Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Might & Magic I: Complete

I actually completed Might and Magic I on Monday. I should have taken screenshots, but instead, for some reason, I just used my phone and took two snaps of the end.

The secret of the inner sanctum is that, well, you don't live on a world, you live in a vehicle. The world "VARN" is actually a V.A.R.N., an artificial environment. You know, where you can cast Meteor Swarm even though you live in a contained environment. Anyway.





I love the bit about submitting my score to the company. I wonder what a good score is? I could have finished earlier, but I spent some time grinding because it was fun to do so once I got pretty strong. And I wanted to try and finish as much optional content as possible.

I can see why I never "figured out" the game when I played it in the past. You need to find lots of messages, many quest objects (easily sold or lost accidentally or stolen during encounters), what items are needed for quests aren't always specified . . . it's tough. I basically figured it out this time because I knew a lot going in, had spoilers from a guide or two, and I'm just more experienced at figuring out how to win games despite a lack of clues.

Still, it felt very random. I had to dig around and find the "diamond key" - you get it from the same place as a prior key, so I didn't think to check - and then find out you can just get to the final quest area with a spell anytime you want. Sigh.

Still, it was fun, and I have some high level dudes now . . . I just need to see if I can port them over to M&M II and give that a go. I've never played a moment of that . . . it should be fun!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

How to be good at being evil

Yesterday, I made the point that evil isn't so great, really.

So let's say you and your fellow players in my game decide, yeah, let's be evil. Let's have a whole party of evil and not-evil-but-amoral types.

Some of this advice is generic, but it's largely predicated on being for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy in DF Felltower.

How to do it?

Out-of-Game

Let's handle some out of game issues that affect an evil party differently.

Trustworthy Evil

The first issue is, will you be loyal to one another despite evil being evil? Will it still be a cooperative game of magic items going to the one who can best use it or most needs it, loot divided by need, people buying each other potions and whatnot?

Or not?

It's a big decision, and it's one you need to make right way. This is first-principles evil campaign stuff. If you don't all agree on "all for one, one for all" then it's every man for himself. Know that when you throw your buddy the idol, he's not going to throw you the whip.

If it's all for one and one for all, dispense with the big issue of evil being untrustworthy by being loyal to each other with disadvantages. We're evil, yeah, but we're a tight fraternity/sorority/family/knitting circle/company of evil. You can take Sense of Duty and Code of Honor and all of that. Or lack them, but generally act as if you have them.

Squick Factor

The second issue, know other people's squick factor and trigger issues. Maybe someone doesn't have an issue with saying, "We torture the prisoner for a +6 to the roll" but really does have an issue articulating it. Maybe they'll play the bad guys well but really don't want to get into the issue of what selling kids into slavery really means for them. Stuff like that. Know these and respect these. It's a lot less of an issue with good parties. People might want to choke you when your holy warrior gives his +1 sword to the church when he finds a better one and doesn't give it someone else in the party, but they won't feel uncomfortable at the table.

In-Game

What are in the in-game issues of being evil?

Heal Thyself

One big issue with an evil party is healing. Simply put, you don't get any in town from the Church. You don't get any in the dungeon from your Evil Cleric. Your neutral types may be able to get healing in town - and in DF Felltower, that's really iffy. Known association with evil types is quickly going to end with a reputation, and probably eventually Social Stigma (Excommunicated).

Evil Cleric: Get PI4 and take Steal Vitality pronto. Use it to drain foes and heal your injuries.

Unholy Warrior: You'll want Blood Healing immediately. Wild Talent will let you cast Steal Vitality once a session, or let you access any evil cleric spells as needed . . . once per session.

Everyone: Rapid Healing, high HP, and potions of healing are your friends. Learn First Aid, and make sure you have a good score in it.

The best way to avoid a need for healing is a good offense.

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

The evil templates in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy do offense well.

Unholy Warrior: Evil characters should be liberally using poisons - and Unholy Warriors have access to the Venomous Tongue perk, which is a great way to save cash for healing potions by getting free poison. Blood Harming is useful but will cost HP to do. Striking ST for surprise attacks are good - remember, killing by stealth and treachery is easier than killing in a straight-up fight.

Evil Clerics: Unlike good clerics, you have a lot more offensive magical power. Death Vision, Deathtouch, Wither Limb, Frostbite, Madness, and Terror are all useful ways to deal with foes. Zombie and Mass Zombie will make them your friends after you steal their FP and HP and kill them. Summon Demon is a good top-end spell to get, too, to get demonic aid. You get what you pay for - like elemental summoning, if you do bare bones and minimum you won't get a fight-winner. But you might be able to get something serious to aid you if you put some real effort and energy into it. Don't try to be a good cleric, only evil . . . comb the spell list for ways to be offensively-minded and end fights quickly and unfairly and use them.

Others: Basically any template can be evil, of course, not just the two above. Adding a lens for either Unholy Warrior or Evil Cleric can help make you more so, and access their own abilities to add to your offense and allow you to "heal" by theft of life. A special shout-out goes to the Assassin (DF12) as a template that fits thematically better with evil parties (and which does well with kill-by-treachery). And to wizards, who are actually harder to make good than to make not-good.

My Kind of Scum!

One last benefit to being evil - the evil creatures in the dungeon are potential allies. You can do all sorts of things to curry favor with them, too - bring them sapient beings to eat or enslave or sacrifice, bribe them, give them tools that harm civilization, whatever. You can take part in their dark rituals - and maybe teach them a thing or two about darkness that they don't know. And, of course, kill them when it benefits you. It's easier to side with whatever horrible creatures you find, or use the unholy and unspeakable knowledge you uncover, if you're evil, horrible, unholy, and unspeakable yourself. "We should destroy that, not use it or sell it as is" is not an issue . . . unless you find something Holy.



Closing Thoughts: This just a quick scratch at the surface of what evil characters could do in DF Felltower. I'm not saying it's a good idea, or that these are the only ways to go, or anything like that. But for all that evil is, ultimately, weaker than good, it's not helpless or hopeless. It has some tempations and some power that good does not have. The above might make you give it a second look beyond scanning the templates for healing spells and then moving on. They aren't Good + Cool = Better than Good, but they aren't Good - Utility = Worse than Good, either.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Can I run an Evil character? And the myths of Evil

In DF Felltower, PCs can be evil.

With the exception of one wizard, no one has really been evil - and he was evil to people outside of the PCs, only, which is generally a good call in a cooperative game.

I've been asked by some of my players about running evil characters. A few of them would really like to play evil characters, without the rest of the group running non-evil characters who basically stop them from acting as they'd like.

In most campaigns, I just say flat-out no. You can be good, or you can be neutral, but not evil. In a shades-of-grey world, you can be ruthless and harsh but you can't be a genuinely evil person.

I have my own thoughts on evil, too.

But if you do want to run an evil character with me as the GM . . .

DF Felltower is that game.

But in general, they haven't taken me up on the offer.

The group has mostly gone a different route - not necessarily good, but definitely religious. Players wanting to run Assassins, Unholy Warriors, and Evil Clerics are just out of luck with the rest of the group. People can still make them, but they'd really need a wholly seperate group of delvers to hang out with. There are a few characters who might travel with either group, but it'll be hard to explain why the Cleric of the Good God is totally fine with your amoral character borrowing the MacGuffin to bring along on a delve with an Unholy Warrior and an Evil Cleric to try to solve solve some condundrum in the dungeon.

Despite all of that, you can run an evil character in my game . . . and get the rest of the players to join in . . . and it hasn't really happened yet.

Why not?

I think it's a combination of factors:

Evil (Good + Cool)

I think the idea that Evil is Good plus Cool is a pervasive myth.* My games do not support that idea. In fact, my games categorically treat this as a false assumption.

A number of players have asked to be Unholy Warriors and Evil Clerics. They're on the allowed list. I'd let them go through with it.

They always drop it when they find out that Evil Clerics don't get healing spells, and Unholy Warriors can't expect to get bonuses to fight demons or get Resurrection in town. It's a symptom of this myth - that evil gets everything good does, plus cool stuff. It's the idea that good is restrictive, evil is freedom. Good limits your options, evil allows all options. Good has to be constructive only, but Evil can be constructive or destructive, depending on what works for evil at the moment.

Regardless of how you feel about the realism of this . . . the game doesn't support this idea. There is a tradeoff if you chose the powers of evil over the power of good. You lose out on the ability to be truly constructive and helpful for the improved ability to inflict harm.


Good wants something for you, Evil wants something from you.

Evil is essentially selfish. The "freedom" that evil gives you is the freedom to act in your interest even when it's not in the interest of society or your fellows. You might do that anyway, if you perceive it to be more beneficial. It's not from a moral compass or a sense of right or justice but of benefit.

If evil is helping you, it's because evil benefits.

Nothing evil does is "no strings attached." Why would it be? Attaching strings benefits the giver. Evil looks for self-benefits. Evil might help help you, but it's only because helping you is perceived to be the best way to help the evil person giving you the help.


Evil isn't trustworthy

Evil doesn't have friends, evil has co-conspirators. Good guys don't betray their allies. Bad guys do it all the time - you can't easily betray your enemies. You can't rat out your enemies unless they're also your co-conspirators . . . and those are likely other evil guys.

You and your fellow PCs may choose a Sense of Duty to each other, despite also being demon-worshipping evil types in the service of sin. But absolutely none of the "Truly Evil" powers on "your side" took it. They don't know the meaning of feeling that way, although they may recognize it and use it against you. Bad guys don't take your Dependents hostage because they value theirs, they do it because they know a weakness when they see it.
Evil types will, eventually, betray you. They'll choose their benefit over you somewhere between "sometimes" and "always." As soon as it's the good move, they'll take it.


(The answer is at the bottom**)


It is better to be feared, than loved.
The of-quoted maxim of Machiavelli fits evil to a "T." While it's best to be loved and feared, it's hard to pull that off. Evil goes right for fear. You're less likely to cross, betray, or otherwise work against someone you flat-out fear.

All of that makes it hard to have an "evil" party without there being a hierarchy of fear . . . where you stay loyal to those above you because it's been made clear you will pay for betrayal in spades. Don't expect this to be reciprocal - your fearsome leaders will spend you like bullets if it benefits them. And you'd do it, too, if you were where they are.



