Sunday, March 29, 2020

What disadvantages are mis-priced in GURPS DF Felltower?

Some disadvantages effectively have less disadvantage for their points in my DF game. Others have a significant amount of impact for less points. This isn't exhaustive, but it is a list of ones that stick out to me.

I will have some revision suggestions embedded below, but I'll also be coming up with more. For a further look at disadvantages, check out my new Disadvantages post label.

Less Impact:

Bad Temper [-10]. This one should make for a lot of aggression, and bad decisions based on foes targeting you, or hurting you, or insulting you. Or frustrating traps or puzzles might anger you. In actual play . . . it sits on the character sheet and maybe - if the player really, really feels like this situation is incredibly upsetting in a special fashion - gets the self-control number rolled against. Generally, this isn't worth the points most people get back from it. This should probably have concrete effects, much like Berserk does. In fact, that's a good fix - you must make a self-control roll not to lash out verbally or physically at any foe that insults you, or attacks you, even if you've got better (or other) targets. If you also have Bloodlust, you will not be distracted from finishing a foe before moving on to the one angering you . . . and any that anger you must force a check at the lower of your Bad Temper or Bloodlust self-control roll to stop hitting the foe after its down, even when it's obviously dead.

Code of Honor (Chivalry) [-15]. You must obey your liege lord and faith, protect any ladies and weaker folks, and fight fair if you opponent is also of chivalric background. These come up, respectively, never, never, and almost never in my game. This gains you 15 points and effectively acts as a quirk (save any ladies) and quirk-level Code of Honor (fight fair against other knights with a chivalric background.) This is actually significantly less restrictive in actual play than the Soldier's code, or the Pirate's code. I may just flat-out require a change to the Code, or ban this in favor of the Soldier's c.ode, or put in restrictions about "fair fights" that apply more generally. Perhaps it's against the code to take a flank or back shot against a sapient foe? Perhaps you must accept surrenders except from clearly non-coreligionists? Hmm . . . time to check out the Tales of Froissart again. 15 point Codes shouldn't be an "oh yeah, sometimes this comes up!" kind of things.

Easy to Read [-10]. Given the infrequency of negotiation, and the fact that barbarians aren't ever put in charge of them, means this is free points. It should really be a quirk, or -5 points at most. Unless being "Easy to Read" also means being easy to influence, or easy to trick, or easy to distract, it's really not a whole lot of anything, here. I bet if it gave -2 to resist any influence roll or magical charm attempt people would toss this aside in a split-second. I'm not sure what else would make a good, in-game effect for this in a game where negotiation is uncommon by player choice and it's easy to keep the bad poker players out of the situation. This has had some in-game effects (when the PCs try to lie their butts off to NPCs with the barbarians standing right there, with that look of "I hope they buy this total lie!" on their faces) but not so much that it's worth 10 points to the affected PC.

Honesty [-10]. You follow the law. For the most part, this is only limiting in that characters with it can't sell their loot on the black market, won't traffic in illegal loot, and won't violate the laws of Stericksburg. Otherwise . . . it's legal to kill underground, and what you find is yours. This is probably a -5 point disadvantage, at heart, in a game with broad legal status given to most of what delvers do in the first place. It should probably fold in Truthfulness in this type of game to be worth the full -10.

Intolerance (Urbanites) [-5]. No one is going around reacting at -3 to their fellow teammates, even though the groups is about 2/3 urbanite and 1/3 outdoorsy type. Those urbanites even go shopping for those woodsy loner types and no one seems to mind. Probably should be a quirk.

Vow (Never refuse a challenge to combat) [-10]. This one is entirely on me; I should define what a challenge is. Perhaps it's even the baying of animals attempting to scare you off, or any insult from a foe (say, a draugr) is clearly a direct attempt to get you to fight them and you have to make that happen, etc. Otherwise this has come up only a couple of times in a long campaign full of PCs with it - often multiple ones at the same time. Worth -10 if there are lots of challenges to combat, -1 or -5 if it's a rare but dangerous thing.

Weirdness Magnet [-15]. I had attempted to eliminate this, but a couple of PCs still have it. It just doesn't factor in much in play; it's not a game where outside forces do much to you in particular over and above the other delvers around you. It works for to a mostly-free 15 points, and doesn't even have quirk-level implications. Weirdness Magnet can and should define your life - like Garrett, in the Garrett, P.I. books, who is a bona fide Weirdness Magnet and suffers its effects on his life and reputation. In DF Felltower, nothing really comes of it.

More Impact

Bloodlust [-10]. This has caused a lot of dead foes, including ones who might have been useful alive. It's cost turns in combat, as PCs put in an extra shot on anyone not clearly dead. Not everyone really plays it to the fullest, but many do - it's why you see some folks cheerfully cutting throats after a fight, or putting extra blows in over and above what's needed to kill something. Coupled with Callous, this has caused a lot of dead NPCs.

Cowardice [-10]. This has actually derailed whole session plans, and made some pretty straightforward plans impossible to execute. Well worth -10 and possibly more.

Overconfidence [-5]. Lot of dead PCs with this one, even when they've ferociously optimized to win and survive. Enough said.

Sense of Duty (Fellow Adventurers) [-5]. This is potentially close to worth more than -5. I think it keeps its value mostly because your fellow PCs, when they have it, tend to do more to help you. This one can kill you. On the upside, it's extremely easy to roleplay - take your -5 points, and don't abandon your friends. Many players will act that way anyway.

Vow (Own No More than What Can Be Carried) [-10]. This is very rough in a game centered on loot, with variable climates to be explored, and a need for backup gear. You simply can't own stuff and leave it behind (an exception is made for cash; I'll let you bury some cash somewhere so it's not weighing down your PC, as long as you don't go all Captain Kidd.) Without such generosity it's probably -15, instead, and you can expect to have to sell off your mail armor if you go adventuring without it, or buy winter clothes every winter if you're not toting them to Felltower with you. By the way, this is a quirk in a campaign with Portable Holes.


I'm curious what my players would think are wrongly-priced disadvantages.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Incremental Progress

Today was another day of working on my book - this time, an editing pass. It takes a lot to write a sentence and sometimes even more to cut it down to a better, shorter one. If you're used to my long, digressive sentences, with subordinate clauses and connected ideas, all strung together with commas, then you'll understand what I mean. My basic style makes the Hemmingway App light up the screen like a yellow and red explosion.

Because of that, I spent a lot of hours today basically reading and re-reading, cutting down here and there. Consolidating sentences and thoughts. Making formatting changes (mostly suggested by a fellow co-author authorized to look at the manuscript.)

It's a slow, unpleasant process and mostly feels like you're spending minutes deleting hours of work, or hours deleting minutes of work. The result never feels commensurate with the investment of effort.

But it's necessary. In the end, you'll get a better book.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Writing Update

It's GURPSDay, but I'm hard at work in the multi-leveled mines of my latest GURPS Dungeon Fantasy writing project.

I'm about 85% done by wordcount and 80% done overall by tasks. I'm starting to look for quotes, fill in blank spots, and get ready for a first-pass lookover of the manuscript.

It's due this weekend, so I should have it out of my hands in the next couple of days. Ironically, it's due the day I'm officially furloughed from work, but I think I'll take the time to work on a non-writing project before I launch back into one I've kept bubbling in the back of my head for a while now.

I wish I could provide more details from the depths of my work, but hey, you'll all see it soon enough.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Game prep - online vs. in-person

I'm a latecomer to running game online, but here are my anecdotal experiences about game prep between the two.


