Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Houska Castle & Felltower

One of my players just sent this to me - an article about Houska Castle, near Prague in the Czech Republic. It reminded him of Felltower.

The castle:

"Supposedly, a gate to hell opened on the craggy Czech mountain. The castle was constructed around the portal, and a chapel was plopped directly atop the hole to keep evil monsters from spilling out of the underworld and slipping into the human realm.

Folklore says the supposed gate to hell was so deep no one could see the bottom of it, and those who did attempt to enter the dark orifice encountered demonic human-animal hybrids.

That sure would explain some of the enduring mysteries about Felltower . . . and confirm those rumors that there is either a gate to Hell in its depths or the dungeons keep on going down until you reach Hell itself. Neither would be implausible, and the various placed sanctified to the Good God in its depths are likely part of attempts to seal or limit the penetration of evil into the world.

I'm not saying it is, but it could be, and might be. The players will have to find out.

It was even occupied by Nazis and used as an administrative center. Felltower was occupied by more than one group with malign political ambitions and unsavory and evil practices. And it was the administrative center of Sterick's brief dominion of the northern reaches.

So this fits in so many ways, potentially.

Plus, as I finish up Darklands, I wonder if my final battle with evil will take place near Prague? If this article is correct, I very well may.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Our Gamma World GM is Blogging Wrong (or so I read)

I'm not sure how many of you follow Black Ray Gun aka It's the blog of andi jones, former SJG illustrator (if you see a picture signed with a fish, it's his) and our Gamma World GM. He pretty much finds images from all over the web, especially other Tumblrs, and re-posts them as a way of collecting them into a visual archive of his Gamma World game.

But recently he posted up an "Ask" someone did criticizing his blog. Well, not his blog's images, but his blogging and commenting and contextualizing of the images as part of his Gamma World game.

First off, he just had a very funny gif of Rocket Raccoon as a response.

But it's a larger issue.

The idea of basically "blogging wrong" is a really strange one. It's a non-commercial blog with the stated purpose of pulling together images and contextualizing them into a single, oddball (yet self-consistently oddball) game world. It's andi's blog, much like how Dungeon Fantastic is my blog about gaming. What he puts there is up to him, and it's his wordview and his spin on those image. Further, Tumblr specifically encourages that, and makes it part of the basic use of the platform. He really can't "blog wrong" because you're just seeing what he wants to post. If it's not for you, it's not for you - the only person who needs to be really satisfied with the blog is andi. If it pleases lots of other people, great. But it's essentially impossible for him to do it wrong if it's doing it for his own purposes and accomplishing them.

I check this tumblr all of the time. I keep waiting for images of things we'll encounter or have encountered. I get an idea of what's in our GMs head when he says "Gamma World" that might be different from mine when I hear "Gamma World." It's a blog done exactly right. It's laser-focused on a topic and a purpose and serves them well.

So I wanted take some time to highlight that and link to his blog. Not everyone likes the commentary - but it's essential to what Black Ray Gun is, and what it's for. I just hope this post attracts some more people to his blog and sees into the world we're exploring a handful of Sundays a year.

Monday, January 29, 2018

GURPS Gamma World, 20th Homeland - Session 16 - Exploring the Princess

Sunday was session 16 of our Gamma Terra campaign. We picked up where we left off last time."

"Caveman" - demo/EOD
"Hillbilly" - medical specialist
"Love Handles" - demo/EOD
"Momma's Boy" - computer programmer
"Short Bus" - computer programmer

In reserve:
"Barbie" - demo/EOD (MIA)
"Fatbox" - demo/EOD
"Princess" - cryptographer/sniper
"Oinker" - demo/EOD

We started in our "base" in the ferry terminal in ruined Muskegeon. We spent a week on rest and recovery there and in the factory with the Little Thieves. Love Handles and Caveman worked on swordsmanship, Momma's Boy on archery, Short Bus on something (I can't recall what now), and Hillbilly on boating.

Our plan was to climb up to the "Princess," a Disney-esque orbital/atmospheric cruise liner hovering half above the docks. We geared up with our best NBC gear, had Love Handles (our carpenter) turn an old table into a liftable cradle, geared up with the climbing gear from the big box store we looted during Operation Top Hat, weather balloons, kites, etc. We all took some Protozol, which gave Short Bus double vision for a bit, so we put him on overwatch. (I'm not kidding.)

We basically lifted up a rope and grapnel with a weather balloon, eventually got it to snag on, and we climbed up and set the rope better and hauled up the rest of the group and the gear.

The ship was about as expected - listing slightly forward and starboard, and every exposed surface was covered with plants - and there was a big tree growing in the main deck pool. We immediately headed for the bridge. On the way, though, we found a colorful, passenger-areas-only deckplan of all fourteen decks. We snapped pictures with our tablets and proceeded to the bridge.

There we found that without power, the ship was dark and the doors closed. Hillbilly tried to pry open the door with his hands, but it wouldn't go - something held it shut. So he slid Hoopslayer up and down around the likely latching points to physically remove the door from the connection. That worked, and we slid the door open. Caveman would later at the twist of clamping on old spare wrenches to act as handles and to keep the doors from closing. We explored the bridge but it was dark, there were no "on" switches, and sitting in the captain's chair (Hillbilly) did nothing. We left and headed for the medical bay, which was on the way to the engine room (or where we suspected it would be.)

As we headed down the stairs, we heard scurrying cat noises, and then caterwauling. Momma's Boy decided to answer back in his own cat noises. They quieted and then responded. He answered back their query with a query - still no idea what kind of query. Eventually, though, the cats decided to jump us.

Two bobcat like things jumped Love Handles in the back and bore him down, failing to hurt him (mostly) but biting into his NBC suit and armor. He shot at one and it just blinked away - leaving bullet holes in the floor. He yelled "Bullets don't work!" into his comm gear. The other blinked away with him. Short Bus stabbed around hoping there were invisible, but not.

Meanwhile Momma's Boy confronted two along with Caveman. They jumped him, and he was grappled. But he put the "headlight" laser against one and lasered right through it. It fell, dying. The next one was killed outright by the laser. Hillbilly talked to Love Handles, who was in a room with a hole punched in the ceiling, a bunch of bones everywhere, cat smells, and mewling kittens. He'd been dropped off as food. He quickly left the room and locked himself in the nearest restroom. We eventually found him.

So we had a badly wounded teleporting cat. Naturally, Momma's Boy was going to use a healing stick pen to heal it. You know, because he heals everybody with our irreplaceable insta-heal consumables. Hillbilly had a fit, and pointed out that you can't "just heal it a little." It was going to get healed to the extent the pen could, and we'd have an angry cat on our hands. Eventually Momma's Boy saw the logic in not doing this, and just carried the cat around for a while before tossing it into the lair we'd found.

Hillbilly postulated the cats can teleport down, and normally hunt on the surface and teleport back with food. We'd prepared for wind-blown plants and flying things, and forgotten Gamma World is weirder than that, despite having dealt with teleportation early on.

Caveman eventually asked Love Handles about his mutation. He decided maybe Love Handles could teleport (or something), and he should try. He concentrated, and saw a clear vision of a patrolling robot. He told us, and we started in on him for having a "robot buddy" and "Telepathy (Robots Only)." We headed down the stairs. We heard the cats, but only in the distance. But then a few decks down we heard a robot voice speaking about "Delta Threat Level Detected." Hillbilly waved everyone back. Some of the group wanted to just go on and fight the robot if necessary, but Hillbilly veto'd that. No unnecessary fighting. So we went up and around and down via other stairs.

We eventually found the engine room and Reactor B. It was off, but intact. We couldn't figure out how to activate it. We barely managed that with instructions in the past, and we had none here. We eventually found our way to the Enchanted Garden Restaurant . . . and it was full of heads.

Android heads, in a big flat heap. Some torn off, some sliced off neatly. We dug around and found an intact head . . . and some human skulls (in the end, we found 14 human skulls and 930 android skulls.) Our techs, Short Bus and Momma's Boy, hooked it up to a battery and spoke to the head, which we nicknamed Bishop because he's a talking decapitated android.

"Bishop" told us the ship had been carrying a full crew, but had a reactor leak in some kind of shockwave, and it came to Muskegeon and emergency-disembarked the passengers. The ship also had a military cargo on board for classified reasons - a Type 93A Killbot from "Project Decapitator." It was a military unit designed for riot/insurrection suppression. It clearly felt the need, and suppressed the crew effectively.

