Sunday, May 27, 2018

Felltower pre-summary

Fun game of DF Felltower today.

We had:

- the return of one of the early delvers

- a huge, multi-part battle

- massive norker casualties

- many, many traps encountered and disarmed . . . or set off

- a fight with a terrifying shadow demon

- some significant magical loot

And if you were making bets on who returned? It was Galen Longtread, returning after a 3 1/2 year absence. His last session was 9/28/2014.

I'll say more about this during the coming week, but no matter how this session went in play, it would have been a good one. It was really great to have our buddy back after a long layoff.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Game Prep for tomorrow

Tomorrow is our next session of DF Felltower.

Game prep has been relatively light:

- I wrote the new rumors a while back. Still only d20, since I've written many hundreds already.

- no restock, as the dungeon is set up from last time I got ready for play.

- packing minis is mostly done. I'll finish the rest tonight and tomorrow.

- I've be re-reading Shadow Blizzard, which is really putting me in the mood for megadungeon play.

Tomorrow is a big day, though. We'll have seven players, as far as I can tell, including a returning player who has been unable to play for a while. I'll keep who a surprise, but thanks to rampant deaths he's entering where he left - one of the higher point guys in the game.

I can't wait!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Group size growth

I was just doing a quick tally of who might play at our next Felltower session.

I came up with probably 8 or 9 out of 11 active players.

When we started, we had what I felt like was a pretty solid group - 5 players.

Out of the original five, two still play, with one being a regular and one being irregular at this point. One is inactive, the other two have basically ceased to play entirely.

In the meantime, we've added nine more players. Nine! That doesn't count one guy who played for a bit and then dropped, a tryout that didn't really work out, and another player who though he'd have more free time to play after he had kids. Heh.

We even have a standing request from one player to bring in a friend of his. But the group is so big I'm not sure I can really handle another addition, no matter how good of a fit he'd be with the group. I keep telling one of my players I'd love to have his wife back playing with us, and I would, but again, we're quite a large group as it is. Her coming back would be a) fun and b) a logistical challenge.

I'm planning on hosting game this summer a few times, and I'm not exactly sure how I can do it. I'd potentially be able to fit twelve people into a room that doesn't hold twelve standing, and have a table to play on for when we bust out the excellent GURPS tactical combat rules. I'll manage, somehow. I think.

While so many games seem to die off from lack of commitment, this one just seems to keep growing no matter how horribly I skew the table against the PCs and how many horrid . . . things . . . I paint up and deploy in front of them.

I feel like this is pretty solid proof that I'm doing something right - with our group dynamics, even if not with the game. I'm happy how things worked out.

I just need a big, dedicated gaming room in the next place I live. A really big one.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Review: GURPS Magic: Artillery Spells

I like to highlight gaming material I really enjoyed here on Dungeon Fantastic.

The usual notes apply: I generally review things I like; the author of this book is my friend, my occasional co-author, and often my editor; I'm a big fan of GURPS in general and Sean's work in particular.

For more reviews, see my consolidated list of reviews.

GURPS Magic: Artillery Spells
by Sean Punch
Steve Jackson Games May 2018
31 pages

GURPS spells, it has been said, are tactical. They're small cost and small area, generally, and don't quite rise to the level of AD&D's Fireball or the Vaccum and Death Cloud spells of Rolemaster. Artillery spells goes a way towards addressing that. In typical Sean Punch fashion, this book doesn't re-write the rules, but rather expands them and shows you what fully rules-compatible ways you have available to expand your magical options.

The book opens with a definition of Artillery spells, and a set of guidelines for making your own. It addresses fuzzy issues like DR-ignoring spells, resistance, damage type, design so spells are mass-killers but not boss-killers (you want to sweep aside the Evil King's throne room full of guards, not dump a one-shot kill spell on the Evil King - for that, you want Death Spells Boxes address counter-measures, defenses/resistances, and how to drop these spells into an existing campaign. Each and every college addresses the issue of higher-than-normal Magery, as well - specific to these spells and how to retro-improve existing spells.

The bulk of the text is dedicated to actual artillery spells. Like Death Spells, Artillery Spells expands on a specific class of spells - spells that damage multiple foes at the same time. Also like Death Spells, Sean Punch takes a broad look at the concept and makes each spell interesting and clever. They aren't all just "As Explosive Fireball, only with a different damage type!" or only Area or only Missile spells.

There is even a Melee spell, which is "artillery" only in the way damage keeps passing on from one foe to another. All colleges get some mass-attack spells, including Enchantment (Doom Wish) and even Healing (Disinfect). Colleges better suited to attack spells get more, but none are excluded. Some are a stretch, but not much - even Healing builds off of previous examples of potentially harmful "healing" spells.

Some are fairly complicated in play, but interesting enough to be worth it - for example, Creeping Plague, or Slasher. The first creates an ever-green swarm of deadly bugs, which can be stamped out but only under certain circumstances; the second sends weapons out to chop and slash and slay (and results are somewhat weapon-dependent.) Others are quite simple but fill important gaps in GURPS Magic - Cloud of Doom is a much better match for AD&D's Cloudkill than Stench is, for example, and Chain Lightning was long needed. (FWIW, I'd created my own version of that spell for an earlier campaign. Sean Punch's version is much cleaner, and clearer, but operates much as I'd previously tried out.) Decades-old gaming tropes like the broken wizard's staff that explodes (like my favorite, the Staff of the Magi) are covered as well - here by Vengeful Staff.

Overall: The book is well worth the $8 if you feel like GURPS spellcasters should be able to access more lethal large-area damage spells. It's a solid power boost but with commensurate cost to cast, and thus balanced to the rest of GURPS. Highly recommended, especially for Dungeon Fantasy GMs.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

If you haven't stopped at the Tavern lately . . .

I am too busy to write a really solid post, but I am still looking and reading.

Erik "Give me 22 minutes, and I'll give you a post" Tenkar has put up a few worth looking at.

Interested in what ever happened with the Gary Gygax Memorial statue and fund?

Gygax Memorial Podcast part 1

Want to see what my default go-to class is? (Hint: Human fighter.*)

and this patch makes me think we need a Powered By GURPS magnetic car decal.

* Okay, that's a bit more than a hint.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Thin posting week & orcs WIP

Today and this coming week I have a large amount of additional work to get done. Because of that my usual daily posting schedule is going to get interrupted. I should be back to normal by this coming weekend.

To tide everyone over, here are some orcs I'm working on. Their shields will go last - I'm trying the technique of painting the figure first, then mounting the shield, instead of using the shield to cover up areas and not bother to paint them in detail. We'll see if they look better on the tabletop when I do that.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Stericksburg's Status 2018

I posted way back in 2016 about the then-current status of Stericksburg

What about now, wondered Rick Siebold in a comment.

Much of that post is still accurate. But a few things have changed, so here is that whole post copied, pasted, and edited to reflect the current status of Stericksburg.


Here are the availability rolls for equipment, broken out by section. Every point the roll is made by is an additional one of that item for sale. On a critical success, there are effectively unlimited items of that specific type or twice margin of success, whichever makes more sense. You may make one roll per session for the entire group for a given item. Characters with in-town bonuses can make those rolls for other players, but this does mean the one rolling must stay in town, engage only in normal town behaviors, not learn additional spells, etc. as you're spending your time shopping with your buddy.

Mundane Gear: Freely available.

Armor and Weapons: List items are freely available. Custom and prefixed gear is available on a 15-, 12- if it's an odd combination or multiple-prefixed, and as low as 6- for really specific combinations ("I need a Fine Dwarven Balanced throwing axe with a backspike, both Silvered"). You can always special order custom weapons and armor. Custom armor assumes you're staying in town - no getting fitted out for a suit while you're living out in the woods.

Most ammunition is available in unlimited quantities, but special ammunition will be limited based on a 15- roll and provides (2 x margin of success) rounds of ammunition of that type. On a critical, ammunition is effectively unlimited.

Special Items: Most "specialty" items are available on a 12-. If not, you must special order them. Orders take 1d weeks to arrive. Rush jobs are more expensive but possible.

Magic Equipment: Special order only. Normal enchantment times apply, plus delivery time for special orders. Rush jobs cost twice as much, but can be done in a single day - assuming Black Jans is in town and he (assuming it's a he) reacts well to your request.

Chemicals and Natural Concoctions: Unlimited.

Poisons: Monster Drool is unlimited. Others are available on a 12-.

Potions: Most potions are available on a 12-. Minor Healing, Major Healing, and Universal Antidote potions are available with no limit on quantity.

Scrolls: Common scrolls - most spells from DFRPG - are available on a 12-, 9- for charged or universal, 6- for both. All are available for special order.

Power Item Charging: As listed. Overcharging power items is available.


Raggi Ragnarsson: Available on a 9-. He's had a very tough go of it, and this has drained his funds a lot - and recent delves have not been profitable for him. His enthusiasm for Felltower is waning. On a critical failure he's gone for a long duration - typically 1d months - before he can be found again.

