Thursday, May 31, 2018

Who gets the magic item you found?

If you have a generally cooperative group with communal goals, you often get magic items handed out on ability to use, not on individual desire.

In that kind of situation there is a basic question that comes up - who gets the item? Who really exemplifies the "best" choice to maximize the value of a magical item?

The Belt of Might +3 the PCs picked up in our last game session is a good example of this debate. But so does any number of magical weapons, protective amulets, offensive wands, and so on. Who gets it?

Do you:

Shore up weakness?

This school of thought says that magic items are great ways to bring up lagging party members. Have someone vulnerable to magic? Give him the item that helps him resist magic. Have someone who fights pretty well but lacks hitting power? Give him the shiny new magical weapon and enhance that hitting power. Have someone who lags in ST behind the rest of the party? Give him the ST booster. And so on. Use the magical item to make your weaker guys less weak, or plug holes on guys with gaping gaps in their abilities.

Enhance strength?

Conversely, this school of thought say that you best take advantage of a magical item if you give it to the character who best exemplifies that trait. Magical sword of smiting? Give it to the stronger swordsman in the group, so you have enormous one-punch power against boss-level foes. Belt of strength? Give it to the strongest, to make for a truly awesomely strong guy who can bash down doors, smash foes, and lift portcullises. Have a guy with excellent anti-magical defenses? Give him the magic resistance amulet, so he can be your point man against Mind Control wizards and those all-too-charming vampires. And so on - the best place for your best item is on your best guy.

Only consider maximal use?

If the item is used effectively by anyone but with a special bonus by another, does that special bonus trump all other considerations? For example, and item that gets a bonus for a specific Talent or trait, but functions just fine for everyone. Do you only consider the person with the best ability to maximize the effectiveness of the item?

Find a novel use?

For example, with that belt - it's +3 to Striking ST and Lifting ST, effectively (it's +3 ST, without HP). Why not give it to a wizard or cleric, so they can wear heavier armor? Why not bring it along as a booster to henchmen who carry loot and haul wounded companions?

I think this is an interesting debate to witness - in a sense, none of those are wrong uses. None of them are really poorer choices than the others. It's just how you choose to maximize the bonus you found.

On a related note, this post suggests some ways to prevent the choice of "all of the above, as needed, on the fly."

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes

The postal person delivered this yesterday:

I managed to get some reading in - it's a good read so far. I'm not sure how long it'll take to finish it, but I think I'll keep on reading it and pause the other game books I've got on my reading list. I mean, I liked his fantastic adventure and his faithful hound, so why not his tome?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Links to pics from Sunday's game

In case you haven't decided to follow our game semi-real time on Instgram, maybe now is the time to do so.

Here is the norker fight in its initial glory.

Here is the party being menaced by a berserk Raggi.

The tag is the one you want.

Monday, May 28, 2018

GURPS DF Session 103, Felltower 75 - Norker Showdown

Date: 5/27/2018

Weather: Cool, cloudy, wet.

Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (262 points)
Alaric, human scout (262 points)
Aldwyn, human knight (255 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (372 points)
Hayden the Unnamed, human knight (265 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (341 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (160 points)
     Demetrios, Antonios, and Leonatios of Meepos, human spearmen (~125 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (383 points)
Raggi Ragnarsson, human berserker (?? points)

We started in Stericksburg, as usual. Galen Longtread finally showed up again, which was nice. He's back from the Troll Wars. Not all of his baggage arrived with him though - clearly some got packed onto the wrong wagon, but the wagonline says they'll have it for him sometime in the next 24-48 delves. He had most of his main gear, however.

The group gathered rumors, stocked up on gear, and otherwise got ready for their next delve. What they'd found out about Black Reavers told them they should avoid it if at all possible.

They had been discussing going after the norkers, and the appearance of both Galen and Alaric clinched it. They sought out Raggi, and found him drinking at his usual bar. The also found "the Meepos brothers" - who aren't terribly happy that their employers think their country name is their last name. They are actual "Meeposian brothers." At least the players remember the name of their King, Balki, although they must remain perfect strangers.

They made their way up to the castle, and Mo finished knocking the head off of the statue of Sterick on the way. They climbed the wall - but without a wizard, they lacked Levitate, and none were particularly adept at rigging a sling. They had to resort to the old tie-and-haul, which is risky and painful to the tied-and-hauled. Demetrios fell and was badly injured, and had to be healed by Ike and re-hauled. They eventually made it up, and once again bemoaned the short-sited decisions that lead to the sealing off all of the easy ways into the castle.

