Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review: D3 Vault of the Drow

Ben's prize for making me laugh the most in the caption contest was to pick a module for me to review. He chose D3.

I also reviewed D1 and D2.

This review does contain a lot of SPOILERS.

I won't review GDQ1-7 as I brought it to High School one day, left it in a classroom, and it disappeared before the next period started, never to be seen again. I have the map book, though, FWIW, but can't look at the original to compare to this version. I also don't own the purple cover of D3, so again, no comparison there.

D3 Vault of the Drow
by Gary Gygax
TSR 1978
28 pages

D3 Vault of the Drow is a the third and final installment in the D-series of modules, and the next to last in the G1-3, D1-3, Q1 arc of modules. It's meant for character levels 10-14, making it one of the higher-level adventures that were available back when I first started playing AD&D.

Like the other adventures in the series, this combines miles of tunnels full of random encounters spotted with a few special encounter areas.

D3 picks up where D2 leaves off - right after passing the temple of the Kuo-Toa. The PCs have three basic choices of tunnels - a high-traffic area (guarded by a drow fortress), and two lower-traffic areas with more interesting encounters, one involving spiders and one depicted in the awesome back cover picture by Jeff Dee.

Once past those, the PCs can reach the vault - a big spherical cavern containing the drow civilization. Fortresses for males and females, noble houses, merchant houses, and even an entire city. The city is evocatively described - drow, slaves, half-drow, mind flayers, daemons and demons, bugbears, troglodytes, ghouls, ghasts . . . this is probably the first "evil city of monsters" I ever encountered.

It's a bit of a sandbox, in that the PCs can do whatever they like and have many places they could go. This could easily be a single long session if the PCs stay on target, quickly determine a course of action, and go for it. I say "a bit" because it's both a limited sandbox and the PCs have a mission - bring vengeance upon the drow.

Or it could be a many-session series of adventures as the PCs navigate the vault, the city, find the enemies they seek, choose who to go after, and then do the actual going after.

D3 is very light on maps of the various areas the PCs can interact with - forts, noble houses, the city of Erelhei-Cinlu, etc. Pretty much the only specifically mapped area is the Great Fane of Lolth. Some of the potential foes are equally light on details - you'll get the AC and HP and levels of noble family members, but then get "staff of withering, wand of paralyzation, efreet bottle, and useful items to be determined at random: 3 potions, 3 scrolls, 2 rings, 3 miscellaneous magic items" to help equip them. Useful, but only if you work ahead of time or stall and roll.

Overall, the adventure is potentially very challenging even given the levels of PCs involved.

Criticisms of the plot

One frequent criticism of D3 is the connection to Q1. Basically, the Eilservs clan started the giants attacking the civilized lands, the PCs solve that (with violence) and then continue on to smite the drow behind it all. But the adventure heavily points you towards Q1 and Lolth's priesthood. They're the other side in the struggle within drow society (if you simplify it to two sides.) Are the PCs the dupes of the Eilservs? Are they making a terrible mistake by killing Lotlh?

I'd say no.

Look at it from the Good point of view: does maintaining a balance of power between a weakened Eilservs clan and Lloth really matter? If you can smash one and leave the other, how is that "bad" for Good? Oh, sure, the Chaotic Evil elves might organize and rise up to threaten the surface world again, this time stronger. Maybe. Since the Eilservs were only using the giants to build up a surface power base so they could dominate the underworld, would their victory mean a threat to the surface world? Maybe, but maybe not. Probably not. It's not even clear the Eilservs plan was any good at all (and if the PCs are here, it clearly didn't work out well.) That's not a useful reason to spare Lloth. Neutral might be "ensure the balance of power" but Good doesn't seem like it should or would access "evil balanced against evil is good" instead of "victory of evil, even if partial, is good." It's hard to be running a paladin or Lawful Good cleric and justify "evil put into a reasonable balance of power" as "evil defeated to the extent you are capable."

If you can smash both, even better! It's quite possible to go after both, it's just the module doesn't give you maps of the Eilservs house. Crushing both would be a dramatic victory for Good - a demon lord/goddess slain permanently, the power structure that supported her defeated, and their biggest rivals also defeated.

Assuming you just smash Lolth, the Eilservs have plenty of other rivals. Those rivals will be weakened, but so are the Eilservs. Good is probably best served by crushing them all or provoking a civil war, not by finishing off one side.

All of that said, moving on to Q1 and fighting a demon-goddess is what D&D can be all about at its best, so why not do that? You don't seal the gate and disadvantage evil, you chase it into the Abyss and destroy it. That is epic.

War Stories: Basically, none. I do remember having this adventure back in Elementary School, but I don't recall ever running it. I do have some recollection of statting out some of the random encounters, such as a high-level magic-user party and the HP for mezzodaemons and nycadaemons. We basically skipped this to get to Q1.

Overall: The adventure area is interesting and rewards stealth and careful adventuring more than direct violence. This is a very challenging environment for a part to survive in - especially ones that "solve" problems by attacking things. Given a skilled group, this should be a really evocative and interesting place to adventure. The choices of who to attack and why - and the chance to continue on into the Abyss itself to kill a demon-goddess - make for a real strategic challenge.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Variable Multiple Attacks rule idea for Attack Bonus systems

After reading a post by Talysman over at Nine and Thirty Kingdoms, I started to think about ways to do multiple attacks.

I go to mentally toying with a way to do variable multiple attacks in an "Attack Bonus" based system, like Swords & Wizardry.

Cleave rules let some characters - usually fighter-based classes - continue to hit foes if they slay the previous target.

These rules attempt to just give multiple attacks even if you don't have multiple, weak foes you can slay with single blows.

Variable Multiple Attacks

If your net, modified roll to hit is equal to or exceeds 20, you can attack again - either the same target, or an adjacent target. If your second (and subsequent) attack rolls are also equal to or exceed 20, you can continue to attack. This ends immediately if your net roll is 19 or less, even if it hits, or if you are incapacitated or disarmed (for example, if your first hit is against a gas spore, which explodes and kills you, or you hit a rust monster with your sword, you do not get a chance at subsequent attacks.)

Optional limits:

- limited to fighters and fighter sub classes (barbarians, paladins, rangers, etc.)

- limited to one extra hit per level, minimum 1 extra (so 2 at levels 1-2, 3 at level 3, etc.)

- limited to melee

- limited to one total hit per level (so 1 at level 1, 2 at level 2, etc.)

What I like about this kind of approach is what I like about Cleave - it's something you can just drop in without changing stat lines, changing damage rolls, checking a table to see if you get an extra attack or not. You've always got them coming, potentially, if your bonuses are high and you roll well. You can even get a cascade of attacks against the same foe.

I have no idea how this would work, but it would make 20s more fun.

Monday, March 19, 2018

More recent acquisitions

I got my hands on some more gaming stuff recently.

I received the PDFs of the new versions of the Monster Alphabet and Dungeon Alphabet (I reviewed the original here.) I'm waiting on the physical

I mentioned Volo's Guide a few times already.

A generous reader gave me a gift card to Warehouse23 so I could buy GURPS Social Engineering: Pulling Rank.

And I'm still reading through Operation Unfathomable.

I actually intended to pick up the PDF of Tunnels & Trolls 5th edition on the DM's Day week say, but I forgot to pull the trigger before the sale ended. Oh well, next time.

I do need to get a review up for most of these, but only after I finally have the time to finish my review of D3 Vault of the Drow.

Lots of gaming reading, here, and not a lot of gaming reading time. But I'll get through these and pull out useful gems for my own games.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Volos Guide & Felltower

I've been really enjoying Volo's Guide.

Some of what I've read will certainly influence Felltower.

For example:

- I really like what they did with Kenku. I may have to use them in some way. Not as a PC race, before A~ and G~ comment here and ask. But they'll fit pretty well in one of the gate locations.

- I also got a lot out of the writeups of hags. I've always liked hags, but rarely had them come up. I should have put one near the play location in the Cold Fens, like I did in the black swamps in my last campaign. If the players travel a bit further east, perhaps they'll be able to meet one. Like in my own previous games, they'll be potentially nasty foes or useful speaking encounters, depending on how you handle it.

- the writeup of Yuan-Ti was good. I'm not sure how much I'll use, but I'll use a bit to expand snakmen.

- one of the monsters matches some minis I have to a "T" - the shoosuva. Probably because it's a new version of something introduced in D&D or the Chainmail minis game, and the mini is from that line. It gave me some new ideas on how to use it.

Some probably won't, but I still like, such as the darklings - the updated dark creepers from the best monster book ever. Overall, it's going give me some positive, useful material to slot in ahead of the PCs in DF Felltower.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Casting Room Minis Sale

To More Minis, or to not More Minis, that is the question:

"We're having a 20% off sale on all the products listed on our Casting Room Miniatures site!

Only until the end of March 2018.

Enter the code "20%CRM" in the Discount code box when you check out.

Shipping will be charged as usual: Our postage rates (in GBP) are £4 to the UK and £6 to most of Europe, North America and Australasia, or free with orders over £80. A £10 flat rate charge applies to all other countries so that we can send your order by Royal Mail tracked.