A personal squick factor helps keep people from running truly evil PCs, too. Most players who want to be "evil" just want to be scary badasses. They want to not take prisoners and shoot first and otherwise be dangerous, and be free from social repercussions for acting that way. But they don't want to act out really unpleasant things - torture, say, or abuse of children, or things like that. I'm discouraging of such actions anyway. True evil isn't going to shy away from those torture/abuse/mass murder/etc. actions if it's of benefit - especially the demon-and-devil worshipping kind in fantasy games.






* To a degree, Star Wars is guilty of perpetuating this - although it's otherwise a great example of how Good works together and Evil depends on fear to keep order. You see the Sith lords (cool name, right? Do good Jedi get a cool title? No) dressed in snappy outfits, using force lightning, force choking people, hurling items at their foes to knock them over, halting bolts of energy in flight. Good Jedi . . . mind tricks, mostly, and some jumping and leaping and parrying blaster fire. They win in the end but just don't look as cool doing it.

** "One chop with the sword should do it for the halfling; gnomes, however, are a little tougher and usually require an axe."

Sunday, October 18, 2020

A rough history of Orcs vs. Delvers in Felltower

I've been meaning to write this out somewhere. I may have, but I can't put a finger on it now.

Way back when we started in Felltower, a group of hobgoblins controlled the access to the dungeons. The PCs encountered them a few times, and killed them.

They also fought the orcs that held another portion of the dungeon. Both sides opened up with hostile actions.

In the end, they'd wiped out the hobgoblins and made a pact with the orcs, paying a toll to enter the dungeon in return for peace with the orcs and the orcs leaving them alone, plus occasionally providing them with a guide or help. The orcs took advantage by occupying more of the dungeon, including the surface, and fortifying the damaged castle above and making it an active, actual fortress again.

Predictably, though, the PCs immediately started to look for another way into the dungeon, a toll-free one . . . and made sure to kill any orcs they found to cover their tracks. They justified this by rationalizing that their agreement with the orcs only applied if they paid the toll, and that otherwise killing orcs was fine.

They often continued to pay a toll and work with the orcs. They even had a joint encounter with the Lord of Spite, which was going pretty well before the Lord of Spite backed off and left them to their casualties. There was also some grumbling that the orcs hadn't held up their end of the bargain by not fighting hard enough against the Lord of Spite.

The orcs, not being total fools - and the PCs doing a pretty sloppy job of concealing their actions - they understood the PCs were bypassing the tolls and were the ones who'd killed some orcs in the dungeons.

They raised the toll and got pretty hostile.

The PCs refused to pay the toll and got violent back.

The PCs pushed deeper in the the orc-held areas, and killed any orcs they found. "Let's go kill orcs" became a way to spend a session, prep the ground for future delves, and a backup plan to get some loot at the end of a session.

The orcs tried a few ambushes of their own - sealing off the PCs with the Lord of Spite, launching multi-pronged attacks with goblin shock troops, monsters, spellcasters, elite orc Slayers, and so on. The PCs fought back and generally shattered the orc's attempts.

The orcs tried to just block off sections of the dungeon with rubble, preventing the PCs from reaching them without delays to dig through. The PCs dug through, pretty routinely, and killed the orcs they found.

To be "fair," the PCs did offer to the orcs to take on whatever task has drawn the orcs to Felltower and complete it for them, in return for a reward. Then, the orcs could leave. The orcs refused, for reasons the PCs don't know. Of course, the delvers took this as proof that they couldn't work with the orcs. The orcs clearly have a goal they need to accomplish, but which they either don't think the delvers can - or don't want them to - complete on their behalf. So they won't go.

So to start with, the PCs really wanted the orcs to just stop harrassing them and let them delve deeper without any interference.

Once the orcs stopped harassing them, the PCs wanted to make sure they couldn't do so again.

They attacked them until the orcs simply did not mount any offensive action against the PCs, and abandoned the upper works and gave up shooting arrows at intruders to the dungeon.

Once they forced the orcs onto the total defensive, they tried to wipe them out. That failed, and their negotiations to get the orcs to agree to never fight them and, essentially, stay out of Felltower, failed.

Since the PC's big attack on the orcs, the orcs haven't mounted a serious challenge to them. Perhaps any challenge to them. They haven't harrassed them, attacked them, or otherwise did anything offensive against them. They did reinforce their passive defenses very strongly - going from rubble blockades with barricades to magically-solidified stone blockages.

It just so happens that the best places to block off the PCs from the orcs also block off the PCs from easy access to the "touch only once" alter and the lenses. Not that the PCs have anything remotely like a plan with the lenses, but they want to be able to go and fiddle with them. The orcs, by blocking the PCs off from them, have been deemed to have inflicted a great and unforgivable insult to the PCs.

The PCs have made plans to break those blockages, and spent a recent trip on finding a way to the orcs around the blockades so they can attack them. To what end?

Will the PCs ever be satisfied vis-a-vis the orcs?

I think no, not until the orcs have completed disintingrated. Not been reduced as a threat, not as a hassle, but completely gone. Every explanation has always been "+1" - we want X. They get X. Well, we really need X+1. They get X+1, Well, yeah, but X+2 is actually what we need here. And so on.

The PCs really seem to want total, unfettered access to everywhere in the dungeon, and the orcs - if they are there - to fulfill the role of keeping other delver-hostile beings from occupying any part of the dungeon. Perhaps that plus the orcs providing a source of treasure on top of it - either by handing it over or giving the PCs "quests" - a common ask - to earn money from the orcs. Naturally, if they found anything they perceived as more valuable than the offered quest reward, they'd expect to be able to keep that, instead of, or in addition to, the quest reward. Pretty harsh, but I don't think my players could claim any of this isn't true.

It's tough being a monster in the face of greedy delvers. The demands of delvers are not unlike that of an empire - they just want a little more, and then come back again for a little more on top of it.

With this in mind, I expect that the orcs vs. the PCs will be ongoing for as long as we keep playing Felltower. It's not something I expected from day one, although I did make it clear that the orcs have a fundamental conncection to Felltower. It's just amusing to watch the delvers explain why, really, their demands are reasonable and the orcs are being unreasonable as they change their demands every time they achieve them.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

How do I do on Saying Yes?

I read this excellent article over at The Blue Bard while I had a free moment today:

Say Yes to the Players

It is full of excellent GMing advice, most of which I'd summarize as "let the players do cool stuff with their cool powers, and have it lead to more adventure" plus "don't nerf them to maintain a feeling of control."

Fair.

How generous am I with "Yes?" I'd say not very.

Some of it is my personality. Maybe a lot of it, is. I'm a "let's try it and see!" person in real life, but I tend to build somewhat restrictive game rules. I find, personally, that constraints force creativity in a way that blank slate of freedom often does not.

Also, I tend to look out for ways something can be abused. I may put the tool into your hands anyway and tell you, hey, it's abusive, don't blame me if you allow it to be so abused . . . but if possible I make things work in a way that give you X without leaving a gap for Y and Z.

I will put in rules-based "nerfs" on things I feel like are too powerful for the game we're shooting for, although I try to make the "nerfed" version feel better for the game in the process - Turning, for example, chasing off the weak undead but weakening the strong instead of just flee or fine.

But I will also clean up rules full of issues or just weakness and make them more powerful, if that makes sense - Animate Shadow, say, or why I allow multi-turn free energy on missile spell buildups and combinining spells that the system keeps separate (Flesh to Stone/Stone to Flesh, or Missile/Explosive Missile spells.)

In play, though, I'm usually going to make a restrictive but not an expansive ruling. As we play AD&D, I'm trying to be more expansive there. Everything there is much less easily replaceable. In GURPS, everything is too easy to get.

Let's take an example of "give them power with yes" versus "nerf things" - Wishes.

Wishes: I know what, or what kind of, power grants Wishes in my games, so I don't use the 60/40 roll mentioned here. I make them quite powerful and quite broad. Still, players will try to simultaneously expand them and constrain them with a carefully-worded wish. It's worked about as well as you would expect, even given an actual lawyer, an author, and a rules-and-fine-print-expert manager in the group. In other words, not well. The ones they made that were broad but clear worked fine. In general, though, I prefer to make wishes powerful.

I can do so because they're rare. If it was a common, spam-able spell, no.

The example of Stone Tell in the article is a good one - the players used it in a perfect circumstance. It's a 6th level cleric spell. It should be pretty effective - and it can be. Change it to Seek Earth - a cheap, easy, high-percentage success rate spell that you can cast over, and over, and over, and over again . . . and I'm more inclined to a restrictive, not expansive, reading of it. Why? Because it's effectively unlimited. Finding ways to keep challenging that - the Find Traps example - is a good one . . . but it's possible given my game system of choice that it's not really "challenge that spell" as it is "the game has changed fundamentally from this yes."

When a player comes up with a clever use for a one-shot potion that can't be purchased in town and is rarely found, that causes some outstanding and exceptional effect, I'm for it. When the same player comes up with a clever use for a one-shot potion easily purchased in town, readily found, and routinely used already in my game, that causes some kind of outstanding and exceptional effect, I tend to put restrictions on it. Again, it's effectively unlimited. Once a player finds some way of turning a Potion of Healing into free unlimited healing in some way or finds a way to make it heal or kill, depending on how it is used . . . the game has fundamentally changed. Not just for "high level" play, but for all play. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy doesn't restrict much by "level." You're restricted by points and cash, and in a game played around finding cash and earning points, that's more of a speedbump than a true restriction.

Some spells and powers just make some problems go away - Create Servant is a game changer that I allow. So is Levitation (and one I made cheaper, easier, and better for the most part). So is Seek Earth. I am fine with that. I'm just going to be much more careful than I would in a limited-use game system, And ultimately, I think that's okay. Your GMing has to match the baseline reality your rules put forth.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Random Links for Friday 10/15

Random stuff for Friday, hurrah!

- Ooh, reading through Traveller.

- Runequest Classic Sale

I'm tempted to get a print and PDF copy of Runequest. James Mal suggests 2nd edition is the way to go. I'm not really going to play, I think, but I do want to read it. I've had lots of people suggest Griffin Mountain is amazing, but is it sit on my shelf after I read it amazing? Given the cost?

