Friday, March 31, 2017

Cardboard Heroes of my monsters!

Check out this update to the Dungeon Fantasy Role-Playing Game Kickstarter yesterday:

That guy on the left appears to be a rock mite. I originally made up the rock mites for Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1 for use in my own games. Now, there is an official Cardboard Hero for them, illustrated by Denis Loubet.

How cool is that?

I know you guys who make your own books and hire your own artists have a similar feeling. But it's really something else to go from "I need some kind of rock monster to annoy my players" to "and a game company is making playing pieces with that monster on it" with just some writing in between there. I didn't pull out my wallet and make this happen, and I really didn't let it sink in that:

- I wrote monsters for my own games and then got them published for GURPS DF;

- those monsters made the boxed set;

- the boxed set would include Cardboard Heroes;

- therefore monsters I wrote for my own games would have Cardboard Heroes.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Musing on a fairly-costed Wall of Stone spell for DF

So one thing that GURPS Magic lacks is a good-old Wall of Stone spell. Oh, sure, you can use Create Earth to create some dirt, then use Earth to Stone to turn it to rock.

But what about a single spell that skips straight to the rock?

Let's look at some costs.

Create Earth: 1 second to cast, costs 2 per cubic yard.

A 9' x 9' x 1' wall would be 3 cubic yards. 10' x 12' x 1' (most generic 10' Felltower tunnel dimensions are 10' x 12') would be a bit more than 4 cubic yards, but you could probably round it down and assume it's a little less than a foot thick. So those are 6 and 8 respectively.

Earth to Stone: 1 second to cast, costs 3 per cubic yard. Turning the above to stone would be 9 and 12 respectively.

Total time is 2 seconds, total cost is 6 + 9 = 15 (13 with skill 15 in both, 11 with skill 20 in both) or 8 + 12 = 20 (18, 16).

Fast, effective as a barrier, but pricey. It's also two spells to get off, and a foot of earth isn't necessarily a strong barrier against some forces.

So how to build a combination spell?

You could just make a "Create Stone" spell to simplify it, and because you might not always want a wall.

Making it take a little longer (say, 3 seconds instead of 2) and cost a little less (4 per cubic yard, instead of 2 + 3 per cubic yard) doesn't sound crazy as mutual tradeoffs. Neither does eliminating the "metal" option from Earth to Stone. You essentially combine the steps, spend a little longer at it, and get a cheaper wall. I'd make it Very Hard just because it's a combination of two useful effects.

Create Stone (VH)

As Create Earth, but creates stone instead.

Duration: 24 hours (DF limits creation to 24 hours)
Time to Cast: 3 seconds
Cost: 4 per cubic yard, minimum 8.
Prerequisites: Magery 2, Create Earth, and Earth to Stone.

Or you can go for a more limited, literally Wall-type spell.

Wall of Stone

Creates a 1' thick slab of stone up to 4 yards tall (excess is lost if blocked by a ceiling, roof, etc.) around the area. Must be created in contact with the ground.

Duration: 1 minute
Time to Cast: 2 seconds
Cost: 4, same to maintain.

That's more like a "circle of stone." But it's shorter.

If you wanted a really flat wall, you could look to the 3e Grimoire and Force Wall and Utter Wall for ideas. Both are per-hex costed and 2/3 cost of the dome version. That would suggest cost 2-3 per hex, say 2, for a Wall of Stone that lasts 10 minutes.

Any thoughts on this? I'm not sure I'll use it, I'm just thinking about allowing what's becoming a regular tactic (create earth, turn it to stone) into dedicated spell for people who want to hurry the process along. I'm not really sure I'm satisfied about the costs and details. But I kind of stall out with those, so I figured I'd post them and let people see what I was thinking up until now.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lankhmar and Planescape: Torment news

There is a Lankhmar boxed set on Kickstarter for DCC. I'm tempted to jump in, even though I already have the AD&D version from TSR. The DCC magic system really does seem to fit with Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser - magic is dangerous to be on the giving or receiving end of, no one really wants magical items, and it's all about the adventuring now than building up a domain or retiring to own a tavern.

Because of that, all three of the DCC Lankhmar items on RPG Now are on sale for $2 each - roughly 75% off. I'm thinking of getting one just to see how they are for me as a non-DCC player, but I'm not sure which. Honestly if I was going to play a game set in this world, I'd use GURPS, but DCC adventures are generally pretty entertaining. Any recommendations of which one I should get to try them out?

DCC Lankhmar: Through Ningauble's Cave

DCC Lankhmar: Patrons of Lankhmar

DCC Lankhmar: Masks of Lankhmar

I'm tempted by the boxed set, although I'm not sure I need anything - not even the AD&D Lankhmar book - to run a game set there.

There is also an enhanced version of Planescape: Torment coming out, for $19.99. I've played it through, er, three times? I can't see playing it a fourth (I think the third time I managed to do everything that I didn't do the first two times.) But if you haven't, take a look. It's a great game that really pulls you into the story.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hobby Shop Dungeon map

This is the sixth level of the six-level Hobby Shop Dungeon, created by Ernie Gygax and Terry Kuntz:

Comparing it to my maps of Felltower, this is a big level. My bigger levels are on 11 x 17 paper with 8 squares to the inch. This one is 22 x 17 and it seems like it's close to my 8 squares and inch.

That's a tough map to use, for me, though. 11 x 17 is already hard enough for me to keep where I can see it but others can't. And the thin walls scream "D&D" to me because GURPS players would just tear the walls down with Shape Earth spells if they're that thin.

But it's very cool to see, and it's fun to have this to compare with my maps. I like the amount of unkeyed space, too - lots to wander through, making wandering monster rolls and finding little but combat you don't really want. The sheer amount of walking you'd need to do means you'd need magical light sources, plenty of time, and just patience to keep moving around looking for the actual prizes.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: Frostgrave

Time for another review of something I like.

I'll say this right out - I haven't played Frostgrave. But I've read play report after play report, and it sounds fun. Really fun. So I bought it to check it out.

by Joseph A McCullough
Released 2015 by Osprey Publishing
136 pages
$24.95 Hardcover

Frostgrave is a campaign skirmish miniatures game. You build up a small band of figures and delve with them repeatedly. The system - and the game - is built around wizard-centric raiding bands exploring part of a partly-unfrozen lost city full of magical power and loot. The book covers a number of scenarios, including exploring undead-haunted areas, exploring a half-ruined library for valuable books of magic, and so on.

Your main playing piece is a wizard, a specialist in one of ten different schools of magic (ranging from things like Necromancy and Illusion to Enchantment and Chronomancy), plus an apprentice 10 levels lower than you. You pick your spells, hire your soldiers to bulk out your force, and head into the city after treasures. The treasures are tokens placed according to the scenario, and your goal is to get as many of them as you can to the edge of the play area to claim them. Also, to gain experience for your wizard.

What's interesting is that your wizard gains experience for casting spells successfully (or having your apprentice cast them successfully, personally killing things, and recovering treasure, plus occasional scenario-specific ways. But only your wizard gains experience. Your apprentices and soldiers do not - your apprentice improves in lockstep with your wizard, and your soldiers just don't progress. If you want improved soldiers, you need to replace the ones you have or hand them magical items that you find.

If you wizard or apprentice gets knocked out, you get to roll to see how badly injured they are. This may result in temporary injury, permanent injury, or death. Soldiers, same thing - 1-4 on a d20 and they're lost along with their gear, 5-8 they're hurt and need rest, 9-20 and they recover. This seems like it would nicely encourage risk (they're probably fine, even after getting mauled by a demon, stabbed by a rival's soldiers, or falling off a tower) without making it too certain.

Actions are pretty much move and fight (okay, a bit more than that, but not by a lot.) Fights are very swingy. Even casting spells requires a roll and success in casting is not certain. It's clearly a game of positioning yourself for possible success, taking risks, and then rolling to see how it goes. People who expect certainty and chess-like execution of moves will be disappointed at spell failure and their best fighter getting mauled from some bad rolling. But it does seem like it would encourage taking risks - playing safe isn't going to get you very far, and who knows, a good roll can change a lot.

