Sunday, December 8, 2019

As-yet unused races and templates in Felltower

I took a look at this list of races and templates from my DF game. Here are the ones we haven't seen . . . yet.

Races

We have yet to see any of these:

Half Elf
High Elf
Half-Orc

Professional Templates

We haven't had any of these, either:

Assassin (DF 12)
Bard
Evil Cleric (DF3)
Unholy Warrior (DF3)

We haven't seen every Barbarian and Swashbuckler variant, either - we've had only basic barbarians and savage warriors, and vanilla swashbucklers. I don't want to count every single variation, though - there are lots of them, and it's not such a big deal to me if the swashbucklers we've seen or barbarians we've seen have used all of the templates available.

I think I'll likely see a High Elf or Half Elf before too long, but Half-Orcs have a lot of baggage. All of the three "evil" templates - assassins, evil clerics, and unholy warriors - also have a lot of baggage. Especially evil clerics, who can't be adventuring with the regular ones and who, despite all sorts of hoping to the contrary by my players, aren't just good clerics who get extra evil abilities. You give up a lot when you turn evil. Bards, well, someday someone might run a bard. I like the DFRPG one better but either would be interesting to see.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Dungeon Fantasy Companion speculation

A cover and an announcement for Dungeon Fantasy Companion, by Sean Punch, was put up on Kickstarter.



Here is what I'm speculating will go in it:

- leftover magic items that didn't fit into Magic Items 2 thanks to not making the extra page count.
- new templates for player character professions
- new templates for player character races
- possibly more "power up" style additions to existing templates.

It would be a good place for new rules, but DFRPG isn't rules-heavy. Monsters, too - it could possibly include monsters left out of Monsters 2 (but for various reasons I suspect they'd get saved for Monsters 3.)

That's what I mostly think will be included.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Circular Stonehell

I think this circular map of Stonehell level 1 is neat as can be:



Pretty cool.

What's in the middle? Is it a shaft straight to Hell?

Yes, of course it would be in my game. Why wouldn't it be?

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Limiting Dodges exemption

I am blatantly stealing an idea from Christopher Rice and then slightly modifying it - an exemption from Limiting Dodges.

Limiting Dodges (GURPS Martial Arts, p. 122) recommends exempting fighters with Trained by a Master or Weapon Master from multiple Dodge penalties or restricted Dodge against firearms. Add Enhanced Time Sense to that list. Even in a game where TBAM and WM don't provide this exemption, ETS should.

Great idea, Chris!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Car Wars 6th edition Kickstarter

The Car Wars 6th edition Kickstarter is up:



It's been running for a few days now and it's fully funded.

It's not for me, though. I came into it in the pocket-box and paper counter days. It was a great game. This redo of the game is probably great, too, but I'm just not in the market for another minis-and-board dice-and-tokens game. If you are, and you like Car Wars, take a look.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

More on Laws & Customs of Surrender

Thinking more about laws & customs of surrender.

Life has value

Literal value. You can buy yours (and your stuff) with payment. Many of your foes are actually more valuable to you living than dead. They can provide ransom, be enlisted to service, and may even be socially obligated to provide information willingly (depending on the culture.) Killing them means all you get is their stuff. Sparing them may mean you get more value than their stuff is worth on the market.

"No Quarter" Means Something

If most battles are to defeat, not extermination, then the ones that do mean something. Foes that kill their defeated foes are a little scarier and deserve death in return became a special threat. If every fight is always to the death, then there is nothing special about ruthless foes.

Murder-Hobo Disadvantages Hurt

If you are generally compelled by your disadvantages to kill your foes (Bloodlust, Intolerance), or tend to limit your options in not using excessive violence (Intolerance, Bad Temper, Compulsive Behaviors of the right sorts, etc.), you will suffer an inability to take advantage of such customs.

This makes disadvantages like Bloodlust really more of a disadvantage. Right now, it's generally a quirk-level of effect. It's annoying to players who'd prefer that they question a prisoner without access to supernatural means to question the dead, but otherwise, that's about it.* But if foes reasonably expect battles to not be to the death, and gaining something of value from a defeated but living foe is on tap - even more value than if the foe is slain - then it's well worth -10 points.

Civilized Disadvantages Hurt & Help

Code of Honor, Honesty, and other do-gooder disadvantages are a disadvantage in that they compel you to follow the rules of war and surrender. But equally, they help you when the enemy has them, and will essentially force you to take the more valuable "spare them" option. If life is indeed valuable, in a monetary sense, you're going to come out ahead of the murder-hobo types.




Anything else I missed?





* Well, that and the inevitable attempt to explain that your guy puts in an extra shot to be sure of a downed foe at the end of a fight, not in the middle of battle, so it's not even tactically inconvenient.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Laws & Customs of Surrender

This excellent post over on The Dragon's Flagon prompted this post in turn.

Surrender

If you read the Tales of Froissart, Medieval history in general, or watch lots of YouTube histories of battles (like this one here), you'll constantly run into the concept of ransom of nobles. Capture an important enemy knight, you sell him back to his family (and treat him well in the meantime.)

I find most gamers come at battle with a 20th/21st century concept of ruthless total war. A defeated enemy is a prisoner. Prisoners are held indefinitely or killed outright. All belongings of the defeated belong to the victor. A prisoner has no value to the victory except for what he or she carries or the information he or she can give about allies or treasure. And that's more easily extracted, in fantasy games at least, after murder using Speak with Dead (D&D) or Summon Spirit (GURPS Magic.) The concept of prisoners for ransom, prisoner exchanges - a perfectly common 20th century phenomenon, and release on exchange (you go home and don't fight until officially exchanged for another prisoner) - they may as well not exist.

With that in mind, would you surrender? At best, you're looted of everything of value and set free, but that's unlikely. You expect to be stripped of gear and either sold into slavery or murdered.

But I think there is a way to do this.

Laws of War

Implement some rules of value.

Make it clear right from the start of the campaign that there are certain concepts of war and battle that are accepted. When a civilized foe is defeated, it's accepted in general that he or she should pay a ransom in return for being spared. You may claim their goods, or a ransom, but not both - and it's generally preferred that you claim a ransom. It's considered bad form to seize goods outright with the acceptance of such by the defeated. Ransom will generally be in cash, but can also be in kind, deeds, or promises (in a game that needs them - I'll respect your borders for a year, we'll conclude a pact, I'll protect your allies in my territory, etc.) If you can't pay in cash, you can hand over your gear.

Service also counts. Using the rates as a hireling (DF15, p. 32) to calculate how long of service works, or you can default to a year's service in lieu of handing over goods of value. This is a great way to get hirelings, by the way - defeat the enemy, recruit them instead of looting them, and you've got hirelings who've agreed to work for you for a year without pay (you would still need to make sure their upkeep is cared for, through loot or pay.)

Another option is to pay a month's upkeep. A Status 0 foe might owe $200, while a high-ranking noble may owe many thousands. They could easily be worth more than their carried goods.

For example, you defeat a foe and he or she surrenders. You can claim his or her gear and let them go, or you can claim a ransom. The ransom should be similar to the sale value of the gear seized - say, 50%. The defeated and the victor can negotiate turning over a particular piece of gear as part of the negotiations. If you defeat an enemy swordsman and he doesn't want to give you his Weapon Bond sword he doesn't have to, but may have to pay quite a lot to keep it (assuming the foe values it correctly.)

Also state outright that NPCs follow these by default. That is, it's likely that foes will follow these rules more than they'll break them. Most enemies will follow these rules; ones with "oath breaker" disadvantages will have appropriate reputations. But otherwise, assume civilization matters and the rules are followed.


The concepts of absolute good and evil work against such social mores, however. Can you free a member of a Chaotic Evil race? Would a Lawful Good character free an evil foe, and vice-versa? Would Lawful Good people really be fighting each other to the death? Those are maybes, but it's another layer of complication and another step in the going-on 50 year arguments about what alignment means. In a game without strict alignment but clear definitions of evil - GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, for example - it's unlikely true evil will just ransom off a Holy Warrior of the Good God or spare some "useless" prisoners. But the more civilized types might - anything that lacks "Truly evil" could follow these norms, rules, and mores. And even then Truly Evil ones may spare those that surrender in an attempt to use Good to defeat Good. And Good can try to use the weaknesses of evil to escape and win the day, as well.

All in all, though, I feel like stating outright that surrender is viable and likely only costs you service or some of your cash can help. Combined with "fleeing always works" and knowing what the foes want can make fights doubly less all-or-nothing decisions. Players fear death of their PCs and often fear loss of their cool stuff more than death. "I may as well be dead if I'm going to lose my magic sword and armor" can end a PC and make for long slog fights where the players desperately try to drag it out while they come up with a miracle to win. But knowing, hey, I surrender and pay some cash and escape - maybe that's the way to go. Maybe next time after the extracted truce ends, you can get some payback. But surrender doesn't equate with death, and it's stated outright.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Snow Saves Slave Lords

Snow and ice wiped out a session against the Slave Lords today, so unfortunately we weren't able to get in any gaming at all today.

I instead did some game prep. Mostly this consisted of cleaning up and organizing my game materials a bit. But I also decided on how I'll proceed for the Slave Lords series going forward.