In-person:

- I have to prep minis - paint them and make sure they're in the minis trays.

- I have to prep all of my paper books and notes to bring with me to game

- I have to pack lunch and snacks


Online:

- I have to scour lots of images to find "minis" or send pictures of the ones I want to one of my gamers to edit into icons.

- prepare battle maps to save time in session

- prepare dungeon maps & deal with FOW

- assign out dynamic lighting, etc. for characters.


Same:

- I have to restock and review the dungeon areas I expect the PCs to travel to.

- write rumors

- deal with last-minute questions about spellstones, scrolls, skills, and point-spending.

It's a change - I have all of these minis, and encounters prepared around specific ones. I have battles that aren't in setpiece locations, so I can't just pre-prep them. It's taking soem getting used to . . . I can't fly by the seat of my pants as much online without having things grind to a halt. It's a learning curve.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Persistent Changes & Leveling Up Monsters in the Megadungeon

A great strength of a megadungeon is having a single location where delvers can go and effect changes on the environment. These changes can be temporary - unlocking doors, disarming traps, "clearing" a high-traffic room - but they are often going to be persistent - monsters dead, walls knocked down, doors removed. It's a combination of the immediate and the cumulative. The delvers that survive also change temporarily (injuries, fatigue, etc.) and permanently (gained experience, found gear, death).

So the PCs level up.

I asked back in 2013 if anyone had the monsters leveled up, too.

Clearly, Gary Gygax felt that way:

Gygax on Leveling Up Monsters

So it's not a new idea. Some monsters get more dangerous as they repel attacks just as the PCs do. The question is, do they gain experience from fighting and killing delvers? Or do they gain experience from looting the fallen, much as the PCs? Or purely ad hoc like Gary Gygax did? So many good choices . . .

Monday, March 23, 2020

GURPS DF Session 129, Felltower 100 - Lost City 9

Date: Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

Weather: Cool and clear near Felltower, sweltering and rainy in the Lost City of D'Abo

Characters:
Aldwyn Hale, human knight (278 points)
Bruce "the Mild" McTavish, Jr., human barbarian (267 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (294 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (370 points)
     3 Skeletons (~35 points)
Hayden the Ebon Page, human knight (307 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (285 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (286 points)

We started in town. The PCs gathered rumors and headed out, after snagging some Universal Scrolls of Resist Poison.

The PCs headed to the Lost City gate, via the usual route through the dungeon. They used the trap door, which had stayed unlocked, and took the "shorter path" to the second level. They encountered nothing on their way to the GFS except to note that the webs were missing from the corridor head that allows a "southern" approach to the stairs.

They opened up the stairs and scouted them with a Wizard Eye, and then followed the stairs single file to the level below. Again, they opened the door and scouted with Wizard Eye, and cautiously moved out to the gate to the Lost City of D'Abo.

They sent Crogar and Mild Bruce through. Wyatt's played announced he'd wait 60 seconds and then follow. The rest of the group just piled in past him and joined the barbarians. The city was hot and rainy - not a torrential downpour but enough to cut movement in half. Gerry took a guess at the rain and said it would last 4-5 hours (default Weather Sense), so they sat down to conjure up a Skull Spirit and rest. They did, and with a critical success, the spell was free so there was no need to rest.

They climbed and Levitated down in the pouring rain. Crogar slipped and fell but the damage was minor once you factored in his Shirtless Savage DR and regular barbarian DR and Crushing damage DR. The group marched across town in the rain, unmolested by anything living. When they reached the Path of Kings by the grove of the "monkey men" (the Mowgli), they found one of the trees had been uprooted and blocked the road. Wyatt examined the eye from a distance, hoping to see if it was a natural fall or it was felled or burned. Even his default Survival was enough to tell it was a natural fall. He climbed it, as Gerry sent the Wizard Eye over to scout. They saw nothing, but the road blocked, they headed through the edge of the trees to go around. They noted a lot of webs in the trees, but didn't see any spiders.

They made their way toward the brass or bronze gates and the cave of apes. They couldn't figure out a way to approach the cave over dry land except by passing some of the headless "Kings." Ulf decided he'd shush them and impress upon them the need for stealth, and that they'd come back later.

The talk with the Kings of D'Abo went very poorly, indeed. Ulf kept trying to shush them, and tell them to be quiet, and say "we're getting to that" when they asked questions. Kings do not like to be shushed, or told to be quiet, or told that their orders have been set aside for other business. Ulf started to ask questions about the snakemen, and the Kings demanded to know about the Bell of D'Abo, which Ulf wouldn't talk about. Ulf questioned them about the snakemen, and asked if they worshipped the Good God. One said, "Of course!" They got louder and more vociferous and cursed mortals for being poor subjects and always coming with excuses. The PCs eventually just ran off towards their goal. The task of being sneaky failed, with the booming voices of the Kings echoing around the city. Oops.

They headed out carefully toward the cave in the south-east portion of the Lost City. They avoided the brass/bronze gates, deciding that it was clearly a prison or protective gate of some kind, and whatever demon is cursing the city is likely to be behind it. They headed to the cave, instead, where a previous group had seen evidence of apes. They moved up, and heard howling and hooting from the cave and from behind them. In a moment, as they began to talk about buffing up, a pack of flesh-eating apes charged out. Mild Bruce threw his harpoon and missed, and Aldwyn his axe (which was dodged.)

The PCs fought them in a close brawl as the apes overran the original position of the PCs. Aldwyn stood his ground as they others fell back - Crogar inevitably got unlucky an a critical Dodge by an ape forced him to the critical miss table; he ended up with an unready weapon on a lanyard. It took him several seconds to get it ready, backing up as apes tried slams and grapples. One ape grappled Mild Bruce around the neck, and spent the entire fight trying Neck Snap but never succeeding by enough to inflict damage. Mild Bruce tried to break free, and failed, so he drew a knife and stabbed away at the ape instead.

Wyatt stabbed an incoming ape in the eyes four times, killing it; he'd do the same as he fell back, killing several more apes. Heyden tossed his javelin and wounded an ape, and then drew his sword and butchered a few more. As this all went on, a shorter, weaker-looking ape came out and howled oddly. Wyatt called out a warning about how Ulf needed to fight the "ape shaman."

The brawl took a long time in the real world, but in game, it was short. Gerry put Great Haste on himself and then on Wyatt, who stormed forward as Aldwyn was overrun and was grappled around the neck by an ape Heyden had wounded with his javelin. Aldwyn kneed this ape twice, knocking it out. Wyatt rushed forward to the mysterious ape and engaged him, wounding him. As he did so, it keened in pain - and all the apes, which had by this point started to disengage, went berserk and attacked ferociously. It took a lot of killing to put down the apes, including a massive pair of skull blows on one ape by Crogar (the second did 104 injury, enough to put the already-wounded ape to -5xHP in a single blow from full HP.) In the end the mysterious ape was killed, the others cut down (the one on Mild Bruce stabbed repeated by Bruce and by Heyden), and the PCs could stop and rest.

At least briefly. Already down significantly on FP, the PCs needed to rest. Wyatt was at half move from fatigue loss, and others were close. Gerry decided it was time for a solid 3-area Mass Zombie and positioned himself amidst the biggest collection of fallen apes, after someone (Wyatt, I think) made sure they were all dead. Meanwhile, Aldwyn, Crogar, and Mild Bruce arrayed themselves guarding the mouth of the cave the apes came out of.

