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?

Friday, February 9, 2018

Post frequency warning & comments issue

I dislike making admin posts, or posts about posting.

However, I generally post once a day on this blog. While I intend to keep doing so, the reality is I just officially started at a new position today. It's going to keep me busy, and there may be days where I just am not able to get in a post. Just know the next several weeks might be light posting weeks.

So just a warning that posting might be late, infrequent, short, or all of those. I love writing for this blog but I just don't know how my work schedule will affect it just yet.

Also, I've heard from Archon Shiva that he can't see his comments any more. Well, I can't see them either. I moderate comments on the older posts, but they should go straight through on the newer posts. I generally don't delete or remove comments unless they cross some kind of line of obscenity, they are spam, or contain really inappropriate material. So if you've tried to comment and don't see them, I'm not seeing them either.

Please try to comment on this post if you've had problems recently posting comments. If that doesn't work, email me at p_dellorto at yahoo and I can manual post a comment for you and credit it to you. Otherwise, if you're not seeing it it's because I don't see it either.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Morale stat, or Reaction Roll?

I am a big fan of the B/X D&D Morale stat, and its cut-and-dried rules for making morale rolls for foes. Fights wouldn't have to be to the death.*

GURPS does morale rolls, too, as a Reaction Roll. There have been times I've lamented the lack of a quick-and-easy Morale stat - something I could roll against. Succeed, and they stand and fight. Fail, and then flee or surrender. I've tried to make one, and learned a lot in the process about why I like Reaction Rolls for morale.

This post are some of my thoughts of how to deal with this in GURPS.

Morale as Reaction Roll

Using a reaction roll for morale checks can be odd. Part of it is a perspective issue. A morale check is a reaction roll by NPCs in combat. The worse they feel about the PCs and the better they feel about fighting them, the less likely they are to break off combat. The better they feel about the PCs, and the worse they feel about fighting them, the more likely they'll flee or surrender (or, logically, negotiate, although it doesn't mention that specifically). In other worse, you're not checking the NPC's "morale" per se, you're checking how they feel about continuing to fight the PCs. "How you like me now?" "How about now?"

Likability Matters - This makes a lot of sense in that positive reaction modifiers make combat less likely - Charisma, reputation for good things, etc. Also, negative reaction modifiers make combat more likely - bad reputation, racial discord issues, intolerance, etc. They also make you more or less committed to the fight. You're therefore less likely to keep fighting when it's going poorly and you are against Charismatic folks with a reputation for chivalry and honor. That makes sense to me.

Plus the situational modifiers skew the view of combat - a position of strength for the PCs makes combat less likely, a position of weakness more likely, a lack of communication and/or invading someone's territory makes combat more likely.

Parallels the Social Skill System - Intimidation, Diplomacy, Fast-Talk, etc. all can force a "Good" or better reaction, or fail and cause a bad one (Diplomacy has an exception right here). So a "Good" reaction meaning no combat and a "Good" reaction meaning the foes break off the fight or give up? Nice parallel.

PCs don't roll Reaction Rolls - this is a hidden bit here. PCs are subject to all of the rules NPCs are, except for a very few. One of them is that social skills affect them differently (give penalties but don't dictate results) and they don't roll reaction rolls.

It potentially drives fight-and-negotiate strategies - Combat is reaction rolls by other means. Your ultimate goal - win the fight - is served by making the foes less able to resist your general negotiating demands.

Put it another way, you can shift an NPC's willingness to let you have what you want by fighting. This isn't crazy. There were instances in the 16th century of Sir Francis Drake storming ashore in the Spanish Main, shooting up the Spanish garrison for a bit, and then demanding they trade with him. Drake and his men even paid for the privilege - as bribe to the local head honcho to accept the demand. Why not just finish them off and loot? Because his goal was to open up trade for England, not loot the place silly (that came later, during a more hostile Anglo-Spanish relationship.) Why the bribe? Because it's both a carrot (you get stuff if you cooperate) and a stick (we'll keep successfully fighting you if you don't) - it shows a clear distinction between cooperation and non-cooperation.

