Thursday, October 31, 2019

GURPS Magic: Bless (and when does it work)

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

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

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

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

Order of Operations of Aid

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

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

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

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

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

Extent of Bless

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

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

How did it play?

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

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Modernisms in Fantasy Gaming III: Banking

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


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

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

- guarantee deposits;

- pay interest;

- hold items in safety deposit boxes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next time: Freely exchanged currency!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Modernisms in Fantasy Gaming II: Absolute Monarchs

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

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

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

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

Absolute Monarchs

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

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

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

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

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

Next: Banking!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Felltower Reflections: 5 years later

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

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

"Definitely Change"

Some of these, I did.

Uniform Enchantment Costs

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

So I'd keep or expand this.

Gameworld Coupled Enchantment Maxima

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

I'd keep this as-is.

More Loot From Day One

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

Heavier Money

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

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

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

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

Technical Grappling

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

So yes, I'd do all of those.


Revised Talent Costs

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

Wildcard Skills

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

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

More Characters Per Player

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

I might consider others, like:

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Modernisms in Fantasy Gaming I: The Front Lines

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

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

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

The Front Lines

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

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

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

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

Up next: Absolute Monarchs.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Next AD&D - A-series

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

I've basically settled on the A-series.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 24, 2019

No Adventure Flow Survives Contact with the Players

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

How I thought it would go:

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

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

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

That would probably be most of a session.

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

But yeah, two sessions.

Of course, that's not what happened.

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

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


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

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

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

XP for the Forest Gate

How to do XP for the Forest Gate was a bit of a puzzle, at first. This was an exploration-heavy, potentially combat-heavy, loot-light area that required significant effort to unravel.

It was designed that way. Nothing the PCs could do was going to increase the amount of per-session loot except perhaps for finding the staff right away and then finishing the whole deal in one or two sessions.

What I basically did was allow for an inverted system of XP for sessions. If the PCs found enough salable loot in a session to satisfy their loot requirements, I used the 4/2/0 plus 1 or 2 for exploration setup. If the PCs mostly explored (since there wasn't a lot of loot to find) they received 4/2/0 for exploration and 1 or 2 for loot.

This was an exception for a specific type of adventure - this isn't precedent for sessions spent exploring instead of looting getting exploration-based XP. There simply was almost no loot in the entire place, so it wasn't fair as a GM to judge the PCs based on that. In a place like Felltower, where there is a lot of loot (albeit often hidden and/or guarded) the PCs get judged on the ability to extract that loot.

XP were the same for everyone:

FGI on 9/1/2019 - 10+ explored locations = 4 xp, 0 xp for loot = 4 xp

FG2 on 9./15/2019 - >1 but <10 explored locations = 2 xp, 0 xp for loot = 2 xp

FG3 on 10/6/2019 - 10+ explored locations = 4 xp, 0 xp for loot = 4 xp

FG4 on 10/20/2019 - >1 but <10 explored locations = 1 xp, 4 xp for loot, 1 xp for clearing out the Garden of Trent Oakheart = 6 xp

FG1 was exploration-based.

FG2 was exploration-based. The session was spent, mostly, on talking to vegepygmies and then exhaustively trying to defeat the evil tree.

FG3 was exploration-based.

FG4 was loot-based.

MVP for the sessions were:

I: Ulf


III: Aldwyn's player (for playing Dryst and making pie)

IV: Quenton

Hopefully this is a useful glimpse into how I did xp using a loot-based XP system in a deliberately exploration-and-puzzle based adventure.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Forest Gate: Aka Garden of the Master of Ulom, ish.

The PCs recently went through four sessions in a gate destination - the "Forest Gate."

The adventure itself was based on two sources. The map - heavily modified - and the basic skeleton of many encounters came from Rob Kuntz's "Garden of the Plantmaster," done up in a weird not-AD&D writeup. I liked the basic concept, but I really didn't love a lot of the details and some of the execution. The storms, the effect of cumulative damage on the hostility of the place, the idea of cleansing water, and a dragon's blood warping a guardian tree all came from "The Black Heart of Ulom," an adventure in Dungeon Magazine #11. That adventure was a bit too linear, but the idea behind it was excellent. Finally, the "demonic dragon" I wanted to have die over the sapling and warp it was simply that - a demonic dragon. Then Monsters 2 fell into my lap with the Bayanganaga (and the Treetrold, which had better developed and designed stats than I had for my own tree-men.) So naturally it became a bayanganaga, so the next time I use one of them the PCs have some idea what they're facing.

Also, Garden of the Plantmaster had weird warped elves. Elves? Nah, vegepygmies. My game is about vegepygmies. It always has been. They were perfect, and I built a lot around including them.

The minis were, of course, important. I'd had Mossbeard painted for over 15 years, and I got his lieutenants off of Miniatures Giant once I saw them post-Bones Kickstarter.

So all in all, the Forest Gate owed a lot to those two adventures. But neither really suited me and neither can really lay claim to being the primary source. I needed both, or I'd have run neither . . . and I had a lot to add on my own, too. That's GMing 101 though, isn't it?

Monday, October 21, 2019

GURPS DF Session 123, Felltower 95 - Forest Gate IV

Date: Sunday, October 6th, 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)
     1 Skeleton (~35 points)
Quenton Mudborne, goblin druid (265 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (265 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (265 points)

We picked up outside the second vegepygmy living area, with the PCs debating contacting the first group of vegepygmies and/or killing the bees they spotted last time.

After a short discussion, they decided to try and go back to the fallen druid - Trent Oakheart - and summon his spirit and search for his fabled staff. But first, they wanted to kill the bees they spotted last time. Dryst offered his usual inaccurate monster help - bees hunt by smell, six is a sacred number for them, and at least one other I don't recall.

So they sent a couple of spellcasters with Galen to the stream, and Galen shot down the bees as they buzzed around some blue-green flowers. They offered no resistance and didn't seem to notice he was shooting them down. Probably tough for insects to identify an attacking archer 20-30 yards away sniping them off two per second.