For the second part of A1, I'll go with "mystic healing powers of the temple" to restore the wounded to full HP. I was going to go with partial - 75% of the lost - but the PCs lack any healing reserves. I feel the appropriate effects of the first session are the cost in spells are reserve items. They've used most of their potions, wasted their Potion of Clairaudience to clairaudit into a Silence, 15' Radius spell, cast a number of spells (especially Phanstern when he was flailing to "not waste" spells as he was mauled in melee), and otherwise expended resources.

Everyone at full HP and the PCs restored - including Phanstern, who'll catch up - and down spells and consumables seems fair.

Thinking about the previous game, it was obvious retroactively how used to "GURPS on hard mode" my players are. They put a troll down and then used two flasks of oil and lit them with a precious charge from a Wand of Fire even though any one of those things would have done the job. But they're used to needing to inflict 120 HP of burning damage-based injury to ensure a dead troll. They'd have used the rest of their flasks if I hadn't stopped them.

They're also a little unfamiliar with their own magic, which cost them. Witness the Sleep spell cast off to the side of combat to avoid putting a PC to sleep - something that simply wouldn't happen based on the level of the PC (and the distribution of sleep effect levels.) This cost them some resources and time that wouldn't have been an issue for a more veteran AD&D group. They'll learn, which will be critical to surviving the later modules and when we go on to the Giants series. You can't usefully run 9th-14th level PCs if you struggle to effectively run 3rd-6th level PCs.

Sadly the ice and snow cost me a day of gaming I won't ever get back. But in a couple weeks we'll have another day, and the Slave Lords will take some hits then. Or the PCs will be exterminated in the attempt. And boy will that throw a wrench into my plans to run the whole series, eh?

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Building a Better PC - 2019 addition

Here are other ways to Build a Better PC, following on the ones I listed in these posts:

Building a Better PC

and the posts linked here:

Stuff I Like: Being a Better Player

One of the reasons I can play with such a large group is this trait of my players:

Offload From the GM

The GM has a lot to do. The GM is the bottleneck of play - and the GM's attention cannot be focused on more than one area or one player at a time. The GM is needed to keep things moving - it's a GM-centric approach to play.

Because of this, any administrative tasks the GM needs to perform take away from time that could be spent focusing on resolving PC actions. It's valuable as a player to limit the amount of admin a GM needs to do.

In my own games, for example, my players offload the following:

- rolling to hit and damage
- effects of damage on PCs
- calculating margin of success
- tracking consumables, loot, and encumbrance
- calculating spell costs
- calculating and tracking spell energy recovery
- timing of spell effects

amongst other things. This allows me as the GM to focus my attention where the players can't fully offload the task from me, such as NPC actions, arbitrating decisions, and describing the world.

The more you can take off the GM's plate, the more smoothly game can run.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Das Schwarze Auge?

The CRPG fanatic began playing a computer game based on Das Schwarze Auge - "The Dark Eye." That game is Realms of Arcania. I have not played either.

I've long been casually curious about Das Schwarze Auge. It's one of those games that for me just seemed to come up in online forum discussions. People would refer to it, but it was only in German so that was that. You'd have to take someone's word on what it contained, how it was, what you were missing out on, etc.

There is now a Wikipedia entry on it and a number of editions. One of them was translated to English.

It's the earlier ones that hold the most interest to me though. It's the game I flet was teased around the edges as this novel, innovative game that catered to the German market in a way that D&D and other English-language games never could.

Have any of the earlier editions, especially the first, ever been translated into English? It seems from Wikipedia that it's only in German up until 4th (and now 5th) editions. It seems like someone must have made the effort, especially given the interest in the last 10 years or so in older game editions. It would be interesting to read.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thankful for . . .

This year I'm thankful for:

- the DFRPG Bestiary I was thankful for last year came out this year.

- my large and entertaining gaming group.

- my lack of additional mutations on Hillbilly in Gamma Terra.

- one of my players getting some actually readable dice for some game sessions.

- the willingness of my players to try out old games like AD&D instead of playing their beloved characters (who keep dying, so I'm thankful for their willingness to make up new paper men!)

- and the people who read, link to, and comment on my blog.

Thanks everyone.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Cardboard Moathouse from T1 The Village of Hommlet

ChicagoWiz is building a replica of the moathouse from T1 The Village of Hommlet for a convention.

You can see his progress pics and so on here:

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Car Wars 6th edition is coming soon

I got a prompt for a launch notification on this today:



I'm not sure if I'm in, but I'm interested in a look. And they're promising a "day one bonus." It launched on Black Friday, which is a work day for me, but I'll give it a look after work and see what's what.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Finally facing my Waterloo?

I stumbled across this at a Christmas boutique at Lambert Castle over the weekend:



It was all of $15 for the 1962 edition.

Two downsides to it:

- it was pretty battered. It's seen a lot of getting crunched around since 1962.

- it was tied closed and the staff informed me, unasked, that they can't open it as they're responsible for ensuring none of the contents are lost.

The second part made sense, of course, but the guy I asked couldn't tell me if it was complete or not, or know who would know.

So I passed on it. It would be fun to have a really old Avalon Hill game to play, and $15 would be a fine price for even a one-shot playthrough. But if it's missing pieces, or they're all messed up . . . eh. I didn't want it that badly.

It's still out there if you want it . . . and they run this holiday boutique until 12/1 .

Sunday, November 24, 2019

My Large Gaming Group - How did we get here & the effects of size

My current crop of regular gamers - in DF Felltower and in AD&D, and in andi's GT game as well - consists of a lot of people.

How did this happen?

We started with five, only four of whom could make the first session. They were guys from my previous gaming group and a friend who'd popped in and out of my games for years.

Over time, we added two more online acquaintances. We lost a couple of the originals over time. Then we added back in two guys from my previous game. Then the son of one of the players began to play, at the same time as a new acquaintance tried the game. Then his sons joined in. We lost one to "occasional only" status due to work, and another dropped out after the big Beholder fight, coincidentally or not. One guy who popped in for GT became a semi-regular in DF and in GT, and plays AD&D with us sometimes, too.

This has left us with nine regular players not including me, and a couple of occasional players.

It's why I'm reluctant to add players even when people have asked. Returnees are always welcome, though. Potentially, we could have a session with 14 players if everyone came back.

The benefits and difficulties of size have really been apparent, recently.

The sheer physical size of the group means that if a lot of people can come to game, we need a lot of room. A table with a folding table on the end, with the GM trapped in a corner, is standard these days.

We can't easily run games balanced for a smaller group. Have a D&D5 adventure set for five gamers? We're going to double that.

But we can run really old-school tournament adventures no problem. Nine PCs like in the A-series and G-series? No problem. We can take a solid crack at the 20-man roster from Tom of Horrors or Barrier Peaks with only one or two people needing run a third character. Maybe with some running only one if we get an especially full house.

It's bad for my love of henchmen and hirelings. I wrote DF15 and it gets less of a workout in my GURPS games when people show up with 8-9 PCs to explore 3-yard wide dungeon corridors.

It's good for running games in general, because we only need 3-4 people to play the game with a solid base of adventurers, and that means any day we choose is good enough.

It's bad when we have no idea if we'll have four or eight on a given day, though.

Games can be slow - and combats even slower. If everyone takes 1 minute to resolve their turn, a 9-player roster takes an hour for a 6-turn fight - and that assumes the GM can get through all of the NPCs in 1 minute! I've needed to offload some of the responsibilities to coordinate big fights to the players just to keep up.

Overall, it's a plus. I get to run big games, and there is no one in my group that I'd be happy to see leave. I'd be even happier if the ones who can't come regularly or who quit long ago were able to come back. But it's not without complications and benefits.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Jim Ward on Supervising Freelancers

Jim Ward - Drawmij - posted a nice article over on ENWorld:

TSR's "Designeritus"

It's short but interesting.

My favorite bit is this:

I did figure out a useful trick for the designers. I would have them give me all the material they had designed in a weeks time on Friday. They all wanted to make sure their amount of work looked good. I would take one of the turn overs and read it on the weekend and give that designer feedback on Monday. Deadlines became much easier to hit when the designers had to work hard every week.

In other words, don't just leave them loose, but force them to turn over material as they go to keep them producing - and producing enough and at a high enough quality. A series of deadlines vs. one deadline . . . that's how I train people, nevermind get people to keep turning in work. You don't want one big dump of perceived perfection, you want steady progress that you can keep tweaking.

Interesting stuff.

I had Greyhawk Adventures and sold it, though, without regrets. So maybe that 3 month turnaround cost something, somewhere.

Friday, November 22, 2019

New GURPS Book - Power Ups 9

A new GURPS book came out this week - GURPS Power-Ups 9: Alternate Abilities.



If I had to sum the book up in a sentence or two, it's a discussion of changing the price - or the nature - of existing attributes and secondary characteristics. It's also a discussion of how to add additional abilities to the canonical attributes and secondary characteristics.

Basically if you ever wanted to re-cost GURPS attributes or add new ones, this book will help you do so with a solid idea of the pricing decisions involved. It's a very wonky book for system-hackers.

I received my copy as a complimentary copy for providing some peer review feedback.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

A1 in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

I've posted before about using A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity in GURPS.

I've done it before.

But how would it be for GURPS DF?

Let's take a look.

Numbers

Numbers mean much more in GURPS than in AD&D. Being outnumbered 2:1 in a close-in melee in AD&D sucks. In GURPS, it's quite likely lethal. Fighting foes with cover, waiting in ambush, and being forced to come out of a tunnel/funnel into a large combat area is rough at best. In AD&D, it's just spice to the encounter. While DF adventurers are far tougher than the low-to-mid level AD&D guys suggested for the adventure, the foes equally have more options.