As the PCs did so, they were attacked by till-then Invisible snakemen! Ulf was stabbed with a smallsword and poisoned, badly, causing 4 toxic injury and -4 DX. Crogar was stabbed, too, as was Mild Bruce. One stabbed at still-Invisible Gerry, who heard it coming and aborted his spell to cast Phase to avoid the attack he heard incoming. Another snakeman appeared a short distance off after throwing a Concussion spell near Wyatt, Ulf, and Heyden, wounding the three and stunning most of the group. The snakeman nearby was probably hurt but none of them seemed stunned. Wyatt killed the one standing too close to him with four eye shots. He missed one, and the others killed it.

The snakemen parried or Dodged attacks back at them, and then showed another ability - they hissed out seductive suggestions to the PCs. One tried with Gerry to get him to stop casting spells, but Gerry's Will (and Improved Magic Resistance 3) was enough - the IMR was vital in winning the contest. Crogar, Mild Bruce, and Aldwyn weren't so lucky. Alwyn fell for a suggestion to put his weapons aside, which let him get stabbed by the snakeman. Mild Bruce fell to a suggestion to join the snakemen - but his Sense of Duty meant he fought to maim or knock out, not kill. He turned his sword to the flat side and tried to brain Aldwyn. Aldwyn fought back until a snakeman suggested he kill the "invisible wizard." He swung around trying to find Gerry but then Mild Bruce cracked him in the skull, knocking him out cold with 44 injury to the brain. Crogar couldn't resist a hissed suggestion to surrender, and did so, standing there, waiting to be taken prisoner.

Wyatt staggered over to near Gerry, who sent his skeletons and skull spirit after the obvious spellcaster (who someone decided was an archer with a "thunder bow" because of the Roll20 icon we had. Sorry, no.) It took a few tries, but Gerry was able to Lend Energy to Wyatt and get him to full move; Wyatt drank a healing potion in the meantime as did Heyden, who then advanced to engage the snakemen.

The snakemen moved quickly out of the fight, backing off and letting their patsies engage each other. A second Concussion spell hurt the skull spirit a lot, and injured Gerry and the skeleton nearby as well. It stunned a number of the PCs.

The snakemen by this point had turned to run.

Wyatt chased after the snakeman who had cast the spells, as did the skeletons. It used Blink to avoid a hit from the skull spirit, and then turned and "ran." Wyatt stopped and fished out a Haste +2 spellstone, but it was too late - by the time he did it moved off and turned Invisible, right near a lot of cover. (It didn't help that Wyatt's connection dropped, and his text telling me his action came 2 hours after game ended . . . oh well.)

Mild Bruce charged to the attack on Wyatt, who backed off, seeing no way to disable him without killing him. Gerry cast Animate Shadow on Bruce, though, and it worked. Bruce and his shadow fought for five seconds; the first three seconds Bruce parried, as did the shadow. The last two, Bruce missed his defenses and the shadow ripped through his FP badly, dropping him to -7 FP and unconscious and badly woudned.

The PCs had lost track of the snakemen, and were badly battered. Gerry quickly got off a reduced-size Mass Zombie and had eight ape zombies. He had them gather the unconscious, pick up the snakeman Wyatt had slain along with its gear, and with Wyatt and Heyden in the lead, headed out.

The PCs headed back by the exact same route they came . . . which cost them a bit. The snakemen - or at least one snakeman - was lurking in ambush. As the party moved up the Path of Kings, a Concussion spell womped into the hex with the Skull Spirit and detonated. The skull spirit was very badly damaged (but not destroyed), Gerry wounded and stunned, Crogar wounded and stunned, and one of the skeletons mauled. They all became unstunned in a second, and fled. The zombie apes were ordered to pick up and carry Gerry to keep speed up to 4, which was Hayden's move.

They managed to make it back to the gate, and we handwaved the trip back to town.

Back near town, they rang the Bell of D'Abo to clear the mental control they suspected still affected Aldwyn, Mild Bruce, and Crogar. It seemed to clear those effects. They found the snakeman had some gold jewelry, a hollow-cored needle-like smallsword, a hollow-cored needle-like dagger, and a harness for holding them. And that was it.

Back in town, they sold everything. The jewelry was salable for 1200 sp, the hollow smallsword for 80 (it's specialized, illegal, and less useful than a normal one), and the hollow dagger for 10. Heyden argued for keeping the poison-reservoir dagger for Quenton, but they needed the cash from it to get Gerry just enough loot for more than 20% of his threshold; everyone else got exactly 200 to match theirs.

Notes:

This was our first-ever online session of gaming together, and first ever of Felltower. All in all, it went well. Having two GMs - Vic and I were both GMs - did make it tough as I wasn't always the one moving NPC pieces or modifying the map. But it did work. We hybridized rolling - people could roll with the die roller or with actual dice. Some did both - to hit with their own dice, damage with a Macro. That did make it hard to track sometimes but it wasn't a real issue. It did make combat slow, and as usual, when it came time to flee, the players slowed down. And thus flipping back and forth between the maps occurred, which slowed things down, which then fostered indecision . . . the final Concussion spell hit the fleeing PCs at 8:50 and it was 9:08 before we were at the second second of combat. Sigh. So we need to figure something out for hybrid cases like that.

Do Zombies suffer from concussive stunning from Concussion spells? I didn't make them roll, but I probably should have. Undead are immune to so much, I'm not sure they need this, too.

Galen was a last-minute cancel due to illness, which really showed. Having a missile fighter would have made the ape fight much shorter, and may have opened up options in the snakemen combat that followed.

We had a late guest addition of Honus's player, so it's possible Honus might be able to join again. Amusingly it's been 6 years since he played but he's not the lowest point character.

Ulf is probably alive because I can't ever seem to remember poison damage. No one mentioned poison again after being hit. Because that's how poison works in most games - it's a one-time save and you suffer an effect, or not. It's not like that in GURPS, for one, and even GURPS is a lot nicer than reality, where you almost always suffer some effect. So Ulf had a lot of cycles of poison to roll against, and so did Crogar and Mild Bruce. I need to find a way to deal with this, or just convert all poisons to one-cycle instant effects, regardless of SM, and just apply them. Oh sure, the PCs could have cured them, but they didn't have to because there was no followup.

Wyatt recently purchased Ultimate Slayer Training, so now he's routinely attacking 4x (5x on the first turn of Great Haste) to the eyes at Deceptive Attack -5. So anything with eyes is pretty much dead if they're facing him. I'm a little restrictive on eyes - you can't attack the eyes with an impaling attack from outside the front arc, or when your front arc doesn't have a line on the front arc of the other fighter. Otherwise, we end up with guys stabbing into the brain through the eyes from angles like a goal-line shot in hockey . . . all without interference from the skull. In the confusion of combat GURPS is already generous about allowing free choosing of targets that should be difficult to even line up on a still target, I don't need to make it more so. I will say I've got no issue with Wyatt doing this, but it does highlight one downside of point-buy systems - you can generally double down, and double down again, on a specific area. Wyatt is extremely good with his swords, and as good at hitting the eyes as hitting the torso, and has very high defenses . . . plus if he chooses to Feint, it's practically impossible for most foes to still defend. They still get ones off here and there, just due to blind luck, but otherwise, they're dead. But that was also true about 20+ points invested in sword and sword-related offensive advantages ago. It does mean he's getting extremely lethal again high-skill "boss" foes, but games are games . . . the GM can, will, and must escalate to make those bosses effective to keep the game challenging. If the PCs respond in turn, then it's just an endless race. And then comes with a foe with mind control powers and you're still at Will 10 and hoping a good roll and Luck can see you through.