Regrettably this cannot be combined with any other offers or discounts, except for free shipping on orders over £80.

It's really tempting.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Volo's Guide to Monsters - arrived

Some of the Christmas gift cards people gave me went to gaming materials. The last of them arrived today:

At a glance, it's interesting. It should be a fun read and give me ideas for my own games. I don't generally use much of the fluff from game books, and with a 5e D&D book I don't need the stats exactly. But a well-written combination of stats and fluff can inspire me quite well. Plus I do like to see classic AD&D monsters turned into modern rules stats so I can see how current designers view what those powers should do in the current system.

It will be a good bedside reader to slowly get through. Or quickly, if it's as good as I've heard.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hold your breath!

The Stench spell, as (very well) re-written in DFRPG Spells, is a pretty lethal spell.


It causes suffocation, and eventually flat-out damage. However, you can hold your breath for up to HT seconds.

Naturally this has caused a need for some rulings:

- when can you choose to hold your breath? Is it a free action on your turn? Is it a defensive small-m maneuver like an Active Defense?

- Is it realistic that you can continue to fight without penalty while holding your breath? Maybe. I've held my breath 10+ seconds while doing deadlifts for higher reps (say, 10-12). But it's not optimal. GURPS doesn't penalize it, either way.

- how long does it take to form the cloud?

Generally what I've ruled is:

- you can choose on your turn. Before then, you're breathing.

- I don't penalize holding your breath when you fight, but I do limit actions. How are you doing Intimidation with a closed mouth? Don't use Tactics to help your buddy. You can't yell out about the flank attack.

- Spells doesn't seem to mention an onset time, but one solution to "Can I hold my breath as a Defense?" or "Am I holding my breath?" is to give it one. Make it take one full second to form up. The caster's next turn determines when it starts, giving everyone a chance to close their mouth and hold on. I actually don't use this, I ruled it forms instantly, but you can decide on the start of your turn if you reacted by holding your breath or not. Everyone says they did. Because of that, I've ruled:

- no in-game discussion and I frown on out-of-game tactical discussion. If you're all in a Stench spell area effect and holding your breath, then how are you getting to, "Are we holding this position or should we back off towards the other room?" Inevitably someone busts out "Oh, uh, I roll Gesture to communicate that." Gesture is helmet taps, holding up a hand for stop, and how I communicate with my fellow drivers in NJ.

That's pretty much how I've handled Stench in play.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

An addendum to yesterday's dungeon post

Rob Conley put up a good post about the value of terse dungeon descriptions, referencing my own post from yesterday.

My comments yesterday about the non-publishable nature of Felltower as written might be easy to interpret, though. Here is what I commented on Rob's post:

"To be clear, I'm not saying you can't write a terse but effective and publishable dungeon. I'm saying you can't just grab up notes meant for a GM who is making stuff up on the fly and noting down only what he doesn't want to forget and publish that. Like Castle Greyhawk, if I handed someone else Felltower it would be a mess to try to run. I could publish a terse version, but it would need to be re-written since it's not in any kind of state conducive to other people running it."

Basically, I was talking about my dungeon. Also, I'd note that if I did make Felltower into a publishable dungeon, it would either be a) verbose, or b) run very differently in the hands of someone else. Not that b) is a bad thing, just that it's not the same thing as "really running Felltower" would be.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Gary Gygax on dungeons

Delta's D&D Hotspot posted about Gary Gygax and dungeon design.

Gygax on Dungeon Design

That kind of thing is why I've talked about the differences between writing for yourself vs. other people and the problems of other people's megagundeons.

I do much of the same - map it, put down a minimal bit of information that tells me the important stuff, make up a lot as I go (and note it down, so it stays in the dungeon), and just cross out the stuff that players have changed through their actions.

It's a really good way to go . . . but no way to write an adventure for someone else to run.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Playtest as shakedown cruise

Yesterday we play a playtesting one-shot.

We originally discussed having the players use characters from DF Felltower. In the end, though, we went with seven brand-new PCs.

I refer to this as a "shakedown cruise." Normally I'll let players modify their PCs after the initial session if they realize they didn't quite make the guy that they liked. But then again, it's still a real, live game. If your neat-o new PC gets killed, your neat-o new PC is dead.

In a playtest, though, it doesn't matter. Get killed? Fine. Make the guy again and play him for real. Designed him wrong? No problems. Wanted to just try something out you never would otherwise spend a valuable real-game session on? Go for it.

So I have a real fondness for opportunities to playtest DF materials like this every once in a while. The players jumped in with some against-type PCs, guys they'd wanted to try out but weren't sure they like, and tried sub-systems they usually don't. All in all, it was a lot of fun. I highly recommend breaking out an adventure and giving it a go with PCs whose survival doesn't matter, because you're just trying everything out.

We may need to do this again with the DFRPG adventures at some point . . .

Fun stuff, yesterday's game.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Fun playtest session today

We had a really fun, mostly silly but sometimes tense and exciting session of DF today.

Unfortunately I can't give a full game session summary, because the one-shot we played is for some material we volunteered to playtest with. It's not mine to give out. We did have some really amusing things, though, that I can share:

Hither came Conan

We had a nice bit of backstory for the adventure. We made one of our players read it in the voice of Mako, who was Akira in the Conan movies. Well, half of the time it was Mako. He did part of it in a great impression of Dr. Girlfriend from The Venture Brothers.

Bring on the Barbarians!

We had seven players. We had a human thief (who claimed to be a knight, just a cautious one), a human wizard focused on Mind Control, a human cleric, and a human knight - along with three barbarians - two human, one dwarven. Two of them used sw/imp weapons - a pick for the dwarf, a warhammer for one of the humans. Two of the three barbarians were Shirtless Savages.


If it could go wrong, it did. Not in terms of bad rolls, but in terms of decisions. They stealthily moved up to a door and had a very pickable lock, and bashed the door open - waking up the sleeping guards within. They yelled and screamed during the fight.

They then ignored party SOP and didn't check if a door was disused or not, and found themselves fighting a bunch of banshee-screaming critters.

Then they spiked a door shut when guards came to investigate, revealing their presence.

Etc., etc., etc. They just weren't tight on their game. They had a blast (as did I), and fought well, but man, they had some issues with not creating trouble out of opportunity.

You worship what?

One of the human barbarians worships the Forest Kraken, who takes you up into the trees with his tentacles and keeps you safe in his jaws. Don't mock the forest kraken!

You are named what?

Sir Robin the Knight, Dokson the barbarian, and Thorgrim the barbarian were among the names. Thorgrim was beside himself with grief at a lot of things tonight - getting hit with axes, getting set on fire, getting poisoned, getting stunned.

To Be Continued

This isn't Felltower, so we let the PCs end in the dungeon. Next time we play, we'll see what the mix is and play one of GT, DF Felltower, or this playtest. If we get enough of the players for this session, we'll play this again.

What's interesting is we're undecided if this is canonical Felltower game world or not. If we decide it is, what happened gets fit in to the game. If so, what happened, happened. If not, we'll decide if the PCs who played get reset back to their starting points or keep any XP. Also if no, people can take their guy and re-do him after seeing how they played. That's how Vryce got started, along with Inquisitor Marco - they were playtest characters for DF, and got tweaked for a regular game.

Fun stuff, and a fun session.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Rappan Athuk in "miniature"

Erik Tenkar got to run a game in this:

I'd love to play on that. GM it, maybe not. My players would go right up that set of stairs "just to look." I'd need like five tables and a special map barn to just do the areas of Felltower they've explored so far, never mind the new ones.

But still, it's what miniatures players dream of.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Writing rules for other people

Writing rules for other people is much harder than writing rules for yourself.

Writing anything like instructions for other people is harder than just understanding what needs to be done yourself. I've heard it said, if you want to see if you understand something, try to teach it to someone else.

Gary Gygax realized this, too, with a game he published in the 1960s, Arbela.

"A few months ago it seemed that Arbela had very complete, clear rules...Part of the difficulty arises being too close to the game. I know the rules and therefor do not have to consult them, so it is hard to find any parts overlooked or unclear."

- Gary Gygax, quoted on Playing at the World

This is part of why I say that game writing is technical writing. And even knowing this, it's still possible to write rules that don't quite convey the intent of the writer to the reader of the rules. I've experienced this and I'm sure every game writer has experienced this. And clearly, Gary Gygax experienced it.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

More thoughts on Diffuse foes

Archon Shiva has some good advice on dealing with Diffuse foes in DF:

Roadblocks: Diffuse Targets

I forwarded it to my players, who often struggle with Diffuse foes.

I have some additional comments, most of which apply to my game. Yours may vary.

Alchemist's Fire

This is a great choice for Diffuse foes. But in order to stick to Diffuse foes - and to shatter on them - they need some substance. Throwing a vial at a Toxifier or Skull Spirit might cause 1-2 damage like any other weapon, but it won't shatter and catch the critter with fire.