Overall I'd say it's a wash, with a slight edge toward more dangerous foes at numbers tough to deal with in GURPS.

Lethality

The enemies in this adventure are relatively low-powered for DF. They're numerous, see above, but they aren't terribly tough. Some of them can be, depending on how you stat up the Aspis, what spells you give the clerics, and so on. Setting the bosses up to at least 250 and more like 300-375 points might make them a better challenge for a medium-sized DF group. Still, it'll be critical hits and player mistakes that cost DFers in a way that they'd never cost AD&Ders.

Traps and Obstacles

The access to spells in GURPS on a routine basis means most of the obstacles are more pass/fail - if you have the right spells, you'll pass them easily, If not, you'll fail to pass them easily and need to do some thinking like the AD&Ders do.

Traps have the same situation. They're going to have much more potential lethality in GURPS but likely fail due to spells, armor, skills, and defenses. Player prep will have an amplified effect due to those.

Overall

A1 is a pretty good target for a DF conversion. Adding a real heavy-hitter monster or two might add to the challenge even if it takes away from the purity of the conversion. All in all, I've run it GURPS and it went well, so there is no reason it can't be run in GURPS DF despite the presence of stronger PCs in general.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Finding John M. Ford

For those of you who remember John M. Ford, aka Mike Ford:

The Disappearance of John M. Ford

John M. Ford wrote a number of gaming items, as well. Among them are the amazing Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues adventure for Paranoia and co-wrote GURPS Traveller: Starports, the story "Alkahest" for Autoduel Quarterly, GURPS Time Travel, and co-wrote GURPS Infinite Worlds.

But mostly I remember him for his signatures. He was a frequent poster to the SJG GURPS forums for Pyramid magazing 2.0, and if I remember correctly to GURPSNet-L as well. He would post the most amazing signatures at the bottom of his posts . . . each one a little comic and apropos gem. I saved a huge file of them and I can't find it anymore. Otherwise I'd post some. I read every single post of his just to see what he'd write up at the end.

He died back in 2006, but it seems that his books will come back in print thanks to the article author looking into his life and works. Hurrah!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Followup to A1, and Next Time?

Yesterday I posted the summary for Sunday's AD&D session, A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity - Part I.

Further Notes

A few little things about the session:

- I forgot that slowed opponents give a +4 to the "to hit" rolls of their opponents. (DMG p. 67)

- The big set-piece in the temple - that was the first time I got to run that. I was prepared but should have been more so . . . I needed to have a better list of all of the spell effects. I managed but should have done so more smoothly.

- The courtyard fight, too, was a first time. The two times I ran A1 before people just bypassed those and got right down to the lower level and explored there. The courtyard fight seems very threatening - foes with 50-90% cover and a cool weapon. Or, you can just charge them and make their cover - and their fancy ranged weapon - useless. That's what happened.

- Thieves really aren't allowed to try and try and try again to Hide in Shadows. I remembered that later in the session but didn't enforce it. I'll do so next time so we don't have one player rolling endlessly to hide. One roll, and move on. Although those same rolls admonish me that the "Roll of the dice for any thief function must be kept absolutely secret, so the thief (or similar character) does not know the results!" (DMG p. 19) I prefer to just roll in the open. It's part of the fun for me.

- the players insisted on rolling for languages to fill out their lists using the DMG p. 102, so we have people who speak red dragon, manticore, bugbear, spirit naga, and brass dragon. Dread and Phanstern both spoke centaur and used it as a secret language between them. Thor speaking Groot makes more sense than Kayan Telva speaking spirit naga.

What next?

We go on to Part II of A1, the Sewers.

The party was pretty well mauled by the adventure, where they fought a pack of ghouls and ghasts, about three dozens orcs and half-orcs including assassins and a cleric, a cleric, a troll, and faced a couple of traps and some nasty tricks.

As I look at their sheets, we're down two PCs - Eljayess and Phanstern are down and out, having gone to 0 HP and below. The others? Hurt.

Elwita - HP ? out of 54 - I can't follow the player's notations. I know he can, but I can't.
"Ogre" - HP 13 out of 45
Fredda - HP 10 out of 40
Karraway - HP 42 out of 42
Blodgett - HP 19 out of 25
Dread Delgath - HP 9 out of 25
Phanstern - HP 1 out of 25 (OUT)
Eljayess - HP 0 out of 25 (OUT)
Kayen Telva - HP 1 out of 25.

The PCs are completely out of healing spells and down two characters.

If they go on as-is, they'll lost most of the PCs in short order. This is definitely a time to pull back. But it's way more fun to continue on. Some options include:

1) Re-start. These were different rounds in the tournament. I could re-set them to the start with full HP and so on.

2) Partial re-start. Provide some healing and allow the two wounded guys to recover enough to continue. I could provide a certain number of healing potions (there is a plausible, convenient place to put them outside of where they looked so far.) I could provide a scroll of cleric spells (basically the same thing.)

Or I could just declare them healed up thanks to found healing items and the blessings of the god who the temple originally belonged to, and heal them fully or partially. Like, everyone gains 50% or 75% of their lost HP. At 1 out of 25? You get back 75% of 24 = 16, you're at 17. At 13 out of 45? You're back to 37 (32 x 75% = 24). That takes out the nasty randomness of given them potions that might give back 27 or might give back 6.

3) Suck it up. Just play as-is and see how far they can make it! With excellent play, they might be able to get part of the way there. Heh.

I'm leaning toward 2b right now. Used up spells? Too bad. Found cool stuff? Use it. We'll reset entirely for A2 in all likelihood.

Monday, November 18, 2019

AD&D Session 5: A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity - Part I

Today we played our 5th session of AD&D, where we run through old modules as-written just because it's fun. We use AD&D as much as possible as-written, except where the rules are nonsensical (Weapoon Speed, say) or impeded play (Initiative). But generally we revel in them. It's a nice vacation from GURPS.

Today we played A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity, as part of a planned series of sessions that will eventually take us through the stockade (A2), aerie (A3), and dungeons (A4) of the Slave Lords.

SPOILER ALERT! This will absolutely spoil most of the adventure for you.

For ease of following this later, I've noted the initials of the players who ran the characters. Note that one player ran both Dread Delgath and Phanstern. Barely anyone wanted to run spellcasters, and the player who ran Eljayess was determined to be more fighter than cleric. Let's see how that all turned out!




Characters
Elwita, Dwarf F6 (M.H.)
"Ogre", Human F5 (J.M.)
Freda, Human R4 (M.L.)
Karraway, Human C6 (A.J.)
Blodgett, Halfing T5 (M.D.)
Dread Delgath, Human MU5 (V.L.)
Phanstern, Human I5 (V.L.)
Eljayess, Half-Ef C3/F3 (J.D.)
Kayen Telva, Elf F4/MU4 (O.L.)

We began with a reading of the Official Background, by J.M., who did his best Mako impression but occasionally lurched into Strongbad. The group started at nighttime outside a secret door being the fire-gutted temple, at a secret door described by an escaped slave. The front gate was guarded by alert troops who routinely searched and disarmed visitors, making that seem like a bad choice. (It would be; it would certainly end the adventure right there.)

The PCs opened the secret door, and moved in, and bunched up while lighting a lantern for Phanstern to carry. With 9 people in 5' wide corridors, the group extended a good 30-40' long even with fairly close spacing. They found and opened a second secret door after Blodgett listened at it and moved in further. They detoured briefly to the right and found an empty room with debris on the floor from the fire and a newly-built wall of much more solid construction than the fire-scorched stone of the original temple. They spend a few turns checking for secret doors but found nothing, and searched the rubble briefly.

They changed directions and went the other way, and began to carefully check door for traps before listening. On this one they found a bent-back board trap that would hit around chest level. So they backed off and let Blodgett trip it off as it went cleanly over his head.

Next they found a burned door. Beyond it was a room with a ledge around the top - the remnants of an upper floor room that had collapsed. It stank of rot. This turned out to not be enough of a clue. Elwita smashed the door up to for "Ogre" to squeeze through but they then decided to sent Elwita in first. She ducked in and was surprised when a pack of ghouls and two ghasts leaped down and attacked! She was quickly cut up a bit (6-8 HP?) and paralyzed. "Ogre" tried to pull her back and she got slashed a bit more before "Ogre" could cut and wound one ghoul. Karraway squeezed up and got out his holy symbol. He turned the ghasts and ghouls easily and score a 12 on number affected. They scrambled up to their second floor hideaway. (They briefly debated trying to follow and kill them, but decided not to when I told them cornered Turned undead would likely fight. They moved on, mission over extermination.) Elwita was paralyzed for 11 turns - almost two hours! - and they couldn't wait. They carried her.

Next they climbed some stairs to the second story and crossed a room with a collapsed floor by way of a beam across the open space. They declined to try either the shaky side ledge or the seemingly-solid ("trapped" opined "Ogre") ledge on the other side. They made it across, and contrived a way to to pull Elwita across using a rope and Blodgett to keep her on the beam.

Next they found some vinegar in barrels. Down some nearby stairs they saw a tarry pile of rags near a door. Blodgett opined that it was a giant sundew (because M.D. had been through the adventure before, decades ago, which sparked the "Giant Sundew story" that explains why his younger brother was recruited into our game.) So they decided to roll the barrels down and floor the room with vinegar. This they did.