The treasures seem generous, which I think is good. I've played competitive campaign play before and when it's possible to lose more than you gain in a delve or mission or battle the folks who have bad luck or less skills or both tend to fall behind and lack the resources to ever catch up. This game seems to be more like rewards ranging from "good enough" to "great" so you always want to take that risk that the delve this time will really kick your power up.

Another nice thing about it is that while there are Frostgrave minis, there isn't a direct tie from mini to stats. So you can substitute anything as long as it fits one of the soldier types. A barbarian with a two-handed weapon can be a barbarian figure, or perhaps an ape-man with a club, or an orc with a hammer, whatever. A war hound can be a dog or some other animal figure, a crossbowman armed with a crossbow, prodd, handgonne, etc. as long as you're okay with the listed stats being the stats.

The book is very attractive - nice pictures of well-painted mini, easy to read text on a nice background, enough whitespace for clarity but not too much. The monsters, spells, soldiers, etc. are well-organized and easy to copy spell cards in the back are probably the most useful tools for running the game.

My main complaint are the scenarios - there are ten, and little guidance to making your own. You're expected to play each one once, in whatever order you like, and not repeat them with the same wizard. Supplements with more scenarios have come out, but it feels so limited not having a generic scenario designer system built in. Perhaps a supplement has come out for that, but it felt . . . too close-ended for something as epic as "thawing city of lost magic" to have a ten-delve coupon book.

Overall: This was a good read and it looks really fun. Enough fun that I bought the book just so I can follow along better. And having read it, I'd like to give it a shot.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

DF Felltower: What's a Barbarian?

It came up on T-Bone's blog about what counts as a barbarian, for magic items like Terrifying War Paint that works better for barbarians.

So who counts as a barbarian?

For me, it's pretty simple. You need:

- the appropriate Social Stigma for barbarians and one of the following:

- a character built using any of the barbarian templates from Denizens: Barbarians

- a character built using Brute from Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen who has chosen the barbarian Power-Ups route (p. 11).

- a barbarian lens.

That doesn't work for Power-Ups, though. For those, you need one of the first two - a lens specifically doesn't count. This is avoid the whole "Swashbuckler with a Knight lens" and "Knight with a Swashbuckler lens" munchkin route designed to pick and choose from two pools of highly effective Power-Ups for synergistic power-gaming.

Why does this matter?

A few magic items work better for particular template. So you need to know who qualifies.

So where does this leave GMs who made the judgment call to let people freely change, modify, or ignore templates? It leaves them making a judgment call about who counts as what. It's a choice you've made to get away from the built-in rigidity of DF's default approach; it's yours to make but once you've made it there will be spillover consequences. Personally I'd pick some defining traits and stick with them. Disadvantages work well - Social Stigma, for example - because generally people do not take those just to benefit from them.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Minimized Unarmed Options in my DF Felltower Game

In my DF Felltower game, I tried to cut down on the options available to cut down decision analysis-paralysis.

In other words, although GURPS Martial Arts is full of techniques, in order to keep rules lookups down and keep play moving, I basically cut all techniques down to a minimum:


Punch - per Basic Set
Kick - per Basic Set
Headbutt, Elbow, Forearm smash, etc. - as a Punch, but -1 to hit, uses a different striking surface. Surface determines penalties and damage bonuses (grappled and both hands locked up? Head butt works. Plate on your arms and do a forearm smash? +1 damage, etc. Elbow strikes can hit behind while you are grappled, etc.) Generally I'll find a way to allow almost any kind of strike for a -1 and a slight change.
Knees - per Basic Set

Everything else fits in there somewhere.


Grapple - per Technical Grappling, inflicts CP.
Break Free - per Technical Grappling, inflicts CP against CP.

Locks & Wrenches

Arm Lock - per Basic Set
Neck Snap - per Basic Set
Wrench (anything) - per Martial Arts
Chokes, Constriction Attack, etc. - per Basic Set
Judo Throw - per Basic Set's attack variation, never uses a contest.

Not a lot of changes, so much as a simplification. So if you see someone toss a headbutt in my games, or a knee, or smash down an elbow, or whatever, it's just a single change. We don't have to look up a lot to get people striking in all sorts of interesting ways.

And it should go without saying, but if I ran a Martial Arts centered game, I'd turn on the options and use all the detail in the book.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Repetitive Fights, Style Clashes, Questions vs. the Rule of Cool

Just highlighting other people's work today.

Repetitive Fights

There is an excellent post over on Blog of Holding (aka the home of Dungeon Robber) about combat grinding is okay in video games but it feels boring in face-to-face group play . . . and how to spice things up with unique combats. It's really excellent, directly actionable advice. You can read this and change how you do your game right away with little effort and lots of results.

Repetitive battles in dnd

He says, "in DnD" but it's really "in tabletop gaming." GURPS fights are inherently individual and interesting, but that doesn't mean you can't make them better.

Style Clash

So I posted the other day about my observation that my preferred game pace (Fast, with a side helping of simplicity) doesn't match the preferred game pace of some of my players (varies, but includes slow, with a side helping of careful deliberation). Joseph Teller had an interesting take on it over on G+ - that's it is symptomatic of a larger style clash:

Style Clash

I disagreed, because I really think it's not such a big deal. My game isn't heading off a cliff - my gamers have been playing with me for ranging from a few years to 20+ years. We've lost a few people who either had schedules change or just decided the game wasn't for them, but that's happened over the years. More players were lost to "Good news, we're expecting!" than to "Sorry, this isn't for me." We have guys drive hours to game, people who stay overnight in the area to make game, etc. We'd have more players if we'd just play a little shorter so it was more conducive to their schedules. So I'm not seeing a train wreck coming. But it's interesting in two ways:

- for some groups, this might be true;


- just because you see part of the elephant, it doesn't mean you've seen all of the elephant.

By the latter I mean you see only a small portion of my gaming group's interactions. My choices of words might not accurately convey the full sense of our game play - it can even convey a completely opposite impression. I'm not impuning Joseph, here - he's reading my words and telling me what he sees from them. And it's quite possible what he's written will help others more than what I wrote!

Don't Ask, Just Be Cool

Aka, don't question the rule of cool, aka the more that is defined the less that is open to definition.

Joseph Mason observed that in his own case, the more questions you put to him about the circumstances means the less likely some crazy plan is to work.

As a believer in the Rule of Awesome, this really speaks to me. As someone who says a good questions show the GMs your intentions, this speaks to me. As someone who's likely to think better of allowing something wacky the longer I think about it, this speaks to me.

Seriously, ask questions. But know your answers close off as they open things up. And just know that in my games, it's better to try something crazy than to ask me, "will this crazy thing work?" The first might work; the latter probably will elicit the answer, "No, that's crazy." Not trying to be mean - it's just that the longer I have to consider the more doubts will enter my mind.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Outdoorsman (from T-Bone and the Barbarians)

T-Bone over at Games Diner has an interesting post up about the Outdoorsman talent, including options for a rebuild.

Tiny GURPS Idea: Better Outdoorsman

You can see my comments on the rebuilt Outdoorsman that T-Bone proposes in that post. You can see my take on barbarians in general in the Denizens book about them.

But I had a few more comments, more or less random notes:

Seafarer isn't something I can claim any credit for - it's in Power-Ups 3: Talents. It was an obvious addition to Barbarians if only because barbaric sea raiders are part of the fantasy barbarian milieu. They stalk around in horned helms and midriff-revealing mail, pose menacingly in loincloth and sandals, and raid from suspiciously Viking-looking ships. It's part of their thing.

Outdoorsman's Cost got a whole box in Barbarians. This is for a few reasons. One is the rounded costs of Basic Set makes Outdoorsman pretty pricey for skills that don't come up much in a dungeon. The second is the sheer number of levels a barbarian really wants or needs is pretty high, magnifying the effect on discretionary points. And third it's always nice to bring in options that other books have already explored. It's why Low-Tech's approach to weapon damage gets a nod in Barbarians, too.

