Friday, May 31, 2019

The Onion's superior campaign background

Sadly, this is better than the background in some fantasy literature, almost all fantasy movies, and many fantasy games:

Old, Wizened Fantasy Character Confirms That The Darkness Is Rising

You could set that guy in Clichea and be reasonably sure you've done your due diligence in starting a campaign. The players are going to ignore most of what he says and avoid the portal because it's dangerous and ask "What, the Shadow who?" about five sessions later.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Uncommon Weapons in a Common Weapons Campaign

In my experience, when it comes to gaming and weapons, players generally eyeball the unusual weapons. The strange, unique, and odd draw the eye and get the pick.

I was prompted to think about this from an email from a fellow GURPS GM asking about a related subject.

In a game like GURPS DF, with a large amount of points to spend, high skills to start, and access to extra money with some of the point budget, it's tempting to go for something unusual. The two-longsword fighter. The all-long-knives-guys. The katar and reverse-grip sword guy. The hammer-backed-pick-guy. The morningstar guy. The katana-and-sai-guy. Whatever.

One problem with that in my own games is randomized treasure. You might pick a trident, or a light horse cutter, or twin katars, but there isn't any guarantee that I've put magical ones out there. If I'm generating randomly, the tables in supplements like DF8 are skewed towards the more common weapons. The odder your weapon of choice is, the less likely there is a newer, fancier, more magical version just sitting out there. And the higher the odds that if there is one, it's the only one.

My own tendency is something boring but effective. It's probably a combination of my own personal tendencies (much of what I use is boring but effective, from exercises to vehicles - not all, but enough.) I know it's tough to replace the odd and unusual. And my games match. You could go an entire campaign - Takashi Harada can attest to this - without finding better katana and wakizashi than you started with. You'll find orcs with broadsword galore in my DF game, but orcs with horse cutters, jian, smallswords, kukri, etc. not at all.

If I was placing weapons in a story game, I'd possibly be more generous in this respect. But only possibly. I think my own tendencies and the style of my games - generally a slog through pseudo-medieval Europe with a lot of AD&D nostalgia - pushes people away from the unique and unusual and more to the utilitarian and common.

How about your games?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Secrets of Saltmash, first glance

I received and have been reading through the Secrets of Saltmarsh.

Overall, I'm enjoying the book. It's well put together, and it ties together the three original adventures with some additional later edition adventures related to the sea.

It does make some changes to the original. Some of them make sense with the changed edition. Some of them seem to be changes just for the sake of change. Some are decidedly odd to my eyes - like half-demon and half-dragon characters just around because . . . somewhere along the line those became normal races to have around.

Overall, though, what I've read so far is interesting and useful, and makes the Saltmarsh area a nice little hotbed of adventure. I'm looking forward to finishing it.

One special note, though, about Holmes Basic - the Tower of Zenopus is the sample dungeon, and the Zenopus Archives has had posts about how similar it sounds to the setup of U1. Well, now it's part of the Saltmarsh adventuring area. Nice. Very nice.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Book Update: Fun with Quotes

Over the past few days, I turned in the quotes for my latest DF book.

I won't say what they are, but I will say I do have quotes from:

Glen Cook - a standby for good quotes, as he paints huge canvases with few words.

Hugh Cook - his book Wizard War is one I've stolen a lot of inspiration from.

J.R.R. Tolkien (from his best work, too. Others might disagree, but they're not writing this book or blog.)

Alexei Pehov - it's tough quoting in translation, but I found a really good one that fit the page that needed it.

Michael Moorcock - he wrote of an anti-hero with a magic sword, in a world headed toward its own Ragnarok of sorts. That's an easy source of quotes. For this one, I knew what I wanted and had to track down the book more than the quote.

Gary Gygax - because it's Gary Gygax. I quote from his fiction, but the DUNGEONMASTERS GUIDE is always a good source of quotes. Especially ones that toss off game-changing concepts in a single parenthetical sentence.

I really should keep a file of pithy, fun quotes. But mostly I keep them in my head, and know where roughly to look for them. This can work well, like the quote I pulled out of a Glen Cook book for this one. The book was on my shelf.

It can work poorly, when I want quotes and realized I'd loaned out Moorcock's Stealer of Souls, most of my early Leiber books, all of the Alexei Pehov books, and more. I got a couple of those back in tine, and David Pulver rode in to the rescue with a quote from another book I was looking for. Steven Brust is usually a good source of quotes, as are Jack Vance and Roger Zelazny, but I had what I needed from the above.

I can't wait for this book to come out.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Bones IV trade/sale pile

I haven't really sorted these guys, but here is what's up for sale or trade.

Also included are all of the earlier Bones III figures (mostly) that I'd like to ditch.

Basically for the IVs, it's Gauth, the pig and cart, some various female fighters (mostly), the Chibi pack, all of the decorative posts except for the flame ones, the kobolds, and a few others.

Click on those to see a larger sized image and get a closer look.

I'll sell the whole pictured lot for $50 + shipping, or I'll break it up for trades or individual sales. I'm still trying to get rid of some other minis, too, if you want to add in to the deal.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Felltower Elder Tongue - Collected Facts

This post collects a number of notes about Elder Tongue, one of the hidden languages of my Felltower campaign.