The bees dead, they headed back north of the river to get to the plant they held the remnants of Trent Oakheart (who Gerry started calling "Oak Trentheart".) They reached it and started to shoot it up with arrows and Sunbolt and Fireball. The plant responded by waving its fronds and sending pollen towards the PCs. It wafted over them and poor Crogar started to run toward its alure. Dryst hit him with Mental Stun and then they tied him up. The skies darkened and zapped the group with lightning - Wyatt was zapped nearly to death, barely avoiding death thanks to his Protective Ring (the PCs call it a "Ring of Protection +2," proving the strength of D&D's hold on the language of gaming.) Dryst cast Resist Lightning all around after they paused to let Ulf use Faith Healing to heal Wyatt. Meanwhile Quenton cast Wind and forced the pollen back.

They went back to the barrage and steadily demolished the plant until it was in tatters. They sent a few of their number ahead to the remains. Gerry cast Summon Spirit after they put together a good 7-8 questions in order of importance.

The spell failed. Either he failed due to penalties or this wasn't Trent Oakheart. They searched and found nothing else of value. They untied Crogar eventually. He occasionally let out low chuckles, but otherwise seemed fine.

So they decided to cast Seek Earth on soapstone, and found some to the Southeast. They worked their way that direction. They stopped for some squash and gave it to Crogar to carry. Then they made it back to the dead bees, crossing the river (and had to stop Crogar from trying to drink some of the water.) They crossed the stream, and rushed past the flowers and dead bees - at this point badly eaten by strange orange flies that scattered as the PCs approached. Wyatt tried to goad Galen into shooting the flies one by one, but failed.

They used Seek Earth again and continued to head in the direction of their goal.

They traveled into some new pathways, passing south of the field of giant venus flytraps encountered in session 120, then to a "tunnel" formed by a canopy of vine-draped trees. They sent in a servant and it was slowly grabbed by some of the vines and pulled up. They realized they weren't a problem for quick-moving party members so they moved in. Some weird scent drew them in and dulled the senses of one or two of them. Galen and Quenton recognized them as vampire blossoms, and backed off. Once again, they used Wind to clear the pollen and then hacked their way through.

From there they made their way through some familiar ground and eventually found the entrance area, and once again cast Seek Earth. The object was a short distance away.

So they searched. In the opposite direction of the way the gate faced them upon arrival, Quenton spotted a couple of trees untouched by the taint. He headed there. Leaning against one in the middle was a staff of wood, and a stone seal sat on the ground next to it. It was the Staff of Nature (see DFRPG Magic Items 1), the staff of Trent Oakheart. He grabbed it and began to see a vision.

As he did, Crogar rushed him and attacked, narrowly missing with his axe. Galen shot him twice in the hand, but couldn't cripple it. Crogar hacked Quenton twice, luckily rolling low damage, and "only" put him to -19 HP (from 10 HP.) Quenton passed the death check. Galen shot Crogar twice more, still unable to cripple him. Wyatt threw his longsword and impaled his hand, but for even less damage and just grazed it. All seemed lost.

Then Dryst got kind-of close and used Mental Stun and crushed Crogar's weakened Will. They piled on him again, and tied him up again.

Quenton was revived and saw his visions. It was of the garden as an oval-shaped garden of strange but healthy plants. He saw it tended by druids, and then Trent Oakheart spoke to him. The garden was a special place for all plants and plant life. But as they tried to consecrate an eternal guadian/custodian of it, a magical sapient tree, one of their number betrayed them. Instead of summoning a nature spirit, the traitor caused them to summon a force of great evil - a bayanganaga (DFRPG Monsters 2). The great, demonic dragon descended upon them and scattered them. Most of the druids were slain, before Trent Oakheart was able to use his powers and life-force to destroy the dragon. It fell, and its evil essence blanketed the sapling and corrupted it. As the tree had told them, it was the stain. The sapling grew immediately into a great, evil tree and began to slay the remaining druids and the garden began to corrupt. Trent sent the last few druids away with the seals and his staff, sending them to the pool and the gate. Clearly, the one with the staff did not make it through the gate.

Trent told (and showed) Quenton that the depression in the stain was the original spot for the sapling's seed. He needed to put the staff in there, and Trent showed him that the tree couldn't harm the staff or staff-holder. He also said they'd need the spirit of a special pool to cleanse the garden.

They decided to heal up Crogar and then cast Flesh to Stone on him after taking the squash off of him. They found they were all corrupted. They decided that the squash pool must be the magical pool. Luckily, someone argued that Trent said it was "very close" and they should check close by.

They found the pool very close to the entrance, down a narrow path they'd studiously ignored since the gold wasn't that way. They found the pool and the spirit of the pool told them to take some of the water. The water spirit would go in that water, and needed to be poured into the depression to cleanse the garden. Wyatt wanted everyone to take some water, but Quenton argued (correctly) that the spirit wouldn't be in every flask.

They tried to head right back but night fell. So they camped out. Dryst cast Analyze Magic on the sword they'd found and determined with was a (the?) Universal Sword (DFT3). Then they slept and suffered again through nightmares. Most of the suffered terrible nightmares but managed to keep their Will up. Quenton, though, found he was able to repel the evil tree in his dream. He realized (thanks to a Dream Interpretation default with a near-critical) that he commanded the dream, and that the he could repel the evil tree with the Staff of Nature. He saw himself putting the staff in, pouring the water, and defeating the tree.

He woke, refreshed and fine. Everyone else was still tired. They headed to the "tree." The garden seemed more hostile. Quenton sensed that the entire garden - everything warped in it - was connected to the evil tree. It knew everything and sensed everything. Anytime they slowed, storm clouds gathered. They had to keep moving. It took some time, and included Gerry getting -1 IQ from coming too close to the plants the bees had been circling. Ooops.

Along the way, they ran into a number of "crow"-like birds with black feathers and saw-edged toucan beaks. Galen decided to try and wave them off, using his Ring of Animal Friendship. Quenton was amazed he had this. Galen used his stock answer, "Doesn't everybody?" Just dragon-slaying vets.