Adding Weather Sense made sense as I'd done that in my own games; we never changed the cost of Outdoorsman but adding Weather Sense made it felt more complete.

Finally, when looking at expanding or changing a talent in DF, I always try to look at three angles:

- Who else is affected directly by the change?

- Who else is undercut?

- Is this really core to the mission of the template?

Outdoorsman is a good example of this. It's used by Barbarians and by Scouts, so changes ripple out. You can't buff it up just for barbarians without scouts equally getting a benefit. You need to be aware of that spread. Secondly, if you expand it with too much nature-ability or too much animal ability, you'd chipping into the already-narrow purview of the Druid and the Animal Friend talent. If it becomes all the physical skills a barbarian outdoorsy type will use, it's going to impinge on every else's use of those abilities. Instead of coming in as a half-price version of IQ for outdoor skills only with some leveled benefits and side bonuses, it comes in as a way to make the barbarian more nimble than the thief or better at spotting traps than the scout. And finally, I think you need to look at the core mission of the template. All of the barbarians assume you're the go-to guy when the going gets outside, to a varying degree (to least with Savage Warrior, the most with Survivor). So Outdoorsman needs to support that - once they say, "the barbarian isn't good at fishing" or "we need a scout, not a barbarian, because the barbarian sucks at survival," you're in trouble. You've undercut what the talent needs to do.

None of that is commentary on T-Bone's idea of how to redo the trait, just saying, it's a process I go through when someone says, "Talent X should cover Y!" Who is affected, who is undercut, and does this really go to the heart of the template?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

GM's preferred pace vs. player's preferred pace

I often find myself telling my players to speed up. I often find myself making rules to force my players to speed up, and rules and table rules that punish slowing down or reward speeding up.

But, inevitably, these fail. Sometimes right away, sometimes over time. And when the chips are down and the risk to their paper man is highest, things slow to a right crawl. We even had an entire session devoted to to PCs trying to grind out a victory from certain defeat - hours spent on a fight measured in seconds because everyone wanted to make exactly the best move possible and ensure all t's were crossed and i's dotted because, well, TPK is a comin'.

My personal feeling on taking your time, considering your move, and making j-u-u-u-s-t the right selection of action or location or modifier or whatever doesn't really work out. You're always choosing in an absence of complete information, and choosing in absence of accurate information much of the time. You don't know what the opponent will do, you don't know what the dice will say happens, you don't even necessarily know the things you think you do. You might think dragons can breathe three times a day ("thrice per day" - someone had to say it) but it turns out it's four times. You might think he's wearing a inertial screen and vulnerable to x-ray laser fire but not know he's also wearing an x-ray laser disrupting suit.

I figure, better to the something that's within the ballpark of "best move possible" right now than something you've rationalized and calculated and convinced yourself is much closer to "best move possible" minutes after your turn around the table has come up.

I'm also one of those people who knows right now what I want to do next turn. I can't wait for everyone to finish their turns so I can get to do the thing I thought of. And I'm stubborn and persistent enough to not change plans turn to turn, so I generally play quickly in a "this, and that, and here's my roll! And done!" fashion. I'm often going so fast that turn-order changing actions (Waits in GURPS, Attacks of Opportunity in Dragon Heresy, etc.) cause me to just keep going as if the person interrupting was doing their turn and the person up after them is up. Yes, that's a flaw. Rush, rush, rush.

But at least some of my players now, and some of mine in the past, don't play this way. In fact most of them don't. They will deliberately slow the pace down when it comes to crunch time. They'll do so unintentionally and unconsciously as well. This ranges from players who don't even consider their actions until their turn starts ("Okay, it's my turn? Where is everyone? What can I see? What's my penalty again?") to those who don't know it's their turn (the ones that, say, walk away from the table while the guy who always goes right before him is going or even right after) all the way to folks who play like I do.

Naturally, the more things slow down, the longer combats take - and thus, each second in the combat is magnified in importance until "this second's action is basically what my day's gaming comes down to." You can't mess that up or risk a bad move, you don't get that many and it's a long time before the next one. Better take it slow.

It's a mismatch. It doesn't ruin game, but it does mean we perceive things very differently. Me? "These guys are slowing things down for no real benefit." Them? Probably some variations of "Peter's pushing us to hurry up and then punishing poor decisions, I need time to make better decisions."

What I've noticed, though, is I really can't rule or request speed. Nothing I've yet tried has kept the pace where I'd like it - players leaning in over the table, dice in hand, waiting for their moment, and then springing in with the first move that seems good. I can get the tension you'd think you'd need for that, but some people will speed up and others will slow down.

I can enforce rules - real-time wandering monster rolls is one I've done, 1-2-3-next guy, etc. - but it's not productive in most cases. It puts a real workload on me, and as the GM, I'm running every NPC and need to give 100% attention to each PC's actions, so when I need a quick pause and take one people take it as tacit permission to do the same. I say permission for lack of a better word - we're mostly adults, they can play how they like, I don't have to approve.

But it's one of those quandaries I can't seem to settle - my desire for pace and risk to PCs, vs. the logical desire from those risking their PCs and who have a naturally more methodical pace to slow things down.

It's probably something that can't be solved, although I'm theoretically open to ideas. It's just an observation of the mismatch between how my friends play the games we play and how I like them played. Yet, like I said, it's not such a deep mismatch that it makes us incompatible. But it might explain why I'm always looking for pace, simplicity, unloading the GM's burden, speeding up decision making, and otherwise making things go fast. We're always playing below the pace I'd really like to play at, even if it's the pace that is the middle ground between the fastest and slowest of us.

And if there is actionable advice from here it is this: be aware of the preferred pace of yourself and your fellow gamers. You might not be in your comfort zone of space, but they might not be either. Finding common ground you can live with is tough but important, and being aware will help you do so.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ogre Minis - What's left post-auction?

So my eBay auctions came and went. I still have a few minis left, though, which for now I'll just try to sell directly.

Subtracting out what's already been asked for and selling is underway for, I have these:

Ogre Minis:
Deluxe GEV
Deluxe Ogre
Combine 1 - Ogre Mark V
Combine 2 - Ogre Mark III
Combine 3 - Heavy Armor Company
Combine 4 - GEV Company
Combine 5 - Missile Tank Squadron & Mobile Battery
Combine 7 - Howitzer Battery & Reinforced Infantry Battalion
Combine 9 - Laser Towers and Turrets
Combine 10 - Fast Convoy
Combine 11 - Ogre Mk. I and II
Combine 12 - Ogre Mk. III-B
Ogrethulu 1
Ogrethulu 2
Paneuropean Set 1 – Fencer Cybertank
Paneuropean Set 2 – Panzer Company
Paneuropean Set 3 – Superheavy Troop and Missile Tank Lance
Paneuropean Set 4 – Luftpanzer Company
Paneuropean Set 5 – Mechanized Infantry Companies
Paneuropean Set 6 – Howitzer Battery and Mobile Artillery Troop

Ogre Mark I
Ogre Mark II

Ogre Mark III
Ogre Mark V
Ogre Mark VI
Paneuropean MHWZ
Paneuropean HWZ

Combine Superheavy x 2
Missile Crawler x2
Missiles in Flight x2

Combine Missile Tanks x4
Paneuropean Superheavy x2 1 primed, 1 unassembled
Paneuropean Missile Tanks x4 4 Primed
Paneuropean Mobile HWZ x2 Primed
CP (flat) x 1 Primed
CP (tall) x 1 Primed
Combine Heavy Tanks x10 Partly Painted
Ogre Swimmer Token x Primed
? Light Tanks x4 Primed (one piece missing)
Paneuropean Heavy Tanks x10 4 Primed, 6 unassembled
Combine MHWZ x1 Primed
Combine HWZ x1 Primed
Combine GEV x6 Basecoated
Paneuropean GEV x6 Basecoated
Combine LGEV x6 3 basecoated
Arty Drones x4
Paneuropean HWZ x2 Primed
Infantry Squads x39 Primed 13 bases of 3 squads
Paneuropean Light Tank x4
Paneuropean GEV-PC x1
Infantry Bases 5
Gev Fins x12 6 pairs

I figure I'll just sell these bit by bit directly. So if you are interested, let me know. I do have a spare Mark VI ogre I mean to eventually assemble and paint, but I will entertain offers for it. I have half a mind to sell the "ogre garage" - my one-of-each collection - but half a mind to keep them because they're fun to take out and look at.

