Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Alice Cooper and my 1st edition GURPS game

I've never really been a big fan of Halloween and horror. I kind of like it, but in small doses. I prefer my horror as a form of foe you cut down, or creepy evil that you ultimately deal with violently. Or at least magically.

All of that said, though, in a campaign way back when I did write an encounter that I never got to use centered on a horror theme.

After listening to the album "Welcome to My Nightmare" by the incomparable Alice Cooper, I wrote up an encounter based on Vincent Price's character in "Devil's Food."

I mapped out a little tower where an old wizard obsessed with spiders lived, gave him some appropriate allies (large and small), some spider-themed magical items, and a fair bit of loot to reward the players for discovering and eliminating this cover threat to the city.

I planned to drop it into Waterdeep since I was running a campaign set almost entirely in and around that city using 1st edition GURPS. Sadly, though, the PCs turned away from the adventure seed I had planted related to it and ended up going off for some adventures in the north.

In retrospect, I probably should have worked a Steven-like kid into the whole thing for some real upsetting foes, but hey, live and learn.

I know at least one of my players - the one who loaned me his Alice Cooper records way back when - would love to encounter this guy now. But the notes on that are basically lost in old Wang Word Processor files at best, gone forever at worst . . . and I've have to seriously, seriously up-gun the threat and wildly change the location to pull it off in DF. I mean, we've obviously still have spiders, but maybe not a Vincent Price inspired wizard along with them.

Or we might.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Social media and Dungeon Fantastic

I discussed this before - G+ is going away.

Now what?

Not that much.

I'm not making the jump to MeWe. Or Reddit. Or anywhere else.

I didn't really do much on G+ except post links to my posts. I didn't ready much, respond to requests, etc. I would read comments and comment back, but otherwise, I just let it alone. I don't have that much free time and no real interest in keeping up a social media presence to just get more eyes on Dungeon Fantastic.

That may change at some point.

But for now, if you want to keep up with this blog, here is the place to do it.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Missile Fire into Melee in AD&D - DMG vs. A3

The module A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords has an interesting appendix - rules for loosing missiles into melee.

The DUNGEON MASTERS GUIDE also has some on p. 63. Let's compare.


It starts off with one of those really pedantically overstated Gary Gygax lines, before it gets into a long and complex discussion of the issue that is naturally described as "easily handled."

"Likewise, discharge of missiles into on existing melee is easily handled. It is permissible, of course, and the results might not be too incompatible with the desires of the discharging party. Assign probabilities to each participant in the melee or target group according to sheer numbers. In the case of participants of varying size use half value for size "S', normal value for size "M", and one and one-half value for size "L" creatures which ore not too much larger than man-size. Total the values for each group and ratio one over the other. If side A has 4 man-sized participants, and side B hos 3 smaller than man-sized participants and 1 size "L" bugbear, the ratio is 4:3. Then, according to the direction of the missile discharge, determine hits by using the same ratio. If 7 missiles were loosed, 4 would have o chance to hit side A, 3 side B. In cases where the ratio does not match the number of missiles, convert it to a percentage chance: 117 = 14% or 15%, depending on whether the missiles are coming from ahead of side A (14%) or from behind (15%). Thus 4/7 = 56% or 60% chance per missile that it will hit side A. The minor difference represents the fact that there will be considerable shifting and maneuvering during combat which will tend to expose both opponents to fire on o near equal basis. Such missiles must then be assigned (by situation or by random determination) to target creatures, a "to hit" determination made, and damage assessed for those which do hit."

Got that?

It's probably explained in a more complex manner than it needs to be, but even so, the steps are:

- determine how many combatants and their size to establish a ratio
- use that ratio to split up missiles
- determine a target
- roll to hit.

It does state later that for sufficiently large targets you can just toss this - "this writer, for instance, always allows archery hits to hit a giant or a similar creature engaged against a human or similar opponent."

A3 has a different version* on p. 23:

"Tournament Missile Fire into Melee

If characters wish to fire missiles into melee, the following simpler system shall be used in place of normal AD&D procedures (described in the DUNGEON MASTERS GUIDE):

1. A specific target is declared by the player.
2. The DM secretly determines the real target, as follows:
a. Find the total "man-sized units" present in the melee pairing (as opposed to the entire melee); small creature = 1/2, man-sized = 1, larger = 1 1/2, huge (e.g. anhkheg, dragon) = 2.
b. Roll randomly to determine which man-sized unit becomes the target of the missile: determine by half-units if necessary.
3. The player rolls a "To hit" roll, announcing the adjusted total to the DM.
4. The DM compares the number to the armor class of the actual target (not necessarily the intended one) to determine hits.
5. ANY miss will miss the entire melee, and NEVER hits an alternate target.

EXAMPLE: Blodgett (halfling thief, AC 3, rear AC 7) tries to slip around behind a melee with gnolls,but is spotted and attacked by 2 of them. Freda the Forester decides to help with arrow fire. The total number of man-sized units is 3 1/2 (1 1/2 per gnoll, 1/2 for the halfling). The DM rolls a d8: 1-3 = 1st gnoll, 4-6 = 2nd gnoll, 7 = Blodgett, 8 = reroll. Unfortunately,a 7 is rolled, and Freda's "To hit" roll is compared to Blodgett's REAR AC (7)to determine the results of the shot.

In these cases, a character target's AC must be carefully determined: rear AC isthe most commonly encountered, but occasionally only shieldless AC is used. If a character expects missile fire, include dexterity adjustments to AC.

That does seem significantly simpler than the DMG version. It's easier to do it missile by missile instead of a system that works better if you determine all of the missiles fired and then start to divvy them up.

What's odd to me is that in either case:

- there is no chance to hit the wrong target if you miss the selected target, something I've gotten very used to in GURPS. A miss, misses everyone.

- and moreover, your skill doesn't help you hit the target you want to. Even if you're a DEX 18 10th level fighter with a Crossbow of Accuracy +2 and a Bolt +2, you can't easily pick out an unfriendly target. You take your chances and then see what happens. The better your "to hit" the more dangerous it is for you to fire into a melee with a friendly. You almost may as well if your allies have great AC and you have a sucky "to hit" roll. If they have lousy AC or you are very accurate or both, they are more at risk.