You can, of course, time your throw with your Scout buddy at a ridiculous penalty and have him shoot it mid-air. It still won't stick to the target if the target is Diffuse because it's semi-corporeal, smokey, or otherwise barely substantial. You can't get napalm to stick to clouds, so don't try.

Get a Wizard

The best choice for Diffuse foes is Explosive spells. A close second are Area damage spells. The issue with Area damage spells is that diffuse creatures can leave the area. Yes, as the article states you can use Knockback to put it back in. Maybe. Not every Diffuse creature is low ST, and it can be tough to do the right amount of damage to knock a target to a specific hex. During abstracted combat, this is basically impossible.

What you really need are high-damage effects that do their damage immediately. Explosive Fireball, Explosive Lightning, Concussion, and the new variations I use - Explosive Acid Ball, for example - are ideal. Expect to need to catch flying Diffuse creatures in the blast, not to impact them directly, for the same reason these spells don't explode on the fringes of Smoke spells - they need something substantial to hit.

I personally allow direct injury spells to do exactly that - directly cause injury. If you're brave enough to Deathtouch a Toxifier or cast Frostbite on an Ooze, it might just work. What spells work on what subjects varies, however.

Non-wizards really need to just hit repeatedly and hope. It can become a slog - Diffuse foes are wizard-vulnerable and there aren't any simple non-magical solutions to them.

Don't get cute

Most of the time Diffuse creatures cause problems, PCs attempt cute solutions. Purify Air spells and Shape Air spells thrown at smokey Diffuse creatures, Whirlwind to "kill" flyers, even Destroy Air and Destroy Water to try and directly kill them. These can have some effect - Whirlwind can keep Flaming Skulls away - but they aren't damage spells. They don't tear apart smokey beings. Much time and FP are wasted trying to discover a new, cheap, irresistable way to deal with Diffuse creatures. Explosions, area spells, cones (which PCs generally don't have), and then just slogging away with weaponry.

If your game is like mine, that clarification might affect your game as well.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

GM's Day 2018

DriveThruRPG's annual GM's sale is going on right now.

I'm debating picking up some sale items that are on my wish list, like getting an electronic scan of the various OD&D books:

Or ones I don't have:

Or filling in my module collection with a couple I'm missing, like:


And just splurge-tastic things like


It's a really good deal, especially if there are AD&D modules you don't own but want to (or want to also have in PDF, like this one for me), 1st and original edition D&D books, or Judges Guild books. Sadly the GURPS books aren't on sale. Maybe next year.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Next up - one shot DF adventure

This coming Sunday would be our 100th session of our DF campaign. Instead, we're doing a one-shot adventure.

Not for any particular reason except that I have one, it'll take less prep than even Felltower, and it's fun to try out characters you wouldn't necessarily try otherwise.

We've got a few interesting potential guys on tap - an unusually built knight, a dwarf barbarian, another fire-happy wizard, and some others. It should be interesting to see how it all plays out.

But it does mean DF Campaign Session #100 is going to fall in April, most likely, not March. Still, game is game . . .

Monday, March 5, 2018

Keeping camping interesting using DF16

Marcus Orealias shot me an email essentially asking me to talk about my experience using the DF16 camping rules.

Let's talk my experience, and then ways to make all three choices worth considering each and every time you make the roll.


I love the camping rules in DF16. The roll + choice combination made for some interesting debates.

In my experience, my players always took Comfort plus one additional. They may have taken Concealment and LoS when concerned about a patrolling dragon, but I don't recall.

Comfort wins out for them because the loss of FP for lack of a comfortable campsite is steep. Losing 1 FP for the day - not recoverable except in town or by spending a night in a comfortable camp - really hurts the spellcasters. Throw in extra losses if they lack gear, if the weather slams down, or the GM is just being mean about the conditions, and spellcasters can be seriously weakened. It doesn't help Chi skill dependent Martial Artists any, either.

The tossup was always between concealment and lines of sight. This was an interesting choice.

Lines of Sight gives a bonus to spotting foes approaching the camp, and it was critical to allow the PCs to spot incoming creepy-crawlies, identify sneaky goblinkin, and otherwise ensure they made their Per rolls and weren't surprised. That often allowed the party to break out ranged weapons and spells and keep things off of them. Against very high Stealth creatures, the bonus to Per can make or break you.

Concealment, on the other hand, gives your opponents a hard time to find you (assuming your Camouflage is up to standards.) On top of that, it potentially gives you a second roll to spot incoming foes - again, if Camouflage is high enough. Hide well and you get two chances.

Ideally you have all three, which is what Serendipity and critical successes are for.

Making the choices tough

Drive home the importance of Lines of Sight with foes who sneak well. Make it so that the +1 to Per and the -1 to Stealth is potentially the margin between spotting a foe and being awake and ready or have an obsidian tiger or ooze or troll jumping you from behind while the rest of the party sleeps. Also, make it clear that choose Lines of Sight can mean good Lines of Fire, too, and that you may spot foes far enough away to engage them with ranged weapons and spells. Scouts generally prefer this to "you'll wake up just in time for melee!" since their skills make range valuable to them and a hindrance to foes.

Challenge Lines of Sight with foes that sneak very, very well. Also, challenge it with foes for whom spotting isn't an issue - invisible foes, teleporting foes, or extremely fast foes. For those, Lines of Sight really don't matter very much.

Make Concealment useful by using foes who hunt by sight. Especially lethal foes - dragons, eyes of death, scouts for large armies of fodder or worthy foes, etc. - these make hiding well a critical issue. Although the rules don't specify this, it's quite possible that foes failing to spot you might just pass campers by.

Challenge Concealment with foes who hunt by senses other than sight. Detect Life (Precise), Discriminatory Smell, exceptional hearing, etc. work well for making Concealment a sub-optimal (or even useless) choice.

Make Comfort important by including encounters that push PCs to the FP limits, and strictly enforce the rules for recovering the FP lost, here. If you handwave it and say, "I let them rest 10 minutes and get it back" it's just not going to be worth taking. If it's as written, it's critical to seek comfort - and bring the appropriate shelters (DF16, p. 24)!

Challenge Comfort by making Lines of Sight and Concealment more important. It's foolish not to take comfort as a default, if only because of your spellcasters. But given foes that hunt by sight and are potentially seeking you out, it might be worth being down 1-2 FP the next day and getting +1 to Per and +1 to Camouflage and giving -1 to Stealth and -1 to Vision.

Final Notes

Given the right mix of potential foes - especially if you've been aggressively signalling what's out there (dragon sightings, rumors of trolls, signs of an orc army, slime trails from oozes, etc.) - the players have some real choices to make. By following the spirit of the rules - sometimes you'll hide well enough and they'll miss you, sometimes nothing comes and only comfort was worth having, sometimes LoS means you spot them far enough off to break camp and leave - you'll make it a fun choice, too.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

March Forth!

Gary Gygax passed away 10 years ago today. I noted it at the time but I was busy - I was a couple weeks out from a fight, I wasn't blogging at the time, and I wasn't really gaming much a the time. My campaign was still running, but it was in "run 2-3 sessions when I visit the US" mode so I didn't do a lot of daily thinking about games and gaming.

10 years on, though, I post about games daily. I put some active thought into gaming daily as well. And I play games roughly 15-20 times a year with my buddies.

I also run a gigantic megadungeon, something that for me draws a straight line back to stories about Castle Greyhawk. I gather Dave Arneson did something first, but I don't have much of his that I really draw on for Felltower. It's Gary Gygax's work, and those of people who played and worked with and for him that really inspire my current game.

So it's sad to think about the loss, and articles like this one that make me sad that I'll never get to game with the guy. (FWIW, skip down to "THE SCENARIO, OR, WAYNE AND I MEET THE WIZARD" and skip the whole history of D&D for non-gamers article content.)

But I do get to game with my friends, which is the entire point of gaming for me.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Dungeon Fantasy: Magic Items on sale now

My book in the Dungeon Fantasy Role-Playing Game series is up for individual purchase now:

I did that one flat-rate, not royalties, so I don't get anything for purchases. But you get useful rules on magic items for your DFRPG game, and SJG gets to see some more support for the DF and DFRPG lines.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Minis WIP

It's been hard to paint recently, what with starting a new job, starting a new side project, and continuing on in another bit of work. But I have put brush to mini occasionally.

I made some progress on these wolves and put the final touches on this bear, too.

All of them are pretty much one-shot kills, but luckily they're also pretty much three-color paint jobs.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

What counts as "Spells On"?

"What counts as a 'Spell On'?" has come up as a question a few times in my game.

One player's quickie definition was, "one you can maintain, but also Great Haste."

That's not a bad quickie definition for most purposes (especially the "don't stop and look up the rules now and try to learn them, we're playing here!" purpose.)

According to GURPS Magic, "temporary" spells count as spells on.

According to Spells, spells that specify a finite duration count as spells on. There are exceptions, and it lists them on pages 11-12.

Pretty much, if the spell has a non-permanent effect, non-instantaneous effect, and doesn't specifically say it doesn't count as a spell on . . . it counts as a spell on.