The original description is here:

Elder Tongue: An old language, out of current use. Used back in the day by evil wizards, ancient scholars, and still used today by ancient beings, usually of great evil. Not a great way to impress your local clergy, who might report you to the Inquisitors if you walk around showing you know this. Of course some Inquisitors will know it well, to better fight their enemies! Ancient magic books are often written in this language. Wizards sometimes (okay, often) learn this in its written form only, to read forbidden texts and learn dark secrets.

According to this post, it costs double for Gift of spells。

Other assorted facts:

- Elder Tongue's characters have many readings, both individually and when collected. A character's reading (and substance of its meaning) can change based on characters that come before it or after it.

- Elder Tongue can be written left-right or right-left. It's sometimes written horizontally, sometimes vertically. This can change the meaning substantially.

- Elder Tongue's writers are often willfully obscure and deliberately opaque. Even with a clear reading, the intent might not be clear - and characters may be used as code. Gift of spells let you read or speak the language, but don't provide you with the intent and meaning of coded messages. There are no spells available that break codes.

- Elder Tongue is fixed and unchanging - it's not a living language - on the world of Felltower. It's not clear if that remains the case elsewhere.

Saturday, May 25, 2019


Thanks to Rob Conley at Bat in the Attic for posting a link to this:


I've perused bits of OSRIC, although I generally just go back to the early gaming books of my life, the AD&D hardbacks. Still, OSRIC is a good resource for checking out what AD&D contains and for better explanations of the rules AD&D purports to explain itself. This just makes that OSRIC referral that much easier.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Rot Grubs in GURPS DF

Here is how I implemented rot grubs in my DF campaign. I statted them as a trap, not a monster, because you don't fight them so much as detect/disarm them, or suffer the effects of them. They're far less of a monster than, say, leaping leeches.

Rot Grubs
Detect: Vision-based Per-2. This assumes a search! A quick glance while, say, searching for treasure is at -5, for a net Per-7.
Disarm: Burning the infested corpse, or using Cleansing (Magic, p. 94) will remove any rot grubs; they are easily killed (or harvested) after this . . . unless they find another victim to burrow in to.
Avoid: None.
Steal: Eww, but yes. Takes some creativity and a Animal Handling-5 roll (unless the character is a worminger with the appropriate Animal Handling expertise.
Effect: Usually 1d rot grubs will burrow into a target; each causes 1 HP of injury immediately as it furiously burrows into the flesh of the victim. Each inflicts another 1 HP of injury every 3d seconds, and requires a HT roll at -1 per rot grub in the victim. On a failure, the rot grubs have reached the vitals and inflict x3 damage from this point on. On a critical failure, one has reached the heart, killing the victim. Success means damage as before; critical success means the grubs take twice as long before they inflict injury again. Application of flame to the burrowing holes before the second round of damage kills the rot grub but also inflicts the usual fire damage for the source. Each burrowing hole must be cleaned separately. Cleansing will remove all rot grubs immediately.

Enjoy, if that's the sort of maggoty thing you like to enjoy.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Rot Grubs

so, Erik Tenkar hates Rot Grubs.

Which is funny, because he's not opposed to sticking nests of giant centipedes in barricades, oh no.

I obviously use rot grubs, because I'm an evil GM.

Ask Hjalmarr.

Generally the thing about rot grubs is, they're a trap with a cure. Instead of rolling a resistance roll, and on a failure taking damage, you get attacked by burrowing grubs and either cure them (no damage), burn them out (take damage), or do nothing (and die.) It's just a trap with a different special effect. I can't get too upset about them. They're just a gross way to get attacked, like anything involved grubs, maggots, or flesh-eating worms (regular, or rotworms.) They're not more unfair that "save for half damage" types of attacks, where some nastiness occurs 100% of the time. In this case, it's just grub-based.

I'm fine with that.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Saltmash is here

This arrived today:

it would be at the very top of my reading list, except I picked up Glen Cook's "The Swordbearer" to find a specific quote and starting re-reading it instead. But this will be read, soon. I do miss having the time to post reviews, perhaps I can do one for this one since I'm such a big fan of U1-3.

Monday, May 20, 2019

GURPS DF Session 116, Felltower 88 - In the Orc Hole II

After about 16 months, the PCs decided to raid the orcs again. Less than half of those delvers still live.

We had a good-sized group but two players the group felt they needed for a deep delve - the players of Dryst and Heyden the Ebon Page - couldn't make it Sunday. So the orcs were chosen as a thing that needed doing. Plus Galen wanted to.

Date: Sunday, May 19th, 2019

Weather: Warm-to-hot, clear, sunny.

Bruce "the Mild" McTavish, Jr., human barbarian (267 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (254 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (250 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (409 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (332 points)
     5 Skeletons (~25 points)
     Skull Spirit (?? points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (255 points)
Orcish Bob, not-orcish orc brute (approximately 125 points, NPC)

The group gathered in town, where Galen had stayed to recover from his multiple crippling injuries from his last delve. They quickly settled on raiding the orcs. They gathered rumors - including some about the lost weapons of the nomad champion Atregex being in Felltower, rumors of another big staircase, psychic puddings, and one about delvers stashing some loot near water in Felltower. "That was us," said Galen. Apparently they stashed it inside of an armored shark.

