Monday, September 30, 2019

Random Links for 9/30

Just some random things for today.

- The Kickstarter for Bones V is 12 noon tomorrow. I'd post a link if I had one.

- Who had a great game session? this guy right over here. If the things he needed to rule on are any indication, it was a fun game.

- I mentioned the other day that I won my first game of War in the East. That's not technically true - I've gotten minor victories here and there on small scenarios, but not on a larger one. In any case, I swapped back to the Axis for a game and I've seen what a vast amount I learned from running the Soviets, watching the AI. I'm not perfect but I've done much better. I've gotten much, much better at logistics, shifting around units to different HQs, assigning support units, knowing where to repair rails first, and how to pocket units with isolation. I'm still learning but I feel more comfortable and I'm enjoying the true challenge of the game - deciding what to do, not learning how to manage the game. Not that that isn't challenging, but it's not the challenge I'm the most interested in.

- One of my friend's clients and I were speaking the other day. She asked if I knew what GenCon was. Heh. Yes, yes I do. She's not a gamer, but she's in a related field and GenCon is a big event for her.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Felltower & Technology

On the subject of equipment, what TL is Felltower?

DF is technically "TL Olden Times." That's a cute way of saying it's a mix of TL0-4, lacking gunpowder, with everything mixed together. Stone clubs and edged rapiers exist side by side, as do bone armor and full plate. People arm themselves with a weird mix of gear - bronze swords carried by men in mail, fur-clad archers use composite bows with bodkin point arrows and tote the finest steel cavalry sabers, and so on.

Felltower owes most of its technology to this weird mix.

Some things are a bit more advanced, thanks to Gnomic technology and Dwarven metalwork. The game still lacks gunpowder, if only because of the consequences of allowing PCs to buy kegs of black powder* on the game as a whole.

A lot of the "technology" that is a bit ahead of its time are social inventions. The PCs are literate. Books are expensive but aren't crushingly so. Guilds exist but function a lot more like unions than orders full of secrets. Magic is handled in a relatively perfunctory yes/no availability fashion. The city is organized around a mayoral system and has both guard and watch. There is no banking system, exactly, but only because I chose to handwave in-game in-town risk to goods. If I had that risk, I'd have a robust and fairly modern banking system. Socially it's a very egalitarian place except for social stigmas against criminals, outlaws, barbarians, and monster types. Those aren't legal, just norms. There is no slavery. Healing, both magical and reliable, clean, infection-free non-magical, is available readily.

Most of this is a function of allowing the assumptions of the players to work without the game presenting difficulties. The goal here is dungeon delving, and all of the above allows for that to take place with minimal outside impact.

Hard tech and soft tech are both limited to those things that are non-disruptive to the main aim of play, and also both raised to the level that is most conducive to that.

* In short, it's not guns that are the problem, it's solving every problem with Ignite Fire and kegs of explosives.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Equipment in GURPS (and in D&D)

Paul over at Paul's Gameblog put up a post about tools in D&D:

Tools in D&D

He poses a good question for D&D games - what technology level is your game?

With GURPS, this is much easier. Variable tech levels as a concept is baked into the basic form of the game.

Even so, what tool are available wasn't always an easy thing to answer, especially in the early days when digital search wasn't that great and resources just weren't up online.

These days, I just say, GURPS Low-Tech is the place to look.

Before the first GURPS Low-Tech came along, my go-to for equipment in my campaigns was . . . And a 10-Foot Pole by I.C.E., for Rolemaster. I found it a great resource for relative costs, weights, and availability by technology level. If you can find it, it's a useful resource. It's much better if you're playing Rolemaster of the same era, but either way, it's a very useful book.

After the first edition of GURPS Low-Tech came along, I used that. The next edition, the one I helped write, was much easier to use.

These days, that's where I go. For my DF game, for example, things are in the low-TL4 level of technology, augmented by superscience tech and magic. In my previous game, it was a solid TL4 minus gunpowder. I think it would be useful for a D&D GM, too, but I'll admit I'm biased in favor of the utility of GURPS books.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Finally won a game of War in the East

Over the past week, when I've had time, I've been playing War in the East more. This time, as the Soviets, so I can get an idea of what defending is like before I get back to trying to attack as the Axis*.

I managed to eke out a Soviet Minor Victory in the 1941 "Road to Lenningrad" scenario.

It wasn't terribly hard, stategically. The computer AI is good. But even so, it can get a bit bogged down in places that I didn't deem worth the effort. All I needed to do was delay, delay, delay and save units. That's what I did. I pulled back early and often. I set up a defense line around Lenningrad. I conserved all of my airpower for supply drops and computer-run interdiction and battlefield support (especially after "Bomb Unit" never hurt a single Axis soldier.) I defended behind rivers, in swamps, and in cities. I used rail movement to ferry units to the front and only sacrificed units when they got cut off or if I felt I could buy a turn or two by letting them die.

I went from routinely 10:1 casualties against me to 3:1 by the end, which is a war the Soviets can win.

Some things I'm not sure of, like, how the computer managed to get so many rail construction units. I'm sure I'm missing something. I'm not sure how the Soviet AI gets so many partisans, and I only ever got one unit formed (and immediately annihilated by German rear-area security forces.

Others, like how exactly to best ensure I had support units tied to the units that needed them. Or which ones were the ones to choose - I need to really dig into the manual more for that.

I took a few lessons from it:

- liberally using Reassign to change HQs is worth it.

- so is using administrative points to replace crappy leaders.

- it's hard to figure out what a good defensive line will look like. Mine survived mostly because the Axis had 17 turns and I stalled hard. But they were getting dismantled and Lenningrad slowly taken. But I learned that I need to really absorb the rules on building up larger units (such as Corps) and what unit types do best, where.

- Don't get cute. Cute gets units killed. Except possibly for cavalry to raid openings. Generally, though, they end up mauled.

- counterattacking German units is a terrible, terrible idea in 1941. A big pile of Soviet divisions with air support and artillery and planes will get mauled by a pair of German divisions at the end of their tether. It's not 1944 yet.

I really enjoyed it, but there is a lot of administration to do. I'm looking forward to my next go as the Germans and see if I can apply what I learned.

Fun stuff, if very involved.

* I'd say Germans, but you're also running the Finns, Romanians, Italians, etc. that contributed troops to Barbarossa.

Thursday, September 26, 2019


Warehouse 23 is having a 33% off sale on GURPS books from 2018 and earlier:

So most of my books are part of this sale.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Same Rules for All

Generally in game systems, I like all sides to be playing by the same rules.

It bothers me on some level when they don't.

A lot of my gripe comes from playing video games, to be honest. Too many strategic games where re-supply is critical, but the computer doesn't play by the same re-supply rules, so you waste time trying to wage economic warfare or cut off units. Games were ammo is crucial but the computer doesn't run out of ammo. Games were the computer gets a weird bonus to its units, so you can't rightly predict combat power. Games where the NPC version of an identical unit is more powerful - and it loses said power if you somehow convert it to your side. Games where the enemy gets unlimited spells, or arrows, or tanks, or access to (when controlled by a human) command-and-control limited units . . . I feel like I'm getting things slanted against me in a way that prevents me from using my cleverness (and luck, to be fair) to win.

In RPGs I'm a bit more forgiving. I can shrug off intentional one-sides rules - the dark vision of monsters, and the ways doors open for them, in the original D&D books. That's just the environment playing against you. I don't love them, but there we are.

