Friday, September 29, 2017

Writing update

Here is a quick writing update:

- I've got a Pyramid article written and in editing. By "in editing" I mean I asked Christopher Rice to look at it and he sent me a long list of stuff that shows how nothing I wrote made any sense. Next step, fixing it so it does.

- I've got another Pyramid article 90% written, but the missing 10% is the good bit. That will get done in the next day or so. Really, it's done, but the stuff that will make it really zing is kind of weak and needs to go and be replaced.

Both are DF-related (and/or DFRPG related, naturally).

- I've actually got a 1/3-done outline to submit once I finish the other 2/3. The problem is that I have so much non gaming writing to do - plus a recent upsurge in work hours - that I haven't had time to finish it. Nevermind if I submit it, my deadline would need to be "Reply Crazy, Ask Again Later."

- I actually have a lot of ideas of things to write - articles, a book, blog posts. But it's closing in on CEU crunch time for my professional certifications, which means I need to shift to dealing with those first. Gaming gets prioritized ahead of game writing, and studies ahead of gaming, and work ahead of studies. So it's a tough time to be all like, "Holy crud, this would make a fantastic article!" Post-it notes full of idea abound.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

DFRPG - reflections on actual play

This past Sunday was our first foray into using the DFRPG books, instead of the Basic Set and DF books, as our primary go-to books.

It went well, overall:

- I love the back cover charts. I kept Exploits face-down the whole session to use the Wounding Modifiers chart. I wish that was on the GM screen instead of some of the other tables.

- Spells was much easier to use than GURPS Magic.

- I didn't get any use out of Adventurers at the table, but we did get use out of most of the others.

- Monsters was handy enough that I used it several times instead of my statlines in the Felltower dungeon key or my PDFs.

- It's very easy to find what you need in Exploits, too. I'm used to just looking in the index, but I'd recommend looking at the Table of Contents, first. It's well-ordered and labeled, and that makes it easy to find what you're looking for. I don't like looking up rules at the table, but we made an exception to get used to where things are (and to make sure of changes.)

I will commence stripping down my "game box" to remove some of the DF and Basic Set-centric material I won't need thanks to us using DFRPG. This will be the core.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dealing with player knowledge after a TPK

So no one made it out last session from Felltower.

But we play the game with everyone knowing what the players know about past sessions.

How do we explain that?

I had some ideas, and solicited them from my players. Special thanks to andi, our Gamma Terra GM, for providing a very detailed explanation of how people would know the pre-delve plans, who was going, what the aim was, etc. It boils down to "we plan in public," clear descriptions of the aim, map copying, etc. It would be clear to all the other normal crew (Vryce, Dryst, Angus, Gerry, Galoob) who are in town what's going on even if they didn't make it.

But then they went somewhere, found Baron Sterick (which they didn't really suspect), and never returned.

Yet the next group of PCs will know it was the Baron, how to get in, not to try the doors back out, not bother to try and block them, know roughly how Baron Sterick operates and his weaponry, his skill, his capabilities, etc. etc.

In other words, it went from "I wonder if we can open those doors, and what's in them?" to "let's go in and fight Baron Sterick, and we have a rough idea of his skill levels and know exactly how much damage his weapons do."

Here is how that can be explained:

- the crew can use Summon Spirit to question the dead PCs once it's clear they are dead. This can explain a lot of very specific in-game knowledge about the combat, assuming questions were worded right and power was handy. We can assume those. That would also explain getting to hear about the aborted attempts to deal the doors, too.

- the crew has access to Divination spells to get some yes/no questions answered or visions. While those would not explain the final combat as that area is proofed against divination (for obvious reasons). The other areas are shielded to a lesser extent, but basic questions could have been answered. Shielding wouldn't affect Summon Spirit, because the deceased's spirits weren't trapped. Lucky them.

- There will have been GREAT commotion in the churches very suddenly on Sunday, especially the great cathedral of Stericksburg, with priests alerted that someone penetrated the great seals and defenses. Word will spread, even if it's just "something bad happened and the priests are very upset!" The living PCs can easily put two and two together and get "I guess Hjalmarr was right about those doors, and Asher did detect something supernatural and evil over that way. Guess it was pretty dangerous."

So that is how the next group will be able to know what happened to the last group in dripping detail.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

DF Felltower, Session 92, Felltower 65 - Eight Entered Felltower

September 25th, 2017

Weather: Hot, sunny.

Hasdrubel Stormcaller, human wizard (333 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (347 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate 166 points)
     Raska, human laborer (62 points)
     Veronico, human archer (125 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (350 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Quention Gale, human druid (317 points)

We started in town, with the PCs exhaustively buying up potions, spell stones, and so on for the delve. This was aided - as was recruiting hirelings - by Hjalmarr living it up off of last delve's profits, spending 4x his usual upkeep to eat well, drink well, and fritter away cash well.

The PCs hired the same two NPCs as last time, but couldn't find Orcish Bob. No matter, they found Raggi. They headed up to the "dragon cave" entrance, planning to try opening these double doors they'd found way back in the day but previous delvers hadn't solved. They were sure extreme danger, probably something really evil, was behind them, and that loot was sure to follow.

They stopped briefly in the slums to visit Sterick's statue, and Hjalmarr patted his axe and said, "I'm coming to find you" to it. They headed out of the slums. On the way out, Mo grabbed some "acorns" (actually, seed pods, but he kept saying "acorns") from the whispy, thorn-covered scrub bushes that grow up the near the trail to Felltower. They worked their way around to the "dragon cave" and carefully entered.

With a copy of their not-to-scale, semi-accurate-looking, but well-labelled map on hand, they started to work their way to a pair of the double doors. They made it to one of the cube-shaped rooms (a 30 x 30 x 30 cube with exits on all four sides) just as three acid spiders did as well. There was a quick fight, with Hjalmar going "Eeeeeeeeewwwwwwww!" the whole time, and the acid spiders were chopped up and Lightning'ed down. They wanted to harvest spider acid, but lacked any containers. (There was a side discussion about "Couldn't Raska be carrying Has's Alchemy Kit, and we can use the containers in it?" But I shut that down by saying kits don't come with free crytal vials, sacks, pouches, etc. That's what Gizmos, Create Object, and planning are for.) Gale grabbed part of a leg for some purpose, and Has' and Mo started to discuss a dungeon-to-table restaurant. Then the PCs moved on and began to work their way around the tunnels.

They made it to the "rest area" cave, and harvested some red-tinged and purple-tinged mushrooms, plus refreshed and ate from the Essential Water and Essential Food (mushrooms) there. Gale complained at the lack of lentils, a recurring theme. Has' waited outside with someone else to "guard" - his soul is too stained to enter.

From there they reached the first pair of double doors they intended to open. It took some work to move the 9' wide, 21' tall doors, but they did it. They moved down the red-marbled hallway inside to a door covered with silver studs, linings, and edgings. Blocked the big doors open with magically shaped stone, and opened the interior door. There was a crack as the big doors closed despite the stone, a golden flash . . . and the PCs were in another cube-shaped room.

They found themselves amongst six flesh-eating apes who were wandering through. Many of the PCs had failed their Body Sense rolls, and the apes grabbed Raska and bit him in the face (for max damage), grappled Veronico, and failed to significantly engage anyone else. Then the PCs got rolling - Gale and Has' used Lightning to shock the apes, Hjalmarr, Raggi, and Mo just attacked them straight up, and Ike tried to not get killed. In a few seconds it was over - Raska was badly chewed on (two max damage face bites!), Veronico strangled a bit, and the six apes ranging from "mortally wounded and twitching" to "definitely dead." Mo smashed one's skull to make sure of him.

They lingered a bit, checking the apes and healing, until they heard stone scraping and flapping - gargoyles. They fled down a random corridor, and found a marked number and used it to orient themselves on the map.

They went to the next door, and through that. Same result. Hjalmarr's attempts to quickly peek didn't amount to anything - he saw literally nothing but a flash of golden light.

On nearly the last trip to the doors, they found themselves in a tunnel near the gargoyles, and again hurried away to avoid having a useless fight. Instead they got attacked from the flank by a hungry, angry umber hulk! The weird blobby humanoid confused poor Veronico and nearly did so to Mo and Gale, and bit someone on the chest (Veronico, I think). But in a few seconds the umber hulk, too, was slain, having been shocked and smashed in the skull repeatedly. They moved on.

They made their way back, again. This happened six times in turn.