They gathered up supplies - including picks, shovels, rope, a mallet, iron spikes, etc. - since there is no Dryst to make them when needed. From there they headed up to the dragon cave entrance.

Ulf remembered that there was a rumor of an entrance to Felltower from the slums. He wanted to ask around, but it was very early in the morning. He decided to ask on the way home.

The group made their way into the dungeon, and up to the second level. They made a detour to touch the altar. Ulf prayed sincerely to the Good God before his touch, and gained +1 to all stats for a day. Wyatt suddenly felt a lot more pious, and prayed before he touched. With the help of a prayer - and luck - he was able to get 81 sp turned into 81 gp (so $81 into $1620.) That was nearly loot threshold for everyone right there. Orcish Bob mentioned that he'd touched that twice in the past, and it wasn't a good idea.

But they decided to give a skeleton some silver and have it touch. That wasn't a good idea - it was zapped by cosmic lightning and damaged badly. They reasoned the skeleton was clearly of someone who touched the altar before when alive, but decided to move on.

They sent Galen, solo, past one of the rotating statue rooms and toward the orc hole, buffed with Dark Vision and Invisibility. He slipped ahead and around the orc hole and spotted two orcs behind a low barricade, watching toward the hole. Waiting and hearing nor seeing no other orcs, he aimed at both and shot them in the skull, killing them both outright. He snuck back to the group and brought them along.

They looted the orcs and waited for Gerry to cast Zombie on both of them. As they did so, they put Invisibility on Galen again and sent him down into the orc hole to scout.

At the bottom he found a cave with a pond, and an exit some 30' off the ground on the far side. He sat and watched for a bit, hearing orcs talking in low voices and hearing animal sounds as well, and then returned. He came back with Gerry, both Invisible and with Dark Vision and Gerry used Levitate (and See Invisible) to move Galen up to scout. He spotted two orcs, but signs of more, two devil wolves, and a lot of clay pots, droppable rocks, throwable rocks, and at least two fishing nets.

About this time Bruce and Wyatt downed Agility potions they'd each spent 700sp on back in town. Wyatt rolled a 5, and Bruce a 6. That put them to 21 DX and 19 DX, respectively, and dramatically improved their weapon skills.

With their new "allies" the party used Silence while they hammered in an iron spike and lowered a rope down the steepest past of the orc hole.

They climbed down single file. At the bottom, they had a plan to eliminate the orcs without raising the alarm. They'd use Levitate to move Galen and up to the top, so Galen could snipe the orcs as Ulf used Silence to cover the area.

Galen, from above, could see two pits along the right wall that they were warned about by Gerry, but there weren't in a path anyone intended to take.

Unfortunately, they chose to put Galen pretty much point-blank on the orcs - just a couple yards away. The devil wolves either smelled or heard him, however, and began to bay and howl. The orcs jumped up, three with bows and two with clubs. Waited. The PCs kept on with the plan, but the Move 3 of their chosen spell meant it would take at least 7-8 seconds to get Ulf within range. The orcs with clubs moved to a now-visible drum.

Galen shot them both down. The bow-armed orcs shot at him, two hitting him and injuring him (but he shrugged off the monster drool they dip their arrows in.) He shot down the two orcs that hit him, putting them both down. The remaining orc yelled to the devil wolves to "go back," presumably for help. Galen shot down two of the devil wolves but the other two were down the tunnel and our of view before he could loose more arrows. He killed the remaining orc instead.

The alarm drum wasn't hit, but it was clear the orcs had to be alerted. So they began to ferry people up. Wyatt climbed as fast as he could, and had to use Luck to avoid a fall but made it to the top. Others followed. As Wyatt reached the top, four screaming goblins rushed up carrying Molotovian Cocktails. They were screaming in a mix of terror and just plain old yelling. Galen shot two of them down. One fell and caught on fire. The other just fell. The other two flung their cocktails. One hit the far wall of the ledge area harmlessly. The other landed near Wyatt and invisible Gerry, splattering them with a little bit of oil.

Galen killed the two the next second.

Then the clay pots near the ledge began to cook off as their igniters (alchemist's matches) went off. Large sections of the ledge were on fire.

Gerry started to drop spells in preparation for casting Mass Zombie, so they put out the fire on the orcs and two of the goblins with some water and by rolling them over.

They brought up the entire crew except for the skeletons. Orcish Bob, IIRC, fell trying to climb up but wasn't really hurt and made it up the second try.

They waited there, hearing orc drums and horns nearby and further on, and lots of orc noises. They formed up and waited.

Gerry cast Mass Zombie but failed. He cancelled more spells and tried again. This time, he succeeded.

By now, they'd been on the ledge for about 7 minutes.

They sent Galen to scout, and found the big cave they'd fought the orcs in last time, but it was empty except for bedding and dormant cooking pits.

Once they had the orcs (and two devil wolves, and two goblins) zombied, they armed the goblins with clubs, ordered the orcs to use bows, and headed out in formation.

The cave was still empty, so they decided to check the three exists that Galen described.