Great Haste? Sure, 10 second duration. Spell On. Flame Jet? 1 second duration, spell on. Fireball? No - you can't cast while holding it, and it launches and flies to where the dice say you threw it and does damage and it's over - so not a spell on.

A few spells we use do specifically need some call-outs:

Create Servant - Spell On. Finite duration - just because the wizard with this spell can maintain it for free doesn't mean it's not a spell distracting him when he's casting more.

Continual Light - Not a Spell On. It has a duration, but specifically gets called out as not counting.

Great Haste - Spell On. As mentioned before, it lasts 10 seconds and cannot be maintained but only the first part - a finite duration - matters.

Summon Elemental - Not a Spell On. The effect is over when the elemental arrives. Control Elemental is a spell on.

I'm sure I'm missing some common casts, but generally the players who use those spells know the rules. It seemed worth bringing this up here so I can list the spells that might get exceptions (or specifically need noting that they do not.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Disappearing for DF Thieves?

Over on Dungeons on Automatic, I mentioned how I have trouble with the rules-literal use of Backstab and how it allows some non-explainable events ("I pop out of hiding in a place I couldn't get to undetected even if I was Invisible! And couldn't reach in the time alloted!") This is especially common in cases where the Observer Effect has already told us the thief can't have been sneaking.

Barrbaric mentioned using Disappearing, from Action 2, instead.

I think I like that idea.

I will still use Backstab, but with my more limited interpretation - you only get a roll in circumstances I deem conducive to hiding, and can only get behind a foe if you could reach them in a stealthy way. And I'm not assuring you it'll happen the first turn, either.

But it's nice to give as you take away.

So I will also allow thieves to use the Action 2 rule Disappearing (p. 37.) Obviously, not just thieves. But it's hard to absorb -10 in basic penalties to Stealth if you haven't gone crazy-go-nuts on Stealth.

I think that rule has some great value for a sneaky type:

- it's escape focused. Getting into the mix isn't really as important for thieves as getting out.

- it's situation limited. You can't disappear unless there is something to disappear behind.

- it's Move limited. You do get to pull off some unlikely escapes, but you don't get to move faster doing them.

- it's skill limited. You can climb or tic-tac away, but you have to be able to do that.

So I think I'll allow that. Non-thieves can try it, but -10 plus encumbrance plus -5 for lack of significant cover might take care of that. A standard Thief with Stealth-18 will have an 8 or less to pull this off, 7 or less with Light encumbrance. A Scout with Stealth-13 has a 3 at None, and mostly it gets worse from there.

I do limit Backstab more than the book does, but perhaps this will help DF thieves to a degree.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Rules & Rulings from Session 99

Only a couple little things came up in Session 99.

Full Face Protection I mentioned yesterday. It was clear people still had the legacy rules in mind - if it's not a plate greathelm, it doesn't obstruct vision or limit hearing. We cleared that up.

Foes at Different Levels I also mentioned. People very quickly forget that they defend at -2 against foes at 45 degrees or more above them, -1 if merely at a higher level (and those foes defend at +2 and +1). It's a pretty simple rule but I think it's easy to overlook. I'm thinking of marking things with a status marker on the minis to help.

Is this loot? - if something is discovered and partly looted, the next time the money doesn't count for the loot threshold. This is basically to avoid "farming" lootables ("let's just take enough for today, and come back next time if we need to top off.") But if something is encountered and not looted, it's going to count when you actually do it. The mercury pool was a case in point. The pillows, etc. would not have, since they were discovered but left behind as too bulky and not worthwhile while the rest of the room was ransacked.

That's about it - the game went smoothly, overall.

Monday, February 26, 2018

DF Felltower, Session 99, Felltower 71 - Mercury, Hands, and Otyugh

February 25th, 2018

Weather: Cold, rain.

Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (265 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (435 points)
Hayden the Unnamed, human knight (265 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (337 points)
Brother Ike, human initiate (160 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (350 points)

The group gathered some rumors. Among them were two about dragons - that they're magical beings, and eat because they like to, not because they have to, and one that said they can only be slain by swords ("That's not true" - Hjalmarr) or by an arrow - but there is only one arrow in the world that can do it." ("But it's also human slaying," said Dryst, after Ahenobarbus mentioned Reverse Missiles.) Raggi wasn't around, though.

They purchased potions, picked up some special orders from weeks back, and headed out. Among the things they purchased were three iron strongboxes and three beeswax candles for sealing.

The headed up to the walls and climbed up, and dragged up those who needed climbing help. Dryst scouted ahead into the dungeon, which was sodden and damp from days and days of rain. The 20' pit was mostly full of water and the stench of waste and rot was strong. Nothing waited for them, so they laid the bridge down and worked their way into the dungeon. They headed right to the pool room. It was locked, so Dryst used Lockmaster to open it.

They explored the pools a bit, as Dryst created himself some Alchemical Garb and gathered up the mercury from the mercury pool. There was roughly a gallon - 115 pounds of it, to be exact. He split it up in the three strongboxes. Meanwhile, Hjalmarr and Mo couldn't resist having some of the booze from the spirits pool. It was delicious, but they were able to keep themselves to merely tipsy and not all the way to drunk.

Once the boxes were filled, Hjalmarr melted the candles with Dryst and used the beeswax to seal the strongboxes completely.

Hjalmarr and Ahenobarbus and Hayden tried the purple pool of dreams. Ahenobarbus and Hayden drank and it was delicious, but didn't make them sleepy. Ahenobarbus tried again, but still no. "Let me show you how it's done!" slurred tipsy Hjalmarr, who then took a sip and feel asleep immediately, face down up against the side of the pool.

They rested for 20 minutes to regain expended FP and then Brother Iklwa used Awaken. Hjlamarr was just dreaming of a ruins in a swamp when he woke up. He assumes this is the Cold Fens, and it's where the dragon lives, but has no idea where the ruins are. His memory of the details - which were already fuzzy - faded a bit as he awoke.

They headed out after this, luggin the mercury.

They made their way to the "ogre room," down the stairs (to the "apetrium" as Ahenobarbus calls it), and to the secret room with a red handprint in it. They opened that up, put in the chests, and closed it. ("To protect the chests from stirges, who'll drink the sweet, sweet mercury - they need it to reproduce.")

From there, they headed toward the illusionary wall that shields the burial chambers were the draugr and the "Greater Brothers" were buried. They walked past the wall and then back to it, and then Hjalmarr went in - nothing but opaque, choking smoke. Dryst used Purify Air on the area to clear it, mostly, and then went in and searched. Within a minute, however, the smoke was coming back in significant enough amounts to be an issue. So they headed down the left of the three staircases.

They found and searched the various niches, took an urn (which had a name, hand symbols, and "By the Brotherhood, let me pass" written on them), and skulls. They tried touching the big painted hands on the walls, touching them with skulls, skulls and urns, etc. to no avail. They used a Wizard Eye to explore the burned-out niche they'd walled off before, and found a cave with an even smaller tunnel out that had signs that something dug out bits of the rock walls.

From there, they moved back out and into the hallway, simply running through the smoke this time with their eyes closed and breath held.

They turned right and headed up the corridor and found the room they needed to pass choked with mold. After some long discussion about the issues with clearing it with Flame Jet and lots of Purify Air spells, they gave up and decided to go the long way.

On the way back, they ran into two carrion caterpillars (like carrion crawler, but looking like this). They rushed the party from along the ceiling. Mo stepped up and attacked, and was struck repeatedly by the tentacles. He resisted their paralytic poison. Hjlamarr's armor stopped the attacks as well, but his arm was bitten by the caterpillar and he was injured and held - he was able to break free partially, but then Ahenobarus ran up and sliced it repeatedly. Mo smashed his a few times and eventually it just hung limp from the ceiling. The other was sliced into several parts by Ahenobarbus and a now-free Hjlamarr.

The group moved on, and wound their way over to the web-choked hallways. Mo took the lead, with Flaming Weapon on his silvered machete. He sliced up the webs until a humongous spider rushed him. It bit him but didn't harm him seriously, and he shrugged off the venom (he's resistant). He sliced it badly and it retreated. He kept burning webs. Two big spiders rushed and bit him. He managed to kill one, too, and shrug off their venom. The other was slain by Hjalmarr. They burned the webs all the way to the lair of the big spider, and killed it.

Once they burned though the area, they headed toward their goal - the "mummy room." But the hallway was blocked off. They spent a good chunk of time with Dryst using Earth to Air to create a crawlway. They made it through and rested in a nearby room, then needed to do it again at another block closer in.

On the other side of that block was . . . that same rough, brown mold. Sigh.

They ended up having Dryst cast Flame Jet to burn mold and Purify Air to survive the process. It took a long time, but nothing molested them. They eventually burned their way to the statue room (which was clear, as was some of the hallway) and then went down to the "mummy area." They searched for more clues and details, seeking names. They didn't find anything new, but they did locate the red hand. Mo touched that, too, as did Dryst. They've chosen Hayden to stay "pure" and not touch any of the hands. Dryst wanted to do that, but also wants to be able to escape solo if he needs to.