When they opened the interior door the sixth time, the outer doors closed, but they could now see inside.

Inside was a spherical room, 30' across, painted light green to dark green on the bottom half, light blue to deep blue at the top, with a white sarcophagus floating in mid-air in the middle. It was decorated with seals with a tower and crossed axe and sword. That's Baron Sterick the Red's symbol. Oh . . .

But how to get to it? It was far, it was 15' off the floor, and only Has' has Levitate and he has to concentrate to move you. The doorway was too narrow for a second person. So they decided they'd hook a grapnel over the door's ring, attach it to Has, and send him in. He didn't touch but did verify the symbol was on top.

He floated back. Now what?

Mo tossed in an "acorn." The floor was solid, the seed pod was unharmed. The floor was clearly smooth - marble-smooth (I joked it was coated in White Plumium, the slickest element known to GM kind, but it was just marble.)

Before they got too involved, Mo insisted they see if they could open the big doors.

So they did. As they tried to opened the big doors, the interior door closed, there was a golden light, and they found themselves in a cube-shaped room.



Six more trips around the dungeon later, they made their way back in, only having one significant encounter. They stumbled across 15 man-sized slicer beetles. They made short work of them, but Raggi got a sliced foot from a bite and the PCs were concerned a lucky shot would mess them up.

The second time they faced the sarcophagus (now called either "the trap" or the "sarcophagus of endless slimes" or "Sterick's tomb"), but from another angle.

This time they tried to anchor a grapnel on it to pull in the sarcophagus (didn't work, it was rooted as if on stone), or pull off the lid (not, it was seemingly lift-and-slide, not slide or just lift), or otherwise get it to do something. Has' called to the sarcophagus and tried to talk to its occupant. Nothing.

So Has' floated in, with a rope around him, anchored to Mo. He saw the top of the tomb had an unfinished inscription, in florid script - "Our Dear Lord, who" and then it cut off to part of a letter (not enough to identify it). It had been chiseled in, but the work hadn't been completed. The top also had a large logo identical to the ones on the side.

In the end, they had Has' touch it. The sarcophagus started to open. He Levitated back as Mo reeled him in. As they did, the door started to close. Raska was holding it fast with his high ST, but it was still moving inexorably as the sarcophagus opened. They put in a crowbar, but it bent, and snapped. Inside of a minute, before they could see what was in the sarcophagus, the door closed.

Golden flash, Body Sense rolls, and in a cube-shaped room.


So they made their way around to the doors again, this time having to take a detour to avoid a slime, but otherwise finding their way around and eventually making it to the double doors, each of six in turn.

They came in a third door. Hjalmarr gave the NPCs a speech about this being do-or-die, no retreat, you're in and that's it, but we're there too and once more unto the breach and folks in Felltower will regret not being here this day and such. It worked well enough.

In the PCs went, sliding down the walls of the sphere. Has' floated up and touched the sacrophagus. As before, it opened, and before it was open enough to see inside the door was fully closed.

He floated back and away. The others looked up.

A man sat up and blinked at Has', and asked who he was. Then the man stood up - balding, but with flowing grey hair, wearing glossy black ornate plate armor (magical, obviously). The man drew a sword and an axe and held them, and demanded they say who they were. Has' answered.

Who was this guy?

They all recognized him as they saw his face - Baron Sterick the Red. They recognized this weapons, Shieldslayer and Magebane*, the names of which they'd just found out thanks to Hjalmarr asking that specifically in town. He demanded they kneel before him. Has' lowered himself into somewhat of a floating mage-bow (it's a robe-holding curtsy), and Hjalmarr knelt and had his NPCs kneel, too. Mo, Gale, and Raggi refused. They kept talking, and Sterick was stern and didn't say much but made some demands of names, actions, etc. Sterick motioned Has' closer.

Has' came just a little closer.

"DIE WIZARD!" yelled Sterick, and he slashed Has' with Mageslayer. Has' tried to Dodge, gaining a pile of bonuses for height, retreat, and aerial movement, but it was a Deceptive Attack -7. He was struck and sliced badly, despite his six-fingered guy Magery-enhanced scale. The PCs started to stand up and act. Mo shouted up a challenge to come and fight him.

Sterick accepted the challenge and jumped down to attack Mo, quickly Feinting him and swinging his axe at Mo's Targe of the Tiger (from DF6) and his neck. He hit both - and Mo's shield howled a tiger-like yowl, and wrenched and twisted and broke into bent pieces. The neck hit landed, and he wounded Mo badly, but failed to kill or stun him. Mo went berserk. The others stood and moved in, but Sterick had placed Mo between himself and easy attackers.

In a second or two everyone was going. Veronico shot Sterick in the face, but the arrow loudly pinged off the air in front of him. Raggi swung at him and critically hit! But then he only rolled average damage and merely creased Sterick's armor.

Sterick wounded Mo further, but rolled an 18 on his axe swing and lost it! It clattered to the ground. The PCs moved to force him back. Mo's morningstar had turned in his grasp, so he dropped it and tackled Sterick and forced him to parry and retreat to avoid it. Sterick did, nimbly walking up the sphere's side even as PCs slipped and fell trying to follow. Raggi fell trying to follow up on his success.

Has' and Gale opened up with Lightning, nailing him once apiece, leaving him smoldering and angry, but otherwise he was able to Dodge. Generally they fired face-on against him when he was obscured by friends, so they couldn't usefully use Prediction Shot (and may have forgotten it entirely, or didn't know the rule) and Sterick was able to Dodge all of them from then out.

Mo kept after Sterick, taking horrible damage. Sterick hit him in the neck over and over, Feinting and then striking with both weapons, missing the bear every time (clearly he's an expert at dealing with barbarians). Ike healed him, but to no avail - tired of chopping his neck, he chopped his skull open to the chin with Magebane.

As Mo was dying, Hjalmarr was picking up Shieldslayer. He stood up and tried to hit Sterick, but he was easily parried. Sterick chopped at his hand. Hjalmarr parried. A second chop was a critical hit, and off came Hjalmarr's hand, axe with it.

Has' decided enough was enough. He spoke into his ring and wished for the PCs, living and dead, and their stuff, and Sterick's weapons, to be teleported to the Old Stone Bridge outside of Stericksburg.

Nothing. The ring literally did nothing - it didn't expend the wish, it just did nothing.

Too greedy, maybe? - That seemed to be the consensus.

Sterick was still after Hjalmarr, as Raggi got up, recovered his axe, and tried to hit Sterick. He had a 15, rolled a 6, and hit . . . oh, if he'd only not done his Trademark Move and had a 16+. Sterick critically parried and knocked Raggi's axe out of his hands. Raggi drew his knife because he couldn't get to his axe. Has' blasted him with an Explosive Lightning around now, missing but catching him in part of the blast. It wasn't enough.

A second later, Has' tried another wish, this time asking only that the PCs be whisked away with with their stuff.

Again, nothing.


Gale ended up close to Sterick at this point, missed him with an 18d Lightning and got slashed down. He lay on his back, wounded, trying to stay conscious while he faked dead and started in on Entombment.

Has' said something at this point, as he backed up into the air, mocking Sterick (or at least seeming to). Sterick angrily walked up the air and slashed at Has', hitting him and killing him outright. His body fell on the ground next to Gale.

Sterick ignored him as Hjlamarr tried to shield bash him, contemptuously parrying, and reached down and snapped his axe up as it flew out of Hjalmarr's severed hand and into his.

Raggi slashed at him as Sterick offered him a job - "Axeman, join my bodyguards!"

"Sorry, my crew needs me."

So Sterick killed him - or at least seemed to. He slashed Raggi's neck with his axe, rolling pathetic damage, but it was still enough to put him to -23 HP. Raggi failed his death check by his margin of Hard to Kill. He dropped, seemingly dead, but really just unconscious. Ike started saying prayers in between casting healing spell after healing spell.

Sterick called the PCs church fools as Hjalmarr tried to talk now that violence wasn't working. Sterick mocked him and destroyed his shield and then cut him down. He went after Ike, next, even as the wizards cast on him. Ike zapped him in the face with Sunbolt. Sterick didn't Dodge, he just took it, and blinked off the attack with only a slight face burn and no blindness.

Gale tried Entombment, and made it . . . but Sterick beat his roll by a few points. Nothing.

He killed Ike with a contemptuous sword blow, saying that people like him had made him as he is.