Tying Morale ("Do I want to keep fighting these people?") to the same rules used for negotiation ("Do I want to give these people what they want?") means these are linked activities. Making a Morale check separate doesn't make this impossible, by any means, but it makes the link less plain.

One of the big issues is really how it feels - it feels weird to roll to see how much the bad guys like fighting you. Or like you in a fight. That's a non-trivial issue for a lot of folks.

Morale as Stat Check

Why not make it a stat check (and therefore, either a stat or a pseudo-stat?) Henchman do this, pretty much, with Loyalty checks?

Simple - It really would be simple, once implemented. Roll and succeed, roll and fail, follow the rules associated with those successes and failures.

Direct - You can apply only the modifiers that matter - situational modifiers and specific reaction modifiers for bravery (Fearlessness would help, obviously, and Cowardice hinder) and situations (outnumbers by X to 1 = -1, 2X to 1 = -2, etc. or just "by a little" or "by a lot.")

There are issues, though:

Which of the opponent's reaction modifiers matter? In other words, if a foe has Charisma +1 but he's also a dwarf and you're a dwarf-hating orc (Intolerance, gives -3), do you roll at a net +2 (-3 and +1) or +4 (-3 and +1), or a -3 (Charisma doesn't matter), or what? Is that purely a reaction but it doesn't affect your bravery or willingness to fight just a little longer against the hated dwarves? Does it matter if that dwarf has a reputation for treating orcs with honor despite his racial handicap? Are you more likely to surrender or less?

It's a question that needs addressing. It's a question of "What is Morale?" - is it bravery for purposing of continuing to fight (pass it and you can fight) or a merged bravery and interest in fighting? If it's the former, it doesn't matter who you are fighting except for relative strength, if that.

Which monsters don't roll? - Making it a stat also means some monsters shouldn't need to roll, at all, but will have a stat. Is this a free benefit or an Immunity? If it's free, who gets it? Automatons, for sure. Low-IQ bugs and slimes, perhaps? Do demons have morale?

PCs roll, too? - This is a hidden downside. If you're making it a stat check, the PCs should be affected, too. Probably like Social Skills - if you fail the roll, you are penalized for actions logically affected by it.

Unless you want to make an attribute that NPCs roll against but PCs do not, of course. But that puts NPCs in a weird bind. A "Morale" stat should be penalized for Cowardice, but Cowardice already has a self-control roll. Do they need to roll both, but PCs with Cowardice only roll once? Does one replace the other? What about Loyalty - do they use the higher or Morale or Loyalty, or the lower?

What I do

The reasons above probably don't seem balanced. They're probably not. I sat down and tried to write a moral check system for DF, and pretty much ended up saying, nah, Reaction Rolls. As odd as that can seem on the surface, I find it's not that difficult. It took some note-taking and thinking to wrap my head around what I need to know. But I like how it plays out. Warlike races fighting their racial foes who are known for not taking prisoners tend to roll in the "keep fighting!" range. Neutral folks fighting people they don't have any specific grievance against tend to split 50/50. And all those "free" disads ("I have Odious Personal Habit, Social Stigma, Intolerance of everyone, and Bloodlust and a tendency to shoot down fleeing foes!") add up quickly as real problems.

So in the end I stayed with Reaction Rolls.

* Just kidding. Of course they always were when we played as kids.**

** And I've mentioned how the adults I game with practice "kill them until then run, then run them down" as a general approach to combat.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

First Impressions: Operation Unfathomable

Jason Sholtis's Operation Unfathomable was released Monday on RPGNow. I downloaded my final, release copy and took a look. Here are my initial impressions:

The Good:

- It's attractive. The art is evocative and interesting, as it always is when Jason Sholtis does art.

- It's well written. The writing is punchy and fun to read. Like Dungeon Dozen, the ideas are excellent and really get you going.

- It appears ready to go. Open, read, dump adventurers in, and play.

- It's fairly generically D&D/retro-clone compatible, so it should be easy to play and/or convert if you're familiar with any variation of older D&D or its inspired games.