Once again, as they moved along, they got "lost" and determined that they had to re-trace their steps. This was in the same area they got "lost" before. (I think they were thrown off by a path they hadn't detected before, and the lack of the calls of the "Help me!" bird. Don't navigate by creatures in case they move. This one did.) They found their way, oddly, to a stone henge - fully intact, large size. They backed off. They went back and forth a few times before someone decided they needed to make their way to the vegepygmy fort to ensure they knew were they were. They made to the henge again, and then things really got confused.

(In the interests of time, I jumped in and asked how, if they could navigate from one spot on the map the vegepygmy fort, how they could not there know where they were on the map. Why not just navigate to where they wanted to go? I think I convinced the holdouts who wanted to ensure the were 100% certain that this was already true.)

They moved toward the tree's grove. The plan was, get "around the corner" and buff up while Galen kept an eye on it, and then rush the tree to distract it while Quenton, with every spell in existence on him, would fly to the stain and destroy the tree.

Instead it was clear the tree was waiting, lightning was going to pound them, the winds were kicking up, and birds were crying from all around. They had to move. The tree wasn't messing around.

They moved in, the wizards rapidly casting Great Haste on themselves and then on the fighter-types (all except Galen, it seemed.) Wyatt and Galen rushed past the trees. Quenton, partly buffed but Invisible (uselessly, in the end) and overcoming his crippling Cowardice, tried to wave the tree aside with the staff. The tree boomed, "I defeated the staff before, and I will again!" but Quenton was having none of that.

He flew past the tree and to the stain. The tree turned. One of the others rushed the casters, another slugged Galen and wounded him badly. The tree gestured and a dozen tree-men and tree-mites peeled out of the woods on either side of the clearing and attacked. Wyatt headed to fight them.

Quenton landed in the stain, but suffered nothing for it, shielded (at least for the moment) by the staff. He thumped the staff into the dirt. The tree rushed him, as did all of the minions (except for one big one attacking the wizards.) He then poured in the water.

Galen shot the tree, and the arrows stuck in. Dryst used a 6d Flame Jet to set one of the big trees on fire (and eventually torch it down.) Clearly, it was weakened.

The trees rushed Quenton, and Galen was trampled by the big tree and wounded very badly. The tree couldn't harm Quenton, who huddled in the center of a swarm of punching and swinging tree-men and tree-mites as they tried to kill him. He chose to stay with the staff to "protect" it, having misunderstood that it was, in fact, invulnerable to anything the evil plants could do. (Oddly, I thought - I told him outright that it could not be harmed by plants.) He suffered badly. Wyatt ran around the stain, hacking at the tree-men. All of them, though, started to show cracks and started to fall apart. Clearly, they were suffering dice, not points, of injury each turn. Galen climbed to his knees, drinking three Major Healing potions in turn from his magical potion-siphon. Quenton desperately tried to Dodge and after throwing a 3d Explosive Fireball from his magical necklace into the tree, setting it aflame.

Then Quenton flew away, leaving the staff (having been convinced out-of-game not to pull it out and take it with him . . . good thing. That wasn't the thing to do, per the visions and dreams.)

The trees rampaged around after that, trying to kill things. Dryst worried the big tree was going to flee and they'd need to cast Trace on it. Aldwyn's player, running the sole skeleton, suggested he'd just hang on to it and they could Trace him. But it wasn't fleeing. It was trying to kill them and find a way to survive against an unraveling force it could not harm. This did not work. Dryst used another Flame Jet to torch the big tree.

In the end, though, they just fell apart into kindling and then ashes. As the tree died, it let loose a soul-scraping wail that harmed almost everyone, reducing their HP directly. Only one PC (I think Galen) critically succeeded and was unharmed. The others suffered to varying degrees but no one was really threatened with death - and Galen took 4d but ended up taking 8 injury!

The tree slain, the skies began to rain. Lightning no longer brewed up (and luckily for the PCs, the fight was too short for it to began to slam down on them.) Some grass began to grow along the fringes of the stain.

Quenton fled a pull to the henge. So they used Walk on Air to all go and fetch Crogar, and turn him back from stone and scold him for trying to kill Quenton. Having done so, they decided to go to the henge and then to the vegepygmies.

The henge was slightly glowing when they arrived. They followed Quenton into it. And there was a silver-edged blue light and suddenly the henge, and the garden, were gone.

They found themselves in a northern pine forest, atop a grassy round hill. Know Location put them many hundreds of miles East-Northeast of Stericksburg; north of Molotov, in fact.

They were forced to camp out for the day and night there, aided by Galen's superior Survival (Woodlands). They trekked south for a week, unmolested by any hostile forest creatures. They could feel them shying away from them. After a week they came to a village that sustained itself by trapping. Once they explained where they came from, they were introduced to a local druid. That druid sent them on to the south, and told them that druids would meet them.

They made their way south and eventually near a river that fed into the Cold Fens. They followed the river, then then took boats to and down the Silver River to Stericksburg.

Outside of Stericksburg, Warlock, the local emissary of the secret cabal of the druids, met them. He brought rewards for them:

- 6 Great Healing potions.
- 20,000 sp
- a necklace of gold with leaves picked out in green enamel (10,500 sp)
- word that Quenton could keep the Staff of Nature or they'd give them 50,000 sp for it.

and told them that all druids and plants would know of their deeds (a +1 reputation from both.)

The PCs chose to keep the staff for Quenton, gave the Protective Ring to Ulf so he wouldn't die, sold Gerry's old necklace and gave him the new one for a 25-point Power Item, distributed the money around, and presumably handed out the potions (I didn't pay attention.)

The finally arrived back in Stericksburg on 10/20/2019, two months after their foray into the gardens. Most of it was spent walking and barging and boating home.


Fun session. Lots of groaning came from the location of the staff and other soapstone seal - they were so laser-focused on loot they didn't bother to really look around. Had they done so, I suspect this would have been a two-session delve with basically identical loot . . . and the tree fight would have been much simpler without trying to beat it when it was, in fact, totally unbeatable except in the presence of the staff, and would start dying once the ritual was completed.