Past the first one was a larder, with barrels of sour orc wine (they like it sour), and hanging meat - deer, mostly, but also rats, pheasant, and a couple of humans. They briefly discussed Mass Zombie on them but didn't do so.

They moved into the next cave, attached. They found sixteen dispirited captives - slaves, as they called them from then on. Twelve humans (trappers, hunters, etc. who disappeared over the past years), three goblins, and a dwarf. They were sitting around, not shackled or anything, with shovels and picks. They were glad to see Ulf once he explained that despite his appearance, he's an ordained priest of the Good God. Wyatt spoke to the dwarf, Vlad Gloinman. He tried to recruit him to fight the orcs with them, but did poorly (a 7 Reaction Roll). Vlad shared that he was captured "up north" by the orcs, while prospecting for gold and gems with a map. The orcs took the map and took him, years back. They brought him down a 3+ mile tunnel from the north into this cave area. They wanted more, easier water supplies and were convinced the prisoners could dig and find one. Vlad wasn't so sure, but they dug. They also found out there were "14 head of ogre" - seven two-headed ogres - in the next cave.

After these exchanged, Vlad took off, not even bothering to hear Wyatt's warning about the pits. It wouldn't matter - the pits are arranged to disrupt people sneaking along the sides.

They headed toward the ogres, wanting to kill them off and then escape with their loot.

Naturally, though, the ogres hadn't stayed when the orcs apparently retreated. They searched and found bedding for two big ogres, one huge one, and two others in bigger niches. They tossed the bedding looking for loot but didn't find any. But they found a silver-coated balanced lance leaning up against the side nice of one. They took it.

They moved up the tunnel Vlad Gloinmen said led to the surface north of here. They followed it for several minutes, still hearing distance orc voices, horns, and drums.

At a turn in the tunnel, they ran into some orcs - big, orc brutes. Gerry ordered his zombie orcs to fire and they advanced. The devil wolves and goblins charged and both wolves and one goblin went down. Gerry ordered his zombies aside to let the party through.

Basically it was a steady, three-on-three brawl. The PCs advanced cautiously, as did the orcs, who tried to stay around the corner and engage the lead fighters without allowing them support. Galen closed in and shot past everyone, nailing orc after orc after orc, putting two arrows into the Vitals of each one he could. Since the orcs were big and tough, this was a good way to ensure they didn't last if they failed to defend. Ulf buffed Bruce and Wyatt with Flaming Weapon. Meanwhile, Crogar, Bruce, and Wyatt cut down any wounded or stunned ones. Crogar was immensely frustrated that the orcs fought well and had solid defenses, so he rarely managed to hit any of them solidly. Bruce and Wyatt, thanks to their investment in Agility potions (and Wyatt's large number of attacks) made it much easier on them to inflict harm. And Galen shot down orcs as steadily as a drum cadence. Wyatt fought one orc and rolled a lot of critical failures in a row, breaking one of his swords. He snatched up the orc's scimitar after killing him with his off-hand sword and used that as a parrying tool (despite its cumulative -4). Crogar defended himself well, but Bruce was critically hit several times and badly wounded, needing Ulf to heal him.

Eventually they whittled down most of the dozen or so orcs that attacked them, and two half-orcs (orc/ogre mixes) attacked, both Great Hasted and with Missile Shield, cast clearly by a gigantic two-headed ogre. Galen couldn't hit him, either, as he had Missile Shield on as well. Gerry moved up and sicc'ed his skull spirit on one, and put Great Haste on himself and then on Wyatt. The half-ogres managed to close in and attack, even after Wyatt blinded one with an eye stab. The orge smashed Wyatt with a morningstar, wounding him only lightly with a terrible damage roll. By "lightly" I mean to negative HP; better damage could have killed him outright. But Ulf healed him, and as he fell back Orcish Bob moved in to engage.

The knocked down one half-ogre and Orcish Bob slashed him, as did Crogar. And Ulf pulled out his Wand of Holding and zapped the other. That paralyzed him. They slew the fallen half-ogre. As they debated keeping the paralyzed one helpless so Gerry could use Steal Energy, Wyatt killed him with multiple eye stabs.

Wyatt ran ahead to see what was coming. He found nothing but a stone wall. The orcs could be heard past it, proving it thin enough but solid enough to slow down the PCs.

Realizing they couldn't press the fight until the orcs were ready, they looted and left. They gathered coins and weapons, and some armor for Gerry's skeletons, and moved back.

In the interest of out-of-game time considerations, I allowed them to retreat to the surface without issue.

On the way back, Ulf did remember to ask about dungeon entrances in the slums. But he was persuaded not to - it's a bad idea to ask questions in that kind of area, as an outsider. And especially along a river, where it's possible smugglers, thieves, etc. hide out. No one wants to be asked about hidden tunnels and such beneath their houses. He'll get back to it, but armed with money and assistance to "research" such topics.

Back in town, they payed for Analyze Magic on the lance and found it was Puissance +2. They sold it, as no one really needed a lance, no matter how good.


