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.


  1. Not heavier money, but make less loot money. I'll have to share with you my implementation of ACKS-like trade goods at some point. It's a blog post for when my backlog (game logs, grad school finished) is done, just a spreadsheet now.

    It should also make the Wealth advantage more important, since most loot is not money.

    1. I'd very much like to see it.

      I do a lot of non-money loot now. So much so that "how much can we sell that for?" is a common question with just about everything. I'd prefer having so much loot from all sources that you are risking death for shocking wealth . . . but trading it in for magic items is not the first serious upgrade that you make.

    2. I'd still use heavier money. Maybe 100/pound is better? It's just that 50/pound works out to quarter-weight money. 250/pound means no one ever finds more coins than they can carry.

    3. "250/pound means no one ever finds more coins than they can carry."

      C;ear;y you're still not giving them enough coinage... ;)

    4. I know you're mostly being tongue in cheek, there, but the money is too valuable to do so. A party of 6-8 guys with 5 ST 11 skeletons with bags can easily carry 1,000 pounds of coinage home. At $5000/pound for gold, $250/pound for silver, and $25/pound for copper, that $25,000 - $5,000,000. With magical items being only $20/point, this means "too many coins to carry" is functionally identical to "everyone has enchanted everything and enormous Power Items."

      Making money heavier and magic items more expensive, while giving out more treasure, actually makes money more useful on mundane items and less valuable by weight. You then can and will get more of it but it won't be basically a quick math problem to divide out to everyone with minimal encumbrance effects.

    5. "I know you're mostly being tongue in cheek..."

      Yup. But I'm also the Player† that insisted (in a 3e D&D Underdark campaign) that we make multiple trips for the 50+ tons of copper coins we found in a Kuo-toa 'treasury vault' once... so... :P

      † Technically me and another Player insisted on it... the other Players were against it. So the next time we had a few weeks of downtime, the two of us made the trips (using all the bags of holding, hiring a few porters, mules, etc) and hauled it all back. The two of us split it between ourselves. When the rest of the party found out how much it was actually worth there was some griping... :D

    6. And remember that 3e is 50 coins to a pound, with coppers being basically pennies... I think our haul was somewhere between 100K and 200K gp.

    7. Oh, I get it. It's just with magic item purchases being relatively cheap, I can't hand out that much money without meaning everyone has one of everything they can buy and unlimited consumables from then on. I don't want that as my game . . . that's why it's a multi-pronged approach that I'd be taking!

  2. Trying to hire laborers at 30 bucks a shot from DF15 sounds good to deal with large hauls

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

    How would you set these?

    "...cumulative Dodge penalties."
    I've thought about this as well... but unpenalized Dodge is so baked into the builds that this one becomes a real hair puller.

    1. Maybe -4 to hit, -2 to defend or -8 to hit, -4 to defend - only those two levels.

      Feint might be -4 to the defender if the contest is lost. Not margin, just win/lose inflicts a set penalty.

  4. "I still like the idea of allow "Melee Weapons" as a skill..."

    Our approach to this has been twofold: first, Master of Arms is a [10/level] talent affecting all muscle-powered melee and ranged weapon skills as well as all unarmed grappling and striking skills. While this seems very broad for a 10-point talent, in practice it just enables broader proficiency instead of single-weapon focus.

    Second, we implemented DX/H skills for weapon categories, matching those on p.208 of the Basic Set: Fencing Weapons, Flails, Impact Weapons, Pole Weapons, Swords, and Whips. Individual weapon skills are instead optional specialties of the DX/H skill, and _all_ of the DX/H skills default to one another at -4. "Innate Attacks" has become a DX/A skill that covers all forms of Innate Attack, as well.

    This hasn't really done anything to dull the advantages of having a very high weapon skill, but it has at least made it so that someone with a high skill can have reason to use more than just their particular weapon of choice (particularly for swashbucklers and other fencing weapon specialists).

    1. I've considered a talent, and I may yet use one, but it's really just a cheaper way to buy up existing skills rather than make your broadly able at a larger class of skills.

      I like the DX/H idea . . . but it feels too cheap just like wilcards seem too expensive and big. I'd go DX/VH but it feels slightly cheap. Instead of a guy with Two-Handed Sword-28 I'd end up with a guy with Swords-26 at the same cost.

      But you're on the track my mind has been exploring for a while. Thanks for your comment.


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