One thing I noticed about puzzle answers and clues is that even plain, obvious clues can be misinterpreted. Quenton had a vision from Trent Oakheart that showed exactly what happened, and then exactly what to do to defeat the tree. It left nothing to interpretation. The spirit was very clear - take me, pour me into the niche, and wait it out. Despite that, it somehow became warped into a complex plan to have someone else (not a druid) dive-bomb water into the hole, ram the staff in, etc. Then it became Quenton doing it, and even then he misunderstood the need to stay with the staff. He didn't, clearly. They couldn't touch the staff and the demon-warped tree couldn't touch him. So he was vulnerable for no reason. Good thing he didn't pull the staff out, and even that almost happened. I'm not sure why, but in GURPS games, especially my games, 1 second is clearly a total eternity. You can do a lot ("I fly over at Move 24 and ram the staff in and draw my wineskin and empty it, then on the next turn I pull it out and fly away at Move 24") and amazing things will happen. No one has the patience to wait . . . maybe it's the North Jersey / New York area crowd. We're an impatient bunch. But regardless, I made it as explicit as I could without making it like the old technical directions I used to write. Even so . . . there wasn't clarity on what to do.

And so it wasn't the Warden after all. Not an alien garden maintained by the druids for their grey masters. I think the players were disappointed, but here we are.

Tomorrow, details on the adventure sources. XP was 16 apiece plus MVP - the details of why will come later this week, too. Basically, four sessions worth.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Forest Gate . . . Complete!

Summary tomorrow, but basically:

- everyone got back home eventually

- much fighting of trees occured

- Quenton turned out to be that kind of druid, after all

- and the PCs get a bunch of XP in one big whack. I'll write it up tomorrow.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Offloading GM tasks to the Players

I just read this article:

How to Run Better D&D Games By Doing Less

I like hearing suggestions from people who run a lot of games on how to run them more efficiently.

Here are tasks I offload:

- "initiative" - I've appointed a combat coordinator to prompt the person who is next to go.

- spell lookups. I do it too, sometimes, but generally I tell people where to look. A lot of my players still look in GURPS Magic first, so maybe I need to designate a specific person to keep up with the differences.

That said, the blog post suggested another one I like:

- numbering the monsters. I should let the PCs do that as it'll put us both on the same numbering scheme. Instead of them saying, "this guy!" and me knowing it's Orc #16, they can just say, "Orc #16" or "Orange Orc" if they looped an orange rubber band on the mini.

I need to find some other tasks I can offload to the players. Tracking damage isn't so straightforward as in D&D, so that's not one I can keep. Many of the others really don't apply, either, thanks to rules (track XP? It's single digits and success-dependent) or style (I really do need to draw the maps.)

I'll keep an eye out for other tasks. Hopefully my players will spot some for me. Anything that offloads the admin and keeps the load off of me - and reduces that bottleneck - can't but help allow us to get in more of what we like . . . the actual play.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Random Links 10/18

Some things I liked this past week:

- a good post on rumors over at The Dragon's Flagon. I'm a big user of rumors, and I like the way he's approached the subject. Even totally false rumors should tell you something about the setting.

Rumor Has It

- Mailanka put more into one post than I put into a week's worth of writing. Styles, Move rounding, Trademark Moves, and Spinning Strikes!

Martial Arts Power-Ups Retrospective

- Descent into Avernus isn't my kind of adventure, but I enjoyed Sean's review over at Power Score in any case.

- Bones V is proceeding nicely. I'm still iffy on keeping my pledge, but it's getting more likely. We'll see as they expand more of the core set and show what else they have in terms of expansions.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

GURPS Magic as routine technology

When it comes to adventure design, how magic works really helps determine what is or is not a problem.

Spells in GURPS tend to be a lot more like reliable technology. It's not a question of vanishing resources, preparation of limited spells, or access to strange forces. Mana is usually everywhere - and in a game like DF, the areas without it or with a limited amount of it are the exceptions.

This means if you have a spell, you can cast it regularly and often. If you've got Dark Vision, then you or others can routinely see in the dark. Flight means you can fly regularly. Seek Earth means you can always check how close the nearest gold is. And so on.

At low spell levels, you'll experience some failures and costs will be an issue. But at higher levels spells get more and more trivial to cast, are often free to maintain (barring house rules), and high skill means you can keep more of them up.

So buffs, obstacle-crossing spells, detection magic (See Secrets), and protective magic (mages being routinely Invisible, using Levitate, and under a Missile Shield) are going to be on more than they're off.

This has forced me as a GM to make very different dungeons, and obstacles, and puzzles. Just some examples, familiar to folks who read our game summaries:

- Walls can be burrowed through with a steady series of Earth to Air or Shape Earth spells, so walls need to be deliberately shielded against that (and active defenses set to make the extra time needed too costly.)

- Darkness is trivially solved, so areas of darkness need to be No Mana Zones and No Sanctity as well in order to make darkness actually a thing.

- Missile traps are meaningless without surprise.

- So are most archers.

- The GM needs to know the location of all materials in all directions at all times, or at least be able to figure it out very quickly.

- Most materials can be seen through, so dungeons need to be carefully laid out if you don't want deep-scanning down.

- PCs with the right spells can give anyone DX+6, ST+6, or HT+6 to allow for good rolls - witness a knight defaulting Lockpicking to pick a difficult lock thanks to Luck and buffing magic.

That's hardly exhaustive.

But I've found it mentally useful to consider magic like technology. It's not a weird power, just a supernatural access to something routinely. Just like smartphones change what is required to strand someone in a movie or book, spells make you re-imagine what needs to be a challenge. I keep that comparison in mind. It's not unreliable strangeness as often as it's reliable results.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Poisoned Cookie Conundrum

A term that gets floated around my gaming table is the concept of "poison cookies."

I have a friend who is an excellent GM. Great, moody games with story and plot and PC agency all woven together into an amazing experience. You may not have a lot of closure on your character's goals (and may go through a few characters), but the game would be fun as hell to play in.