I also have Ral Partha 01-127 The Black Prince's Chariot of Fear, too.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Bad Guy Rosters II

I wrote about how I like bad guy rosters, and Douglas Cole wrote an excellent post about making them.

Benefits of a Keyed Monster List

Being Doug, it's thorough and has pictures and variations and expands on the idea.

This leads me to my main comment on this all: Try different versions.

For me, I like a spreadsheet. I don't bother with the nearby rooms of Doug's "neighbor" column, nor do I do a relationship map. After all, I have a map and I know what's in each room. Even if I don't, because it's someone else's dungeon, I'll do the homework and learn it. Having a map and a spreadsheet and a relationship map is more than I need to function. In fact, it's three places to find two pieces of information (who/what, and where). Even a keyed "this room is near rooms X and Y" type list on a spreadsheet means two places I can look, but also two places I need to make sure are correct. I just need the one spreadsheet so I can cross out the dead all in one place. Yeah, I'll go back later and adjust my adventure key, but during play I just need one area to track things.

Putting lots of information on a roster can be a good idea if you have a lot of prep time. You can always ignore what you don't need. With experience, you can always winnow it down to what you actually use all of the time. Mine tend to have room key #, HT, HP, weapon, and notes plus a side note with weapon damages. It's all ready to go for me.

Knowing how you use tools is critical. When I first ran B2 The Keep on the Borderlands for my DF game, I downloaded a copy of the notes-on-the-map "Better Caves of Chaos" by Zak Smith. It's really cool looking. I thought it would help me. It didn't. I work better and faster with a keyed list and a map with only physical notes on it (X-ed out broken down doors, marks for pits and puddles, etc.*) Visually some things work for me, but others don't. I need more than just notes on a map, and once I need more than just notes on the map I may as well fully move those notes on the map elsewhere and just use that.

I tried a map with monsters listed but that's not how my brain likes information organized for use. Lists and maps, yes. Maps with notes on it saying what monsters are where? No, that's messy to draw and messy to use for me.

Relationship maps? Yeah, for me, they are great for relationships, not for where monsters are. I have one for the various Felltower factions. I don't really use it. I haven't updated it. I don't really need it, I just did it to organize my own thoughts visually and make sure I didn't miss anything. If I was publishing Felltower** I'd have to organize it so others could use it. For me? Nope, although it was useful as an exercise. I use my sideview map more, even if only to think, "I wish those guys would find their way to level 8, I had that great idea in 2011 and it's still waiting to be found."

It's all about how you personally most beneficially organize and use information. I know what works for me and what doesn't because I tried them and know which ones got shunted off to the side when the dice hit the table. Doug's post covers a few different ways to deal with rosters and understanding of the inter-relationship of monsters so you can have them react (either to dogpile or run) or influence the PCs appropriate . . . and with all of your information at your fingertips in the form you need it in.

* Marking hearing distances from major areas can be useful - if you have an alarm gong, marking how far it's heard can help (hint - sound doesn't travel in a uniform radius around a point in tunnels blocked here and there with doors.) GURPS Underground Adventures has a useful way of figuring this out.

** No.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

DF Felltower: Why so few summaries & what I'm doing with it

We're on track for the worst gaming year in a long time. It's mid-March and we've had three game sessions, only two of them Dungeon Fantasy: Felltower. If this keeps up, we'll get in only about 10 sessions this year.

It's been a rough combo of events falling on Sundays, work and special events for me coming up on Sundays (which kills DF outright, and makes Gamma Terra less likely), and gamer availability issues. One of our gamers picked up Sunday work, for example, and another had been socked by snow a few times. We've had a number of days pushed back - "Game Sunday" becoming "next Sunday" becoming "Not this Sunday after all."

We had a session planned today but it fell all the way off to four people - not enough for Gamma Terra and a rough session for DF, especially since one of the players was a maybe. Doable, but not ideal. So if it's seemed a little thin for DF here, lately, it's because of this falloff. We do aim to pick back up.

I still would have run game today but I get that no PC wizards and NPC wizards as a "maybe" = tough adventuring and real concerns over what there is to do. Felltower is quite dangerous, and the "easy" things have mostly been done by PCs desperate to find any loot at all. While I can see with my GM's eye a lot of things that could be done solo, or by a pair or trio of carefully delving and boldly acting delvers, I can see why people feel like it's a maze of ambushes by orc armies and every turn has the Lord of Spite stomping out to destroy the group. It's not like that, and there are things one levels one, two, and the levels as yet unnumbered below that that have been either avoided, ignored, or otherwise bypassed. After all, this is why the statue puzzle was finally solved - someone said, I know you guys marked this as "done" or as "always ignore" but I want a crack at it. The upper levels are mostly explored but there even level one has a good 20% or more of its keyed areas that have never been touched once. So it's a mix of "I get it" versus "but I did design this with the intention we could play with even a tiny group unwilling to hire or uninterested in henchmen."

I've been using the time in between to catch up on prep, though:

- I've fixed a few minor map issues.

- I've finished stocking several new areas.

- I've gone through most of the explored areas and re-stocked or at least re-checked them. Some areas are not really prone to stocking.

- I've keyed a lot of treasure that was rough-keyed before. By "rough-keyed" I mean it said stuff like "3 Ogres + ~2000" and now it says "3 Ogres (stat line inserted). Treasure: Ogre boss wears a silver necklace worth 400 sp, each has a sack with 100 newly-minted sp from (fill in paymaster), and in the corner is a sheet-covered wooden chest full of old clothes, pretty stones, and so on with a false bottom (Per-3) containing a bag with 20 gems worth an average of 75 sp each."

- I wrote up my house rules for something in a form other humans can actually read and potentially understand.

- I wrote up about six or seven new monsters I'd had half-written in my head, on note paper, or in my "Monsters I Need to Stat" document.

So Felltower continues to grow, and wait, until we actually can get our real-life schedules ready for game.

And in other good news, it's possible we may get one of the guys who used to play back at the table. Fingers crossed, knock on wood, all of that stuff* and we'll see how it turns out.

* Which in Felltower, might actually work!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

eBay Auctions - 24 hours left

There are only 24 hours left on my eBay auctions. You might get lucky and see me re-list what doesn't sell, but maybe not . . . and plenty of items have some low bids on them and will sell tomorrow no matter what. Please take a look:

eBay Auctions

SJG A-HEADs through D-HEADs in Word's navigation pane how-to.

So I use Word for my SJG writing, and therefore for almost everything else I write.

One thing I like about my current version of Word is the navigation panel I can pop up on the left so I can navigate around using headings. However, if you use the SJG WYSIWYG, they aren't populated automatically into the Headings tab.

I'm not sure which GURPS author asked this question on Technet back in 2010, but when I looked tonight for how to auto-populate A-, B-, C-, and D-HEADs to the Headings list I found this:

Customized Headings in the Navigation Pane of Word 2010

That works in my current version of Word, too. Modify, click Format, click Paragraph, then change it from Body Text to level 1-4 (for A-D, respectively). It makes it very easy to navigate around my monster list (done in SJG WYSIWYG, because I often use them for books), Felltower (which has its own format), my GURPS book drafts, etc. Nice!

I hope that helps some other GURPS authors.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Things I Like: Bad Guy Rosters

One thing I really like in adventures, especially published ones, is a bad guy roster.

I mean a full-out list of who, what, and how many. Especially if it's done in a tick-off fashion so I can mark down casualties and changes as I go.

WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun does a great job of this. You have a full-on roster of all of the organized bad guys in the dungeon. You know how long it takes for them to reinforce the front, where they come from, and so on. This makes running a battle in the dungeon very easy.

I called out UK2 The Sentinel and UK3 The Gauntlet for doing this well in a large battle, although they also do an inside-the-fold monster list that serves a lot of the same purposes.

Some modules do it a little less effectively. They might only list monster stats in one area, but not the numbers and locations for the pre-set ones.

The former, I like a lot.

This is something I'd like to see in more published adventures.

I've done the same - put all the bad guys on a spreadsheet, print it out, and cross them out as they die or put notes about where they've moved to. It makes restocking and reinforcing much easier - you know at a glance what's left and where. I've done it for the orcs, lizard men, draugr, bandits, etc. in my current game, and I'll do it again for large encounters or groups spread across multiple areas. If a module doesn't do it, it's worth doing yourself.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

How I view Restocking vs. Reinforcing

I periodically restock my GURPS DF dungeon. I have two broad approaches - restocking, and reinforcing.


Restocking is seeing if the dungeon's empty areas have become less empty.

For re-stocking, I pretty much just re-roll on the stocking table for rooms that have become empty and see if the contents have changed. If the roll turns up "monsters" or "special" then monsters have moved in or something noteworthy is now within that encounter area.

I don't always roll. If a change is logical and adds feeling and depth to the dungeon, I just do that.

What gets added depends on the keyed area itself - a big room might get a big monsters, a small room a small one. Corpses might be torn apart but have attracted rats. Corpses may have risen as undead or spawned a ghost. Entirely new monsters may have taken up residence.

Sometimes I just don't know so I roll on my Wandering Monster table for the area and moved that into the room - maybe the orc patrol set up a picket area, the ooze stopped oozing for a while, the stirges built a nest on the ceiling.


Unlike restocking, which is essentially random, reinforcements is a reaction roll. For my purposes, it requires surviving monsters.

Instead of just making a random roll based on initial dungeon stocking, I make a reaction roll. I give bonuses for strength, goals (the monsters have a reason to be there), neighbors that have been weakened, success, and other positive modifiers that make sense for the situation. I give penalties for losses, stronger neighbors (especially if the monsters have been weakened and their neighbors have not), weak goals or no goals, and failures.

Of course if the center of gravity remains they'll stay no matter what, and if a load-bearing monster is slain the survivors will scatter no matter what.

On a neutral reaction roll, they maintain the status quo. On a positive (Good or better), they reinforce the area if possible. On a negative roll, they'll pull back or pull out entirely, or pull back to a safer area.

Naturally, if they pull back or pull out entirely, they'll take any movable treasure with them and may hide or trap what remains.

In short, I look at it two ways - same the initial restock, just seeing what's there; and rolling to see if the locals react positively or negatively to PC actions.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Gary Gygax on monsters as PCs - '74 vs. '79

I stumbled across this article by Gary Gygax about D&D in Wargames Digest the other day. I'd downloaded it (from here) and read it on my Kindle and left it there. I was looking for something else and found it again.

It's a fast read and pretty entertaining. It's got that nostalgic pull of what attracted me to fantasy role-playing gaming in the first place. It's got that way a good game writeup implies endless fun in the scenes you see in between the words.

I hit this quote and knew I needed to post about it:

"Players selected a "character type to begin the campaign - either a fighter, magic-user, or cleric (whether human, elf, dwarf, or what have you; and naturally, they can also opt to play as monsters instead)."

It had sure changed by the time the DMG, my formative gaming reading, came along.

"The considered opinion of this writer is that such characters are not beneficial to the game and should be excluded."
- Gary Gygax, DUNGEON MASTERS GUIDE, p. 21

That's six paragraphs into a seven paragraph exposition on why you should do that.

I'm not a big proponent of freakshow PCs, myself, because I like "normal PCs, weird world" more than "weird PCs, normal world" and "weird PCs, weird world" just makes me tired all over. I wonder how much of it came from this? Not even a simple no; it's an op-ed on Hurting Wrong Fun.

Ah well, I'm no better. It's just such a stark change.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The "Walked Two Miles Uphill in the Snow to Game" Story

So we're not technically in a blizzard anymore - changes in conditions here have reduced the weather from that to just a nasty mix of snow, sleet, wind, and whatnot. Still, it's a state of emergency and pretty much everything is closed. Pretty standard weather if you go north of here far enough, but crippling nonetheless.

I've mentioned before about some of my players hiking through snow to my house to game.

Way back in the 90s I ran a game for a couple of players - three of them ultimately, two of whom still play with me and one of whom is an occasional drop-in.* We had a blizzard that shut the state of New Jersey down for a couple of days. No non-emergency vehicles on the road, snow piled up everywhere, etc.

I lived over two miles from the pair of them, on the other side of town, with plenty of steady, steep hills in between.

So as soon as the snow stopped, and the road got plowed enough to move around on - although it was still illegal to drive on them - they got their winter clothes on and hiked over. The state was closed for like 2-3 days, and we played on them. They walked all the way over, we played all day, and they walked home. I still remember walking part of the way back with them - all the way to the steep hill down near the elementary school by my house. I don't really remember the walk back home, but I remember standing there about 1/3 of the way and thinking, geez, this is crazy and cool. It was cold, but sunny and not windy, and if you can walk in the middle of mostly-plowed streets on packed snow with no black ice you're really not trudging too much.

These days that couldn't happen. The closest gamer to me is several times as far away with highways cutting between us at four points. Two gamers live in different states. We'd likely just play by Skype if I could keep my group down to three players and a story-centered game like we had going them. The one time we had a snowstorm the day before a game day one of my gamers picked me up so I didn't have to dig my car out of the snow in order to drive to game (also, so we'd have one less spot to hopefully find near our host's house.)

Still cool though. It's something I still think about after every snowstorm.

And I always think, I need to make the PCs walk around on snowshoes in my game. I think there are handy rules for them in DF16 and GURPS Russia . . .

* The brothers who run Vryce/Gerry/Short Bus and Dryst/Nakar/Angus McSwashy/Princess and our long-time friend who ran Caveman in the first two sessions of our Gamma World game. Those that know these three won't be surprised that they walked two miles plus in the snow to play games. If I said, "two of my current group walked uphill in the snow to play games" my current gamers could guess who. They're not easy people to discourage.

Monday, March 13, 2017

eBay auctions

Those eBay auctions I mentioned are up.

For the full list click on my username: peterdellorto

They include:

- a huge Ogre minis lot

- a three-box lot of Space:1889 minis.

- The Black Prince's Chariot of Fear

- Boat Wars supplement for Car Wars

- Chez Geek

- Champions III

- an OSR Swords & Wizardry 4 module lot

- a three-book GURPS 3e lot

- Wargames Factory Orcs Warband

- Munchkin bookmarks & 2008 silver coin sold!

- a Cardboard Heroes Dungeon Floors stairs sheet

- GURPS Steampunk minis

- a 14 figures Bones mini lot

- GURPS Discworld and Discworld Also

- the GROO card game and expansion set

- Illuminati Deluxe Edition with the Y2K expansion and Brainwash expansion

Plus non-gaming stuff. Stock up now on Japanese textbooks and hoodies and mouse pads and more. Heh.

If you buy anything (or multiple anythings) and mention during checkout (or basically, before I pack the stuff) that you're a reader of this blog I will throw in an extra something - a mini from my collection if you're buying minis, something book related if you're buying books, etc. I can't promise anything really exciting, but I do have a limited edition Sandra Garrity Blackbeard mini I didn't feel like listing on its own, and some oddball Foundry minis I have far too many of . . . mostly pirates.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

DF Felltower: Entrances (updated 7/26/2017)

Here is an updated version of the Known Entrances of Felltower post.

As of: 7/26/2017

Bugbear Tunnels - a narrow entrance requiring crawling, from the surface ruins on top of Felltower.
Current status: At least one inside access point has collapsed completely.