We asked about it, and found it was armed with a liquid-metal arm, a 2mm flechette cannon with about 15 seconds of ammo at full auto, and heavy armor that it described as "bullet proof." Presumably proof against better guns than ours. We got bishop to tell us where its recharge station was, and we worked out way down there, avoiding the cats and robot.

We found the charging station. Momma's Boy and Caveman wanted to try to take command of the Killbot, but the rest of us voted for a simple shutdown. That worked. We were divided on trying to program it, or telling it to detonate its internal thermite charges and ruin itself. We left it off, in the end.

From here we basically looted the ship. We:

- avoided the cats by taking the long way around their area.

- used the Killbot's logs to identify where it put the bodies. There were in a large move theatre. Sadly, in heaps, not all seated in rows in some macabre fashion.

- used the deck plans to locate the captain's room, the purser's room, and the wealthiest cabins. We found an 8-shot revolver 7mm slugthrower and 50 rounds (Short Bus took it), a few thousand domars, a woman's driver's license and ID (jackpot, we can get a car now), some nice clothing, a low-level Intel/Cybernetics ID card, and some other doodads.

- gathered up the batteries, the intact heads, and brought them to the android bodies. We got five running, but eventually might get two dozen or them or so up and running once we can swap parts and get them repaired at the factory.

Then we climbed down with our loot, rested, took a trip to the factory, dropped off androids, swung by Colonel Jezza and spoke with him (they had their in-programming mech up and running, now), and then headed back. We did one more android sweep.

We had one terrible event, though. Someone kicked a hollow log by mistake during a hike across the area. It spewed out clingy white spores that filled mouths, throats, and lungs. Hillbilly had his gas mask on, since Hillbilly always has his gas mask on during travel, but everyone else took damage in the 8-16 range. Ouch! We burned up red pens and, at Hillbilly's insistence, green anti-disease pens, on all four of the wounded.

We left off with an offer from Colonel Jezza to bring us on a raid against the Purists. It's a soft target, with a lot of androids we can get, but it might reveal us to the Purists. Since they have tanks, robots, androids, air power, and "even satellites for all we know" according to our best source on them, the original 20th Homeland letter, we were concerned. We narrowly ended up deciding not to go and raid them since we have things to do before we want to reveal our presence and our intentions.


Hillbilly also "leveled up" as this was his 16th session, and I rolled Enhanced Parry (All). Not bad.

Hillbilly is really obsessive about NBC gear and gas masks, and won't explore without them. This has paid off several times, although the irony that he's one of two mutated members of the group is still kind of painful.

Sample Killbot Program:

20 GOTO 10

Caveman pointed out that we might be trackable with our chips. That's a good point - the Purists might know about us. That's not the same thing as knowing we are hostile to them, however. Tough choice - fun adventure with the ability to loot the Purists and grab needed androids, or avoid basically declaring war on a superior power we don't know enough about and before we can finish setting up the area to release our friends from the bunker. For now, we're thinking no.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Gamma Terra pre-summary

We played a session of Gamma Terra today.

Our adventure included:

- Climbing up to the floating cruise ship

- Momma's Boy talking to cats.

- Us getting attacked by cats.

- dealing with a Decapitator-series Killbot

- lots of loot

- even more androids

- Hillbilly's paranoid refusal to go around without a gas mask on proves to be sound policy.

- and some deal discussions and an offer of adventure from the Fit.

Hopefully I can get the full writeup out by tomorrow.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Slimy Aquatic Ogre Mini

Here is one of those slimy, aquatic ogres I mentioned:

He needs a base touch-up as the paint flecked off during the gluing, but otherwise, he's slimed-up and ready to go.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Dwarven Whetstone - DFRPG vs. DF

Here is a small but significant change to a piece of equipment between DF and the DFRPG:

The Dwarven Whetstone in DF1 "Gives edged weapons +1 damage for sharpness with first blow that connects after sharpening".

The same item in DFRPG's Adventurers "Gives cutting or impaling weapons +1 damage for sharpness with frst blow that connects after sharpening".

We'd read, and played, the first one as specifically working on edged weapons - and thus, cutting attacks. Not impaling.

The second is a big change from how we'd played.

I'm curious if what is in DFRPG was intended all along, or it's an expansion to allow "first stab" benefits for otherwise weak impaling attacks.

One thing it's changed right away is that suddenly impaling arrows do +1 damage (sharpen them all before you enter the dungeon.) That's a significant difference - a Scout might be doing 1d+3 (2) pi with a bodkin but 1d+4 imp with a broadhead - and if your opponent is 0 DR, that's 3 injury to the vitals you gave up with the otherwise standard-use bodkin. Cornucopia quivers are nice, but produce arrows that do one point less damage than your store-bought (or homemade) impaling arrows. It's a noticeable wording difference, with a real game difference.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Man-to-Man -> 4th Edition: Fiendish Frederick & Rogan the Reaver

Continuing on with the Man-to-Man sample fighters, revised to 4th edition GURPS.

Fiendish Frederick
Original: 100 points
4e: 114 points

[ 20] ST 12
[ 40] DX 12
[  0] IQ 10
[ 40] HT 14

Axe/Mace-14 [8]; Knife-14 [4]; Shield-12 [1]; Running-13 [1]

He carries 81 lbs of gear, putting him at Medium Encumbrance.

Speed 6.5
Move 3
Dodge 6 + Large Shield DB 3
Parry (Axe/Mace)-10 + Large Shield DB 3
Parry (Knife)-9 + Large Shield DB 3
Block-9 + Large Shield DB 3

Notes: Frederick saves points on HT, being one of the rare guys with HT 14 - which provided both HT rolls and HP back in the day. Note that HT was at least as popular as ST, often moreso, back in Man-to-Man. Running doesn't do what it used to - back in Man-to-Man it increased Basic Speed! I kept the effective skill level (13) not the points, which saved him one. He'd honestly be better off saving that one, too.

Rogan the Reaver
Original: 100 points
4e: 99 points

[ 20] ST 12
[ 40] DX 12
[  0] IQ 10
[ 20] HT 12

DR 2 (Tough Skin, -40%) [6]

Broadsword-14 [8]; Knife-13 [2]; Shield-12 [1]; Bow-12 [2]

He carries 58 lbs of gear, putting him at the exact upper limit of Light Encumbrance.

Speed 6
Move 4
Dodge 7 + Small Shield DB 1
Parry (Broadsword)-10 + Small Shield DB 1
Parry (Knife)-8 + Small Shield DB 1
Block-9 + Small Shield DB 1

Notes: Rogan is the only fighter to come out less than originally costed. He saves points on Bow going from P/H to DX/A, his Toughness DR 2 goes from 25 to 6, and his stats don't bring him up significantly despite the doubling of DX costs.

I think I'll continue this with the example characters from Basic Set 3e - 1/2 point skills, Mental skills moving up to 4/level cap from 2/level and Physical skills coming down from 8/level to match, attribute cost changes, advantage price changes - it could be interesting to see how they'd cost as modern PCs. I'm sure someone's done that, but I'll do it again myself.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Man-to-Man -> 4th edition: John Falcon & Villem the Vile

I pulled out my copy of Man-to-Man the other day, and looked at the four example fighters that came with the set. I naturally started to convert them to 4th edition GURPS in my head. How much would they cost?
I'm ignoring equipment costs, here, since that's setting-dependent (and in Man-to-Man, scenario dependent!)

Here is John Falcon, the first of them:

John Falcon
Original: 100 points
4e: 133 points

[-10] ST 9
[100] DX 15
[  0] IQ 10
[ 30] HT 13

DR 1 (Tough Skin, -40%) [3]

Shortsword-16 [4]; Knife-15 [1]; Shield-15 [1]; Crossbow-17 [4]

He carries 38 lbs of gear, putting him at Medium Encumbrance.

Speed 7
Move 4
Dodge 8 + Small Shield DB 1
Parry (Shortsword)-11 + Small Shield DB 1
Parry (Knife)-9 + Small Shield DB 1
Block-10 + Small Shield DB 1

Notes: Like most Man-to-Man characters, his Shield score is optimized around 12 or 15 since Block was Shield/3, not Shield/2 (1e GURPS forward) or Shield/2 + 3 (GURPS 4th edition). He's actually just as defensive-oriented since he loses 2 PD from his armor and his shield drops from PD 2 to DB 1, but gains 3 base onto his defenses. He also saves a lot of points, albeit by doing something you can't do in 4e - buy DR 1 (Tough Skin) on a normal human. Man-to-Man costed "Toughness DR1" out at 10.