They scouted the entrance and they moved it. Their bridge had been burned and the smashed burned bits tossed into the pit. So Mo leaped the pit and they rigged up two ropes along the right wall.

From there they headed in and right, opening a metal door, quietly moving through the noisy room - and Mo ruined that with a well-timed fart. It didn't attract any wandering monsters.

Eventually they made it to the second floor and down and over to the staircase. From there, Galen was on new ground. They explained about the hands and the door, and the traps. He took the lead, backed by Alaric - who kept an eye on the ceiling. Sure enough, they spotted two identical traps - a tripwire and a bunch of poisoned caltrops. Galen marked the wire with an arrow, and cleared the caltrops to the side. They headed down to the bottom. They opened the door after examining it for traps, and fake hand prints. They debated how to detect the "click" but after some debate they heard the "click." They moved in carefully and to the hex-shaped room, opened the door to the trap-filled corridor and headed down it. First, though, they drank up a variety of potions - Ahenobarbus got +2 DX, Mo +5 ST and +5 DX.

There were traps at least every 10'. Tripwires, caltrops - included two rigged to a hidden crossbow with a bodkin point, a box of something ("bees" suggested Ahenobarbus), and more. At the intersection was a very well-concealed circular pressure plate that even Galen's keen senses (Per 17, Acute Vision 1, Night Vision 6) could barely detect. He bent over to mark it with chalk and caught motion out of the corner of his eye. He ducked back and an axe just missed him. They tossed a lightstone down the hallway . . . and something tossed a blanket over it. As that happened, he fast-drew two arrows and shot the hand that released the blanket twice. The norker yelled in pain and pulled back his crippled hand.

Mo readied and tossed an Alchemist's Fire onto the blanket, shattering it and lighting the blanket on fire. This also blocked their path forward. Mo is like that.

They tossed another light stone down the corridor ahead, to verify it was just more corridor and not a two-way ambush.

They then moved into the baffle-lined corridor. They advanced, fighters up front, scouts behind, and the Meeposian brothers trailing to protect the rear, all stepping around the partly-marked pressure plate.

Mo led off, jumping the fire and attacking the norkers who were waiting for him. Hjalmarr charged after, and the others followed. Galen hung back to protect the corner, and saw the norkers. He took two shots into the crowd . . . and rolled an 18. He nailed Ike right in the foot, crippling it and dropping him. Not a good start.

Ike would eventually heal himself and get back up (actually no one ever mentioned him removing the arrow - he just healed the wound. What's with that?) Galen decided to move up as the norkers fell back around the corner. The fighters charged, most of them running through the fire and a few caught fire and needed to beat it out.

Mo got around the corner into the next T-intersection and ran right into a half-dozen norkers, the norker champion, and a robe-clad hobgoblin priest with a wand. Mo was quickly hit with a purplish ray and was paralyzed. Hjlamarr and Raggi followed. Hjalmar was hit with a ray and shrugged it off. He stepped up and threw Shieldslayer and hit the priest in the chest and killed him instantly.

The hand-shot norker was killed around now, in the initial rush against the norkers. He died before I had a chance to say it was that guy. Oh well.

Raggi, meanwhile, rushed the norker champion and his two flanking norkers. He tried a Great Cleave - foolishly, it would prove. The norker he targeted parried and ended the attack. The champion and norkers chopped Raggi up severely and drove him berserk. Aldwyn engaged a norker and the champion. He champion fended him off while he kept stabbing and slashing Raggi. Aldwyn was briefly concerned about facing the champion. He didn't need to be.

At this point, it basically began to be the Galen Longtread Combat Demonstration. He ran into view and put two shots into the norker champion, right in the vitals. The champion dropped, unconscious or dead, it wasn't clear. Alaric fired, too, and wounded Galen with his shot. Oops.

Hjlamarr moved and cut down another norker with his original axe. Ike rushed up to un-paralyze Mo. Hayden moved up and readied a javelin. Alaric moved up and shot norkers, too. One norker took four arrows and a javelin before Aldwyn cut him down.

Galen started to pick up steam. From this turn on, basically three turns out of every four he killed a norker. The times he didn't was because he lacked a shot of any kind or a norker got lucky with a death check. When he had them, he'd put two shots into the same norker's vitals. Most of the time, he rolled 13 and 10 damage (seriously, on 1d+8).