I'm not sure what the plan is for the snakeman - no one is going to buy it. The PCs can pay for research on it, or try it themselves, although Gerry lacks a lab of any kind so it'll be tough to accomplish a proper dissection.

MVP was Gerry. Crogar as always argued it was him for an epic ape-killing skull hit, and there was an argument that a knee-strike knockout by Aldwyn was the winner. But in the end it was Gerry for actually saving people's lives.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Felltower & Pandemics II

After some more experimentation and discussion, it turns out we have access to Zoom instead.

So tomorrow we'll go Zoom for voice/video and Roll20 for the maps and die roller.

I have experience taking online classes in Zoom and I know it's stable.

The real challenge will be GMing in Roll20. I'm looking forward to the chaos.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Pandemics & Felltower

Felltower's next session will proceed as scheduled on Sunday.

In deference to the fact that we've got some members with conditions that are risk factors for COVID-19, and family members vulnerable to it, we're going to play online.

The plan is:

Skype for voice and video - mostly voice - because we have a large-ish group. We expect about 9-10 people and could get as many as 11-12.

Roll20 for maps, chat, and die rolls for people who don't feel like rolling dice.

Since the delve is targeting the Lost City, it's a bit less of an issue for maps.

I may do more mapless combat, or just eat the time multiplier that is combat in Roll20 especially with people new to the software.

Sadly, I've got a lot of minis specially painted for this session. I hope we can get back to face-to-face soon.

If these is an .api for 4e GURPS that we need, let me know - one of my players has Roll20 Pro. We also need to know how to designate someone else the GM, so I don't have a player with total control of the site and me with player-level access.

We'll see how it goes. My improvised combat maps aren't really a feature in a Roll20 campaign, too, so it'll be tough. Or my room mapping for the Lost City (I have mental images of what they're like; I don't have them all pre-mapped to upload or show.) So I'm cautiously hopeful the session will go smoothly.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Reaper Bones King Cobra

Here is some freehand I did on the back of a Reaper Bones snake. He needs some detail work, but I wanted to do the freehand right away.

As you can see, my hand and eye aren't particularly good at this. Even so, it's workable and says "King Cobra" like it should.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Apes in Progress

I managed to get three Bones apes most of the way to done - they just need their bases done, a dose of wash, and then finishing drybrush. The one on the right is the model. These guys are a good example of the size escalation of minis - those Dark Heaven Legends apes were pretty big when I got them. Now the one on the right looks pretty damn scrawny.



I'm sure I'll need apes next session . . . maybe these guys will get to hit the tabletop then.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Random Megadungeon Tips for a GURPS GM

Here are some tidbits I learned about megadungeons & GURPS that I've been meaning to set down somewhere but which don't quite fit anywhere just yet.

- Long straight hallways make exploration easier for people with access to Dark Vision. They can see all the way down them. Liberal use of doors, turns, and vision-obscuring devices like curtains, smoke, and temporary barricades will help spare you, the GM, from describing the entire map from end to end if someone situates themselves well and has this ability.

- Wizard Eye makes that go double - now turns and twists won't do much for you, either.

- You really need to know the DR and HP of everything. Be prepared for occasional argument about how it can't possibly take that much damage to knock though 10' of stone based on how this one time one player knocked down a brick wall during house repairs.

- Wandering monsters are a tax on the GM, too, and may only cause more rest and more inclination to the realistically-reasonable 15-minute workday. Keep other hazards on hand for resting too much, like monsters that get more prepared or general hazards (smoke, lack of air, temperature) that make taking your time bad.

- PC groups, especially in GURPS, will likely favor open-order formations. These can be long. A group of 10 PCs and NPCs will likely take up a minimum of 5 yards depth, and likely more like 9 yards if they array 2 across a 3-yard corridor with gaps for second-rankers to fill in for a combat space. This will affect traps, combats, and spell effects.

- GURPS PCs can generally spam out a lot of lower-power magic but less high-powered magic. Couple this with an emphasis on defense, healing, and buffing, and combats with large groups will go slower even if the PCs have the upper hand thanks to superior fighting power. This will eat up big chunks of sessions and reduce the overall pace of exploration.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Painting like Joubert

Thanks to restrictions put in place by the tri-state area (NJ, NY, CT for people around here), I have some unexpected free time.

I plan to get in a few different things. I started on some already, such as watching old movies I haven't seen in a while . . . like 3 Days of the Condor.

Also, painting, just like Gabrielle Joubert does, in 3 Days of the Condor. He's played by recent star of this blog, Max von Sydow.




We'll see how much I can get done. It's been a while since I had time to paint!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Felltower Admin

Today is a day off from game, so I did some Felltower admin work.

Behind the scenes, I:

- reorganized my minis

- worked on the rumor list (but did not complete it.)

For public-facing work, I:

- updated the Felltower Construction page with the new level discovered.

- I updated the Monsters Encountered So Far page.

Not a lot of admin, admittedly, but it needed to be done.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

New Technique: Head Crusher (Hard)

In honor of the late, great Dr. B.M. Smith, aka Brewmeister Smith from the martial arts classic Strange Brew, here is a new technique to put in your GURPS games. It's as effective as the double-handed Shatner punch. Which is to say, it's awesome.

Head Crusher (Hard)
Defaults: ST-4 or Wrestling-4.
Prerequisites: Wrestling and ST 15+; cannot exceed prerequisite+3

You can crush your opponent's head like a nut. To use this technique, you must first grapple your opponent by the skull with two hands; see Grappling (p. B370). Your victim may attempt to break free on his turn. If he fails, on your next turn,you can squeeze. Roll against your Head Crusher skill. Success inflicts Thrust crushing damage. Grappling adds +1 per die if you know it at DX+1, +2 per die if DX+2 or higher. Rigid DR (including the skull) protects normally. Such damage is incredibly painful - double shock penalties (up to -8, or -16 with Low Pain Threshold). Head crushing can also be used as an influence roll - substitute a roll against Head Crusher for Intimidation, or add damage inflicted to your Intimidation roll, whichever is better!


This technique is frightfully effective on henchmen and on armored lunatic hockey players.


I lowballed the ST requirement; Brewmeister Smith is extremely strong, capable of holding up a grown man by one ear with a pinch grip with casual ST. But even ST 15 weaklings should be able to learn this technique. Below the requirement, you can try it, but not study it.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Paint flaking off Bones minis?

I've begun to notice a downside to my Bones minis. Oh sure, they're cheap for minis compared to metal. They're light. The big ones especially are much easier to handle.

But I've had several minis where the paint just starts to peel back and off. It could be that I'm using craft paints, but some of the flaking has happened on minis that I've painted with Vallejo Game Colors and Reaper Pro Paints, too. I haven't tried any of the newest Reaper paints . . . but if I need to buy more expensive paints to replace the ones I have, in order to repaint my Bones minis . . . I'm sure I'm not a big fan of that.

The sealed minis seem to do okay longer, but eventually, a bend here or there flakes the paint right off.

Anyone have experience preventing this?

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Variant Thief and Martial Artists

I really like these two posts over at The Chaotic GM:

Thief Buffs for Dungeon Fantasy

and

Martial Artist Buffs for Dungeon Fantasy

The thief ones I can get behind very strongly. The martial artist ones, less so, but only because I have my own, different approach. One I'd like to see in print when I have the time to write it. But I endorse both of these as good reads and potential sources of ideas if you're unsatisfied with how the thief and martial artist templates turn out in your own DF games.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Crogar: Still a WIP

I managed a bit more work on Crogar. I need to just finish him before he gets his butt hacked apart in Felltower. But he's now properly based:

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Who's in Charge here?