Castle - not an entrance, but surrounds the main entrance.
Current status: Accessible. The portcullis is in the "down" position but a passage has been made it in through a steady stream of Acid Jet.

Dragon Cave Mouth - a mouth-shaped cave on the west side of the mountain, leads to the cavern warren roughly 100' or so below the first level of tunnels. Originally guarded by a fierce dragon.
Current Status: Home to a giant of some kind, and a pack of dire wolves.

Felltower Entrance

Main Entrance - fortified main entrance under the castle (pictured above).
Current status: Occasionally guarded by orcs via the "pillboxes." Pillboxes are heavily shielded against magic and direct attack, so the PCs haven't yet been able to fully disable them. Requires entrance through the surface castle.

Orc Hole - exit from level 2 to a distant valley full of orcs. Current status: Unknown.

Underwater Entrance - an underground inlet to the Silver River believed to reach deep into Felltower.
Current status: unknown.

Tower Entrance - there is a "hatchway" entrance under the collapsed ruined tower knocked down by the PCs.
Current Status: Often locked from within. Requires entrance to the surface castle of Felltower. Recently re-opened by the PCs. The PCs have investigated ways to break the locking mechanism but do not have the right tools for the job.

Well Entrance - a secret entrance at the bottom of a dry well.
Current Status: Inside the surface castle of Felltower, completely blocked up (filled top to bottom with trash, dirt, feces, etc.)

Gates - there is a gate from the Lost City of D'Abo to the "apartment level" aka "the gate level" aka "level 4."

There are rumors of other ways in, too, but they may have been identified already:

- the well. (almost certainly ID'ed.)

- the second surface entrance in the castle. (Probably the tower "hatch" or the bugbear tunnels.)

- possible entrances from other dungeons or caves far, far from Felltower. (In other words, find another dungeon, clear the sucker, and then march underground a long way, not even remotely identified.)

- the "slums" entrance. Heard of in rumors, but not confirmed. Attempts to find it by "research" have been considered but no one has enough Streetwise for a reasonable chance of success.

It's interesting that as a result of play, the PCs discovered a lot of entrances, but ended up getting them sealed off by the orcs (and others, possibly.) Attempts to ensure an entrance stays open through destruction - such as the well and the walls - have generally backfired by forcing a complete blockage.

They have not been able to open up any of the previously open entrances that were sealed. Most of them involve being inside the gates in any case. There is still no convenient and safe entrance to Felltower.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

eBay auctions coming tomorrow

I finally had both the time and the patience to list items on eBay. It's gotten more complicated since back the day when I bought and sold things more often. Geez. It took over 3 hours to do 10 listings. No wonder it mostly seems like storefronts today instead of a lot of individual sellers with a few storefronts.

I've got a few items I need to spend some time on today, before they can get sold tomorrow.

But at 4:00 PM PST the auctions should go live here:

They include:

- almost my entire Ogre minis collection as a huge lot.

- a four-book adventure lot for Swords & Wizardry.

- a three book GURPS 3rd edition lot.

- 14 Bones minis in a lot.

- a Wargames Factory Orcs Warband box

- Ral Partha 01-127 The Black Prince's Chariot of Fear

- Champions III

- a Dungeon Floors page from SJG

- some Munchkin stuff

Some non-gaming items (some Japanese stuff, a Hateful Eight Roadshow booklet, Lionel Train catalog, etc.) too.

Just letting people know ahead of time to keep an eye out.

Friday, March 10, 2017

No-name NPCs?

When I offer hirelings to the PCs, they're generally individuals. They have unique stats (even if they're fairly cookie-cutter template based), they have unique quirks, "carefully" chosen minis*, and odd names. I take my naming cues from Monty Python, Glen Cook, and Japanese video games.

I do this for all sorts of good reasons.

I wonder, though, if that has consequences for how much risk people will put NPCs into. It's harder to risk the death of Ken Shabby, Lucky Pete, Basher the Thug, and the Meeposian Brothers than it is to risk the death of Spearman #1 - #12 and we'll name them later if they survive and do well.

Psychologically it's just easier to accept losses if those losses are impersonal and remote. Although I've done a lot of the above because I want to make it harder to accept losses and to treat NPCs like human mind detectors and meat shields ("Send in a hireling to pull the lever" is trickier when it's Gort, your humorous buddy.) But I may have gone a bit too far on that.

If I generally didn't give names out for NPCs, maybe even just used numbered counters instead, would they be treated differently? Would it affect how the players interact with them?

I may need to do this - offer up general, generic, nameless troops of recruited men and women, and see if the PCs handle that differently than risking certain death for Larry the Crossbowman.

* Often from the non-small Dell'Orto Painted Pirate Collection. Foundry and Eureka Pirates makes especially oddball hirelings. Not Oddball-oddball, but certainly "those guys Jack Sparrow brought along as his crew" oddball. Mr. Cotton's Parrot, same question.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

GURPS DF Felltower Wizard & Druid Spell Costs

Yesterday I linked to the list of cleric spell prices I use. But what about wizard spells and druid spells?

Druid Spells

It's not common for people to ask for druid spells to be cast for them, but it's quite possible people will need someone un-Arboreal Immured, need an animal cured or charmed, or have plant or wood related issues. Storms and rain and such are also their domain, but the prices they charge farmers for bringing down some good rain aren't really good DF fodder.

Like cleric spells, it's usually $1/point up to around 10 energy; after that, it's $50 per point. Assume the prices are set by the local drum circle of druids.

Wizard Spells

Wizards aren't the nicest people. Prices for casting spells is a flat $50/point. Yes, they'll write you a charged scroll for that amount instead, and you can go off and risk suffering your own critical failures without them around. Bottom-end spells may go for as low as $1/point but only for really dinky spells - Ignite Fire, Purify Water, Clean, etc. Otherwise, expect $50/point, and of course that is what charged scrolls cost (per DF4, p. 15) Even spells that cost less than 10 energy will often go for $50/point!

Generally the spells people will want are the pricier ones will long casting times and uncertain results. Analyze Magic, Divination, Repair, Dispel Magic, and Counterspell all spring to mind. Since permanence of creation is a not an element of DF magic, wizards are less likely to be useful in-town casters.

Skill level in all cases is 15 - you can pay for higher if it's available using the same pricing structure from DF4. Skill-20, the most common choice, is $150/point.

Generally people don't ask for these spells, except for Analyze Magic and occasionally Repair and muse about Divination. But since I mentioned healing costs, I may as well get these out of the way as well.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

GURPS DF Fellower Healing Costs

So how much is healing in my DF game?

I just straight-up use the costs listed in this post by Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch. Even in light of switching to $20/point permanent enchantment, I still like the bottom-end costs being so low. Not the least of the reasons for that is it explains why a cleric PC with Major Healing and Cure Disease isn't racking up hundreds of coins a day charging for healing. The PC might be doing such work in town but it sure isn't a major payday, and it's more like the delver's buddies will need Remove Curse than that Blacksmith Wadislas will.

I do also use some of the cut-rate resurrection options, specially the ones outlined in the first post (including the leveled expendable perk The Church Owes Me) but not the ones in the second post.

The pricing seems fair, and works out well - potentially you could buy one of those big spells as a charged clerical scroll, if you order ahead of time and pay, but you need to have a cleric (and a lot of time) to get it done. A universal charged scroll is twice as much.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Reducing magic item purchases - how is it going?

We instituted the new magic item purchase restrictions in my last session of Felltower.

How did it go?

A few things happened:

Significantly Less Purchases

Because special ordering magic items, especially buffing items and casting items, isn't really an automatic process, the amount dropped off significantly. It went from a series of emails of "How much is this? How about this? What if it does X instead of Y and only 2*Z instead of 3*Z?" to "I'm ordering some custom cloth armor, I'll give you the math on Sunday" and "I'm getting one of those Puissance +1 weapons I've been needing."

So for me, that was a big win. Less work calculating costs, times, remembering who ordered what, etc. etc.

More Potion and Consumable Purchases

On the other hand, people bought a lot more potions. Cleaning out the house on Great Healing Potions for example, and stocking up on some of everything else.