Gale tried to throw a fireball from his necklace, but missed badly. It exploded harmlessly. Sterick kicked him in the chest for 10 damage and broke some ribs and told him to just lay there and stop bothering him (not in so many words.)

This whole time, Raska held back (he's not a fighter) and Veronico pinged arrow after arrow off of Sterick. Even his bodkins did nothing, and his skill was too low to useful aim for chinks. Sterick's exposed face was protected and bodkins did nothing there, either.

The fight was over. Sterick stalked Veronico and cut his head off. Then he stalked Raska right after Gale fell unconscious. He ran him through, fatally.

We ended the session there. No survivors, although it's still technically possible Gale and Raggi are alive. They were when everyone was out and couldn't verify what happened next. But there isn't any easy escape from the place Sterick was meant to "rest," forever.


For pictures, check Instagram and the #Felltower tag.

XP was 1 per person for finding a new area, MVP was Hjalmarr for asking to try and open all of the doors this session. No one can spend them, of course . . .

Using the DFRPG screen - actually two, one for me back to back with one for the players - was great. So was using Spells and Exploits instead of other books. Nice. Smooth, easy, handy, fast.

This was a "danger pocket," one of the originals. It's a centerpiece to the dungeon in some ways - the burial place of Baron Sterick the Red. Lots of clues pointed to this area, and some on how to get into it, but they were sometimes bypassed, misunderstood, or just not encountered as people veered off from area where they were. It's fine, the danger was clear, they just could have had a firmer idea of what could be within. I think Dryst's player suggested long ago that this could be Sterick's burial spot, but I could be mis-remembering.

As danger pockets go, this one is outstandingly dangerous. Tough environment. Go in, or don't go in, and a do-or-die choice. Every attempt to either secure a retreat (keep the doors open, check if you can leave) or effect a retreat (Wish their way out) failed. The opponent within isn't unstoppable but he's utterly lethal, and how someone put it was that they now know how everything in Felltower feels fighting Vryce. Add some poor choices, convincing themselves the opponent was potentially incorporeal and preparing for that, and some just inopportune rolling - and good rolling by me - and things went badly. The PCs had no where to run and had bet on being able to do so. They couldn't. TPK.

Just goes to show, you can go in eyes wide open and as prepared as possible, have reserves for the worse case scenario you can prepare for, and still have bad things happen.

I feel badly about this. I though they'd lose a few guys - Sterick is murder on his targets, honestly - and some shields - but otherwise win out. They didn't. But at the same time, I deliberately set out to make some danger pockets places where going is betting your paper man that you are good enough for them. Retreat, recovery, and non-win options being limited or impossible. And I made those places that way only if I could logically do so in a game-world consistent way. It worked as designed. Sadly, it didn't work as I'd hoped.

What next? Not sure, how we proceed is being discussed. In-game explanations for how everyone knows the summary when no one lived have been identified. I'll post about that tomorrow. I had to cut out some must-do work today to get this written, so if my responses to comments, etc. seem slow, yeah, they are. I traded sleep later for writing now, before I totally forgot the order of events instead of merely garbled it.

* My players will detect a name change here - the origins were Mageslayer and Shieldbane, but in actual speech I kept revesing them to Magebane and Shieldslayer every time. So to heck with it, let's change them officially.

Monday, September 25, 2017

DF Felltower, Session 92, Felltower 65 (Brief Summary)

September 25th, 2017

Weather: Hot, sunny.

Hasdrubel Stormcaller, human wizard (333 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (347 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (166 points)
     Raska, human laborer (62 points)
     Veronico, human archer (125 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (350 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Quention Gale, human druid (317 points)

Hasdrubel Stormcaller, human wizard (333 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (347 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (166 points)
     Raska, human laborer (62 points)
     Veronico, human archer (125 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (350 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Quention Gale, human druid (317 points)

Details to follow later today or tomorrow . . . *

* Sorry, work before writeups, and writing before writeups, and I have a lot of work and writing to do today.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

DF Pre-summary teaser

Eight entered Felltower.

None returned.

How's that for a teaser?

DF Felltower today

We've got a session of Felltower on tap today. It's looking like we should be able to get in a good number of sessions before the end of the year - lots of potential gaming days on my calendar at least. Not as many as I'd like, but still a good number.

It should be a relatively small crew today, unlike the larger groups we had earlier this year. But that's actually more normal, to me. I should go back and count the number of players per session overall for Felltower, but 4-5 is pretty standard, and for all of the 6+ player sessions we had a number of 1-3 player sessions as well. That's another area where a megadungeon can shine - there are places you want to go after with a big group. And there are places you're going to move around in when only a few people can show up.

So expect a summary teaser tonight, and then if I have time I should get up a full summary tomorrow or Tuesday.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

DF-to-DFRPG - which critical hits?

Yesterday I put up a list of the rules I need to add to the DFRPG for DF Felltower.

The Critical Hit rules I mentioned are the ones from Basic Set: Characters, p. 326.

They are under Attacking, the last two paragraphs of Attack Roll. The short version is that a 3 is maximum damage, a 4-whatever your critical hit number is (4, 5, 6, even 7+ for certain Swashbucklers) just hits without allowing a defense roll.

And that's is.

We use the Critical Miss Tables. But in the interest of speed, we skip the Critical Hit Tables. It's been fine, and has in fact sped things up without anyone really feeling like they've lost out.

Friday, September 22, 2017

DF-to-DRFRPG game conversion: Additional Rules List

Here is the list of additional rules I think I need to list and summarize in a document for my players to refer to:

Charging Foes (Obstruction only) (Martial Arts)
Critical Hits (Basic Set)
Cross Parry (Martial Arts)
Extreme Dismemberment (Martial Arts)
Long Weapons in Close Combat (Martial Arts)
Mind Games (contests of Will only) (Martial Arts)
Multiple Blocks (Martial Arts)
Parrying with Two-Handed Weapons (Martial Arts)
Quick Readying Nearby Weapons (Martial Arts)
Rate of Fire (Basic Set)
Shoves with Weapons (Martial Arts)
Striking at Shields (Martial Arts)
Telegraphic Attack (Martial Arts)
Tip Slash (Martial Arts)
Tricky Shooting (Prediction Shot only) (Martial Arts)
and of course CP-based grappling.

That might be it. Possibly Damage to Shields, too, although we rarely use that in actual play.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

New Magic Item for DFRPG on Kickstarter Update

In case anyone missed it, my contribution to the DFRPG boxed set, Magic Items, has a blurb and a new magic item over on Kickstarter:

Shipping Update, & A Tome Of Magical Wonders

Scroll down for the Tome of Wonders!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Random Notes & Links for 9/20

Really busy day as part of a really busy week, so mostly I'm going to refer out today.

- Life Imitates Blog - And upside of having the blog, and the detailed summaries, is when they positively influence game. I'm pretty sure the next Felltower game session is going to feature exploration of one of the Danger Pockets simply because someone was reminded of it by reading my examples of what Danger Pockets are. It's not certain, as there is a lot to do in Felltower, but it's certainly an option. Had I stuffed that post into my "finish next week" pile, perhaps we'd have a different session.

- Big Bad / Short Fight - sometimes the big bad just gets wasted. This is why I like non-unique monsters! Killed my super man-scorpion-thing? It's okay, there are more! The PCs must have killed the same half-dozen slorn counters and orc minis and troll figures and so on over and over. Also, it's why those unexpected fights where some random NPC beats up the whole party or a nothing of a wandering monster derails all exploration as people run and hide are so fun.

- Suppression Fire - Doug has a new spin on Suppression Fire. Or at least on RoF. Of course, it's based on the Size and Speed/Range Table, because it's Doug. If it was me, it would be the Reaction Roll Table ("Very Good - wow, nice shooting Tex! You hit a whole bunch of them!")

- I forgot to mention there is a new DF item out - The Pagoda of Worlds. Since I have a lot to read and little time to read it, all work related (can you say CEUs?), I haven't gotten to this yet. I will get it and review it when I have a chance.

- I am still working my way through old posts replacing pictures no longer working through Photobucket. It's very slow going, as I need to be on my home PC when I stumble on the post, have the time to edit and search, and then do so. Sorry for all of the broken links. Had I know earlier Photobucket would ask for $300/year to do this thing, I would have switched fully over to Google's hosting immediately. But no, I wanted to diversify my dependencies. Silly me.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

No Town Game

Another aspect of my game that mirrors the West Marches campaign is the idea of "No Town Game."