The PCs demonstrated how ineffective the orcs are against well-supported delvers . . . and against Galen. Lacking some kind of Mass Missile Shield the orcs can't handle him. He has an Acc 4 bow doing 2d+5 impaling, Bow-28, Enhanced Tracking, and Double Shot coupled with a pair of Cornucopia Quivers. Unfortunately, though, they couldn't press their advantage. Some of it was real-world time constraints, but also it's a painful slog to fight up a long tunnel. And if Vlad Gloinman is right, it's a good three miles or more! Galen's experience scouting the orcs and their camp suggests he's probably correct.

Galen was amusingly better than everyone. He has the highest DR, the best Stealth (by 6-8 points), best Per (same), best weapon skill (even after those Agility potion rolls), etc. etc. He should, he's over 400 points and only Gerry was close. Oh, and he upped his Basic Move again to 11.

I love the confusion that Orcish Bob causes. Ulf only calls him Bob. Crogar keeps double-checking with the others if they're sure he's not an orc. "His skin is green, right?" "He looks like an orc, right?" Gerry doesn't help by saying that Bob says he's not an Orc. Orcish Bob will cheerfully tell everyone about touching the altar twice. He wasn't game to touch it again this time.

Mild Bruce likes Orcish Bob, and is considering taking him as an Ally. The group assumed this would mean Bruce would pay him a salary, instead of Bob getting a share. I nixed that - Bruce can certainly spend points to say Bob's his buddy, they'll adventure together and Bob will be loyal to Bruce. But he's not downgrading to a low salary. He's generally done well on hauls of loot so why give that up for steady, lower pay? We'll see if Mild Bruce does this or not.

Good solid delve, with a haul of roughly 1700 each. MVP was Wyatt for lots of exciting eye stabs. And presumably for risking the front line with a DR 0, HP 11 swashbuckler. He does have Extra Attack 2, Enhanced Parry 2, and Two-Weapon Fighting, so he's not too badly off, but he doesn't even have the DR the Good God gave a padded doublet so when criticals come too close together . . . he's in trouble.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Felltower pre-summary

We had a good session of Felltower today.

The PCs led a raid on the orcs. We had:

- the return of Orcish Bob

- Galen demonstrating that anything with vitals and lacking Missile Shield is basically dead

- A foray into the orc hole

- a plan gone awry

- a lot of zombies

- rescued prisoners

- and a nice big brawl

Full summary tomorrow!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Tomorrow: Felltower

Tomorrow is Felltower.

I did not do a lot of prep today.

Saturday is a day when I do some last-minute prep, but honestly I never get a lot done the night before. What's ready Friday is 95%+ of what gets run on Sunday. Saturday just isn't a day that's very productive for me thanks to the amount of other things that go on - it's a busy work day for me, for starters, and a training day.

That said, I did get a lot of minis repaired (old, fragile ones) - in case they use the Forest Gate.

I piled up some minis prepped for the depths of Felltower, in case the PCs delve deeper instead of wider.

And I did set up more orcs, in case I need to deploy my new ones to guard the Orc's areas from hostile delvers.

I'm busy hassling the group to make a decision, so I don't have to pack all three - it's tricky to bring all of this. I do really need to establish my own playing place so I can just keep everything stored safely and to-hand at all times.

Friday, May 17, 2019

On the minis workbench - orc sword-to-flail conversion

These guys aren't so much WIP as they are workbench projects:

These are Black Tree Design orcs. They originally held swords, but I've cut off the blades and have been boring out grips to fit some morningstars I cut apart from Warhammer Chaos Marauders (or maybe Chaos Warriors, I can't tell them apart offhand.)

I needed more sword-armed orcs not at all - but I could always use more flail-armed orcs since it's a very effective weapon in GURPS.

They've been a slow project as I find it hard to drill out the grips, but they're slowly getting done.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

We go to the lands of the ice and snow: DF Cold Weather Gear notes

Last session in Felltower, the group found what's been dubbed the "Icy Gate." Mostly because it leads to a land of ice and snow, it's ice-bound, in a freezing room, and beyond big metal doors that are themselves frost-limned.

So you can see why it picked up the name.

If the PCs go beyond it, what is around for icy weather gear?

It's getting on Summer in Stericksburg, but it's been a cold, wet spring full of owlbear attacks, so it's reasonable to expect you can still go right out and get some cold-weather gear.


Sleeping Furs (p. 23) are required for camping successfully.

Tents (p. 23) are also a great idea, even if Weather Dome is available.


Arctic Clothing (p. 16) This is a must-have. The old "Dryst will use Create Object to make us some!" is a risky choice. It beats plain-old Winter Clothing (p. 16) with a stick; it might be overdoing it but it might not be.

Camouflage Clothing (p. 16) is also a good choice.

Yurts (p. 18) would be a solid upgrade from tents, but they're heavy and special-order.

Skates, Skis, and Snowshoes (p. 18) are worth looking at. Snowshoes would probably be the best choice for the area just past the gate.

DFD Barbarians

Polar Beer would be a an interesting choice, to reduce damage from friendly-fire flame attacks. However it's not commonly sold in Stericksburg. So that's two strikes right there.