They then quickly rushed the sundew - Freda, "Ogre," and Eljayess. They melee'd it and took several points of damage each from its acidic sap until they decided to wash it off with the vinegar. They forced the nearby door and headed out.

They found a way down to tunnels beneath the temple. There they rested near a ladder back up to the ground floor, waiting for Elwita to recover from her paralysis. She did. They gave her a Potion of Extra-Healing and cured all of the damage the ghouls did (around 20 or so.)

Blodgett listened at the trapdoor at the top of the ladder but didn't hear anything. Elwita climbed up and lift the top. She saw a long room lined with manacled slaves in ratty robes. At the end was a door, and shadows playing on the door showed an ogre in an adjacent chamber with a whip. The slaves cringed at every whip crack. So they climbed up after Karraway put Silence, 15' Radius on Elwita. They lined up amidst the the slaves, ready to rush the ogre.

But as they moved foward the "slaves" broke free of their trick manacled and attacked with shortswords - and one at the front began to cast a spell. They weren't surprised - a benefit of having a ranger - but were in trouble - everyone was in close melee. The half-orc (as it turned out they all were) at the front cast Bless, aiding himself and some nearby allies, but none of the folks already in melee.

Elwita quickly slew two nearby "slaves" and rushed ahead. As she did, two more "slaves" popped out of the shadows and backstabbed Eljayess and Phanstern. Eljayess got off easy - 6 damage on 1d6+1! Phanstern wasn't hit but was engaged by the assassin who attacked him. Karraway got off Hold Person on two slaves near Dread Delgath and Phanstern. Those two tried spells - Dread got off Magic Missile with a lucky win on initiative and killed one "slave" and wounded another. Phanstern tried Mirror Image but failed as he was wounded during the casting. That would happend with Color Spray, Hypnotism, and I think one other. Casting in melee with AC6 doesn't work well.

The PCs systematically killed off the "slaves" while three orcs - two with light crossbows and one with a whip - ran out from the other chamber. Elwita, "Ogre," and Freda engaged them and slew them quickly before taking out the fighter/cleric. Dread resorted to his club and killed a "slave" and then proceeded to badly wound the assassin on Phanstern with it, never missing and rolling 4-6 damage each time. Phanstern though was cut down to 0 HP and collapsed, bleeding out. Eljayess and Dread, soon aided by Karraway, finished the assassins. They slew the paralyzed "slaves" and looted the dead after they used Cure Light Wounds to keep Phanstern alive (but he was helpless thanks to dropping to -5 HP before being saved.) Dread and Eljayess were fairly well mauled. They used up all of their healing potions and spells getting people back into reasonable shape. They took the shortswords off of the assassins and fighter-cleric (all +1, in the end), found the lantern the orcs used to mime an "ogre," and put on a (non-magical) ring found on one of the enemy.

They moved on, after stashing Phanstern in a safe spot, minus his silver dagger in case they needed that.

Next they found a corridor that had collapsed down the middle, revealed sewer water flowing toward them. The decided eventually to save their spells and have Blodgett climb over with a lanyarded hammer and two ropes so he could nail them into the wall for a rope walkway. They did this . . . eventually. Blodgett made it across three times, but fell while trying to hammer in the spikes. The fourth time worked. He came back and "Ogre" climbed over and tried the door . . but failed (I gave them a -1 to force doors.) Elwita went over and forced it. They then climbed one by one over and into a dry corridor.

The next door they found wasn't trapped but they couldn't hear anything. They forced it and failed . . . and then forced it and succeeded. It was the entrance courtyard! There were six orcs, three behind each of two tables they'd flipped over, and four half-orcs behind a weird pushcart with a mantlet and a nozzle with a lit torch in front of it.

The PCs lost initiative, sadly, and the half-orcs fired a jet of flame at them. Elwita made her saving throw vs. Breath Weapons and took 9 damage . . . but (for some bizarre reason) by making her save blocked the flame for everyone else!

They rushed the orcs. "Ogre" and Elwita rushed the left. Kayan Telva stepped up and cast Sleep as Freda rushed the flamethrower.

Kayan's spell was deliberately targeted wide to just clip the orcs and not catch the melee between the half-orcs and Freda. Three orcs fell asleep. The others were quickly slain by the fighters in 3-4 rounds of melee.

Not wise enough to leave well enough alone, Kayan Telva and Dread decided to learn to operate the flamethrower. They messed around with the nozzles and bellows and blew the cart up . . . for 11 HP of damage each. (I spared them rolling saving throws for all of their items because I can be soft.)

They damped out the fires and opened a pair of big temple doors. Beyond were 8 statue pairs of orcs and gargoyles, all ready to attack. Naturally, they recognized these were going to animate and attack. Blodgett shot a sling at a gargoyle to no effect, and one at an orc as well. Nothing. They animate when you go near, then. So some of the fighters went up - Kayan, Eljayess, and Elwita. Nothing animated, but they had to be sure. So they knocked over the statues, smashed the hands off of the gargoyles and orcs, and otherwise trashed the statues thoroughly. Halfway up the corridor, though, they triggered an electrical Glyph of Warding and all three were zapped. Eljayess went to negative HP and had to be stabilized and stashed aside, incapable of further action. They stopped smashing, and soon they reached more double doors. Blodgett listened and heard commands being given in orcish by a female voice. Then it stopped.

(Forgot to mention: Karraway then used his Potion of Clairaudience to clairaudit the area past the door - and heard nothing.)

They got ready and forced the doors, with Dread ready to use his Wand of Fire to kill the serried ranks of foemen (heh) with Fireball. Instead it was a smallish temple with a statue of Gruumsh, some half-orcs in plate mail, a female human cleric, and some bound up slaves. So they just rushed in after Dread cast Slow as the cleric drank a potion. That turned out to be a Potion of Speed so she was at normal speed and her bodyguards half speed.

Kayan cast Suggestion and had a long and complicated suggestion about how the cleric would benefit from helping them kill her bodyguards, then step 2, then PROFIT! Despite Prayer and Protection from Good, she blew her save. She helped attack her bodyguards, but only after casting Spiritual Hammer and sending it after Dread. The PCs meleed the half-orcs and killed one while Blodgett tried to hide, but failed (repeatedly.) Dread ran away to get away from the hammer.

As the melee went on, though, a miniature troll sprung out of a nearby poorbox (presumably left from the original temple, that box) and grew to full size. It attacked with surprise and got off two full attack sequences on the fighters attacking the half-orcs. The cleric cast Hold Person on the half-orcs but failed! Kayan shot her a couple of times with arrows, missing because of her low AC. Then Kayan cast Invisibility and moved around behind the cleric. As that happened, an assassin popped out from the shadows behind one door and backstabbed Karraway. Terrible rolling meant a miss by 1, even against shieldless, DX-less AC with a +4 to hit! Blodgett and Karraway meleed the poor assassin and eventually killed him.

The troll mauled the PCs a bit before they cut it down. Blodgett and "Ogre" dumped flasks of oil on the fallen troll as Dread ran back in and used his Wand of Fire to cast Burning Hands on the troll. Fwooosh.

The half-orcs went down soon after, but not before one finally connected and did 8 damage to Elwita. They mobbed the cleric and killed her.

They freed the slaves, looted the bodies, and found a trapdoor down to the next level.

We ended there, with the badly mauled group pondering how to recover so they could fight their way through the level below.

Notes:

Fun stuff. We reveled in the weirdness that is AD&D, as well as its fun. Best part of the day? Our 12-year old gamer who started gaming with GURPS Dungeon Fantasy opining often that "AD&D is so complicated!" Yes, yes it is. Even when the mechanics are simple, there are so. damn. many. of them. Subsystems for everything, no two exactly alike!

So whose initials are LJS? Is Lawrence Shick's middle initial J?

I slightly modified the adventure to make a bit more sense to me. I moved one initial trap - the door trap marked 1 on the map was moved to the next-nearest door. I felt it fit better there. I slightly changed the nature - but not effects - of the last trap. In between, I mentioned doors, corridors, etc. and said "you know nothing further is that direction." Basically, the map is nonsensical with chunks missing, but telling the players the adventure wasn't there was sufficient. Maybe a slave told them, maybe they could see the lack of usage, maybe they guessed well.

I was pleased that the players showed some solid caution but not too much. Also, that they weren't insisting on exploring every inch of the map. They did manage to waste a good chunk of time in the very first room, checking for secret doors, checking the new construction on the far wall, etc. but then kept up the pace from there.

Spellcasting while in melee range fails most of the time. That didn't stop the players from trying. It's just that only two spells got off that way out of something like five tries. Phanstern tried Color Spray, Mirror Image, and Hypnotism and failed all three. Dread Delgath got off Magic Missile and failed at one other spell. Karraway only got off Hold Person because his AC was so low that he was unlikely to be hit at all. Ironically it was against a group of very weak but numerous foes - the very reason he could get off a third-level spell.
The logic of casting was that, well, better use the spells now before the caster dies. Mostly, though, it just meant failures.

Sleep may have been a better choice there but no one wanted to put allies to sleep. The spell, as written, affects the weakest before the strongest, and most of the PCs are too high level to be affected at all. Even so, it wasn't used in that fight because of the closeness of allies and deliberately aimed wide when it was used to avoid hitting a 4th level PC who wasn't likely to fall asleep anyway. I assume this is because the player didn't know exactly how the spell worked. I could have pointed it out but I generally just let things ride and let them figure this out through play. It's more memorable that way.