I should get 1st edition so I can see it from a historical perspective, but, maybe not. I'm not a historian of gaming. That said, I'd really like to read early editions of Pendragon and Chivalry & Sorcery at some point, too. I could get these in PDF only but I know from Tunnels & Trolls that it takes me longer to read a PDF, and I'm much less likely to just play a new game from a PDF. Use material for an existing game? Sure. New game? Nope.
I was shocked when I attempted to get the $20 hardback that shipping was $27 . . . because it's from the UK. Nevermind, softcover POD will do.

And yes, I know it's basically the CoC system . . . I played it when we ran Elfquest, but I'd like to see it as a more generic game system.

War in the East

So I did win War in the East. After my big offensive east, I finished the job on Turn 65. The game pretty much ended once I did - I grabbed a major city (Kazan), moved some units to consolidate my grab, and then as I was fiddling around moving up reinforcements I found many of the commands weren't working. I saved, when to exit the game, and the victory screen came up - ominious music, and scenes of flaming T-34s and German troops poking through wreckage. Decisive Victory. I'm glad I didn't choose one of the "Bitter End" scenarios, but had I done so I think I could have swept the Soviets completely from the map by, oh, turn 75-80 or so. Mostly because it would be hard to run them all down and to seize mountainous southern terrain.

In the end I controlled everything from Chelopets in the north to Kazan in the center, to Stalingrad, Saratov, Engels, Astrakhan, and I was a bit short of Baku (thank to stiff resistance, and ironically, lack of fuel.) I'd taken a bit under 2 million casualties and inflicted around 9 million on the Soviets. That's military . . . civilian losses must have been an appalling multiple of that, nevermind the inevitable sweep of folks meant for slave labor or death camps. Cheery victory, eh?

I was disappointed in the AI. I know I'd gutted the Soviet forces with a big encirclement or two, so offering resistance wasn't going to be easy, but suddenly it just kept pulling back from threatened strongpoints. I was able to just take city after city - often major ones - without any resistance. They'd be dug in, fort level 2 or 3, and very hard to flank . . . and pull out. Instead of spending 2-3 turns, maybe twice that, trying to leverage them out of some city or strongpoint, I was just handed them. That only happned on the last 10 turns, really, but it turned a race to win before winter into a bloody and quick rout.

I guess those Tiger Is can be used in North Africa? I literally had them used in one battle, and they did little except shoot some ammo off, burn some fuel, and have 2 break down in combat. The Soviet unit I struck fled quickly, routing, but only lost a handful of their tanks in the process. It never mattered.

Next time, I'll crank up the difficulty. I learned a lot. And yeah, if/when War in the East II comes out, I'm on it. Maybe I should fire up War in the West and give it a go next.

I've been re-reading AD&D spells recently, and I just want to say, I used to think Magic Jar was in incomprehensible spell. Now, I just think it's potentially comprehensible but a hot mess of explanation. I need to give it another go and see if I can wrap my ahead around how to play it out. No one ever took it, and no dungeon ever seemed to feature it. I'm glad for that.

- I love Morale systems. GURPS has one that's not as easy as, say, B/X D&D, but not as hard to use quickly as, say, AD&D's system. I tried to re-write the GURPS morale rules but ended up just deciding that maybe the original system is better than what I could generate. It works, if I remember to roll it. The PCs just try to shoot down and run down everyone who flees to ensure 100% casualties, so it's almost like save or die in my game when I do roll.

- Weird magic items are where it is at.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Some thoughts on Defense Rolls First in GURPS

This is not a new idea, but Doug just blogged about it because Roleplayrescue did first. So, here I am, too.

You can see the concept explained here:

The Defence Roll Reversal

Short version - roll Active Defense rolls first. This makes the defender commit, and means any attack you choose to defend against has a cost (in cumulative defense penalties as applicable, or use of Retreat, or cost in FP for defensive spells.)

Will it work? I think so. From the post, it clearly works for this group.

I don't ever plan on using it, myself.

In general, I don't like increasing the number of rolls. Defense first adds to the number of rolls - because a critical hit can bypass even a successful defense. So you always need to roll for a defense, unless you choose to just take the hit. If you use the usual process, the number of rolls needed for defenses is limited by the number of hits - you don't roll if the attacker critical hits, misses, or critically misses.

Also, I'm not fond of the idea of a critical defense causing a critical miss before we even know if the attacker would have hit an undefending opponent. I find that really messes with how I picture combat flowing.

Pretty much, that's it. We have so much going on in terms of dice rolls with a large group, and a large number of foes. Adding more die rolls, even in the name of tension, means significantly longer combats. I spend a lot of time minimizing die rolls, and cutting down die rolls which don't really need to be there.

Still, read the post. It's clear this is working. As you can see from the post, the players like it. It works in Actual Play. Just for me, it comes with baggage (extra rolls!) I'd rather do without, and a change of perception about how combat flows that I'd rather not have to get everyone onto the same page with. Remember, just because you don't like a rule it doesn't mean it doesn't work, and just because it works it doesn't mean you have to like it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Gold Coin sizes

How big is my gold coin?

It's a question that dates back pretty far in gaming, not the least of which is because D&D came along with 10 gold coins to the pound. A nice, heft, 1.6 oz hunk of gold that you expected to find, and dispose of, in the thousands.

But how big are they?

There was an article in Dragon Magazine, issue #80, which took a look at it.

"How Many Coins in My Coffer?" by David F. Godwin

In that article, the author came up with this for AD&D gold coins:

Weight: 0.1 lb. = 1.6 ounces = 45.36 grams
Diameter: 1 1/2" = 3.81 cm
Thickness: 0.1" = 0.254 cm = 2.54 mm
Volume: 0.177 cubic inch = 2.9 cc
Specific gravity: 15.66

I also recently stumbled across this chart:

Gold Coin Size Chart

I'm not sure how accurate it is for real-world use, but it could be useful for gaming. There are a lot of coin sizes each with gold purity, weight in ounces and grams, diameter, and thickness. It's probably not too hard to find a coin of the same size, and something of the same weight, for a chance to see and feel the size of the coins in your game.

Felltower's gold coins are 250/pound, which makes them fairly small - 0.064 ounces, and probably ~14mm diameter and 1.4mm thick. See, I probably should have gone for 50/pound like I've thought in retrospect.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

War in the East - Tigers

I basically have the game won at this point except for mopping up (okay, there is hellacious resistance around Maikop and Krasnodar and I'm getting beaten away from Voroshilovsk), but I was very pleased to see these guys pop up:

502nd Heavy Tank Battalion.



2 squads of pioneers, 2 squads of motorcycle troops, 5 AA guns, 22 Panzer IIIn (the ones with the short barrelled 75mm/L24 gun originally used on the Panzer IV) . . . and 11 Tigers! The TOE calls for 20 of them but the factories rolled out 11 total as of last turn, so that's enough to deploy the unit. Put 20 tigers on the field, along with supporting guns and AFVs calls for 799 men total. Logistics is a bitch.

These guys will go right to the 11th Army fighting to keep Maikop and Krasnodar and take Voroshilovsk . . .

And yes, it does say they "Upgrade" to Tiger IIs. The factory changes over, and then units with Tiger Is should replace them with Tigers IIs. It's not a literal upgrade.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Session 139, Felltower 107 - Green Gemstone Zombies again

Date: October 12th, 2020
Weather: Cool, clear.

Characters:

Aldwyn Hale, human knight (313 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice wizard (155 points)
     Orcish Bob, "orc" squire (125 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (461 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (306 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (321 points)

We started off in Sterickburg. The PCs spent a long, long time planning out the goals for the session. Lacking a large group, they eventually settled on a "scouting" expedition.

They gathered rumors, which mostly didn't affect their plans, and purchased a barrel of ale, a wheelbarrow to carry it in, and headed out to the old "dragon cave." Their intention was to meet the giant that's there, and either befriend him with a gift of ale, or kill him if that didn't work.

They reached the cave and sent Galen in to scout. The giant wasn't home, and hadn't left a lootable bag of stuff around this time. The PCs went in and stashed the wheelbarrow and ale nearby, but "out of reach" of the giant (based on their estimation of his size, which is based on very little evidence.)

From there they headed to the "High Sanctity Area" and partook of some mushrooms (Wyatt) and water (Wyatt, Aldwyn) and rested.

They went up the stairs and reached the white-tiled room. Next, they made their way toward the green gemstone zombie room, checked a door or two along the way. They hurried past a room with double doors beyond which was marked "child statue" and in front of which was a "Hiroshima shadow" from a blast-burned crouching person.

They noted a "new" corridor - at least one that wasn't on their map. It dead-ended out after 15'.

Once they reached the weird truncated J-shaped sloping corridor, they spiked in a rope and used that to reach the metal door at the end. Wyatt picked the lock, taking extra time to be sure of success.

They moved inside the room and found 11 zombies along the walls - a mix of orcs and hobgoblins, mostly, but also two humans - each a green gemstone in its forehead. In the middle of the room was a green glow centered, seemingly, on a point about 8' off of the ground.

The zombies attacked with clubs and saw-toothed curved blades. They died quickly - the melee fighters waited for them to close and decapitated them (although Orcish Bob lopped off one's leg and then chopped his torso before Aldwyn decapitated it), while Galen shot three arrows in their vitals. They dodged a few blows but only ever landed a single one - a grab of Orcish Bob's ankle before they killed it. The casters helped with Sunbolt and Fireball.

The killing done, they extracted the gems with Cleansing, and took them as loot. Wyatt snapped all of the blades and clubs by placing them against the wall and stomping them. Then he took one of the clubs and touched the glowing light.

He was immediately paralyzed, and took 6 injury, then 4 more a second later. So Ulf healed him 10 with Faith Healing, then realized he was still taking damage as Wyatt took another 1 injury. They dragged him off of the glow.

They then tried to destroy the glow - Dismissive Wave failed, as did shooting it with a Sunbolt (which just caused a green glow in the room and 1 injury to everyone), throwing a club at it (passed through, hitting nothing), and casting Sunlight, too. The last one failed spectacularly as Ulf took 7 injury as he tried to run away, only to find the green glow "beat" or "absorbed" the Sunlight.