The Bad:

- It's really hard to read in PDF. Pages can be navigated just fine using a standard PDF reader, but they're laid out side by side (so 8 and 9 are one side-by-side page, 10-11 one side by side page, etc.). That makes it really hard for me to just read, especially as I generally zoom in because I'm fairly far from my screen. That's going to slow my reading pace a lot - and make printing at home (or piecemeal) a real nightmare. (Editing later - It seems fine and normal on my Kindle, so maybe it's just having issues with my installed reader on my main computer.)

- It might be too weird for easy lifting. It hangs together well, in an "everything is gonzo" way, but that does make it a little less farmable for resources. It would be inspiring, but probably not really get you too much you could steal outright in isolation to use elsewhere.


It's good.

I look forward to reading it cover to cover. Hopefully there is a release in PDF with a different layout so I'm not constantly scrolling, sliding, zooming, and unzooming as I try to make sure I'm going to the next page and saw everything on this one. But the content is excellent.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Review: D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa

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, but it's hard to review D3 without giving a look at D1 and D2 (with references to the later, combined module D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth). So let's do that.

This review does contain a lot of SPOILERS.

For more reviews see my reviews page.

D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa
by Gary Gygax
TSR 1978
18 pages

D2 is the second of the sequel modules to G1-3. It takes you from the end of D2 through the rest of the underground wilderness right up to where module D3 Vault of the Drow begins.

Like D1, D2 largely consists of wandering monster details backed by a few key set-piece encounters. They vary from potential fights if the PCs aren't on their toes to potential allies and one in between.

The first good thing D2 does is tell you your starting hex, and that is it "just beyond" the large encounter area that caps off D1. That is how people pre-D1-2 would be certain where the big set-piece in D1 is placed aside from educated guessing.

Like D1, D2 can be flyover territory. As long as the players are willing to let things be, and find ways to interact successfully with the various set-piece encounters and wandering drow, they can potentially just bypass most of this.

Interestingly, the PCs have a change to pick up some allies - but ones very hostile to the kuo-toa. If they do so, it's likely they will have to fight their way across the shrine. Their new allies aren't likely to just want to tip their hat to the shrine and pay a toll and move on. A fight could be a quick, violent running battle or a drawn-out slog.

It never actually says how you learn what to do at the shrine. You might be able to guess, but certainly no one explains ("go there, do this, pay that, be on your way.") That's part of the challenge, but it does seem odd - you'd think they'd be used to people coming and going, and would prefer to explain the tolls and get them then have people randomly profaning their temple.

The shrine itself is very cool - weirdly lit, full of the odd and interesting kuo-toa, potentially full of loot and absolutely full of "don't touch that!" stuff, continuing the "better just leave it alone" things found in Gary Gygax modules.


D2 has some of the weirdness and organization issues of D1. A good example is the total lack of clarity of how the kuo-toa handle visitors. It's clear if you do the right things, you're fine, but while the shrine is detailed, its response, how it handles day-to-day visitors, etc. isn't really dealt with. As a DM I can decide this, but I can decide anything - it's nice to know what was intended by the author.

The map of the shrine is also odd in that there are some area not on the same level as the rest of the shrine. They're done up in dotted lines, and not numbered in any way - you have to read the text of nearby areas to determine what's in them. I do remember having a huge problem figuring this out when I was in elementary school and had this adventure - I always had problems deciphering maps or matching them to text unless both were clear. This is not.

Additionally, it spends a lot of wordcount repeating material - the kuo-toa are extensively detailed in the back, in a two and a half page spread (counting artwork and stat block.) But some of the same material - their odd HP-per-HD rules - is repeated in the wandering monster details and the race description. Very important details about kuo-toa abilities are just buried deep in the text about them. Special kuo-toa fighters get 6 attacks, but they're listed as a combo of claw/bite followed by claw/bite. Er, and then claw/bite again, is that two claw attacks per? I can easily decide as a DM, but it would be easier if both parts of the text description of their attacks matched.

Also, one of the characters (in area 9 of the shrine) doesn't actually meet the attribute requirements for his class by AD&D or even OD&D standards. This has me thinking I should check all of the stats of encountered NPCs.