Net/net, his DX-heavy build pushed his cost up significantly! The lack of disadvantages, quirks, and non-combat skills limits the amount of cost changes, too. Man-to-Man was just a build-your-own-fighter game.

Villem the Vile
Original: 100 points
4e: 123 points

[ 30] ST 13
[ 60] DX 13
[  0] IQ 10
[ 10] HT 11

DR 1 (Tough Skin, -40%) [3]

Polearm-15 [8]; Knife-14 [2]; Thrown Weapon (Knife)-14 [2]; Crossbow-16 [8]

He carries 69.5 lbs of gear, putting him at Medium Encumbrance.

Speed 6
Move 3
Dodge 7
Parry (Polearm)-10
Parry (Knife)-9

Notes: Like John, Villem has "Toughness DR1" and saves 7 points on the conversion, if you allow it. Also like John, he's very slightly above his weight threshold - if he'd drop one and a half pounds he'd gain movement and a point of Dodge. Since he's both less DX-heavy and stayed in the 11-13 range for ST and HT (now 10 points apiece, not tiered costed as in Man-to-Man) his overall cost only went up 23 points.

Tomorrow, Fiendish Frederick and Rogan the Reaver.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Recommended Reading & Watching 1/23/2018

Here are three things you may have missed that I think are worth checking out:

How Much Profit (& non linear $ amounts)
- If you've ever wondered why my "profit required" rules for our DF experience system are non-linear, you can read about why in the comments. Since this post is over six months old I'm sure few people are just stumbling across it, even the ones who might be interested.

Matt Finch interviews Erik Tenkar - a meandering conversation between Matt Finch (Swords & Wizardry) and Erik Tenkar (Tenkar's Tavern) about gaming and networks of gamers. I enjoyed it. Cat lovers will enjoy seeing a guest appearance by Erik's cat, pretty much every 5 minutes.

Rusty sword in attic found to be one of oldest blades in Japan - It's not unreasonable for even extremely valuable weapons in the real world to just end up stuck in the corner and forgotten and unidentified for a long time. One of the oldest curved swords in existence was sitting under a layer of rust in an attic. So it's probably not unreasonable for PCs to occasionally find amazing weaponry in out of the way corners or deep down in dungeons.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Ogres of DF Felltower

Last session, the PCs ran into some two-headed ogres. Naturally, having played D&D-based games in the past, they identified them as ettins.

It's quite possible "ettin" is a term for a two-headed ogre. But I just refer to them myself as two-headed ogres, and it's generally wiser to make sure you're not bringing inaccurate assumptions in from other games.

I felt like talking about the Felltower ogres though, so here is a look at these all-too-common threats.

Some two-headed ogres and a "normal" single-headed ogre.

Here is what is known about ogres in DF Felltower:

They are Stupid

Ogres, in general, are very stupid - IQ 7 is the racial average. Consider that IQ 6 is high-end primate, and even dull-witted types are generally IQ 9, and you can get some idea of how frustratingly stupid they are. The DFRPG Monsters book describes them as "phenomenally stupid" - emphasis in the original. You can negotiate with them, but it's hard to do so with any productive result.

There are exceptions, however - the occasional ogre is very clever, for an ogre (IQ 8 or even a Leonardo-like IQ 9).

And there are rumors of very smart ones.

There is even some that tell of the ogres once being very intelligent, magic-using beings whose wizards risked too much and caused the collapse and warping of their race. Other versions of the tale have the Good God smiting them down for their turn to evil, and making them as stupid as their actions were.

They are Hideous people-eaters

They have Appearance (Hideous) and the Odious Racial Habit (Eats other sapient beings, -3 reactions). Since pretty much everything that isn't an ogre doesn't like ogres, they're used to hostile reactions. They're equally hostile back. They aren't evil per se, but they act with total disregard for the feelings and interests of other beings.

They're normally kept in line by their allies with threats and bribes.

They are big and strong and tough

Even a weak ogre is as strong as the strongest non-barbarian humans. They only get larger and stronger from there. They're vulnerable to sheer physical damage as they aren't supernatural. They're magic resistant, poison and disease resistant, and pretty much fearless.

They come in varieties

Ogres come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. They have a tendency towards physical defects - different-sized arms, warped or bowed legs, misshapen heads, oversized hands or feet, etc. Some are horned. And some rare few are two-headed.

Here are some varieties:

Aquatic - slimy-skinned ogres with webbed fingers and toes that dwell in swamps and fens.

Two-Headed - some ogres have two heads, side by side. They aren't any smarter, act stupider, and rumors claim you can't kill them without slaying both heads.

Giant - some ogres are very large - SM+2 or more, not the standard SM+1. This type can be combined with the other types. Some "giants" in stories and rumors were just over-sized ogres.

Fachan - the rarest of ogres, they have one fused leg, one eye, and one central arm.

It's also possible the Siege Beast is just a larger, stronger, smarter variety of ogre. It's not clear, though, and that's largely based on fairly similar appearances.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Trampier Bugbears

I don't use AD&D-style bugbears. I use the bugbears I made up for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1 - boogeymen-like stalkers who choke and club and murder.

But I just love this picture of Bugbears from David Trampier in D1 / D1-2:

I'm re-reading D1, D2 (and D1-2) and D3 to review them, and it brought back how much I love the artwork in them. That piece especially. It makes me kind of wish I had used AD&D bugbears, so I could use that picture for them.

Friday, January 19, 2018

I need a complete, searchable DF equipment list

Just a quick gripe for Friday.

More than anything else right now in my game, I need a single-document, searchable list of equipment. With everything. And editable, since my players only ever need gear that isn't in the books (a 35' rope ladder, a wheelbarrow smaller than the one in the book, not that kind of mallet, etc.)

I really don't have time to sit down and make one.

But I do need one.

GCA does a pretty good job of this for me, but it's not perfect.

Adventurers has a great list for the DFRPG, but it's missing later-added material and some things my players consider absolutely vital dungeoneering equipment.

I wonder if SJG would consider publishing one, if I proposed doing one. It seems like it would be high levels of organizing and word re-use and little actual value added in terms of new stuff. And I'm crazy busy these days thanks to work. But still, having a single PDF with everything would be excellent. Having a single editable, searchable list of everyone would be better still!

For now, though, especially for the stuff not in the books, I may need to dig out And a 10' Pole and come up with a price conversion to DF . . .

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Revised GURPS Magic: Levitation costed by SM, not Weight

Here is another spell we've revised for my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy / Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game campaign, Felltower.
This is not a spell that is "broken" or even abusive - this is all about making it much less time consuming and fiddly to use in play!

Click here for a complete list of spells we've modified and links to the same.

Levitation is weird in that it is a Regular spell, which by definition means its cost should be affected by positive SM.

On the other hand, its cost is based on weight, at 1 energy per 80 pounds.

We've always played this that cost is purely weight based and SM is irrelevant.

But this has lead to a lot of questions, a lot of very gamey character decisions, and a lot of slowdowns in play. Not only that, but it's meant I need to know how much every monster weighs, because that's how this spell is costed.

We've dealt with questions like:

- Does the spell levitate a certain weight (I paid for 240 pounds, I'm 225, but I can add 15 more pounds and still be levitating), or is the weight just for cost at the time the spell is cost?

- Can I overcast the spell to prevent someone from weighing me down and breaking the spell?

- Does extra weight break the spell or pull you down? If so, how fast?

We've had issues like:

- all wizards are below 160 pounds, usually 160 - No Encumbrance. A ST 10 wizard generally clocks in at 140-145, so Levitate is free to maintain at skill 15+. A player who made a 165 pound wizard because he didn't consider this caused a lot of issues - he was 3/2 instead of 2/1 and needed Levitation-20 to keep up!

I could have gone all Car Wars here and say a "normal human" is 150 pounds or even 160 pounds, so they are just 2 base cost. But I think that's exceedingly generous. Generally targets are in the 161-240 range, and heavy fighters tend to be in the 241+ range. So if weight is going to matter, it has to matter.

That's lead directly to situations like we had a couple of sessions ago - over 20 minutes of play time spent juggling weight. People handed off backpacks to skeletons and folks with big weight margins thank to their breakpoints, took off and traded armor, passed out the contents of packs, etc. to get everyone to a weight-efficient point so the wizards could Levitate everyone. I got up and had a snack, went to the bathroom, did some quick Japanese practice on my computer, and otherwise killed time until it was done.