They rested a bit and healed up, and then explored the "hydra room" - nothing but old bones and acid corrision marks on the floor.

After that, they found the stairs up and headed up. They made it up to "level 2" and into the orc area. There was a lot of old wood and tools inthe first room, but no orcs. And no barricades. They headed around toward the "orc hole" and reached a room. No orcs. They noted a stone button on the floor in an alcove, and their map claimed there was a trap door either in the floor or the ceiling, they weren't sure which or where it goes (actually, the map says so clearly.)

So, naturally, they checked for trap doors and found the one in the ceiling. They set guards and used See Secrets to search for a button to release it, but found none. Next they decided to check the floor button. They backed off and set up guard position, then Wyatt pressed the button.

The floor dropped away from underneath him, 20' down to spikes below. He grabbed the edge and kept from falling in. The floor banged against the sides as it released beneath him, as did Wyatt's Mythic Corselet and epic plate leg protection.

As Wyatt pulled himself back up, with some help, they heard voices and booted feet - orcs!

Their sneaky recon was about to be compromised. So they ran, lights mostly covered.

The fled down the stairs to the next level. At the landing, Wyatt suggested they split into two groups. One to keep "fleeing" to draw pursuit, and the others to wait in ambush in the dark. Ulf, Aldwyn, and Wyatt briefly argued about if they should kill all pursuers so the orcs wouldn't know who'd come, or just running, but ambush won out . . .

. . . until Galen said, "You know they can see in the dark, right?"

They decided to just keep running. They did so, but then carefully took the winding stairs down. They saw and heard no immediate pursuit.

At the bottom of the stairs, headed toward the "behir" and the gargoyles, hoping to kill them and take their stuff.

Instead, they ran into a big batch of beetles - horshoe-crab-sized beetles - about four to six dozen of them. Acting quickly, Varmus put down a 3-area Create Fire to block them off. The beetles were too big to climb the walls, so they were stuck. Wyatt tossed three Alchemist Fire flasks behind them to pen them in. Varmus added an Explosive Fireball at 1d but it killed on and harmed one or two others. Sunbolt didn't do much. (They were clearly low-HP but had a solid bit of DR.) Galen started shooting them, as they discussed ways to roast or destroy them all to get rid of this parade of beetles.

As that happened, though, some of them felt a bit . . . fuzzy. They lost some Will, IQ, and DX. They couldn't figure out what it was, so they retreated back to the "High Sanctity Room." Galen heard leathery wings flap, briefly, but then nothing. They made it to the room safely.

They waited there for a bit, but then decided it was gone. They checked out Sterick's Tomb on the way, and the "nest." It was clearly a man-sized creature, maybe a bit smaller, making a big nest of sticks held together by mud. They found nothing of value, so they left. The didn't encounter the giant on the way out, ether

They made it back to town, and despite the late hour all but Ulf headed to the tower of Jans the Black . . . but it wasn't there. The alley that should lead to it dead-ended, instead, and there wasn't any way to get to the plaza . . . and there was no tower there, anyway. So they ended up just selling their green gems on the open market for 250 each.

Notes:

One rumor they heard was that the cone-hatted cultists have a real church in the capital city, now, so be careful killing them in Felltower.

Equipment notes for my players: Always check DF1 and DF8 before Low-Tech. They are authoritative. Low-Tech just provides coverage for items not in those boos, and what's listed there may or may not be available. The PCs looked up prices for barrels in LT, ale in LT, etc. but those aren't the prices for this game.

So it's much faster making decisions with a "small" group. It didn't take long to sort through any in-dungeon decisions about actions. One decisive yes, or 2-3 "that sounds worth trying" reponses, was all that was needed.

And yes, four is a very small group these days. We'd expected seven but had two last-minute situations, and one was a family function for one pair of gamers. So a "smallish" seven became a small four. They had less capabilities and overlap of such. It's funny but they see one scout, one wizard, one cleric, and two front-line fighters with heavy armor as lacking in appropriate firepower and magical support. Usually they have so many front line fighters that they can sort out a "front rank" with shields and a "second rank" of shield-less fighters and put NPC hired support in the back to keep the casters safe from flank or rear attack.

They wanted Raggi but he's basically retired. Finding him will take an actual search, not a random "Is Raggi around?" roll. He hasn't delved with the group since sometime around 2018.

I was actually looking forward to them talking to Jans the Black, aka Black Jans - well, at least to (his?) servant(s), the Kio. But the dice said no. It happens.

Overall, a fun session. The PCs had a few goals - try to parlay with (or barring that, kill) the giant and its wolves, find an alternate path up to the orcs, kill the "behir," kill the gargoyles in the caves, and investigate the green gemstone zombies. They managed two of those, which isn't that bad - two of them got nixed by the odd encounter at the end, and one by the giant just not being there when they were there. Not bad, really. They managed a bit of loot, too, although I'm not sure if they have a clear idea of what to do next.

XP was 4 each for loot (only 2 xp for Galen). MVP was Galen for "You know they can see in the dark, right?" That spared them a failed ambush attempt as they used darkness for concealment. Infravision is a difficult thing to counter sometimes.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Felltower pre-summary

Small group today for Felltower - "only" four players.

They:

- went into the "dragon cave" with a bribe for the giant

- didn't find said giant

- found a "new" hallway (maybe - or marked up their map correctly, either way)

- fought the green gemstone zombies

- discovered a back way to the orcs behind the obstacles and barriers of rubble

- fought some beetles

- had something weird happen

- investigated the nest in Sterick's Tomb

- and made it home, still without meeting the giant.

Summary tomorrow if I have time to write it!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Gamma Beholder

Our GM put this up:



And said this:

If you scan my Beholder tag you’ll find a bunch of fun things, such as playing off AD&D Beholder abilities and recasting them in Gamma World terms, or complaining that my GURPS Dungeon Fantasy cleric died at the hands of a Beholder on his very first adventure. (I spent four times as much time Photoshopping his character portrait as I did playing him.)

The players in my Tomorrow Men game probably suspect there’s a Beholder somewhere in their corner of Gamma Terra, given how I go on about them. But Midden is a big place; he could be anywhere.

Hypothetically.


Yeah, we'll need to stock up on Beholder-killing rounds. Or just torc grenade it.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Random Links for 10/9/2020

Random Links from the past week for a Friday!

- How do you treasure?

Here was my response, copied from the comments:

I expect we handle it like a lot of people do:

- magic items go to those who benefit from them the most.
- monetary loot is divided evenly *or* according to need, if the XP system rewards an uneven split.
- magic items that could go to anyone go to the characters who don't get anything.
- if the above makes the split really lopsided, the players find some way to compensate the ones who got the shaft.

- I can't remember who posted this link, but I love these Foundry subject primers - this one on the Ancient Greeks!


- Bill Sinkiewicz draws a wizard. That's awesome.


- Want to see the GURPS disadvantage Bad Temper in action, without murdering people? Go and watch Seasons 1 and 2 of Doctor Who. As in, William Hartnell. He's a good example of Bad Temper (9). A good chunk of the time he speaks up when keeping quiet would be better, be berates his companions, he argues with his granddaughter, he mouths off to Daleks, and otherwise says stuff that gets him in trouble. His inability to keep quiet when his intellect has temporarily gotten him the advantage and not to press his advantage is a whole 'nother problem.

All in all, though, it's a great example of the disadvantage. Mostly people read it as "I'm fine or I kill people." But sometimes it's just you do something ultimately self-destructive because someone upsets you, or treat someone unfairly for the same reason. It limits your options but unless you throw in -10 points in Bloodlust, which the Doctor has not, you're going to be more like him than like some murder hobo.

You can find the whole first season on Vimeo, if you look them up by episode name.

- Totally off-topic for gaming, maybe, except as game inspiration, is Mark Felton Productions on Youtube. He's a British historian who puts out utterly amazing videos on WW2 that cover topics you didn't even know you were interested in, or even existed. Here are four great examples:

The 11,000 or so German diehards who kept fighting in Stalingrad months after the official surrender of the 6th Army.

That famous tank duel of a Pershing vs. a Panther in Cologne, Germany.
(Koln is future home of Hawkmoon, Duke of Koln, for you Eternal Champion fans.)

Or Americans & German troops fighting SS troops in a Castle.

How about one of my favorite pieces of trivia - the last major WW2-era Panzer action was . . . 1967 during the Six Day War

It's really amazing stuff. It's fun WW2 mini battles scenario material, great history, and game inspiration. He can knock off 10-15 minutes on something you didn't even know happened. Meanwhile, The History Channel talks about how aliens may have caused all of history. These can be brutal to watch - in the Cologne duel, a tank crewman bails from his tank with his leg blown off below the knee, and it was caught on film. It's all fun and games until you realize it's real people, suffering real injuries that will follow them for their rest of their lives. One mistake, one meter closer to Berlin, and their lives changed. But it's all the history you'd wished for when you read very brief but imaginatively evocative descriptions of the battles of WW2.

Speaking of war, Part II of an interview with Douglas Niles is up on Grognardia. Yay, Battlesystem!

Doug put up a post with a rule idea for Fantastic Dungeon Grappling. My actual play with a similarly simplified system hasn't really born it out as a problem needing solving, for my game at least.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

How are my GURPS books doing? Last month, well indeed.

I received my royalties report today from SJG. I won't say what it was, but I will say it was unusually high.

This tells me the add-on PDFs people purchased from the SJG 2020 PDF Kickstarter hit my accounting statement.

Long story short: Wow, thank you. It's a nice bit of change.

Long story a bit longer: Some of my books are in the hands of a lot more people.

A good example is DFT3: Artifacts of Felltower. 71 copies of that went out this month, which is an usually high amount for a book after its first months.

DF15 added a few copies, too.

As did Martial Arts and DFM3, as well.

The book that did the least - out of ones I receive royalties for - was GURPS Martial Arts: Gladiators. Only 7 of those sold. Aww. We put in a lot of work on that one, and I think it's a good book. It doesn't get a lot of love or attention, honestly, especially given the work put in for it. Still, at least 7 more people are taking a look at it.