I'm totally fine with the NPCs (or the PCs) getting access to rules and abilities that the other side doesn't. That seems essentially fair to me. After all, games were some races, choices, equipment, etc. is limited is the bedrock of gaming for me. I'm fine with GURPS PCs being built with points and monsters not being built with them (since the budget is unlimited, anyway, why does the total matter?) They're using identical rules - Unkillable might be off-limits for PCs in this game but the monsters use it the same way as the PCs would if they had it. If they both have Night Vision 5 or Weapon Master (Rapier) they both use it the same way. Access doesn't need to be level or fair, just effects and rules, for me to feel like "the same rules for all" applies.

But I don't love it when games, say, have PCs in levels and classes and NPCs in HD. I don't love it when the NPC version of something doesn't match the PC version. It feels more complicated that necessary, like more things to learn and know, and I just feel it's a sub-optimal decision. And it just bothers me.

I'm curious how others feel when they encounter this.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Bones V

News to me, but clearly not to everyone - Bones V is coming 10/1:

Reaper Bones 5 is Coming Soon!
September 5th, 2019
Bones 5 is coming to Kickstarter on October 1!
Be looking for previews and more info right here on, as well as on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. And don't forget to watch Reaper Live every Thursday for more up to date gossip and info!

I'm sure I'll jump in on it ASAP, although that might be tricky as I'll be at work. But after I get in on it, I'll back off and evaluate . . . how much do I need in the way of unpainted plastic? I've got a lot . . . I suppose it depends on what Reaper offers!

Anyone else feel buried until unpainted Bones minis?

Monday, September 23, 2019

Arrow Quality

I'm not sure I've ever seen a game really worry about arrow quality as a matter of course.

You generally have two broad quality levels:

- good, basic arrows that function according to the basic rules.

- better arrows that get bonuses (from your D&D-era Arrows +1 to the varying enchantments, warheads, and materials available in GURPS (some since way back in 1st edition with GURPS Japan.)

If you need more of the first, just go the store in town and get more. They're all good - or are they?

"I [. . .] went to a weapons dealer at the far end of town. There I grudgingly bargained with the surly dealer [. . .] I only stopped when I'd selected two dozen more or less decent arrows from the three hundred he had on offer. I had complete confidence in ten of them, while the remaining fourteen were of middling quality, but they'd do in a pinch.
- Alexey Pehov, "Chasers of the Wind"*

For a high-fantasy game or a dungeon bashing game, I wouldn't really do anything to reduce the quality of basic goods. But in a game where gear is king, and the quality of each of your weapons is a real thing to be concerned over and fuss over, it could be interesting.

In GURPS, you can simply add cheap arrows (0.4 CF, -1 to hit, -10% range) to good (base cost, no bonuses/penalties) and fine (+1 damage) or balanced (+1 to hit). Make arrows you make yourself good on a success, cheap on a marginal failure (say by 1-2), and balanced on a critical success.

Again, unless you're playing a game where arrows aren't used by the bucketful (say, 4 per second by a Great Hasted Heroic Archer) and where every shot counts . . . why not consider making the quality of the arrows matter along with that of the bow?

* Sadly, book one of a series but only book one has even been translated to English. My Russian is never going to be at the level of reading the others, and I suspect sales didn't justify translating the others.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Time Dilation, Felltower, and Restocking

The PCs are currently adventuring in what they're calling "the Starship Warden," a bounded forest/swamp/jungle/killer vegetation area.

At the end of their botanical expedition ("Killing plants!"), they'll presumably return to Felltower . . . a couple months after they entered the gate.

We had this situation come up with Olympia, which even had a delve in between.

This one won't have the delve, but it'll be months for sure between delves.

What does that mean for restocking?

It means it will happen.

When the PCs return to Felltower, either by the same gate or some different way in - or if they somehow get back to town without going through Felltower, the next time they delve within.

The orcs will have responded to a couple months of quiet. Monsters restrained by portal they propped open might move into new areas. Randomly settling creatures may nest between their location and the exit.

Even if the gate took them to a place on "Earth," clearly time was lost in the transit from one place to another. It felt instant to them, and it was, subjectively, but objectively time passed. Gates are weird that way, clearly.

It makes gate travel rough, but gives it a lot of versimilitude and makes for a lot of fun. I recommend this way of doing things.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Limited Great Haste

So Great Haste's impact on play has prompted another GM to limit it a bit:

Gimping Great Haste.

My players and I - mostly the players who routinely take, and cast, Great Haste - have discussed ways to limit the spell.

Lessened Great Haste for example, is a list of some ways we've considered changing it.

The method used on dripton's blog is a simple one. Still, I feel like it weakens fighter-types - which is fine - while not limiting casters - who really, in my experience, benefit from Great Haste. I'm not saying his choice is wrong, just that it's something I think my players (especially the ones who run Dryst/Angus McSwashy and Gerry/formerly Vryce) would have concerns about. Great Hasting yourself as a caster is a turn one move in any fight you expect to last longer than 10 seconds, against foes who need to be defeated by magic, or against a foe too lethal to make it last 10 seconds.

I keep looking back at my post and trying to figure out a good solution. I like the idea of double abilities, but it's tough to adjudicate in some cases. The fixed bonuses is nice, but perhaps too limited (and needs to address casters, honestly.) I need more feedback from my players before I can really do more - they love Great Haste but more than a few of them find it so must-have that it could use adjustment to make it feel like a more balanced choice.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Bones Lot . . . Sold!

Sold and shipped.

I sent off the minis in that Bones Lot I mentioned a while back.

That's made hardly a dent in my total minis, though. I need to get back to regular painting but it's hard to find the time!

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Doug's Kickstarter Update

Just a quick note here today:

Doug's Nordlond Saga's Kickstarter has passed its initial goal, and funded, and is now on to stretch goals. Doug always puts out exceptionally high quality product, within the promised delivery period, and pays his contributors on time and generously. You can't go wrong backing his campaigns.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Some Short Thoughts on the Complexity of Puzzles

I sometimes include puzzles in my games. The evil tree from the last game session is a puzzle monster, for sure. It cannot be defeated by brute force. I made that terribly obvious, to avoid the thousands of points of wasted damage seen with another puzzle monster, the hydra. No, you're not wearing it down. No, you're not bringing it ever closer to -10xHP. You're doing nothing at all.

So, obviously a puzzle.

What's the solution?

How complex is the puzzle?

From the GM's side of the screen, a puzzle can look very simple. But from the player's side, it can see terribly complex. If it seems complex from the GM's side of the screen, odds are it's going to seem (and be) unsolvable by the PCs. They're dealing with a limited set of information at best, different understandings of the words your using, a different perception of the situation, and your puzzle.

In C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness, The simple chessboard puzzle in the dungeon was also a big complexity for them, even though - once they got started - the solution wasn't complicated. But it was easy to see it as more than it presented. It was all too easy to see more issues where fewer actually existed. The rotating statues puzzle was simple at heart, but still required a lot of clues to solve it - and a lot of freedom of movement about the dungeon.

Is it even a puzzle?

Still, it's easy for the players to take bits of one puzzle or riddle and assume it's connected to another. You also get non-puzzles that are seen as puzzles - perhaps our Gamma Terra GM andi will tell the tale of the eight statues and the eight vials of holy water in the comments. One from our games was the beaded curtain in C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness, where the PCs spent an extremely long time dealing with something that was just a simple obstacle - to be either forced or removed via Dispel Magic.