So that pushed me into a solution I'd long considered - changing Levitation so it's size, not weight based. I'd suggested this before, but mostly it was objected to by players who had something to lose - they'd already set themselves up for free to cast, free to maintain levels of weight, or routinely used a cheap casting in play and didn't want to shift. But once real, significant game time was being spent on weight bookkeeping, I decided to push for a change. The group agreed to the following change:


From (Spells, p. 57 or GURPS Magic, p. 143) but replace the text with:

Moves living beings without touching them. The subject floats horizontally or vertically at Move 3. Movement is under your control, and requires concentration unless you’re also the subject; leaving the subject suspended in midair requires no concentration. You can use DX-based skills normally while levitating; other subjects are at -3.

Cost: 3 to cast, 2 to maintain.


By making these changes:

- Levitation cost is based on SM, like any other Regular spell, including Flight (not weight based), Air Vortex (not weight based), Body of Air (not weight based), and even Lighten Burden, which lowers the weight of things you carry (not weight based.) Teleport has an encumbrance limit (Heavy), but isn't actually based on the weight for cost.

- We don't need to know anything about the weight of a subject, just that they are at Heavy encumbrance or less. That's almost all subjects in almost all situations.

Here are some FAQs addressed:

Does living beings include undead, contructs, etc.?

Yes. In our game, I run it as "animate" beings, under their own control or self-impelled through magic. It definitely includes animated skeletons, golems, and so on.

Can a target just hold on to something?

Yes. The spell isn't a grapple or a force-based spell. Any attempt to keep from moving is probably going to succeed, here.

Does this mean I can just load up past Heavy encumbrance and neutralize the spell?

Yes, it does. And it does means stronger subjects can carry more when Levitated by the spell. Teleport (a non-DF spell) works the same way, as do other movement spells. Wallwalker lets you walk on walls with more stuff if you're stronger, too. It is giving you an ability, even if it's outside of your direct control, not moving your weight around with a set amount of magical force. It's magic, don't turn it into a physics exercise.

What if the subject goes over Heavy encumbrance?

The spell continues, but the subject will move straight down at Move 3. Treat this as movement, not a fall!

Does the -3 for DX related skills when I'm levitating but not the caster apply to (choose a skill)?

Yes. I'm not sure why I get asked, but yes.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Two Rules & Rulings from DF Session 97

Here are some rulings that resulted from the most recent session of our DF campaign. Also, from afterward.

Return Missile

My hopefully unambiguous ruling is that missiles targeted at an area can't be subject to the spell. You can't return missiles that accidentally hit a target, or attempt to make yourself a target deliberately to return it. That way lies game-y silliness, in my opinion. It also means that the very existence of this relatively easy-to-get spell means missile fire against a group with a wizard, even against the ground near them, is extremely risky.

Epic Smash prereqs

Mo's player asked about Epic Smash, from DFD Barbarians. While this wasn't his question, I did note that the prereqs include Momentary Strength, which allows you to buy Power Blow, but doesn't explicitly mention buying Power Blow. As I intended it, you'd have at least a point in Power Blow before you could have Epic Smash.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

DF Felltower, Session 97, Felltower 69 - Into the Orc Hole

January 14th, 2018

Weather: Very cold.

Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (262 points)
Alaric, human scout (268 points)
Aldwyn, human knight (250 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (435 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (302 points)
     5 skeletons (~25 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)
Rolan Liadon, wood elf scout (250 points)

The group gathered in Stericksburg. Several PCs were dead broke, including Aldwyn - but Ahenobarbus generously fronted his living expenses so he wouldn't have to risk a Survival roll in the woods. Alaric, who'd planned to use a Complementary Skill roll to aid him, was disappointed enough to carve "No Knights Allowed" into his tree fort's tree. So there.

The group gathered rumors and stocked up on gear as they got ready to go kill orcs. They considered getting the Meeposian brothers, but with 10 living and 5 unliving party members, they chose not to. No one attempted to find Raggi until it was far too late - either by design or accident.

The group headed out in the cold, passing Sterick's statue. Hjalmarr saluted with his axe, Mo smashed it with his flail, Ahenobarbus spit on it, and Rolan did something less mentionable ("Sorry, it's an elf thing.") They climbed up the mountain, and Aldwyn attempted to scrounge up some sticks he could carve into stakes. No luck, proving that default rolls in bad conditions is no substitute for remembering ahead of time.

The PCs decided to stop climbing the walls, and took some time with Dryst to use Shape Earth to put a 6' tall, 3' wide tunnel into the castle wall where the orcs had repaired it a couple years back. That wasn't wide enough for the bridge, and barely enough for Mo to squeeze by. Squeeze he did, and then several of them climbed the walls from inside from within one of the towers and hauled up their bridge.

The headed down to the main entrance, and put Dark Vision on both scouts and sent them down. The pillboxes were closed and disused, and the portcullises were jammed where the PCs had jammed them. Mo jumped across, the bridge was laid, and the scouts checked everything more closely.

From there they pried open one of the metal doors and headed in, with Rolan up front, Alaric next, and move a second's move away ("21 yards!" he kept announcing. Feet, it's feet.) Rolan felt a deep sense of valuable good stuff off to one side. He ignored this feeling and headed on.

The group worked their way carefully down the halls, down the half-stairs, past the aparment complexes, and to the second level. They waited a while at the stairs, listening, and then headed down. They checked all of the doors.

The one they wanted wouldn't budge. Dryst put Glasswall on it and saw it was nailed shut with heavy boards. So he put Silence on it and Hjalmarr hacked it to pieces.

The group headed into the hallway and the scouts spotted some orcs just as they were spotted. They'd been silent and stealthy, but forgot the rest of the party was carrying maximum-brightness lightstones, which gave their presence away. In any case, in a short exchange they knocked two orcs down (and I think Alaric took an arrow). The other fled down a dead-end side loop. They heard yells of alarm, and then horns and drums. ("A very musical culture, the orcs.")

The group advanced to the intersection, plunking the orcs with Cornucopia arrows, and splitting off three members to track down the orc. They did, and kicked open the door of the room he was in. Aldwyn deflected the orc's arrow shot and they rushed and killed him.

From there they advanced to the orc hole. More horns and the clear alert of the orcs cut off part two of the plan - get to the weird "touch only once" altar and have the new guys touch it. Instead, they started down the hole.

The hole is fairly wide at the top but drops about 9-10' down and then angles off at a 45 degree angle down, only 6-7 feet tall and 6 feet wide, with rough carved handholds. Alaric dropped with with a rope to hold onto, so he could forward walk down. He saw little, and a dropped light stone just bounced out of sight.

One by one they descended, and climbed down the tight, narrow tunnel. Rolan guarded the rear, and Dryst was concerned the orcs might collapse the tunnel on them. It was solid and just big enough for orcs and some of their larger allies, but not by much.

Eventually Alaric stumbled across a goblin in ambush. He heard it breathing, and jumped around the corner and took two shots. One hit the goblin the leg, the other missed. It screamed, and he shot it dead a moment later. Echoes of drums and horns came after the scream.

They found their way to a round cave, 1/3 given over to water. The only way out was a boulder-parapet'ed tunnel mouth 15' wide and 30' off the ground. Alaric shot and wounded an orc who tried to shoot down on him, and the other orcs ducked out of sight. Mo came up and ran along the right wall, hoping to reach the "cliff" edge. Instead, he fell right down a concealed pit and was injured. The party moved in. The orcs tossed down a dozen jars of flammable oil and two sacks. About 3/4 of the jars ignited, but didn't splatter anyone as the PCs were too scattered. The bags landed and began to move like something inside was moving. Naturally, Hjalmarr stepped up and kicked one. It exploded in a cloud of stinging, cough-inducing spores. He breathed some and was injured but quickly got out of the way. The other bag was eventually shot to explode harmlessly.

Mo downed a Strength potion somewhere around this time.

Eventually sent up Rolan with Levitate to engage the ors. He injured one and sent the rest running after their arrow and bolt shots missed him entirely (Missile Shield). Rolan moved up to cover the landing (which had nothing but rocks and a net) and Mo climbed up. Mo checked the net and it was an old, ill-repaired fishing net, not a climbing cargo net. They decided to have Dryst use Create Object to make a rope ladder they could toss up to Mo.