Randall: Look, do you want to be leader of this gang?
Strutter: No, we agreed: No leader!
Randall: Right. So shut up and do as I say.
(Strutter nods vigorously)
- Time Bandits, 1981

For some rules, such as surprise, Leadership is important. It can be useful in contests of Leadership skills or Tactics skills to see who gets their group in the right lines and lanes for a fight.

In my experience, PC groups like to have a paper leader that they don't actually follow. This lets them claim the bonuses for Leadership skills and for specific leader-bonus circumstances. But they otherwise act as an anarchic collective.

That's a bit different from the players (and their PCs) who take the lead in pushing towards certain goals or to set the tone for combat. They're not often the same characters that statistically would run the group if it was run purely on their paper stats.

My solution is to declare that most PC groups don't have a leader, and penalize them appropriately. No one really listens to the characters, only the player in question if that player happens to be persuasive. This doesn't come up too often, but it does come up.

If you have issues with leaders in your games, how do you handle it?

Monday, March 9, 2020

Max von Sydow, RIP

I heard the news today that Max von Sydow passed away at age 90.

I first encountered his acting in Strange Brew, which is a) where I first encountered Bob & Doug McKenzie, and b) a movie that has an outsized influence on my sense of humor.* I later saw him in Conan the Barbarian, where the stark contrast in acting ability between him and Arnold was greatly apparent. I've watched movies simply because Max von Sydow was in them. Three Days of the Condor, Flash Gordon, The Seventh Seal . . . I kept going to talk to his character in Skyrim just to talk to Max von Sydow.

This isn't really on-topic for a blog about owlbears, dungeons, and GURPS, but too bad. He's always been one of my favorite actors. I'm glad he had such an incredible run and I'm sorry it only lasted 90 years.




* He could crush your head . . . like a nut. But he won't, because he needs you. Just saying.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

What counts as an "evil" religion?

Clerics in DF have the option to take Intolerance to "'evil' religions" or "all other religions" among their disadvantages.

So, what should count as "Evil" for the first one?

Here is one way to split that up.

Intolerance ("Evil" religions)

Evil religions should generally be capital-E evil, not just differently aligned from your own religion. Capital-E Evil religions should include one one:

- Worship of demons or elder things.

- Worship of gods who self-identify or are widely externally identified as evil, or an adversary, or malign. This may include death gods, if they or their worshipers go ahead making innocents dead, but may not, if they're merely fulfilling a role of neutrally taking those at the end of their time.

For the above, Intolerance ("Evil" religions) applies here.

Heresy probably doesn't get included. But it's right on the border. So when PCs start worshiping magical items (the cult of the Ebony Death Goddess, for example), the PCs are heretics but it's not clear if they are "evil" or not.

Otherwise . . . it's just an "other" religion. Intolerance (All other religions) applies to these cases.

Intolerance (All other religions)

This one is easy. If you aren't of the same religion, the cleric reacts at -3. Heresies will absolutely apply here - it shouldn't take Fanaticism to think that heretics are bad, IMO.

Felltower?

It's a little easy, especially in my Felltower game with a generic religion of the "Good God" to take all other religions as evil. You can do so . . . but you're shorting yourself points by not taking the Intolerance (All other religions) that really covers that case. So in Felltower the split above will apply - non-"Good God" religions, such as non-human religions, minor heresies, druidism, etc. aren't automatically covered as "Evil" religions for Intolerance purposes.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Moderation On, Crushed by Spam

Just an admin post for today - for the time being, I've turned Comment Moderation on for all posts. I'd usually let the most recent ones have free comments so conversations could happen while I was away.

However, I've been getting a lot of spam comments - more than regular comments in some cases. For at least a short time, I'll have to moderate all of the comments. I'll try to poke in multiple times a day for a few days before I experiment with turning moderation back to the previous regime.

Sorry to have to do this, but spam is spam.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Diocletian's Dungeon

I missed this 5 years ago when it came out, I think. But here is a fun look at the basement of Diocletian's palace in Split, Croatia.



I tend to make dungeons with lower ceilings, but here we are.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Review: DFRPG Companion 2

This is a review of the latest Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game book, Companion 2.

For more of my reviews, see my reviews page.


Dungeon Fantasy Companion 2
by Sean Punch
Published 2020 by Steve Jackson Games
64 pages

Dungeon Fantasy Companion 2 contains:

- 16 full-page magic items
- 6 monsters
- 14 NPCs

Each in turn:

The magic items are clearly the ones that didn't make it into Magic Items 2 due to missed stretch goals. Like those magic items, they're full page, with a large illustration. They each have a vignette, a description, power write-up, suggested placement, and cost. They're interesting, like all of the ones in Magic Items 2. The only ones that really leaped out to me were the mask Oudou and the Buccaneer's Band. They're all potentially useful, though, for the right sort of game.

The monsters are also clearly the ones that didn't make it into Monsters 2. There are six, including a version of the harpy I think is nastier than mine (from DFM3.) There are also centaurs, war boars for your orcs to ride on, and three other unique-to-DFRPG ones. The art on all of them is excellent and evocative. They also have adventure seeds, detailed box-outs for needed game information, and in some cases variants.

The NPCs are probably the most interesting. They're well-designed, and powerful enough to be a threat to a group of PCs, either directly or indirectly. Those of new races come with stats for those races - such as dark elf - or template - unholy warrior and evil cleric. The art on NPCs is excellent, although I found a couple lame - like Lady Aimara, who is a long-hair Asian woman in a silk gown . . . depicted from behind. Okay, great, so I know she has long black hair, that's it. Compare it to the evocative Mictecoix or King Scrogo the Munificent and it's very disappointing. Out of the entire book, this is the most fun section to read.

Overall: For someone exclusively playing the DFRPG, with no add-ons from DF, the added templates, advantages, and options make this hard to live without. For those playing with add-ons, you've probably seen most of those before. Still, if you need pregren unique bad guys, more magic items, and a few more monsters, it's valuable to have.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

DFRPG Companion 2 - Arrived

My copy of DFRPG Companion 2 arrived last night. Safely.

It was packed in a padded mailing envelope . . . inside of which was a cardboard mailing box. Nice. It's in perfect condition and I'm reading it now. Now notice on the PDF yet, oddly.

And to answer my player's questions - no, you can't.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Thoughts on Felltower 100

Our next game session in my DF Felltower game will be the 100th session in Felltower. It'll be the 129th session of the actual campaign.

Sadly for the centennial game, it's likely to take place wholly or largely in the Lost City of D'Abo. It'll still count as Felltower 100 since they'll be in the dungeon for part of it.

I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm not going to play around with the numbers or anything like that. It just is what the session comes out to be.

It's amusing but appropriate that the PCs will be using the town of Stericksburg as a base to get to the megadungeon of Felltower to use it as a hub for adventure to a spoke destination of the Lost City of D'Abo. That's really what the game is about - the megadungeon as campaign centerpoint even when it's not where the PCs adventure. It's all tied together.

I'm hoping the PCs take home more than a rusty, broken dagger handle, which was the sum total of real loot from Felltower 1. Heh.