Knowing is Half the Puzzle

With those two things in mind, I know I need to keep solutions simple and relatively obvious - or, at least, hinted at three or more times. The more, the better. I'm likely to keep it a little vague, maybe too vague, but throw a lot of them out. Even armed with all of them, the players won't always figure it out. That's okay, but without them I'm assuring myself that they can't. That's not fun for anyone.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Evil Tree Minis

One of my players got three really good pictures of the "evil trees" from last session.

Here they are, earlier in the day and backlit by sunshine as they stand near the "stain."

The first is of the main one - it's Treehbeard from Reaper Minis. I bought him a long time ago, for - if my notes are correct - $19.95. I painted him up carefully and, in my opinion, well.

And then I black-washed him . . . and used ink, not paint, to make the wash. Oops. I trashed the mini.

I had to sit down and re-paint over the original paint, bringing up highlights, repainting every single leaf one by one, then re-drybrushing him, etc.

The effect is pretty excellent, if I say so myself.

I don't recommend the experience to anyone.

The second picture in that post is one of two Reaper Bones wood golems (I think.) They're nice killer trees. I picked up two of them from Miniatures Giant a while back.

The second picture is of the evil tree throwing Galen, which was amusing to me.

Monday, September 16, 2019

GURPS DF Session 121, Felltower 93 - Forest Gate II

Date: Sunday, September 15th, 2019

Weather: Hot, humid, diffusely sunny.

Dryst, halfling wizard (463 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (268 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (409 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (355 points)
     5 Skeletons (~35 points)
     Skull Spirit (?? points)
Quenton Mudborne, goblin druid (265 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (265 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (265 points)

We picked up right after the PCs killed a pair of ankhegs in a brief fight. They quickly healed up the wounded while Gerry cast Zombie on both bugs and ordered them to the front, flanking Galen. Dryst cast Create Servant and sent it into the lead, and they headed out.

From there they made their way south to another wide pathway heading NW or SE (again, arbitrary directions). They chose NW and eventually found a NE pathway and took it. That split, and they kept right and found a dead end. At the end of the dead end were a number of trees totally denuded of bark and leaves. Wyatt wanted to investigate, so he moved ahead, trailed a bit to the rear by Crogar, Galen, and the two ankheg zombies.

As they went, Quenton kept an eye out for fruit and selected one that looked pear-like, and ripe. It had a cloying, sickly-sweet smell and didn't look right in spots. He put it in his pack.

He reached the end and knocked on the wood. After he did so, vines shot out from either side of the pathway, from right off the ground all the way up to 30-40' off the ground, grabbing at people. The ankhegs and Wyatt were grabbed - Wyatt by three around the body, one each around the left leg and right arm. They came at him from the flanks and he wasn't able to Dodge more than one. In moments the vines had 20 CP on his and he was in serious trouble. He tried to cut himself free with his left but couldn't land an effective blow due to his halved ST.

Galen stood between the ankhegs, shielded from either side, and took out his 10 cutting-tipped arrows. He shot one experimentally at a vine on Wyatt and cut it off. Caustic sap dripping from the vines started to eat into Wyatt's armor (but not his Mythic Corselet). More vines grabbed him, including one around his next. At least until he was able to get one arm free thanks to two more Galen arrow shots and then start cutting vines off of himself.

Crogar ran up and started to hack vines off of one of the ankheg, which bit vines off of themselves as well. But he, too, was quickly grabbed and forced to cut one off of himself. More vines reached out for the targets in range, and the ankheg got more and more wrapped up. Crogar was forced to back off or be grappled himself.

Vines just kept coming, and no one could spot a single source of them - just a massive tangle of vines on either side of the path.

Galen backed up as well, loosing arrows the whole time, eventually shooting off 8 of his 10 cutting arrows. Once Wyatt had free arms and enough CP knocked off to get back to full damage swings he was able to cut off the others.

Once Wyatt was free he ran back with Walk on Air and past the ankhegs, cutting three vines off of one with Move and Attack. But more grabbed, and the caustic sap was burning away their chitin and wearing down their HP. They tried to plan a way to free them. They hit on buffing the living hell out of Wyatt, putting Great Haste on him, and having him cut them free while Crogar stood just out of reach and cut vines off of Wyatt. But they realized as they planned that the ankhegs would be reduced to -1xHP in less time than it would likely take to free one, and Gerry didn't care if they survived or not. They did their job, he said, by shielding Galen from the vines so he could free Wyatt.

They left the vines dissolving the ankhegs and moved back and headed West.

At the end of the pathway was another section of wall. Wyatt tried to scratch it, etc. to test if it was the same kind of wall. It was. Dryst created a Wizard Eye and sent it up . . . but it just halted at 40' and wouldn't rise higher. So Wyatt went up with Walk on Air and walked the wall, running his hands along it. As he got to around 40' or so, he passed the eye . . . and was struck from behind by a bolt of lightning for 25 damage . . . and thus 23 injury. He passed his death check, but fell, stunned (thanks to a HT-11 stunning roll.)

Dryst and Gerry both tried to cast Levitation on him as he fell, and one (I think Dryst) succeeded. He was lowered down and quickly healed by Ulf with Faith Healing.

They decided to rest and recuperate, but they heard a noise coming closer. The eye spotted a few hundred birds, red with blue edging on the wings, flying in. They waffled between hiding with Concealment, moving, running, fighting, and depending on Invisibility. So they did none of those, although Quenton cast Lightning and rolled a 3, and got an 18d Lightning for free.The birds came . . . and Ulf decided to hold his shield overhead. No one else followed until the birds released their cargo - golf-ball sized acorns, hard as rocks but splotched with strange mildews and disease patches. They didn't managed to hurt anyone, but it forced the wizards to put Missile Shield on and everyone to cower until the rain let up in about 10 seconds or so. Galen shot two birds down, but the rest just circled.

They had a brief discussion of using Create Object to make bows for Galen, and then having him shoot until he'd killed all 300+ birds with his Cornucopia Quiver. They eventually decided this wasn't a useful strategy or one that accomplished much. Crogar took the two dead birds and put them in his pack, and Quenton took some acorns.

That led to a petrified area of trees. They eventually discovered a thin, cobwebby yellow slime on the trees and bushes. All of the ones that were petrified had it; none that weren't had it.

Naturally, they sent a servant to go scoop some up with its hands ("scoop handfuls" they instructed, but it was a thin, filmy substance.) They got it to put some on a nearby tree, and it started to slowly turn grey over several minutes. Fast by normal standards, slow for combat. Nonetheless, they wanted some.

Eventually, they got some onto the servant and had it try to wipe it into a vial, but merely messed up the bottle. They managed to create a spatula (originally created in Rome, we googled) and scrape some off and put it into a vial. (The alternate plan was, create a container to hold the servant's hands, then kill the servant so it disappears, and the slime drops into the container, then pour that into the vial.)

From there, they decided they needed to check the paths to and from the ankheg's area. They also searched the ankheg's burrow with the Wizard Eye and Dark Vision, but Dryst couldn't see much besides broken chitin casings from molting, presumably.

They went down one of the three south-heading paths. One turned out to be narrow, and dark, with roots tangling the ground and high grass. They threw an acorn, which did nothing. They sent a servant with a lightstone, and it was snaffled up by . . . something . . . lunging out of the tangle on the right. They sent the Wizard Eye and it was sucked down by a sucker-mawed plant-thing that shot out like a moray and sucked it down and disappeared back into the tangle.

They decided, having wasted a fair amount of time here, that it wasn't worth going down that way and went another route.