What ended up happening was that Mo was on top, facing the rocks, holding on to the ladder since it lacked a place (or a means) to be anchored. As he held it, goblins rushed Mo. Rolan didn't wait (his player didn't even wait, and shot and resolved his shot before I said what was coming) and tok out one goblin. The others reach Mo, who looked back and attempted Intimidation with a roar. The goblins broke and ran. The orcs behind them rushed Mo and stabbed and hacked at him. Rolan fired into the fray, and Hjalmarr climbed as fast as he could. Mo took a few hits, Rolan wounded some orcs and then Hjalmarr was up and slew the others. The rest of the party climbed up.

They moved down a short, bent tunnel and came out into a very large cavern - more than 30 yards wide and more than 50 long, with many columns - and two long ladders tossed in a corner. In short order, though, horns and the sounds of moving soldiers alerted the PCs that orcs were coming.

They formed up five across at the mouth of the tunnel, with the rest of the PCs backing them up. The scouts had Walk on Air on so they could get a standing vantage point to shoot over the other PCs. As soon as the enemy appeared, the wizards put Great Haste on each one.

The PCs were rushed by around 20 orcs with assorted low-grade weapons and leather armor, seven devil wolves, and about 18 or 20 goblins. They were backed by some archers that Rolan kept busy by shooting at them (they Dodged basically everything - he had terrible luck with that.)

The fight was a straight-up brawl (using some abstracted combat rules to move things along.) The PCs quickly decimated the orcs, and then the wolves, and then the goblins, although some orcs got in shots and the wolves managed to bite and chew on several PCs in close combat. But in less than 10 turns the PCs demolished them all. The last four goblins tried to flee but the scouts shot them down from behind (which will be a clear lesson to the enemy - don't run, no quarter).

As the first wave went down, though, the PCs could hear another wave forming up - and very, very distant drums and horns answering a close-in horn. There was less than a minute to rest - and the FP loss from the long climb, a fast climb, several small fights, and then a big brawl (and 5 more on top for Great Haste) meant that Brother Ike and the wizards needed to expend their own FP to keep the scouts above half Move and Dodge.

The next wave came in.

This time, the PCs backed off to a three-person front rank. The second wave was much more formidable - orcs with leather and metal armor, all bigger than the largest of the previous wave, backed by two trolls a half-dozen ogres (some two-headed,) and three gigantic two-headed ogres and a few orc spellcasters, plus two owlbears. The mob advanced and quickly reached the group - the scouts shot exclusively at the biggest, baddest looking two-headed ogre in the face. Actually Alaric shot at an owlbear first, while hooting owlbear noises. The big ogre took the arrows to the face and didn't seem very much bothered by them. When one head was hit, it said, "Ouch!" and the other laughed and said, "Hahah, missed me!" - and the opposite happened when the other face was hit. It readied a big barrel to throw, and the trolls rushed right up through the crowd at double time - Great Haste!

As this happened, an orc snuck up from the back!

It threw a Magebane grenade into Gerry's hex. He lost his ability to cast spells (but not maintain - it says "cast"). He yelled as he turned and saw the orc his dumb-as-rocks skeletons hadn't detected sneaking up. Rolan turned and shot the orc, then shot him again as Ahenobarbus rushed back to finish him. The skeletons stood guard and moved up a little. Gerry quickly readied and downed a Universal Antidote to undo the Magebane effects.

The same style of abstracted brawl started. The trolls were backed by the orcs, but the PCs just focused on the trolls as the scouts shot at the biggest ogre. Hayden was quickly torn up by a troll fairly badly and fell down as he critically failed a Dodge. Mo smashed a troll in the skull twice, trying to brain it to death. It ignored him and kept going. The other was cut to ribbons by Hjalmarr.

The big two-headed ogre tossed his barrel of oil into the ranks of the PCs, smashing behind them and splattering everyone with oil. Two orc spellcasters tossed Explosive Fireball spells into the tunnel to set it off, but one missed badly and the other missed by enough to only lightly scorch some PCs and the trolls.

After a few seconds of this fighting, though, Dryst put up a Force Wall. It formed over a brutal second of combat, and Mo even swung through it to injure a troll. Gerry put up a large Stench spell over the mob of foes, and Dryst put up Create Fire on a fallen troll.

It was all for naught, though, as the trolls got up and left the fire, the orcs backed off quickly at some shouts from the ogres and others in the back, and a horn blew to signal a pullback.

Since magic items can pass through a Force Wall, Alaric kept shooting off his stock of arrows, trying to set an owlbear berserk so it would kill some orcs. He missed a couple of times, but then hit twice - and unfortunately for his plan, knocked the owlbear down and possibly out. It was eventually dragged away by one of the ogres.

The orcs were content to let the Force Wall remain, and the PCs backed up and rested up, waiting for an orc assault down a narrow channel. The orcs shot some arrows to test the wall, but otherwise, that was it. Some of the wounded from the first assault got up and crawled away.

The PCs basically sat around and recovered, and some of the PCs downed potions to get ready for the next fight - buffs and healing, mostly. But then the discussion turned to just getting the downed orcs in front of them, looting their weapons and purses, and leaving.

Ultimately, that's what they did. The Force Wall went down, and Rolan scouted invisibly. He saw orcs and devil wolves posted on the three other ways out. He was able to line up a clear shot on one wolf, and shot it and killed it. The rest of the PCs moved up, with half of them guarding and the rest dragging bodies. They hauled the dead into a chokepoint, retreated, and put up another Force Wall. They looted the orcs. The skeletons were given pieces of armor from Gerry.

After that, they left - they climbed down the cliff (it wasn't specified how - I assumed another magical rope ladder) and made their way up to the worked tunnels. They sealed the orc hole with another Force Wall. They then headed to the altar, hoping someone would get lucky with the silver-to-gold effect. Only Alaric and Aldwyn wanted to try - Alaric tried, and got +1 stats for one day. Aldwyn got what they hoped - 39 of his silver coins turned to gold! Gerry had a skeleton try, and it was smote down with cosmic lightning. Oops.

After this, they headed to the first level and checked the Seven Saints and wrote down which ones they'd found and didn't find. They then worked their way out of the dungeon, lowered their bridge, walked out of the narrow tunnel they'd made in the wall, and headed home.


So the PCs finally went down the "orc hole," which was first discovered back in the early days of delving. A lot of the futility of "cast Stench to smoke them out" and "throw a light stone down to see what's there" became clear in the 500+ yard length of the tunnel and its uneven floored, steep descent. It also explains why orc reinforcements were often so slow. That's a long climb into a fight.

The PCs quickly identified the two-headed guys as "ettins" but I corrected them. It's sometimes hard to use a general idea with a D&D name becoming attached.

Again, Return Missile came up. My hopefully unambiguous ruling is that missiles targeted at an area can't be subject to the spell. Dryst's player asked if he could jump in the way. Ahenobarbus's player said that's against the wizard code, so we joked it would take a Will - Magery roll to do something selfless. In any case, I said no. There is a rule-legitimate way to make this happen (Sacrificial Dodge to take the hit for the floor, and then someone else casts Return Missile) but again, I rule it cannot be used on missile targeting an area.

The abstracted combat went okay. There were the usual issues - it goes from "I need the minis to see where everyone is" to "I step back into this hex" and "I attack this orc here" and "I hit these hexes with my spell so this orc and this troll are specifically in it." Which is kind of the worst of both worlds for the GM - I need to track individual orcs and hexes, and it's abstracted enough so I really can't. Plus the players aren't generally satisfied with "win" or "lose" but want to inflict 100% fatal casualties on the foe as fast as possible, so you can't really assume "that guy is hors de combat" or "that you've defeated those guys, now move on." I understand why, but still, if which orc is hit, which one is dead, and how dead are each one becomes important to track, it's hard to use speedy combat to resolve big fights. I have some ideas for next time, and yes this will turn into a Pyramid article once I'm satisfied.

Loot was barely sufficient for Mo, thanks to Dryst taking almost nothing, and plenty for the others - mostly thanks to the margin of the gold. The axes and spears and bows they sold got them a solid chunk, too, but it wasn't all that much. That worked out to 1 xp for Dryst, 5 xp for the rest, and MVP was Rolan for all of his player's ideas and tactics.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Jeff Dee Picture - Caption This! Results

I posted this picture as a "Caption This!" post on Saturday.

I received a number of entries. The one that made me laugh the most was . . .

"There he goes. We're all out of henchmen now."

from Ben.

Thanks Ben, and thanks everyone! Ben, let me know in the comments what module I should review next!