I think the next time we play AD&D we'll use the A3 system unless I come up with one I like on my own. It seems like you should just have a penalty to hit a specific target, and a chance to hit the wrong target. That could just be my experience with GURPS talking, but that does both reward high skill with a better ability to sort friend from foe in a melee and punish failure by seeing if someone else took the hit. Is there a third system floating out there that does this?

* I'm not sure why this is in A3, in any case. It's not like there is any more or less combats that could involve missiles fired into a melee. Maybe this was the first time there was space to fit it in.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Felltower vs. Dork Tower

This Dork Tower explains why my dungeon inhabitants are so active:

The denizens of Felltower got the word!

Monsters in my game regularly come and investigate noises, especially those of fighting and dying. There might be things to flee from, to ambush, to eat, to loot - all sorts of things. You can't really relax and let the neighbors sort it out. This is a dungeon, not a suburb!

I highly recommend:

- taking a look at the sound traveling underground rules in GURPS Underground Adventures;

- knowing the Per scores - especially for hearing! - for monsters so you can check if they're aware of what's going on;

- keep cumulative wandering monsters in mind;

- know the relations between the critters and their interests. They'll act or not act, and determine how they'll act, at least partly on those grounds.

And hey, some of them won't know better, and assume it's just feuding bugbears. They get what they deserve!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Next AD&D?

We enjoy playing AD&D, so we've been looking at what to play next. This will not happen soon as Felltower is waiting, and will be next, but perhaps early-ish next year we'll play more AD&D.

So far, the A-series looks like it's in the lead.

Some players have played some parts of them.

No one has played through all of them.

Plus, they come with reasonable pre-grens (sort of - see below) and nine of them. We'd be able to handle a full crowd with them, in case we run them while several of our players are back from school and have spares on top of that.

So what to run?

Let's look at them in turn:

A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity

I've run at least one current player through this. Others may have been involved. While I do really like a couple of the set-piece encounters, I'm not sure it's worth the time. Too much repetition, and I'd really be running it mostly for one big encounter and to prime the players for A2.

A2 Secret of the Slaver's Stockade

I've never really run this one to fruition. It's a tough, tough adventure even in tournament form. In full form, you're attacking a fortress and that ends very badly most of the time. That said, the latter parts of the adventure are cool and creepy and are great set-pieces.

I could see this taking two sessions easily, three in a worst-case situation.

This one is a maybe.

A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords

I've run this at least once in elementary school. I've used bits of it for other adventures. This one will get run, with only the question of "Do I give out the changed pregens for the latter parts of the adventures, or just let the PCs sort out loot, advancement, etc. as they wish?

Definitely will be run.

A4 In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords

I haven't run A4 since elementary school. Maybe 5th or 6th grade? I planned to run it with GURPS when I was using a converted set of the series based on the A1-4 supermodule, but that never came to fruition. This one is absolutely getting run. I love this one.


So we'll go with the A-series, but it's probably A3 and A4, possible with A2 before that. A1 only if people really want the full experience.


The pregens are pretty good, and equipped with magical and mundane gear. They all have a very high Constitution, though, but the couple I checked have nearly average HP. For example, the human fighter has CON 18 and 45 HP at 5th level. 5.5 + 4 = 9.5, 5 x 9 = 45. Beats the weirdness that is max-HP characters with no stats aside from prime requisites at a modifier-providing level.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Origins of DFD1: Barbarians

A book or so back I wrote GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 1: Barbarians.

It's got a bit of a convoluted origin story.

First, as a concept. Second, as a book.

As a concept

Ever since I got involved in GURPS DF, there has been a persistent call for a more combat-focused barbarian. A lot of folks were disappointed that the barbarian is more outdoor-focused and outdoor-expert than heavy combatant.

One of my arguments has always been, if you want to be a battle-focused strong guy without Outdoorsman and lacking Gigantism, there is a template for you already - the Knight. It's exactly what you are looking for, minus only Social Stigma (easily added.) It would make no sense for a barbarian to out-do the knight at combat, given that the knight only does combat. You'd be hard-pressed to do it with a point-buy system, too. But I also saw a niche for barbarians who bridged the gap between outdoor experts and combat experts.

So I started worked on my own. I'd seen other people's attempts, and even opined on them, but I found my own approach was significantly different. We had the same idea in mind - a barbarian that was more combat and less outdoors - but different ways we wanted to go about it. Plus I had ideas above and beyond changing the barbarian - I had ideas for a range of options.

Since I have this blog, so I started to write a post.

That post grew, and I realized - I could write this as an article for Pyramid Magazine. Why post up what I could write, polish, and make part of the GURPS canon?

I kept writing, and came up with a set of new barbarian templates and lenses.

I put that article into the grinder, had it reviewed and checked and playtested bits myself.

As a book

But then along came an email from Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch, pitching some possible GURPS books in the post-Ogre-logjam world. I got that pitch because of my resume of previous writing, and my resume meant it had this cool option on it - a new subline of DF books on a profession-by-profession basis.

So within a day or so, I pitched an idea. DFD1: Barbarians. I had the core of it, I felt, and a lot of additional material that Sean and I had written for DF together* that I could draw on.

So I wrote an official pitch, an outline, and sent it in. A few iterations back and forth and we had a book outline and a contract.

And I got writing.

It was tough, like all books are tough.

As the book was finishing up playtesting, we added a new player to our group - Vic. I offered him a chance to run one of the templates I wrote because it seemed in line with his suggested character types. He made a Shirtless Savage Warrior.

It's because of Bjorn's antics in play that I slightly changed the Shirtless Savage to make it more flexible and a bit cooler.

My players had their own input - a lot of Honus Honusson is in this book, because of the asks of the player. Comments on "Raggi should . . . " and of course direct rules suggestions from the rest of my players kept sending me back to the book to re-write. Offhand comments named perks like "Walk It Off." "Wouldn't it be nice if you could . . . " digressions fed into power-ups. And so on.

It's one I'm quite proud of.

* A story in and of itself - Short versions is that I pitched an idea, I was told Sean was already working on that idea, we ended up collaborating and you got our article in Pyramid 3/61.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Just writing

I don't have time for a blog post of real substance today. I have little free time today.