How is it for GURPS?

Like D1, if a group depends on skills, communication, and stealth more than heads-up assault, I think a GURPS or DFRPG group would do fine. Languages aren't a dime a dozen like in AD&D, so that could be an issue (no one is just going to happen to speak Drowic or whatever), but magic can mitigate that easily. A DFRPG group that basically just attacks the Shrine will probably suffer - there is a lot of kuo-toa there, plenty of magical support.

War Stories

I don't think I ever ran this. I had it - I had D1-2 - but I think we skipped it and moved on. I always wanted to run it. I planned to run it in High School but we ended up ending the giants series and moving on to what turned out to be a campaign-ending homespun adventure.

Overall: D2 is better than D1, if only because its encounters have less "why?" in my head. The three set-piece encounters are very cool, too, and I'd love to run them all as part of this adventure or pulled out and used elsewhere. The barge encounter alone makes for a cool non-combat encounter or a potential disaster, and certainly inspired similar things in my own games. Worth picking up D1-2 just to read the shrine, even if there is a good chance the PCs will figure out how to just walk through peacefully.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Archon Shiva's new DF blog

Archon Shiva has a nice DF blog going. Sadly, my Blog Roll doesn't seem to want to display his entries. You'll have to check it manually yourself (and me, too, since my blog roll is my gaming reading list.)

I highly recommend his articles on off-template skills, pre-game rolls, and target selection.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Felltower Status Update 2/4

Our next Felltower session is in a week.


It's been a while since I did any new mapping, as I'm far ahead of where the players seem to be intent (and able) to take their characters. I've modified maps to reflect the adventures we've had though. This is why the "Best Practices" series has petered out - hard to learn new lessons when you don't need new levels.

I will say that some of the levels I've mapped have changed - not just from actions of the PCs. There is a lot of pencil marking on the maps, and some pen marks that show real permanent additions where needed. It's that kind of dungeon - it's never really "cleared" or "done."


Same with stocking - I'm done stocking the places everyone can reach, with a few excepts I'll get to as soon as it's clear the PCs are turning that way.

Restocking is a little less systemic and more ad hoc based on the recent adventures - PCs have been messing with intelligent foes, so I've been making adjustments based on what those monsters know, how they act, and what they've got as plans and goals.

The PCs stocked one area with spiders, though, which is pretty funny.

PC-compatibility Flow Chart

What started as a joke - who adventures with whom - has actually turned into a real flow-chart. We have a number of PCs who really need to adventure separately, or have to. For example of a flow:

Vryce can't adventure with Gerry (same player), and if Vryce is coming and Dryst's player can play, then Hjalmarr can come. If Dryst's player does not, then Desmond can come (Desmond/Hjalmarr are the same player), but then the group needs a cleric (as Brother Ike is their only healer, and he's Hjalmarr's Ally).

If Gerry comes, then Mo's player's backup cleric (not yet run) can't come, as Gerry has skeletons and loves undead and the cleric hates the undead.

If Desmond comes, then the group really needs Vryce and/or Hayden, as that takes out a knight and a healer. Desmond can adventure with Gerry, but Gerry can't adventure with the only PC cleric, so if Desmond comes it's probably Vryce so the group can have healing.

And so on. It's starting to get complicated to plan, especially when you get areas that really could best be dealt with by impossible combos - like having Vryce to fight fodder and Gerry to Zombie them, or having Mind Control wizard Desmond but still have Brother Ike come to heal people, etc.

Like I said, it's getting complicated. Lucky for me, my style of GMing doesn't demand I plan around specific groups. It's up to the PCs to solve the problems I put down.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Review: D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth

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, but it's hard to review D3 without giving a look at D1 and D2. So let's do that.

I'll start today with D1, but with references to D1-2 where D1 was lacking important information.

This review does contain a lot of SPOILERS.

For more reviews see my reviews page.

D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth
by Gary Gygax
TSR 1978
14 pages

D1 is the first follow-up adventure to the G-series of modules. It consists of an underground wilderness hex crawl, aided by a map found on the drow in G3, looking for the source of the drow. Along the way you can encounter all sorts of creatures now associated with the drow and the underworld wilderness - bugbears, trolls, gargoyles, beholders, mind flayers, and more.