For myself, I just kept thinking the same thing over and over again as I looked at the forlorn face of the guy pointing.

"I dropped my keys down there!"


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Felltower session summary preview

Long session of delving in Felltower today.

It featured:

- nine players, a new record!

- the return of Dryst

- an attack against the orcs!

- first descent into the "orc hole."

- a 50+ combatant brawl

- a 40+ combatant skirmish

Summary tomorrow in the afternoon.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Jeff Dee picture - Caption this!

I saw this awesome Jeff Dee illo over on Once More Unto the Breach on his End-of-Week-Dee post.

That just demands a Caption This! post. So, that's what this is. Caption that. One that makes me laugh the most by Monday, 1/15/18 at 10 am EST gets to choose one of my as-yet unreviewed modules and force me to review it before the end of January.

Friday, January 12, 2018

My friend the black pudding will help!

Normally, being trapped in a small, freezing room with a black pudding is bad.

Black pudding saves butcher trapped in freezer

But this butcher was able to leverage destructive powers of the pudding to save himself. A door? No problem, those suckers do 3-24 damage in AD&D. This butcher must have rolled extraordinarily well on his Reaction Roll for it to get it to help.

Perhaps he'd taken some advice from Gary Gygax, who wrote a war story called How to Tame A Black Pudding (link to Grodog's resources) back in Dragon 289.

(A real black pudding)

Either way, it just goes to show you can't just paint all oozes out to be horrid, vile, unfeeling foes. Sometimes they can be horrid, vile, unfeeling friends!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Secret Doors in GURPS DF / DFRPG

Let's talk Secret Doors!

Erik Tenkar doesn't like them at all.

I can sympathize with that.

The mechanics for secret doors in the games I grew up with - B/X D&D and AD&D, mainly - were pretty cut and dried. Make a roll, find them or don't find them, and then move on. Fail that roll, and that was that. Succeed, and at least as we played it, you find and open it and move on. Naturally the AD&D DMG leaves you the possibility of discovering the means of open by roleplaying, and isn't crystal clear on what happens if you fail the initial detection roll (DMG, p. 97).

Basic D&D is even harsher. "Each character has only one chance to find each secret door." (B21) And you need to be searching -
it's not "secret door radar" although the wording of even earlier D&D books doesn't say that it isn't that. In any case, blow that roll and it's hidden from you forever.

If you couple this with putting critical adventure elements behind a secret door, you can potentially putting in a block in your adventure. Make this roll or the adventure ends.

You can put "bonus" materials in an area closed off by a secret door, of course. A shortcut past danger, for example, or extra treasure, or a room with some hints or clues about things ahead. Make it so that an intelligent guess (or just stubborn thoroughness) and a lucky roll gets you bonuses but don't kneecap the adventure (or the group!) because no one rolls a 1 (or a 1 or 2 for a demi-human.)

Even so, it can feel like the dice decide if the GM wasted a bunch of time on something that cannot be detected through good play.

Me, though, I like them a lot. This might be because I play GURPS, which doesn't actually natively come with "secret doors" rolls. They're subsumed, like most of everything else, into skill and attribute and secondary characteristic rolls. Good play nets you the chance for a roll, and the roll tells you how well your paper man executed your plans.

On top of that, check out what DFRPG (Exploits, p. 19) has to say about secret doors:

"Finding them always requires an active search; the GM rolls secretly against the highest of Vision, Observation, or Per-based Traps for each searcher. Success reveals a door, if there is one; it may require an IQ-based Traps roll to open. These rolls often have steep penalties.

A few things, here:

- it doesn't say it's one try. Therefore, it's not one try. GURPS is pretty harshly specific about "one try."

- it doesn't even give a special penalty for trying again and again! (Editing later: Aside from the general guidelines on Exploits, p. 7)

I would, because I know that merely looking more or longer or again doesn't mean you'll find something you missed the first time. It's too easy to just confirm your failure when you try to find something again. So giving a cumulative -1 (or even -2 or more!) to the same PC would make sense. You can offset this with more time (Time Spent, in Basic Set p. 346 or Exploits p. 6). I'd also allow a "re-set" of a cumulative penalty after you change the nature or parameters of your search. Going from "just look around and tap" to "methodically search the wall from top to bottom, left to right, by quadrants, touching the wall and gently knocking" would mean a re-set of penalties and> should net a bonus for thoroughness. You might (and I would) just make that bonus time-based - taking 20 minutes to search is the same as trying assorted methods that take 20 minutes to execute. A specific bonus for particularly appropriate methods (tapping on a thin door, tracing characters or lines on a decorated wall, etc.) would also be appropriate.

Some people will object to a roll at all, but I've long argued that a roll is appropriate on the "Honey I can't find the pepper" principle. Search the spice closet for a few minutes, and you can't find something, yet the next searcher comes along and plucks it out from right in front of you. Just because you're in the right place doing the right thing doesn't mean you succeed at your task. Sometimes, like in combat, you make the right decision and just miss. Since you have unlimited attempts, not counting in-game issues (wandering monsters, food, etc.) or out of game (boredom, distraction, etc.) it's not a game-stopper, it's just a cost for thinking Per is a dump stat.

- opening it may require a roll. For opening it, I like "may require" a roll. Sure, it may. Or it may be trivial to open. Or it may require role-playing or other exploration because the opening mechanism isn't removing the candle but rather throwing a lever back on level 1 to unlock the door or splashing on some unholy water or pushing a button down the hall behind that pit trap. It's just a suggested mechanic. And unlike finding something, it's realistic to have something be easy to use once it's in hand. Finding your keys is hard, using them is easy.

So I like and use secret doors. Partly it's nostalgia for the lined "S" on maps. A good chunk is the the way secret doors work in my chosen game system. And I've coupled with that idea of "put in extra, not required" as the basic (but not universal) standard to keep things going.

So I don't hate them. But I'm not playing with a rule set that boils down to "roll a 1 or the adventure ends," either.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Darklands, again

After I mentioned not playing much in the way of video games, I decided to make a concerted effort to finish Darklands.

The big issue with completion, for me, was the fact that 90s video games track what you did or didn't do internally, but not in a player-accessible way.

In other words, I'd have to find my map and myself on the map, I'd have to determine what quests I hadn't finished, what needed doing, etc. and go.

I solved this conundrum by just chucking out all of my notes, grabbing my last save game, and starting up. My characters were quite advanced so this wasn't a huge problem. Missing some cash here or there wasn't going to be an issue.

Spoiler alert!

I'd slain a dragon, I'd freed some mines from dark forces, and I'd done a lot of general fighting of raubritters (robber knights) and bandits.

But what next?

I knew I needed to hunt down the Satanic forces, and thus villages that had succumbed to witchcraft. So I went around to village after village and investigated. I fought (and easily defeated) the cultists, and started followed their blatant hints of where to go next.

From there I eventually reached the High Sabbat, infiltrated it and defeated it, and found out where the Satan-worshipping Templars have their base. I'm now working my way through that.

Darklands really does do mood well. My characters really do make decisions based on right and wrong and holiness. We seek out knowledge of saints, donate money to pilgrims, give away mounts to the needy, pray and call on saints, study Latin, and more. I have found almost no relics, and I'm not sure where I could find them, but they don't seem to be required.

What it annoyingly does is have bad pathfinding, some annoying navigation issues, and plenty of monsters with stuff that destroys equipment quality (which can't be fixed, only replaced.) I've actually fought evil alchemists with my armor off to spare it from Eater Water (a nasty acid) - healing being a lot less annoying than going all the way to southern Germany to get another suit of good armor.

Still, it's a fun game, and I'm hoping to finish it - in fits and starts, around work - in the next month or so. Full speed ahead, no side quests.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Old School Gamer Radio

Matthew Finch has put up a new website, attempting to pull assorted media together for old school gaming, not just - as he basically put it on his blog - blogs and G+.

Old School Gamer Radio

It's got links to:

- blogs

- youtube videos and interviews

- podcasts

and some other stuff as well.

It's interesting at the very least. I'll keep checking it and see how it goes.

I should point out that I was surprised but pleased to find Dungeon Fantastic was listed on the "Key Encounters" portion of the main page. Nice!

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Known Dragons of DF Fellower & Dragons in General (Part II)

Yesterday I spoke about the dragons in my DF / DFRPG megadungeon game, Felltower.