From there they eventually went to the giant staircase and down. Their plan was to try to figure out the "key pressing" puzzle mosaic. So naturally, they immediately went after the norkers instead. They sent a servant ahead one step at a time until they hear that "click" and door close. They searched the area for a tripwire, pressure plate, etc. - nope.

Meanwhile, the air on this level had become very stale, and Mo felt a little woozy (-1 DX and HT.)

So they moved towards the norkers. The hallway was trapped, of course. Mo had learned Traps and they confidently relied on his 9. That worked, sort of. They saw the bell tripwire had been reset. They discussed how it was probably rigged for someone trying to disarm it to set off a secondary trap, so Hjalmarr just stepped over. The secondary trap was actually for that - he hit a very thin tripline, and five crossbow bolts hummed out of the darkness into his chest. He blocked one, and the other four hit (he didn't try to Dodge, only Block, for fear of his companions getting hit.) Those four were bodkin quarrels from a high-powered crossbow smeared with four doses each of Monster Drool. He took a lot of damage and then failed all four HT rolls (for 32 toxic damage). He stood for a moment and tried to drink his healing potion . . . but that was enough effort to knock him out. He felt on the bell tripline.

Immediately they heard the sound of reaction - doors, horny feet on the floor, rattles of weapons, voices. They grabbed Hjalmarr and fled. Luckily for them Mo had downed a ST potion and rolled a 6, so he had ST 28. He could easily pick up all 300+ pounds of armored Hjalmarr and still be among the fastest of the party.

They fled to the stairs, and decided to defend the second landing. Until, that is, dozens of norkers came in. They backed up more, dropped two light stones to light the bottom and putting down alchemist's fire on the stairs. The norkers covered or took the lightstones, and just walked through the fire heedless of it. The party set up on the top landing.

As they waited to slaughter norkers, and debated sending Hjalmarr down to cut them off from behind, Hjalmarr took a shot in the head from a bullet - maybe a prodd bullet. It pierced his armor and was only stopped by his skull, barely. But the poison on it paralyzed him! Ike quickly cast Relieve Paralysis and Dryst put up a Force Wall on that flank. But a second bullet followed and injured Hjalmarr, again piercing his helmet and ignoring the Force Wall - either it was meteoric or enchanted (it turned out to be the former.) It was poisoned, too. They dragged themselves out of the door and Dryst put down another Force Wall across the doorway.

The norkers came up and tested the wall, but backed right off - Mo was hoping they'd stand close to it so he could swing through it.

The two sides eyed each other until the door closed.

The PCs headed back to the first level, gathering their mercury on the way.

Not yet done, they then headed to the "apartment complex" they'd last sent Vryce into. This time, they buffed up Mo with Resist spells and sent him through - only to have him zapped with black fire that drained much of his FP. Once inside, a voice asked "Who are you?" Mo answered, "Brother Mo!" and got zapped with Frostbite, but Resist Cold prevented any damage. Amusingly, they'd rehearsed an answer, and it sure wasn't "Brother Mo."

Mo explored the complex a little bit, and found the red hand. He touched that one, too. Then he eyed the dinette set but realized it was too hard to take. So he gathered up all of the bedding he could and brought that - 33 pounds worth of it. They tried to toss him a rope, but it was burned by the faces along the hallway. So he just jumped to safety. It worked, but he was at -FP when he landed after yet another black fire blast (and a harmless fire blast.)

From there, they headed to the otyugh. They decided it must be tempting them with true visions of actual treasure. Long story short, that was not the case. It tempted Mo with the certain knowledge that a poor elf maid had fallen into the pit and needed rescue! Mo was suspicious, but also curious. Mo moved to the edge of the pit with Water Vision on, and got slapped and grabbed by the otyugh (it rolled a 3.) He managed to strike it back and get it to let go. After a brief fight, the otyugh was slashed by Hjlamarr, speared by Hayden, and badly wounded. It retreated back.

So they used Destroy Water to strand it in dry filth. Mo saw visions of an elf woman off somewhere chained to a wall. (Hjlamarr: "Scantily clad?" Me: "Clad?" Ahenobarbus: "Technically, she's clad in the chains, so she's wearing the whole planet!") Mo tried thinking back about "give us loot and we'll let you live" kind of things but did poorly. So he gave up and shot it with his bow. It charged and was quickly chopped to death.

They proceeded to cut it up, looking for it's "gem-holding gizzard" or anything in its stomach. No such luck. It had nothing.

They cast some Seek Earth spells on gold and silver and got lines on each, so they may look for it next time.

From there, they just headed home.

The pillows, etc. turned out to be worth more than 3000. The mercury, 15,000. They have Dryst 4000 or so and split the rest evenly.


- The carrion caterpillars were fun, but essentially harmless to the armored folks. They should have hit more as we had a lot of "barely made" defenses that forgot the -2 for a foe overhead. Oh well. Their poison-based paralytic tentacles didn't harm strongly poison-resistant Mo or come in skin contact with

- Another rules snafu we noticed early - players assumed "greathelms" come with No Peripheral Vision and Hearing roll penalties. It's not - it's "full face protection." It doesn't matter if your narrow-eyeslitted ear-covering face mask/helmet/etc. is made of cloth, leather, or metal, it's still reducing vision and hearing. Dryst decided to get his armor modified post-game to fix that. This didn't affect anything.

- So the mercury was found before, does that still count as "loot?" Yes. It wasn't exploited in any way as treasure, nor brought into the dungeon by the PCs, so sure.

- What did the mercury do - a lot, actually. Taken out, it's useful for making scrying devices and for certain magical items. In place, however, it did more. From my notes:

A silvery pool of mercury, useful for scrying. Allows any vision spell to be cast remotely, with long distance penalties, or halves the penalties for Seek spells of any kind, and acts as a +3 Crystal Ball for crystal-gazing. Can be used to cast any spell on a location currently being scryed, with appropriate long-distance modifiers. If removed, the mercury can be sold normally - there is about 15,000 sp worth here, which weighs 115 lbs (a bit more than 1 gallon.)

The PCs used it that way in the past - for Seek, not for remote casting (that was undiscovered). But because "it's worth $15K!" they took it and sold it. In place, it was potentially worth more. The PCs know of another crystal ball, though, and intend to use that instead. That one only works for crystal-gazing however. Can they just buy $15K worth of mercury and put it back and get it working again? No, the enchantment is broken. It would need to be re-made, however it was made in the first place.

- If you're adventuring without Resist Fire, Resist Cold, Resist Lightning, and spells like Resist Acid and Resist Poison, you're basically adventuring naked. Too many unavoidable damage sources are based on them, and you can make serious threats into harmless victims with the right Resist spells.

- so the otyugh is finally dead.

- XP was 4 each (loot, no exploration) and Mo was MVP for touching hand after hand and looting the pillows.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Felltower Summary Teaser

Nice game of Felltower today.

We had five players, and they:

- looted the room of pools of its valuable mercury;

- fought some carrion caterpillars;

- did some mold abatement;

- touched a red hand*

- set off some traps by the norkers with ill effect;

- looted the "apartment complex" and Mo touched the third red hand they'd found;

- had a showdown with the otyugh.

Fun session overall. Summary sometime tomorrow.

* which, thanks to me, they thought was black. I *said* it was black, here and elsewhere. It was red. Not a wasted trip, though.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Felltower Prep

Felltower is tomorrow, so I got some house cleaning done last night and this morning:

- new printout of Raggi's character sheet, updated with the special order axe that finally arrived (a balanced dwarven fine silvered greataxe, which doesn't go far to replaced the Weapon Bonded Accuracy +2, Puissance +2, Fine Dwarven Greataxe he had. Oh well, it's better than the plain axe he used to poor effect last time. The axe doesn't make the man, but it can make him better.

- I updated the rumors.

- I reviewed some of the player's plans and notes for next session.

- I reviewed the monsters I expect to need for next session.

And that's that - off to work, and hopefully time for more prep tonight. If not, all those hours I put into megadungeon prep in earlier, less busy times should pay off!

Friday, February 23, 2018

How dangerous is that monster?

I don't spend any time on the SJG Forums anymore. So I miss a lot of good posts by Dr. Kromm. One of them I saw yesterday thanks to this post over at GURPS Hexy Time:

Game log 10 February 2018: Don't poke the pudding!

The post in question was Difficult Monsters.

(FWIW, for my players, meteoric iron tipped arrows ignoring Missile Shield is not a thing in Felltower - that's been established in game fact, and DFRPG won't change that. Get a sling or prodd if you want meteoric iron ammo.)

This goes hand-in-hand with this post on Dungeons on Automatic.

From a PC perspective, it's good to have an idea of what's tough and what needs special handling.