Overall, a good day. It's nice that my hobby income gets a nice spike here and there. And it's even nicer that the way that happens is that gamers have more of my work in their hands to help them run the games the way the want to. I work in the service sector in my main job, but in a way, the same thread runs through my writing. I enjoy it greatly, but it's people on the other end using what I was able to impart to them that makes it a source of satisfaction.

So, therefore, thank you to everyone who purchased and purchases my books; I sincerely hope they improve your games.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

War in the East - Turn 55

This is going well.
After a slogging winter fight, I was been able to use turns of clear weather to attack the Soviets and turns of mud to wait and let encirled units starve a bit. Now it's clear weather, and I'm on the attack. I'm aggressively using my panzer and motorized divisions to encircle Soviet units, then let my infantry crush them (with extra air support if they're tough.)

I'm trying to bite off as many units as I can, even if it's only 1-2 here or 6-7 there.

Overall . . . I think I have this won. Surviving the winter was the key for me. Digging in, counterattacking where I could, and giving ground where neither of those were good moves helped win the winter. Now it's campaign season and I'm crushing the Soviets.

My best weapons at this stage are Panzer IVG with a long-barreled 75mm gun (in tiny amounts), some Marder II panzerjaegers, Panzer IIIJ and IIIM, and BF-109s and the mid-end JU-87, JU-88, and HE-111 bombers. Nothing exciting. The first Tigers aren't due for another month or so (4-5 turns before they hit production.)

Casualties are nasty:


The Soviets have lost almost 7 million men - 1.8 million dead, 3.2 million captured (and let's face it - they're dead). That's 5 million permanent losses, to Axis losses of 1.6 million men, out of which 530,000 are dead and just under 22,000 are captured. That's .55 million permanent losses. I've managed a 10:1 loss inflicted ratio even after a harsh winter where combats were I lost 1:2 or 1:3 were common. I've wiped out over 300 division-or-larger units. It's just staggering. I barely have enough men on the entire field to suffer their losses (5.5 million total Axis) and they are still fielding armies. Sadly for them, they're going to die. I'm gobbling up all of those encircled units this turn, planning to punch a hole to Stalingrad, expand my ring arount Rostov, and keep pushing to cut the rail lines that keep their northern forces grinding away at the Finns.

Fun game, but it's just beginning to fell endgame-like.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Possible ways to implement Weapon vs. AC Type modifiers in AD&D

It's tempting to use Weapon vs. AC Type for our next AD&D foray (into A2, part 2), but how?

Not counting "don't use it at all," I see four options:

Only versus specified armor type.

Basically, use it as written, ignore weapon vs. armor type when it doesn't apply.

Pros: We get to try it out. Some weapons will really benefit in some circumstances.

Cons: Adds a lot of complexity, but only sometimes. Penalizes everyone who doesn't know their weapon vs. armor type well enough to choose targets, or weapons, well. (This applies as a con to all of the below options, as well.

Versus all armor, with an assigned type.

Use it as written against specified armor types, but then assign a "type" to non-specified armors. Enemies with natural DR will get a "type" assigned.

Pros: More widely useful.

Cons: Have to assign an armor "type" to everything.

Versus all armor, by AC.

Ignore armor type, use it versus armor class, and just use it - with everything below AC 2 treated as 2.

Pros: Easiest version. No work, just lookups.

Cons: Penalizes some weapons types pretty much universally. Makes no sense.

Versus worn armor, by AC.

Pretty much like the option before - worn armor only, but use AC.

Pros: Second easiest version. No work, just lookips.

Cons: Penalizes some weapons types pretty much universally. Makes no sense. Requires complexity sometimes.


You'll notice I regard occasional complexity as an issue. Each time a rule sometimes applies, but not always applies, it means we spend a moment checking each case to see if it applies. That takes time even in cases where it doesn't matter.


Overall? I'm still not sure. I'd like to try just to be able to say I did, and to give an actual play assessment of what it brings to the table . . . but it feels like choosing the least-bad option. As a result, I'm still not sure.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Gerry & the Osirians

Gerry the Necromancer is an interesting complication in my DF game. Mostly it's just a mechanical puzzle. How do you deal with monsters that threaten 250-point characters with your 35-point skeletons, and how do you make them useful and relevant?

How do you get them places they'd have trouble going? What do you do when the path through is through a No Mana Zone and that reduces the skeleton to pieces in short order?

Sometimes, though, it's a more roleplaying-tinged complication.

One of my players noted that Gerry would have an affinity for the Osirians and/or vice-versa (not his words.)

Meanwhile, Gerry and his skeletons are treated neutrally by the people of Stericksburg and the Church, and by the civilized simians beyond the Ape Gate.

Beyond the Icy Gate is a society seemingly ruled by the Iron Wind, which is some kind of evil force, but they hate and fear the undead. Gerry can't be walking around with his skeletons there.

None of this is really planned out. I made some very early decisions on what was were - Mur Fustisyr beyond the Icy Gate, the simians, the Osirians. That Gerry happened to come along with some undead just factors into it.

I don't really do "gotcha" situations. Your disadvantages may not hinder you much or they may totally preclude some adventures. If you make a big, heavy, hard to move guy, maybe the Air Gate isn't for you. If you depend on heavy armor for everything you can't spend a lot of time in the Lost City unless your cleric pal comes with and throws the all-too-broadly-useful Resist Fire spell on you. And so on. It's just a good fit or the lack thereof.

We'll see how Gerry actually gets along with the Osirians. If the plan is either "kill them and loot them" or "not kill them, just befriend them, then ask them for a quest that involves them paying over everything they own of value so we aren't forced to kill them later" - it might not matter how well they get along. It's all just a complication of the character who comes to the table, not of the game being channeled in a way that would complicate his life for him.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Research on the Osirians

The PCs paid for two weeks worth of sage research (two skill 14 Research rolls) into the culture, history, and any interesting tibits on the Osirians, whose pictographs cover the giant orichalcum doors on the "Gate level" (formerly "the apartment level") of Felltower.

The Osisrians

The Osirians were an ancient people who lived in a desert land. Reports variously place them in a desert south of Stericksburg, a river delta south and east of Stericksburg, or on another world with colonial pockets in various places throughout the world. They were eventually destroyed by undead-hating neighbors in one of the great anti-undead crusades by the Inquistors of the Holy Flame.

The Orisians worshipped, or respected, or admired, death. Life was considered a transitory state before the eternal existance after death. As such, the most important thing to do was prepare for the afterlife with all attention and effort. They originated the creation of mummies. Such mummies have their vitals removed and are thus protected from harm. They are usually vulnerable to flame, however.

They worshipped a wide variety of animal-headed gods - each representing a handful of godly tasks. A bird-headed god of wisdom, a hyena-headed god of undead, a cat-headed god of marriage; the home; and protection, a snake-headed god of magic, a falcon-headed god of war, and a faceless god of evil. Their main symbols include a hoop-topped cross called an ankh (a symbol of eternal unlife), a crooked staff, and a flesh-eating beetle. Many half-man half-animal beasts populate their mythology and imagery. These include lion-men, scorpion-men, snake-men (usually snake-headed men), and crocodile-men. It's assumed these beings once existed as godly emissaries or just perfectly natural animal-man hydrids.

The Osisians had a very strict class system - priests, soldiers, merchants (including engineers), farmers, slaves. Class was established at birth, changeable only by the gods, and delinated your role in society. Their rulers were high priests selected by their gods. The better one's class the better one's afterlife, which was to be enjoyed in a world of blackness and eternal death.

Osirians were especially fond of mathematics, puzzles, an astrology. They are famous for word puzzles, word play, math puzzles, and traps - often all at once. They felt that death was the ultimate reward, but that killing their enemies before they could properly prepare for death (and thus assure a pleasant eternity) was the ultimate revenge. Enemies slain would be granted to the slayer - be it a warrior, priest, or trap-designer - as eternal slaves.

They were greatly impressed by knowledge, wisdom, and "proper" undead - those prepared and consecrated to their gods - mummies, skeletons, and liches. They despise those undead who prey on the living - such as vampires or wights, and those who come to unlife from anger and not godly blessing - such as draugr and spectres. Zombies were considered unclean. Ghostly beings - ghosts, phantoms, shadows - are considered the damned, as they lack a proper undead body. Mummies, correctly prepared in the traditional way, are the ultimate undead and therefore the best way to spend an eternity.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Sometimes, you just have to go through the puzzle room.

I was talking to one of my gamers today while socially distantly trading things we had for each other. We talked a bit about the second session of A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade.

At some point he said, essentially, "Sometimes you just have to go through the puzzle."

There isn't another way around.

We had this come up in White Plume Mountain, when the PCs encountered lethal or puzzling encounters on the only way to (and from!) an area containing one of the weapons. They'd reason that this can't possibly be the only way through, because then the monsters/guards/owners/etc. would have to go through this puzzle.

Logical? Yes.

Accurate? No.

The dungeon designer may not have provided for this. Even if the dungeon designer did, that doesn't mean the way in is the way you're headed. Or that you have the resources to go around. Or that you'll be able to find the secret door they use to bypass it. Or that you have the ability to unlock said door if you find it.

You might just have to go through it.

In tournament-style (A1-4 or C2, for example) or funhouse-style adventures (S2 or EX1 and EX2, for example), you might just have to jump through the hoop. You can't assume that there must be another way . . . the obvious channel for intruders is trapped and therefore the smart move is to go another way.

Logical? Yes.

Accurate? No.

It might help to tackle those situations with a little of the video game mentality in you - Skyrim is notorious for the exit from the boss fight right out to the entrance area . . . but you can't reach it/access it/open it from the entrance area. All you can do is jump down and then leave. You can't avoid all the minions on the way.

DF Felltower mostly rewards finding the other way around. It doesn't always exist, but often does. Still, there are puzzles you must go through, or simply turn back and forgo the rewards on the other end.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Random Links for 10/2/2020

I was far too busy today for a lot of writing - or any writing - but I did read a lot over the past couple of weeks. Here are some posts I hope you didn't miss.

- Grognardia interviewed Sandy Petersen.

- New GURPS Dungeon Fantasy release today: The Room. I know nothing about it to tell you that the landing page of that link won't tell you.