That said, I converted my book outline into a formatted framework for writing this week.

Also, during my little bits of free time I took some good notes for the material as yet incomplete meant for the book. Some of it is immediately useful for Felltower, so it will appear there long before it hits print.

I don't mean to tease, but to update. However, I do think fans of DF in general and Felltower in specific will want what I am putting together. Remember, it is tested on my PCs before I present it for use on yours!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Ready for GURPS Action 5?

. . . because The Onion is:

FAA Study Finds 64% Of Engine Failures Caused By Henchman Being Kicked Into Turbine

“Our data revealed that nearly two out of every three instances of jetliner engine failures occurred after a muscular, scar-faced man was seen emerging from the plane’s emergency exit, engaging in hand-to-hand combat with a pursuant, and then losing their footing and getting sucked into the turbofan,”

and it goes on to note that

"In 100 percent of those cases, the aircraft exploded."

I don't know what Action 5 will cover, but the odds are if you're running either the old Victory games James Bond RPG or an Action-based variation of it, the above sentences apply to you.

Monday, October 22, 2018

C2 - Mistakes were made

So says Finchy, the 4 cp songbird, the last survivor of the expedition:

Or was he the last survivor?

It was probably Grafrr, the Gnoll, who ended up with a suit of Chainmail +1 he can't wear, around 7000 gp he can't carry, and even more copper and silver pieces than he'll ever need. Wish him luck. Right now he's the most Monty Haul giveaway single gnoll encounter you're likely to meet.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

AD&D Session 4: C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness (Part II)

This is another installment of our annual (or so) re-visits to AD&D. Today is Part 2 of our delve into C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness.

Lembu, Human Fighter 7 (Two-Handed Sword +1, Flame Tongue, Plate Mail +1, Potion of Speed, 2 x Potion of Extra Healing)
Hodar, Human Magic-User 10 (Scroll of Rope Trick, Potion of Extra-Healing)
Zinethar the Wise, Human Cleric 9 (Footman's Mace +1, Splint Mail +1, Potion of Extra Healing)
Li Hon, Human Monk 7 (Dagger +1, +2 vs. Small, Potion of Extra Healing)
Dicinque, Human Thief 7 (Leather +1, Potion of Invisibility, Potion of Extra Healing)

We picked up where we left off, with the PCs having found their way up the central shaft and into an area of dense, warm mist on a rocky floor. The mist limited to vision ("to 10' or less") with ambient, but dim, light coming from all around. The group chose to head West, attempting to find a wall and look for a way out. In a few minutes of walking a winged form swooped down and them and attacked - a hierocrosphinx!

It slashed up Zinethar the Wise with one claw and one bite. Then it was on the ground and in melee. Li Hon threw a javelin and missed, and Discinque tried to hide in shadows but failed. They melee'd it for a couple of rounds and slew it, but not before it bit Lembu and injured him as well.

With the sphinx dead, they continued west and then slightly north to investigate a larger pile of rocks they caught a glimpse of. They climbed that and found the sphinx's nest - along with thousands of silver pieces, a couple thousand gp, a potion, a long sword, and a mace. Zinethar took the mace as Li Hon sipped the potion. It seemed like healing, so she quaffed it and rolled an 8 - healing up most of her injury. They were unable to see a ceiling from where they were, so they climbed back down and continued west until they found a curved wall. They marked it with incense with a big X and then made a clockwise circle around the circumference. That took the better part of an hour and found them nothing. They began to zig-zag across the room, first going East to the wall, then northwest from there, then south, then northeast, then west, then eventually trying to find the center chute. They did that, and then went south again, then back to the center. They eventually sent their songbird, now named "Finchy," up to the ceiling. It found it but couldn't tell them much. They climbed down the shaft to the padded chair room. Some of them tried the chairs, but nothing. They opened the doors and found their marks, and then returned to the room and climbed up. (In hindsight, I should not have allowed them to open those doors.)

Lembu was very frustrated, claiming this room was clearly a "fake room" and "a red herring." They gave him one of the potions they found - it turned out to be Levitation - and sent him to the ceiling to feel around. He searched around for ways out until the 8 turns they'd rolled for the potion ran out. He found nothing.

Eventually they went to the sphinx and butchered it, trying to see if it had eaten a key or something. Nope.

They climbed its lair and threw Dispel Magic after sending Discinque aside with the potions at the end of a rope to get out of the area effect. Nothing happened.

In the end they decided to tie a rope to the chute's rungs, space each person out along it, and walk it around to ensure they went in a circle and see what they spotted. They went counter-clockwise and within a few steps hit a snag. They investigated and found the rope's progress limited by an iron spiral staircase going up!

They organized their stuff and climbed up to another level, a brightly lit but hot, humid level choked with vegetation with only narrow paths around. They began to follow the paths, over the objections of Lembu who wanted to cut their own to avoid traps.

After some wandering, they found a clearing with a slender figure wearing a hooded robe, tending a rose garden and singing. Discinque quietly said it was probably a medusa, based on the hooded cloak. So they waited at the entrance and he snuck up and backstabbed her. He rolled maximum damage - 24 - and wounded the figure. She wasn't surprised and won the initiative on the next turn and turned around. None of the PCs declared they were looking away during their actions - mostly "run up and attack!" - and Lembu, Li Hon, and Disincque all failed their Saving Throws vs. Petrifaction (or Petrification, depending on where you look in the books). Li Hon and Disincque each failed by 1. The only non petrified PCs were Zinethar and Hodar. Zinethar charged with his new mace and struck the medusa, wounding her and revealing the mace was a Footman's Mace +2. Even so, she was still up. Hodar threw three darts and hit with two, doing 2 damage total. They began to avoid her gaze, taking a -4 to hit. Zinethar swung and missed, and the medusa hit him and wounded him, but he made his save vs. poison from her snakes. Hodar put Haste on Zinethar, but a moment later the medusa hit him again. Zinethar missed his saving throw vs. poison by 1. He died.

Hodar cast Cone of Cold and did 37 damage, utterly slaying the medusa who had less than 10 HP left.

Only Hoday remained. He claimed the Amulet of Return from Zinethar, along with some of his gear - but most of their potions, etc. were petrified. He searched the medusa and found nothing, and searched her garden but was pricked by thorns and fell asleep for more than 90 minutes. He eventually awoke, none the worse.