They headed to the vegepygmies at this point, and decided to send their druid to talk to them. After all, he's got a +1 to +5 from plant life (Green Thumb, ornate plant-themed gear), and is actually a non-threatening person lacking in the usual sociopathic disadvantages of most delvers (Bloodlust, Bad Temper, Overconfidence, Callous).

They sent him up to the gate with Walk on Air, Shield, and Gift of Tongues. He held his Lightning, still, crackling in his hand. He "spoke" to them that he was a friend, not a friend of the tree, and wanted peace. He offered "sun energy" - the lightning - to them based on Gerry's recollection that vegepygmies, like shambling mounds, grow from lightning. He asked to come inside for "stories and songs."

They eventually let him in. Quenton realized that without tendrils/root ends, coloration, and whatnot, he couldn't really communicate well. But he did his best and kept it without nuance. He identified the leader (easily) and their druids - four of them. It was silent within - they don't breathe, they don't make noise except to "speak" and don't always do that. It was oddly "normal" inside - a +3 to Nature's Strength, for one, and although the plants weren't terrestrial they weren't warped, rotting, diseased, or anything else.

He negotiated with them, wanting information and a trade for their metal (sensed with Seek Earth) for his "sun energy." They don't have a word for trade, though, just "give." Eventually he made it clear what he wanted, and they gave him the metal - a silver ring. He hit their leader with Lightning and rolled 45 damage - causing it to grow from roughly 5'2" to nearly 6'. After that, he played his tambourine for them and sang songs for about an hour.

He left and the group found a spot to rest for a bit. The ring was magical but they didn't take the time to use Analyze Magic

They then decided they needed more information, and needed Quenton to cast Pathfinder to find the way home. So they wanted him to go back in. He made more Lightning and "talked" to the vegepygmies again. They were reluctant to let him in, as he tried to explain that he had more energy. He eventually talked his way in, and learned more.

Quenton decided the vegepygmies must be castaways stuck here, not native. They said they survive on "only sky water" and make it distinct from "rain"(at least Quenton understood it that way.) The "evil tree" couldn't be destroyed ("no never" to his questions about destroying it). The "evil tree" is to the "East." There was a "window" but it's "gone." Where? "Gone." Can it come back? "Gone."

(Actually in this second conversation, Quenton got a lot more into wording and nuance, which made it tough - even with Gift of Tongues he can't actually construct or understand the nuance.)

In the end, he "gave" the lightning to the leader again but it did nothing. Not enough power? No more necessary? Who knows? But it meant they couldn't just "trade" free mana for information and items and expect it'll always work.

Taking their leave of the vegepygmies, they headed as east as they could, deciding the evil tree must shield the way out.

They made it to a clearing and heard a voice calling them - "Over here! Help me!" It was clearly human . . . to all but Galen, who made his Per by 10+ or so (maybe more) as his player opined it was probably a bird. (Great combo of player skill and character ability, there) So it was. It was a bird of some kind.

He said it was a bird, they should avoid it. The "voice repeated its plaintive call, and tried to talk them into coming to help. They moved on. Quenton, mostly to guilt Ulf, said it could be a bird, but a bird held captive by another creature. So it was a trap, but there was possibly a parrot-like bird in real danger. Poor Ulf didn't want to think about that.

They headed east and found a clearing with a large bed of sunflower-sized flowers with a sweet, fragrant scent. They sent a servant over to investigate, and it didn't have anything bad happen, so they headed out of the only other exit path - a narrow one north and west.

At the end of that narrow (3-4 yard) pathway was a clearing with palm-like trees on one side with weird fruit, and Seussian trees on the left. In the middle stood three animate trees - a rangy thin and tall one (roughly 22-24' tall) and two thick and shorter ones (roughly 18' tall but masssively thick.) All had glowering red lights for "eyes." As they came into view, they advanced in a wedge, the center one laughing evilly and hollowly. Beyond it was a long smear of dead black - not glossy, not bright, not wet, just dead lightless black.* Wisps of "smoke" of pure black rose from it.

Was this the evil tree? Certainly seemed so.

The PCs sprang into action. Galen shot the center tree as it ran up (at Move 8!) and both of his arrows bounced off. Crogar waited and swung his axe at it as the wizards began to cast buffs, including Flaming Missiles on Galen's bow. Crogar's axe bounced off of its hand as it casually swiped at him.

It clearly wasn't trying very hard - it was using big, looping, Telepgrahic Attacks as it laughed. It called out, "Flee mortals! I cannot be destroyed!" The PCs opened up on it more. Galen's flaming arrows - and then flaming bodkins - all bounced off. So did numerous axe blows from Crogar, some doing damage in the 20s.


The thick trees stoped moving and just waited on the flanks. Wyatt ran overhead, very high up, but below 40', to avoid it's grasp. They continued to attack, and tried Fireball and a 15d Sunbolt. Neither even marked it. It kept laughing and telling them to flee, and that they'd soon be "one with me" and "be my slaves."

(In the interest of time, I'm cutting this down to the results.)

The PCs tried to harm it, but couldn't. They buffed up the fighters with Shield and the casters with Great Haste. Quenton tried (and failed) to cast Wither Plant on the big tree despite the cost (see notes, below.) Quenton decided it needed Rain to damage it, being "sky water." So he started to cast it despite the 60 second casting time. Galen tried shooting the palm trees and Seuss trees - they could be hurt, and the fire might eventually catch if they were dry (it's damp in this place), but that didn't seem to affect it. Gerry sent his Skull Spirit at it and it was absorbed into the tree.

So Ulf tried casting Major Healing on it, to no avail. Dropping the herbicide from outside the gate didn't harm it, either.

They couldn't find a weak point on it or on its back. Behind it, though, was the black stain.

Galen, Wyatt, and Crogar ran past it. It tried to smash Ulf but missed and moved on to just following them around and throwing lazy slaps. Gerry fled at this point, and suggested everyone else come with him.

They reached the stain and decided one bit looked like a claw, and another like a folded wing. It looked like the outline of a dragon.

In the "stain" was a 2' deep, 3' wide "pool" of a lipped depression.

Crogar tried running into the stain. It made him dizzy, and then injured him with HT rolls at a cumulative -1 per second or per hex, so he was at HT-1 immediately and to HT-7 in seconds. They decided to dump water in the hole, to kill the tree somehow. Dryst floated over and used Create Water. Galen tried to use a spellstone but the tree grabbed him and tossed him toward the exit, telling him to flee. Galen tossed his stone toward Crogar, as the tree grabbed him, who had to crawl around looking for it. The eventually got 5 gallons of water created in the hole, but nothing happened. Dryst tried a Fireball. Nothing.

Wyatt tried taunting it, and asking it what it was. Ulf tried to reason with it, deciding it was warped and needed help. It claimed that "it is the black" and laughed when Wyatt claimed this was a riddle answering a riddle. Ulf wanted to know what it was before the black, but it only repeated that it was the black.

Crogar got a little giddy here, and alternated - seriously - between crying, cowering, madly chopping the black stair to "kill" it. Nothing worked.

(Quenton's player - "I look at my phone for one second and when I look back up Crogar is killing the planet?")

They tried holy water, too, but nothing. Earth Vision showed the stain went straight down as far as Dryst could see, which was at least a few yards (he was floating nearly 40' up.) They kept running around to keep it busy until Quenton finished Rain. It failed - he cannot manipulate the weather here.

Eventually, they all fled. The thick trees bounced a few arrows but otherwise weren't attacked, although they tried to kill everyone except Crogar, who the tall tree refered to "my slave" and for whom "the warping has begun!"

