Sunday, May 20, 2018

Stericksburg's Status 2018

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

What about now, wondered Rick Siebold in a comment.

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


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

Mundane Gear: Freely available.

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

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

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

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

Chemicals and Natural Concoctions: Unlimited.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Rules reminders from Castle Whiterock

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

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

Perception to spot incoming missiles

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

Limits of Light

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

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

Friday, May 18, 2018

Artillery Spells & Felltower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 17, 2018

New Release: GURPS Magic: Artillery Spells

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

GURPS Magic: Artillery Spells

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

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Troll Wars

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

The Troll Wars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

3-Stage Wizard Part III

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

Monday, May 14, 2018

Required Weirdness for Wizards

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

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

Here is one way to structure it.

Only the Powerful

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

What about Weirdness Magnet?

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


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

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Weird Wizards of Felltower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The PCs are equally odd:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 12, 2018

3-Stage Wizard WIP Part II

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

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

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mini WIP on the table

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

I even chose a nice color scheme for him.

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

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Further thoughts on Fodder in DF

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

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


Tactics and numbers.

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

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

Melee Academy: Dealing with Superior Foes


Using Fodder in GURPS DF

What is in those? Tactics, and numbers.

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

Deplete resources

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

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

Discourage Lollygagging

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

Test the Tactics of the PCs

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

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

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Why no drow?

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

I said: "No drow. Period."


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

What monsters does my game lack?

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

- I think it is cool, regardless of game system

- it has stats for GURPS

- I have a mini for it

- my players ask to fight one

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

Bah! [waves hands dismissively] Bah!

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

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

Monday, May 7, 2018

This was going to be a Black Reaver . . .

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

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

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Felltower Rumor Mill Updates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Those are Death Brains, Honey

Actual conversation with my spouse:

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

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

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

Friday, May 4, 2018

Entombment with No Suspended Animation: Part II

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

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

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

Thanks for the comments everyone.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Entombment with no Suspended Animation?

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

We had two schools of thought.

All or Nothing.

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

Partial Immunity.

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Losing your first character

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

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

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

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

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

What I think is good, though, is that:

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

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

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

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

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

And we'll see what he makes next.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A Black Reaver in Felltower

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

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

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

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

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

The lesser ones?

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

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

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