He found a small coffer in the garden and opened it, finding a bunch of gems. He took those and tried to find a way out.

Much to his frustration, he could not. He accidentally chose a path that led back into the woods, and spent an hour or so wandering around trying to find his way out. Eventually he resorted to numbering paths with an iron spike marking numbers in the dirt, then found the way out - a staircase going up.

He climbed that and reached a level with thin paths looping around in a lake of fire. Across it was a staircase, a sarcophagus, and a fire giant. He decided the best way was to get past the giant with a dash up the stairs.

So he cast Mirror Image and then used Dimension Door to step close the stairs. The giant, who had been watching him from afar, turned to attack. Hodar found to his dismay the stairs, weren't. It was just a pillar built to appear as stairs from a distance! The giant swung and chose one of the images, destroying it. It destroyed another a round later.

Hodar quickly cast Bigby's Interposing Hand and put it between himself and the giant. He then jumped into the sarcophagus as the frustrated giant slashed the hand. He found himself in a pile of coins, but not a way out. As the giant finished off the hand (it took three rounds to do so), he cast Spider Climb and headed up the wall and across the ceiling.

The giant saw three wizards crawling on the ceiling and threw a boulder at one - and the dice said it was Hodar. It did 19 damage (on 2d10), putting Hodar down to 16 HP of damage. He kept crawling, having spotted a hole in the ceiling that surely led to the next level. But on the next round, the giant randomly selected him again, threw a boulder and hit, and did 17 damage (a 10 and a 7) . . . putting Hodar to -1. He dropped from the ceiling, unconscious, and the fall finished him off.

With that, the Duke and Seer's ambition to retrieve the Soul Gem on the cheap had failed.


Fun session, but tough luck for the PCs.

The vision-limiting aspect of the mist meant the PCs basically had to enter a given square to see anything in it. As a result, after fighting the hierocrosphinx and moving slightly north off the east-west line, they were unable to spot the staircase up. That little change in course meant about 2 hours (!) of real time spent discussing and thinking and wasting of spells. And I really shouldn't have let them open the doors at the bottom room again - the tower is in a different time, so they can't really just go back. They'd been time-shifted. Oh well, good thing they just turned around.

Lembu's player was horrified that his dad's character just grabbed the coffer from the rose garden. "You can't just go around touching random chests!" We all broke down in laughter. Good advice for gaming and life. Especially life.

The rolling for the players was horrendous when it mattered. Plus, they got a little overconfident with the medusa. No one even thought to avert their eyes even though they agreed with Discinque's assessment that it was a medusa. Add in some fails on some easy saves and that was that - that one round turned it from "routine encounter" to "mission failure." Had they had a more aggressive plan to follow up on the backstab, I can't help but think they could have slain the medusa outright before she could do anything, like win the initiative and turn. Instead, it was game-ending.

Since the game ended early we chatted a bit about the next AD&D game we'd play. Perhaps we'll hit the A-series, or parts of it (A3 and A4 for sure, maybe A2 if only because I never got to run it that way.) We'll see. It's been fun to revisit AD&D periodically like this.

All in all, good fun.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Tomorrow: C2, part 2

Tomorrow will be part 2 of C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness.

We have four players scheduled to play, so I expect the part of Zinethar the High Priest will be played by someone selected by the group, then passed on to any player whose PC dies or is incapacitated.

We should be able to finish the whole adventure tomorrow. In fact, even if we don't I'll call the game at the usual time and just deliver the end by exposition. So I expect the players will push a little harder to finish it up. I can't wait to see how they handle the challenges of the later stages of C2.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Random Thoughts and Links 10/19

More random stuff for a Friday.

- I like these guys, especially their evil powers - which makes them more than just a block of stats:

Black Knights

- I also like this here:

Magic - Dungeon Fantasy Martial Artist Spell List

Yes, making combat spell lists for non-caster types is tough. I strained to make the list in Barbarians.

- I haven't really had a lot of time for game prep, due to professional development issues plus spending time on my latest book proposal followup. So we're probably on for more AD&D before more DF. I don't need a lot of game prep, but these days it's not nil.

- Speaking of nil, that's another word I learned from Gary Gygax, back when I learned words like prestidigitation and the difference between i.e and e.g. Along with some made up ones, like dweamorcraft.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Searching in my GURPS game

Apropos my post yesterday, how do I do searching rolls in my DF game?

Generally, if failure isn't interesting, I don't roll. But if missing something can be interesting in any way, I have the players roll for their PCs.

I'm generous with bonuses - but also harsh with penalties. An object in plain sight is +10, which means unless it's dark (light penalties), they are rushed (looking one second, not many), the object is small (size modifiers), it's likely they'll find it. If they're in the dark, in a rush, and don't even know that there is something there or not, we roll.

After all, Per is a statistic. People pay for it to improve it. They pay for Search skill to be better at these rolls.

Plus, realistically, there is overlooking the obvious, situational blindness, the difficulty of finding things, and the vagaries of unorganized looking as opposed to organized searching.

If the players specify some course of action which will inevitably result in finding something, and failure to find it is uninteresting, yeah, I just skip the roll. They find it. If failure to find it is interesting, either right then or later when the PCs return to search again, I'll let them roll. Plenty of players will invest a lot in Per and Search to avoid missing things. I find it cheapens those skills if we routinely avoid rolls, but it cheapens player skill if I don't hand out great bonuses for choosing the right ways to search.

As with a lot of things, I straddle "old school" and "new school" and even the revival of old-school with new-school ideas.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Searching in OD&D from The Retired Adventurer

I like this approach to searching for early D&D systems. I could easily apply this to AD&D, too.

Searching: Describing Actions and Rolling

I especially like the meshing of roleplaying/player input and rolling - something I do a lot of in GURPS.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Greg Stafford passed away

Akratic Wizardry put up a post that caused me to notice this:

Vale Greg Stafford (1948 - 2018)

Greg Stafford wrote a lot of games. I mentioned one of the more interesting ones back in 2016, Prince Valiant. It's sad to see one of the great RPG designers pass away.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Black Castle's walls

Some inspirational description of architecture for today:

"Dark, glassy, jointless stone slid past. "My god!" He could see into the wall. He saw bones, fragments of bones, bodies, pieces of bodies, all suspended as if floating in the night. As Raven turned toward the gate, he saw a staring face. "What kind of place is this?""
- Glen Cook, Shadows Linger, p. 57

I don't do horror gaming, but I do put unpleasant, horrible evil into my games. I just tend to deal with it more matter-of-fact. Here is total evil, something wrong on every level, now put your big boy pants on and do something about it. Or not.