We ended there, with the PCs having fled to the echoing laughs of the "evil tree."

* Like Disaster Area's sundiver, or fugulin, or the cover of Smell the Glove. One of those, perhaps.


Even with a hot start in the game, the early part of the session was largely slow exploration and had a fair bit of ensuring the map lined up. It's fascinating how that happens - it's like every session has a standard rhythm to it.

Once again, a win for me with simplified Technical Grappling. No, it's not the same as the one Doug wrote for DFRPG. But the basic concept of control points is great. So easy to deal with.

The druid cast Wither Plant on the big evil tree, but failed. He was expecting it to be cheap - a base cost 2 Area spell. This was because he was exclusively consulting GURPS Magic and we're using Spells from DF as the primary document and GURPS Magic for spells ported over. He did have the energy to do it, but this is hardly the first time we've had someone assume differently about a spell because they didn't check Spells. What I really need is a single source that contains all of Spells, all the spells I've ported from GURPS Magic, and all of my house ruled spells. That's an enormous amount of work I don't have time for, to create a document I couldn't allow out in the wild under any circumstances (due to copyright issues.) So I haven't done that.

The PCs really milked every possible angle of "solve the puzzle monster." So that last "fight" went long - 40+ seconds of combat time, and a couple of hours, as they tried everything they could think of. I can't fault them, but it was amusing how fast Gerry got to "we need to flee" and how long it took everyone else to agree. The ability of the party to stay airborne and pump up Dodge to obscene levels (usually above 16 without Retreat) so they weren't in real danger most of the time encouraged staying. It's amusing from the GM's side of the screen how nothing can be a sufficient hint - the monster demonstrates and actually describes his invulnerability and the need to flee. Clearly, some kind of trick.

Or not.

MVP was probably Quenton - they're still talking about this by email.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Felltower 93 pre-summary

A lot more Forest Gate Fun today in my Felltower game.

- ankhegs were zombied . . . and promptly fed to plants, accidentally.

- weird slime was harvested.

- more lightning struck.

- birds attacked the party (sort-of.)

- vegepygmies were negotiated with . . . successfully.

- mimicry failed against the party (due to Galen being Galen.)

- an evil tree was encountered . . . and not exactly defeated.

More details tomorrow . . . and maybe even more ellipses!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Last minute game non-prep

Tomorrow is Felltower.

I should be going over my notes, reviewing the maps, packing the minis, double-checking that I have everything, and re-reading any relevant rules that might impact play in a significant fashion.

What I'm actually doing is studying Japanese, reading an unrelated article, going over unrelated materials, watching sumo, painting minis that might see the table tomorrow (or not), reviewing what went right and wrong during some grappling practice today, doing client followup, and going over rules that have nothing to do with game tomorrow at all. I'd do other things if I could think of them.

It's like the day before game, I need a mind-cleansing day where I don't dwell in the depths of Felltower or its attached realms. I need to just leave it all aside for the next morning's frantic packing, and just get on with the non-game bits of my day that need doing.

So here we are. Even my blogging isn't on-topic for game tomorrow.

Friday, September 13, 2019

To use Conditional Injury or Not? A Review Helps.

Doug recommended this, so I read it.

A Conditional Injury Deep Dive

I'd have gotten around to it eventually. I read everything I can off of the blogs I follow, and I follow Mailanka's blog. I also have noodled around with the idea of getting our Gamma Terra GM to use a system like this. But I didn't know if I'd like how that would come out.

It's reading reviews like this that really let me know what I want to know about a rules variant. I'm very concerned with Actual Play.

I deeply love Doug's work, but it's generally a level or more of complexity over what I actually like to have at my table these days. My role in Doug's life has often been to nag him and say, "Couldn't this be simpler?" or just "Too complicated!" So when he writes rules variations that change the level of detail of a system, I immediately think a) it's probably better that what's come before but b) it's going to be complicated to run compared to what I'd like to run. Since I tend to play games with a half-dozen or more PCs with a half-dozen or more NPCs, fighting anywhere from one to scores of enemies, even a slight increase in complexity is a big increase in time to play.

That said, some things look more complicated than they are. Technical Grappling is actually quite simple at heart - and you can see it based on what Doug's done with the system after. And I've stripped it down even further than he has, yet kept that excellent roll-for-effect mechanic that he created. So the question here was, is this more complicated than I'd like?

The answer is still a firm maybe. But it's deep looks at how something plays from a GM who's used the system to let me know what I really need to know. I've said before that I've seen reviews that said "X sucks" and I've used X and it did not suck, "objective" looks at X or not. This is much more of what I like to see!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

DFRPG Monsters 2 arrived

Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game Monsters 2 arrived yesterday.

Oddly, I thought, it arrived in a box . . . inside of another box.

Enclosed was the DFRPG Monsters 2 book and a little notebook.

Sadly, the little notebook is just a small, lined notebook. I don't exactly need one of those, and I'm not sure what I'd use it for. Maybe one of my gamers needs it!

In any case, the book is very attractive, and the art looks very nice on glossy pages. I've already included a few monsters in my current game, and more will show their faces (or not, if they don't have them) at some point.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Nobody plays the game I play, say the internet

I check the referring sites to my blog fairly often, so I can see where my traffic comes from and where it goes to. It's helpful for me and interesting to me, as well.

But if I get hits from Reddit, it's usually something odd. Like this one - a thread about games that people don't play. You know, like GURPS. People don't play GURPS, according to at least one commenter.

What RPG Did Really Well in sales but is hardly ever played


I get it, GURPS isn't a big player in the small RPG pond. Not in terms of popularity compared to D&D, Pathfinder, and some others. But geez, guys, before you go off and say you can't find anyone who plays GURPS, go try looking to find someone who plays GURPS first. It's really amusing to me. The internet is a great place, but the number of people who won't take the simple step of searching before they say something is pretty high. It doesn't need to be. Type "GURPS campaigns" into Google . . . and click on the link to the Reddit sub-forum about GURPS. I don't know, maybe that might help?

I just found that really amusing, tonight. I'm going to go back to working on getting ready for this weekend's session of the game that is hardly ever played, in a campaign no one could think of. Heh.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Monday, September 9, 2019

Twlight 2000 1st edition boxed set photo repost

This is the edition of Twilight: 2000 that really grabbed me. I bought it based on the adds in Dragon, and I loved it. I got to play very little of it, but I own most of the supplements for it. They're amazing. With the right group - a wargamer-heavy group, especially - it would have been amazing. Some of the design decisions - such as the really long equipping-the-group part of character generation, the roll-well-or-die aspect of determining your initiative score, and the whole "bullets" vs. "shots" issue ("This game is bullshit, a revolver doesn't only have 2 shots!") . . . all conspired to not let me run it in high school.

But I still love the game for all of the other things I got out of it. And it's still attractive today. Check out this post:

Twilight 2000 1st edition box set photo gallery

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The Inexpensive Missile Spells of Felltower

I've written on this before, but I can't find where I wrote it.

As written, when you create a Missile spell such as Lightning, Fireball, Stone Missile, etc. you get the energy savings discount on the total cost, not per turn. Per the GURPS FAQ:

4.3.3 It seems missile spells are much more powerful than before. Is that right?

Yes. Now you can put up to [Magery * base cost of spell] energy each second in it, for one to three seconds; spell effect is multiplied by each multiple of the base cost. Note that the cost reduction for high skill only applies to the total cost of the spell. With skill 20, you can't cast a 6d fireball for free by concentrating for 3 seconds.
(Italics mine)

Short version? In Felltower, that last sentence is wrong. You absolutely can cast a 6d fireball for free thanks to your skill 20 by concentrating for 3 seconds.