Things would get complicated fast in those games. Part of it, I think, was the stuff we'd get. We used to get a lot of what a couple of us called "poison cookies." That is, anything you got that was nice probably came with enough negative baggage to be (or at least feel like) a net negative.

These "poison cookies" could be items, information, NPCs, new PCs, magical gear, guns, gates . . . whatever. They'd range from helpful to vital, but always seemed to carry too much baggage. And the baggage would stay even after the value of the "cookie" was gone - the new PC would die but his enemies were now your enemies, the gate didn't work anymore but you're all marked by the nether forces for having used it, the information applies to some solved problem but the cost multiplies like credit card debt. You learned to be wary of everything, like a poor sap of a Paranoia clone hoping against hope that the thing R&D gave you has any good sides.

All fun and good in the game, admittedly.

While I loved those games, I didn't love that feeling as a matter of course.

So I try not to do that my players. I broadly try to have a mix like this:

Most things are what they seem, and come with totally appropriate costs. This could be money, or energy, or hit points, or time, or whatever. They can even outweigh the value - for example, getting Big Tony to do you a favor might not be the best idea even if that favor is really useful. Magic items are mostly all-good. Offers to help are mostly really offers to help.

Some things have hidden costs, or known downsides that continue. Magic swords that give you disadvantages. Coins that mark the bearer as being some kind of criminal. Firearms that work really well but are really illegal or really expensive to maintain and you don't know that when you first get them.

Very few things are almost entirely negative, like those poison cookies. Some of them are flat-out cursed.* Some of them are doppelganger chaos-assassins who pretend to be torch bearers. Some of them are helpful allies who turn out to posses totally inaccurate information you try to depend on. They may be malicious or accidental but they are just bad for you.

I feel like that's a good split for me. Most things are fine, but you need to be careful. Not everything is purely upside or downside. But a few things are just pure downside. This seems to imply a need for caution, but reward you (most of the time) for taking risks, and gives you the ability to generally weigh the likely consequences of your choices.

Still, I wish I had time to play in my buddy's games. Surviving two long campaigns without losing a character took real work but it was a great reward. I just know that style isn't something I like to run.

* Heheh. RING OF PRO.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Interesting Minis from Bones V

So Bones V is going along.

There are a few I really like.

10001 and 1007 - the evil-looking wizard and the undead giant - are pretty cool.

1016, 1017, and 1020 - monsters are always useful.

1025 - is that a basilisk? Got a couple already, but I suppose I could use another, different-looking one.

1032-1049 - trade material

Boulderkin, spell effects, and golems? Sure!

Catoblepas, a dragon, and a thing in a well? Great!

So far none of the expansions really grab me. I'm not sure the $50 for the mythic Greece set will be worth it for me, but I really like the idea of Hercules and a hydra-looking hydra. As in, not a D&D dragon-with-many-heads one but a hydra like the vases I saw in my ancient history books depicted.

But I'm thinking that by the time this is done I should be able to justify $120 + Shipping. I just know to pay shipping the moment I can and lock that price in . . . last time it went up while I was debating additions. To heck with that!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Review: Dungeon Fantasy Magic Items 2

I sometimes review gaming products. Mostly I review things that I like. My reviews aren't unbiased or objective. To state my biases upfront: I play GURPS and the DFRPG, I write for GURPS and the DFRPG, and the author of this book is my friend, frequently my editor, and sometimes my co-author.

For more of my reviews, see my reviews page.

Dungeon Fantasy: Powered by GURPS
Magic Items 2

Written by Sean Punch
Published September 2019
48 pages
Price TBD

Backers of the Magic Items 2 Kickstarter have begin to receive their copies of the book. I received mine several days ago and read it through.

The book contains 44 magic items, "rare or unique artifacts" according to the back cover.

Each item consists of a vignette, a depiction of the item, a text description of what it is and does, a stat block providing price, weight, etc., and a "Treasure!" seed offering tips on placement and GM use of the item.

I won't lie, I don't like most vignettes. I don't like these any better than most. I read them out of a sense of completion but they don't add anything to my enjoyment of the items. I don't really care how the sample NPCs from DFRPG feel about the items. The short flavor texts or poems work better for me but I could take them or leave them.

The text descriptions of the items are well done. They contain everything you need to use the items in play. It's not just descriptive, it includes rules and details you need. With Sean Punch's easy clarity, the rules are easy to follow and make sense.

The "Treasure!" seeds are excellent, and provide a good hook for using the item. For items that seem game-breaking the sections features clear explanations of why some items that seem abusive really are not (or how to keep them from being so.)

The layout of a full-page for each item has its positive and negative aspects. Some of the items don't really seem like they need a full page and an illustration. For artifacts, sure. For some of the more complex items - such as the Amazing Backpack or Libra Infinitas Mysterii - the space is needed to fully describe it. Some better for it - the Trusty Knife benefits from lots of examples - but probably don't need it. But others seem overwritten for what you get from them.

A couple items fell flat for me. The God-King's Occulus doesn't really seem to do anything in DFRPG that you couldn't just do with points and have less problems. It's not like you couldn't buy the advantages it gives you, it's just a way to get some of those points. Others, like the Butcher Blade, are neat but again seem like they get more wordcount than they need. The Skull Ring is cool but the time limit (and the effectiveness within it for its skull given the power level of the game) really seems to undercut its value.

Overall: I like the book. I think the full-page plus illustration meant that some items are really don't warrant a full page get one, and ones that don't need an illustration get one. That aside, I'll use some of the items in my game as written. Others might get modified. Others still will just get set aside as not really suited for my type of game. It's a good book and it's worth it to expand the magic item count in your game. I found I didn't like it as much as I loved Dungeon Fantasy 6: 40 Artifacts . . . call it a 4/5 instead of a 5/5.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Felltower Admin Done

I didn't have a lot of time to write today, but I did have time to update a few Felltower files.

The Monsters Encountered page is updated! Some of the killer plants encountered didn't get listed, because the PCs haven't identified them yet.