Black Jans: Appearance is a per-session roll, never modified by anything! This is a specific exception to the rules. Roll frequency is secret, and made by the GM, and varies based on other circumstances. All visits require a Reaction Roll, also done in secret, and the results of the visit depend highly on this! Bonuses or penalties depend on what the visit is for. Visitors are strongly advised to be polite, be careful, and to only approach Black Jans when other resources have been exhausted.

Hirelings: Normal availability per DF 15. Relatively few veterans still live. Those that do can be sought out on a 9- as specific hires.

Volunteers: Available on a 6-. No one has had sufficient success to get world-be "part members" to just show up and sign on, especially since the pay assumption is "tips."


Because someone has been asking about learning to make Power Items, casting spells for cash, working in town to build up money, and so on:

Jobs: As always, there are just enough jobs out there that pay equal to your upkeep. You can always take a job instead of your one week's upkeep cost for downtime, but this precludes any extra in-town rumormongering, shopping, special orders, etc.

Otherwise we assume you've been working at a net-zero income job for most of the time you were off, paid one week's upkeep yourself, and been able to shop, learn spells, recover from injury, hit the sack early for an early departure on delve day, etc. Examine this too closely and it might break down, so don't do that. It's Dungeon Fantasy, not Papers & Paychecks. And if you really want to make your own Power Items, it's a 75 point Power-Up. It's not worth it in this game, but it's your character.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Rules reminders from Castle Whiterock

I've been avidly following the game summaries of Castle Whiterock.

They're entertaining, but they are also good rules reminders for me.

Perception to spot incoming missiles

I don't always remember this - I just call for a defense roll. But honestly, even a totally alert combatant moving cautiously down a hallway shouldn't get a full, unpenalized Dodge or Block against, say, a crossbow bolt that hums out of the darkness ahead. A PER roll to spot it is fair, rules-appropriate, and makes being point less of a trivial series of "I block it on a 19 or less!" rolls.

Limits of Light

This I do remember, but I don't always remember to enforce penalties on the fringes. So often combat happens within 3-4 yards of the light sources. Often people have Dark Vision spells up or have some levels of Night Vision. But when they don't, I can forget, and call out penalties that ignore the darkness penalties for being on the fringes. They mostly don't apply, but then I don't reward those that find a way not to have them apply.

I need to be better about enforcing those. They are harsh on some PCs, but reward high PER and dark-seeing advantages, making them more worth the points put in them.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Artillery Spells & Felltower

So how will GURPS Magic: Artillery Spells affect DF Felltower?

Much like Death Spells, I'll pick and choose the ones I like. Of those, they will similarly be:

- lost or secret knowledge. You can't just go out and learn them.

- research might reveal what spells exist, but not enough details to enabkle someone to cast them, even with Wild Talent.

- access to them will be through Felltower. They'll be discovered adventuring, or thanks to adventuring.

- enemies may have access, as appropriate, but generally things will continue as they were before.

I love the book, but its contents will ease into the game as the PCs adventure. The answer in DF is always, it's done through adventuring, not through town.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

New Release: GURPS Magic: Artillery Spells

There is a new GURPS book out today from Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch.

GURPS Magic: Artillery Spells

It basically does for wide-area attack spells what Death Spells did for one-target attack spells. It adds more and better spells for the purpose of attacking groups of foes.

I saw it in playtest form, and I'm looking forward to reading it in its final form.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Troll Wars

Here is a brand-new addition to Felltower canon, courtesy of one of my players:

The Troll Wars

A recent conflict, possibly still ongoing, between the forces of civilization and the trolls.

We don't know a lot of details yet, except:

- it required scouting - and why not? DF Trolls are sneaky and dangerous killing machines. You don't want to just run into them in an unexpected meeting engagement.

- it's been going on for a few years.

- it started suddenly, based on the really unexpected departure of one of the PCs to join said wars.

- it's probably going on near Molotov and the east end of the Cold Fens, especially the marshy section so unlike the flooded, wet, swampy section where the tomb is located.

We'll find out more, of course, in actual play.

And when we play again, on 5/27, I'll reveal who is behind this sudden addition to canon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

3-Stage Wizard Part III

Some touch up on the robes on the guy on the left, and substantial color fill-ins on the right since you last saw these guys in Part II

Monday, May 14, 2018

Required Weirdness for Wizards

This sprang out of a discussion on G+ that in turn sprang from my post yesterday on the Weird Wizards of Felltower.

What if you want to require weirdness, in order to encourage players to make spellcasters who have warped themselves in order to achieve power?

Here is one way to structure it.

Only the Powerful

Magery 0-3 don't come with any special disadvantages. You can master magic at the normal bounds without paying a price for it.

Magery 4, 5, and 6 each come with issues. For each of those levels, you are required to take 5 points in disadvantages from the list below:

Compulsive Behavior: And not the fun ones, either, like Carousing or Gambling. Mild addictions, vowing by forbidden gods, sacrificing of small animals, etc.
Frightens Animals
Lifebane: Remember this is a disadvantage. I've had players claim this makes them immune to mosquitoes, swarms, mold, etc. No, the mosquito bites you and then dies in my world.
Obsession: You probably have one already. If not, get one.
Odious Personal Habit: Weird twitches, shouting instead of speaking, lack of grooming, etc. This doesn't even have to be willful - maybe you do douse yourself with perfume but the stink of hell still comes through.
Unusual Feature: tails, extra eyes, weird skin colors, scales, what have you.

You can also take quirk-level versions of these as well.

It's possible to exceed your disad limit with these; if so, they reduce your value, not the cost of additional Magery. Optionally, you can swap in new weird warping for more normal disads. Who needs Sense of Duty and Honesty anymore, right? You have Obsession and Lifebane!


Another way to go is every level of Magery past 0 (1+) requires some odd disad, subject to the level:

Magery 1: -1 point
Magery 2: -5 points
Magery 3: -10 points
Magery 4: -15 points
Magery 5: -25 points
Magery 6: -35 points
Magery 7+: additional -15 points per level. Go nuts!

All of these are "or more." GMs may require physical or psychological warping based on certain colleges you study.

What about Weirdness Magnet?

Sure, if you want the players to offload their weirdness onto you. "I'm normal, but weird stuff happens to me!" is not quite the same as "I have a third eye on my forehead, smell of sulpher, and frighten animals." So I left that off.


I haven't tested this, but it would work pretty easily. It just enforces unpleasant disads on magic users. Clerics of good gods probably should be excused, but demon worshippers? Hey, a tail and hooves is an easy choice if it means a bit more power, right?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Weird Wizards of Felltower

Being a big fan of Glen Cook - who was influenced in turn by his friend Fritz Leiber - I like my wizards weird. Not powerful, wise old men full of humor and stories with glinty eyes and pipes.

No, I want bug-***k crazies who have warped themselves in the pursuit of power. The Limper. Varthlokkur. Soulcatcher. Sheelba. The Egg of God. The more power you seized, the more the cost you paid.

In all of my games since I discovered Cook's books - especially the early Dread Empire books - I have had odd wizards.

Felltower has a much smaller selection, but they're still odd.

Black Jans, wizard of the disappearing tower, possessor of many titles and the end market for cursed items the PCs sell.

Old Witch of Molotov, Black Jans's rival. Little is known of her except that her house moves with her.

Lassirev the Enchanter, experimenter on the crystal mirrors and possibly possessed of the knowledge of the black library.

and a few the PCs haven't run into yet.

The PCs are equally odd:

Dryst of the large helmet, heavy armor, and refusal to walk, who treats his Created Servants identically to how he treats the PCs - as disposable resources of varying value.

Nakar the Unseen, who spent his life (and then his death) Invisible.

The Barca family, a collection of single-element obsessed wizards, all of whom jealously hate each other but who worship the family name.

Gerry, the clueless necromancer who brings his skeletons to church with him.

Frankly, guys like Desmond, who only throws Acid Ball spells at women and children, or Volos, were pretty normal by game standards.

And DF and the DFRPG, sprung from GURPS, allows a very wide variety of weirdness for wizards.
It's become a thing for the PCs, as well. All for the better.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

3-Stage Wizard WIP Part II

Here is the same mini as yesterday, but touched up. I seem to have no white paint, so I need to get some ASAP.

Next to him is the high-level version of the same mini. The low-level one is . . . somewhere. I can't lay a hand on him today. I'll find him and do him in the same blue-and-white version, perhaps with less gray in his beard. You age into power, or perhaps power ages you?

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mini WIP on the table

I love this Ral Partha wizard, from the 3-stage characters line.

I even chose a nice color scheme for him.

But I've been a bit uninspired about finishing him. So I dug him out and put him front-and-center on my painting pile so I can knock him off and get him in play.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Further thoughts on Fodder in DF

One of my players commented on a previous post, and said:

"These guys are struggling with orcs and norkers. Well, not really. It’s really numbers and tactics, though.


Tactics and numbers.

The orcs and norkers? The bulk of them are weaker, in terms of ST, skill, defenses, and DR, than even the weakest PC fighter-type. Every single one of them is significantly weaker than the experienced front-line fighters, such as Mo, Vryce, and Hjalmarr. Yet the orcs and norkers really frustrate the PCs (and the players.) How?