I get a lot of my descriptions of banal horror from history and from fantasy - Glen Cook is right at the top of that for me.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Short posting break

I'll be taking a short break from posting due to a long and in-depth professional certification that I'm attending over this weekend. See everyone Monday.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

New GURPS book outline sent in

I put in my proposed outline for my latest GURPS book. It's drawing from my DF gaming experience, naturally, but also from my prior fantasy campaign. We'll see if gets accepted. I know SJG is okay with me as a writer, but I don't always offer to write things they need or can slot into a schedule.

Hopefully this would be something I could see in PDF in 2019 - 2018 is just unreasonable at this point, as it's October already. You can't fritter away 9 1/3 months of the year and expect to get a book in that year.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Gamma World 1st edition on DriveThruRPG

Our Gamma Terra GM pointed out that DriveThruRPG is now carrying Gamma World 1st edition:

This is the version of Gamma World I grew up with. While we really liked Gamma World 2nd edition, for all of its expansions of play and the game world, the bleakness and unease that Gamma World 1st edition carried with it was muted in it. It sometimes feels like this edition's description of the fall of man feels more real as every day goes by.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

No more G+ and what that means for Dungeon Fantastic

According to the news reports I read, Google is getting rid of Google Plus.

How will that affect this blog?

I think it mostly won't.

I don't use Google Plus for comments. I tried that briefly and I hated it.

I do post some of the new posts over to Google Plus. I used do that with all of them, but once they changed how +1s worked, it wasn't as helpful for me as a way to keep "score" and see which posts people really liked.

I haven't really browsed around on G+ much, either. Maybe not at all in the past 6-10 months or more.

What think will affect this blog:

- some people seem to track my posts by G+. You can't do that anymore once G+ goes.

- I won't have any place except this blog to advertise this blog. In other words, I'm not cross-posting anywhere so you see it here, see my blog on someone's blog, or you probably don't see it.

I'm not currently considering doing anything differently - I'll just wait and see how it goes. I won't really miss G+, but let's see if the lack of G+ drops my readership or means it is too difficult for new people to find me. If so, I may take action - I'm not sure yet what I'll do.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Writing proposal update

I got a tentative ok for a writing project from SJG.

Now comes the hard work:

- formal proposal

- establishing the wordcount

- figuring out a deadline

- ensuring the material I have proposed matches the expectations of SJG.

- and then getting started writing!

I haven't been writing for a while because of real-world work hour expansion plus a lot of additional demands on my time. But I feel like I have just enough extra to get in a writing project. It's been a while since my last book so let's hope this works out.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Why not Vryceburg?

Some of the fans of this blog, and my Felltower campaign, have brought up the idea of "Stericksburg" becoming "Vryceburg," instead.

What would it take for Vryce to really make "Stericksburg" into "Vryceburg?"

On one level, time travel. It's a bit late to rename it; changing city names is a big deal. Naming it after a swordsman, no matter how great, whose main claim to fame is killing stuff in a nearby dungeon isn't an easy call. It was founded by a great hero who turned rouge and went bad for inadequately explained reasons.

But what could he do to be the de facto "head" of Stericksburg?

Reputation. Vryce has a +2 now, as a dragonslayer and as one of the slayers of Sterick the Red, the actual founder of the city. He'd need a bit more of a Reputation as well, which means at least one or two more major, different deeds (and point spent.) He's famous, enough to be very significant in town-based rolls, but not enough to get the King to notice him and name the town after him.

Cost of Living. Vryce is spending $165/week on living expenses, basically paying for a cheap room somewhere and sufficient but not fancy food, and so on. He spends a lot on gear and some extras partying it up after big delves (extra money spent on carousing) to get more rumors, but otherwise, he's skating by close to the minimum. He'd need to routinely spend multiples of his standard of living - live large if you want people to sit up and notice. Spending money on enchantments makes the Wizard's Guild happy but doesn't really mean the whole town is deeply impressed. Putting on big parties, spreading money around on travelling by carriage, buying fine wines, smoking really expensive stinky cigars (Vryce's quirk), etc. helps more than that.

Another way around that, though, is to spend points on Claim to Hospitality. Rich folks who almost everyone respects get stuff for free. Vryce could save up points and cash and spend them getting a broader and broader Claim to Hospitality that covers 100% of his expenses in Stericksburg. Claim doesn't cost $40 or $80, point, either. You have to get a good explanation of how and why you have it. As yet it has an unspecified cost, because I need a good in-game explanation.

We don't use status, and I don't really encourage buying property except as a justification for Claim to Hospitality, and we don't play out in-town actions very often. So it's really those three - bigger rep, better claim, more spending . . . and it'll end up with Vryce being defacto Big Man in Stericksburg. But the name won't change, either.

At some point he can do wilderness adventures and found his own Vryceburg, though, which would be highly amusing. Making your own instead of just changing what the GM plunked down on the map is highly encouraged.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

New Release: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 4: Dragons

Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 4: Dragons came out. I haven't checked it out yet, mostly because I have a lot of my own self-designed dragons. But nothing Kromm rights is less than excellent, so I'll get it soon enough. If you want to beat me to it, here it is:

Friday, October 5, 2018

Random Notes - Friday 10/5

- I'm still undecided on the Chaos Wars 3 Kickstarter. I want a good number of the Chaos army figures, but the mixes available include a lot of minis I have already. I just want the ones I don't, which might mean waiting for the minis to hit the stores in 2019 sometime and picking them up.

- I'm digging around in my notes to see if I can't some writing in. I'm incredible busy, but I may have a chance to do something that won't take an enormous amount of work by me yet will still allow me to get something else up on W23. More when I can say more, if that time comes.