But I added in ankheg, rock reapers, venus fly traps, pitcher plants, choke vines, giant flies, petrifying slime, and the tree-men and giant trees (tretrold). I didn't put in the "evil tree" as it's a unique monster and also the PCs don't really have any idea what it is, exactly. They have guesses but no real information.

The campaign page links all of the sessions up to the most recent.

The gate page has been updated to link to the sessions in which the gate was explored (if explored.)

I still need to update the character roster, but that's a lot more work (and requires some double-checking with my players.)

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Final 4 hours for Norlond Saga for DFRPG!

Last 4 hours for Doug's Kickstarter:

Even if you just throw in a buck, every bit will help Doug realize a better product and offer more support for GURPS and its spin-off DFRPG.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Last 24 hours for Nordlond Sagas for DFRPG

There is about a day left to back Doug's Kickstarter:

I don't need the books but I tossed in a buck just to show some support. If you could use a Norse-themed setting for your DFRPG game, consider going in on all the books!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Magic Items 2 arrived!

. . . and I'm reading it now.

So far, so good - it's Sean Punch, so it's good and funny, too. "Instant Zombie" is a good addition to Shrunken Head Scrolls.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A Dozen Sinister Rumors

Thanks to Erik Tenkar sharing this, I noticed and backed this:

It's a bit thin - 12 rumors? - but it's $1 and there are a number of stretch expansions. I'll give it a go and see what Phil Reed's product comes out like.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

XP and the Forest Gate

The latest gate expedition for my DF Felltower group has been long . . . three sessions with a fourth coming, possibly even a fifth session if they take too long to do what's necessary next session.

So how do I apportion the XP?

I'll explain it all in detail when I actually do it, but the XP system as written doesn't quite do it here. Much like Olympia I and II, a setting that demands a longer delve comes with larger potential rewards. That said, there is a limit - you can't just spend forever.

Setting up the system so it works to that effect is tricky.

Some considerations need to be taken into account:

- this is a relatively low-loot environment. The PCs have found two valuable magic items, but little in the way of salable materials and fungible currency. This is because piles of loot scattered around with each of the monsters would make no sense at best.

- this is a high-exploration-demand environment. There is a lot to go and see, and a fair amount of it comes with unavoidable combat or hazard. That makes for a lot of danger for the other way to get XP - exploring.

- there are a few mysteries that need unraveling to succeed. Or, to put it another way, it's not a place you can easily stumble into and then stumble out of without understanding.

Therefore, the XP for this area is skewed in a few ways:

- not as much emphasis on loot.

- much more emphasis on exploration.

- possible rewards for "puzzle completion" (of the useful kind, not the "just want to know" kind.)

- taking too long to do it all means eventually you're spending delves earning the same XP you could have earned in fewer sessions. In other words, don't expect to come home from, say, a 5-session expedition and get 25 points in one big whack.

The upshot is that the PCs won't be penalized for the environment itself being low-loot high-exploration and thought-heavy. There is still a cap on how much you can earn. It's better to get things done quickly and there isn't a bonus for thoroughness or "completist" actions.

Monday, October 7, 2019

GURPS DF Session 122, Felltower 94 - Forest Gate III

Date: Sunday, October 6th, 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)
Quenton Mudborne, goblin druid (265 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (265 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (265 points)

We picked up with the tired, slightly battered group fleeing the laughter of the Evil Tree. They fled to the clearing to the SE, avoiding the fragrant flowers in a wide berth. The trees, meanwhile, and the bushes and other plants - moss, vines, fungus, etc. - started to move around as if in a slight breeze yet none existed. The susurrus of the leaves was overmatched by the cries of all the weird birds and insects in the place.

They ran instead to the West. As they paused to decide where to go next, all (except Galen, oddly, with a rare 18) heard something coming from behind. They waited and saw roughly a dozen tree-men - half little ones, half man-sized ones - pursuing them. If they stood still they were worried they'd get surrounded or cut off, so they fled. They had to keep up maximal pace* just to keep spacing and it was clear the tree-men could eventually catch them. Galen shot one of them with two arrows but they didn't much, just stuck in like hitting a tree.

They fled anyway, past the calls of "Hey, you're back! Help me! Over here!" from the clearing to the south. They kept going, turning toward the cardinals, and toward the vegepygmies. They decided to bypass them, not thinking it would go over to bring pursuing monsters to the plant-people. Their pursuers kept up a steady pace behind them, not trying to overtake them.

They approached the vegepygmy "castle" just as it turned "night." They tossed a lightstone behind them and moved past to the narrow pathway near where they'd fought two ankhegs. They turned and prepared to fight. Their pursuers sped up as they closed in. There were five small tree-men and six larger ones, including one three-armed brute. The small ones sped around their "front rank" of Wyatt, Galen, and Crogar and attacked the rear-rank skeletons and cleric (the two wizards were Levitating and Invisible.)

The fight was brief but hard. The small tree-men (twig-men?) had a hard punch and were very fast (Move 10) and nimble (very high Dodge) and had very fast punches. Although they were hollow like rotted logs they had strong bark. They swarmed the group from behind and forced Ulf back (and the wizards to protect him.)

The bigger tree men also pushed into the group aggressively, enveloping the front rank. Wyatt floated above with Walk on Air and was quickly Great Hasted so he could rain down attacks. But he had to stay in range to have them in range. Someone also put Flaming Weapon on one of his swords and that seemed to help against the tough-barked tree-men. One of the treemen struck Crogar with a club and a claw. The club hurt him badly, but the claw was worse - it not only opened up a cut but seemed to trigger something with him. His thinking got foggy and he was listless and hopeless (Will -2 on top of his current Will -1!). Galen melee'd the tree men, Crogar fought as best he could, and Wyatt hacked away.

Eventually they put all of the big tree-men down and turned on the smaller twig-men. They finished them off, but not before they destroyed four of five skeletons and badly mauled the last one (it's a few HP from destruction and is at 1/2 Move and Dodge from cumulative damage.)