Monday, March 2, 2020

GURPS DF Session 128, Felltower 99 - Lost City 8

Date: Sunday, March 1st, 2020

Weather: Cold and clear near Felltower

Characters:
Aldwyn Hale, human knight (278 points)
Bruce "the Mild" McTavish, Jr., human barbarian (267 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (431 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (370 points)
     5 Skeletons (~35 points)
Quenton Mudborne, goblin druid (317 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (285 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (286 points)

We started in Stericksburg, buying lots of odd gear and gathering rumors. The PCs - Wyatt, in particular - had concocted a plan to defend against the slimes in the shattered tetrahedron in the Lost City. They'd basically bring lumber, nails, leather straps, hammers, saws, etc. sufficient to make two doors with overlapping layers, each with two leather carrying straps. The plan was to assemble them with default Carpenter and then use them to deflect slimes by creating a "roof" over the searchers/looters below. So, much time was spent getting this all together. Gerry had in the meantime gotten a replacement skeleton and had a total of three equipped.

Once the PCs sorted this all out, they headed out to the dungeon. They made it up to the top in the cold weather, and found the trapdoor entrance closed - it zapped a skeleton and injured it. So they went to the main entrance, scouted it out with Wizard Eye, and then crossed the pit with two ropes nailed to the right wall.

From there they headed down to the GFS, using Silence on doors as they went. Nothing bothered them - the upper levels seem largely deserted except for rats and spiders and other small critters. Once they reached the GFS, Aldwyn and Mild Bruce rushed to be the first to open it. Mild Bruce touched it first. They sent in the Wizard Eye to check for slimes, puddings, etc. Nothing was spotted. They headed downstairs. They scouted ahead with the eye all the way to the Lost City gate. There, they debated scrying because Quenton said he wouldn't go through if they saw any golems. So they just moved their best fighters through and then dragged Quenton after them. There were no golems waiting for them. They found the floor they'd shaped aside wasn't shaped aside anymore, though, so they couldn't easily climb down to the level below. Also, it was pouring rain out. Not the worst possible, but close. Impatient to find out how long it would rain, Wyatt pushed Quenton to figure it out. He created a 1-hex Weather Dome outside the east door and stepped into it. He spent 30 minutes watching the weather until his Weather Sense told him it should probably thin out in a matter of a couple of hours, tops. They ate and rested and waited.

When the rain became merely heavy, but not sheeting down, they climbed down outside and headed toward the tetrahedron, navigating by the broad "main" streets they knew. Nothing hassled them, and they eventually made it to the tetrahedron, with the rain tapering off and moving east. When they arrived it was no longer raining on the tetrahedron.

They used Levitation to get Invisible Ulf and Wyatt up, and Silence to quiet hammering nails into the stone to hang a portable ladder. They secured it most of the way down the side and then let a pre-tied rope dangle the rest of the way. They then assembled the doors in a nearby building after partly exploring it. Aldwyn climbed up the ladder, where Wyatt had him extend an arm and put the door on him. He was tied with a rope, which was drapped over a nailed-in piece of leather to soften sharp edges, and lowered by Mild Bruce way down at the ground.

He held the shield to cover his upper body and face, but a slime dropped on his legs. It quickly seeped through his DR and started to poison him. They hauled him out. Ulf pulled his cloth leggings and boots off. They tossed them aside. Some of the slime was on his legs, but using the brooms they brought didn't help. Neither did scraping - it didn't want to let go. Eventually they got it off by using Ethereal Body on him. Quenton used Lightning to zap the slime, and seemed to injure it. Another Lightning seemed to kill it. He did the same to the bits remaining from Aldwyn. The PCs knew burning wouldn't do, but lightning seems fine.

The plan then changed to "put Resist Acid and Resist Poison on Aldwyn and send him in nude." They gave him a cut-off board so the slimes wouldn't corrode his good weapons, lowered him in, and had him try to catch slimes so they could haul him out. Then, they'd have him jump in a put shaped by Quenton, cast Ethereal Body on him, then bury the slimes. This is what they did. It was complicated by the fact that some slimes weren't toxic, but flesh-eating. Because it was corrosion-type damage, they hoped Resist Acid would help, but it did not. Aldwyn took a lot of damage, but eventually got the remaining slimes stuck to him, then buried, and then healed. Once missed him and fell into the dry floor below with a smack, but the rest were taken care of - buried under at least 3' of earth. They may escape somehow, but not on a timescale the PCs care about.

They then sent in Galen to loot. His lightstones and Dark Vision didn't last in the slowly draining no mana zone below, and the gloom dimmed his glow vial. But he was able to turn up a potion, a couple of necklaces of two snakes facing each other, a couple of those creepy "soapstone" half-man half-snake statuettes, and found the big chest of coins. He hauled some up. The miasma of death forced him out, badly injured, after several minutes. But they healed him up and then sent Wyatt in to loot the chest, which was marked with a length of twine up to the opening. He took out the rest of the coins. Then Galen went back and and searched until he felt it was a dry hole - finding a couple more of the statuettes and necklaces and then nothing more.

Once the place was "done," they hauled their loot back to the gate building. On the way, they spotted three giant beetles come down "Fishhouse Road" and ducked into a nearby building. They stayed and waited while the beetles foraged. Bruce and Gerry headed upstairs and found a table with four stone chairs around it. The table had six oval grooves running one sides the other, marked with staggered hashmarks on each side. In the middle was a raised area with a depression with broken wooden pieces meant to create square holes. It was marked in Elder Tongue with 6 basic characters that correspond to colors, and each had a number next to it. The same was repeated in the opposite fashion on the other end, as if to be read from both sides. In front of each seat was a single long depression and three smaller, circular ones.

Assuming it was for divination or sacrifice, they tried putting wine in the tracks (then sopped it up with Bruce's kilt), then some of Bruce's blood. Nothing happened. They eventually came downstairs. The beetles got distracted by something edible and the PCs slipped off the other way.

They made it to the armoury and then they spotted some vegepygmies, but they were too far for Quenton to "talk" to with his chest-thumping. So they finished hauling their bags of money, tied them together and had Quenton use Entombment to bury it. Wyatt nailed a board into the floor to mark it. They they headed out to follow the path the vegepygmies took. They stopped at an intact-seeming building. (I'm not sure if they thought Rangol Grot, who has now become "Rangelgrot," was in there or not.) They spend some time exploring it but finding nothing of real interest besides some tables along a wall they decided were sacrificial - six tables with long depressions, old stains in cracks, and signs of being used to sharped knives - and some blue stones and red stones in a crossed path in a courtyard in the middle.

They made it, eventually, to the swampy edges of town and they headed out single-file on a causeway to the vegepygmies. They got close, and with Quenton on Mild Bruce's shoulders, he thumped out a hello on his tambourine, muffled to be more like a drum. He could only do very basic speech (vegepygmy isn't merely an aural tongue) but demonstrated his powers with a Rain and then Wind spell. They approached the vegepygmies.

Quenton spoke to them a bit and asked if they could approach - they could. But the death blossoms, vampire thorns, and octopus blossoms around the fort wouldn't stand down even for "friendly" animals, so they ended up using Levitation to send Quenton over. (Quenton has a net +11 reaction roll from the vegepygmies, offset by a -5 for past conflict . . . and managed to get a positive reaction.)

Long story short, they traded stories. He told them of the Garden of Trent Oakheart, and they told him of their coming to the city after the humans had left. They are patiently living there as the water and plants reclaim the city, which will be theirs. Quenton got the impression that they are either very long-lived, or see themselves in terms of generations not individuals. They want only vegetable rights and peace. Quenton explained about the bell, which they cautiously wouldn't show them (they have the one - carried by Gerry) but left it to him to describe. They didn't really seem to know what he meant but they understood the chime noise and said it hadn't been heard recently.