- Here is a fun post on ditching mental stats in a game: Player Skill Should Mean Dropping Int and Wis

- Got some spare change and want to play some minis? How about the Battle of Five Armies from The Hobbit?



Complete Contents of this breathtaking display include:

1200+ Skillfully Painted Orc & Goblin Infantry
90+ Skillfully Painted Orc & Goblin Cavalry
700+ Skillfully Painted Dwarf Infantry
250+ Skillfully Painted Human Infantry
90+ Skillfully Painted Human Cavalry
140+ Skillfully Painted Elven Infantry
30+ Skillfully Painted Elven Cavalry
6 Custom-Painted Giant Eagles
17 Additional Custom-Painted Figures to Represent Named Characters
Over 250 Pieces of Painted Foam & Latex Terrain, Some Custom Molded
17 pages of GenCon Registration Paperwork
14 GenCon Prize Vouchers
6 Pre-Addressed GenCon Correspondence Envelopes
19 Pages of Handwritten Scenario Notes

A mere $12,995. Free shipping on orders over $149 . . . I wonder if they'll stick with that for this?

- I've been reading the AD&D PHB cover to cover, line for line, in order. It's a refresher. I've never done that, although I've certainly read it all many times. Next is the DMG, although I am reading the relevant referenced spells in the DMG as I read them in the PHB. I don't think AD&D spells are poorly worded, but I do think the notes in the DMG belong more properly in the spells themselves to facilitate actual ease of play.

- This is a really thorough look at 1st edition AD&D regeneration. No, I'm not sure how I feel about Rings of Regeneration. Do you die and then come back, and lose a point of CON, or just never die? Do you roll System Shock, Resurrection Survival, or neither? Neither means you're effectively unkillable in many ways. Back in Rolemaster we used to call magic items like that "Most Potent." Did you find one yet?

I've thought of putting on in GURPS but I expect it would just get handed around during rests to bring everyone up to full HP without using any spells. I'd need to put some kind of "attunement" rule in place, or a delay, but then you lose out on the fun of jamming it on someone's finger to keep them from dying. And the former also means people say, "Can I have given my ring to (so-and-so) 6 days ago to have him attuned so he can use it this adventure?" Like anyone in their right mind would take the damn thing off when it keeps you immortal-ish.


I hope that keeps you in good posts for tonight . . . I'll try to get something more content-like tomorrow.


(Editing later - forgot one! Some delve-worthy forests from Bruce Heard!)

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Cumulative Turn Undead in DF

One problem I've seen a few times in my game is repeated attempts to turn undead when it has failed.

To paraphrase one of my players, "You don't really know it won't work until you've rolled a 3 and it still failed." That attitude can be inspiring, but it's also a stubbornness that can grind down a referee's soul. It's painful to watch someone roll and fail, roll and fail, roll and fail, hoping that eventually they're roll low enough and you high enough to let those damned undead just run away (or suffer a penalty).

That's especially the case when the PCs are attempting to turn undead when it flatly won't work - the enemies aren't really undead, the enemies are in a special zone where they cannot be turned (a very D&D thing, but also something I've used), the enemy has enourmous effective Will and winning the contest is either unlikely or impossible. Yet turn after turn the PCs start to pin their hopes on a good roll instead of having the cleric or holy warrior do something else that can actually help.

It also means the drama of that first Turn Undead roll isn't. It's a question of, "Can I beat them this second? No? How about this second?" A lucky roll by undead foes just spares them for a second.

Perhaps ironically, I think a way to help players out of this trap, and get the GM out of the "fun" of a good roll for an undead foe becoming just a one-second delay of the inevitable with a penalty.

I think a limitation helps both - the player knows to stop trying and do other things, not just pray for a good roll or think he or she is helping when they just are not. It also means a good roll - or a well-used Wish or a Luck roll isnt just sparing the undead for a second.

Here are two options. I am leaning toward the first one for use in my own games, but I might use the second if it sits well enough with me after further thought.

Cumulative Turning Penalties

For each attempt to turn the same undead, you roll at a cumulative -2 penalty. This penalty lasts for 24 hours from the last turning attempt.

One Try Per Day

If you fail to turn a specific undead, you will automatically fail in any attempt until at least 24 hours after your last turning attempt. If you succeed, and stop concentrating on turning, you may try again - but if you fail on a subsquent turning, you cannot attempt it again for at least 24 hours.

FAQs:

"Surely a 3 must do something special?"

That logic is too combat-and-skill-roll oriented. It's not for Quick Contests. You really need to drop the thought that a "3" is anything better than the biggest margin you can succeed by. If you rolled a pretty good roll and failed, hoping for "critical" isn't a good approach when the rules that apply don't have critical successes.

Why -2, not -1?

-1 would make sense, much like forcing doors has, but it comes with a 1 FP cost for repeated efforts. This comes with none, so if you have a reasonably high roll (especially one of 17+ so you're already capped by the Rule of 16) there is little reason to worry about a -1. A -2 adds up twice as quickly, and makes attempts past 2-3 times crippling for all but the best of clerics against the worst of undead. There is still a chance, but each try is less and less likely. I think -2 works pretty well. So would -3, but I think -4 seems a bit too much.
Which one is for Felltower?

I'm a bit torn . . . I'm leaning toward the -1 cumulative but "One try per day" is harsh and easy. The first ignores failure or success - that penalty comes up even if you succeeded but then let the turning lapse. The second just says no.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

How do you get through A2 in 3 hours?

The A-series module has a 3-hour time limit to get through, basically, nine "encounters." *

You have three hours.

That's three hours from the start inside the curtain wall.

My players took 7 hours to get halfway through, and then 6 more to get to the end and die.

That's 13 vs. 3 - more than 4 times as long.

How would you get through A2 in the time limit?

I think you'd need some or all of these.

Experienced AD&D players.

Some of my players have played all of the eight AD&D sessions I've run in the past few years. For some of them, that's the entirety of their AD&D experience. Others have players 2nd edition AD&D, 3rd edition, 5th edition. One of my players is an old AD&D vet of mine from high school, but that was Unearthed Arcana era and we used THAC0 instead of the hit tables, simplified initiative (winning side goes and does everything), and higher-powered and higher-statted characters with more magic items than they get now. Only two of my players have independent 1st edition AD&D experience of any note.

So it's a bit unfair to expect them to rattle off stats, know spells, recognize monsters, and have experience dealing with traps and such . . . we found yesterday I could find a rule from memory faster than they could find with "Find" in a PDF. Would guys with that level of play experience back in the day do well in the tournament?

Unlikely.

So you really need to know what your guy can do, and have a solid idea of what others can, too, so you can synergistically operate. Any time you spent figuring out what your paper man's capabilities are is time away from that limit. This was a challenge to the player skill and player rules knowledge and player luck, in the end - no awards for role-playing or playing to rulings not rules or using your imagination to expand your capabilities. Some of that might help it along, but the ankheg, the "mummies," and the pit traps are ones that really call for game knowledge to inform your choices.

Especially rote knowledge of spell effects

You don't have time to look up spells and decide - you need to have the knowledge of their limits and powers quite well. My players finished the game with nine casualties but plenty of unused spells, mostly the ones without obvious combat effects. Why? A good part of it is that looking up the spells one by one to figure out if this is a good place to use them is a time waster . . . and you have precious little of it.

A Caller or Leader

Three hours for nine areas doesn't leave a lot of time for democracy, feeling out of options, and collegial discussions. Someone needs to be in charge and make the final yes/no executive decision. You may need to have that person go around the table and take a quick opinion from everyone . . . but they'll need to decide.

For every major obstacle you have 30 minutes to arrive at it, decide what to do, and then execute it.

If the GM has to go around the table asking each person, "What are you doing?" you waste a lot of time. You don't have it.

Decisiveness & Alacrity

You can't waste a second on declaring actions for combat, or making moves outside of them. You have to know what you're doing now and immediately be thinking about next round's actions as this round's change the battle situation. Combat - and other obstacles - must be resolved quickly.


I think if you had all of those . . . you'd have a shot at finishing in three hours. Not a certainty - and the scoring reflects that. But a chance at it. You have to be decisive and skilled at the game of AD&D to do it. Luck bouncing in your favor when it's a big roll, too, is important. It's probably what separated some of the teams back in the day, too. A bad roll here or there can turn a fight in AD&D.

We'll see if my players have more of the above, the more we play AD&D.



* Which isn't nine rooms, or nine hallways, or nine doors - what counts as an "encounter" is sometimes not so clearly defined in the non-tournament versions we're extracting the tournament version back out of! I think if my players read this and try to game-plan around "nine" areas, they'll likely spend a lot of time counting and "saving" effects for "the ninth one, which is the boss fight." Yeah, it might be, but what if you double-counted? Or under-counted?

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

GURPS 101 - When to use magic?

Yesterday I blogged about when to use magic in AD&D.

What about GURPS Dungeon Fantasy?

Here is a basic overview which might prove helpful to newer players or provoke some thought in vets.


When to use spells in GURPS

Spells in GURPS have a major advantage - you can use them quite freely. You're not limited by a number of spells you can cast, but only by your skill - which limits the spells you can keep active - and your energy.

Since your energy can be recovered during rest - or by drinking paut, or by time alone (for an Energy Reserve), there really isn't a useful maximum on spells. Spells tend to be more limited in effect than in limited-spell-use systems, but can be very effective for all of that. They tend to last effectively longer, too - 60 combat turns is a common. It's vastly easier to buff combatants than to weaken or kill foes, and much easier to reshape the battlefield with area-effect magic than to directly affect enemies on it.

Potions have longer effects - an hour is typical.

In other words, spellcasters tend to use magic often and steadily throughout all situations. If you have a spell that can solve a problem, you can generally use it to always solve that problem, over and over. There is rarely a need to restrain yourself - given Levitation, climbing is only for those skilled at climbing. Given Shape Earth, digging is only for cases where the hole isn't in earth. Given Silence, you never need to risk noise unless you don't care to conceal your noisy door-bashing and gate-spiking. Spells like Explosive Fireball or Great Haste or Invisibility can be used repeatedly, during the same fight, and every fight - you can essentially depend on magical fire support or magical buffing as long as your mage is conscious. Energy limitations might cut how much of an effect, but for DF-level wizards, it's rare to be unable to cast a spell at all.