A couple of quotes sum it up:

"make town safe and the wilds wild — Having the town be physically secure (walled or in some cases protected by natural features like rivers or mountains) is very useful for making a sharp “town = safe / wilderness = danger” distinction. Draconian law enforcement inside town, coupled with zero enforcement in the wilds outside town, also helps. Once you are outside the town you are on your own."

"the adventure is in the wilderness, not the town — As per the discussion of NPCs above, be careful not to change the focus to urban adventure instead of exploration. "

Both of those describe the four "town" settings my PCs have dealt with: Falcon's Keep, Swampsedge, the pilgrim's camp (aka "Rumshackles"), and of course, Stericksburg.

To be fair, some of this is a basic feature of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy as-written: town is vague and resolved with die rolls and simple effects. Town is safe unless you choose to make a roll and blow it. Town is where adventurers gather and get a minimum of information of the world around them, enough to send them off on an adventure.

Mine is a big less minimal than that, since we've got a big rumors table and sages for hire and recurring town NPCs of mostly color-level importance. But it's otherwise the same: safe, abstract, and not a place where adventure happens.

Again, the reasoning is the same - if you make town a place of adventure, people will adventure there instead. There is always one more thing to do in town anyway, even when the PCs are leaving. Ask this one guy something. Buy one more potion. Check to see if one more spell stone is for sale. Double-check if everyone has enough rope. Check and see if there just happens to be one more hireling ready. Adding actual adventure will mean you spend more time in town and less in the dungeon. Adding important adventures means you'll turn the focus from the dungeon to the town.

And that's fine, for a town-centered game. Or a town-and-dungeon game. Or a game where dungeons provide clues and links and resources that influence town. But not for a game where the dungeon is the thing, and town is a way to allow people to replenish and recharge between delves.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing 2nd edition Humble Bundle

Thanks to Erik Tenkar for pointing this out.

There is a Humble Bundle of Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing game books.

$1 will get you the WFRPG rulebook, 2nd edition, in PDF, plus three books.

Higher tiers will get you more.

II went in for it - $1 for something to read on my Kindle on vacation. WHFRPG 1st edition made my head spin, with all of the misery of being a spellcaster, profession-hoping, and mechanics I couldn't quite understand right away. But it had nice flavor (flavour?) to it. You can throw in more for more books, or just to support the charities they're supporting.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Danger Pockets

There is a very interesting series of web posts on a sandbox-style fantasy campaign called the "West Marches."

If you haven't read them, and you have any interest in sandbox-style play, it's worth reading them. You can start here:

Grand Experiments: The West Marches

I first discovered them a few years after I'd started running my DF campaign, Felltower. What's interesting to me is that many of the features of the West Marches game are also features of mine, in a case of parallel development. Or re-invention of the wheel. Or however else you'd term it. My game came later, and by a combination of accident, design, and emergent lessons of running a sandbox, I ended up with many of the same situations.

While I don't run a wide-open game featuring a large pool of players, I can't just run game on whatever day a few players are available to show up at my house, and I don't feature a wilderness-based area, the similarities really struck me. I read those posts and felt, hey, I do that. Hey, I realized that and changed to that. Hey, that happens in my games, too.

We started with very similar approaches. A modernized version of an old game (his was D&D 3.5 3.0, mine GURPS 4th edition). Minis. Tactical combat. Open rolling (although I still conceal a lot). Narrowed choices of character design but open access within those choices. Risk of death. Cross-player shared maps and knowledge to keep information from being siloed. A decided lack of NPC rivals willing to do the inherently foolish thing of walking open-eyed into extreme danger because you think there is money there.

I decided I'd finally sit down and take a look at some of the elements my game shares with the West Marches, and discuss them in the context of Felltower. Partly because I think it might make an interesting and helpful series of posts. And partly because it was a fun experiment for me to analyze my own game in light of someone else's game.

Today let's talk Danger Pockets.

Danger Pockets

My game in general, but the megadungeon Felltower in particular, has what Ben Robbins called "danger pockets." These are especially high-reward areas, which are often high-risk, difficult to access, difficult to find, or all three. The risk is much higher than the area around it. But I try to make the reward out of proportion to the risk, or at least well out of proportion to the surrounding area. They are static places, although they may feature mobile danger.

Sometimes they are really easy to find but getting in has some difficulty. They're places you can avoid for as long as you want - maybe forever - but if you want to get rich, one way is through those places.

Just like in the West Marches, people sometimes find these and then put them aside for "later," and "later" becomes "never."

Not everything is a "danger pocket." The big lizard man demon temple was a huge, epic fight, but not a "danger pocket." The dragon fought many sessions back was just a very dangerous encounter. The sword-spirit with his great magical sword wasn't a "danger pocket." Even the Lord of Spite isn't - he's an unavoidable problem that happens to have some treasure if you know where to go and get it. The dungeon isn't just broke wandering monsters and "danger pockets."

Interesting areas aren't all "danger pockets," either. The room of pools is interesting, and had an encounter, but wasn't really any more or less interesting than, say, the hall of murals and No Mana Zones or the apartment complexes or the weird temple. They weren't really out of line with what was around them. A statically located reward guarded with a challenge isn't a danger pocket. That's just normal danger for a sandbox.

But what is a good example of a danger pocket?

Good examples are: (* means it's been cleared or accessed)

- the Black Library*
- the draugr
- the "boss's" apartment complex*
- the double-doors in the "cavern area" past the "dragon cave."
- the big dragon
- the twinned temple*
- whatever is behind the repelling doors
- the force-walled temple in the Lost City
- the statue-puzzle "black door" (to the treasury)*
- the gate destinations (generally)

That's not all of them. That's just some.

The gate destinations are interesting. Either they are high-risk high-reward areas, or they're just access to new adventuring areas in general. I'm a little concerned they'll see very little actual adventuring, because by design they aren't set up for dipping a toe in to check the water temperature. You can't just pop in, look around, and get back out and come back when you're ready. Well, you can for some, but not all, and it's not always going to be clear which it is until you go for it.

But the one-and-done or enter easily/leave with difficulty places are "danger pockets" - high risk, but high reward. They'll wait for someone to take some risk to exploit it. And if you set them aside until "later," and only come back once you've reduced the risk to nil, odds are the treasure is not going to be as high-impact as if you'd gotten it first. Imagine if the PCs had solved the rotating statue puzzle right away, and cleared out rings of wishes and high-end healing stones and piles of coins and gems years back. And for reward, it was dangerous and tricky, required thought and a lot of travel around a dangerous dungeon (and thus some work), and carried well in excess of the amount of treasure anything else on the 2nd level could be expected to have.

I highly recommend using some "danger pockets" in your sandbox. Or even in a more linear campaign, so you can bring it back as a callback to earlier days. As in, "Hey, the key to the wizard's treasury must be the one behind that lethal series of magical traps we saw back in Dungeon #1!"

It's tricky as a player to guess what would count, or start interpreting encounters as "danger pockets." But once it's clear an area is especially dangerous and potentially especially rewarding, it's worth keeping in mind that there might be special rewards lurking there, too. Think static areas where something way more dangerous than what is around it lurks and waits for someone brave enough to take the risk to exploit it. Why I am going on about this? Because I half expect players to meta-discuss if something is a "danger pocket" or "just another encounter" to try to analyze risk to reward. Analyzing with only the information on the PC side of the screen can be deceptive - you can get a 100% logical conclusion that leads you astray because you're operating with far less than 100% of the actual data.

Long story short? You can avoid clear "danger pockets" for now, or forever. But there is usually better-than-commensurate reward for tackling them. Clear and obviously more-dangerous area probably have more reward, if you're willing to chance them.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

DFRPG Unboxings

In case you missed any of these from my sidebar, here are two looks inside the DFRPG physical boxed set:

DFRPG Unboxing

Dungeons Fantasy RPG for GURPS has arrived at the Attic!

What ones did I miss? Post links in the comments!

Friday, September 15, 2017

DFRPG - Arrived!

My DFRPG box arrived today. Let's see how it looks:

DFRPG arriving today

My DFRPG boxed set is due to arrive today, so I'll post about it later when it arrives - maybe I can get some unboxing pics.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The DFRPG is on the way here

I got a notice yesterday that my DFRPG materials are on the way - I should receive them Saturday.

We'll start using them right away, which means next game.

What I'm hoping the DFRPG will do for me:

- simplify my game overhead by reducing the numbers of PDFs I need to keep open and places I need to reference.