- Just hearing this music makes me want to dig out Diablo I and reinstall it and play it until I can't physically keep my eyes open. I liked Diablo II a lot, especially the jungles, but Diablo, the original, just had a huge impact on me. I should play these during game to keep Felltower spooky. Heck, I should play this while I stock the dungeon. These give me chills.

- Speaking of Felltower, while our next game is in a few weeks and it'll be AD&D again, right after that comes Felltower. I'm reviewing my notes for the dungeon and perusing my minis to see what needs to be finished painting (or statted up, or packed, or all three) to make the encounters have the maximum possible impact on the players.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Friendly Fire is the Best Fire

This was sent to me by the player who runs Gwynneth, as proof that his character finally become a real wizard:

It was highly approved of by the player of Hannibal, Hasdrubel, etc. who lives this image to the ultimate degree.

Like the blog I linked to in yesterday's post, this describes my game quite nicely.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Pits Perilous on Silliness & Seriousness

I liked this post over on Pits Perilous.

Did Sophistication Kill the Fun?

My short summary: No, but it did change it.

I never went that silly. We had nonsense, but only because 10 year olds don't make very good estimations of what's sensible and what's appropriate, even when they're learning by copying modules written by folks named Gygax, Kuntz, Schick, Moldvay, and so on.

This describes my games now pretty well:

" I won't denigrate serious games because mine is 85% serious. But the older I get (51 and counting), the more I appreciate the simple wonder of a fun-house dungeon stocked with the players in mind and built to provide them with a variety of challenging and absurd experiences. Hey, magic could always use a little nonsense."

My games are mostly serious, but no so much that fun nonsense doesn't show up. No casinos or laser turrets or monstrous hairdressers, but little jokes work their way into everything and outright silliness has a niche in the depths of the dungeon. Fun is the goal, and if some silliness makes for more fun, it gets some silliness. And where seriousness makes it better, it gets some seriousness. It's all about sitting around enjoying a game with my friends . . .

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Interesting bits from C2 and AD&D

Some interesting tidbits from C2:

- every monster encountered so far is size L. This has made some of the choices - two-handed sword, light crossbows using my house rule - good or better. It's made some - darts, throwing axes, jo sticks - worse. I'm not going to give away the rest of the adventure, but I did find it interesting that size L creatures are so common in the tournament version of the adventure.

- a lot of plot-critical doors are stuck, and need rolling to free up. Presumably axes to free them up if everyone fails the roll.

- as usual, thanks to AD&D huge coins, the PCs have taken a literal ton of treasure - more than 2,000 pounds of coins.

- AD&D really doesn't make it easy to determine which spells are subject-centered and which are area-centered. Not for all spells, but for most.

- Ever notice that Fireball and Lightning Bolt damage is halved by a save, but a successful save vs. Flame Strike cuts the damage from 6d8 to 3d8? You apparently roll the save, then roll half as many dice for damage after that.

On some level, it's hard to express how much joy I have in the wacky rules of AD&D. Mostly because we don't have to keep dealing with them. But they're fun. And confusing enough that even our 9-year old player can't wrap his head around why doors open on a d6, bars on %, initiative is roll high and surprise is better high but 2 isn't better than 1, and so on. I hope he doesn't try grappling anything!

On anther level, though, whenever I think, "Man, we should run a campaign of this!" all of the glaring oddities give me sufficient pause to decide not to. Coin weight, missing weapon costs, weird rules with different subsystems, the pain of tracking XP, and so on just seem too much trouble. I'd end up writing a whole book of house rules and use X not Y documents that I'd probably give up part of the way in. On the other hand, it's so much fun to visit now and then . . .

Monday, October 1, 2018

AD&D Session 3: C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness (Part I)

So a Champion, a Necromancer, a High Priest, a Superior Master, and a Sharper walk into a Ghost Tower . . .

After a long break, we finally got back to AD&D. We last played AD&D running White Plume Mountain back in April of 2017.

Today we played again with five players, three of whom played in White Plume Mountain. Today's adventure was C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness, run with the tournament sections only (with one exception). I chose it because of its length, and because it's one that I never played or ran, nor had any of my AD&D vets. Even the ones that own it didn't really know the contents of it.

Lembu, Human Fighter 7 (Two-Handed Sword +1, Flame Tongue, Plate Mail +1, Potion of Speed, 2 x Potion of Extra Healing)
Hodar, Human Magic-User 10 (Scroll of Rope Trick, Potion of Extra-Healing)
Zinethar the Wise, Human Cleric 9 (Footman's Mace +1, Splint Mail +1, Potion of Extra Healing)
Li Hon, Human Monk 7 (Dagger +1, +2 vs. Small, Potion of Extra Healing)
Dicinque, Human Thief 7 (Leather +1, Potion of Invisibility, Potion of Extra Healing)

We started out with the Player's Background - it was read out loud by Li Hon's player. The conceit of this module is that all but Li Hon are convicted criminals in the Duchy of Urnst, tasked by the Duke and his advisor the Seer with a very risky mission to retrieve the mysterious Soul Gem from the Ghost Tower. Li Hon is a loaner to the Duchy from her monastery in lieu of taxes. Success means freedom (and early release of Li Hon from service), failure means they go right back in the clink. All loot was theirs to keep, minus to usual 20% fee to the Duchy!

The group was given a magic item called the Amulet of Recall which will bring all who link arms with the user back to the Duchy and the mysterious Seer.

The group spent the better part of an hour equipping themselves with magical and mundane gear with a pool of 25,000 gp and access to the Ducal armoury - with stuff ranging from a Two Handed Sword +1, Flame Tongue and six Potions of Extra-Healing - all listed above - plus a songbird for Zenither ("they're 4 cp!") The Duchy didn't have any war dogs for them to buy, however.

Lembu's player then read out the module background out loud.

At this point, they headed to the castle. There were 50' walls pierced by big holes, four 150' towers that pushed up past the clouds, and a rusted portcullis blocking the main gate. They investigated the portcullis and found they'd have to force it open - so they checked it carefully for liquids, poisons, and traps. Nothing. They then decided to walk around the castle, to see if there was an easier way in - clearly no one had paid close attention to the description. They soon spotted a hole, though, and climbed in.

Inside was the ruins of a central tower, and four corner towers with metal doors. They chose the SW tower and forced the door open. Lembu tried and failed, Li Hon tried and failed, and then Zenither forced it open. This would happen pretty consistently across the session.