Playing with the flamethrower was amusing. The two players were so sure they could figure it out and use it as a weapon. The module doesn't allow you to even try. Me, I just reasoned they'd be unable to try but messing with it could have messy consequences. They were warned it was complex but fiddled anyway. It was too tempting . . . and cost two characters a lot of HP they can't get back.

The statues situation was inevitable. Every statue, in every dungeon, is a trap or a monster in the eyes of PCs. So much so that they missed the actual trap trying to disarm the imagined trap, and made so much noise the foes in the final room were well ready for them. Had they just, say, sent their thief ahead and moved quietly, they might have avoided the trap and potentially taken the big boss of the upper level by surprise. Or at less without her buffing spells.

The ruling on Suggestion was tough. The suggestion was specific about killing the half-orcs, and the cleric failed her save. But it wasn't "work with us" or "don't fight us" and no one stopped attacking her. It made for a weird three-way fight.

Next session is part 2 of A1 - the "Undercity" portion. I'm not sure how we'll go about that . . . the PCs are fairly well mauled after Part I. But that's a post for tomorrow!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

AD&D pre-summary

Today we have most of our regulars, but not all of them . . . and one former regular come back to play. So we had eight players.

Yes, my group is large these days.

We ran A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity. It was a lot of fun. It went well. We had:

- a couple of casualties

- lots of clever play

- some really silly play

- some very typical adventurer must-dos that cost like they usually cost

- tough combats

- and endless fun with the wording of rules written by E. Gary Gygax.

Ah, fun stuff.

I'll get a complete summary tomorrow but it's never dull busting out AD&D with my group.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

More AD&D Rules changes for A1

Besides the simplified initiative system, elimination of Weapon Speed (and those weird moments of extra attacks),

Contrary to SPELL CASTING DURING MELEE (DMG p. 65), I'm going to allow DEX bonuses to AC to apply while spellcasting. While I get the logic - if you move around (like a GURPS Dodge) you're potentially losing your concentration. It's just going to be annoying to track AC when casting and AC when not casting - especially given that we've got an Illusionist (and thus a spellcaster with Dexterity bonuses to AC.)

However, I will allow the loss of DEX bonuses when using Charge (DMG p. 66) to close in and attack. If you don't want to lose out on your DEX bonus or get hit by longer weapons, just move in instead of attacking. Most people won't Charge anyway so no big deal.

Morale (DMG p. 67) isn't relevant . . . and in any case it's so much clunkier than Basic Set/Expert Set. Sigh. Works but no one uses it and Morale is pre-determined in the A-series.

We will be using Attacks With Two Weapons (DMG p. 70) if anyone wishes to try it. It's a -4 to the primary weapon and -2 to the secondary weapon unless Dexterity is 16+. In that case the modifiers change per the DMG.

Unarmed combat - if necessary - will use rules from Dragon magazine, reprinted in Best of Dragon Vol 4 - "Finish Fights Faster" by Roger E. Moore (BODM4, p. 42). We'll use Pummeling for all attacks, even kicks, for simplicity. If people grapple the system Doug and I wrote for The Manor #8 is simplier than Roger E. Moore's system so we'll use that.

Crossbows will use my crossbow house rule.

I'm still not in love with any of the systems for Missile Fire into Melee. It's last minute but I'm still looking. Otherwise we'll use the one from A3, which was okay last time we used it. But only okay.

Friday, November 15, 2019

AD&D vs. D&D 3.5?

One of our players this Sunday has played the living hell out of GURPS with us, and runs DF on his own, and has played D&D 5, too, I think.

But he's never played any D&D earlier than 3.5. Here is what I wrote to help him adjust a bit to AD&D (aside from some rules-specific writeups):

"AD&D vs. D&D3.5:

- much simpler combat. It's tactical only in the sense of using figures to determine location in specific set-piece battles.

- characters and monsters deal less damage (mostly) but have less HP (definitely).

- monster combat ability is purely based on their HD (hit dice), which also determine HP. Bigger monsters always have better "to hit" rolls.

- AC descends, and uses a table instead of ascending and using a "roll plus" system to determine a hit.

- Initiative is simpler, and individual alertness only reduces surprise.

- casters can't swap spells easily, or up-cast spells with a higher spell slot.

- the only skills in the system are thief skills and "to hit" rolls in combat.

- no feats or special abilities aside from some very specific class abilities, most of which won't figure in this game.

Offhand I can't think of anything else critical to know. It's just more lethal and less forgiving, based on my reading of D&D 3.5."

Anyone have any other helpful bullet points for a 3.5 player going to the confused and glorious mess that is AD&D? I'm extremely fluent in AD&D but 3.5 was one I only read without every playing. I know most of what I know from The Order of the Stick!

Thursday, November 14, 2019

New Magic Item: Bracers of Deflection

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 6: 40 Artifacts introduced Bracers of Force, which provide a DR sheath to the wearer.

An easy add are Bracers of Deflection to provide DB . . . from the front.


Bracers of Deflection
Power Item: 8 FP
Suggested Origins: Magical.

A pair of heavy metal bracelets carved with sigils and runes of defense around depictions of shields of many sizes and shapes. Worn as a pair - and only as a pair - they create a magical barrier a few inches in front of the caster.

Properties

• Magical Barrier: The Bracers’ magical barrier provides DB 2 to the front arc of the wearer. This adds 2 to any active defense taken by the wearer. It is not cumulative with any DB provided by the Shield spell or by Deflect enchantments on armor - and worn with such armor, neither will properly function, negating the effects of both enchantments. Such DB is not cumulative with any DB from an actual physical shield, either - wearing or holding one interferes with the ability of the bracers to generate their magical field.

• Mundane Armor: The bracelets themselves provide DR 6 to the arms, but only a roll of 1 on 1d due to their small size. They can worn over non-rigid armor comfortably, with no DX penalty.

Weight: 2 lbs.

Notes: Versions may exist from DB 1 to a show-stopping DB 6.



These bracers make a great way to get some DB on martial artists, wizards, thieves, and other lightly armored types. More heavily armored types can use them as well, of course, but only with non-rigid armor. They're helpful for shield-less fighters who need to rely on Dodge to escape missile attacks. These make an interesting choice at lower DBs, especially 1-3. They provide a reliable always-on bonus hands-free, but means your wizard or cleric can't jump in with a high DB Shield spell to amplify your defenses further. And of course, like the spell it basically provides, it doesn't help you from the flank or back.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Slavers Series - Starting at the Top

After all of my thinking, reading, debating, and posting . . . I decided the best place to start the A-series is A1, Part A.

So that's the plan. The PCs will go through both parts of Slave Pits of the Undercity, using the nine pregens. It remains to be seen if they'll go for pure tournament (meaning, the PCs are reset to the tournament status for each module) or "continuing play" - they can keep and use the loot they find but don't gain automatic upgrades and equipment replacements.

I'm leaning to the former, but we'll see after we get started.

A1, time to make rosters and cheat sheets.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Lessons Observed Running AD&D (vs. GURPS)

Here are some lessons I've picked up from running AD&D for my GURPS-centered group. These may serve as reminders for the more veteran AD&D players and lessons ahead of time for the guys new to AD&D. Especially those who've played other, more recent D&D versions such as 5th edition. Going to AD&D from 5th edition is like going from Skyrim to the wireframe labyrinths of Wizardry. It may not necessarily but more difficult, but it's less forgiving and very different.

HP Are Expendable, But Not Easily Replaceable

HP are a resource. You'll expend them to get things done - either by setting off traps you need to get past but can't disarm or fighting foes you can't avoid or deal with without damage.

The issue is, they don't come back easily. Healing spells take up valuable memorization slots, have random healing effects, and aren't very numerous. Healing potions help but it's uncommon to finish an adventure full on HP and with spare to go.

This is in contrast to GURPS, where HP are easily replaceable but very dangerous to trade off for effect.

You can't avoid losing HP in AD&D modules, and trying to get by with zero HP of injury will likely mean you get little if anything done. You must trade them off to get anywhere. But you can't blithely get into a HP-for-HP fight and recover from it to fight another.

Spell Selection and Use is Key

It's tempting, if you're given a choice of spells, to take all of the cool artillery spells and fight-ending magic. But you'll often benefit from some of the less commonly chosen spells. You must use your spells as close to optimally as possible. My players will remember the player who came into White Plume Mountain with only attack spells memorized. He died, and didn't even use them all before that happened . . . and the group was hamstrung by the lack of magic to do anything but directly kill.

And if you're playing a game with pregens with pre-picked spells (cough, cough, A-series), you need to use what's been given to you wisely. Don't spray your magic around; use it as needed and make sure it counts. Spells aren't necessarily given to you to solve a specific situations - this is a free-choice roleplaying game, not that contest in Crewel Lye. I've seen "let's save this spell, it can't possibly be the only way past this situation" and "if we have a spell to do (X) then there must be a situation that demands a spell to do (X)." Rarely that's the case.

Weapon Differences Matter . . . Differently

In GURPS, much of what weapons can do is codified in the rules. Damage, type of damage, reach, ST, bonuses and penalties to hit and to parry, specific use modes, etc. In AD&D, not so much. All you get is length, damage vs. Small/Medium, and damage versus Large. Oh, and weapon speed and armor vs. weapon rules that I don't use (and which are marginal in most cases anyway.)