Well, tactics and numbers. I've discussed this before back in February 2014:

Melee Academy: Dealing with Superior Foes


Using Fodder in GURPS DF

What is in those? Tactics, and numbers.

So they have an effect on the PCs. From a GM perspective, what else are fodder good for in DF and the DFRPG?

Deplete resources

Killing foes takes time, takes FP, and somethings costs HP (which costs FP for the cleric.) They may make a few criticals, or come in numbers on a flank that forces you to use up potions, Alchemist's Fire, etc. that come with a dollar cost. Fodder can soak up those resources. They basically need to die to do it.

The can result in victory - albeit often Pyrrhic victory - as the PCs run out of time, run low on resources, or just run low on the enthusiasm for continuing to fight. The PCs pull back out, and the fodder "win." If they can replace losses easily - through recruiting, healing, or Necromancy - it could be a draw or just a cost of keeping their position.

Discourage Lollygagging

PCs tend to waste a lot less time if they have to worry about wandering monsters. Even more so if they have organized fodder in the area. Fights with fodder tend to make noise, and draw in more monsters, and alert everyone and everything to the presence of PCs. Because of this, it discourages taking a long, slow tour of the dungeon, checking on previously explored areas in a megadungeon, or just taking their sweet time about clearing a smaller dungeon. An orc army or a goblin throng or a horde of dinomen means a lot of resources consumed if you don't get a move on.

Test the Tactics of the PCs

Dumb fodder will just die in droves, rushing the same doorway until the PCs choke it with their corpses and then move on. Smarter or well-led fodder will change things up. The PCs have to react to that, which means they need to adjust their own tactics. If they rely on "armored guy takes the damage from ranged weapons" but the fodder switches to poisoned bodkin points, then what? If they rely on defending doorways and waiting for the occupants of rooms to rush them, what happens when the fodder flee out the other door and block that doorway? How will they handle hit-and-run? How about traps? What about fodder who alert other monsters on purpose, or seed areads with dangerous critters as a trap?

The novelty of new tactics means the players need to stay on their toes, and become better players. There is only so far overwhelming ST, skill, defenses, etc. can take you in GURPS. Once you reach "fodder can't block my attacks and I one-shot kill them" then only tactics will help you do better against them. Fodder that adapt force the players to adapt, too.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Why no drow?

Drow came up as a suggestion for monsters I should include in my DF game.

I said: "No drow. Period."


On my ride home from work I thought I'd probably need to address that, if only because at least of my players likes the drow. Here is that attempt to address it.

Basically, because the drow come with a lot of baggage.

First, you have the AD&D baggage of the Eiservs clan, the Against the Giants series, and the Vault of the Drow. Good stuff, but it has a definite shaping of what drow are and what people expect from them.

Second, you have the baggage of later editions's versions of what drow are like, or do.

Third, you have those novels by Salvatore. I haven't read them, but they carry a lot of weight in terms of what people expect drow to be like.

Finally, I have the baggage of how drow were in my own Forgotten Realms-based GURPS game.

They are a pretty interesting race. But there is now way to use them without bringing in expectations that would fundamentally change how people react to them and deal with them.

Contrast that to, say, the six-fingered masters of Felltower. Who are they? What are they like? It's all built in play. There are no expectations of what they are like. There are no novels about them, no memories of how someone's half-drow elf was run, no thoughts about how "good" or "evil" or whatever they should be. They simply are, and what they are is defined by what happens in play.

Simply put, putting in drow would stamp out some of the uniqueness of Felltower and replace it with canon and preconceptions. And that's not a positive.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

What monsters does my game lack?

I use a wide variety of monsters in my game. Basically, everything that fits the genre (kitchen sink dungeon fantasy without high technology) satisfies one of the following:

- I think it is cool, regardless of game system

- it has stats for GURPS

- I have a mini for it

- my players ask to fight one

We've seen a fair variety of monsters in my game so far. And I am a "more the merrier" type who reacts this way to people who suggest a few, unique monsters are the way to go, or deploy the old "Man is the real monster!" line:

Bah! [waves hands dismissively] Bah!

With that desire for "deploy them, DEPLOY THEM ALLLLLLLL!!!!!!" as a game strategy, what else do I need? I'm wondering if I'm missing things I really need to include at some point. I can personally look ahead and see what's coming, and my players made some requests back when I asked them. All of that stuff is in there . . . but there must be fan favorites I haven't used yet. Any suggestions?

Obviously, I can't comment on what goes in, or waits ahead already. But I am curious what readers eagerly await to see . . .

Monday, May 7, 2018

This was going to be a Black Reaver . . .

. . . but I forgot to pack him in my main mini case, so I had to use a pre-painted armored axeman that our host had.

So I added some gold highlights and removed the red eyes. He'll just be a chaos or hell knight of some kind.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Felltower Rumor Mill Updates

Every session, the PCs start out with rumors. Several of the PCs routinely get several each, and with the group size - 5 players is a smallish session these days - they get heard fast.

It's been very tough to get 30 rumors together, so the d30 has been retired. Even getting 20 has been tough - too many sessions retread mostly the same ground.

Since I assume a lot of rumors are sparked by people hearing about the previous sessions, plus a sprinkling of current events, this means less exploration / less encounters with something new = less rumors.

I may need to drop down to d12 if I can't keep up with new ones.

Another option is to go with one of the suggestions of a player - duplicate rumors are just that - duplicate. No cap on the number of rumors a PC can hear, everyone gets a unique rumor, but the ones with multiple rumors might just hear the same thing as other PCs.

We'd resolve the rolls for one-rumor folks first, and then let the guys who get two, three, even five or more roll.

And it's probably about time for Vic to get bored and re-read all of the rumors to see what they heard then and recognize now . . .

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Those are Death Brains, Honey

Actual conversation with my spouse:

S: "What are those things? (pointing at some of my Reaper Bones minis)
Me: "Death Brains."
S: "Are they famous characters?"
Me: "No, I named them Death Brains. I don't know what the company that made them called."

Having a miniature Inspector Zenigata on my desk didn't earn me anything, either.

Turns out Reaper calls them Mind Eaters. Either way, my players didn't like them.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Entombment with No Suspended Animation: Part II

Yesterday I asked for feedback on partially immune creatures and Entombment.

Based on the comments, I think I'll go with partial immunity - the spell can have a partial effect, even if the victim is immune to the other part of the effect. In other words, spell effects are separable.

Now, none of this says a Black Reaver is even vulnerable to the spell at all. But there is at least one critter out there that can't be held, slept, petrified, or put into suspended animation. This may be the one - or not - but now I have a plan for when someone rolled a successful Entombment spell on him.

Thanks for the comments everyone.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Entombment with no Suspended Animation?

A question came up about using Entombment on the Black Reaver in the last session. If you've got a subject which cannot be placed in Suspended Animation due to some magical immunity, can you use Entombment on it?

We had two schools of thought.

All or Nothing.

This school of thought said that if part of the spell couldn't work on the subject, none of the spell could work on the subject. In other words, spells are non-severable.

Partial Immunity.

This school of thought said that the parts that cannot affect the target, do not affect the target - but the parts that can, do. So a being which cannot be placed in Suspended Animation can be sucked into the ground with Entombment, but then is stuck in the ground.

I prefer the latter - there are very few two-part spells in GURPS, and I'd prefer to err on the side of letting spells do something if they encounter a specific immunity. But one of my players, at least, prefers the former, because spells should either work or not work.

I haven't really decided yet. Any opinions from my fellow delvers here?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Losing your first character

On Sunday, Dave the Knight, aka Dave the Crippler, was cut in half by a black reaver.

As deaths go, that's a good way to go - killed by the single most iconic Rolemaster monster. He wasn't killed by a lucky hit by Random Goblin #3 or bashed to death by the orc standing one hex away from Konk Chopgroin.

Still, losing your first character . . . it's been decades since that happened to me but I never enjoyed having my characters killed.

It's just a paper man, but as paper men go - it was the player's first.

Honestly I can't even remember the first character death I had. I probably didn't take it well, I was in 4th grade. Dave's player is right about that age.

What I think is good, though, is that:

- no one end-zone danced or rubbed it in. He died, we said too bad, we moved on.

- no one suggested undoing it. Dead's dead, rules are rules, the dice dictated the death.

- he died after making a clear mistake in a decision. It wasn't just bad rolling, it was a bad decision that set him up to make another bad decision.

- he and his dad immediately began discussing what template next, not poor old Dave the Crippler.

Still, losing your first guy. I don't even remember how mine went. I don't take it too well these days, I can't imagine I did it better in the past.

And we'll see what he makes next.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A Black Reaver in Felltower

In Sunday's game, the PCs encountered a very tough monster. I didn't name it, but I did describe using some exact wording. And I've been dropping blatant hints that there was one in my dungeon. After all, I knew it would be there - I'd planned on this one being in the place since I'd first started mapping it.

It was a Black Reaver, straight out of Rolemaster Companion, one of my favorite RPG supplements.

I don't think any of the players at the table recognized it.

But at least one who missed the session did - he'd encountered one before in a game I'd run.