The adventure largely consists of navigating a series of primary, secondary, and tertiary passages - from the easier to traverse but also the busiest with wandering intelligent encounters to the hardest to traverse but less traveled. Along the way are several set-piece encounters that contain valuable intelligence, equipment, and so on to enable the group to continue. Or to expend resources uselessly, depending on the encounter. In what feels like typical fashion for high-level AD&D adventures, the first thing done is to nerf travel magic so the PCs have to stick it out in a big crawl - no teleporting to the surface for supplies or reinforcements or escape.

One thing I found especially interesting is that "the treasures placed along the way at aimed at supplying [the PCs] with the force necessary to continue" - it's a dangerous setting the loot is placed in a helpful, not adversarial way. I'm not sure I really noticed that in recent years, but it does play into how we often stocked our dungeons - with stuff we wanted the PCs to have so they could go on to the next module we wanted to run! Still, a little earlier Gary Gygax writes "Neither help by suggestion or inference nor hinder in any manner not called for." So it's no friendlier than usual, either.

The adventure, as written for D1, has some problems. One of them is that one of the encounter areas (the larger crossroads of caves) is never actually placed on the map. It seems pretty clear were it should be, but the module doesn't actually indicate where it is. D1-2 does a lot to clean up this mess, by putting in a note explaining where the encounter is on the GM's map, but it doesn't do it perfectly. It seems pretty clear the map intends the second encounter area - the large cave complex - to the in the doubled hex areas on the map. But the passages simply don't match up - the small-scale map features three large passages and spans a few hundred feet. The large scale map shows four primary and one tertiary passage. D1-2 attempts to clear this up by saying there are two secret exist - but if you match map to direction, one of them is a secret primary passage. The small scale map just doesn't support that. It just seems like the encounter area was drawn without reference to the large-scale map or vice versa.

The mind flayer "advanced base" is also odd to me. It's in a narrow primary passage. No one can pass by without coming within 30-40' of them. Does this mean every drow caravan headed this way, every drow elf in G3 walked right past the mind flayers? It seems like it must be so as you have normal chances of encountering drow activities in the area. Unless they also took a treacherous and longer detour around it, of course, but that's pure speculation.

The progression of this adventure is interesting. If the PCs follow the map and brave the mind flayers, and defeat them, and can prove it, then there is a 90% chance the drow give them passage. It doesn't make an exception for surface elves despite their mutual hatred, so clearly, if you mess with mind flayers they'll give you a pass for racial emnity. There are plenty of areas you could sneak right past.

Now, couple that with the encounters in D1 and D2 - if you clear the mind flayers, there is good chance you just pass through D1 with nothing further to fight except wandering monsters (some of which can be very tough indeed). You can pass the bugbears and trolls and troglodytes. D2 features the Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, but honestly, you have to try to start trouble there to get it. You can just pay a bribe and move on. In other words, it's quite possible this is just a sightseeing tour with wandering monsters until you get to D3 and find your target. That isn't bad, actually, but it does mean most of this adventure is probably wasted detail, like the HP of the townsfolk in T1 The Village of Hommlet or the specific guard counts in B2 Keep on the Borderlands. Just nice to know.

How is it for GURPS?

This would be well-suited for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy or the DFRPG, in my opinion. Most of the "required" fights are interesting mixed-foe fights, but don't have huge numbers. The difficulty in crowd control compared with AD&D means stealth, not storm, would be the better way to deal with almost everything. And the lack of Alignment means dealing with the drow can be a much more practical affair. I'd at least consider making modifications to the map, or just re-drawing sections of the wilderness map.

War Stories

I ran D1 (as part of D1-2) at least once for a post-G3 AD&D campaign. We pretty much just skipped to the main encounters - and if my notes on the adventure are any indication, that meant the Mind Flayers and the larger cave areas. I carefully noted HP for every single wandering monster possibility, but I don't have any notes in the module to say they encountered them. Back in Elementary School and High School we tended to skip to the stuff we liked.