I mentioned, briefly, that the danger of dragon fights and the concern of the players that they don't really know how to kill them means that they've avoided deliberate dragon encounters. They've had conversations about "Is this technically a dragon?" about other monsters, in case they might mistakenly fight a dragon and get stuck in a dangerous fight with a monster they don't know how to kill. It's a lethal game and guessing wrong can mean making up a new character.

In a way, this really comes down to a GM tip - whatever extra importance you openly apply to something, your players will potentially magnify it many times. To put it another way, if you make something out to be a big deal, it's likely your players will think it's a very big deal.

Dragons in my current game, as above, are an example.

Dragons in my previous GURPS game are another.

I didn't want dragons to just be a casual encounter in that game. I subscribed to this theory of dragons. They were big deals. Huge. Named NPCs. Seen but not encountered unless you went after them. Fabulously wealthy, but also powerful and dangerous. They could be hunted and slain by only the boldest and best equipped, or negotiated with and spoke to in the hopes of acquiring their pent-up knowledge of the ages.

So naturally, dragons were a huge aspect of my game, right?

No, of course not. One dragon was seen flying. The group (wisely) hid from it, as it was early in the campaign and they weren't ready.

The rest of the campaign?

No dragons. Not one was investigated. Not one was spoken to. Not one was seen. Not one was researched to see where it lived, even when names came up. Not one was attacked. No one sat around the table and said, "We should hunt down one of the dragons and kill it, we'll have all the money we need for the rest of the game!"

When dragons did come up, it was quickly agreed that the group wasn't ready, that should be tabled for another time.

Any why not? I'd said they were dangerous, important, wealthy, knowledgeable, lethal, and so on. Who looks at their character sheet and says, "Well, I'm ready for the toughest possible monster in the game"? Not that many players - not a majority, anyway. It's always better - for in-game and out-of-game reasons - to put off danger you don't understand or can't be sure of and solve the easily solvable.

I made an effort to have dragons front-and-center in my current game. There are dragons you can't just march up to and kill - ones that are potentially shatteringly powerful and absurdly wealthy.

But equally, some dragons just sit in a major dungeon entrance on a pile of loot, and can be slain in a single encounter by PCs not entirely ready for a dragon fight.

Even so, we've had one accidental and zero purposeful encounters with dragons since. That's even with a party member, often acting as a party leader, who is obsessed with fighting and killing them. He's been unable to make the case for a dragon hunt, and those who don't want to go are careful to keep him away from a potential fight so he won't rush off and start one.

Another good example are the gates in Felltower. I put them down so they'd be ways to get to many different kinds of adventure or locations they just didn't fit within my megadungeon. So, magical doorway to them. My PCs finally went through one, only out of terror at something else and a series of mistakes that boxed them in near the gate with no other way out. Otherwise, gates are always "We aren't ready, we don't know enough, we might not be able to find our way back." My own logical setup to avoid "toe in the water" gaming - you can't always just go in, look around, and then come back - has meant it's a big deal to step through a gate.

My players regard gates, then, as a really big deal. Because you can't test the waters, you have to commit, it's safer just not to commit because you don't know what you're getting into. A solution would be to allow for "toe in the water" go-and-return gates to be totally standard just like two-way doors, not one-way, are standard. But then we're right back to every gate just being a "go see, and we'll come back someday when we're prepared for certain victory." With an added dose of GM prep and loss of sense of wonder, since gates are no longer doorways to strange and wondrous adventure but just fancy doors to larger dungeon rooms.

In the game world, and real world, that has logic - don't have fights, perform executions; know your enemy like you know yourself; failure to plan is planning to fail; look before you leap. But the war stories we all teach years after the game really happen when you leap and then look.

It ends up being a clash of logic. On one hand, the logic of the GM seeking to make something important and different - dragons aren't just bags of HP slain by dealing enough injury to them in any fashion you choose, gates not simply being glorified doors you can casually walk through and back as you please. On the other, the proper caution of players who don't want their paper man dead or trapped in a different world today, even if it means a potentially less story-worthy session.

I do have three potential solutions, however, to keep the logic but encourage particular actions.

Increase the risk-to-reward

This can be an in-game reward (more treasure with dragons, behind gates, etc.) or a meta-game award (extra XP for killing dragons, extra XP for crossing gates) or a real-world reward (free beer for fighting dragons and going through gates!)

Making every single dragon fight a +1 XP in GURPS or DFRPG - or every gate count as "lots of exploration" for a 2 XP session in my rules - means there is a real basic motivation for giving it a go. You know it will pay off

Brute force

Simply make more encounters with "important" monsters or passage through gates required. Have a dragon attack the PCs - like in Skyrim, where they'll just drop down from the sky and attack you. Make a gate the only way into or out of an area. Rocks fall, the big doors slam shut, everyone is stuck in the room with the open gate.

Make them common

Make these things more common. Again, Skyrim has you fight so many dragons you need the game to track the count. Gates could be all over the place, so avoiding them is like adventuring with a "we don't open doors" philosophy. You can keep these things special but common enough that you must encounter them - have a dragon nest on top of the dungeon after a while, have important bits of powerful artifacts or keys to great wealth known to be past a gate. It's still a choice to deal with them or not, but you're giving up a lot to avoid the perceived magnified risk.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Known Dragons of DF Fellower

There have been some dragon encounters in DF Felltower. Here are the known and rumored dragons of Felltower.


Dragon Cave entrance Dragon - slain, dismembered, and the bits sold.

Sleeping Dragon - there is a large dragon semi-sleeping below the northern part of Felltower. It may be responsible for the earthquakes.

Cold Fens Dragon - there is a dragon that has been seen flying over the Cold Fens. Its lair direction is roughly known, but distance, and specific vector is not.

Sleeping Dragon #2 - there is a "normal" sized dragon - similar to the Dragon Cave entrance Dragon, above - that is sleeping in a huge cavern below a pit in the "gate" or "apartment" level of Felltower.


Lost City of D'Abo Dragon - the PCs were told there is a dragon in the lake in the Lost City. They have also been told there is definitely not a dragon in the lake in the Lost City. Brief investigation was inconclusive.

So far, that's in for dragons known or rumored. There has been relatively little progress on dealing with these dragons - probably because of the difficulty in killing the first one back in session 46. I have some thoughts on that, which I will post tomorrow. Suffice it to say the stats in DFRPG's Monsters and GURPS Dragons are not quite as lethal as the ones I actually use.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

What D&D-based game would I run?

I periodically toy with running a D&D-based game.
I periodically toy with the idea of running a D&D-based game. We had so much fun with White Plume Mountain and AD&D, so there is this pull to do it more.

Plus, if I want to run some of the other modules on my player's request list of "put us through that someday," we'd need a D&D-based game. It would give the players valuable experience with the system that undercut their performance (but not really their fun when we played White Plume Mountain.)

While this isn't terribly serious thinking or planning - it'll take time I don't have a lot of, to do something that would probably add to my gaming setup overhead, and just swap out for DF/Gamma Terra - it's still fun to think about.

I like:

- race, level and HP schemes of AD&D (d10 fighters, d8 clerics, d6 thieves, d4 magic-users)
- the stat modifiers of Basic Fantasy (13-15, 16-17, 18 with flat +1 to +3)
- the Morale stat of Basic D&D (one of the best mechanics ever)
- the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic of D&D5 (a brilliant replacement for fiddly modifiers)

Basic Fantasy is so close, but I like single-save mechanics.

Swords & Wizardry is excellent, but it ignores an easy approach to STR by splitting "to hit" and "damage" bonuses, and making every other stat have 13+ as a +1. I could swap that in, of course, but it means the "read this book but change this rule" PITA.

I think in descending AC and THAC0, thanks to growing up with AD&D. But I think ascending AC and roll d20+bonuses and beat AC is far easier for everyone else.

Labyrinth Lord* is also nice, especially with Advanced Edition Compendium, but it still sets fighter and thief HP (and thieving skills) lower than I'd like.

I have DCC and ACKS, but they're not for me. I like elements of both, but dislike too many elements of both (dice chains and d7s, and the rules depth of ACKS). I'd play them, heck, I'd play any of these, but to run them, no thanks.

In the end, then, I'd probably run AD&D. I know it extremely well - I read those books over and over dozens of times. But the morale stat of D&D is pretty excellent, and the system is far less clunky than the old in AD&D that I never used or saw used. But I don't love race-as-class and it would make running AD&D adventures too tough.