At least in Rolemaster, and possibly in my DF game, there are two kinds of black reaver - the black reaver, and the lesser black reaver. The first one's description includes the line "There is nothing short of a deity more dangerous than a Black Reaver."

The lesser ones?

The "Lesser Black Reavers are not so over-whelming in their power, though certainly more dangerous than an average large Dragon!"

I'll let the PCs draw their own conclusions about this one. But it's certainly tough. I mentioned them before as trick monsters and when I talked about using your favorite monsters right away. And they came up on the rumor table.

The PCs will be researching them, and I'll share here all that they learn. If you want to know the inspirational material, check out the Rolemaster Companion or Creatures & Monsters.

Monday, April 30, 2018

GURPS DF Session 102, Felltower 74 - Black Axeman

Date: 4/29/18

Weather: Clear, warm.

Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (262 points)
Dave the Crippler, human knight (262 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (318 points)
       5 skeletons (~25 points)
Hayden the Unnamed, human knight (265 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (336 points)
       Brother Ike, human initiate (160 points)
Raggi Ragnarsson, human berserker (?? points)

We started in town, with the PCs gathering rumors and stocking up. They also gathered early and took the time to pull out one of the skulls they'd retrieved from looting the crypts under Felltower. They laid out their paut and Ike got ready to Lend Energy, and Gerry cast Summon Spirit - and rolled a 4. He had at least a -10 to cast, and it's resisted by Will, but criticals automatically overcome resistance. They had the energy for 13 questions, and proceeded to interrogate the spirit. First question - name - Brother Drakes. After that, they asked him about the Brotherhood, their religion, the hands, where the six-fingered "Masters" are (down below), the answer to "Who do you serve?" - "the Brotherhood." They also asked about the the the city of D'Abo and were told those people were of the same religion as the Brotherhood.

Equipped that knowledge, they headed out to the dungeon.

They climbed the walls (Dave did so easily this time) and checked the metal trap door. It zapped Hjalmarr - locked from below. They griped about forgetting to smear the locking mechanism with contact poison. So they climbed back down, got the bridge, hauled it up, and brought that with them.

Hjalmarr went ahead, to took arrow fire from the pillboxes. He backed up, but naturally a critical hit randomly to the throat pierced his armor and wounded him seriously - and the poison on it hurt as well (he can't buy a save vs. poison.) He went back up. Ike took out the arrow but it was barbed - the orcs basically fishhook the backs of their arrows. He was able to heal him up.

They went back down again, this time Hjalmarr with Missile Shield and Dark Vision and Levitate and Gerry with the same plus Invisibility. The orcs retreated as it became clear they couldn't hit anyone, and they stood watch as the other PCs came down and laid the bridge down. Gerry stood ready to Stench the pillboxes if anything appeared. Nothing did.

After that, they made their way down to the second level and over the giant circular staircase. They opened up the door and there was a large mantrap with a drying head sitting right on the trigger. They backed off, and Gerry used Apportation to lift the trap. He did, the head fell, and a clink of breaking glass sounded before a cloud of poisonous gas was released. They moved the trap aside and waited for the gas to dissipate. Once it did, they carefully moved down the stairs, Hjalmarr checking for traps the whole way. Hjalmarr had taken a class in Traps during his downtime ("It was a weekend course.")

At the bottom, they checked for traps again - nothing. So Hjalmarr touched the hand print on the door to open it - and was zapped with electricity! He was injured badly and his hand was crippled. Ike swooped in and healed him back to full vitality. He examined the door - and the hand was clearly lower than before. Sigh - it had been painted over. "I hate this gnome!" he said. "We don't know it's the gnome" said Gerry. He tried where the hand should be, and it worked - the door opened. He walked out, followed closely by Dave, who was eager to go kill norkers.

Almost immediately Hjlamarr heard a click and felt something depress under his foot. He immediately stepped back. Oops. That triggered an explosion and a spray of alkahest onto him and Dave. Dave was hurt, Hjlamarr more so. With that BOOOOM, the halls went quiet and then they heard doors banging and footsteps. They backed off and closed the door and waited. They decided the norkers were going to rush them, and they wanted to fight in the staircase.

But after a few minutes, nothing. They opened the door and heard muffled noises for a bit, then silence. They decided the norkers must have set up an ambush. So they sent Hjalmarr forward. He saw a tripline, a waxed thread, clearly in view. He backed off. They set it off with a crowbar moved with Apportation, and a hidden box above dropped caltrops all over the place. Gerry tried to move them aside with the crowbar but made a mess of it. They were clear enough for careful movement to avoid them.

Hjalmarr moved ahead and around the corner. He took prodd fire (but managed to deflect it) and a purplish ray of some kind of paralysis. He resisted. He tossed his lightstone down the hallway and saw two norkers guarding two hobgoblins, one of which had a wand. The wand holder zapped him again but again he resisted. He ducked back and returned to the group.

They decided to send Hjalmarr to guard their flank and the rest would run to the right, headed up by a skeleton to trip traps. They ran. The skeleton tripped a tripwire and it dropped a stone block that narrowly missed the running skeleton. They dodged around that, and naturally there was another with caltrops. They avoided those and kept running until they reached an intersection. Hjalmarr guarded their right - good thing, as arrows flew out after them - and they turned left and moved further away from the norkers. Gerry dropped Darkness to obscure the view from behind.

They reached the mosaic room, and quickly tapped out "the brotherhood" on the single-letter tiles they found. A secret door silently opened. They moved inside and closed the door.

They were in a long corridor with a turn and a dead end. The floor of the dead end showed scraping, as if heavy objects had been shifted around there - although not in any particular direction.

Long story short, they spent more than 90 minutes exploring, tapping walls, checking floors, etc. for something - anything. Then Gerry got the idea of stripping down to clothing and using Ethereal Body. He floated along the walls and ceiling, with his head through the wall with Dark Vision on. In the end, it turned out the dead end had a 6-foot hold in the ceiling to a shaft going roughly 40 feet up concealed behind an illusionary ceiling.

They send up Gerry - Invisible, etc. He saw the shaft ended off-center in a circular room with a domed ceiling about 12' at the top. Against the walls of the room were stone chests, boxes, heaps of clothes, an old urn, and similar items. Opposite the hole was a metal door with a large pull-ring in the center.

But what kept his attention was a figure in front of the door. It was human-shaped, 8' tall, clad in all black - black plate, black gloves, black cape, and the face in the helmet was as black as night, leaning on an oversized greataxe. The only colors were the silver of its downward-pointing horns and its glowing eyes (red, they'd find, once they saw it with light instead of color-blind Dark Vision.

Gerry floated down and reported.

His Hidden Lord (Undead) and (Demons) told him this was a construct of sorts, infused with a major demon and/or a major form of undead, built as a guardian. It would, obviously, be very tough to kill. It could potentially have interesting powers, but likely most of its strength would be physical.

They quickly decided they had to get up there and rush it and try to destroy it ASAP, preferably before it could start attacking them. Then, they could loot the room and whatever it was guarding beyond the door.

They then spend roughly 45-50 minutes in the real world - and equally that time in game - plotting how they'd get everyone up there in case it was activated by light, by contact with the ground, etc. They settled on stacking everyone except Ike, the skeletons, and Raggi (too costly) with Levitation and moving them in. So they did that. The fighter-types crushed Blur spellstones, drank potions (Hayden got +5 ST, Ahenobarbus +6 DX), etc. to get ready.

Once Hjalmarr, Dave, Hayden, and Ahenobarbus were in the room, Hjalmarr advanced. He got within two steps of it when it swiftly as could be it lifted its axe in one smooth motion and struck him - twice! - across the torso. Clearly, it could see him - Hjalmarr was Invisible. He defended and retreated. It followed up on its turn - it had been Waiting - and attacked again. This time it landed one and knocked Hjalmarr flying and down. He landed near the hole. He gasped out, "This thing is too tough for us!" before he passed out, still clutching the healing potion he was going to quaff.

The black figure unhurriedly advanced. Click, click.

The others moved in. Ahenobarbus managed to feint it - a little - and land a blow that bounced harmlessly off of its armor. Dave smacked it twice, but neither blow hurt it at all - and in fact, it simply turned its back on him to deal with Ahenobarbus. It used Beat to knock down Aheno's guard and swung at him, but Aheno acrobatically tumbled back and away and ran for the metal door. He tried yelling his Brotherhood passphrase but the door didn't open or anything.

Dave decided to retreat that way, too, despite the shouts of his party members. It parried attacks with its axe and followed up with Beat and Attack, slicing Hayden up horribly.

The PCs started to retreat - but the hole was too far down to fall without risk of serious injury, and to escape Gerry needed to move each of them one at a time via Levitation! He cancelled it on Ahenobarbus at his request, but otherwise, they needed him to get down.

The black figure just walked after each target, putting them down in a blow or two - it was doing 5d+12 with that axe, and aimed for the torso each time.

What followed was a messy escape. Gerry lowered Hjalmarr. Aheno kicked Shieldslayer down the hole and jumped down while drinking a Walk on Air potion (or crushing a stone, I can't recall which.) Hayden clung to life and consciousness and tried to drag himself down the shaft with his hands. Gerry just moved aside. Dave ran around to the treasure. It turned to stalk him, instead.