So in an AD&D fight, you might have a spear vs. your foe's shortsword and be able to equally hit each other in a melee. You're not able to just hold yourself at a longer distance and keep your foe at bay. But equally, nothing says the shortsword and spear can both prod past a portcullis to stab a foe equally well, or that a spear will function well in a tight spot. The DM have a lot of leeway to make sure physical differences matter. Use the natural, reasonable logic of a situation and your gear and it's likely the DM will reward you. If you get too cute ("My trident should be able to pin opponents to the wall routinely, so I do that") you're likely to be disappointed. It wouldn't work in other systems, either.

***

Hopefully this helps the transition back to AD&D for a bit. I'm enjoying the play and watching my players adjust to the circumstances. They're game to try and I'm hoping my words make their effort more fruitful.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Still thinking - Where to start the A-series?

This weekend we're probably playing AD&D on our normal gaming day. We haven't played AD&D yet this year so I'm keen to get some in.

It will be some or all of the A-series.

I'm still waffling back and forth on where to start the A-series.

The A-modules are mostly broken into parts. There are:

A1 - part A
A1 - part B
A2 - part A
A2 - part B
A3 - part A
A3 - part B
A3 - part C
A4 - part A

I'd also use A4 - part B even though it's not part of the tournament.

A1 - part A has some fun elements to it, and it's a good starting point.

Part B, though, I've used before and several of my players have been through it.

A2 - part A has one of the best set piece fights but also can be a bit of a drag. I'm not sure it's a good place to start.

A2 - part B is a mixed bag, like A2 - part A. But it does have great elements to it and I definitely want to use it.

A3 - A4 are all great. But they're best as a payoff, not a starting point (especially A3 Part C and A4)

I could do bits - put A1 A on top of A2 B and go from there, but then I lose some of the fun bits of A2 just to pass by stuff I've done before.


I'm thinking either skip right to A2 - part B, or start right at the beginning. If we play quickly, it's basically 1 session per part. Possible 1/2 of a session if my players actually get into a real groove (likely with some parts, incredible unlikely with A2 - part A).

It's temping to do this and break it out over time, so we can really say we did the A-series as a tournament style. It'll just take a lot more than 1 session.

Anyone have any thoughts? Especially if you've run them or played them? Please avoid spoilers; my players read my blog and will read these posts. They won't dig around for spoilers but I can't stop them from accidentally stumbling across them in their normal act of keeping up with my gaming writing.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

More Thoughts on 125-Pointers for Felltower

I'm still undecided on doing this, but it's tempting to try it out at least experimentally - allowing a secondary, 125-point base character to accompany your main character.

Benefits

The main benefits I see are:

In the Action More - it's harder to suffer from "save or sit there" effects, combat inujury, or even PC death when you have a second character to run.

Backup PCs on Hand - You also have a ready PC to move into a 250-point role. I'm not sure if I'd bolt on extra points to bring you up to 250 if your main guy dies or choose some other method, but you'd have a PC right there to develop.

- It's a fun twist, really. You get to make another PC, you get to try out some of the DF15 templates. I can see a lot of creative character generation and personalities come out of this kind of move.

Obstacles

The main obstacles to it that I see are:

Too many characters - we're not lacking in players or PCs at this point. A slow. small session is 5-6 people. We've had 9 fairly often. Since one of them is usually Gerry with his 5 skeletons and a skull spirit (usually), we're talking 10-15 minis in the marching order.

Adding 5-6 additional 125-point guys would mean this is easily 15-20.

This might have been a better idea back when the group was smaller.

Unresolved Questions - how many of these guys do you get? Are they interchangeable with each other? Can you have a pool and swap them in and out as needed, or are they tied to a specific PC? Can you loan them to each other? If there is a limit, what happens when one dies?

Are these essentially part of a communal pool for the player with regards to gear? As in, you can loan it back and forth without issue, and borrow it for Felltower delves while the other character is away?

Point cost? - Should it just be done as an Ally? Just fork over the 8 points for an Always Available 50% point value PC and be done with it? That would aid the players who can't be bothered - they won't be giving anything up and those that want them have to abide by the usual rules about Allies . . . except for it being a fully player generated and run PC. But then, why have an Ally as written now, if these are available?

There are issues to be worked out. But it's an idea worth exploring further.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

My next gate destination?

I'm unable to spend time blogging today, so I thought I'd just let you get a glimpse into possibly my next sub-level or gate destination for Felltower.

Hundreds of Blind Pallid Disney Characters Discovered Living In Caves Deep Within Space Mountain

Gameable.

And here I was ju-u-u-u-u-st listening to Stukas Over Disneyland and this comes up. Maybe I can combine them.

Friday, November 8, 2019

New GURPS Blog - Dark Journeys

Shawn Fisher, a fellow GURPS Author, has launched a new GURPS blog:

Dark Journeys

Shawn often plays games of a military bent, so I expect a fair amount of posts like this one on Vietnam War-era grenade launchers.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

MVP points - Character or Player?

My DF Felltower campaign features bonus XP for "most valuable player." It's voted on by the players. I don't get a vote but I have occasionally had input in the form of summarizing some important things each person has done in the session.

It's not a vote that's dependent on actual game content. It's been given for stellar in-game performances, failing rolls spectacularly, and even totally non-game related events like bringing good food the table.

It's been a lot of fun. The players often start to chant "MVP! MVP!" after good moves, foolish moves, lucky shots, amusing pratfalls, people announcing what snacks they brought, etc. It's amusing to see our youngest player routinely vote for himself because he wants the points.

The question has long be up in the air, though - is it the player, or the character?

I feel like we answered this definitively a few sessions back.

The most valuable character wasn't very clear. The most valuable player was very clear - the guy who usually runs Aldwyn baked a DF-themed apple pie. He got the point. But he was running Dryst - not his PC.

So who gets the point? Dryst? Or Aldwyn's player?

We went with the player, and he could give it to any of his current PCs. So, Aldwyn got it as that is his only current PC.

It feels weird to do so, but it also feels right to do so. I don't think I'd pass out Awesome Points to the player instead of the character, or bonus points for doing things . . . but this was clearly a player-centric award and thus the player should benefit . . . not the character he ran while the actual owner of the character was away.

But if the player is running their own character and earns the point, it goes to the character. You can't save it for another character. It only travels when it is a player-centric award to a player running someone else's character.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

How would multiple PCs per player work in DF Felltower?

One of the options in my "things I'd do differently" post was multiple PCs per player. Not just multiple 250-point guys on hand in case you guy dies or in case you want to play a higher or lower point guy. Another option I've considered is to rather have "main" and "secondary" characters you could run at the same time. Here are some thoughts on that approach.

I picture this working as follows:

- you'd have your high-end, "main" guy. This would be your primary character. You'd run this paper man most of the time. You could, of course, have a secondary 250-point guy.

- you'd also have an associated 125-point guy. You could run this one as your only PC for a session (and earn full XP for it) or run it as an ally - running two PCs - and get half for that character. The secondary character would need to be exposed to real risk, but could progress up while getting bootstrapped in a way by other players.

You could always take an Ally as well, and get the lockstep improvements of the Ally on top of having another, lower-point PC to run.


Another option, I think, would be to allow multiple 125-point characters to count as one, as suggested in DF15. That seems like it needs no additional detail than I listed there.


Encouraging Ally might be something else I could do - make it advantageous to find specific NPC hirelings and add them with Ally. Assured access, increases in value as you increase in ability (gain and spend points), and assured loyalty (instead of a secret Loyalty stat) would be some of the benefits. And for low-point guys, this would be fairly cheap. That might not grab everyone, but could allow some players to expand a pool of playable characters and make each of their characters potentially more powerful - you'd have your own crew to draw on if you needed to pad out an expedition.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Dice in the Open vs. Concealed, by Game

This post by Talysman is pretty timely, as I've been reviewing how I run AD&D vs. how I run GURPS.

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I run die rolls two different ways in my two different games:

GURPS

Pretty much everything except damage and player-facing effects rolls (or a roll to see who is affected) are secret. To hit, defenses, resistance, etc.

Sometimes I'll roll wandering monster rolls in front of everyone just to make a point about people spending a lot of in-game time in a dangerous place.

My players are too good at figuring out stats from data derived from successive combat actions and then making plans based on those odds. That's not something I want for my GURPS game.

AD&D

I roll almost everything out in the open. Only rolls specifically called out by modules as needing to be secret are rolled in secret. I announce AC, roll damage, roll initiative, saving throws, etc. all in the open. For me, it's part of the fun of taking an AD&D vacation is getting to relax and play it all in the open.

Back in the day I used a DM screen. These days it sits flat for use for tables only. It's all in the open.


Do you play different games with different approaches to die roll secrecy?

Monday, November 4, 2019

The value of misplaced anachronism

This is a short coda to the Modernisms series.

Misplaced assumptions can trip you up - you have to know to take the game world as it is, and find out how it is before errors kill your PC.

But that's not to say all anachronisms and modern assumptions are out of place.

What if the world deliberately brings in out-of-period elements and caters to assumptions of a modern world?

You can see this in my Felltower campaign with its assumptions on race and gender. It's easier and more fun, and feels better, to play a game where unfair treatment by gender and racial identity are both aberrations if they show up at all. This is something I've found players assume will be the case . . . so I cater to it.