I know I never noticed the map weirdness I mentioned above - the "advanced base" that's within a few feet of the only path the drow can take (yet they leave it alone), the lack of clear mention of where one encounter is, how the large caves don't match the large-area map, wondering where those drow caravans are going, and so on. We just played them as straight-up dungeons. Still, I find these really interesting adventures.

Friday, February 2, 2018

How well does the DFRPG do dungeon fantasy gaming?

I recently read some newer and older posts talking GURPS & dungeon fantasy gaming.

I've played a DF and DFRPG campaign for 97 game sessions (mostly in the 8-10 hour length range) and going on our 8th year (we started in 2011.) So I think I have sufficient experience to back these opinions.

I'm going to structure this as a series of counter-arguments to things I read.

Is DFRPG suited to long-term gaming?


I've seen comments that it - DF, DFRPG, and GURPS in general - is not.

Based on . . . ?

I'll repeat - I've GMed 97 sessions. It will be 98 as of this Sunday. No one has mentioned 98 or even 100 being the last session. We just keep playing, and it doesn't get less entertaining than it was to start with. I simply can't take the argument that seriously. I'm sure people have run short, good campaigns, and short campaigns that petered out or died off for all of those reasons game die. But not suited for long-term campaings?


You can absolutely do long campaigns with DFRPG.

You can do short ones, too, just like with any other system. It really comes into its own in longer games, in my experience. And I've heard a lot of people like D&D in the "sweet spot" of mid-level play, with low-level being risky and high-level losing some of the savor of mid level play. While I actually found I liked higher-level AD&D play (we had plenty of games that went into the low double digits in PC level), I get why people might like the mid-level play the best. But the DFRPG ticks along well at the starting power level and hundreds of points higher than that. It's actually well-suited to long campaigns and steady character growth. There really isn't a "high level" end-game, just harder challenges for more powerful PCs. The linear nature of character growth has something to do with that.

How is the power level?

Some people say PCs start out too powerful in DF and the DFRPG. 250 points is significantly more than typical "heroic" characters according to 4th edition GURPS rules (150.)

From a taste perspective, this can't be argued. If you just don't like powerful PCs, and want PCs to start at lower points and lower power levels, then you're right - the PCs start out too powerful.

But that's taste.

If you look at it from a play perspective, starting DFRPG characters are powerful and effective within their niche. But they aren't too powerful. They're challenged, often challenged quite severely, but the monsters the game features. It's trivially easy to make the game powerful enough that even 4-8 250-point characters are wholly inadequate to defeat the enemy. They stay fairly vulnerable, and in constant need of upgrading, re-equipping, and of consumable help for a couple of hundred points afterward. You may not want to play this way, but it's a valid choice and the system does well with it.

For new players, the idea is that low-point guys are "easier." I don't actually find that to be true. It's easier to play a character who is good than one who needs to eke out every benefit to survive. I've done both, and while powerful characters do have more abilities, the very addition of those abilities make their options greater and their margin for error wider. That's a lot friendlier to new players, even those new to role-playing gaming, because their characters are much more capable.

Does GURPS do high-powered gaming well?


GURPS certainly does handle the 250-500+ point level we've been playing at. It does those levels well. At these levels:

- the PCs are quite powerful and can accomplish really spectacular and interesting successes

- but the PCs are never so powerful they can fully relax, even against threats that just don't quite reach the level of a serious threat.

While DFRPG characters are largely past the end of the bell curve, circumstances push their skill rolls down. You have great skill and ability, but face challenges that need those skills and abilities.

Why GURPS? Why not D&D?

I'd ask right back - why D&D? D&D is the original dungeon fantasy game. But it's not the only one game that does dungeon delving - it was the first, but it wasn't alone for very long. Other old-school games like Tunnels & Trolls and Rolemaster do dungeon fantasy - would you ask "Why plan T&T (or Rolemaster) when you could play D&D?" There is also a bewildering variety of D&D out there - original D&D, original plus Greyhawk, Holmes Basic D&D, B/X D&D, BECMI D&D, AD&D, AD&D 2nd edition, 3.0, 3.5, 4, 5th . . . plus retro-clones! DF and DFRPG are designed for dungeon fantasy. The DFRPG strips out everything that isn't dungeon delving fantasy from GURPS.