The vegepygmies have no care for anything, except that which kills plants. So they ward off beetles and slugs, ignore snakes and spiders and crocs (including a "steam croc" that the PCs decided is a dragon turtle), and have to fight off encounters with snakes with arms accompanied by black hulking things that tear them apart (apes, Quenton is pretty sure.) They vie for control with them, but they are patient. The PCs got directions for the steam croc and the apes and snakemen. They also told them were Rangol Grot is to the found - out in the jungle to the West. They can take them. Also, they would be pleased if the snakemen and apes were defeated. They have nothing to offer, though. Quenton asked about glass, metals, etc. that they'd happily take. The vegepygmies have none, but told them of places to find such (all of which the PCs already knew.) The PCs really didn't have anything to trade. The "sky energy" from Quenton isn't useful to vegepygmies outdoors - they get plenty on their own. So right now it's just friendly gesture for friendly gesture.

This done, they brought back Quenton and returned for their loot. They gathered that and headed back to Felltower. They hurried out to the sounds of a distant drag-stomp, drag-stomp, drag-stomp . . . but made it out.

Notes:

First loot in a while. Amusingly, the plan was to "quickly" get loot with a "simple" plan. That took a few hours of real play to figure out the materials, get to the location, assemble the "doors," and start in one the plan. Which failed almost immediately, and was replaced with an even simpler but vastly more ridiculous plan, which worked. They ended up with ~700 or so each, once they converted the 42,500 copper into 4,250 silver and then sold off the statuettes and necklaces.

I actually needed to leave the game session . . . for no reason. I had put all of the "Rangol Grot" minis into a single tray. I then forgot that tray at home. Sure I'd need it, I left the players planning and made the 30-minute round trip back home to grab it. That amused my spouse to no end, who stood watching me search through mini trays looking for it, asking if I needed this one or that one. And then the PCs never even came close to going after him. Sigh. I could have saved some fuel. I didn't cost any time, as they were still dealing with lumber . . .

My players usually force me to figure out odd equipment requests. The vast majority of them are last minute stuff. Today it was nails and 2x4x8 pine boards. I don't recall ruling on the cost of the boards, so I have no idea what they paid. We went with 10 nails to the $1, which was probably a bit cheap but whatever. The internet is helpful with weights, but TL3 pre-industrial costs for items that are machine mass-produced in a post-industrial TL8 society aren't helpful. I need to compile these. I also need the players to decide this ahead of time, because it's always time consuming. "Just make up a price and a number and go!" sounds great until you actually do that. You say something like "they'd be 15 pounds each" and then you get pushback until eventually you search, do math, argue, do more math, and then end up with 12.5 pounds each. Because this all takes so much time, I'm debating just advancing in-game time by the time it takes to discuss it, price it out, etc. All of it. Spend 2 hours pre-session? Then you head out later and arrive at the dungeon at 2 pm. In other words, the time you enter the dungeon is when I start the day's game clock. This can mean more rations consumed, more rest needed, less time available before night hits in the Lost City, etc.

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures has some great rules for heat, etc. Two things, though - the daily roll can be avoided with Resist Fire (geez, costs 2/1, and it does fire and heat and generally discomfort from both) but it doesn't say how long you need it on. Always? Part of the time? I'm going with continuously or you don't benefit. Second, how long does this reduction in FP last? The day, sure, but can you rest and get it back (2 minutes per point for most casters, 10 minutes for folks lacking Fit?) I allowed the PCs to reduce it by half with an hour's rest. I may need to figure out rules for this so it's not just a trivial delay - IOW fail this roll, say 10 minutes pass, penalty is over.

XP was 4 each for loot, 1 xp for exploration (they hit a few new places), and MVP was Aldwyn for spending bit chunks of the session naked and covered in slimes.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Lost City pre-summary

Today we ran a session of GURPS DF set in Felltower - specifically, though, in the Lost City of D'Abo, accessible by a gate.

We had seven PCs and three skeletons. They:

- shopped for lumber and nails and leather straps and brooms and came up with a "simple" plan that wasn't.

- looted the tetrahedron of its wealth, with the help of a simpler plan that involved nude knights getting slimed.

- and finally spoke to the vegepygmies in the Lost City.

It was a really, really fun session, even if it seems like so little when high-level summarized.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Rumor Gathering Revised?

Over the 9 years of my Felltower game, I've generated hundreds of rumors. All of them available to the PCs in a big document I update periodically for them.

I use some house rules to allow multiple rumors for characters with Carousing. That's found so many rumors that I've needed to cap the totals.

The problem I've found is that I routinely need between 12-15 rumors per session, given a large group, multiple characters with solid Carousing scores, and a fair number of in-town bonuses on those same characters.

I've been timing myself, and found I need about 2-5 minutes, averaging about 3 per, to make up rumors. Plus dead time in between lost for other productivity . . . 15 rumors might take as much as an hour. That's a solid hour of game prep time, usually fairly last-minute, as I try to get ready for the upcoming game. We've cut from 1d30 rumors to 1d20 to often as not 1d12 as I run out of time and ideas pre-game.

I've tried to just write them as I think of them. That's failed. Unless I'm staring at a half-blank list and perusing the previous rumors so as not to duplicate my own prior ideas, I don't write.

I think I'll do this to slow down the tide. Changes in italics.

Rumors

Characters in town get one rumor, not guaranteed to be unique.

Characters with Carousing may roll to hear more rumors. On a success, the character hears one additional rumor. On a critical success, the character hears two additional rumors. A maximum of three rumors can be heard by one character through Carousing and staying in town.

***

I think that can save me a lot of time. My players love the rumors, but they take more time than I have currently to devote to writing them. So let's see if cutting down the automatic uniqueness per person and the 4-5 rumors most guys Carousing would get will get me some of that time between sessions back.

Friday, February 28, 2020

DFRPG Companion 2 - Shipped Again

Long day today, and a lot of game prep* to do before I sleep, so I'll have to be be brief. SJG shipped me a second, replacement copy of DFRPG Companion 2 today.

Hurrah for that!

I should have a full review up early next week.




* Like writing about 20 more rumors to re-fill the table.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

DFRPG Companion 2 Arrived (and damaged)

So, first, hurrah! I received my copy of DFRPG Companion 2.

Unfortunately, the USPS, in their infinite wisdom, chose to fold the package into a tight "U" shape to cram it into my mailbox. This cracked the spine, among other damage:



I'll get a review up later . . . although it's maddening to read a book that has a spine cracked hard enough to make flipping pages difficult. I emailed SJG; we'll see what my recourse is. A cardboard mailing box might have been more expensive but would clearly have been a better choice.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Errata update for GURPS Basic Set

You probably know this already, because if you own these books on PDF you'll have received an email offering up a link to the latest versions of the files.

What changed?

That's trickier. According to the forum post linked in the update email alert, there were "minor errata and tweaks throughout."

Err . . . like what? Did any numbers change? Point costs? Page references? Important verbs? Semi-important nouns?

It's annoying that I get to know something changed . . . but not what. Especially since I still, quite often, use my harcopy books for rules reference. SJG used to list the errata by item. If they're still doing so for this update, I'd like to know where. Does anyone reading this happen to know? My favorite game system isn't going to change just because I can't find it, but it's annoying that I can't put a finger on what changed in the basic books underlying the whole system.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Random Links for 2/25

Here are three fun links for you:

- Erik Tenkar is going to have another podcast, this one centered on AD&D. It's called Unearthed Arcana, after one of my favorite (and much maligned) books in the AD&D series of rulebooks. AD&D is a favorite of mine. It's my native gaming language, for one, and it provides endless fun as we re-read Gary Gygax's willfully obtuse rules as we run it for a few sessions every year.