They checked quickly if they had anything valuable - they didn't - and then hacked them into small pieces. They camped right there, after setting up a big Nightingale and Mystic Mist. Ulf healed the injured from both fights, and determined that Crogar had some kind of evil in him. He knew Exorcism wouldn't work as the evil was too powerful for him. Quenton decided to try Esoteric Medicine, and smeared Crogar with mud, ground up leaves, and dirt ("from home") from his esoteric medicine kit ("All the mud is why it weighs 10 pounds!"). He couldn't get the evil out but he did ease his symptoms and cut his Will penalty to -2 overall from -3.

Dryst used Analyze Magic on the ring they'd found and determined it was a Protective Ring (see DFT3). Quenton held onto it as a surety that the group would take the vegepygmies with them when they left. Wyatt said he'd promise to do that if he could wear the ring. He put it on - and it would be helpful later one.

Now very late, the group set up watches and went to sleep. Nothing molested them, except for terrible nightmares. The nightmares featured storms of lightning herding the group and killing them (Dryst), Quenton feeding them all poisoned fruit (Ulf), plants tearing people into bits and calling "Join us!" (Crogar), getting their eyes pecked out by birds after provoking them (Galen), and more of the like. No one got good sleep, and only 4 hours total of what passed for sleep. Crogar failed his weakened Will roll and lost more FP and more Will. He's a tired, haggard, and listless shell of himself right now.

In the morning they limped West and began to try to search out everything they could for a way home. The group was split on starting in the south or north, but Quenton pulled for the north on the grounds that it was silly to leave one area to search another and then come back again later.

They made their way around, spending a good chunk of hours circling around and around trying to make their map match up with their environment. At this point, they're half-convinced the "Warden" re-arranges the paths during the night. In the end, though, they made a methodical search of the area they were in.

They re-traced their steps a few times before figuring out where they were (they weren't lost, they mis-mapped and convinced themselves this meant they were lost.) That done, they approached a pool they'd spotted the second day from another direction and checked it out. It was full of untainted water and surrounded by strangely shaped oak-like trees and an immense tangle of squash plants - all seemingly unwarped and free of the splotches and whatnot of the other plants. They send a servant to push through the squash and fetch some water. It did. Crogar drank all 4 oz and it was fine, if flat (like distilled water). The squash all looked fine, if often oddly colored, but they passed on them.

From there, they explored East and hear the "Help me bird" again. They turned away and back. After circling the pond to make sure the map lined up (yes, again) they started exploring branching pathways off to the west.

They found one pathway that had a huge yellow-flowered plant in it. Quenton noted it seemed a lot like a yellow-flowered plant he'd learned about that had a way of making puppets out of things that breathed its pollen. But they spotted a ribcage and another bone sticking out of a bulb at the base, where it clearly had been grown-through by the plant. They sent Wyatt and Dryst over to check it over, floating overhead. They spotted a stone next to it that clearly didn't below and used Apportation to bring it up. They saw nothing else, just the bones and the stone.

The stone turned out to be a large seal with a tree on it. Quenton immediately recognized it as the seal of Trent Oakheart, like he'd found in the past when he was Quenton Gale.

So this, clearly, was Trent Oakheart's skeleton, the party decided. They did a little more checking and determined that anything organic would be long gone, and there wasn't any evidence of more loot (or more evidence.) So they left and headed north.

There they ran into an ambush of thorny archer bushes that flung a barrage of thorns at them. Crogar, Galen, and Wyatt were in the arc of fire but managed to dodge away. Quenton and Galen recognized them for what they were - common in the south, capable of living in the north with magical assistance, and popular among druids as guardian bushes. They sense ground movement but not air movement very well, and have a symbiotic relationship with some giant insects. The group decided to check ahead after a visual inspection revealed a good three dozen of the bushes around the rim of the clearing. So they put Walk on Air and Missile Shield on Galen and sent him in. He found only a cul-de-sac (named Archer Bush Court on the map) and came back.

From there they found another clearing with huge seed pods. They sent a servant to investigate and the seed pods opened a little . . . and one a lot, spewing forth a cloud of large dandelion-like seeds. The servant choked and died. So they decided to avoid that area.

Next, they found ten or twelve hanging wasp-nest looking nests hanging from a canopy of trees. Below them was a waxy yellow-green substance in piles. They moved away before Galen could shoot one "just in case."

Next, they found a small clearing down a tight pathway. In it stood two petrified trees. They decided they looked kind-of gate like, but maybe not, but in any case they wanted to know what passing between them did. So they sent Wyatt through with Galen holding a rope tied around Wyatt's waist.

As he passed through, the "petrified trees" each opened up a single, creepy yellow eye and extended five or six ectoplasmic tentacles and grabbed at him. One hit him and latched on. Dryst also had one latch on him (with a critical hit) as he was in a bit too close. The tentacles inflicting armor-ignoring toxic damage and latched on - no Control Points but they started to leech out HP 1 per second per tentacle. Wyatt tumbled back, and Crogar tried to cut the tentacles off of Dryst but went right through. Gerry put Affect Spirits on his axe. That worked, as no other attacks - from magic weapons or not - could affect the tentacles. They were easy enough to cut off but instantly regenerated, spewing only a greenish ichor that stank terribly.

The rock reapers tried to use their gaze to put Wyatt and then Ulf to sleep. Wyatt resisted thanks to his ring (and Luck) and Ulf did as well. Very low damage rolls by the reapers spared Dryst, who eventually was freed by Wyatt and Crogar. They fled as Galen shot two arrows into the eye of one of them. It hurt it, clearly, but it wasn't finished. As they fled, the tentacles and the eyes disappeared. Galen shot one again and chipped off some rock, but nothing else. They moved away.

From there they found a path that ended against the river. It was 75' across here. The river was a muddy red and murky and no one could see anything except . . . things . . . moving below - maybe eels or fish - and water striders the size of fists, and hand-sized snapping turtles. Dryst sent a Wizard Eye over to scout and found a vegepygmy "castle" and a narrow path across a narrow stream of (identical) water. He saw large bees, and eventually must have pissed one off because the eye was destroyed.