Alchemist's Fire and similar items also went well.

Normal items sold about the same, though, mostly because people don't need-need them.

More Basic Spending

At least one person overspent on upkeep in return for bonuses to rolls in town. Living it up means you get more attention, and that translates in all ways. This went from "only do this when I really need it" to "may as well do this because I expect to make some rolls that matter."

We also got more spending on finding hirelings - suddenly 400 for a crier to go out and announce your job posting didn't seem crazy. They went from "only the guys who are listing themselves on Craig's List" to "let's put out actually ad copy to find real candidates."

More Generosity to Hirelings

Not only did people spend more trying to find hirelings, but even on a costly and loot-free delve they gave out tips and paid what they owed.

Emergency Funds Were On Hand

Critical, this one. Because Hjalmarr didn't break the bank spending all but a few hundred on new magical everything he had the $24K on hand to pay his Resurrection donations. The Good God giveth, but the Good God demand you giveth to receiveth.* Had he ordered all the stuff he wanted, they'd have had to take up a collection to pay for this, and possibly sell just-purchased gear and hurriedly try to cancel orders like someone hitting the "Undo Send" button on Google.

This made me really happy - not the dying part, although that was funny and I didn't think the magic ring's False Aura was going to pass detection (hurrah for poor rolls). It was rather the "we have cash on hand after a big haul." I was really tired of dead-broke guys a session after a huge haul, and the only time anyone had cash on hand was when they got some, but not enough, money.


So all in all, I think the rule did what I wanted. I feel bad taking back something that was an option the whole game, but it wasn't working out. The above is really what I wanted - occasional special orders, the good stuff being in the dungeon, and PCs with cash on hand to spend in town on the things I expect people to buy.

So I think it's working. The party should be able - after a big haul - to repair lots of damage, undo disaster to a degree, replace gear, etc. It shouldn't be firesale time because everyone is in debt up to their ears for magical items needed to survive delves to get money to buy magic items to survive delves.

So far, so good.

* Do not the scriptures say, "Let the poor man be welcome into my kingdom in the afterlife, and let the rich man fork over $15K or so to finish his work upon the earth and then be welcome once he's poor?" Probably not, but it sums up to about that.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Cool Ex-Citadel wizards

I was drawn into checking back on Warmonger Miniatures today and stumbled into this pre-order:

In their "ex-Citadel" collection, these are the Time Warped Wizards. 55 GBP for the lot, which isn't terribly crazy for metal figures these days. But they've got a lot of personality. I like a lot of them. I don't know what I'd do with them, besides prime them and probably mostly copy paint jobs, but I do like them. They'd make a good starter pack for Frostgrave, actually . . . "Pick one of these guys for your main wizard." At least most of them.

I especially like the guy with the staff, sword, and slashed sleeves and the ones in the bottom-left and bottom-right corners.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

DF Felltower Update - Rumors, Restocking, Remapping

Last night I took a few minutes and got some work done on Felltower.


I culled out the rumors heard from the rumor list, and then added back in a few to fill the list back out. I didn't finish the job but I got in a few. That's pretty normal. Also, I did my usual re-numbering - my Word auto-list will sort the old rumors down as I cut out the ones heard, so I add new ones randomly around in the list so "30" isn't the newest and "1" the oldest. They move around as I edit.

The point here is that I browsed the rumors, and looked at some old rumors that finally connected to game events. These are basically "spent" rumors, although they could have connections and repercussions in the game ahead.

"There is an immortal elven swordsman under Felltower who kills everyone he meets. Some kind of curse trapped him there."

That one came up fairly recently, although it was on the table for a long time before that. Valmar was encountered and slain. The curse wasn't explained, although the origins of sword-spirits are known to the PCs so it doesn't necessarily have more depth than that.

"I heard from this drunk wizard that if use too much magic on stones, they can wake up and turn into rock monsters."

Ask Dryst about that. He wasn't even drunk when he birthed a gargoyle.

"There is some kind of bogey-man near the mountain - it’s killed a few hunters in the past couple years, choking them dead and eating their guts out."

A bugbear kind of bogey-man, even.

"That big dragon used to fly around from the north side of the mountain, so maybe it lives up there."

That turned out to be true, too - there is a big dragon in a cave that sits on the north side of Felltower.

"There is supposed to be some demon-god that walks around under the mountain, killing everything it sees."

That's the Durak, the Lord of Spite, right there in the rumors from session one.

There are more, of course, but some of them make me chuckle when I see them again - how early, how blatantly or how back-handedly, and/or how accurately rumors pegged something to come.

I won't even really go into the dozen-plus rumors that said you need a six-fingered hand to open doors, not all keys are physical keys, it's the hand not the key that opens doors, etc. etc. that were sprinkled in there. Turns out, they were all true in spirit and often in literal text.

But even when the players don't make the direct connection, it provides a good base of knowledge - when they first met the Lord of Spite, no one was shocked that there was this blue ogre stomping around hitting people. When the stone they'd shaped was all gone, and coincidentally there were more gargoyles, that made sense later when Dryst really blew a roll. And so on - sometimes it's a rumor, sometimes it's foreshadowing, sometimes it's a red herring . . . but it's all bite-sized backstory so you don't need to read a block of homework text just to play the game.


Restocking can be a chore. Not always, though. I enjoy going through areas the PCs partly bumped into and seeing what's there now - use strikethrough text on X gnolls and replace it with X-Y gnolls, buff up A into A + B as reinforcements come in, move C from room 22 into room 45 as it's moved to a less threatened area, etc.

But I got some done, and although it's weeks until the next game of Felltower it's ready to play in right now.


I'm a big believer in the "never erase, just draw more" style of megadungeon mapping. Put something down on paper and keep putting stuff down, don't keep stopping to make it perfect. It's a philosophy I carry into a lot of things - "let's get it good enough to try, and then try it" instead of "get it so it's perfect, then try it." Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good (enough).

All that said, I have fixed a few things on my maps. Connections that looked good on my map but which were very difficult to describe, sometimes even impossible given vocabulary disconnect.

I've made a few modifications to fix that. I cut off a corner here or there on rooms that served no purpose. I've taken a few twists out of corridors that equally did little, especially if they visually clashed with the layout on my own maps in a way that made me say, "Why was that done?"

I added in a few twists and turns, though, which better explained what the stocking rolls told me the areas are for. This is a barracks and lacks a nearby pit for waste? Add one, if it makes sense, or turn an "empty" room into a waste room. This is a guarded area but there are no places for guards? Note where they are, and figure out what what changes would make guarding it make sense (like, adding a niche for a guard post.)

It's nibbling at the edges, really, and didn't need doing, but it was in areas not yet explored by the PCs and where actual play called for making it easier to actually play.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Appendix N Audiobooks

I just wanted to re-post this in case anyone missed it in my sidebar of blog links:

Appendix N Free Audiobooks

Strange Magic posted up the links to free audiobooks by the authors listed in the 1st edition DMG's Appendix N. I'm not a big audiobook consumer (I just can't get too into listening to fiction read to me) but in case you are, this is a useful resource.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Why I dislike "escape the dungeon" as a campaign approach

Over at Gnome Stew there is an interesting post about a forest-based megadungeon. I like the concept, although it's potentially going to be set up as "you're lost in this woods, now get out!" instead of "there is this crazy woods with stuff in it you want done, now get in there!"

Naturally I noticed this become of traffic referrals to my blog, which is awesome. Rather than comment there, because that would take some minor work of signing up and logging in, I just decided to write some comments here on the "escape the dungeon" approach.

I see some downsides to "escape the dungeon" or "locked in the dungeon" as a campaign.

Backwards Incentives

First off, the incentives in the game are backwards. Instead of seeking adventure, adventure is an obstacle to your goal. Instead of accomplishing things, you're hoping to avoid entanglements that drag you down. Instead of an iterative process of discovery you're in a linear process of attempting to escape.