Beyond these sources, magical support would be very important - Resist Cold, Warmth, fire spells (for offense and fire-starting), Water Vision, and Weather Dome can be delve makers or delve breakers.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Yet another DF book update

I just turned around my playtest/peer review comments yesterday, and already Nikki Vrtis turned around an updated copy.

What now?

- checking, again, for any issues or errors. If they exist I doubt I'll see them, it's hard to see your own writing with fresh eyes when you've seen it day after day for weeks.

- quotes! Time to find pull quotes from the text, and external quotes that match the material. I have some gems, I think, and I'm perusing some Vance, Zelazny, Gygax, Cook (Glen and Hughes, not related), Leiber, Pehov, Moorcock, and others for possible additional quotes. I'll see if I can't work in some cool song lyrics, too, but the material makes that a bit harder.

- dealing with "Special Thanks." I run a big campaign - I don't want to miss anyone who played a formative role!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Painted Goat Men

"Give us the Horse!"

Ah, yes, some Doralissians seeking the legendary Horse of Shadows.

Or some generic beastmen. Me, I like the Alexy Pehov "Chronicles of Siala" books enough to see these guys as the doltish but persistent Doralissians. They came out tabletop quality, and I hope to find a reason to deploy them.

They won't last, because they have eyes, and PCs desperate to hit Dodge-happy monsters tend to stack up their offense to unstoppable levels, but regardless . . . they'll be fun to use.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Final Playtest Feedback Collected

Today I received what's looking like the last feedback/peer review notes of my latest GURPS Dungeon Fantasy volume.

I've begun collecting it all into a document to submit to my editor.

I'm not sure of the release date, but this puts the book one step closer to completion. It's been a while since I had a book released - the last was DFM3 - so this feels really nice.

Plus it's Felltower related, so for everyone who's asked me about "publishing Felltower," well, at least this is a partial installment along those lines.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Neural Network Sage answers all about Felltower and Gamma Terra!

Over at Blood of Prokopius there is an excellent post where he puts Jeff Reints's 20 Questions to a Neural Network Web Toy.

It's one of the funniest posts I've read.

So I decided to "help" my players by asking the Neural Network Web Sage some questions that have been nagging the PCs. I edited down to just the paragraphs I liked, but the words are all from the toy.

"What is beyond the Jester Gate?"


As a matter of fact, here is what is beyond the Jester Gate – a complete new experience where you feel like you are being transported back to some past time, a time long forgotten and now suddenly alive again.

Here, we will go into the realm and visit various places and see what is happening inside the realm.

The journey begins by crossing the gate at the end of the "Gated Passage" (the "Gate") and you get to the second "realm" – which is not "inside the gate" but closer to the real "realm" – as you take the path right outside of the gate. You will go past some "vigilant guards" of various faiths who will offer to help you by helping you to the way of the spirit world (or as they describe, the place of the "Witches", just outside the gate), to make a connection with spirits from the previous "realm", who will guide you through the labyrinthine labyrinthine paths.

I love how it gets just as pedantic as I can sometimes.

Where in the Lost City is Rangol Grot?

To travel around here, take the main path to the right. You're just on the opposite side of the room from the room with the gate. Go towards the doorway, where you see two crates inside. Open one of them, then go on and find Rangol Grot himself in one of the crates. When you get close enough, he will open his eyes and say "What are you? You're the last living member of a forgotten tribe of humans!"

You are allowed to pick up this weapon to continue, but it might be best to keep it if you want to take Rangol Grot along with you. When you're ready, head up the stairs. At the top of the stairs is Rangol Grot, who will be waiting for you. Now, as you were previously told, you can pick up Rangol Grot from him. To do this, go down and pick up the Key.

Yeah, but which box is he in?

How do we get past the repelling doors?

Is it because we're too busy? It can't be done.

Nice - philosophical backhand followed by a gnomic hint.

And here is one for Hillbilly in Gamma Terra. Presumably he's asking a Think Tank that's a bit on the fritz:

Where can we find a functional black ray gun?

You cannot find a functional black ray gun in China. What are the black raksma in China? A black rakma in China is probably in the shape of a ball. Does the ball shoot bullets? It is true — there is a black ball in China. Are there black balls? Not at all. Why? Because it is not there at all. There are no black bullets in China. Where is the black rakma? No, not there. Where is the ball in China? It is everywhere. If the ball were to fire bullets there, it would not be a ball but a black ball… It is a black ball. People will say you can't shoot a black ball in China… But this is because you are not in China. The reason to say that is, in China, no black balls are in any shape at all. People are allowed to believe whatever they want as long as they don't destroy the universe, so they must be true.

So, we shouldn't look in China, that's for sure. Or should we? I'm not looking forward to finding out what a Chinese black rakmsa is. It's ball shaped . . . or it's not there. Who can tell?

I love that last line. As long as I don't destroy the universe, I'm pretty much okay to believe stuff. Roger that!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Goblin minis Kickstarter

I love the names on these goblins:

I'll wait until these guys are up in packs on the Black Tree Designs store, but I highly approve of minis by people who know all five of the Marx Brothers and who name goblins after them.

Plus these guys are appropriately comically lethal-looking for my current game.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Upcoming GURPS book notes

No, not just my upcoming GURPS book, although it comes up in Sean Punch's latest post.