- get more buy-in from players reluctant to read and learn the rules.

- replace my so-so GM screen with a DF-centric screen*

- allow me to replace all references for rules with a simple house rules bundle and "See Exploits."

What I don't expect it to do:

- fully replace my DF books, especially template-heavy ones and Power-Ups we intend to keep (which is all of the ones we're using now.)

- undermine the DF-compatibility of my materials

- fundamentally change our DF experience

We'll see how it all goes next game, which is in just a couple of weeks.

* My plan for the screen is to print out the PDF of the screen and tape that to the player's side, as well - they don't need pictures, nice as they are, they need charts.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Suspicious Shopkeepers (thank to The Onion)

The Onion explains why the people of Felltower are so wary of the PCs:

Video Game Shopkeeper Starting To Get Suspicious After Selling 800 Bombs To Player

Yep, that's Felltower, right there.

"Hmm, that guy cleaned me out of alchemist's fire, paut, healing potions, and dark vision eye rub . . . and last week he was selling 'crab legs' and blood-stained weapons and weird idols and was pretty cagey about where it came from."

This is why the PCs don't all have a +4 reputation as generally great guys who spend a lot in town. Oh, sure, they spend a lot in town, but how they get that cash and what they spend it on, well, it's like a guy who comes to the pawn shop with a bunch of antique gold and then swings by Wal*Mart and cleans them out of ammo, sterno, and pressure cookers . . . and repeats that week after week. You're going to be regarded with some concern.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

DM David posts I liked

I stumbled across these posts this weekend by DM David and I enjoyed them:

Four Essential Qualities of a 4-Hour Dungeons & Dragons Adventure - this could probably be the four essential qualities of a game session, too. If you've got all four, you've probably got a good game session going on. 2-3, okay. 0-1, eh. I don't always get a fast start to my games, but I try to ensure the other three are available in my megadungeon. They certainly are in our Gamma Terra campaign, too.

I especially like #4. I remember this article about GMing Top Secret, where the writer said that if you set an adventure in Hawaii and then stick the entire session inside of an office building, you're wasting the setting. In a world with magic (and in our post-apoc game, radiation and mutants) there should be something magical in the encounters. Not all of them, but at least some.

How to Use Scenes and Summaries to Focus on the Best Parts of a Role-Playing Adventure - I don't consciously think of "scenes" and "summaries" but perhaps I should. I use both - we focus tightly in on combat, obstacles, challenges, and puzzles, and pull back to "we go down this long corridor, turn left at the T, and then go straight" or "you all get back to town" summaries the other times. I just wasn't explicitly categorizing them in this way. It seems like a useful tool for thinking about when to slow things down and when to speed things up as your write and prepare adventures, especially more narrowly focused ones (ones with a developing story, plot, or sequences of events to deal with.)

And I like this post about Backstory. I do a lot of that - backstory found in a lost tome is something the players read. Backstory read to the PCs at the beginning is ignored and no one remembers it. "Whose castle?" "The Dark Mage's castle, weren't you listening?" No, they weren't. You need to find a better way - if the players are ignoring your backstory, it's not a "them" problem.

I haven't read a huge amount of DM David's posts, but those I found and I liked. I'll probably dig around more and see what else might help my gaming.

Monday, September 11, 2017

GURPS Gamma World, 20th Homeland - Session 13 - Factory Investigation

Yesterday was a session of our Gamma World aka Gamma Terra GURPS game.

"Caveman" - demo/EOD
"Fatbox" - demo/EOD
"Hillbilly" - medical specialist
"Love Handles" - demo/EOD

In reserve:
"Barbie" - demo/EOD (MIA)
"Momma's Boy" - computer programmer
"Princess" - cryptographer/sniper
"Short Bus" - computer programmer
"Oinker" - demo/EOD

We opened in the ferry terminal, and gathered up a partial squad. Originally we'd expected seven, but illness took out one, change of venue a second, and schedule changes a third. So despite really wanting at least one computer specialist, a sniper for cover, and a machine gun in case of a large battle, we had none of those. We set out with just four plus our officer, who we eventually dubbed "Constable Crunky" after I suggested we use the box from some Ichigo Crunky Choco (which I'd brought to inflict on my fellow gamers) as a fold-up.

We set out at 6:00 am, when it was light-er out than at "night," in a thick blanket of red snow. Visibility was bad, but we kept a good pace. After a short walk the road ahead was blocked with a bunch of Pineys, those plant men we'd fought at the hospital. Maybe 50-75 or so of them were across the road, milling around.

Caveman signaled a halt and we talked it over. They're vulnerable to fire and being hacked apart. We waited a bit but they didn't leave. So Caveman suggested we make "spears" of the overgrowth, tie his road flares to them, and light them up as flaming polearms. We did so, and advanced on the Pineys. They saw us and formed a wall across the road. We kept going, shooing them back and to the sides with the polearms. That worked - they backed off from the fire. It became clear to us that they weren't sapient - more like fully mobile weeds than intelligent and hostile beings. We kept going past them, keeping our flare-sticks going just in case. We figured heat-sensing foes would be attracted but it was worth it to keep fire-fearing plants and animals away.

We eventually reached the split causeway, and saw a mech coming. It was garishly painted up with graffiti, like an 80's Bronx subway train. To the sides were three or four patrolling Little Thieves, with big hats, waders, and hawking gloves up to their biceps, plus really ornate weapons. On top rode three Little Thieves with Japanese dai-kyu style bows we ended up called yumis. As soon as we saw that I realized they definitely did not control the mechs, they just followed them. Why put three bowmen on top of a battle mech you control? They were riding and protecting them. Heh. But shooting people off of a mech was bound to seem hostile to the mech, even if it didn't know what to do with those guys.

So we called out to the mech with the bullhorn, which Hillbilly reluctantly returned to Fatbox.

Fatbox just said that we were incoming friendlies, and we walked up. The mech scanned us with its twin gun mount, but otherwise ignored us. The Little Thieves (LTs) were stunned and excited. Three of them started following us around, and babbled a lot. Hillbilly dubbed them Jawas (the Little Monks being "Ewoks"). Fatbox was happy to have worshippers.

We headed to the factory, stopping briefly to examine an area of nuked-out sand. The LTs clearly met them this side of the devastation, and the mechs walked through as evidenced by footprints in the sand. We followed the thieves down a narrow side path. That eventually led to an underground factory buried in the side of a hill, entered by an overhanging cave mouth guarded by dozens of LTs and three mechs. We went inside, and down a big Akira-style elevator to the entrance floor accompanied by two mechs and a lot of LTs. It was stripped of good stuff, and had one working and two non-working elevators. The working one had a disabled card reader, but still opened for us. The LTs were startled - they used ladders to climb down. We took the elevator. Hillbilly hummed "The Girl from Ipanema."

At the bottom we found some side passages but Hillbilly insisted and going deeper and straight in. We did so, and found a giant factory floor covered with rows of M.A.M.A.s, robotic arms for mech assembly. On the sides of the walls were wooden nooks accessed by ladders, full of LTs. Adults, kids, whatever. We walked past them, and saw big screens showing a beautiful dark-skinned woman. We met "her" at the end of the floor, where a few M.A.M.A.s had been moved. One was a throne for the android (a Mark VII they called "Vox", we gathered from their gibber-jabber), while another was playing chess against an absent opponent.

We met their leader (we think) - a four-armed LT who had an empath act as "translator." That got us a whole lot of nowhere, except that they wanted peace and we could stay as long as we didn't cause trouble. Sigh. Like that wasn't going to happen. We tried talking to Vox, but she was clearly malfunctioning - she gave us a spiel about the M3 Corporations mech-based solutions to our business needs, then spewed random code as if she'd glitched out, and then spoke different languages in bits and pieces. She didn't respond to our queries in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, etc. - if only we'd spoke Korean we could speak to Rainicorns, or Japanese so we could speak to robots, aliens, and giant monsters. Poor planning, really.

In any case, we eventually headed down to the lower levels, looking to see if we could turn on the computers. The place had power but no signals, and the big doors to the other mech manufacturing floors were closed and wouldn't open.

We searched the next floors and found basically three things - trouble, a computer room, and radiation. The LTs didn't come with us, which was the first sign of difficulty.