Honestly, I didn't know this was the wrong way to do it originally. But even once I did, I found I preferred the way this made Missile spells a cheaper way to apply damage to a target than most other spells. They're slower (up to 3 turns of casting, and at least one turn of attacking) and you need to hit with your throw, as well. You need a free hand. Targets can Dodge or Block and those are usually fairly effective defenses in a low-tech world with missile weapons to deal with.

So if you wonder why the players in Felltower favor 6d missiles so much, it's because of this ruling. Ggetting to skill 20 isn't difficult. It only takes IQ 16 and Magery 6 to have it with all spells for 1 point, and DF Wizards start with IQ 15 and Magery 3 and enough discretionary points to get to Magery 6 immediately.

And I like it this way. Bring on the high-damage Missile spells!

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Game Inspiration: Japanese Kofun

Here is a short but well-shot piece on the "keyhole" tombs of Japan:

They're pretty fascinating - left untouched, they're potential adventuring connections for a modern game. In their original forms, surrounded by moats and lined with clay figures (haniwa), make very cool settings for fantasy games.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Critical Hits & Failures on Hitting the Wrong Target

Crogar the Barbarian accidentally chopped his own leg for a lot of damage (something like 18+ injury) during our last game when he tried to cut down a giant fly that was on his chest. He just flat out tried to whack it, taking all sorts of penalties for being grappled (I think roughly -3 or -4 at the time), attacking into close combat (-2), and attacking in close combat with a Reach 1 weapon (-4). Oh, and a SM-1 target. He missed, and had a chance to hit the wrong target - in this case, himself.

He had a 9 or the original chance to hit, which was about the same. Either way, he rolled a 17.

I ruled it was a critical failure, he rolled on the table, got a 5, and down he went with a crippled leg.

I ruled that a critical failure - a 17 or an 18 - would take effect normally in such a case. My reasoning was simple, at the time: if it was a 3 or a 4 I'd count it as a critical hit because that's awesome. So therefore, a critical failure must be possible. Also Basic Set: Campaigns (see p. B392) called this 9 or less an attack roll, and attack rolls are attack rolls in my opinion.

One of my players argued this puts a PC who is potentially hitting himself in double jeopardy - don't roll a 9 or less or roll a 17 or 18. Seems unfair.

I totally see his point. But it's not the most common case. PCs trying to hit into close combat on something grabbing onto them happens infrequently, and swinging your axe at one isn't really a good idea at all. I can't see why that shouldn't have lots of potentially bad consequences.

Does this mean you can Critically Miss on a bow shot that is potentially Hitting the Wrong Target? Yes, but it's effectively meaningless to the shooter. So I don't see why I'd have to check for a broken string or a dropped bow just because I'd do so for a melee weapon. It's not the only way melee and missile combat aren't the same.

So did I make the right call? Maybe. But I'll stand by it and I'll continue to play it that way. I think it fits the game I'm running and its style.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

DFRPG Magic Items 2 almost done already

The DFRPG Magic Items Kickstarter isn't up for much longer:

If it gets to $15K the book gets bigger, so here is hoping enough people jump in and take advantage of the various add-ons to get this funded and expanded.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Crogar the Cursed

In our last session, Crogar hit himself on a critical failure and crippled his own leg (5 on the Critical Miss Table.) He also tried to parry a bite from an ankheg and got his arm crippled.

This is hardly the first time. Crogar has been critically hit a number of times, and it feels like it's been a remarkably high number of initial hits in a fight. Fight opens, something attacks Crogar as he's always among the first to fight, and I roll a 3 or a 4 and paste him but good.

It's happened so often I feel like he deserves the nickname, "Crogar the Cursed."

His player keeps on trucking. He groans, complains, hangs his head, and so on . . . but does stick it out.

On some level, I feel kind of bad. He's an elementary school kid playing with a group where the next youngest is college-aged and working. So naturally I show him the favoritism of ruthlessly enforcing the rules on him no matter what because that's how we do things. I'm a big, "You'll learn by doing it wrong and then doing it right" kind of guy. But the dice seem to hate him, in the same way that they hated to have Hjalmarr go through a whole fight without dropping a weapon. It's not just Crogar, though - the same player ran Dave the Knight, currently known as Dave the Dead, who once tried to end-run around a Black Reaver to grab some treasure. Not his best decision, in that it killed him. But he also took a number of fight-opening critical hits that suck much of the enjoyment out of a big donnybrook.

The solution?

He's saving up for Luck. It might not be enough, but it will certainly get rid of one of those nasty fight-starting critical hits against him. Hopefully for him this last delve without it - he just needs to get sufficient loot and sufficient exploration. That should be doable . . .

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Custom minis from Felltower 92

Last game session, I debuted some homemade killer plants.

The story on these things goes back a long ways. I made them, originally, for my previous campaign. More than 15 years ago, I saw these seed pods on the ground while walking my mom's dog. So I went back and gathered up some especially nice looking ones.

Then I trimmed them, mounted them, and carefully painted them. I left some the original color, and painted others purple and others a sickly green, with the "mouths" limned pink.

They're very tricky to store - they break, they've had to be hand-mounted with glue and held in place, and they're not small. I'm not sure if I'll keep them or not. I may, and then just discard them when I eventually move to a smaller place. But they've served the purpose I built them for years and years ago.

Their stats were a mix of my own, and a bit of Charles Saeger's. You'll see more plants that have his fingerprints on it, in mini (perhaps) and in combat (for sure) before the PCs escape this green hell finish this exciting adventure!

Monday, September 2, 2019

GURPS DF Session 120, Felltower 92 - Entering the Forest Gate

Date: Sunday, September 1st, 2019

Weather: Moderately hot, clear, sunny.

Dryst, halfling wizard (463 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (268 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (409 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (355 points)
     5 Skeletons (~35 points)
     Skull Spirit (?? points)
Quenton Mudborne, goblin druid (265 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (265 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (265 points)

The PCs gathered in town, having spent a good bit of money on potions, spell stones, and some assorted mundane items they felt they needed to deal wtih the Forest Gate, their stated destination. They also had concern about how to deal with the "mold" - the yellow-brown gunk on the floor near the gate, and equipped themselves with push-brooms and some crystal vials for mold samples. Wyatt wanted a crystal spoon, since crystal vials seem immune to so much hostile matrial, but nothing of that delicacy was available. They passed on getting any NPCs because Raggi was not around (after last session's debacle from his point of view) and Orcish Bob was already grumpy from the lack of loot last session.

They made their way to the top of the mountain and then down the trap door entrance into Felltower. From there, they made their way to the next level, hurried away from some skittering and chittering noises too big to be rats, down the giant staircase, and then to the "apartment level." They came out into a scene of semi-recent carnage - blood splatters, bits of broken weapons, and even a half of a helmet. They bothered Dryst until he agreed to cast History on the helmet, for a one year lookback (as they didn't want to risk missing anything.) He saw a lot of an orc wearing the helmet, cooking in it, hitting other orcs with it, sitting on it, etc. and then getting his head split open by a norker-held axe.

They headed toward the gate from there, with Galen in the lead. The close air of the level didn't debilitate anyone - thanks to Luck in some cases - but it wasn't pleasant. Even so, they made it unmolested to "yellow mold" room. The room was actually coated with some sticky yellow-brown gunk, not mold - none of those who'd encountered it last time still lived to pass along that correction. Either way, Quenton was able to identify it as an herbicide - a virulent plant-killing contact poison. Not especially harmful to non-vegetable life, but nothing you wanted to get onto your skin or into your ears, nose, or eyes. They scooped some of the sticky stuff up into the empty crystal vials to hopefully use as a weapon.