From a GM perspective, it's critical to understand how to deploy a monster. If you put in a monster with See Invisible and the PCs sneak up on it with Invisibility and one-shot it . . . or you put in crazed berserkers with Battle Fury and they don't go berserk because you forgot they do that automatically . . . or you put in monsters that trap weapons that hit them but forget that until the fight is over . . . you've done a few things:

- given the PCs an easy win, undercutting their ability to gauge the danger next time when you remember their traits

- nerfed a monster, and may have based treasure based on its perceived un-nerfed power

- and broken the monster writer's heart.

So don't do that. Read 'em and read their traits.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Rush Jobs for After-Market Modifiers

I allow after-market modifications for weapons, shields, and armor.

But what if 1d weeks to wait is too long? ("But I'm mad now!")

Rush Job

A rush job - turning 1d weeks into 1d days - is as-written but costs 5x as much. This is cumulative with the cost modifier for a rush job.

It should really cost 7x as much (it's 7x faster!) but 5x is easier math.

Immediate Job

What if you absolutely need it by tomorrow? 20x as much.

This roughly based on the "average" 3.5 days wait, so 5 x 3.5, rounded up to the nearest easy number to remember.

Using the same example as last time:

For example, silver-coating an $80 morningstar will cost $160 (+2 CF) as original manufacture, but $320 (+2 CF, x2) done to an existing weapon. Getting it done in 1d days instead of 1d weeks costs $320 (after-market) x 5 (rush job) = $1600. If you need it done in a day, the smith will drop everything and do it for $320 (after-market) x 20 (immediate work) = $6400.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

My Answer is Always Adventuring

Recently, my players started to try to figure out a way to get a job done in my DFRPG game. However, to do it, they need something they've found adventuring in the past but don't have any of right now.

Naturally, they asked, can we make or buy this?

I said no.

Really, it realistically should be possible - a black market, secret basement trading zones or cults trafficking in strange materials, wizards with extra monster bits to sell or willing to cast anything magical if the price is right, etc.

But game-wise?

If the answer is either, "You can buy it!" or "You'll have to find it in the dungeon" then the answer in my megadungeon game should generally be the latter.

Why is that? Why not let people, you know, buy the eye of death lenses they need for an experiment, or shop at the Evil Artifacts Supply Store for an upside-down cross and a defiled holy book? Why not let them just go buy giant snake venom instead of milking it, or get saw-toothed orc swords off the shelf instead of out of the cold, dead hands of orcs?

Because "Sorry, it's in the dungeon, go get it!" is the name of the game.

If the answer is "mark down some money" or "make a roll in town, don't mess up because failure gets you (insert -5 to -30 point disadvantage here)!" then the adventure is over. It's not a rare substance, really, it's a cash-cost off the shelf item with a chance for negative consequences.

If the answer is, "You'll need to put on your delver's hats and figure out where to search in the dungeon for that!" then we're talking the most fun part of the game. The solution is inherent in the most fun part of the game - fighting and looting and exploring.

This is the same thing as "This sounds like a job for . . . Player Characters!"

If my answer is either "Yes!" or "Yes, but the more fun way!" I'm choosing the latter.

It's that kind of game.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Retroactive work for hire?

I read these two posts by Rob Conley and Douglas Cole with interest:

OBS Content Program is terrible and it is now not just an opinion.

Not Opinion Anymore: Clarifications on the terms of DM’s Guild

So it seems like One Bookshelf's "DM's Guild" effectively works out to be work for hire - retroactive, if you've already done it.

Work for hire means what you produce belongs to the company, not you. That's how I work for SJG. It's fine, because my contract said that plainly and it's what I agreed to. A flat fee or a set percentage of the sales, but then the work belonged to them. If I reuse it on my next book, I technically need to account for that as it comes it out of the pay for the next book - they already paid for it. If someone else uses it, I get a piece or a paycheck.

But if you wrote with the expectation that you'd be producing a book and could re-use your own words and ideas later . . . it sounds like you are out of luck. And it took some clarifications to make that clear.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Norker Champion - Detailed and Washed

I did a little more on that Norker Champion this morning.

I painted in some extra details, put a rough base coat on his base, and then washed him with "magic wash." He's still wet at this point:

He's approaching done, in a tabletop-ready sense. He's not coming out particularly good, but he'll be okay next to the nice-from-a-distance WOTC pre-paints he'll stand next to.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Felltower & the SJG Stakeholders Report

On Friday I posted about the bad news for the DFRPG in the Stakeholder's Report.

How will that affect DF Felltower, which we switched over to the DFRPG as our basic core of GURPS rules?

How it won't

On one level, it won't affect our game at all.

We switched to the DFRPG because of how much it simplifies book buying, book reading, rules understanding, and rules look-ups for the GM and player. I can turn someone loose with Adventurers and the Race List and say, make up a guy. I can say, "Read Exploits and this one House Rules document you'll know how the rules play out." I can say, "Read Spells to see what magic is like."

It's really pretty simple.

And I can and will still do that.

I think the basic rules chassis is excellent and comes with some much-needed focus that helps my players operate with having to ask me legitimate questions about what's in play or not.

How it will

It's just a little demoralizing to say six months ago, "This great new thing is here, and we'll use it!" and have the company say, "That new thing was a failure. Kiss it goodbye." I won't lie about that.

I also see how the lack of print copies could mean less interest in official support. That means I'll get less DFRPG-based gear, monsters, rules articles, etc. out of Pyramid. I'll need to adapt DF books as they come and I like them. I do that now, but I was expecting more DFRPG material.

It will make it harder for new players to "just go buy the boxed set." They had better put these books out in POD quickly (and affordably) or I am in worse shape than before we switched.

And it probably means an official set of GDFs for GCA is not going to happen soon. We'll keep limping along with GCA 4 and me trying to patch the files manually when discrepancies come up.

So overall, I think this is a negative, and it'll have some effects on the logistics of adding new players to Felltower. Day to day, though, it should not affect us.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Norker Champion - Base Coat

As promised, I did get a base coat onto that Norker Champion.

So far, so-so. But he'll get better. And either way, he will get done.

Norker and Norker Champion - Painting Plans

Last time in Felltower, the PCs encounter a bunch of norker brutes - bigger, stronger, buffer norkers than they'd encountered in the past.

Along with those store-bought WOTC pre-painted norkers, they encountered a sword-and-axe carrying norker who didn't quick look wholly norker. Maybe he's a half-breed, maybe he's something else, who knows. One thing they do know - I put him in my box of minis for game unpainted and never did get around to painting him.


The challenge is to paint him to look the same, coloration-wise, as the guy on the right in these side-by-side pictures:

It shouldn't be hard, I just need to find the time as I launched a new job and a new side project at the same time. But that's no excuse, I need some paint on this guy in case the PCs come back next session to try and capitalize on the damage they've inflicted.

By the way, the champion is a Wargames Factory orc, modified with green stuff so his hands can grasp something together, holding a greatsword from some previously purchased Games Workshop Warhammer set.

I best start this weekend, so I will put some paint on the guy this afternoon.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Future of the DFRPG / SJG Report to the Stakeholders 2017 is out

Stakeholder Report is out and up:

Report to the Stakeholders for 2017

Well, this sucks:

"Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game - We have now sold the majority of what we printed. This should instantly slide the game into the "highlights" category . . . and it would be there if not for being so very late, costing more to produce than is healthy, and requiring so much of our upper management team's time and sleep. As it is, the game will likely be sold out at our primary warehouse before the end of the first quarter and will not be reprinted. The current market doesn't leave room for a game like this to succeed, and it's a great thing that we cut our planned print run by 30% or we would be stuck with copies for years to come.

I'm glad I got my second copy when I did.

And it sounds like I need to write for DF, not DFRPG, even though I run my game around the latter.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

After-market Modifiers for DFRPG

Here are the house rules we're using for after-market additions of weapon, armor, and shield modifiers in DFRPG.


Allowable After-market Modifiers - Climber's, Ornate, Silver Coating.


Allowable After-market Modifiers - Mirrored, Ornate.


Allowable After-market Modifiers - Fine, Orante, Spiked.


Cost for after-market modification is twice the cost of the modifier on the weapon. For example, silver-coating an $80 morningstar will cost $160 (+2 CF) as original manufacture, but $320 (+2 CF, x2) done to an existing weapon. Characters with crafting can attempt their own modifications - but critical failure will waste the money and potentially ruin the piece of equipment (depending on the type of gear and attempted modification.) Modifications done by professional NPCs in town will take 1d weeks but has no chance of failure or ruining the piece of equipment.


This is a frequent request in my game, so I made this ruling. Now it's become a written-out rule, as is the natural progression of such things.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A little on armor in my DFRPG game

We swapped the armor in my game- partly - from DF to DFRPG. Mostly so I could just say, "Go look in Adventurers."

I proposed some switches a while back:

Armor Options for Our DF-to-DFRPG Conversion

We settled on one option, which I quietly noted here:

More DF-to-DFRPG switches in my game

What we have now is a hodge-podge of both old and new.

Old Armor

The old stuff is grandfathered in, but it's not replaceable. Also, we no longer stack Fortify enchantments, due to the easy access to lighter, better armor. It's excessive to have both.

This lets the players:

- mix and match if they like what they have (or part of it);

- put off re-equipping until they can get what they want.