With the champion down, the norkers who were aware of it kept fighting but not as effectively. Raggi was badly wounded but berserk, and decapitated a norker, skull-split another two, and then suddenly, they were all down. The PCs had mopped up a total of 12 of them, not including the priest and champion. But Raggi was still berserk! They tried to calm him, but it didn't work. He turned on his closest ally - Mo. The knights tried to use Leadership to calm Raggi down. It didn't work - Raggi rolled an 18 to snap out of it. Uh-oh. Raggi swung his axe at Mo, and Mo got a well-timed critical defense! Raggi's axe turned in his hand. Ike moved up to cast Relieve Madness. Alaric shot Raggi in the hand and nailed it to the axe, but couldn't cripple it. Raggi punched Mo but missed, as Ike's spell went off. Raggi snapped out of it, rolled consciousness, and rolled an 18. He dropped, out cold.

Meanwhile, Aldwyn was yelling - "Norkers! Hey, more norkers!" Galen noticed and began to shoot them down, and Aldwyn fought the next wave on a body-strewn area of the battlefield. Most didn't hear the yells over Raggi, Mo lording it up over Raggi as he fell, and so on - plus most wear full-head headgear, which doesn't help. Alaric spotted the fight and contributed, occasionally shooting people in the back. Galen shot two, wounded them both, and shot another down by hitting him twice in the eye before he could attack Aldwyn.

Soon it was clear to everyone a fight was going on. About 18-20 more norkers and another priest piled in, and the PCs waited for them to advance. The norkers waited for them - and after two died from Galen's shooting, waited along the flanks. The PCs started to climb the body-piled that choked the corridor and move to engage the norkers. Galen continued to shoot, dropping norker after norker.

Eventually Mo go over the corpeses by jumping into a melee. He took two thrown axes into the right arm but was still up and engaged. He turned his back on the norkers he faced and lept a pile of corpses and broke a norker's leg. Two norkers tried to cut him off as the priest moved back, casting a spell. So Mo evaded the norkers thanks to his insane DX and helmet-horn rushed the priest. He rolled a 3 and killed him instantly with his horns. A norker rushed him from behind, and Galen shot him and wounded him. Hjalmarr cut that one down with his axe. Moments after that, the last few norkers were cut down.

In the end, 32 norkers, two hobgoblins priests (who may or may not be wizards), and the norker champion were slain. The PCs healed quickly and moved down the corridor, trying to find their base area. They did - they found a guard room of some kind, and then found their sleeping chamber. A curtained-off area was clearly for the hobgoblins. They searched it carefully and found some food - including mystery jerky that Alaric ate ("Dude, it's human." - Galen, who might be right) and dry grains - mushroom spirits that Alaric put in his wineskin and Mo drank, and spare loinclothes. They also rooted up some coins, hacksilver, and a chunk of copper and some spare robes (they'd take them to twon, but they were valueless.)

They decided that a) it was really late in the real world, b) they were in a risky area in the game, and c) they needed loot, so why not go back and check the gnoll and ogre area they'd partly looted after the last big brawl with the norkers? So they did that. On the way they took the heads of the priests and the norker champion to give to Gerry.

They found the rooms they'd cleared before, but also some new ones. One had foodstuffs, including more of that jerky. Another clearly had a covered pit trap. So, I swear this is true, they tried to set it off. After all, if it's a trap, there must be a dead guy down there with loot. So they threw in a lightstone, tried pushing on the floor (Hjalmarr), and tossing in a headless norker body. Nothing worked. So they sent in Ahenobarbus to look. He couldn't find anything to set it off.

They also found a room with a painting, with a floor covered with dust that kicked up when the door was kicked in. They couldn't make the painting out from the door. Ahenobarbus went in after it, with a rope tied to him. He carefully examined it. It was a creepy painting. It showed a woman turning away from a crowd of hooded figures, with grey hills in the background and a red sky. It was 3' x 6' and in a badly worn wooden frame. He stepped to the side and carefully lifted the painting with his knife Serrita to look behind it. It was just hanging on two nails. He lifted it up. The dust started to coalesce. He ran. The dust formed up into a shadow demon!