In other words, if the goal is "run from" instead of "run to," your incentive is to just get away not to go and do once you get there. You aren't drawn to what makes a big sandboxy play area fun - clearing, looting, fighting, exploring, meshing the knowledge gained at point A with that from point B to discover point C, you're just trying to get out.

You've basically inverted play in a way that makes most of the activities that drive this sort of game obstacles not rewards. Even treasure is an obstacle - that stuff will encumber you.

Wasted Work or Forced Participation

Second, unless you structure the dungeon or play area as a fairly linear or looping-back maze, much of it will not be used. Simply put, if the goal is to get out, PCs are incentivized to leave the area and bypass as much as they can. You'll need to force them to go through areas to ensure they'll actually make it there. Once they're physically past the beginning areas anything they bypassed is wasted unless you give plot or structural game reasons for them to go back. If you do this often enough, players get the impression that everything is required and it's a linear game in all but name.

It can be frustrating as a player, too. Nothing drives players more batty than a place they want to get into but can't. Nothing drives them to more bored frustration than a place they want to leave but can't. "We're stuck" is a terrible feeling, and it wears on you in a way that "I can't figure out how to get into that bit of exciting play area" actually quite enjoyable, especially when you figure it out.

Failure is the norm.

Every session that ends still in the dungeon is a failed session. It might be progress towards success, but you haven't succeeded yet. You're still stuck in the dungeon or the maze or whatever. Contrast that with a go-and-do dungeon - even the act of going there is a partial success as you've made another iterative attempt to get things done. Every little bit you do gets you more options, and your "to do" list grows with success. In an escape situation, every little bit gets you closer to success, but it's still technically failure as you haven't escaped. If the goal is "go into the dungeon and get stuff!" then any going, getting, and stuff is at least a small success. If the goal is "get out" not getting out is what happens the whole campaign until it ends.

It Must End

A game where you're escaping a place has a written end - it ends when you escape. If you are drawn back into it by unfinished business, you may as well have made the game about the unfinished business and put that in as a drawing point. A classic dungeon may have an end, a classic megadungeon may have one (chute to China, W*E*R*D*N*A on level 10, etc.) but might still draw you back in later on. It can be extended ("Hey, there was a secret entrance to five more levels this whole time!") if people want more. It's harder to do that in a positive way when the game is about escaping the dungeon. "Turns out, you escaped the dungeon only to find the outside . . . is another dungeon!" feels more like a gotcha. It's every horror movie that ends with a setup for a sequel, except you've told people that more adventure is more failure to escape like you're trying to do.

For those reasons, I prefer to have a game with a magnet than an anchor. I like a draw to go somewhere for some kind of gain rather than something you're forced into and have to escape.

I really try not to be negative on this blog. I'm hoping this comes across more constructive than critical. Using "escape the dungeon" as a sub-theme works. It's how I've launched a number of games, and it's the backbone of some very solid published adventures and adventure arcs. But makes it so easy to use in a short burst is what undermines it in the long term - it's ultimately something you need to end, not prolong.

All of this said, it's not really unfair to have a bounded area of play. It's also not unfair to give people a reason to be rooted down in a particular spot, either. I just find it is more effective and has less downsides if you give reasons to stay than to blatantly force you to stay somewhere.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Salaried Allies?

When Hjalmarr first added Brother Iklwa Juma Deswayo N'Zinga (aka Brother Ike) as an Ally, we ended up with an issue.

The PCs weren't terribly happy with the standard approach outlined in Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen. That is, Allies are full partners and expect a share. Out of that share comes upkeep, they throw in for party costs, they upgrade their own gear, etc. - full partners, as it was a PC. Much like how currently-on-vacation Raggi Ragnarsson adventures with the group.

So I offered the option of Ally as Employee. Brother Ike would be paid for by Hjalmarr, and would draw a salary like any other long-term hireling. However, this salary is barely above cost of living so any equipment upgrades would be Hjalmarr's responsibility.

Here is how you could implement this in your own game, assuming normal time (my campaign only counts downtime as a single week for payments, cost of living, etc. and assumes the other weeks are net-zero from jobs and side work.)

Allies as Employees. Pay for your Ally normally with points, using either Frequency of Appearance (DF15, p. 27) or Appearance Rolls as Loyalty Rolls (DF15, p. 28). However, instead of expecting a full share and being a full partner in a delve, the Ally is a sidekick, henchman, or assistant to the PC with the advantage. An Ally will expect monthly pay as a hireling based on their point level. While Allies are definitely long-term hires, they also advance in point value in lockstep with the PC and thus shouldn't be expected to give a discount for steady pay. Ignore the row for Long-Term on the Pay Rates Table (DF15, p. 32). All pay is considered to be spent by the Ally on upkeep, extra spending on small luxuries, tithes, etc. and isn't saved for improving gear or contributing to the group's funds. The employing PC is responsible for any upgrades, additional equipment, special expenses, etc. related to the Ally.

For example, Brother Ike is based on 125 points. He draws a salary of $200 per week or $750 per month. Eventually his boss Hjalmarr reaches 375 points, bringing Brother Ike to 187. Brother Ike would expect to draw a salary of $300 per week or $1,500 per month. Hjalmarr would also need to pay his part of bribes to orcs, for winter clothing for snow-day delves, recharging his Power Item, etc., but Brother Ike equally wouldn't be entitled to expect a share of the loot no matter how large or small!

I may have to clean that up at some point, but I think it conveys the intent well enough. Allies who get a share work as written, ones paid as hirelings work as above.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Hireling or Dependent?

Thinking more on a favorite subject of mine - NPC hired help in the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy dungeon. Since my players often take hirelings but also protect them most strenuously, I've been thinking about this particular angle. Sometimes this happens due to disadvantages (Sense of Duty most strongly, but also Code of Honor) but just as often due to on-the-spot decisions about who they like.

Hireling or Dependent??

I read an interesting argument that one of the great failings of General McClellan was that he loved his men too much, and was too shocked by the horrific casualties of the Penninsular Compaign, to inflict useless casualties on them. This led to his refusal to take risks with his men and always seek more and more reinforcements to ensure a flawless and bloodless victory. Grant, on the other hand, would take casualties for victory if that is what it cost. Historically accurate or not, it's an interesting idea - that it's hard to be a leader if you aren't willing to take losses to accomplish the goal you're leading people toward.

Applying this to hirelings: If you're unwilling to accept casualties to get the job done, hirelings are not cannon fodder or helpful companions or anything in between. They're dependents. They cost resources. They take up space. They require protections and careful screening to keep them alive. They distract you from risk and act as weak points instead of strengthening.

If you can't accept casualties, then unless NPCs are at least as capable as the PCs it's better not to bring them along. This is quite different than treating NPCs like dirt. That's a whole sociopathic tendency of a different kind.

This is turning "You will never betray [your allies], abandon them when they're in trouble, or let them suffer [. . .] if you can help" (Sense of Duty, p. B153) into making NPC fellow adventurers into "an NPC for whom you are responsible" and whom "you must go to the rescue as soon as possible." (Dependent, p. B131) This is especially true if you have neither a Sense of Duty nor is the NPC a Dependent. (It's worth noting someone can be both Ally and Dependent, but that's a side issue for this discussion.)

It's a tough line - doing enough to safeguard your companions but also accepting that yes, if you send a few guys into the line a few less of them might return. Accepting that putting a spearman here might mean he dies horribly but it saves someone else from a surprise attack, or slows down a foe. At the same time your disadvantage might mean giving them potions, buffing them with spells, and saving them from injury if you can. It might make sense tactically and according to the personality of your character to protect them, parry for them, or put yourself in more danger than they are in. It's a balancing act. But it's worth a thought - can you afford to bring anyone along you aren't willing to see risk death since you're all risking death?

Like I said, it's tough. But if you're going to turn from a leader of men hoping to minimize casualties into a chaperone keeping your NPCs safe from all harm, is it worth bringing them? Or do you need to accept that ideal wars are won without fighting but not all wars are ideal?

I just wanted to raise this up as a conversation here and among my group.
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