The lets me, the GM:

- leave NPCs as-is;

- leave monster stats from the original DF books and the DFRPG unchanged, even when they clash a little bit in gear;

- not worry about PC armor conversions.

New Armor

The new armor has been sliding in rather quickly. New PCs bought the new sets, which means they're mostly more heavily weighted and less armored than other starting PCs (or traded more points for cash.) It also means they're even more keen than usual to upgrade.

It also means:

- armor is simple - just look in Adventurers for gear;

- the rules are as written except that I still require a cost positive prefix for enchantment;

- it's easier to get higher DR.

How has it worked?

It's worked okay. There is some confusion, sometimes, but less and less each session. There are some changes, though;

- plate-armored guys have no weak points. Where they'd have lower DR hands and feet before, now they're encased in DR 12+ and ignore most area damage spells and fodder attacks.

- enemy armor is potentially worth a lot more. It's more expensive and lighter. I enforce the wear and tear house rules on gear, and I don't allow Repair to work without missing pieces. Pieces are always missing on damaged gear.

- DR is up overall. Weight was restricting DR, followed by cost. With weight going down on a per-DR basis for metal, metal armor is becoming more common for everyone.*

- low-damage attacks are becoming less and less relevant. Low-damage area attacks will probably need to start having non-injury effects accounted for - like being on fire for 10+ seconds not being good for your potion belt, your backpack, those spell stones you have ready on delver's webbing, etc. But that's a post for another day.


Overall, it's been a good change. It's easier, which is a plus. The mixed bag of grandfathered stuff doesn't bother me so much, and it seems like it'll start to go away over time. I'm sure one or two suits will hang around forever, passed from one PC to another, with new PCs who just happen to be the right size for Vryce's old plate armor or the wizard's weird mystical scale armor, but that's not too bad. I can live with that.

* This leads to another issue - the "everything is vital" syndrome. Some players start out with lightly-armored PCs, but then want to armor up specific locations. This usually starts with a good helmet. Then torso armor from the front . . . well, and I might get hit int he back. Add back. Then "well, my arms are also important." Add arms. "And legs, because if I get crippled I can't flee when I need to." Add legs. Everyone has boots. Then gloves, you need gloves. And face armor, because you don't want to get shot in the face.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Pictures from Session 98, Felltower 70

Yesterday I posted the summary of the session:

DF Game, Session 98, Felltower 70 - Gnolls & Norkers

Here are some pictures from the session.

Sadly, a lot of the ogres are counters, because I forgot to pack the minis. Next time. I use a lot of ogres.

Pictures after the cut.

Monday, February 12, 2018

DF Felltower, Session 98, Felltower 70 - Gnolls & Norkers

February 11th, 2018

Weather: Cool, hard and steady rain.

Dave the Crippler, human knight (262 points)
Hamilcar Barca, human wizard (250 points)
Hayden the Unnamed, human knight (265 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (336 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (143 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (363 points)
Raggi Ragnarsson, human barbarian (?? points)
Rolan Liadon, wood elf scout (255 points)
Vryce, human knight (509 points)

The group gathered in Stericksburg. The original plan was to fight the orcs, but based on the mix of available characters, they quickly shifted to "get Raggi and let's go kill gnolls." So they also got Vryce, who has no interest in the orcs and a lot of interest in delving deeper. They gathered some rumors and Mo bankrolled potions for the less-wealthy delvers. They grabbed their bridge and headed out. Ike provided holy lightstones, and Rolan created magical ones for everyone as well.

They passed the statue of Sterick - Hamilcar spit on it, Hjalmarr shook his axe at it, and Mo smashed it in the face with his morningstar. The others passed it without action or comment.

They slogged up the sodden track up the mountain in the rain. They reached the castle and Rolan spotted watchers who quickly ducked away. He didn't have time to identify them but they figured it must be the orcs. At 150 yards in the rain and gray, it was too hard to be sure. They ended up moving up to the walls with Rolan as cover, and discussed pursuit, but too slow - the watchers were long gone.

So was the hole they dug, shaped shut. They had to climb the walls again. This will persist until they re-open the gate or really take out a section of wall (and the hostile Earth wizards.) They climbed the walls after Vryce used his magic books to Walk on Air up to stand guard. Rolan climbed next but slipped and fell into the mud. Covered with climbing mud, he was able to easily reach the top. The others climbed or were hoisted up. The bridge was left behind in the rain as they wanted to try the tower entrance. They found that unlocked and went in.

Inside was especially damp and wet and dank - possibly leakage from above? It's been raining steadily for a couple of days.

They made their way down to the second level, encountering nothing except rats scattering away and the sounds of dripping water and scuttling things.

They avoided the stirges and made their way to the spider-filled corridors. The way they wanted to go was choked with webs. Hamilcar tried going about 5-6 yards away, guarded by Mo and Hayden, and throwing 1d Fireballs at it. That eventually provoked a big spider to rush him. Mo critically hit it for maximum damage and smacked it into the wall, stone dead. The burning wasn't working, though, just making holes. So Hamilcar put Flaming Armor on Vryce and he marched forward, lighting webs on fire with his touch. Many "small" (fist-sized) spiders fled, some crisped and burned. They found the spiders had webbed up to near the giant staircase door, but not all the way to it. They decided even spiders don't want to go down there.

They opened the door and went in and waited for it to close. Then they climbed down the stairs.

When they reached the bottom, they moved to the intersection room ahead and glanced in at the gate. Still looked "dead." They head the door close and click they each time they come here. They still don't know the source.

They headed in that direction, though, and cautiously forced the door open. They headed down the hallway, with Mo looking down at the floor, Vryce looking up, and Rolan scanning from the middle of the group. Mo discovered a twine tripline near one of the supporting archways that characterize this level's corridors. He saw it lead ahead, so he gently kept the tension on it and tied it off and cut the twine that crossed the hallway. They then moved with Rolan ahead.

He spotted another tripline, leading to a concealed box (hidden behind a lintle) seemingly glued to the ceiling, set to open if the line was pulled. He cut the line and they moved past it, but scraped a chalk mark into the damp wall a few yards ahead so they'd know where it was - the plan being the last person to pull the line and set the trap off to discourage pursuit.

They found the T-intersection that leads towards the gnolls to the left, something else ahead (but they're heard the Lord of Spite in that direction.) Noises alerted them to the gnolls being in place to the left.

Also to the left, someone had installed a series of 4' mortared stone walls alternating left and right, with a roughly foot-wide channel down the middle. The PCs couldn't march ahead three abrast, but had to go single file or two abreast a little tightly. They went single file, with Vryce and Rolan up front. They got to another T-intersection.

When they got there, they heard more noises - low coughing growls, leather and metal noises, scraping claws, muffled footsteps from not-boots but not-soft feet. They started to retreat. But it was too late!

From all three directions - first ahead, and then from the back and side - came the enemy. Gnolls, hell hyenas, ogres, and fire slorn. Rolan exchanged arrows with a gnoll archer, but just didn't have any oomph on his arrows - he wounded it twice, with difficult shots through traffic, but didn't wound him too badly. He dodged the arrow the gnoll fired at him, but it passed him, Hjalmarr dodged (and later realized he should have blocked), and it hit Hamilcar. He was wounded badly.

As the knights moved up, a gnoll spellcaster put down a 3-yard, max-damage Spark Cloud among and on the PCs. They broke in two directions - the Vryce, Hayden, and Hjalmarr towards the gnolls and ogres and the caster, the others toward the back - where more gnolls and ogres and slorn were coming!

(I'll keep the summary brief, here. What followed was a roughly 5-hour fight with 8 delvers vs. 58 opponents.)

The fight in front turned into Vryce handling a hallway full of three slorn, three ogres, and a couple of gnolls. The gnolls went down quickly, but the ogres and slorn just wouldn't die so easily. The slorn kept closing to close combat, their breath lit Vryce on fire, and he was standing on corpses - so he was brought down to mere "normal starting knight" levels. That kept the fight there even, if not tense.

The knights slowly chopped up the gnolls, and Hjalmarr cut one's shield apart with Shieldslayer. Hayden put two javelins into the fray and then managed to enter it directly, cutting down a foe before dropping his sword. He drew his backup falchion, the golden swordsman one, and ended up in the back ranks again. Meanwhile a door at the end of the hallway burst open, and what eventually turned out to be 21 heavily muscled norkers moved in. One of them didn't look wholly, or rightly, norker, and had a greatsword and an axe. The norkers managed to press the PCs for a little while, especially after the gnoll spellcaster put down another 1-hex Spark Cloud on top of Hjalmarr. He quickly moved out, and ended up fighting one-on-three versus norkers for much of the fight, blocking arrows from the gnoll archer.