Trouble was on the storage floor, when about a dozen flea-like things the size of dogs jumped us when we disturbed their area. Hillbilly and Fatbox opened up full ROF on them but didn't hit more than once each, and in a second or so they were on us. They jumped on us and our guns. In a confused melee Love Handles had some of the metal on his M16 rusted and eaten, and Fatbox had his gold watches turned to dust and nom-nommed up by a rust monster. Caveman had one on his foot and shot it off with his SCAR-H, but then one jumped on his SCAR so he drew a pistol and shot that one off of it. He ended up in a Jon Woo movie dance with a couple, shooting and dodging, before finishing them off with gunfire and a stamp kick. Fatbox cut one apart with his chainsword and then cut another up off of his arm. Love Handles shook his off and had it jump right back on, and eat more of his gun. He eventually killed his, too. Hillbilly tore one off of himself, then got out Hoopslayer and shivved it. Another came up and got sliced up a bit, then a third jumped him and he ducked and sliced it up, too.

In the end we killed them all at the cost of some watches and a need for repairs to an M16. Luckily, only the charging rod was screwed up, and Fatbox real-world knew how to get around that (he's a former Marine), and we had the Armoury skills to back that up.

Next we found a computer room. It was blinking amber and had slots for 128 cards, with seven missing. Three were broken on the floor (and Caveman couldn't get them working). We took those three and a fourth good one as an example.

Finally we found a door with extreme radiation on it, according to our rad detectors. The door said Blah Blah Blah Reaction Kaskium You're Going to Die. Something like that. It had two swipe card slots. We handed out the non-medical cards to Love Handles and Fatbox, suited them up in the best NBC suits, gave them pre-attempt rad resistance pills and injections, and sent them in.

They got a few card swipes done, uselessly, before the radiation swamped their defenses - Fatbox dropped and Love Handles was woozy. As they happened we shouted to Love Handles to drag back Fatbox by looping an arm through his belt. Caveman had been ready with a rope and grapnel and slid it across and yelled for LH to wrap it around his arm. He was woozy enough to sorta-kinda follow directions, but managed.

We stuffed them with a full grey injector each and some red pens to heal up burns. We fed them post-rad treatment pills, too.

Okay, so that was a bad idea. We gave up on it - it was worth a try to see what was beyond the door, but with that much radiation it's only going to get worse when we open it. We could barely start a reactor with a manual and a helping hand, we're not going to safely deal with a damaged one that's still online.

We headed back up. We "talked" more to the LTs. Fatbox tried to get Vox to reboot or restart, but she didn't listen. That did seem to annoy the LTs, though, as they clearly listen to her and get guidance from her, if only in their own minds. Fatbox did get them to trade a black card with three white stripes (Intel/Med 3) for a watch, and Caveman got them to give him an ornate sword that is knife-sized for him.

We tried to find the chess master, and decided to camp out and wait. They gave us a place to stay. LH and Caveman stayed downstairs, while Fatbox and Hillbilly stayed outside counting mechs (I think we decided it was like 10, but it was late and I didn't write the number down, Caveman's player would know) and seeing if the chess dude was there. They said it was a guy with spikes who punched people. Okay. But all the guards wore armor with spikes.

The next day we gave up and left, figuring that maybe the Colonel would be able to help us with the computer. We were kind of frustrated since we had no clear way forward. They LTs indicated there were more mechs but beyond the big closed doors, and with the computer down those doors would stay so. They didn't have the computer blades, either, so now what? Maybe the campus had ones we could try.

So we headed out. We toyed with waiting for a mech for a ride, and in retrospect, that would have been the best move and would have answered so many questions about violence in and around them.

Suddenly we heard whistling, and Fatbox and Hillbilly hit the dirt (the other guys didn't want to waste 15 points on Combat Reflexes for some reason.) LH took an arrow in the face. Caveman took three in the chest and didn't even bat an eye. LTs - not Little Monks or someone else, but the guys we just left - were shooting arrows at us. We ended up in a brief firefight. LH took another arrow in the face. Caveman took one in the arm. Constable Crunky too three in the face and body. We shot back and took out two archers. We took cover and healed up and reloaded, and then all rose at once to cover all directions. Hillbilly saw an LT aiming an arrow at him. Oh, to **** with that, Hillbilly doesn't have Bad Temper and mild Overconfidence for nothing. Hillbilly used AOA (Determined) and shot full-auto back, putting two rounds in the guy but taking an arrow through his gas mask, wounding him slightly (4-5 points out of 24). We sent Crunky up front but then a beam of red hit him and melted a hole in him, and he listed to the side but stayed standing. Uh-oh.

We saw a gator-skinned spike-shouldered red-eyed LT with some archers at his side. We fired. Hillbilly assumed he was protected and shot an archer, and the others shot him. He had a force screen that deflected the bullets. We called out targets and shot down all of his friends, as he drew he swords and ran at us, yelling "Vox! Vox!" Ahah, the chessmaster, who Caveman called the General.

We fought a big melee after this. LH got out a rope and moved to the side, Caveman his knife Groot Wormslayer and moved to the other. Fatbox got out his chain sword and moved to engage, "charging" at Move 2 or 3. Hillbilly scanned the area, and once melee was joined drew a stun grenade and Hoopslayer and moved up.

The General used his radiation vision to shoot and his swords in melee. He and Fatbox had a nice duel, and Fatbox laughed off a sword slash to the chest and got a face full of radiation in return. He later slice his own arm up after a critical parry by the General, and dropped his sword. The General moved in for the kill. But too late - LH got behind him with the rope, Caveman jumped in and slashed his arm, and Hillbilly ran in and critically hit him with Hoopslayer. He shot off some spikes into Hillbilly but Hillbilly was going low for a takedown and dodged some and the rest pinged off his armor. We ended up with Hillbilly grappling his waist, but unable to move him due to the General's extreme strength, and stabbing him non-stop in the side and back with Telegraphic Rapid Strikes. LH got a rope around his neck and hung from him, trying to get his gaze up (but only after Caveman and Hillbilly each took a shot - Hillbilly's being basically nothing, Caveman's wounding him badly). Caveman stuck a knife in a few times before leaving it stuck in the guy's arm. Fatbox recovered and carefully shoved his saw-blade into the guys chest a few times.

Finally, after a lot of stabbing, more spikes, more gaze attacks, and even more stabbing, he went down. Hillbilly may have dealt the final stab, I'm not sure, as Fatbox was stab-sawing holes in him from the front and Hillbilly was eyes to the ground. Hillbilly stabbed him a good 4-5 times after to ensure he was down, and then Fatbox sawed off his head. Hillbilly cut the throats of everyone not clearly, visibly dead (like, head blown open dead.)

Hillbilly lost his temper, here in this fight. It showed in excessive stabbing, a couple of AOAs when they weren't the best choice, and killing the wounded. Little bastages attacking us when we're trying to deal with them peacefully and harm none of them? No, you shot at us and you die. Hillbilly didn't raise any objection when Fatbox took the General's head, either.

We took their weaponry and attractive bits of decoration and left.

It was way late in the real world, and since the GM had to leave, we had a choice:

- end right there, close to our next objective (the college)


- handwave travel back to the base.

We chose the latter, because it won't necessarily be the same players next time and people might have to sit out half of the session while we "just check this one thing out" on the way back to picking their guys up.


Hillbilly things to do for next time (I'd have done them right away, but we didn't have time at the session's end):

- take a rad-away pill
- use a rad-away stick
- mend his gas mask
- put on some temporary arm and leg armor (bark, sticks, and cloth)

As always, we run into computers when our computer guys aren't around. Maybe that's because 5 out of 9 players chose "Demo/EOD" as their specialty?

Speaking of specialties, we're the most un-optimized group.

- the biggest, strongest guy is the medic

- our most charismatic guy doesn't want to lead or be the main guy talking

- our fourth-strongest guy loves melee

- our most organized guy usually gets sent off scrounging while we're planning and organizing

We make out okay, and people are happy running their guys. It's just that if you wanted optimized guys, you'd sort out our choices differently.

Caveman's player and I discussed this on the way home. We're not frustrated as players, but our characters are pretty frustrated. We are kind of stuck as to what to do next. If we hadn't made a deal with Colonel Jezza to split up the robots, at this point I'd just be saying we should loot the church's supplies, loot the mall, check out a spot or two and then just up and leave. Our hope at this point is that the Fit have some computer blades we can re-insert to get the factory going again, we find a way to either make peace with the Little Thieves or defeat them so we can gain access, and get the factory rolling our mechs again. Fighting the Little Thieves will cost a lot of ammunition and injuries - possibly even character deaths; we'd be trading irreplaceable resources for something we don't know to be of greater value. Plus, we don't know if we'd trigger the mechs to fight us!

