURPS' cost reduction for skill to a unifying cause to a lot of behaviours I dislike, and it seems to be at play in your low damage lighting spells. You once posted about doing away with FP reduction (maybe it was only for maintaining spells), have you experimented with it?

    1. Too big of a change for an ongoing game - it would be like suddenly adding The Last Gasp so fighters have a point-and-action economy instead of just an action economy. As much it might make readers and Doug happy, it would be a giant Nerf bat swung at existing characters and tactics.

    2. Actually, thinking about it further:

      - I'd prefer a few, bigger spells as a GM (shorter fights, less tracking);

      - The PCs throw many low-power spells for cost-efficiency reasons.

      - If I basically upped the cost of low-powered spells, I'd up the cost of high-powered spells, making them even less attractive.

      So it might be that if I said, say, Explosive Lightning didn't get a cost reduction for skill, instead of a bunch of of 3-6d bolts in a fight I'd get a handful of 1-3d bolts. A 10d Explosive Lightning spell costing 20 instead of 14 probably doesn't make it more likely I'd see it.

      I could be wrong since I haven't tried this. But I might be feeding into "use the lease energy possible to accomplish this" approach instead of discouraging it!


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