Only high individual costs or time constraints practically limit the utility use of magic. The only real barrier is cost to maintain - which may add up for big spells - and spells "on" penalties, which may increase the chance of a critical failure. Even then, often wizards have a greater net chance of a critical success than a failure. Cast away!

When to use magical healing

In GURPS DF, healing is generally best done as early as possible. Unlike offensive spells, healing spells are uniformly powerful. It's much harder to kill with magic alone in GURPS than to heal with magic alone. And the magic needed to slay a foe is costly and unreliable, while that to heal one is relatively inexpensive and reliable. For true nicks and scratches - wounds that are below a single maximum healing from Minor Healing - it's generally worth leaving them alone unless further combat is not expected. In that case, heal up quickly.

For heavier wounds, it's best done as early as possible.

Since healing results change with HP, it's tempting to knock off a few points with a lower-energy casting, but more valuable to hold it until later. A knight with 20 HP - easy for a starting character - can be healed 16 HP for 4 energy base cost with Major Healing. You're better off waiting until the knight takes a nasty, heavy blow and then heal it on the spot. Healing is fast, it's easily done in combat, and you can do it repeatedly.
(Editing later: in combat, of course, wounds that cause crippling, threaten unconsciousness, or reduce Move and Dodge should be healed immediately - doing so can be disproportionally valuable even if they don't really maximize the healing-to-cost of doing so.)
Healing suffers from a cumulative -3 for repeated castings, but DF delvers are highly skilled - your basic cleric will have 15+ in most spells, and getting to 19-20+ in all of them is easily done. So casting at a 15, 12, 9 isn't a problem - or 20, 17, 14, 11. Each spell has its own cascade, so get 2-3 different spells going (Minor Healing, Major Healing, Great Heal), plus healing potions (no penalty cascade) and Faith Healing, on top of difficulty in dying, and that 20 HP knight takes far more than 120 HP of injury to kill for sure. A bad roll can kill you, but it's hard to go down and stay down.

Between fights, getting everyone to full just requires time - a few seconds to cast, minutes to recover energy through rest. That can be sped up with cash by purchasing paut and using it. Given a relatively short time, you can heal up almost anything. Given more than 24 hours and you should generally be able to take anyone from nearly automatically dead to fine. Recovery doesn't really require rest with a PC-class cleric. It's a rare case where you need to "ration" spells between characters.

Essentially, healing should allow you to recover quickly from any fight you can win. Only broken limbs and dismemberments really slow you down - and not even then, given sufficient energy, not even then.

Monday, September 28, 2020

AD&D - When to use spells?

As always, when I say AD&D I mean 1st edition. If there isn't a efreet on the cover and you're not prying out the eyes of an idol, I'm not interested.

After our last game session, we'd ended early so we chitchatted about AD&D and did a Q&A on the module we'd used. One thing we talked about were spells.

When to use spells

It's not always clear to players, especially relatively inexperienced AD&D players, when to deploy spells. They're use it or lose it, but they're also a limited supply, and often do things you cannot do without magic. You're torn between the need to conserve your spells for real need, and the need to use them to avoid costs to other resources.

Personally, I find the whole "When to use spells" question a lot of fun to think about. In my own philosophy its relatively simple. For me, it's simply this:

Use a spell when you have a good opportunity to use it.

My way of thinking is this - you don't want to use spellcasting as a desperation move. A lot of the spellcasting can be described as basically flailing for success - casting Command at high-level foes, hoping for a missed save, Hold Person to bail out a fight going bad, Fireball because there doesn't seem to be a way to reach a distant or fortified foe, Magic Missile because the mage doesn't have anything else to do. Sleep maybe when you're getting overrun. That generally doesn't work well because those aren't the best conditions for those spells.

Instead, you use Command when you need a way to distract a foe for a round, especially a low-level one who doesn't get a save. Hold Person to open a fight, targeting dangerous opponents. Fireball when you have an open area and many foes to potentially hit. Magic Missile to hit low-AC targets you can't touch otherwise, or enemy spellcasters - either to kill them or interrupt up their spells. Sleep is a great fight-opener against low-level foes, as it can drop a lot of them in short order before they accomplish much (or anything, even.)

By all means, pull spells out of your butt when things go badly, but don't expect them to work as well as they would had you chosen better circumstances. I try to think of ways to have a spell end a fight at the beginning, not turn it around at the end. By using a limited-use resource of a spell early and effectively you can save yourself needing to use other resources to solve this same problem. A spell deployed when it's the best opportunity to maximize its benefits should mean minimizing other costs in the long run.

That's my approach anyway. I'm also the kind of player who tosses torc grenades into bar brawls because it's a heck of a target. Maybe we'd have won that fight anyway, without the grenade. Who cares?

That said, it does mean you need to know what your spells do, and have given them some thought on how to use them. With tournament PCs, that's an issue. Maybe you'd never bother with ESP or Levitate or Mirror Image but there it is, on your sheet. You need to find a way to make it shine . . . you don't have a lot of them, so you can't spray them around and hope. As a GM, you can - your NPC is probably going to die that fight or cause a TPK, so go for it. Use them all, as fast as you can. As a PC, though . . .

That's my thoughts on it, in any case. I'd love to hear other people's working theory on spell usage. Not specific spells - just an overall strategy on what spells are for in general.

When to use healing spells

This one I've been giving a lot of thought.

My players generally use them right away. After a fight, as soon as you're down enough HP that a maximum roll would heal them all (don't want to waste any), they'll heal people up. Have 25 HP and suffered 9? Cast Cure Light Wounds, and get him to 17-24 HP. This means that, pretty quickly, they're out of healing spells.

I'm thinking that's a mentality brought about by three things:

- being used to games where healing is plentiful, or at least replenishible.

- a use-it-or-lose it attitude - you don't want to die with healing potions unquaffed.

- feeling vulnerable when you're down HP in a harshly deadly game and going to 0 HP takes you out for extended time, not just until you're healed.

I also mentioned to my players that I was thinking you might need to save healing spells. Yes, the guy with 25 HP who is down to 16 after a fight is more vulnerable than when he's fully healed. But what happens when you're in a fight later, and another fighter starts with 20 and then is at 15, 10, 5, because he just can't seem to catch a break on the "to hit" rolls? Then what? It might be useful to have the spell then, and apply it to keep someone up now instead of to minimize the risk of someone going down later.

Healing potions as well - it doesn't take that long to drink them (although it does take 2-5 segments to take effect.) They might be more useful as a mid-fight boost than in just pools of replacement hit points between fights.

Of course, you'll need them between fights as well . . . but how to deploy them? As soon as possible, to keep as far away from 0 HP as possible for as long as possible? Or when needed, because you don't really know who'll get to 0 HP first or who will be most necessary to keep alive later? And if it's a mix, how do you decide what that mix is?

I'm wondering what other people's strategies are.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

AD&D Session 8: A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade, Part 2

Today we played our 8th session of AD&D, where we run through old modules as-written just because it's fun. We use AD&D as much as possible as-written, except where the rules are nonsensical (Weapoon Speed, say) or impeded play (Initiative). But generally we revel in them. It's a nice vacation from GURPS.

Today we played the rest of the first part of A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade, as part of a planned series of sessions that will eventually take us through the aerie (A3), and dungeons (A4) of the Slave Lords.

We had a slightly different mix of players, as four people who played last time couldn't make it, and one that couldn't last time, could. So we had lots of two-PC players.


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



Characters

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

We picked up where we left off last time - the PCs in a room, having hacking down a door that leads to hobgoblin barracks.

The PCs decided the way to go was back - retreat past the pit, move to the other door they'd spotted, and find a way down or South (into the complex) that way. They used Kayen Telva's scroll of Hold Portal to lock the "bear door" closed, crossed the pit by climbing down one side and out the other, and ran to the door to the West. It was dusty near it. They forced the door but it took several rounds. Meanwhile, hobgoblins had finally forced the east door open once the Hold Portal ended and advanced to the pit. One had a sling, the others swords.

Phanstern asked Kayen hold to say, "Jump in the pit and lay down!" in Hobgoblinese (Hobgoblinian?) and then ran to within 30' of them. The slinger hit him for 2 HP with a sling bullet. Phanstern won initiative managed to get his spell off the next round, casting Hypnotism. Unfortunately, despite needing a 17 to save, four of the six targets saved! Two jumped into the pit and layed down. The others climbed down. The leader launched a sling bullet at Phanstern, hit him, and did 3 HP of damage . . putting him to 0 and down.

The other PCs managed to force the door open. Beyond it they saw a cobwebbed and dusty room, heard low moans, rattling bones, and saw a ghostly form fluttering. They rushed it, with Dread grabbing the door to close it. Eljayess cast Light (which I let last way too long, actually.)

The "ghost" turned out to be a curtain, the moan a breeze through a crack in a fireplace wall, and the bones a wooden wind chime. They closed the door and spiked it shut.

They explored the area and found nothing but another door. They spent a fair amount of time checking rooms in a clearly burned-out area of the keep, found a hanged hobgoblin, saw eerie messages, had poltergeist-like weirdness happen, looked fruitlessly for secret doors, and eventually realized it was a dead end. So they unspiked the door and went back the other way. As they went, Karraway pulled on torch sconces to activate secret doors (or whatever) but it did little. The hobgoblins had taken the torches, and Phanstern was gone, too.

The pit was reset, so they crossed it carefully and forced the door. The room was cleared, with everything piled to the side near the north door they'd hacked down. They sent two over to check the piled "desk," casks, etc. and the rest started on the south door. As they did, seven hobgoblins burst into the room - six plus a sergeant. They charged the PCs. In a brisk fight, the PCs killed them all - but took some wounds in the process. They decided to head north to clear out the hobgoblins and find the way into the complex, hoping for stairs down ("stairs down" was a theme by now.) They heard lots of them coming - dozens, maybe.

So they backed off to the south door. Dread Delgath used Wall of Fire from his Wand of Fire, using 2 of its 4 charges, to block the hobgoblins off.