It reached for Aheno but he dodged and ran. They moved up to fight it at the doorway. Galen shot it in the head but his arrows did little. It moved up to him and reached into his chest for his heart. He casually Iron Armed it . . . oops! It went right through and into his heart. He took 10 injury and felt his heart momentarily stop (a successful HT-5 roll!) He still lived and fell back. Hjalmarr attacked it as Mo crushed a spellstone of Affect Spirits on his morninstar. Meanwhile, the party decided to run. So Aldwyn, Hayden, and the Meeposian brothers ran. Raggi kept saying, "It doesn't look like we're running!"

They guessed the demon could out-run them with his giant wings. So some stayed to fight. Ike charged up a 4d Sunbolt as Mo's morningstar did no better with Affect Spirits. They did some damage to it, but it howled at Mo and almost terrified him (. . . almost) and tried to touch more of them. They kept Dodging. Ike aimed and yelled for them to clear a lane. He took his shot, and hit. The demon failed to dodge. The Sunbolt destroyed it completely!

They regrouped, and sent Mo in. Mo gave his Brotherhood pass phrase, touched the woman in the painting, and so on - nothing. So they took it down, removed the frame, rolled it up, and took it.

From here, they explored some empty rooms (including a slorn pen) and then headed out.

They made it back to the surface, disarming traps and removing bits such as the crossbow to take as loot. They made it up to the surface by way of the hatch. They spent some time trying to figure out how to destroy it so it wouldn't lock, and used a Find Weakness spellstone to identify the weakest point - the handgrip wheel. Still, that would be the work of hours, and it would surely attract attention and wandering monsters. They simply left it open and left the castle.

Back in town they paid to ID some of their loot. The painting was worth 5K (sold for 2k), and the champion's belt was a Belt of Might +3 and his sword was a wavy-bladed fine thrusting greatsword with Puissance +1. They sold that, kept two six-fingered hand necklaces they found on the hobgoblins, and kept the belt. Discussion is underway about who gets that - it's too small for Mo or Raggi. Loot was enough for everyone, even after dividing it up by nine.

MVP was Galen for his performance against the norkers and traps.


So Galen's player rejoined us after a long illness-related break. We've been chatting occasionally for a while about him restarting, and naturally we had a spot at the table reserved for him. Now here he is again. His character sheet was left at our old meeting place, so we need Dryst's player to rejoin us or at least coordinate with someone to find Galen's sheet. Until they, only what I kept up to date in GCA and what we remembered (his twin Cornucopia quivers, his Iron Arm bracer). That reminds me, I need to refund him for the Power enchantment he paid for but I nixed.

I'd been saying for a while that the only reason a lot of the fodder - even tough fodder - they faced was a problem was a lack of a solid scout. Galen demonstrated that in spades. He'd have killed even more, even faster, had the terrain been conducive to clear shooting. Instead the baffles, the frequent need to shoot through 3-4 friendlies to hit a target, etc. limited what he could do. He needed to double-tap vitals because eye shots were too risky through the crowds and narrow shooting arcs. Even so, he killed outright most of the opponents in the entire fight. That's not a typo. He killed over half of the enemies, and wounded a few that others ended up killing later. He killed the champion that had Aldwyn so concerned. He's quite lethal. It was a good comeback.

My one concern with the magic item they found - the belt - is that it'll because some form of "party treasure." You know, it gets brought on every expedition and passed around constantly, session to session or fight to fight. I can see why that would happen, but still, I'm not a fan. I do have a built-in limitation that will cut some of that down.

Good session overall.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Felltower pre-summary

Fun game of DF Felltower today.

We had:

- the return of one of the early delvers

- a huge, multi-part battle

- massive norker casualties

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

- a fight with a terrifying shadow demon

- some significant magical loot

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

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

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Game Prep for tomorrow

Tomorrow is our next session of DF Felltower.

Game prep has been relatively light:

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

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

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

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

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

I can't wait!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Group size growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Review: GURPS Magic: Artillery Spells

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

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

For more reviews, see my consolidated list of reviews.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

Gygax Memorial Podcast part 1

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

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

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

Thin posting week & orcs WIP

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

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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Stericksburg's Status 2018

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

What about now, wondered Rick Siebold in a comment.

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


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

Mundane Gear: Freely available.

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

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

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

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

Chemicals and Natural Concoctions: Unlimited.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Rules reminders from Castle Whiterock

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

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

Perception to spot incoming missiles

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

Limits of Light

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

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

Friday, May 18, 2018

Artillery Spells & Felltower

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

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

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

- research might reveal what spells exist, but not enough details to enable 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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