Still, there is a good point embedded there - there is a lot of support material for D&D. There is less for GURPS. But if you're generally rolling your own dungeons and monsters and whatnot, you don't really need a lot anyway. There is significantly more available than the original D&Ders had to play with. It's more convenient to play D&D-based games from a GM perspective, but once you start in on making your own stuff you're faced with the same work load.

So the DFRPG is designed to do dungeon fantasy. It's what it's for. So why not DFRPG? This is the genre it's meant for, why not consider it for play?

Ultimately, I find that enjoying GURPS for dungeon fantasy gaming is like enjoying any other game for dungeon fantasy gaming. If you like the way the game models the genre, and enjoy what it does well (GURPS and combat, for example, and AD&D strong niche protection and resource management, and Rolemaster with spectacular criticals and terrific spell failures), then that's the game for you. If you like a different power level, yeah, this might not be for you.

But it's an effective tool for the job of running fun, long-term, interesting fantasy gaming. It does what it is designed to do well. It may or may not be for you, but it is what it is - a good ruleset for dungeon fantasy gaming.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Hitting Prone Foes (little things I dislike)

It's the little things that bother me in game. Not fireballs, not weird gate magic, not eye shots with a short sword in a swirling melee against foes twice your height, not dragons and demons and piles of gold. It's the little things that feel like big things.

One of the big little ones for me?

Full-power shots against people on the ground.

I can't tell you how many times per session that someone says, "I chop that fallen guy's head off." It's often a Rapid Strike, so it's two full power hits against a guy on the ground, aiming to completely cut through his neck.

It seems like the single best move in the world for breaking your weapon.

Just picture a prone foe - you're going to hack his head off by swinging your sword or axe through his neck, into the ground.

It's not always the neck, though - it's sometimes limbs, the skull, just the torso. It's never restricted by the angle of the weapon or the body. People swing to hit fallen foes like Joe Strummer smashing his guitar, never worrying about any damage to their weapon.

When you want to break a stick, cut a rope, snap some old boards, or cut off part of someone's body, you really want two points of contact and the target to form a line between the two. If you wanted to decapitate someone, execution-style, you wouldn't put them prone on the ground, but rather put their head on a block. In game, though, it never happens that way. A foe on the ground is easier to dismember than one standing up.

I vastly prefer it when someone takes the time to reverse a blade and stab. Or says, "I don't want to hit my sword into the ground."

How would a rule be structured for that? This might be a good draft version:

Hitting Prone Foes

Hitting a foe that is prone on a hard surface can be risky. Any miss automatically hits the ground, inflicting equal damage on the ground and on the weapon that impacts it. Any critical miss suffers the listed results, and hits the ground for maximum damage, likely resulting in breakage!

In addition, any damage in excess of that needed to dismember a limb or decapitate a foe (i.e. killing via a neck attack) hits the ground, inflicting damage on the ground and weapon alike as above.

Crushing weapons generally handle this impact much better, and take only half damage (on a critical miss) or no damage (on a normal miss.) Overpenetration is not an issue for crushing weapons!


Another option would be to just force a breakage check on a miss or excess damage check:

Hitting Prone Foes

Hitting a foe that is prone on a hard surface can be risky. Any miss automatically hits the ground, forcing your weapon to check for breakage as if parrying a heavy weapon. Any critical miss suffers the listed results, and results in a breakage check.

In addition, any damage in excess of that needed to dismember a limb or decapitate a foe (i.e. killing via a neck attack) hits the ground, forcing a breakage check as above.

Crushing weapons are more resistant to breakage, and check for breakage only on a critical miss.


Either might work as a rough ruling until it was clear it needed to be either ditched or banged into better shape. I'm not sure I'd do this, but I'd feel better if I did. Downed foes are more interesting if you can't just say "I Telegraphic Rapid Strike to his Neck!" to make sure they are dead, not without risk to your weapons.
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