Doing so makes the game easier and more fun.

Ones that don't really make the game more fun - say, massive modern-style conflicts with full-nation-power mobilization and total war - fall under areas that the players need to be aware of.

It's a fairly basic game approach. If it makes the game better, keep it or add it - or cater to it, if it's assumed. If it does not, or lack of it makes the game better, keep it out or remove it. That has to be for the GM and the players, because if one or the other are unhappy, the game will likely fail.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Modernisms in Felltower

My recent "Modernisms" series focused on the false assumptions that can trip you up.

But on a tangential topic, what actual modernisms and anachronisms are in my Felltower game?


Serious

Gender Equality is a thing. No one treats women less well because of their gender.

Racial Equality is generally a thing - so much so that you get a whack of points back if you aren't treated equally and few people earn those points.

Universal Currency - not an anachronism, just a modern concerpt transported backward. Oddly everyone except the people who coined that King Gorillicus coin make identical coinage, and even that one is the same size and weight as the others.

Atheists exist. Seriously. In a world were clerics are demonstrably gaining power from supernatural beings, doing things wizards cannot, some people (mostly Vryce) don't believe that the Good God is anything other than an excuse for rules worshipped by mages with an alternate spell-set.

Modern-style Locks are definitely more than TL Olden Times. But they exist, complete with pins, tumblers, weighted mechanisms, and other very modern lock elements. Because fantasy gaming has that stuff.

Silly

I'm not really vouching for the fact that these exist, only it sure seems like they do.

Wizard Court might really be a thing. The Barcas swear it is, and non-mages are automatically guilty.

Scout College also might be real. Credits, semesters, homework, hazing, dorms (aka tree stands and hunting blinds) . . . it's all there. Even student loans to go to Scout College have come up.

Instagram might not really exist, but there is a #Felltower hashtag and accounts dedicated to posting about it.

I'm almost certainly forgetting a bunch . . . maybe my players will chime in?

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Modernisms in Fantasy Gaming IV: Universal Money

Here is the last (for now) in my short series on Modernisms in Fantasy Gaming.

These are modern assumptions that players may bring into play, despite the fact that they post-date the rough time period being portrayed or require social organization and technology that is beyond that in the game. As such, they can trip up the players when they hit the different reality of games.

Universal, Freely Exchanged Currency

GURPS DF has copper pieces ($1), silver pieces ($4) and gold pieces ($80). DF Felltower has its own devalued set. AD&D has copper, silver, electrum, gold, platinum, Rolemaster has coins from bronze to gold going by tens, and Dragonlance even has steel pieces (Hah*).

Generally, though, those coins are the same everywhere. It's rare for places to have extra coins. It's exceedingly rare outside of a few old school modules to have places that have their own currency and laws about passing foreign coins.

And yet historically, coinage varied wildly from place to place. Coins were often debased and devalued and nicked and trimmed. Even a handful of the same coins may not really be worth the same amount as each other, never mind another handful of the same type of coins. A gold piece might not be worth 1 gp. Moneychangers would convert foreign coins to local coins, taking a cut in return for engaging in such trade. And for sufficiently odd currency, it's possible that it wouldn't be accepted at all due to the difficulty of exchanging it (such as Yap stones, shell coins, paper currency prior to its local adoption.)

This is one games have largely bowed to - the idea that your coins are good everywhere. But if a GM uses local coins and rules about local usage - and required coins changed at moneychangers - it can cause a lot of difficulty. I've run a few games were the players needed to convert all foreign coins to local coinage. The result has ranged from campaign-ending violent refusal by the PCs to merely committing large-scale fraud by not converting to arguing a lot about getting ripped off.

And to be fair, the modern world has exchangeable currency but no really universal one - I keep yen handy despite the reach of the dollar, and converted to Euros last time I was in Europe. Yet in games, everyone expect a "gold piece" to be worth a uniform amount and be universally accepted.



* Hahahaha.**

** Hahahahahahahahahah. Okay, sorry. They make no sense.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Bones V last 24 hours

About 24 hours are left in Bones V:



I think I'm staying in this one. The core set is expanding nicely, sufficiently to justify the value for me. I'm probably not getting any extras but that Pirate Ship is very cool. More than I'll ever need, but very cool.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

GURPS Magic: Bless (and when does it work)

I was reminded about this reading the session reports over at DF Whiterock such as this most recent one. This isn't meant as a criticism of how Bless is run there, just a look at how I run Bless in my games.

Reading other people's posts is a great way to get thinking about your game in different ways.


My previous GURPS games extensively featured the Bless spell. With two wizards who could cast it, everyone was typically under Bless +1 at all times, Bless +2 or Bless +3 occasionally (usually due to a critical or a powerful NPC casting.)

We also had a lot of characters with strong defenses, high DR, Luck, and supernatural backup plans like the very occasional Lesser Wish or Wish.

Order of Operations of Aid

The big question we grappled with as a group was, "When does Bless 'fire'?" In other words, when does Bless activate and provide its (potentially) life-saving and harm-avoiding benefits?

This was especially critical regarding Luck. It was a time-limited resource and players liked to husband it for something really important to them, like rolling to avoid death.

The question was, did Bless "know" what the attack could, or would do? Could it retroactively apply if the effects of the attack were too much? Who decided what was too much?

We decided that Bless didn't "know" anything. It didn't know if you had Luck left. It didn't know if you were going to fail a HT roll and die as a result of that attack or make it easily and live and really need that +1 or better next turn. It didn't know the damage or results of an attack. It was a supernatural blessing but it wasn't prescient.

Therefore, we decided it was the first line of supernatural defense. You still got any defense roll, if you had one, or a resistance roll, or Blocking spell, or other "normal" attempt to defeat something. If that failed, Bless would kick in and save you if the threat was sufficient to do so. You couldn't use Luck to save Bless unless you'd done the very rare thing of declaring a use of Luck ahead of the roll's failure.

Extent of Bless

We essentially made it a hierarchy - +1 shifts things one level (critical success to success), +2 two levels (critical success to failure), +3 three levels (critical success to critical failure). That made for easier rulings; it only affected an opposing success (or own failure) and made it better for the Bless recipient by the margin determined by the spell level.

And like Luck, it couldn't go back to earlier rolls. It affected the immediate roll that caused the immediate problem and went away.

How did it play?

Once we settled on this, it was fine. Bless was very useful, but its bonus would burn off pretty quickly along with its saving effect as the first rolls were failed. It ended up being a very simple ruling in the end. We found that we liked the overall effect - it was a useful spell but it didn't save you only after everything else was gone. Nicely it kept Bless +1 from being an always-on +1 to everything with a last-ditch Undo button for only the worst circumstances. It played well for us.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Power Score on Mordenkainen, Gary Gygax as a GM, and Castle Greyhawk

I'm posting this so I don't lose the links when I need them.

Sean McGovern over at Power Score put up a post about Gary Gygax's character Mordenkainen. Sean seems to own everything and have read everything, but comes at it with a freshness as if he's just read all of it right now and was totally keen on telling you all about it.

Linked off of that post is a good one about Gary Gygax as a GM, and about encounters Gary used in Castle Greyhawk.

It's all my kind of post, and the type I tend to lose track of . . . unless I can search my own blog sure it's there someone. So I share with you so I won't struggle to find it myself.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Modernisms in Fantasy Gaming III: Banking

Here is another "modernism" that can trip people up in fantasy games.


Banking

Banking is a technology; a social technology, but a technology nonetheless. It depends on some concepts of money that grow as technology grows, and rely on a lot of social constructs that developed relatively recently in human history.

Essentially, what I see is players having trouble with banks that don't do all of these three things:

- guarantee deposits;

- pay interest;

- hold items in safety deposit boxes.

Coming from a place of safety deposit boxes, FDIC insured deposits, and banks paying interest to get you to keep moneyt with them (so they can loan it out at a proft) it's tough going to a world where:

- banks could lose all of your money and it's just gone;

- banks pay nothing to keep your money, and may in fact charge you to do so;

- don't hold items in safety deposit boxes for you.

I've cheerfully put in modern banks in games, but it's actually not something you could rely on existing in most time periods. Expecting banks to act in the interests of their customers and be reliable, safe, and money-making for the depositors and getting something quite the opposite can really throw off players trying to manage their money.

Similarly, lack of investment structures and ways to guarantee a lack of loss to your money can confound players . . . but that's a realistic problem for cash-wealthy folks in any era, and PCs often qualify.


Next time: Freely exchanged currency!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Modernisms in Fantasy Gaming II: Absolute Monarchs

This is part II of a short series on Modernisms in fantasy gaming. Here is Part I.

These are those "modern" or out-of-period things that trip up players who expect to find them . . . not always knowing they're out of period or "modern."

These aren't deliberate modernisms put into a game, rather what players might expect only to find lacking.

These aren't meant as historical articles, exactly - I'm not going to dig into research and post sources. It's just a light conversation about expectations of "reality" versus what the game might actually feature.

Absolute Monarchs

All monarchs are not absolute rulers, ruling over their subjects of any rank with total power. That is something that came later in European history for the most part. Throughout the Middle Ages and even later, Kings were often just the most powerful noble. He or she might have a significant amount of power but not full reign to order around the more powerful (or even minor) nobles of the realm. Getting things done could take a lot of negotiation, gifts (in effect, bribery), subtle political moves, and expending of political capital and leverage. Even then, the King might not be legally allowed to take some actions.