They crossed the gunk and reached the portcullis and pits. Crogar wasn't able to lift the 1500 pound portcullis by himself - it took him, Galen, and Wyatt all using extra effort (plus an assist from Quenton Mudbourne) to lift it; Silence kept that quiet. Ulf hammered in all four of his iron spikes to keep it open and they then face the twin 20' wide pits. Ultimately they used Walk on Air on the non-casters (who carried skeletons) and Levitate by the two wizards. Once across, they touched down and moved into the wooded cave. They rested for a good ten minutes or so, while Wyatt and Galen checked for tracks and found clear evidence of what must have been vegepygmies and thornies, but old prints of both. While Galen joined the others to rest, Wyatt decided to circle the gate area on his own.

He didn't get far before he got disoriented, and wasn't able to find his way forward or back. After he didn't return Galen led the group after him and found him in short order. Everyone, save Galen, felt a little disoriented. Galen was able to lead them back. Going to the gate was no problem, however, and they found it, faintly shimmered between two poles of living wood.

Dryst cast Scry Gate but saw only a forested area of strange plants with a path leading away. So Crogar rushed in and the rest quickly followed. They felt a twisting feeling - Dryst failed HT and took 1 HP of injury. All of their spells stayed up, however.

Beyond the gate was a large clearing, some 40-50 yards wide and maybe a bit less deep, not quite square and not quite sharp-edged, with two paths leading out. The clearing had earth and sparse grass. The plants grew in a tight tangle but ended abruptly along the edge of the clearing. The air was warm-to-hot and humid, but the air felt odd. It smelled heavily of overly-sweet flowers, too-ripe fruit, rotting plants, humidity, damp earth, and unpleasant odors of all kinds. The plants were quite alien, superficially resembling plants "back home" but nothing they could identify. They were all bigger than seemed appropriate - bushes were unusually tall and reached up to man-sized, trees substantially taller than most trees back home, etc.

The gate was nowhere to be seen - clearly, a one-way gate. They've dealt with those before, so this didn't really bother them.

Quenton cast Know Location but couldn't identify his proximity to anything he knew. Galen couldn't find north. He was sure he could navigate as usual, but didn't have any sense of which cardinal direction was what. There was no sun in the blue sky, just a diffuse sunlight-like light everywhere. They arbitrarily designated a direction "North" (based roughly on the facing of the gate they entered and how they faced when they arrived) and used that to navigate from there. (All directions hereafter follow that arbitrary decision.)

Dryst immediately cast Seek Earth, seeking after gold, and located some a few hundred yards northwest of their current position - he received a vision of a gold-wrapped sword stabbed into earth. They immediately headed "west" along a pathway between the strange plants. They spotted a narrow path to the south but ignored it and headed north, and kept winding their way through the paths - sometimes as narrow as 3-4 yards, but mostly a good 8-10 yards wide, sometimes wider.

They wound their way around the pathways, and found a clearing with water seeping up from below. A servant was sent to explore and test the water but nothing molested him. They saw movement on the far side of the clearing - seven man-shaped figures with two dog-shaped figured. Vegepygmies and thornies, they decided (correctly.) They watched them. Wyatt wanted Galen to shoot them, but most of the group didn't want to start a fight when they didn't have to. The vegepygmies made their way west and moved out of sight.

Around this time they decided to scout "up" and sent up Galen with Walk on Air and Invisibility. He walked up and looked around, and determined that the trees went up from 40', 70, even 80' and higher in many places. He could see trees in all directions but clearly the "swamp forest" (as Crogar was calling it) was bounded in all directions, making it a box or dome of some kind. He could see birds, mostly in flocks, but a few overly-large birds flying alone. No sun, just blue sky in all directions.

Some birds, like hook-beaked "crows," seemed to laugh at the PCs. They eventually flew off when they tried to mimic sounds back at the birds.

They found their way to a clearly with spiderwebs along one pathway out, and a mold-rotted range of trees and bushes to the NW. Hoping to get closer to the treasure, they tried out their herbicide. It worked, but it was hard to get out and use. So Quenton tried his new Wither Plant spell on the mold and it worked. It was clear the mold wasn't healthy but probably only mildly harmful, and then only if you let it get into your eyes, mouth, nose, or ears.

Naturally, this meant sitting down and calculating how many castings of wither Plant, at what size, would be reasonable to carve a path through the mold. This turned out to be around 35 castings. They did so, slowly, resting as needed and using Lend Energy to fuel more castings. As they carved a path through, killing the mold down to the rotten dead plants below, they realized they were being watched. Some more vegepygmies - the same ones? Came and stared at them in an obvious fashion. They didn't cause any trouble but kept looking until the PCs were mostly across, and then left.

Once past, they made their way toward the sword again. They passed a mixed of different kinds of trees, include a big stand of "willow" trees that moved steadily and slowly as if in a breeze despite the still air. They pass them, and threaded a narrow path between them and a pond from which they heard weirdly distorted croaking and the occassional loud "GRONK!" noise.

They located the sword in a big field of Venus flytrap-like plants surrounded by buzzing giant flies of mottled hues and weird markings that were all of 2' or so with a 3'+ wingspan (and around 20-30 pounds). They decided to avoid the flytraps, hopefully by sending someone underground with Walk through Earth and then have that person come up, grab the sword, throw it, and then come back underground.

They put Earth Vision on Galen. The "earth" was only 6-10' feet deep in this area, and it was riddled with roots like a pot-bound plant. There were so many roots under the field (although not for a few feet under the "path") that it would be impassible without also having Walk through Plants. They gave up on that.

Galen shot one of the flytraps, and it waved over in their direction but didn't seem especially bothered by the arrow. He shot another into its "mouth" and that didn't bother it any more.

So naturally they shot the same plant with a Fireball and then a Sunbolt, scorching it badly. That caused black clouds to form overhead. They went back to charging up spells and a bolt of lightning came out of the sky and zapped Crogar for 6d (doing only a little injury). "Why me?" moaned Crogar. They avoided fire spells after that, and Dryst put Resist Lightning on almost everyone.

Some of the flies attacked at this time. Galen shot most of them down pretty quickly, and Wyatt stabbed one to death, but Crogar wasn't so lucky. Once flew up to him and bit him in the face, critically. He tried to cut it off with his axe and critically missed and hit himself in the leg and crippled it. He dropped down with a fly on him. It didn't last with Wyatt and Galen nearby.

Back to the drawing board, they healed Crogar and then they tried killing the wounded plant with Stone Missile and then with Crogar rushing it and cutting it up. That worked, and he managed to finish it off. This triggered more flies, which were killed. Galen proactively shot down all of the flies he could see. They were big and slow, relatively, and although they had a reasonable Dodge he was able to finish them quickly.

They figured out which plants were within reach of the sword or the path to the sword. So they planned on basically using Haste, Great Haste, and some other defensive buffs to make Wyatt or Galen able to run over, grab the sword, and then run back. Ulf argued that it was simpler to just toss the dead flies at the flytraps to get them to snap closed on them. They tried with one off to the side, and it caught the fly and stayed closed. A number of plants they could see had closed maws, so it was reasonable to think they'd stay closed for a while.