It's flat-out annoying that we're trying to be friendly (and tried to make amends after a fight) with both the Little Monks and the Little Thieves, thought we came to a friendly pass, and then got ambushed by them. Grr. We're probably tramping all over their beliefs and goals and can't communicate well enough to sort it out. If that's the case, we're going to err on the side of what we want and need and resort to violence to get it. Real-world, I think that's a terrible thing, but in game, well, we're mostly those kind of people. Oh well.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Gamma Terra & the apocalypse

Today is Gamma Terra. And our GM posted up the description of the apocalypse from 1st edition Gamma World yesterday:

The Apocalypse

I first read that at age 10 or 11, probably 10, as I got right into Gamma World after I started playing D&D near the end of my 9th year.

It really creeped me out, in a good way.

And it's appallingly descriptive of 21st century politics, isn't it?

Out of game, I assume that's how the world ended. And that great past-tense tag line at the end sums up our game:

"During the Black Years, those who held the tools, held the power."

We aim to hold the tools.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

My paper man is dead

One of my friends and long-time gaming buddies*, Don W., has a great line about dead PCs.

Pretty much, it goes, "Waah waah waah, my paper man is dead." It works best stated with cold contempt.

It's a line I have to pull out and say to myself sometimes.

Yeah, I know it sucks when a character dies.

But it's just a paper man. It's imaginary. Don't invest too much in it.

"But I invested a lot of time and effort and love into this guy!" Sure. You invested a lot of time and effort and love into having fun and playing a game. You did those. You already got a full return on your investment. That you could have had more fun and played the game more isn't nothing, but it's not really something important. You can make up another paper man and have another go at gaming.

Of course, this is no knock on cautious and careful play. But still, as your character gets stronger, gains experience, and otherwise improves, you're less and less likely to take foolish risks. Yet you can get paralyzed into inaction by fear of losing what is, ultimately, just a paper man. Is it better to sit back years from now and talk about all of the risks you avoided to keep your paper man "alive"? Or to remember risks taken because it's a made-up story about risks without real consequences?

And if your guy dies . . . well, you know the line.

* Although we both game regularly at the moment but don't game with each other. But schedules change, and we'll game together again. We've got an overlapping player who plays in our Gamma Terra game, as well.

(2/6/2023 - Editing much later: This post has some further discussion of the subject.)

Friday, September 8, 2017

More on monster bits

Yesterday I posted about monster bits.

One of my players pointed out that you can basically sell all sorts of animal bits, real-world. Of course, that's partly what I'm trying to simulate. That's why I added a rule that potentially adds value to those random bits, instead of using the existing DF pricing of "no one wants it, it's valueless." There is a chance people will buy anything.

A chance, though, not a certainty. It's a pre-modern market, not a post-internet connected world. You need to find a local buyer at the time you are selling. That buyer needs to think they can sell it right away. This transaction needs to be done quickly because we're not playing Warehouses & Wharves, so people aren't storing materials and shipping them to buyers elsewhere. We're not playing shopkeepers either, so you're selling to the merchant who sells to the merchant who sells to the end-users, and if you're lucky one of the members of that chain is missing and you get a little bit more.

Pricing is pretty low, though. This makes sense given the DF economy. $1000 equips a new delver. $600 buys a sword, and $40 a weapon-grade axe or a spear. $5000 adds magical damage to a sword, being raised from the dead is $15K! Prices are bound to be low for mundane anything.

Plus even if it's unusual (dragon bits, say, or the horn of a rare purple gargoyle, or bits of rock troll), it's not necessarily very valuable. Rare monster bits rarely top $500, and more often are in the $100 or $1dx100 range, and that's intact, properly harvested, and fresh. Dragons top out in the near-$5000 range, for big ones, and that's a magical creature with parts that can do many things for NPCs in town.

It also needs to be identifiable and attractive. Broken bits of random bones, teeth pulled out of a critter not identifiable post-pull, pelts that don't look any different form other pelts, etc. aren't going to have a lot of value. You can lie, but people lie all of the time, and that depresses the market value as confidence men and profiteers pile on.

Damage to the monster doesn't help. Delvers generally inflict a lot of damage to win the fight, and more gaining the bits. It's not going to ensure a salable piece of monster at the end of it, even if it started out as valuable.

It's also a buyer's market. You, the delver, need a buyer at the time you are selling due to your own need to move the stuff now because it'll spoil. Horns, etc. won't, but not every horn is useful and not every horn is attractive and valuable. Teeth are great for collections and savage fetishes, but I work on the assumption that "collectors" don't generally exist. Alchemists and demonologists and wizards who need bits do, but mostly people aren't putting together vast collections of monster bits, rare coins, and so on just to do so. Price depends on utility.

Another thing is that these things are relatively common. For all that squirrel tails* and otter's noses might be salable, if you're pulling lots of the same items out of a dungeon or from the local wood nearby, it's a local commodity. Seashells sell for less by the seashore** and firewood sells for less in the forest.

On top of all of this, part of it is the fun aspect. I'm totally amused by PCs stripping dungeons down to the wall fixtures. But "now we cut the monster into salable bits and arrange encumbrance to bring it home to sell" is not as much fun to me as "we open the chest and take the silver and gold and magical items." The DF economy nicely makes the latter much better than the former. If it didn't, then the game really should center on trapping monsters and killing them efficiently and with the least damage to their body parts, then harvesting and selling them. You can do some of that, and taking the special spleen of the cave slink is worth doing, but the game doesn't focus mainly on selling owlbear meat.

I want to reward my players for their enterprise, but it'll skew the game if every monster is effectively a pile of loot, and if monster pelts are the way you make a profit. That takes us right back to "farm for XP" instead of "delve into the megadungeon and tell gaming stories for years about the challenges you faced."

I figure scrap-based rules do that nicely.

* Mepps used to have price lists in their catalogs for buying animal tails for their lures.

** Tourist shops notwithstanding - you need a tourism-based economy before anyone is buying shells to avoid finding one for free.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Monster Bit Scrap

Delvers love loot. Players seem to love harvesting monster parts are loot.

The problem my players have is a mix of the following:

- lack of meta-game knowledge of what's valuable and of the relevant rules (Dead Monster Bits, Exploits, p. 24)

- lack of in-game knowledge of what's valuable;

- lack of proper skills (Surgery, Alchemy, Physiology, etc.);

- lack of proper tools (using swords, axes, and knives to do the work of surgical tools, scrapers, and alchemy kits);

- determination to take and sell bits that aren't especially valuable as if they were;

- a tendency to hack monsters to well past -5xHP and often past -10xHP, decapitate them, burn them, kill them with alchemist's fire; lightning; and brutal skull hits; and then hope to carefully harvest full-value internal organs and skin.

Add that to random guesswork ("I'm sure the legs of a Death Brain are valuable!" or "Take every single part of this dragon back home, every ounce is salable" or "I'm sure people want to eat owlbear meat from that one we killed with explosive spells") and what do you get?

What I get is a lot of PCs taking random monster bits home and trying to sell them.

I'd like to simultaneously punish their lack of the proper skills (and unwillingness to try them) and excessive "kill it past death" methods of pre-harvesting murder and reward their efforts.

So why not use the Scrap rules?

Dead Monster Bits

As written, but add this to the end of Mundane Parts:

Delvers may try to sell any sort of monster bits in town, even those not especially prized. A Naturalist or appropriate Survival roll will allow the PCs to extract the bits they want without destroying them; at a -1 to -5 for inappropriate tools, excessive damage to the corpses, use of fire or corrosion damage, etc. Success means they gather the bits they want - if choosing at random, this will be 1dx10% of the weight of the intact corpse. Failure means they aren't able to gather anything useful. Critical failure means what they have appears valuable, but is damaged beyond sale, and they may be contaminated with bits that attract burrowing grubs, plague flies, carrion-eating corrosive cave snails, attacks by the dreaded leaping ethereal dungeon shark, etc.

To sell the bits in town, make one Merchant or Cooking roll at the end of the adventure. Success means someone wants those bits for something (better not to ask why); price is $1dx10 per 100 pounds of material. Take it or leave it, and the material will spoil before you get another buyer!