They basically flew over as a group with Walk on Air and Levitate.

They pulled the usual routine - they sent in Quenton with Gift of Tongues while the casters played musical FP loss with Lend Energy to keep Dryst capable of maintaining the spell indefinitely.

Quenton spoke to the new group, waving around lightning and promising sky-water, sky-energy, stories, and songs. They were more reticent and didn't allow him in. They told him basically what he'd heard before - window gone. Evil tree is not a friend. But also that they felt the the tremors, "winds," and storms when they fought the tree. When asked about the location of the gate, they said it was near "pond. round. blue. spirit." Naturally, the PCs found a pond on their map that was black.

We ended there as it was getting late.

* One thing that's funny is people often define how hard you've moving by how fast. Maximum move 3? You walk everywhere. Well, yes, but you're moving as fast as you can due to Basic Move and encumbrance. It's basically as tiring as the Move 6 guy moving at Move 6 . . . you just don't get places as fast and it sure doesn't look like a sprint.


We were down three players this session - the ones who run Dryst, Gerry, and Crogar. Gerry and Crogar are run by a father and son, respectively. But the players of Mild Bruce and Aldwyn stepped in to play Crogar and Dryst, and Gerry was run by Ulf's player since he's good at running casters.

Once again, a PC was tied to a rope held by another PC. I think I'm going to just flat-out rule that this causes X and Y penalties, as the players didn't seem convinced a slack rope hanging around you provides any penalties to, say, Dodge, Move, Acrobatics, etc. It's effectively a strong lifeline and doesn't affect you negatively in any way.

Rock Reapers are a three-way combo of Reapers from Ultima IV, the mini they're based on (a Reaper Bones roper clone), and on the Gardener in the Water from Adventures of Samurai Cat

MVP voting so far is heavily in favor of Aldwyn's player, who stepped in to run Dryst, for making a DF-themed homemade apple pie. The consensus was that everyone pulled their weight and then some, so no one clearly stood out as most valuable.

All in all, this was the most fun session of the three for me. Good fight, lots of exploration, decisive action in a lot of cases, and careful exploration without overdoing the whole "buff the living hell out of someone and have them fly around and then rest 30 minutes" thing. The whole mapping thing in the middle wasn't, but that didn't derail the session or anything like that.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Felltower pre-summary

Session 3 in the "Warden" today.

The PCs:

- ran from the evil tree, dogged by smaller tree-men and even smaller tree-men.

- fought a battle when run to ground by the tree-men.

- Crogar the Cursed got even more cursed.

- the party ****ed around fine-tuning the map and going in circles, and then did it again two more times.

- the party found some untainted food, and refused to have anything to do with it.

- the group explored around north of the river and found more killer vines, archer bushes, a weird yellow plant, giant seed pods, some "nests" for who knows what, and fought a pair of Rock Reapers (new monster!)

- a seal was discovered . . . one that matches one that Quenton Mudborne has been carrying around since he was Quenton Gale.

- more vegepygmies were contacted. Not as fruitful as before . . . or perhaps more so, even as reticent as they were.

Good session overall. I'd hoped they might be able to find their way out this session, but it wasn't to be. They made great strides, however, and I think you'll see why I say so when I post the full summary tomorrow.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Felltower Prep & Explosives

Quoted from one of my players, reason number a gajillion why I don't let my players have explosives.

"See yous round 1100 hours -- we have a spaceship to explode."

Luckily for me they don't have the capability to explode the spaceship - and it would be a starship, anyway, wouldn't it?- so all my mini hunting, rules reading, and detail writing isn't going to go up in one earth-shattering KABOOM.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Ex-Citadel Ninja over at Foundry

I have a few ninja minis - mostly Grenadier ones. I don't really use ninja in my games.

But they're fun and easy to paint.

So that makes this tempting even though it's a bit expensive:

Still . . . they're a bit old-looking. Anyone know any better ninja minis? Before I break down and find out what 24 GBP is actually going to cost me?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Boulderkin or Rock Mites?

These "boulderkin" look a lot like DFRPG / DFM1 rock mites, one of my creations. That's what I'll use them as in 2021 when this finally arrives:

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

More hints for Felltower Sunday

Just sharing some of what I told my players as we head into a 3rd session in the "Warden" in Felltower. I think they're smart guys with insufficient information to do what they're trying to do. So without giving too much away, I wanted to pare down the options a bit.

"You do need to find a way out and/or a way to deal with the tree. That's going to take some exploration and some thought.

- there isn't any particular spell you've cast or haven't cast that will find the "solution." It's going to take more than that. Don't waste a lot of session time on reading Spells or GURPS Magic. Specific spells might be useful in some situations, but there isn't a spell-based way to solve things.

- you do need to explore more.

- one big clue - you rushed around so much looking for treasure you passed up some clues and cues back in session 1.

- another - the vegepygmies don't know the way home, or how to beat the tree, or they'd have told you. They might be useful, but they can't tell you the answer."

Most of this I think the group already knows. But I wanted to confirm it. A session spent trying to pull out a specific spell, or talk to the vegepygmies and try different keywords until I say something slightly different, etc. - the usual signs of frustration for lack of a clear path - wouldn't be fun. Exploration for its own sake is enjoyable, but I don't want them to overlook the old when searching for the new.

I'd actually add another - treasure is nice, but finding a way out is getting critical. That should take priority unless a really significant treasure is discovered. Maybe even then . . .

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Bones V is up

Bones V launched today:

I was busy at work so I got into the 4th or 5th wave, I'm not sure. It doesn't really matter. I wish they'd just put them all in one big grouping and then just say they're prioritize them by order you pledge in. It's a pain to have to scan for waves, wait until new ones open up, etc.

In any case, I tossed in $120 and we'll see if the core set is eventually worth that to me. If not, I'll downgrade and just do some add-ons. But so far it's looking reasonably useful as a set.

In any case, more minis! More monsters! More cute kids and kobolds to sell or trade.
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