The King won't always have access to all of the resources of the country - or even a lot of them. Kings could easily be poor relative to nobles, and limited in what they could give away as a reward. A King might be able to give out ranks of minor nobility or a particular estate that belongs to the throne, but equally might not be able to due to politics or lack of resources.

Ancient world despots were absolute rulers, of course. The extent of "absolute" can be surprising to a modern audience, too. Rulers could give anything to or take away everything from their subjects. Property rights don't really exist in the same sense as we expect now - or even in those days of absolute monarchy in Europe. Sometimes the ruler owns what you own, just by you being a subject.

Often I find the expectation is the King or Queen can do anything . . . hand out anything, parcel out any resources, deploy any military force, etc. But equally the King or Queen can't take things away from you because, well, it's yours.

It's a weird mix of assumptions. It's worth checking - is the game your playing making the same assumptions about rulership that you are?



Next: Banking!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Felltower Reflections: 5 years later

Five and a half years ago I posted some reflections on what I'd do differently in my DF Felltower game, given another chance to do it all over again.

Let's go through that list, and add and subtract to it.

"Definitely Change"

Some of these, I did.

Uniform Enchantment Costs

I flattened the cost of magic items out to $20/point . . . mostly. Spell stones and other consumables are still $1/point, which is low compared to scrolls and potions. Ideally I'd have changes those, too, but it was too difficult to do so without seriously compromising existing play.

So I'd keep or expand this.

Gameworld Coupled Enchantment Maxima

I linked magic items to prefixes. In a flat "must have a positive prefix" approach that is much simpler than what I proposed.

I'd keep this as-is.

More Loot From Day One

I'd still do this. I put in more loot in every place since, and honestly, I still feel like it's not enough sometimes.

Heavier Money

This for sure. I'd definitely still do this, changing my 250/pound system to 50/pound.

That would allow for serious amounts of money - the kind you read about and the kind in fantasy artwork - instead of the small-but portable hoards you tend to actually find.

I'd also add in a related change to all of the above: much more expensive magic items.

I'd literally add in 10x as much loot. Weight would make it 5x as heavy for coins but that would just add to the fun challenge of hauling away big loot (so you'd need mules, henchmen, wagons, etc.) and you'd generally get 10x as much of it as now. Instead of a big haul being 20,000 silver pieces ($20K) at 80 pounds, it would be more like 200,000 silver pieces ($200K) at 4,000 pounds. Woohoo! Two tons of loot! Get hauling. You won't blink at spending a few $K to help haul it away.

Technical Grappling

We eventually put in my own version. Fantastic Dungeon Grappling is excellent, too, but my version does what I want. Using CP had made the game easier in most cases.


So yes, I'd do all of those.

"Maybe"

Revised Talent Costs

Nah. Just because it adds another step to character generation. I've found it's useful to just let talents work more broadly and generally apply the bonuses.

Wildcard Skills

I still like the idea of allow "Melee Weapons" as a skill, but the staggering cost (24 points for IQ or DX in the skill, 12 points for every +1) and the huge breadth (it's not just the skills, it's everything tied to it) makes these too expensive and too broad. I'd need to revise the costs and create my own cost structure. I'm not sure I'd like that. But I do still like the basic idea of someone taking a broad but expensive skill covering all of a category of skills, so I could have more guys who were excellent at all weapons instead of obscenely good at one.

I would use a shorter list of weapon skills, but that's its own post for the future.

More Characters Per Player

Making people make 125-point guys would be fun but I'd pass on that for a new campaign. 250s are fine.


I might consider others, like:

- Fixed Deceptive Attack and Feint, to reduce the actual value of high defenses.

- Defense caps, to reduce the tendency to push everyone up to Dodge 16+ with Haste and Shield, which feeds into monsters needing high skills for Deceptive Attack and thus the PCs needing high skills to overcome their defenses. Either that or cumulative Dodge penalties. I have no issues with high skill or high defenses, and I don't want to make it too easy to get hit and killed, but the escalation is entirely arms-racey and not as fun as it could be.

- I'd have done No Limits on Spell Purchases right away.

- I'd have limited maximum numbers of rumors right away, too. That would save a lot of my time and keep the players from being overwhelmed with hundreds and hundreds of rumors to make sense of.


I'm sure I could come up with a few more . . . but looking back, I had some good ideas about what needed improvement in my game.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Modernisms in Fantasy Gaming I: The Front Lines

In my games and others, I've seen a fair amount of "Modernisms."

These are things that seem basic and standard to a modern audience but which actually post-date the game period.

I'll do a short series on the ones I notice in my game.

The Front Lines

Thinking of war as having "front lines" and a "rear area" is a fairly modern concept. World War I, mostly. Armies arrayed against each other will have lines, but those lines eventually play out on the fringes. There isn't a clear "our territory guarded along the edge byour troops vs. theirs guarded along the edge by theirs."

Armies march around, and chose to give battle or refuse it. In pre-modern forces, it's hard to force your opponent into a decisive battle if they don't want to give battle. Territory is taken and held and given back up as you move, or smaller forces are broken off to hold important points as the main force moves off to force battle.

Pretty much, to fight effectively you have to arrange your army to fight. You can march faster than you can arrange yourself to fight. Your opponents have basically the same speed as you. This means if you show up and then start to arrange yourself in battle order and your foe isn't interested in fighting, they can pack up and march off, screened by some light forces. So battles between similar forces are more mutual agreements to have it out. You can force your opponent to agree by putting them onto some other timetable - reducing the available food so they can't just march away and re-supply, raiding their baggage in previous battles and stealing their paychests, etc.

Magic changes battle, for sure, but it doesn't really mean total war with lines extending from impassable geographic end to impassable geographic end.

Up next: Absolute Monarchs.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Next AD&D - A-series

I've been going back and forth between the A-series and G-series for our next AD&D fun.

I've basically settled on the A-series.

When I do run the G-series, it will be with the pregrens. But they're quite high level, and I feel like they're a bit overpowered for G1. They also require the knowledge of a lot of spells and tactical uses of magical items that come with experience in AD&D, not just gaming experience.

I think it's easier to get that experience using the A-series. The pregens are lower level, and have a smaller book of spells and special magical items to deal with. The scenarios are a bit smaller, too, requiring some puzzles to be solved and fixed encounters to be dealt with, without the large free-flowing tactical challenge of the high-level fights of the G-series.

My players need to be a little more AD&D experience, I feel, before the G-series will be a challenge instead of a source of frustration.

So I'll be prepping A2, probably, and running that for our next AD&D game. We'll almost certainly do Felltower first . . . but I'm looking forward to seeing how my players handle the A-series.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

No Adventure Flow Survives Contact with the Players

The PCs recently wrapped up a four-session jaunt through a gate to the Gardens of Trent Oakheart, also called (by the PCs, mainly), "The Garden of the Masters."

How I thought it would go:

The PCs arrive and realize there is no immediate gate back out. They search the area to ensure that, and search the area to be sure there isn't a gate there. They find the staff and seal. Quenton has a vision and knows the nature of the Garden and the threat . . . and has a critical tool to cleansing it. They'd cast a bazillion spells to check as much of this as they could, use Know Location to determine they weren't anywhere in their own world, etc.

They find the nearby pool - it's not obvious but a narrow path like that is a sure call to curiosity if you know there is a supernatural spirit-pool nearby. Armed with the spirit from the pool, they'd have both parts of the formula necessary to cleanse the place. They wouldn't know more than vaguely where to go, since the spirit couldn't communicate that and Trent Oakheart's lingering spirit couldn't know where he was to direct them.

The PCs would spend a session adventuring around, probably seeking loot as well as seeking the evil tree. They might realize the vegepygmies were potentially friendly, or fight them.

That would probably be most of a session.

Session two would be finding the tree and defeating it. That would take some time - lots of potential fights, and with a lot of ground to cover, there was a risk of spending too much time wandering off in corners trying to find more loot or "just make sure the tree isn't over here."

But yeah, two sessions.

Of course, that's not what happened.

The PCs arrived, and were totally unimpressed by the lack of a gate. Weird vegetation land? Show me the money! They cast Seek Earth to find valuable materials and located a magical jeweled sword. They made a beeline right there, going so far as to carve their own path through rotten vegetation to find it. They eventually did and alerted the evil tree to their presence by setting off the garden's inherent response to fire attacks - kill the offenders, rain on the fire (which wasn't needed in the end.)

They spent a good solid session on loot and finding more. Then they spent a good chunk on getting it and then fighting the tree. The path from there was, ironically, lengthened by their attempts to shorten it. They almost went all the way back to the start, but then decided it was a waste of time to start there instead of starting here.

Heh.

All told, it was a great set of sessions. No one griped about the length, or worried about XP. They were fascinated byt the place. They joked about how they lived there now, and how they'd survive on squash and live with the vegepygmies, and how it was all the startship Warden from Metamorphosis Alpha.

But it's amusing how I set it up as an easy "do the thing" adventure with minimal "find the thing to do the thing" elements. Yet it turned into a mystery - what is this place? How do we leave? What's it all mean? How do we defeat this unkillable enemy? All, basically, because no one looked around or behind them when they arrived.

Amusing, really. Even obvious clues are not always obvious enough!
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