Dave tried to run to as chest, open it up, and grab treasure. We reminded him that a) it's a one-second time scale and b) he was at a dead run with a weapon in one hand and a shield in the other. He settled for spending the next second smashing open a box and looking inside - robes. Then he ran to the hole to get lowered down.

As they escaped down the shaft, Aheno dragging Hayden (who had passed out), Ike cast Awaken at range and managed to get Hjalmarr awake. The black axeman walked up to the edge and fell face-down the shaft and glided down at the same Move as the PCs.

The black figure actually reached the bottom before some of the PCs - Dave and Gerry specifically. The others had landed and started to run, with the skeletons behind to absorb blows. As the figure landed, Gerry hit it with an 18d Skull Missile and did 60-odd damage to it. That managed to dent its armor and get it to physically react to the force. But it simply started to walk after the fleeing PCs.

It kept after them, and Dave and Gerry went back up the shaft to the door.

The PCs piled out of the secret door, but the thing stopped following them, spun on a heel, and walked back, click, click, click.

Gerry and Dave tried to get the door open, but it wouldn't budge - and zapped Dave with the black energy common to Felltower.

Meanwhile, the thing floated back up and landed and walked toward them. They split up, keeping to the walls. The plan was, Gerry floats down, Dave jumps and hopes to survive the fall. They kept away from it, but then Dave saw it turn to stalk Gerry and took a shorter path. It spun on a heel and swung its axe twice. Dave was sliced badly and knocked back. It turned to keep after him. Gerry reversed paths to keep away. Dave managed to stagger to the hole, but before he could dive down it (he tried and landed too short) it caught up to him and swung twice. The two blows put him well past -5xHP and killed him outright, cutting him in half. Gerry managed to slip by.

It pursued, gliding down after him, and then walking after him. Click, click, click.

Gerry ran out of the secret door -the group had kept it open. It followed. The door closed and he ran with the rest of the group. They made it down the corridor when they heard a clank and bang, and what sounded like breaking stone. Then click, click, click.

They ran straight to the teleporter room and used that to get to the caverns. From there, they navigated home.

Tough trip. Dave died, many resources were expended, the "easy" way in is locked (and they didn't go and unlock it), and the bridge left behind. Not a single copper of treasure was recovered.


So what was that thing? I think at least one of my Rolemaster vets can guess. He briefly encountered one in a game I ran in AD&D, in fact. I kept the description and word choice exact. They'll find out for sure through research. (Editing later - my veteran player recognized it - it's a Black Reaver.)

Sadly, that's the first ever character death for the player of Dave the Knight. He was pretty disappointed. He's not sure what he'll run next. His mistake was running a little too close to the enemy, confident it would keep after Gerry. It did not, and opportunistically turned and hacked him up badly. Had he gotten by, he could have reasonably risked a fall to the floor below. Well, maybe - even that was iffy. A high damage roll or an unfortunate location (skull, limb) would have left him dead or crippled and soon dead. In any case, it was a good trio of lessons for a player in my game:

- don't get greedy ("Unless you have Greedy, in which case good roleplaying!" - Hayden's player).

- character death happens.

- keep fighting as hard as you can until you die. Resignation or accepting your fate nets you nothing.

Still, it's tough be be nine and have your character hacked to death at your dad's gaming group's table. He'll get used to it, Felltower is like that.

XP was 1 each (new exploration) and 2 for Gerry for everything from the 4 on the Summon Spirit to everything else.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Felltower pre-summary for 4/29/18

We played DF Felltower today.

We had:

- a tremendous run of criticals on information-gathering skills, including on . . .

- a Summon Spirit spell on a member of the Brotherhood, who placed much of what's in Felltower in Felltower

- the return of the orcs

- more traps

- more hassle from the norkers

- discovery of a new area thanks to solving a puzzle

- a dangerous monster encountered

- and a beloved character was slain.

Full summary tomorrow.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Skull Spirits in Felltower

One of the PCs in my DF Felltower game - Gerry* - has the Skull Spirit spell, and a fair number of skulls he's collected to use it.

Here is what we use for stats for the created ones:

ST 0        HP 20          Speed 6.00
14     Per 10         Move 12 (Air)
10      Will 10
10     FP N/A       SM -5
9  Parry N/A  DR 0

Ghostly Touch (14): 2 points toxic. This attack ignores all DR! Cannot be parried or blocked. Reach C.

Traits: Aerial; Dark Vision; Doesn't Breathe; Doesn't Eat or Drink; Doesn't Sleep; Flight; High Pain Threshold; Injury Tolerance (Diffuse); Immunity to Disease; Immunity to Mind Control; Immunity to Poison; Indomitable; Intolerance (the Living); Mute; No Manipulators; Slave Mentality; Unfazeable; Unnatural (dies at -1 x HP).
Skills: Stealth-14.
Class: Undead.
Notes: Glows whitish-green equivalent to torchlight. Will obey its creator only, and will not take commands from others. Usually tasked with a specific goal - kill a specific target. Lasts 24 hours before it expires. Truly evil.

* Of Gerry & the Skeletons fame.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Dragon Heresy - last 24 or so hours

Like the title says, Douglas Cole's Dragon Heresy Introductory Set Kickstarter is drawing to a close.

There are a bit more than 24 hours less as I type this. It's worth looking into - Doug's materials are extremely well done and he's a tight editor and creator of rules and fluff.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Alternative Restocking for DF

Yesterday I mentioned I was basically doing less rolling and more decisions about what monsters go where when I restock. And putting in less in general.

And I linked in the comments to how I do it - wandering monster rolls and Reaction Rolls.

What if you like the idea of rolling, and want to keep rolling, but want less restocking to occur?

You have three broad options.

Less Frequency - instead of making restocking rolls between every delve, make it between every X delves. Or, if you're running a one real world day = one game day game like I do, space it out from bi-weekly or monthly to bi-monthly or once a quarter.

Lower Rolls - roll as usual, but move everything down a peg. Wandering Monster rolls that would re-stock on a 9 or less become a 6 or less. A 12 or less becomes a 9 or less. 6 or less becomes 3-4 only.

For Reaction Rolls, require a higher margin of success. Instead of Good, require Excellent.

You can also do this with modifiers to the Roll - instead of using a lower roll, roll as normal but give a flat -3 to either case to move it down just as far.

Roll for less places - instead of checking each keyed area, or each group, check a fraction of that. Perhaps one-half (1/2) of all cleared rooms. Roll for every other group (or simply give them half of what seems like an appropriate reinforcement level.)

Personally, I like all three of these but would favor "Less Frequency." Still, not rolling is a little easier, which is why I'm doing that right now.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Less aggressive restocking of Felltower?

For my GURPS DF / DFRPG game Felltower, I've generally been fairly aggressive on the restock. I check the real-world gap between games and make my rolls and decisions based on that time. The longer the gap, the more chances for new denizens and reinforcements to existing denizens.

I use my own guidelines, of course, because there isn't a lot about megadungeon play for GURPS in the rulebooks.

The past 6-8 months, though, I've been significantly less aggressive in my restock.

This is almost entirely due to real-world issues.

More time between sessions means an aggressive restock means a lot of time re-clearing places the group has already been. That can get old for the players and the GM alike. It doesn't mean I'm not restocking, just that I'm making sure it doesn't outpace the players' ability to clear and explore.

I also have less actual time to sit down and do it. More work and more study means less time to spend on game. So what's there needs to be sufficient. It largely is.

So I've been doing less rolling for restocks. I'm doing more manual decision-making. And I'm putting in less monsters to fill back up places left fallow.

But I'm still doing it.

And there are still plenty of wandering slimes and growing of spores, mold, and fungus.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Online DF game seeking players

In case you missed it, a new weekly online DF is launching:

DF Whiterock

I am actually available that time - Friday 8 pm to midnight Eastern Time - but I get up way too early on Friday and Saturday to make that happen. But maybe for you it is perfect!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Divination IV: Divining Felltower

Wrapping up my Divination posts into a Felltower-specific post today.

The Divinations of Felltower

There are, or where, some known aids to divination within Felltower:

The Crystal Ball Room

First discovered back in session 45, the crystal ball room seems to allow users to scry around the dungeon.

The Mercury Pool

Destroyed out of greed, the mercury pool was useful for the Crystal-Gazing spell but also allowed for remote spellcasting to a degree.

The Dream Pool

A pool that gives prophetic dreams if it is able to put you to sleep when you drink from it. So far, no one was actually allowed it to fully runs its course, but they have gotten some tantalizing hints of treasure.

Offhand I can't think of any other scrying/prophetic places the PCs have found yet.

Paying for Divination

While getting your fortune told is a long tradition in fantasy stories, I'm not as big of a fan of it in my own games. Mostly because it is either criminally underused - I have rules but no takers - or criminally overused - I have people who toss money at "let's get everyone a divination every time!"

The former is a waste.

The latter is just annoying, and as a GM I'm more likely to be vague and non-specific with predictions simply because the questions are usually so vague and non-specific. Or so overly-specific that I can't really do much with them.