So they basically tossed flies to the flytraps, and then sent Wyatt in with all of those spells on. He threw flies while Great Hasted and then grabbed the sword. One plant he missed widely so it tried to grab him, instead. It snapped on empty air as he Dodged. He ran back with the sword.

It turned out to be a magical, ornate broadsword. Another Seek Gold showed gold still where the sword was.

So they ended up retrieving another fly, tossing it to the one flytrap in reach that wasn't fed, and then having Crogar dig and chop roots with Wyatt guarding him until they found 21 sp and 2 gp and some rusted bits of gear and clothing. They took that, too.

They cast Seek Earth first on gold (none) and silver (some to the north, hundreds of yards away.)

From there, they started to head north when night fell. Like a dimmer switch, it went from "noon daylight" to "full moon night" in five minutes. It was night. They covered their lightstones, accepting a flat -2 to vision instead of a -0 and then a -3 out to 40' and then relative night-blindness. Deciding to press on and not rest, despite the fact that it was at least 14 hours since they'd walked out of the gates of Stericksburg (and longer since they'd risen). They steadily got more tired but kept on. The noises and smells changed radically at night - weird hoots, more GRONKs from the pond, warbling insects, etc. It was loud.

They kept going until they reached a river almost 100' wide, lined with mangrove-like trees on the far side and with a few on this side, crossed by a bridge.

They checked the area and found it was very, very quiet. Also, they found vegepygmy tracks going E-W and W-E and S but nothing to the bridge. So they headed north, carefully. About 1/3 of the way across the bridge they found out why it was quiet. Each and every one of them felt a pull, a desire to jump into the water. Nixies (aquatic pixies in AD&D name) or a magical river, either way. They all resisted and ran full tilt for the shore. They managed to make the shore. They kept going. Tired from the run, and it being even later now, they decided to camp in the middle of the large field-like clearing they'd reached.

They set up watches, and Forest Warning, and camped. Nothing molested them, although it was very noisy. They planned to sleep in late to make up for sleep missed to shifts, but the rapid change to full noon daylight didn't allow for that. They all woke short on FP and sleep. They also all suffered terrible nightmares - of being eating alive by swarming bugs, their friends eating fruits from the strange plants and then murdering them, dying of thirst, dying strangled by plants, etc. Crogar was badly affected (-2 FP, -1 Will) but the others managed to make it though. It didn't bode well for long-term stays. They ate only the food they brought and drank on water created by Create Water but even so, rest and supplies may be an issue.

They continued to explore north, and used the Walk on Air bit to send Galen up to scope out the location of the silver. He spotted a U-shaped area of smaller trees surrounded E-S-W with larger trees and tangled brush. The silver was there. They just had to find a way to it. They headed West and eventually found a cul-de-sac with a beautiful field surrounded by nasty, warped alien trees (perhaps) covered with shelf-like rippling fungi. The field had lush green grass, and a kaleidoscope of wildflowers in brilliant hues. All of it was from home. The gate back, perhaps? Quenton ran in . . . and disappeared. So they sent Ulf in next, and he disappeared as well.

Dryst put See Invisible on himself and then Galen. They could see the fields but saw a sleeping Ulf being dragged by his heels by two antler-headed 3" people with butterfly wings. Four more flew around Quenton, who was awake but clearly fascinated by these little people.

Galen shot down the two pulling Ulf. They died screaming and broke up into dust. The others shrieked, alarming Quenton. Galen shot at two more and killed one and missed the other. The other three dove for cover and the field showed itself as blackish grass without flowers. Quenton was not happy. He used up almost all of his FP casting Wither Plants to wipe out a good chunk of the field. He then walked out, not looking back at the destruction he'd caused. So much for vegetable rights and peace. They looked for the other three that fled but couldn't see them, and moved on.

They made it around the trees finally, and found a "wall." it was a flat wall of stone or metal of some unknown type. It couldn't be cut with Wyatt's knife, and it made a weird clunk when hit with it. It couldn't be scored or marked, and it didn't spark. It was just an odd grey color.

They made it to the U-shaped area they sought, and it was covered on top with a canopy of trees and around front with a woven wall of vines clearly grown into a living barrier. 20' up was a pair of well-concealed "doors" in the vines.

They sent Wyatt up with Walk on Air and a portable ladder. A thorn-tipped javelin poked out of a opened hole in the "door" of vines and stabbed at him. He dodged back and dropped the ladder. He tried talking but only heard thumping noises.

Dryst cast Gift of Tongues on him for vegepygmy.

This worked, sort-of, getting the "spoken" portion of their communication. They were alerting each other to danger from without.

Wyatt thumped back "friends" and "travelers."

The vegepgymies inside thumped back something like "Who?" and then "Friends of Tree?"

Wyatt said "Don't understand."

"Friend of Tree?"

They repeated it. The partly encouraged Wyatt to say yes, so he thumped back "Friend of Tree."

The vegepygmies thumped away "Friends of Tree! Danger!" and thorns started growing in patches on the doors. The party heard thorny growls, too.

So they backed off, because a) it was late in the real world and b) they were sure if they wanted to force the issue or not.

They headed west and found a big pile of dirt. Suddenly, two big bugs bored out of the earth and attacked - ankhegs. They were lightning-quick on the defense and fast and strong on offense. Crogar was immediately bitten and tried to parry - bad move, it was too heavy and knocked his axe aside and bit his arm and crippled it. He dropped the axe. Wyatt dodged a blast of acid from one. Galen started to shoot.

Basically, Ulf tried to heal Crogar, Galen kept shooting one in the eyes with limited effect, Wyatt kept stabbing with the same. Quenton created a mound of earth to hide behind and then stepped out to blast one with Lightning and stunned it. They eventually cut them down with the help of Great Haste on Wyatt, despite him straining his shoulder on one blow early on, more arrows from Galen, and a Stone Missile from Dryst.

The ankhegs slain, we ended the session.


History is a useful spell, but it's possible to overdo it. If you zoom in too closely (a day, a month) you might miss something. Zoom back to far (a year, or use Ancient History) and you might get only a glimpse of the actual past you're interested in. It's not necessarily a case of "more is better." Its existence means I have to know what every single thing I put in the dungeon has been up to for years, even, or at least an idea of it.

As soon as the PCs got through the gate and determined it a confined environment, they started to guess where they were. "We're on a spaceship. Didn't you ever play Metamorphosis Alpha?" said Galen's player. Wyatt's opined it was a Dyson Sphere. Clearly, their PCs hang out in a weird bar in Stericksburg.

I'll argue that GURPS doesn't really need a lot of heavy math, but it does require a lot of adding and subtracting and counting. Unless you've got a bunch of spellcasters, Lend Energy, and a problem they perceive solvable with multiple spell castings. Then you've got a lot of math - energy/time/cost calculations and how to divvy it all up efficiently. My players do this very well, so I just tune out and let them figure it out. But still, it's not the best part of gaming.

The logic of wyatt's "tree" answer was, "If someone asks if you're a god, you say yes." Clearly, this wasn't what the vegepygmies hoped to hear. At least they didn't go with the truth, which was "you have treasure, can we come in and loot it?" Maybe they'd changed their minds but they headed there with lootish intent in the first place.

MVP for the session was Ulf for the "feed them dead flies" idea, which was naturally coupled with the "cast every spell we can think of on one guy and have him run in" plan. No other XP because the delve isn't over yet.

Overall, this was fun. It's a mix of a few sources I quite liked but none of which I thought executed their ideas quite the way I would. The PCs are after treasure, though, and it seems sparse here. We'll see if they can find the way home next time.
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