There is a lot of upcoming GURPS stuff I really like:

GURPS Template Toolkit 2: Races sounds neat.

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Setting also sounds interesting. I have one - one that's not really suited for people not-me, I think, but I have one. Still, I like seeing what other people do so I can use bits in my own game.

The Dungeon Fantasy Pyramid Collection should be interesting. I don't have anything in it - I didn't have a lot of pre-DF material that was easy to update to 4e and DF. But I'd like to see what comes along.

So I'm really pleased to see more GURPS books that I can potentially use in my own game coming along.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Notes from DFD Barbarians: Movie Barbarians

Before DFD: Barbarians was a book, it was a planned Pyramid article.

Here is what became the Shirtless Savage:

The Movie Barbarian

Jehnna: I suppose nothing hurts you.
Conan: Only pain.
- Conan the Destroyer

Barbarian warriors in the movies fit a common type – muscled, tanned skin, and scantily clad, whether male or female. They lack armor – for cinematic, eye-candy reasons. This lens trades off armor for natural toughness. DR with the Tough Skin limitation means you might get cut, a little, and perhaps even bleed a superficial trickle of blood, but you’re not really hurt.
This lens is usually combined with Combat Barbarian, above.

- Change Advantages to Appearance (Attractive) [4]; DR 2 (Tough Skin, -40%; Accessibility, Doesn’t Stack with Armor DR, -40%) [4]; High Pain Threshold [10]; Nonprotective clothing [1]; and Outdoorsman 4 [40]. • A further 21 points among . . . ” Improve Appearance (Attractive) to Appearance (Handsome) [8]; DR 3-5 (Tough Skin, -40%; Accessibility, Doesn’t Stack with Armor DR, -40%) [2/level]; or from among the standard barbarian advantages.

Nonprotective clothing: See GURPS Supers, p. 30. This allows the barbarian to wear clothing without negating his own DR, such as the very popular leather bracers, boots, and fur loincloth. At the GM’s option, this can allow you to wear mostly cosmetic armor like horned helms, chainmail bikinis, and big leather belts, but this only fits in very cinematic or silly games.

Does Not Stack with Armor is similar to the Cannot Wear Armor limitation (p. B00), except that it merely doesn't stack with armor. A barbarian could choose to wear armor, but this won't add to it, even if it is higher than the DR of the armor worn.
This matters by hit location, so a barbarian could wear a magic helmet (Pot Helm, Fortify +2) and take its superior DR, but similarly would lose his native DR on the locations covered by that armor. This helps justify the occasional bits of armor a movie barbarian might find and wear during epic fights.

Designers Notes: Since barbarians are Size Modifier +1, armor is double cost and weight. The natural DR of this lens allows the barbarian to shrug off damage and stay mobile, but isn't so much that it overtops an armored barbarian or a knight. The natural DR of this approach plus the regular DR a barbarian can buy (see Dungeon Fantasy 3, pg. 38) allows up to 7 DR, 9 vs. crushing damage only. The Tough Skin limitation makes him vulnerable to touch attacks and poisons, so take a good look at Resistant to Poison!


As you can see, I did somewhat different things with it in the end. But that's what it started out as.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

My latest DF book is in playtest

My latest DF draft is in playtest at the moment. It's only open to SJG freelancers, but I've already had a few pairs of eyes going over the content.

It's in a preliminary layout format, too, so it's a bit past the usual "check this first draft ms" stage.

A lot of little issues have been picked up, of course - things that seem obvious once you see it in a new format or with another's eyes.

So my book is getting that much closer to publishing!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Crogar WIP

I did a little more work on Crogar, who is taking a lot more time than I'd expected or hoped.

I did some work on his flesh.

I base-coated his axe.

I base-coated his shield - a red bird on white. I'll gloss it over with orange and red ink when I'm near the end.

I base coated most of the rest of the mini - only his horns and loincloth need real work.

I'll get him done by the next game session, for sure.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Updates to the Felltower Files

I made a few updates this morning as part of my blog bookkeeping for Felltower:

- I added the Lesser Flame Lords to the Monsters Encountered page. I did not add the giant fire elementals (I don't sort them on size, just type) or the killer sphere, since it wasn't encountered in any real detail-discerning way.

- I edited the Known Gates page to reflect the results of the last session, including discovery of a new gate and scrying of several mis-identified gates. Also, of realizing that one "gate" was in fact not a gate at all. It behooves delvers to check thoroughly - plans to deal with the "water gate" were useless because it's a magical pool, not a gate.

There are a lot of "tag end" areas the PCs can explore, now. Just off the top of my head:

- Beyond the repelling doors near the crystal lenses;

- the tunnels down the "Orc Hole;"

- the door beyond the iron golems;

- the chained double doors;

- the orichalcum doors;

- the door beyond the black reaver;

- doors and tunnels near the Lord of Spite's "apartments;"

- eight open gates (Olympia, Forest, Icy, Fire, Jester, Air, Lost City, Jungle);

- the new GFS down;

- the "beholder level" - accessible by sinkhole, pit, and stairs.

They have varying levels of challenges - certainly fighting orcs isn't as dangerous as fighting a beholder - but there is a lot to do.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Adding to my dungeon ape collection

For no reason except for the fact that I like killer apes, especially killer apes in dungeons, I ended up with a bunch of killer ape minis.