Also, it generally will be done at the last moment, in town, right as the players are getting ready to get adventuring. So I need to decide on answers on the fly, consult my books to ensure I'm resolving it correctly, and check my maps and Felltower file to see what hints I can provide. It feels derailing, at that point. Because it's a quick method, I can't even waive it away with "hiring a sage takes time, and the research takes time, too."

Because of this, I'm reluctant to rule either way on divinations done in town.

I'm absolutely in favor of PCs using them in the dungeon, on game time, for specific purposes.

And for what it's worth, I don't allow purchasing scrolls of divination spells. It's not just a series of chanted words, it's a body of knowledge and a whole ritual. It doesn't come in spellstones or paper format.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Friday, April 20, 2018

Orc chief speed paint

I ripped through this guy quickly tonight. He's just a base coat or two of the colors you see here. He'll be finished with my home-made magic wash and on the table next time I need an orc chief or orc champion.

He'll need Two Weapon Fighting, of course, for his oversized weaponry.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Divination In My Games: Part III - Practical DF divination

Continuing on the theme of divination, and GURPS Dungeon Fantasy as well, what divination spells do I think as especially well-suited to DF?

Here I'm using Divination as a means of getting the GM to give you hints. Direct detection spells should just be assumed to be useful.


The spells I find the most useful are the ones that are relatively simple to cast, don't require very special conditions, and aren't subject-specific. Here is a look at all of them.

From GURPS Magic, page 108-109:

Augury - potentially useful, especially outdoors. In a dungeon, it's much trickier - you'll need to be reading the scattering of rats or the patterns of slime on the ceiling. It's an easy spell to learn - History and one spell from each of the four elements.

Cartomancy - the -5 for divining things that aren't about people makes this less useful. Especially if monsters aren't people.

Crystal-Gazing - solid choice. It's -10 for using water, but you can carry a mirror. Easy prereqs.

Dactylomancy - five word limit is tough. Not every useful.

Extispicy - One question per animal, minimum 20 pounds. Only handy once you've slain monsters the GM considers appropriate. Works best on life-or-death, which isn't a great way to find out hints on puzzles.

Gastromancy - Cool, but it's 5 FP to the subject and needs Hypnotism, a skill most won't really have or use if they do.

Geomancy - useful outdoors, moderately useful overall. Worth considering if you have Earth spells anyway.

Lecanomancy - The flat -5 sucks, but the halving of time penalties is useful. Tricky to carry water and stuff to toss into it.

Numerology - basically useless in a DF game.

Oneiromancy - tough to actually get to cast this - requirement for sleep, a lucky roll on dreaming, etc.

Physiognomy - only useful on the subject, which can be useful but frankly Death Vision will do the job more effectively for less investment in time and cost.

Pyromancy - useful if you have something of the subject to burn, otherwise the -4 hurts. Still, fire wizards will want this.

Sortilege - useful.

Symbol-casting - useful, especially if "true tokens" exist for the +2. Half the time of most other divination spells!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Divination In My Games: Part II - Recent Gaming

I posted Monday about Divination in the old days - especially my AD&D games.

What about more recently - specifically, my 10-year GURPS campaign and my more recent 7-year run of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy? And that two-session delve into White Plume Mountain?

Let's take a look.

What counts as Divination?

If you just mean spells that gain you knowledge, divination magic is completely routine now. It's routine to use Seek Earth to search for precious metals, Seeker to find lost objects, Seek spells of all sorts to locate almost anything, Summon Spirt to question the dead, and so on.

It's actually become fairly routine. It's so routine that we saw Augury used in WPM, and I didn't even really know how the spell worked since no one ever used it in my AD&D days. The people I play with now* use spells to detect things.

But how about a more narrow definition - spells which give extraordinary ranged senses or predictive answers about the future?

I cast "GM gives us a hint."

We get significantly less of that, but we still get it.

We've had a fair amount of Crystal Gazing in my current game. We've had direct prayers for hints to the Good God. We've had a little bit of History and Ancient History castings to determine what happened in the past.

While GURPS does provide some "ask the GM" style divination, we don't have that many of those spells ready for use. Prereqs and time pretty much limit that.

But my players are much more aggressive with using magic to determine the answer to puzzles, root out history and backstory, and otherwise find out the easy way what something does before they mess with it.

Because of this, I expect that if we played more AD&D (hey, it's possible), we'd see more use of Commune and Augury and Contact Other Plane.

Divination is a really interesting tool that we sadly underused in my earlier gaming. This group is much more willing to spend resources on "find out" and not husband them all for "do stuff" like we did in the "good" old days.

* which actually has one overlapping player, who played in my high school AD&D and Rolemaster days, played GURPS with me in college, and played in my previous GURPS campaign as well as the current one. It's worth keeping good players.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

CRPGs based on Gygax's stuff? Maybe.

I saw this article today while I was at work:

Dungeons & Dragons creator’s unpublished work to be turned into video games

So I immediately went to check out Erik Tenkar's take on this. His commentary is probably sadly accurate.

I'd love to see more of what Gary Gygax did. I'd really like to see Lejendary Journeys, even if only for historical reading purposes. But I'm not sure this announcement is really a sign of actual gaming materials to come. GaryCon seems to be great, I found Gygax magazine to be so-so (and it's gone, in any case), and this whole thing just drags on and on.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Divination In My Games: Part I - the Good Old Days

There is a nice post on Divination spells over on Greyhawk Grognard:

On Divination

Divination spells are one of those areas that saw very different use in the old days than in more recent play.

Toady, let's talk the Good Old Days.

Good Old Days

In my old days of playing mostly AD&D, from 4th grade until sometime in High School, divination spells were almost entirely unused.

Some of this was a function of our age and interest - we wanted spells that did cool things like blow stuff up, create or do things you need right away, or heal. Combat, direct utility, and recovery from combat.

Part of it was how we played - I can't remember anyone ever trying out these divination spells. Too much chance of failure, too much vagary, and too much dependence on a fellow elementary school (or junior high school, or high school) kid to interpret in a way that's helpful.

The fact that we very often played games where people had read the modules and knew what to do probably didn't help any. You didn't need to figure out that puzzle door or guess the answer to the riddle, you knew it. You knew where things were. You just had to survive getting there - difficult enough when you have the answers. It's like we'd all pre-cast Contact Other Copy of the Module and knew that Blackrazor was down this hallway and not to stick our heads into the mouth on the wall in the Tomb of Horrors. And if you hadn't read the module you'd ask people who'd played it before.

In a way, that's cheating, but in another way, it was just an alternate form of getting the answers. In play, you'd throw Commune and ask the DM who is roleplaying your god. Out of play, you just went and found the answers without casting the spell.

We also didn't really see what they were for. One of my current players downplayed the value of casting a divination spell in a session because, "It doesn't matter what's beyond the door, we're going to open it and go through anyway." I can argue against that in a lot of ways, but it's fundamentally logical. It's like scrying the inside of a present you intend to open - you're committed to the course of action, so the time spent getting foreknowledge isn't helping make a decision.

At the same time, I think the way the spells were presented didn't really lend them to getting used. Like so much of AD&D, they're just there with the expectation that the players and DMs will figure out what to do with them.

Given that I learned when I was 9 and 10 years old, mostly from playing with players my age or a bit older, that didn't happen. It wasn't instantly clear what to do with those spells. There wasn't really any guiding material that said, "Oh, yeah, Divination spells - this is how you figure out really opaque puzzles in the game, or figure out where to go next when you don't have a clue. The DM will help you along in those cases but only if you do it through in-play actions like casting these spells!"

So you almost never saw Divination spells used.

(On a tangent, you rarely, if ever, saw Charm spells used due to arguments over how they worked, no one summoned animals or monsters or elementals, and those demon summoning related spells didn't see any use.)

I do see a lot more Divination in my more recent games - maybe not to the extent that they'd get used in D&D by the original players, but more than I saw in the past. I'll write more about that tomorrow.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Felltower housecleaning

My time to prepare for game has dropped off a bit, thanks to my new job. It's all good - I really love the new gig. And I have done so much prep for Felltower that I can run it for many sessions without further prep.

Can, but more prep is always good.

So what I did was:

- I updated the rumor list - partially. I still need to do more. I wish I could sustain enough for a D30 but the PCs pull in 10+ rumors per session, it's hard enough to keep 20 fresh ones in there.

- I did some partial restocking on some places the PCs haven't been tramping recently.

- I did some minis restocking now that "Let's go to the Lost City and find the other Bell of D'Abo" is a game-time decision.

- I did some filling out of details on places the PCs are close to that I'd left unfinished.

I also did some housekeeping on the blog.

- I updated the campaign page with links.

- I updated the monsters encountered page. Mostly with snakes and puddings, but they needed to be added.

- I fixed a few picture links in some old posts. Many are still broken.

As always, the upside of a sandbox is that it's always ready. The only thing that would be easier would be running pre-made adventures straight up. But I've put the work in, so now I get to just maintain and enjoy.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Least used races in my games

Some races just don't get a lot of play in my games. Here are a few.