Heh. So, worth the try, sort of. And you may choose the right bits, and make the right rolls. You're still better off actually using your skills, and probably better off leaving the dead monster where it is. Just because something has teeth and skin doesn't mean its teeth and skin are valuable loot. Bring back roadkill opossum bits and badger teeth and deer feet from your next hike and try to sell them.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Magic Items pricing in Felltower post-DFRPG

Readers might note that with armor, I'm not giving "best of both worlds" as an option. I'm giving a choice of systems for the entire game.

Similarly, with magic items and spells, we're picking one or the other. But this is a situation where we are basically taking the better of the options available from a PC perspective. If a spell modified in Spells is better than the one in Magic, or is better than the ones we use as house rules, we'll use the one in Spells. Where our house rules are better, we'll use them. And where existing items are available that are not available in Magic Items, they'll stay available.

Magic Items - Most permanent magic items aren't available. Enchantments listed in Adventurers are available, except for Penetrating Weapon. Deflect is available for shields, but not for armor. Prices are as listed there, but still require a cost-positive non-size prefix for weapons and armor.

Spell Stone pricing remains the same. These aren't available in DFRPG, and pricing will use the existing ranges despite the otherwise full switchover to $20/point.

Potions are generally available subject to our usual rules, including most of those in Magic Items. Fountains, bottled explosions, etc. are not available yet.

Scrolls are available subject to our usual rules, prices as per Magic Items.

Speaking of prices in town:

Healing will use the prices in the DFRPG, instead of our current, existing list. Please note that partially-funded Resurrection is possible with this approach.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The worst part of making new monsters - naming them

I've been making stats for some new monsters for my GURPS DF game recently.

The hardest part for me is naming them.

If I start with a good name, it's easy. For example, Death Brain. Slugbeast. Leaping Leeches. Eye of Death.*

Others I start with a concept, or a miniature, or a visual image, but need a name.

That's the hard part.

A good name is evocative, and tells you something about the monster either clearly and correctly or in an indirect way. Rocks trolls, for example, aren't trolls, but they are regenerating rock men, which fits the name. Phase serpents do exactly what it says. Dinomen are little dinosaur-headed lizard men. Spheres of Madness are spheres and you can sure tell why someone added "of Madness!" to the end of their moniker for theese multi-eyed, tentacles, head-eating things.

Sometimes, though, I just don't have a good name. Nothing that'll beat out the the inevitable disparaging nickname ("Derps") of the PCs, or inappropriately vague identification ("land monster.")

That's where I am stuck on a few monsters. Great concept, great minis (for at least a couple of them), and nothing like a good name that the PCs will actually like and use.


I'd ask for help, but then they wouldn't be a surprise. I may just end up with Derps II or Derps Junior for lack of an evocative name that the players like and use.

* Which was also inspired by needing giant flying killer eyeballs. I've been asked if it's a Beholder ripoff. No, it's a giant flying eyeball. My flying biting sphere monsters with eyes on stalks and a big anti-magic eye are beholder ripoffs. Heh.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Over 700 hours of DF

Game session length came up peripherally in a recent discussion I had, and more directly regarding restocking my dungeon.

We play for about 8 hours. It's occasionally less, sometimes a bit more, and we're together for a bit longer than we play. A couple sessions were much longer - like more than 12 hours - because we played on a Sunday with a Monday holiday.

So how much time is that?

91 sessions.

Call it 8 hours per session.

That comes out to 728 hours of play in the past 5 years.

That's a lot of rolling 3d6.

Still, I'd rather be running Felltower than have a lazy Sunday off with nothing to do.

Why 8 hours? Most of this has to do with 1/3 of our group living very far away, so weekly 3-hour sessions are vastly less realistic than bi-monthly 8 hour sessions. If we want Gale's player and Vryce/Gerry's player to participate, we need to play long sessions to make the trip worthwhile. If we want to play at all involving me, it's got to be Sunday or the rare Friday night (and both of those precede very early mornings leading into long days of work.) It is just how it has to work. I just didn't really think about how long it's been, in terms of total hours.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Felltower Updates

For those following along at home, and for those players of mine who use the blog to track their own progress, here are some pages I updated this morning:

World of Felltower Gazetteer

- minor updates to existing locations for more detail.

- several NPC names added to the rumor list.

- added elves and goblins

(And by the way, I love that the DFRPG took my own tack of making Elvish an optional language and Dwarven an old language not commonly used any longer. Heh.)

Known Gates

- added the newest gate discovered, called the "air gate" by the players.

Monsters Encountered So Far

- added the Death Brain


In non-blog updates, I started to go through my spells house rules document and bring it in line with the DFRPG. Page references and going to Spells, now, not GURPS Magic, unless the spell exists only in GURPS Magic. Changes I made have been tweaked back in a few cases to make it easier to just use Spells.

I'm also gathering a list of what rules we use that aren't in Exploits so we can assemble them in one place for reference. I probably should have done that before, but it works out better for me that I didn't because I don't have to re-do work.


Otherwise, I did some stocking and restocking - mostly the former - in order to keep ahead of the players. They have lot of options at this point, so I need to do a lot of work to stay ahead. I'm not at the point of requiring the players to tell me before the session where they intend to go in the dungeon. But I did make it clear that I'd prefer they decide ahead of time with gates when they'll go through, as it can be an involved process (or not), and I need to be ready.

That's especially true if they, say, want to go to the Lost City and "finish the job" or something. That's a whole set of material I need to pack up, be ready to run, ensure is up to date, etc. Just making sure I have the minis alone is a big deal. It's not a lot to ask in a meta-game, real-world sense that the players tell me when they're going to do something that can involve an entirely different set of preparations. Much like how we don't tell our Gamma Terra GM that we'll go to the Robot Farm and then show up and say, "No, actually, we'll go to Unknown Area #2 right now instead!" Even if he's got both ready to go, it's easier on everyone if he's only got to re-read and bring along one of the two.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Bones IV - that was fun

In the end, I didn't add anything to my initial core pledge. There were some good deals, and interesting add-ons, but none that gave me enough value for my money in terms of useful, tabletop-applicable minis.

Still, $110 is fair for what I got, and I can set aside some paint for February 2019 when they are due.

Fan Favorite Expansion for Bones IV

Okay, this is tempting. Let's see how it expands:

Slaadi, penguins, rocky hellhounds, a weird beach monster, mounted guys? Oh, so tempting. It's $50, plus shipping, so they'll need more before I can just wait for the ones I like and buy them retail. But I'll keep an eye on this today, it could expand and drop to well below my acceptable per-mini-I-like price.

This guy is neat, albeit totally useless for me:

Bones IV Last 12 hours

Just an FYI post - the Bones IV Kickstarter is in its last 12 hours, if you're interested in joining in:

Friday, September 1, 2017

More on DF-to-DFRPG Armor - why not the best of both worlds?

Yesterday I wrote about some armor options for our DF-to-DFRPG switchover.

Option 4 is probably the one SM -2 PCs would choose. But it's off the list. That probably seems like a fairly adversarial, anti-player stance - no you can't have the best of both worlds, because, to heck with you and your paper man!

That's not really the whole of it, although it could be part of it. That's not why I would not choose option 4.

Mostly, it's a combination of laziness and ease.

Laziness because putting in Option 4 (cost/weight from DFRPG, scaling from DF1 and DF3) will take a fair amount of work. It's not completely trivial - I'll need GDF files for GCA for the DFRPG armor and ones for the DF1 / DF3 scaling, and ensure they work together. I'd also need to revise all existing SM-1 and SM-2 PCs, NPCs, and armored monsters with new costs and weights.

Ease because I would then need to tell people to look in two places on paper - Adventurers, from the DFRPG boxed set, and DF 1 for oversized and DF 3 for undersized armor. I'd have to adjudicate between two sets of rules. Part of the reason to change is because I can just say, "Just use Adventurers for all of your gear."

In other words, it takes the work of a changeover with the disadvantage of needing to maintain two different systems. I can get results we've lived with this whole time - 90+ sessions - without any work. So for something to be worth doing, I have to feel like it either makes things so much better that it's worth the work, or it's a one-time cost that comes with greatly easing work for everyone going forward.

The option I'm most likely to choose is the one where we simply add Oversized. The math is easy, the GCA coding is easy, and the results are easy. It's not as easy as "just use DFRPG" but we'd need them because of existing SM +1 characters.

The "best of both worlds" option doesn't have any of that ease.

So it's laziness and ease. I'm looking for the least work now, for the most ease going forward.
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