They found a staircase up choked with rubble and a staircase down, and headed down. They carefully made their way around the potentially unstable dungeon tunnels, checking each and every door they found methodically for traps, keeping an eye up as well as ahead and down, tapping ahead with Li Hon's jo, and otherwise exercising great caution. They lit their way with a lantern held by Hodar, a torch by Zenither, and Lembu's sword.

The found a room with collapsed rubble from the falling ceiling. They advanced cautiously, putting Lembu in front instead of side-by-side with Li Hon as they had been. The suddenly a manticore jumped out from behind the rubble!

The party was not surprised, but the manticore won the initiative. It fired six tail spikes at the lead character - Lembu - and hit with all six (AC 2, and I rolled one 14 and five 17s-20s) and did 19 HP of damage.

Hodar yelled "Let's talk to it!" but he was only kidding. Lembu and Li Hon charged, Discinque fired his light crossbow, Hodar threw three darts, and Zenithar swapped his torch for his mace.

They meleed the manticore for a couple of rounds, with the ranged attacks mostly missing as Lembus chopped it twice on round 1 and once on round 2. Thanks to its L size he was able to hurt it greatly. Li Hon struck it open handed and was disappointed that it was too big to stun. The manticore was badly wounded by the time Zenither advanced, and he slew it with a blow from his mace.

Hodar found most of his thrown darts, and they searched the rubble. They found skeletons and rusted gear, but also two potions, a scroll, a suit of unrusted chain mail they decided must be magical (but useless - the ones who could use it had better until it was very good), and a weird flat rectangle with a circular end. They figured it must be a wand or a weapon, and tried to make it work. Nothing. They gave it to Hodar and moved on, briefly tasting both potions and determining one is either flying or levitation, and the other made the air seem thin to the sipper. They also used Cure Light Wounds on Lembu, and then he sipped a potion, using it up in three doses. Sadly low rolls meant he needed the whole thing and ended up 3 HP shy of full - a full consumption would have put him to full. The scroll turned out to be Rope Trick (I don't require Read Magic usage in one-shots, because why?) They had a good laugh over having it twice.

They continued along, checking each room carefully. They eventually found a 20' wide corridor ending in a flat metal wall of blue-grey material - same as the "wand" they found, with an indentation that could take four such items. They tried pressing theirs in all sorts of ways before they decided they couldn't, and that each tower must lead to an area with a key.

They headed back out, and to the NW tower. They repeated their move down, this time finding a lot of extra side rooms. They spent a lot of time checking those for traps, secret doors, hidden pathways, etc., not wanting to miss something. This naturally ate up a lot of time in and out of game.

They eventually found a room with a chest ("Or a mimic!") and some rough-hewn side tunnels and moved very carefully to check the chest out. Zenither ("and my bird!") watched the back, the others the chest. A rumbling came from the SW and all but Zenither turned to see what it was - it was an Umber Hulk! They were surprised for two segments and all had to make saves vs. Confusion.

Li Hon failed her save and become confused and attacked the nearest target. The Umber Hulk rushed them, but the closest target was Discinque, who was able to negate some of the surprise thanks to DEX 18. The creature still managed to claw and bite him for 7 and 7 damage, wounding him badly. The PCs rushed in, trying to look away and accepting a -4 to hit by doing so. Li Hon's attack on Lembu didn't hurt much - luckily she was carrying her Jo, so he couldn't be stunend - and then she was uselessly confused. Discinque failed next, and was confused. In the meantime, though, Zenither hit it with his mace, Lembu chopped it with his sword, and Hodar got off both of his memorized Magic Missile spells doing 16 and then 24 damage with five missiles - slightly below average and near-maximum. The second casting was enough to slay the hulk.

They searched the chest and found 11,000 mixed sp and gp (1100 pounds of coins!) and another key.

They healed up and moved on, and found another metal wall.

They left and entered the NE tower, and headed down. This time they found their way blocked by a bead curtain beyond which nothing could be seen. Some tentative investigation - including Lembu stabbing it and trying to slice a door into it (and being sad his Flame Tongue wasn't a lightsaber) - confused them as to how to get past. So they took a side door, and found a series of 20' x 20' rooms each with a single door. After three rooms a fourth had a door in a different wall, but that lead to a dead end. They moved back to the curtain. They tried closing the doors and trying the curtain. They tried burning it, ramming a torch through, hammering an iron spike through, and climbing to see if they could unhook it from the ceiling or go around. All failed to open the curtain.

They thought Knock or Dispel Magic might work, but decided the solution couldn't be so dependent on the PCs have a single spell handy. So they left and went to the SE tower.

There they traveled a long series of corridors and rooms before they found a 90 x 90 one with a sarcophagus and 16 motionless bugbears. They decided to step in. They did, and four of the bugbears leapt at them!

They stepped back into the hall to fight in a better defensive potion, and four more bugbears - including a chieftan - activated. The eight rushed them. They wounded one before Hodar got off Stinking Cloud on the room just past the end of the corridor. They slew one that was helpless but the others made their saves (great rolling by me) and escaped. They moved out of view and the PCs waited for the cloud to die down. They decided that Protection from Evil should work on the bugbears and put that on Lembu and had him rush into the room. Four more bugbears awakened!

A big brawl followed, with Hodar and Discinque firing darts and bolts into the fray as Li Hon and Zenither held the line. Lembu raged around the room, trying to get back to the other PCs. The bugbears couldn't touch him - they were unarmed - but he kept some busy as he killed them. Li Hon stunned those she could with her open hand attacks (7th level allows this on 7'6" / 600 pound foes) while Hodar and Discinque attacked those stunned guys; Zenither fought his one-on-one. They suffered a fair amount of damage but eventually cut them all down over more than 10 rounds of combat. Hodar threw all of his 42 darts during the fight!

Then Lembu tried to hack down the remaining bugbears - he cut one twice but the blows did no harm; this did awaken the remaining four, and they fought them and killed them off with minimum damage. They never quite figured that entered or leaving the doorway set off the bugbears. (Personally I love that this set-piece punishes the old run-in-run-out and kill-them-before-they-move tactics; those tactics work but sometimes they're precisely the wrong tool for the job. Had the PCs the other three keys, they could have gone in, fought four, and then moved on.)