Cat-Folk - I just don't love cat people. I like actual cats, but I don't really like cat races. Some of it is the actual racial designs, a much of it is not wanting players do all sorts of cat-themed roleplaying.

Most animal-men fall in the same disused category. The occasionally bear-man doesn't bother me too much, though.

Centaurs - I'm not a horse person, either - although I am a basashi fan. I really actually like the idea of centaurs, but they come with just so many issues - the whole horse body thing makes for a lot of issues. Can't go upstair in the inn. Can't fit in the carriage. Can't climb up the rigging on the pirate adventure. Can't, can't, can't. And what they can do isn't terribly better than what human-like beings on horses can do.

Variant centaurs have much of the same issue - wemics, for example, or any other quadruped-with-a-human-body types. Vrusk were exceptionally cool but came with issues in Star Frontiers in a way none of the other races were.

Pixies - and sprites, brownies, and other tiny flying races. Generally the issues is the annoyance of scale. I find them difficult to play as a GM without them being annoying instead of fun. As a GM, I tend to nix them from the list faster than you can say, "Hey, everything in the game has a penalty to hit me, right?"

What races don't really see much use in your games?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Describing art in my game

This past session, the PCs traveled through a gate that ended in a domed chamber with a field of stars painted on the inside of the dome. The building below depicted scenes of the city, but with six-fingered hands (a game theme) painted on to them later.

Queue up questions about the stars - how much celestial drift do they show? Are they accurate? Do they match the stars in the northern sky? Any stars bigger than they should be, or brighter? Is there a "North Star," and if so, is it properly depicted in relation to the other stars?


The murals? Questions have come up about the relative height of depicted figures, details on their weaponry, dress, facial features (recognizable individuals), etc.

I see this in player's questions about art in general, actually - the questions assume three-point perspective, representative drawing, Vermeer-like attention to color changes, deliberate attempts at photo-accuracy, etc.

But in most cases, this isn't that kind of art.

As a result, I've been trying to make it clear that art isn't usually Renaissance and post-Renaissance realism. I point out medieval and ancient approaches to art. Things like lack of perspective. Centrality of image meaning centrality of importance (aka Jesus is drawn in the middle). Symbols and signs used to show meaning ("That guy with the ankh is a priest, but that guy with the sword represents justice"). Gaze direction meant to show relationships. Specific location of objects or figures in a picture may depict multiple events over time, or be placed as part of some kind of artistic standard, much like how people sign things in the upper left hand corner or bottom right - it could just be convention.

Images made for a purpose are not always made by a master painter, either. They often are, but not always. Large images will have been made by crews of artistic assistants supervised by a master, if there was one. Hand-drawn art by people without Artist skill may lack accuracy and merely give a sense, much like how stick figures suggest but don't really accurately depict humans.

With that in mind, while art can and should be examined for clues in my game, it's often examined with a modern eye used to photo-realism like that scene out of Blade Runner. Instead, it should be looked at for meaning, not precision, more often than not.

And I'm doing my best to get that across in a way that allows the players to sense what is generally there to find.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Spellstone Rulings for my DFRPG game

A few rulings came up in my DF game the other day, directly related to GURPS rules.

Spell Stones see a lot of use in my games, so questions come up all of the time. Here is how they play out in my game.

One Per Hand - you can't crush more than one spellstone per hand. You can't even hold two and crush one. You don't actually "crush" the stone. It's not fragile. You squeeze and concentrate (it takes a Step and Concentrate maneuver). It's not a question of physical force, but of finishing a ritual.

It takes deliberate action. It's not a free action, you can't "trade" an attack for it, and falling on a stone doesn't cause you to crush it against yourself. Unintelligent creatures aren't going to step on stones and set them off.

It casts a spell on the subject. In other words, the effect isn't set, the spell and energy is set. A 4-point Blur spellstone is worth -4 to hit on a SM+0 or smaller user, -2 on SM+1, -1 on SM+2 or +3, and worthless on larger subjects.

One exception is the Gem of Healing. It just works on anyone, providing 8 HP of healing when crushed. These are common in my game, but clerical spellstones are unusual as Spell Stone is an enchantment, and mostly wizards do enchanting. Ignore SM for these. It's an exception, and while I don't like exceptions, it's vastly easier to have it work universally than to scale it to SM.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Two Links for 4/11/2018

Two posts really entertained me today, and I think they might do the same for you.

Mike Bridges has a fun post reviewing a poll about Which Monster Should Attack Town?. I don't love the tarrasque - it just seems overdone, Gojira to deal with up-gunning PCs too much, but I do like the review of monsters. I've used a fire-breathing dragon and purple worms, maybe it's time for rocs and titans?

Doug discusses murder in town, mostly in a Viking context. But his conclusions are universal - make engaging in legal issues fun and interesting, not punishing, and the players are more likely to do it.

Monday, April 9, 2018

GURPS DF Session 101, Felltower 73, Lost City 6

Today marks the first crossover session between multiple "game areas" in my campaign - the PCs were in both Felltower and the Lost City of D'Abo today.

Date: 4/8/18

Weather: Clear, cold (Felltower); Hot, mildly rainy (Lost City of D'Abo)

Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (262 points)
Dave the Crippler, human knight (262 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (318 points)
     5 skeletons (~25 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (336 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (143 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (363 points)
Quenton Mudborne, goblin druid (292 points)

We started off in Stericksburg. The group quickly determined it was either a) kill the norkers or b) go to the Lost City and see if Rangol Grot was back at his house. They decided on the latter. This meant no Raggi, as he's not interested in going to some hot city in the jungle when there is perfectly good loot in Felltower.

They gathered rumors, and heard some good ones - like that there are dozens of dragons buried under Felltower. "We have to go to Felltower instead!" said Hjalmarr, but no one backed him on that. Not even Hjalmarr, in the end.

The geared up, bought rations, and stocked up on spellstones of Strengthen Will and Magic Resistance for the second confrontation with Rangol Grot - known user of Mind Control and Illusion & Creation spells. They also mostly stripped down their armor - Hjalmarr went with leather and cloth, Dave with leather, and the rest of the party was already lightly armored. Well, not Gerry, with his six-fingered vampire armor, but at least everything was lighter.

They headed out and up to the castle. They made lightstones and Gerry grabbed up one his spare skulls (he has a few, actually) and created a Skull Spirit. The castle seemed deserted, and they climbed the walls. Dave had to choose between climbing himself, and risking a fall, or being hauled up and made fun of for being hauled up. He went with climbing himself - and fell, but managed to break his own fall on the rope. He tried again, and critically failed, falling to the bottom. He was uninjured thanks to some armor and some luck on the damage roll, but his pride was dinged. He was hauled up in a sling like the lesser climbers. The group really needs to knock a permanent hole in the wall or destroy the gate.

They made their way down into the dungeon and to the giant staircase, and went down. They put Keen Vision on Mo and partnered him up with high-Per solid-Traps Quenton Mudborne. They spotted a trap - caltrops, carefully placed on the stairs. They checked the stairs before that - sure enough, and angled wire pinned to the outside of the stairs lead to a plastered section of wall. Some careful disarming later and they nullified but didn't identify the tripwire trap, then gathered the (naturally poisoned) caltrops and put them in a bag.

At the bottom, they wanted to figure out this "click" they keep hearing, and sent Quenton forward to figure it out. He carefully moved forward, examining everywhere for tripwires, pressure plates, etc. Eventually, while stopped near the first room, he heard a low thud and the click. They looked around more but couldn't figure it out.

They moved toward the gate to the Lost City. On the way they were a weird suction and squishing noise down one of the corridors, and Ike felt a little woozy (they eventually figured it was lack of vital air.) They found tripwires set up near it, but didn't identify what they were connected to - they just stepped over the first after ensuring it was not backed with yet another trap. "We need to hire this gnome" was pretty much the consensus of half the party around this point.

Dave was the first through the gate - he simply rushed through. Mo (carrying Quenton under his arm) and then Hjalmarr stepped through. As they did, Dave and Mo were struck by some kind of magical attack. Dave was briefly paralyzed but shrugged it off - Mo was paralyzed. Hjalmarr and Dave's full-face protection meant they had no peripheral vision, and couldn't see what hit them. A moment later Hjlmarr and Mo were grappled about the head and neck and had their necks wrenched. Hjlmarr took fairly horrific damage (he went straight to negatives despite HP in the 20s) and Mo was badly wounded as well. Dave turned and saw two obsidian golems - just like the ones he'd faced his first delve - grappling the two fighters.

Meanwhile Ike and Ahenobarbus came through the gate into this extremely close-in brawl. Hjlamarr was neck-snapped again and went negative, but Dave smashed the golem in the chest, and then smashed off the arm of the golem, and then a moment later smashed its leg off, too. Ahenobarbus chopped at the other one and damaged it, and then acrobatically rolled between Mo's legs to safety. Hjlmarr, naturally, fainted away as soon as he was no longer grappled. Ike healed him and moved away. Ahenobarbus chopped up the remaining golem a few more times and then Quenton, from his odd perch under Mo's paralyzed arm, cast Lightning and zapped the golem, reducing it to rubble.