Really the closest system to what I'd actually want to run is probably S&W, with just a bolted-on replacement of stats and D&D-style Morale, or AD&D with bolted-on D&D-style Morale. Why not change the stats for AD&D? Because it's easier to run AD&D straight up as AD&D than change the PC end.

One small issue is some of the adventures I'd probably like to run assume you have Unearthed Arcana. I like that book, and some of my best gaming in my life used it, but I think I'd want to play without it if I ran a campaign. So that wouldn't help.

The "obvious" solution is to take the bits I like and make my own Retro-clone of AD&D but with the bits of other systems I like. That's a lot of work, though, and could easily turn into a big project because of the scale of text-re-use and combing through material and re-writing.

* Speaking of LL, is there a list of changes in the Revised Edition? My hard copy of LL and AEC are from 2012, and I'd rather not go line by line and check for changes. :)

Friday, January 5, 2018

Perk Name Confusion in GURPS

I love perks in GURPS. Nice little 1-point advantages that really make a difference in play and can really single out a character.

I love the names, too. I've made some of my own - Put It In His Eye, Not Done Killing, You're Next!

Sometimes, though, I find the names end up in a telephone game of confusion.

Here is one that happens a lot

Third Hand. "Can't you open the door with your third hand?" "Can he use his 'third hand' to open a bottle while he's holding a shield and axe?" Stuff like that. It's really Hold Small Object in Occupied Hand Without A Penalty, which is a terrible name, but would actually put paid to discussions with people who hear the name but don't know the wording and specific rules.

How about you guys, you get these issues with perk names?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Modified Quick-Sheathe

A while back, I modified a perk for my game:

Quick-Sheathe normally allows an instant re-sheathing of a weapon with an appropriate Fast-Draw roll.

I find that a little generous. After all, taking a weapon out is a one-second process, and Fast-Draw cuts that down to instant. Putting one away is a two-second process, but Quick-Sheathe makes it instant with a skill roll and is useless otherwise?

Here is what I did instead:


Sheathing a weapon normally takes two seconds. You can put yours away in one! No roll is necessary, unless you're sheathing in close combat (make a DX roll for this normally.)

[Note this does not take specialization. You can get this one and use it on anything!]


And that's it. No instant available. If you like instant, just add that into my version of the perk. No reason why you should need Fast-Draw just to learn to put a weapon away faster. One point to put one away in one second is fair and useful, and on anything means it's just a flat out useful perk to have.

This makes "drop it!" and lanyards very useful choices, not just what people too cheap to dump a point in this perk get. Even guys good at putting their sword away quickly can benefit.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Revised GURPS Magic for Felltower: Pestilence prereqs

One of my players requested a prerequisite chain change for a spell in our game.

I agree with him that it should be possible to get to Rotting Death without Food College spells. To do that, we need to change the prereqs for Pestilence. Why not Body Control? I see a couple ways you can do that, and incorporated them both. Note this assumes you are using Wizardry Refined in Pyramid 3/60.

Pestilence (GURPS Magic, p. 154)

As written, except:

Prerequisites: Magery 1, Steal Vitality, and one of Decay, Retch, or six Body Control spells including Frailty.

This allows for a longer path, either via Air spells or Body Control spells. You don't need to be able to check for safe food or rot food before you can give someone the plague or the Dwarven Sprue.

By the way, just as an aside, I love that Pestilence has no resistance.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Lefty archer minis?

I'm trying to find a mini for one of the new PCs, Rolan Liadon. He's a left-handed wood elf.

Right now it seems like I'll need to find a non-bow armed mini I like, and swap his weapon for a bow. But an actual left-handed elf mini with a bow would be nice.

Does anyone know a left-handed bow-armed elf mini?

I oddly have a lot of left-handed dwarves, so if necessary I can just have his guy eaten by a dragon or disintegrated by an evil wizard and hope he runs a dwarf. But finding a mini seems like a more constructive solution.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Year in Gaming 2017

2017 just passed. How was it for gaming for me?

Running GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

I ran 12 sessions of Dungeon Fantasy this year, down from 2016's 14 sessions. It wasn't a good year for scheduled gaming, but averaging once a month is okay. It's the minimum I'd hope for, but I did spend two days we could have played DF playing AD&D - see below. Counting those, I would have been able to run DF just as often as the year before.

We had nine different players this year, getting two new guys in just under the wire. A couple of players went effectively defunct, and at least one trial didn't seem to take (for lack of time or interest, it's not clear.) But the core group is the same.

The big change was switching from GURPS DF to the DFRPG. Not a huge change, but we made some mechanical and template switches as a result. We're still ironing out some of the differences. It's been nice to just say to someone, "Get the boxed set or borrow Adventurers and Exploits and you've got what you need to play."

All in all the game was fun to run and seems like it's fun to play in. It remains the core of my gaming.

Playing GURPS Gamma Terra

We played 5 sessions of Gamma Terra, up from 2016's four sessions, starting with session #10. We established a new base, Unknown Area 3, and since then have been exploring the ruins of Muskogeon. It's been up and down, mostly up - with the down being the frustration of not knowing how to deal peacefully with folks we'd like to deal with peacefully. The ups have been everything else - it's a dramatic game, gloomy without being depressing or oppressive, and full of very weird and nasty friends and foes. Good stuff, and I'm glad we get to play as infrequently as it is.

Playing AD&D

I ran two sessions of AD&D in White Plume Mountain.

This was a lot of fun. I remembered a lot of what I didn't like about AD&D, but we really did get to enjoy the things I liked about it. It was a really rough adjustment for players used to - or only experienced in - GURPS, as AD&D's resources are utilized differently and recovered poorly. The players did play well, however, they just made a lot of game-system mistakes and the occasional awesomely funny assumption (If you can speak manticore, then the manticores will be friendly . . . right?)

Other gaming

In January and February Tim Shorts, Douglas Cole, and I managed to play two sessions of Swords & Wizardry Lite GMed by Erik Tenkar. It was a lot of fun. Sadly, short-lived. Erik retired, which means he's more busy than before and running less games that I know of. Still, it was enjoyable and I got to be silly and aggressive and run a wizard.

I also ran 9 short sessions of GURPS light in the classroom - check my classroom gaming label if you want to find them all. I haven't been able to re-start it. I still teach that student, but he's got test prep now, and I don't have any other students whose needs match what gaming can give them. That's not an indictment of gaming, or of my students, just a simple truth: they often come to me with very specific needs, and I tailor the tools we use to them. "You descend the stairs into the dungeon and see a room with a corridor leaving left, right, and center, what do you do?" is remarkably good for vocabulary utilization and getting comfortable with English. It's not very useful for "I can't understand the English on my science homework" or "I need to prep for TOEFL." Still, it was great to get to use GURPS to teach, not only to entertain.

Finally, I got to play one session in my cousin's D&D5 game. It was a short, tight session and I was able to try out a human wizard. It's so nice have a handful of spells I can just use for simple tricks (cantrips) and some more potent (but not lethally so) expendable spells. Plus D&D5 runs smoothly and easily. Chargen is kind of a bear for me, like a disorganized mix of AD&D and Rolemaster, but actual play is good.


It was not a good year for writing. I've been busier than ever with my jobs, and my studies, and my continuing education. So I haven't been able to accept deadline work easily as I don't often know what will happen between the day I agree and the actual deadline. I did managed to write a couple of Pyramid articles, though, for the DFRPG.

I also managed to write the Magic Items book for the DFRPG. It was nice to see that come out, too.

Computer & Video Gaming

I basically did little of this, this year. A little bit here and there, but mostly I played Fantasy General for a few weeks solid in the summer, and then not much after that. My good intentions to finish Darklands came to naught because I really need to sit down and untangle where I am, what I'm in the middle of, and what I need to do next. It's annoying because of the dearth of in-game tracking. I did keep playing Borderlands 2, which, along with some of the DLC (someone got me the GOTY edition expansion), has been one of the best purchases I've ever made. I've paid pennies on the hour for fun.


The Bones 4 Kickstarter came and went, and the Bones 3 Kickstarter arrived. I've been busy painting them, along with assorted other minis. I got some of the last 2000 AD minis, and I filled in a few gaps in my metal minis collection. I didn't paint as much as 2016 or 2015, but I did get some painting done, and I was able to debut some exciting minis on the tabletop. That's what it's all about for me, after all.

I sold some of my Ogre minis, and the rest will go up on eBay this spring along with the don't-wants from Bones 3.

All in all, it was a solid year of gaming. It was no 2015, but it was good, nonetheless.
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