They investigated the sarcophagus and decided to put Protection from Evil, 10' radius down on the area first. (We couldn't tell if it was an area spell, or a subject-centered spell. We went with area for this session.) They got ready for vampires and shoved open the lid, and found big piles of copper and silver, some gems, and a piece of the key.

They healed up, using up most of their remaining healing, and eventually found their way to another metal wall. They left, dragging their new treasure to dump with the old. Lembu kept checking to make sure nothing had stolen it.

Back to the NE tower, and down to the curtain.

More experimenting just didn't get them very far, so they decided to try Dispel Magic. It worked, and the curtain dropped, revealing six waiting gnolls with morningstars!

They attacked. In two rounds they managed to kill five of them and Hodar got off Charm Person on one (he rolled a 1 on his save). They questioned the charmed one, and he revealed he just found himself here, facing the curtain, and suddenly it went down and they saw the humans. So naturally, just like the reverse, they tried to kill them. "No worries, we do that too!" said Li Hon. They took their new buddy.

The hallway ended with five cubicles with human-shaped niches in the wall. They decided it was the only way past the wall. An Augury casting revealed both risk and reward if they passed the walls.

The gnoll could never fit, so they sent him to the surface to guard the treasure.

Then all at once they backed into the cubicles. Manacles clipped them to the walls, which spun and then raced them down 20, 30 or so foot corridors and dumped them out on an 8 x 8 checkered floor. Half of the squares were grey, half were a mix of green, blue, or yellow. A king-like figure held out its hand toward them straddling two squares near the opposite side, back to the only exit. They squares they stood on shifted from their original color to white as they were dropped onto them.

They debated for a long time. They decided it was either a color puzzle, or something like chess or checkers. "Chess, because it's hard!" said Lembu. They had Hodar take a tentative step. His new square turned white, his old reverted to color, and he was fine.

They tried another with Discinque, and he was zapped for 5 HP of damage as his new square turned red, then white.


They sent their songbird ahead to scout, and had Li Hon talk to it. It saw a "shiny door" at the end of the tunnel.

Around this time, after a lot of debate about using their "floating" potion the send Lembu over, stringing a rope to hand-over-hand it, using Dimension Door to get Hodar over, and so on, they decided to try to move like chess pieces. They figured out one of them was a king, and moved him one at a time until the far end, after moving one like a bishop, another like a rook, and finally debated what to do with the two knights. They realized they probably had to make the move like "one move" so Zenither walked quickly two forward and one to the side. It worked.

They moved all of them to the end safely.

They followed the tunnels past a side door and then to a metal wall. So where was the key?

They searched the side room, but not there.

They checked the statue, but didn't want to step onto the board. So they lassoed it with a rope and dragged it down and then off the board. They tried pushing his eyes, checking his sword, his hand, his hair, his crown - nope. "It's inside of him!" yelled Lembu. So Discinque put his palm to the "king's" palm. The chest opened and revealed a key.

They took the key and headed to the metal wall.

There they inserted the four pieces of the key. It melded into one and the door opened. They went inside.

Inside was a room with eight padded chairs, and the door slammed shut behind them. Wary of the seats, they all held back while Li Hon look around underneath them. After a short time, they were slammed to the floor by some amazing force (and all took 4-5 damage). After a short time, they found themselves recovered but there was a hole in the ceiling. They could it went up a ways before metal rungs were set into the shaft. So they used one of the scrolls of Rope Trick but simply got off before the extra-dimensional space and climbed up.

At the top they found a foggy, mist-shrouded area with undefined boundaries.

We stopped there for lack of time.


Our quote of the session was from Lembu's player, who said, "WHAT? I didn't agree to any crimes!" Heh.

The 25,000 gp to equip the party with mundane gear plus some magic items from a list went exactly as expected:

- it was really interesting to see the tradeoffs
- it took a long time
- not everyone enjoyed it (especially the youngest player) but some really got into the tradeoffs
- it almost went from "finished" to "trade everything back in so we can get this magic ring instead" in a moment.

I don't think I'd do that again. The player who ran Hodar said it was interesting to think of how things would have gone with different loadouts.

On three different occasions the PCs divided up a Potion of Extra-Healing into three doses. On all but one, it didn't pay off. The first time was with Lembu and he ended up needing all three doses, getting 3d8 instead of 3d8+3 healed. The next time Lembu did that, he rolled three 1s, and got back 3 HP instead of 6 for the same usage. I understand the urge to maximize the potions potential by splitting it up, but 3d8+3 is only potentially 27 HP of healing, it's not reliably one 27 or three 8s. Maximum HP on an extra healing potion odds are only 1 in 512! On the other hand, splitting it up paid off, and they did choose those potions at 800 gp each instead of Potions of Healing at 400 gp each, making it a better deal even when the lost +3 could have been important.

The curtain section was the only non-tournament bit I put in, mostly because I liked the encounter a lot and it presented a short fight as well. I didn't realize it would take so much time. The amount of time spent on meta-logic - "There must be a way beside Dispel Magic because not all parties would have the spell, so that can't be the answer" - was significant. That might be true, but I did point out that they could have taken no magic weapons with a +2 or higher and run into a "+2 or better to hit" monster (and they still might!) You can't bet on alternatives.

The bugbears were affected by Protection from Evil mostly because I figured, why not. Let's say they were summoned, it's probably in any case. Otherwise the spell would have been wasted, and since the PCs can't spam it out, why not allow it to work this way this one time in this one-shot against these bugbears?

Overall the improved level of experience with AD&D meant the game went a lot better for the PCs. For a game we play so infrequently, and so new to some of the players, their skill at it is getting better. Their overall skill at gaming - knowing what to attempt or not to attempt, proper caution vs. boldness, etc. One player noted that how you'd finish this in a short time window at a Con was to make a decision and just go with it, not sit back and try to think of all of the ways to do something and then pick the best-sounding one. He's probably right on that.

We'll play the rest of this in a few weeks if we can get at least four of the five players (one might be away for a while) and a substitute. I'm looking forward to how they deal with the tower itself . . . especially because they know the tower was long gone when they arrived. Fun, fun!
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