The fight over, they realized the golems stood guard "behind" the gate, which only really exists from the other direction. Their lead fighters were lightly armored but lacked peripheral vision, so they weren't able to sense the silent golems waiting for them.

The gate itself was flickering on/off and didn't seem wholly there. No one wanted to risk a trip back.

They healed up, woke up Hjlmarr and removed the paralysis on Mo. Without even looking around, they started to make plans - they gathered the choicest bits of gemstone and obsidian as loot and piled it up with Quenton's armor, which he shucked to avoid dealing with heat.

They were within a domed building near the West side of the city, near the cliff. They set Quenton on the hot roof to observe the city and everyone else healed and got ready. Again, no one searched (or even asked, "What does the room look like?" - Heh.) They found themselves on the second floor with no way down, so they climbed down the side of the roof and started across town.

Dave was very impatient about the slow progress at this point, so they put him in charge. Suddenly it went from "Let's DO something!" to "Wait, what are our options? Should we do that? What if we do this other thing?" Leadership has its downsides.

Dave eventually settled on going straight to Rangol Grot's house, scouting it, and then assaulting it. They headed off. The only issues they had were some giant ants that came out of a building near them right as they went by. The 8-10 workers kept working, but four soldier ants clacked mandibles at them in warning. They backed off, and circled around and past the ants - who took that as non-hostile action (I rolled either a 15 or 16 on the Reaction Roll, putting them well about the "Neutral" result that would allow passing them.)

The sunny and hot weather turned to a steady rain. The reached Rangol Grot's house. It looked ruined and deserted. Hjlmarr tried to climb the wall but it was slick and difficult, with no easy purchase for a grappling hook, either. Eventually they Levitated him up.

Getting over the wall was tricky, so they just had Quenton Shape Earth to make a crawl-hole and they all crawled through. Once inside, they spelled up and began to explore the house. They found nothing except a ransacked house (with a locked but corroded main door), windows with broken or missing shutters and torn paper (it's an East Asian-looking house), and a clear kill site from some beast tearing apart another beast in the main room. Otherwise, it had been thoroughly looted. It was getting late, though, and they were very fatigued (some more than others, thanks to failed HT rolls against the oppressive heat and humidity.)

They stayed overnight, all but Mo and Quenton sleeping inside (and those sleeping in the yard, under a Weather Dome, and resumed exploring the city on game-date 4/9/18.

The next morning they headed out to the Path of Kings. On the way, they rounded a corner just as a group of eight apes, two snakemen archers, and sword-armed snakeman rounded the corner. Both sides backed off. The PCs backed up and set up where they couldn't be flanked and waited as they hear hoots and howls for a short time.

The foe didn't come, though, but a 18' foot snake did emerge from a nearby house, about 100' or so away. Mo tried to shoot it with an arrow and missed, and it slinked over the wall to the garden in Grot's house. They decided it was what killed its prey there.

After a few minutes, the snakemen and apes did not turn up, so they moved north down an "alley" to find their own flanking situation. They eventually moved out to the Path of Kings and found no enemy waiting, so they went wide around and down a diagonal street they named Diagon Alley and eventually came to the headless statues of the kings.

Dave the Crippler called out, "Hello" and asked to speak with them. Voiced began to speak to them - mostly one at a time, in various timbers, but occasionally a cacophony of voices. According to the Kings:

- Rangol Grot was still around.

- they wanted to know how the PCs were doing on the whole "find him and kill him and get the second bell" thing. Ahenobarbus claimed that it wasn't that long, time moves differently for them. (It's been two years)

- they seemed surprised when the PCs mentioned a gate to Felltower (which the PCs decided was the origin of the curse)

- they said that Rangol Grot is still around and is with his allies - the harpies ("bird-women") or the vegepgymies ("plant-men").

- they asked where the bell was, and Hjlamarr said, "I don't have it." They asked where it was, and Hjalmarr didn't answer that.

- there will be a reward for freeing the city from the curse. Someone (I think Mo) asked for the Princess Olivia as his reward, and they Kings said, "Yes, of course!" So Mo has that going for him.

- the PCs accused the kings of lying at some point (I can't recall exactly why). The kings claimed they never lie.

After a while, the PCs headed out, deciding they'd check out the vegepygmy fort.

They made it up to the edge of the swampy parts, where the swamp is steadily but slowly consuming the city, road by road and building by building. They couldn't edge around the fallen buildings, so they went around to a ruined "courtyard" made up of a destroyed building and fallen rubble. The plan was to set up near the north path, ring the Bell of D'Abo, and when the vegepygmies and Rangol Grot came to attack them with a scroll of Wither Plant and some other attack spells and sic the Skull-Spirit on Grot.

As they crossed the rubble, led by Ahenobarbus and Mo, a 20' eel-like critter with four legs and menacing teeth raced out of a hole next to them. It grabbed Ahenobarbus around both legs with its tail. It bit him and mostly bounced off of Aheno's bracers of force (literally off the bracers.) He struck back and wounded it lightly, Mo smacked it with his mornginstar and wounded it. It clawed Ahenobarbus more - again bouncing off the bracers - and crushed him with its tail. But then Hjlamarr and Dave ran up. Hjalmarr readed its head and decapitated it with a single swing.

Once it was dead, they looked in the hole - Mo tossed in a lightstone. He saw glinting below. He stripped down even further but couldn't fit in the hole. None of the rest wanted to go in, so he tried to Fast-Talk Quenton. Quenton basically fast-talked himself into going, and climbed down the hole. At the bottom he found a lair, tunnels off to other ambush points, and lots of shiney things.

In the end, the shiny things were gems, jewelry, obsidian bits, a big chunk of raw emerald, a silver dagger, a gold-edged mirror, and some assorted coins - and lots of shiny junk. He took it all, after using Shape Earth to seal the other exits. He headed to the surface.

They decided that they had enough for now (good loot, and late real-world time) and returned to the gate.

This time they went in the ground floor. They found an entrance hallway with murals - very old, faded ones - of the city's history. Later painters had put six-fingered red hands all over everything that held some other symbol. The PCs spent a long time - maybe 45 minutes? - going over them all and trying to touch them, see if any matched the prints in Felltower, any where pressure plates, etc. Nope, just later changes to the art.

They explored the rest of the building, and in the center found a large room with spiral stairs up to nothing. It turned out there was a way up to the second floor and someone sealed it. Quenton used Shape Earth to open the hole, they climbed up, and theyn sealed it again.

There, they found the gate no longer flickering. They also searched the room, finally.

In it they found art depicting a squat, large black fortress where now stands Felltower Castle. They also found a painted map that they matched up to their own - it showed the way to the staircase from the destination of the gate. It was also clearly a later painting, and bits were missing or wore off due to weather.

The examined the stars very, very carefully. They checked them for celestial drift (based on defaulting from Seamanship and Navigation), which wasn't terribly successful. They confirmed the stars were mostly accurate, or at least accurate within the margin of error for being painted on a curved ceiling by someone in the wrong area of the planet. It clearly depicted the skies above Felltower, not above this city. None of the stars were gemstones (they checked), or buttons, or especially large or small, etc. etc. Very thorough. Gerry confirmed that making the area around a gate like the area you connect to could potentially shift the success of a gate spell in the area by a little bit, since in magic like seeks like or like matches like.

In the end, they went back through the gate. They made their way to the stairs, but dilly-dallied too long looking for the "click" source and heard two doors open quietly. Norkers charged them out of the darkness. Mo was trying to place the caltrops but had to dump the bag and run to avoid a full-out rush.

They booked up the stairs with norkers in hot pursuit. Ahenobarbus threw an alchemist's fire (Mo complained it's useless). Gerry put down a large area of Darkness which Quenton backed by filling it with a Pollen Cloud. That slowed down the norker's upstairs rush long enough for the PCs to get away. They made it up the stairs, made their way out of the dungeon, and climbing down the castle walls and back to town.


- It's been a while since I got the name Rangol Grot from student's difficulty pronouncing "Language Arts." That kid is probably finished junior high school now. I wonder if he tried to explain the "I have Rangol Grot homework!" joke to his new teachers? Probably not.

- I really do enjoy the conversations with the headless statues of the kings. They're fun to roleplay.

- that "eel-like critter" is just a variation of wyrm in my game, but the stats are of the Academy Worm from DF10.

- I'll have to get those obsidian golems published at some point. They're really good for DF - glass cannons - literally glass, even - and dangerous. They'd wipe the floor with a weaker group, but against 2d-3d+lots and multiple attacks they're not quite as lethal. Fun, though.

- Quenton is a really good scout, although he's a coward (a goblin racial trait) and weak. He has Per 15 and solid skills to back it up. Sending fighter types with vision-restricting helms on didn't work so well.

- XP was 4 for loot, 1 for exploring new areas. MVP was Dave the Crippler for crippling the arms on the obsidian golem that was very likely going to finish off Hjalmarr. Only Quenton - for finding loot - was in thew running with him. Dave's player was a little disappointed in the session, as he really only likes the fighting aspect. But everyone else was overjoyed with a profitable delve, lots of XP, and information gathered.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...