My Bones IV collection came with a trio of apes, two of which I got right down to painting. They're not hardly done, but I had to get started on these guys as soon as I could:

I guess they'll make good Juggernaut or Determined apes. They're certainly a bit oversized. I figure by the time I'm an old man "Heroic 28mm" will be life-sized. ;)

Friday, May 3, 2019

Misc Notes for 5/3

Tough week for business, but I got some stuff done and things to chat about.

- I'm mostly sorted through Bones IV. I have a couple of maybes. Some of my players want some of the minis, so I'll just give them along if they want them. Gauth might be one of them. Still, I'd be happy to trade for any of the monsters - ogres, trolls, apes, griffons (if that's what that is), owlbears, etc. and I have a lot of assorted stuff to get rid of to do that. Some Bones III leftovers, too.

- I've got several Bones IV minis painted or partly painted already. I work quickly when minis are needed for game. Yet I'm so lazy that Crogar isn't finished yet.

- I handed in some requested text for my book. I am looking forward to a playtest-ready document soon. And a playtest. Hopefully I won't have to use the "but it's supposed to be stuff from my game, and that is how it is in my game" bludgeon too often. Heh.

- I think Joe wants his book.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

GURPS 101: Monday morning quarterbacking the Session 115 fights

We had a few fights in Session 115 of Felltower.

Generally, I just adjudicate fights. You're doing well, you're struggling, whatever, I just say what happens and have the NPCs fight as hard as they can. Or as hard as is appropriate, more accurately. I do my level best to kill the PCs, maim the PCs, dissuade the PCs, or escape the PCs - depending on the nature of the foe. And if sensible (or morale-limited) foes falter, I have them do that, too.

I don't give advice to the players. I expect you to learn the rules, because doing so makes you a better player and also a better co-player to those who'll pick up the slack if you don't.

That said, I saw a lot of "opportunities" in the past session.

Several times, Dryst used Lightning to injure - but mostly to stun - some of the flame lords.

Those stunned flame lords had flanked Mild Bruce and Crogar. Both Mild Bruce and Crogar were in easy position to step back out of their surrounded positions, attain a better defensive position, and strike their Stunned foes.

Stunned is a condition in GURPS that gives -4 to Active Defenses and doesn't allow you to Retreat. In addition, recovery from Stunning is done at the end of a turn - so any foes attacked in this fashion couldn't strike back.

Instead, both Mild Bruce and Crogar attempted to attack fully aware, active combatants.

I understand the feeling - keep the active fighters engaged. Don't throw away a good position for a chance to finish a wounded foe. All too often we've seen someone break formation to "finish" a foe but cost a the party's integrity and position.

But in this case, it would have just been applying a combination of two factors:

- local superiority

- superior position.

By local superiority, I mean the concentration of force against a weakened foe. Dryst stuns it, another PCs steps in and finishes off the wounded foe. If not finishes off, instead of needing to use a Feint, or a steep Deceptive Attack, or both, the attacking PC would benefit from a -4 to defenses from the defender. Gang up on a weakened foe - don't stun a foe so you can swing away at a strong foe without risk, stun a foe so you can end that foe as a threat and then move on to the next one.

By superior position, I mean giving up a flank attack against yourself to foe the enemy to fight down a narrow channel towards you. This can be a deathtrap if your foe is capable of filling said channel with area attacks. If the foe is weakened to only using low-damage, high-risk attacks, then you want to force them to minimize their numbers while you maximize yours.

Instead, the PCs chose to just "divide and conquer" - you know, divide up, and hope to conquer. But "divide and conquer" as a strategy is to divide the foe and focus local superiority of numbers and position onto each one of them in turn, allowing a defeat in detail.

So I took the time after the session to speak to Mild Bruce's player (an adult, if a young one) and Crogar's dad's player (an adult, since Crogar's player is quite young). Mild Bruce will keep in mind what he missed through myopic focus on a particularly annoying foe. Crogar's player's dad is thinking of just gaming out some fights.

Learning game skill is helpful. Learing to see a tactical situation and discern how to take it apart to your advantage - that's gold in and out of game.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Ulf the Not Yet Martyred, Cleric

Asked and done.

Ulf Sigurdson is a human cleric, from the same northern seafaring clans that produced martyrs like Bjorn Felmanson, Hjalmarr Holgerson, and presumably still-living "Red Raggi" Ragnarson, as well.

His highlight traits:

- Faith Healing

- He wields an axe (but his ranged weapon is Sunbolt because that's too good not to have.)

- Divine Grace gives him +1d DX for 3d seconds for combat actions once per day (delve.)

- He's very lightly armored, choosing mobility over protection.

- He's Selfless, Overconfident . . . and Honest. Since looking in the dungeon is legal, that's fine, but it could cause problems in other circumstances. Can? Will. It's a disadvantage.

So far he's been interesting, and managed to kick a Flame Lord to death, which is a unique accomplishment. With Faith Healing he's got a tool that isn't SM restricted for healing, to match with his spells. If he survives long enough, he should become an interesting cleric.
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