Meanwhile, in the back, Hamilcar put down Smoke onto the oncoming enemy. That obscured their vision and set many of them coughing (and one, choking). They cut down gnolls as they emerged from the smoke, but also had problems dealing with enemies still fully in the smoke (-4, cap of 9). The gnolls came backed with three fire slorn and two ogres. One of the ogres stepped up and Raggi hit it in the neck, but rolled close to minimum damage. It was hurt - but it could have been killed. It smashed Raggi in the arm, crippling his arm despite his enchanted mail shirt. He hit back with his axe one-handed in his off hand and wounded the ogre, but the next blow he took crippled his leg and he fell, and went berserk. Dave meanwhile killed a gnoll and a slorn, as Mo kept smashing slorn in the skull after he smashed a gnoll's head apart. The back line started to break down, with Raggi down and Mo and Dave up forward a little. An ogre and a gnoll broke through. The gnoll eventually went down wounded after Raggi drew his knife and rolled to it and started to shiv it in the vitals - and then Dave the Crippler hit it and broke its leg - and Hamilcar set its face on fire with a Fireball. The ogre moved forward and fought, too, but it eventually had its head smashed in by repeated strikes.

One of the slorn, though, breathed fire and missed everyone except Rolan. He was hit in the hand, and took just enough to cripple it! He ended up with a flaming hand, a bow dangling on a lanyard, and a lasting crippling injury! He spent the rest of the fight trying to stay out of the way and get his bow over his back.

The fight in the rear left Raggi crippled and unconscious, but no one else badly wounded aside from Hamilcar and Rolan's hand. Multiple gnolls, a hell hyena, two ogres, and three slorn were killed.

Back in the front, the fighting continued. Hjalmarr eventually had a clear channel to the sword-armed norker, who swung at him. He defended and the norker backed off. He drew a throwing axe as did the norker with the sword. They threw at each other. Hjalmarr blocked his, but the norker did not block Hjalmarr's. Wounded, he fell back. That seemed to weaken the norkers, who let him pass through the door and they began a fighting retreat. It cost them several more norkers on the way out. The gnoll archer, meanhwile, was cornered and dropped his bow and drew a morningstar.

The gnoll swung his morningstar and hit Hjalmarr with a critical, and I rolled max damage - 16 crushing. I rolled location and it was . . . Skull. Hjalmarr has DR 16 on his skull. He took the hit and was uninjured. The gnoll died shortly after. Meanwhile, Vryce finally finished off the slorn and ogres after a long slog of a fight - most of which he spent willfully standing in the one-hex Spark Cloud because it was the best tactical position to protect Hayden and Hjalmarr's flank.

Once the norkers started to retreat, heckled by Rolan, the gnoll spellcaster got angry. But Vryce had closed in at this point and stabbed him. It used Iron Arm to defend, backed up and cast Lightning. A second later, Vryce closed in and stabbed him twice more. It dropped, got zapped by its own spell, and lay mortally wounded. Hayden moved in to keep an eye on him. Vryce slammed the door open - and by this time, all he saw were two fleeing norkers, the last ones out. Hamilcar put a 4d Explosive Fireball into them, wounding both but killing (or stopping) neither. They fled.

After the fight, the PCs heard the norkers (probably) making a fair amount of noise up the hallway. They mostly closed the door, stationed guards at the various intersections. A couple of the more bloodthirsty types finished the wounded - cut throats from Rolan and the gnoll spellcaster had his eye ground into his skull by Hamilcar's staff butt. Mo searched the bodies quickly, and Rolan tried to enlist Ike to help him make an axe-handle brace for his hand, bind his bow to his hand, and let him still shoot. It just wasn't practical given the time (minutes, just after an exhausting fight.) The gnolls had some coins, as did the ogres, and the spellcaster had a silver ring and a standard (if cool bone) wizard's staff. Their weapons ranged from sub-par to okay.

They didn't have time or resources to quickly pursue. Instead, they set Rolan trying to figure out where the enemy came from. They found a corridor with many branches. They searched the first two rooms and found one was clearly the ogre room - door opened too forcefully too often, five big fur pile beds, and a chest that was "locked" by ramming a piece of metal into the latch to jam it. They pried that open and found it held silver, plus some gold. They "locked" it and Mo carried it.

They also found the gnoll's room, and tossed that. Nothing special was found, and the bedding included enough for all so they decided the spellcaster didn't have his own digs.

They quickly healed up Raggi (was was up, thanks to Recovery) and got out of there. They didn't hear the Lord of Spite, but they did hear the norkers reorganizing.

So they cleared out. They headed back, walked or climbed or lowered people down, picked up their bridge, and headed home. Back in town, they divided their loot. The chest turned out to have 7000 sp, 300 gp, and a silver necklace with rubies worth 7200 sp. The mound of weapons got a junky rate (20%) in town, sold on Rolan's behalf, and netted less than that single silver ring on the gnoll spellcaster. They handed Vryce 4000 sp and divided the rest up evenly among the others, and gave Hamilcar the necklace as a Power Item.

I forgot to make Dave and Mo make post-delve HT rolls. They searched the filthy, bug-ridden ogre and gnoll bedding. We need to see if they picked up (and need to cure) any nasty infections from bug bites and/or fleas. I'll make it next time, retroactively.


- this is what the PCs call the 4th level. Vryce was MVP because he carried the weight for the group. He's overpowered for the area, really, but almost half of the others are badly underpowered for it. So that evened out to a tough but winnable fight. Good tactics and careful choices kept everyone safe. Injury was low, even given high-ST foes and a dangerous armor-reducing attack spell against them.

- technically, 1 damage of fire will clear a hex of webs (per Monsters), but a 1d Fireball is just a dinky little attack spell. I just let it punch holes through but not clear it. Webs will burn away, but they aren't going to burst into flames and clear the whole hex. An Explosive Fireball would do it, but Flaming Armor worked even better. So would have Flaming Weapon.

- Not many people like to stand in damage or choking, or in vision-obscure areas. That Spark Cloud divided the fight in half. The enemy couldn't make that work because the PCs were too powerful, but it put all of the "utility" characters (scout, acolyte, and wizard) on one side of the fight and the other side was purely knights (Vryce, Hjalmarr, Hayden.) That could have been an issue.

- DFRPG armor makes a huge difference in protectiveness. Vryce has something like 15 DR on his least-armored locations. Folks still used old suits built under the old rules tend to have weak hand and feet armor, but the new rules allow for full protection of everything to a very high degree. Fodder - even strong fodder like these brute norkers and the gnolls - aren't really a big threat. Although Vryce chose to defend against their attacks, he was probably immune to all but the strongest attacks. Maybe those, too.

- speaking of armor, Hjalmarr is now wearing Vryce's old armor, including his greathelm. This is new for him, and I'd forgotten he was doing so. So a number of times he was attacked from the flank and defended at -2. But with the helmet, his flank hexes count as back. He should have had a much more restricted field of vision in general, and been hit a number of additional times. His armor might have stopped the shots, but some of them were fire and would have lit him ablaze.

- Hjalmarr took Slayer Training (Axe Swing/Neck) and Weapon Bond to Shieldslayer. This has made a huge difference - instead of inflicting heavy wounds on the gnolls and norkers and hoping they'd blow HT rolls to stay conscious, he was pushing them right past -HP and into death checks. Many failed, and many were decapitated.

- Really bad luck for Rolan - just enough damage to cripple his hand, and a blown crippling roll meant he couldn't hold his bow. Even if he'd had Mifter Teef he couldn't have done much of anything.

- the group defaulted back to "have the Scout in the middle, not the front" and got lucky with a Per-based Traps roll by Mo. He's got Per 12, so he rolls against a 7, and I rolled a 5 - exactly what he needed to spot the Per-2 twine tripwire. That bought them some time before the surrounding waves attacked them, although not much as they delayed for a long time near the gnolls.

- Fun quote from today? "You have the Brain disadvantage" probably won the day.

- XP was 5 all around (4 loot, 1 exploration), except for Vryce. He took home 4 (2 loot for 20% of his loot threshold, 1 exploration, 1 MVP).

I'll try to get pictures up tomorrow. Many were taken.
(Editing later - pictures are up!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Felltower pre-summary

Fun game of Felltower today.

Full summary will come tomorrow, but here is a teaser for now:

- the PC-started spider problem continues to be a problem.

- "Let's continue after the orcs!" became "let's go to level 4 and attack the gnolls!" . . . somehow.

- a big fight (call it 60+ combatants?) that took most of the session.

- Vryce fighting with graceful ease while on fire.

- possibly the end of those gnolls, extracting a fair measure of revenge for the death of Ken Shabby and use of a lesser Wish.

Fun session, as always.

Felltower today

We'll play our 98th session of Felltower today. It should feature:

- the long-awaited return of Dave the Knight!

- a mere 7 players.

- fighting! (see "long-awaited return of Dave the Knight!)

- more fighting (see above)

- possibly a test run of my revised combat rules from session 97.

I'm not 100% sure what they'll do, but Dave is a young gamer and really likes combat (and isn't quite so patient yet with not-combat) so the group will certainly go looking for fights. Hopefully they'll find some that they like.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Troll or musician? You decide!

Is this a troll or a famous musician?

I was struck by how troll-like Frank Zappa looks on the cover of the Lost Episodes CD.



Same, different?
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