They forced the south door open, and again, the mummies appeared. They opined they weren't mummies, but Karraway got ready to turn them anyway. They advanced slowly. They spotted a metal mirror on the west wall, and were sure it was a secret door. They were only willing to spend one round looking, a few of them looked around for loose flagstones, triggers, wall buttons, pulled on torch sconces, etc. A round wasn't much and they couldn't find a trigger. They headed towards the impatiently moaning and gesturing mummies. Eventually they got most of the way down the hallway and saw it had a mirror at the end on an angle - the mummies rushed around the bend and attacked. As they did, the secret door they'd suspected opened up and out came six hobgoblins and a leader with a sling - the same ones as before, actually, from two previous encounters. The PCs didn't have anyone keeping watch on the rear so risked surprise on a 1-3, but I rolled a 6. They ended up in a double-ended fight as the hobgoblins charged. They had an option to fight two-across or three-across, and they chose three. Dread cast Slow and Karraway tried to Turn Undead.

The back rank was Freda, Eljayess, and Kayen Telva (with 5 HP left). The front faced the mummies with Elwita, "Ogre," and Karraway. They slogged out a fight. Freda killed a hobgoblin right away and then couldn't hit for the rest of the fight. Kayen Telva took 4 HP of damage and stayed in melee until eventually he took another hit and dropped at -2 or -3 HP. One of the mummies got killed right away, and then Dread's Slow went off. They hacked down the slowed "mummies" in a round or two. After Kayen went down Karraway turned and cast Hold Person on the hobgoblins in the back, holding the leader and two others. They meleed the one still standing for maybe 4-5 rounds as the door behind them was being hacked down. They finally put him down, just as Karraway finished beating the held hobgoblins to death (it's slower than Gold Box video games make it seem, by strict AD&D rules). They sent Freda to check the secret door, but he didn't see much as the door was hacked down. They ran. They forced their way into the next room, but hobgoblins pursued them. Karraway spiked the door shut with two spikes as the hobgoblins who took the secret door burst in from the north. They fought them and took them all out, but again, lost some HP doing so. They forced a door to the north into a carpeted hallway lined with curtains. Freda tried to slash one down but almost broke his sword on the wall. So they spiked the door shut behind them, and ran up the corridor, seeking to put as much space between them and the hobgoblins. They found a door and forced it open, easily, and found it was a looted storeroom. They headed along. The curtains and carpet ended suddenly. They advanced.

And Elwita and Ogre fell into a pit. It was 10' deep and 7' across. They took a lot of damage - the pit was 1-6 for being 10' deep, plus 3-6 rusty spikes for 1-6 each. Elwita took 26 HP, "Ogre" 9 HP. Freda jumped the pit hoping to help them across, but hit a black-painted wire 4' off the ground and fell back into the pit and took ~25 HP. Elwita and Freda were both out. Blodgett and Kayen were in the pit, bleeding to death. They managed to get "Ogre" out, grab some gear from the fallen, and run as they heard hobgoblins coming.

From there they kept forcing doors, and eventually found their goal - stairs down! They found them in a damp room with tuns of water with spigots. They spiked the door shut and went down the stairs . . . and found their way to the fort's well. No exits.

They unspiked the door and continued on.

The next room they penetrated had stadium seating on the four walls, filled with slack-jawed and staring humans neck-shackled to the wall, surrounded by flittering shadows. A hobgoblin stood slack-jawed at the far end. They moved in to kill the hobgoblin and get across the room, but felt anxious as they did. As they reached the far end, they barely heard a sound, just at the bottom edge of their hearing. It unnerved them a bit but they made their saves. In a moment, a cloak from the far wall detached itself and flew at them, moaning - a cloaker! (They'd fought one in my GURPS game.)

It tried to moan them into nausea, and failed. They chopped at it, and Elwita, Karraway, and "Ogre" all hit it. It tried to Hold "Ogre" and succeeded. It enveloped "Ogre" and started to tail-smash Elwita. They just couldn't hit it, and eventually it knocked out Elwita with its tail. Dread burned it with Burning Hands twice, which hurt it badly and finished off unconscious and held "Ogre," putting him below -10 HP. Eljayess drank his Potion of Speed, passed his System Shock roll for aging a year from magic (a 30 against a 97% chance) and finally hit it with his spear and finished it off.

Then there were three. Eljayess speared the hobgoblin in the eye, Dread took his cloak (it was a Cloak of Protection +2 it turns out), and they headed in further. They spent a little time trying to force a door before deciding to just check the hallway to the end.

At the end, they found a door and immediately forced it. (As in, "We force the door [roll, roll] and I made it.") So they just ran to the door and bashed it in . . . and found themselves entering a kitchen/feast hall, with a raging fire, a barricade of casks and barrels and a big wine cask in the middile, facing this guy, and his minions:



Icar, the 7' tall black man in black plate with no eye holes in his helmet, wielding the Two-Handed Sword +1 "Death's Master." (And the main reason I wanted to run A2, part 1.)

We checked but no surprise.

Eljayess still had 3 rounds left of his Potion of Speed, so he launched a Javelin of Piercing at Icar and hit for 8 damage.

Initiative was tied.

Some hairy humans threw axes - all at Karraway - and one hit, just as he finished a Command spell on Icar to "Surrender!" - he made his save with ease, rolling a 17.

Dread threw a flask of oil into the fire. It splashed on Icar, who ignored the burning oil on himself.

Karraway's second javelin (Haste) hit Icar and did 11 more damage. 19 so far!

Next round, hobgoblins popped up and threw axes, Icar kicked out the supports of a big wine cask and sent it tumbling at the party, and the humans ducked and hid.

Dread's second oil flask missed badly and hit no one. Eljayess ran in, sword out, and took cover. The rolling wine barrel took out Karraway, knocking him out (he was down ~2 HP) and ending the Spiritual Hammer spell he was trying to cast, and Dread was hurt and stunned for 1 round. The hobgoblins threw axes at Eljayess but missed (medium range and low AC, as he upgraded gear as PCs went down.)

The next round Icar moved up and attacked Eljayess, and wounded him, and then got his second attack (# of AT 3/2) and finished him off just as Eljayess was trying Command to "Surrender."

Not that Command would have ended the fight - surrender, yes, but it's 1 round duration.

Out of options, Dread Delgath attacked Icar with his dagger, rolled a 17, and missed. Icar cut him down.

And thus ended the attempt to defeat the slavers.

Notes

Well, that was fun. I'm glad they got to the final battle. I assumed Icar was confident in his fort, and not willing to stop his party just because of attackers . . . he'd deal with them personally if they made it that far. An upside of evil is you can sacrifice your minions without a care, and a downside is you can't trust them to do the hard work and need to put in a hand personally. I'm sad they didn't get there with enough juice in the tank to compete in it, or even win it. It wasn't looking good at the start of the session and it wasn't really possible after the second pit trap. Even hits on every strike and failures on every enemy save in the last fight wouldn't have won it for them.

Speaking of which, that second pit trap was obscenely lethal. Detecting it would have been possible with some caution, but once you fall in it . . . 1d6 damage plus 1d4+2 x 1d6 damage. So a range of 4-42 damage. Average 3.5+(4.5*3.5)=19.25 points. That's more than average damage for falling in a 50' pit or getting hit by a fire giant (5-30, av. 17.5). Plus, the more spikes you land on, the more damage you take? Very old school, but wouldn't the more spike you hit potentially mean more distribution of landing force and thus less depth of penetration? And AC doesn't matter, so landing on it in plate armor and landing on it with nothing . . . same. It just seems a bit much. In a campaign game, I'd nerf that trap a lot.

The whole mission was really on the edge of failure after that first bloody fight in the courtyard. Once the PCs lost Blodgett, they lost a lot of ability to deal with locks and traps. They also really wanted to avoid the straight-up-the-middle approach the tournament module demanded, and spent a lot of time trying to get around the "obvious" mummy trap. Hacking up the door to the north meant that I had to deploy monsters not included in the tournament - lots and lots of hobgoblins. They cost the PCs ammunition, spells, charges off the wand, and HPs they couldn't get back. I couldn't let them off like the tournament demands because they legitimately made efforts to get to the guard barracks and spent extra time messing around, noisily and violently.

The "mummies" didn't fool them - no one thought they were mummies - but it did result in an excess of caution that harmed them greatly. Net/net, that set piece encounter worked. They dithered in front of it, and when they eventually went for it they were down on HP, characters, and spells. They ended up losing a PC in the fight, wasted time Turning, used up 2 precious charges on the wand (on the other hobgoblins, thank to their first attempt to avoid the mummies), used up their only 3rd level M-U spell, and a Hold Person spell. So maybe they didn't buy them as mummies, but they ended up paying more than it was worth to defeat three disguised hobgoblins. They rightly suspected a trap, and worried it was a pit, but never really chose any of the options early enough - attack, search for a secret door, or use magic such as a Fireball to just clear the area.

Hold Person - save vs. spells, or paralyze? I went with Spells.

Karraway has a scroll of Raise Dead. That's utterly useless in a tournament setting for AD&D. I'd thought it must be because this was written pre-AD&D, but no, it's a 1980 tournament. So what gives? Assumption you wouldn't run the spell by the book, just a feel good item, a way to question the dead if you bring them back? They used it on "Ogre." So he's a slave, now. Heh.

Oddly, they ended the game with a lot of spells left. No obvious offensive ones, but ones like Spider Climb, ESP, Invisibility, (Although Kayen died with Sleep, though, and Charm Person), a Potion of Clairaudience, Suggestion . . . I think they just didn't know how to use them. Maybe next time I'll divvy up the characters a week out so people have time to read the spells and think about how to try and use them.

Next time we play, I'm going to do a post-session inventory. People weren't sure how many spikes they had, how many arrows, who had what item from Blodgett, etc. I made us type out remaining HP in Roll20 but I think it's worth going for the whole deal.

Also next time we play, we're using Weapon Speed. Maybe Weapon vs. Armor Type, too, just see how it actually plays out.

But again, this was a lot of fun. I love GURPS, but I am having a total blast running AD&D. It demands a very different approach in some ways, yet rewards a lot of the same sensible actions. You just have different resources for the job.

Next AD&D will likely be A2, the subterranean levels, with the same PCs. IIRC they upgrade, gear anyway, for A3. We'll start afresh like we did with this one. I'm hoping to play it soon, while AD&D is still in people's heads.
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