- Pits Perilous reviews a review of one of their adventures. It's amusing to me as I like Bryce's blog, but he's a contrary indicator for me. Most of the adventures that I ran and enjoyed, he didn't like when he read them. So this review of a review makes me want to read the adventure.

- Chester at CRPG has been playing the Rogue-like "Ragnarok" and suffered this awesome death:

"I ate some creature that turned out to be made of lava."

You'd think you'd notice before you actually tucked in, but hey, clearly the computer GMs like I GM. "You said, 'I eat it.' Take 8d per second until you die."

Monday, February 24, 2020

DFRPG Companion 2 shipped

I received a notice of shipment today for DFRPG Companion 2.

To be accurate, it was listed as "Label Created" today, so we'll see when it goes out. But I should have the new book before the end of the week unless the USPS is especially slow.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Lost City Prep for next week's game

Next week we resume my Felltower campaign. The goal is the gate to the Lost City of D'Abo, where they'll take another try at finding "Rangelgrot" and the other bell.

So I spend what time I had to spend on game today on review. Specially, re-reading all of these posts:

The Lost City of D'Abo
Lost City vs. My Other DF Areas

and of course

Session 67, Lost City 1 - Armoury
Session 68, Lost City 2 - Vegepygmies & Thornies
Session 69, Lost City 3 - Slimes, Why Did It Have to Be Slimes?
Session 70, Lost City 4 - Arachno-Assassins & the First Bell
Session 71, Lost City 5, Part I - Mowgli Battle
Session 72, Lost City 5, Part II - Rangol Grot
Session 73, Lost City 5, Part III - Fort Vegepygmy
Session 101, Felltower 73, Lost City 6
Session 113, Felltower 85, Lost City 7

Plus some assorted others under the Lost City tag.

That done, I've queued up all of my personal material related to the city. I won't spend much time this week prepping new areas, but I will get to revist all that we need for the Lost City. Maybe if you'll want to kibbutz and criticize and comment with some background knowledge you can read the public stuff along with me!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Review: GURPS Dungeon Fantasy: Cold Shard Mountains

Time to review something I like. For disclosure - I'm a SJG freelancer, I write a lot of material for GURPS in general and Dungeon Fantasy in specific. Matt Riggsby is someone I consider a friend and a colleague. I was also a playtester on this book.

For more reviews, please see my reviews page.




Written by Matt Riggsby
Published 2020 by Steve Jackson Games
59 pages
$10 in PDF.

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy is unabashedly about two-dimensional (or even one-dimensional) protagonists going into dungeons and killing things for their valuable things. It's not big on culture, history, background, and development of a social structure around dungeoneering. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy: Cold Shard Mountains is about putting a culture, history, background, and a social structure around DF via a developed setting.

GURPS being GURPS, this works. DF is a pared-down version of GURPS; this setting merely brings back up some of what DF reduced to die rolls or "who cares anyway?" sorts of simplifications.

Cold Shark Mountains brings a lot to the table. You have a mapped out area with a layered history and geography - and a mix of intelligent and unintelligent creatures - that explains why there are so many dungeons. Or even a big-ass megadungeon. If you feel like DF is good but you need more than town as a menu with die rolls ala Wizardry, so does Matt Riggsby.

The maps are attractive and useful. The area is a hex-shaped region around 170 miles across (6.5 inches at 0.75" per 20 miles), and additional maps break it further down into sub-hexes. There is a GM keyed map and handout maps. They seem like they'd be easy to use at the table, once printed out from the PDF. They're black-and-white but I'd probably shade them with colored pencils so they'd look nicer but still be easy to write on and modify as play changed them.

The book contains several new monsters (some minor threats, some major annoyances), new potions from Coleopteran (bug-people) Alchemy, several magical items (including wasp flails, which is a great name and the kind of item I wish I'd come up with first), and a number of magic item suites. You know, item sets. Matt's variation on them from traditional sets of unique items is excellent. Just the crunchy bits alone would be a useful addition.

The book also has random encounters and sufficient hexcrawl rules to run the game as a hexcrawl. These are unique in GURPS as far as I can tell.

Overall: I'm not really in the market for a Dungeon Fantasy setting. But if I was, this would be an easy choice. A lot of adventuring areas, plenty of hooks, and easy tools for turning it into a hexcrawl, clear-and-develop game, or the basis for a lot of traditional dungeon-of-the-week gaming are included. If you'd like a setting for a fantasy game with dungeons plus a bit more cultural and historical development, this is something you can use.

Here are Notes on Cold Shard Mountains by the author.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Writing Update!

So I just signed a contract with SJG to write another book. Hurrah!

I can't say what, of course.

I will say it's Dungeon Fantasy related, though. That should be obvious - I still have the inclination to write history-heavy books like GURPS Martial Arts or GURPS Low-Tech Companion 2 but nothing like the time. It's much easier to drawn on the game I play than the real-world material I'd like to see in GURPS form.

Hopefully I can reveal what this is sooner rather than later . . . but hurrah! Signed contract, deadline set, and the draft begun.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Fighting in Rooms vs. Fighting in Hallways

This may at some point grow into a larger discussion - perhaps a Melee Academy post (remember them?) or something of that sort.

But for now, it's just a brief observation I'd like to make.

In my younger days, especially running abstracted combat with systems like AD&D 1st edition, Rolemaster, and GURPS 1st edition using the mapless basic combat rules, combat generally took place in rooms.

PCs moved more-or-less as a group, and if they attacked the occupants of a room they did so by moving into the room. Fights took place inside a location.

These days, however, fighting in rooms is the exception. Running GURPS 4th edition with a group that emphasizes the details of advanced, tactical map sheet combat, our fights rarely take place in rooms.

They usually take place in hallways and doorways. Most of the fights the PCs have been in recently have been in chokepoints. Those chokepoints are doorways, narrowed placed in rooms in a few rare cases, and a lot of hallways. The PCs just refuse to fight where they can't narrow down the enemy to a maximum of 3 across unless that's the only way at all to fight . . . and then only if they want that fight for some special reason.

GURPS generally rewards this . . . but it's interesting. Rooms aren't combat locations until the enemy can stand off and ignore ranged and spell attacks for an unlimited amount of time. Or can inflict so much pain, so quickly, that the PCs have to move into the room. Even in the latter case, the foe is often unable to force the issue unless the PCs really decide they must win the fight quickly. Given the relative caution of my current group, this means fights in hallways and disengagements otherwise. It's an interesting change from how we used to see RPG combat.

It's an interesting change from a general melee to a fight between tight formations of extreme tactical precision.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Awesome Play Report Over at Dreams in the Lichhouse

I really enjoyed this play report over at Dreams in the Lichhouse.

Checking in on Chult - Fane of the Night Serpent

My PCs definitely know how to cut their losses and run. His did not, and chose to fight just a bit too long to escape.

But this also illustrates an important thing - you don't have to end a combat loss with a TPK. And PCs who make a fight either a TPK or a victory, with do-or-die tactics and characters who can't be captured until they're dead, take away an important way to keep the adventure going forward. That is, capture.

This could easily have been a TPK and a campaign ender, as it would have been tough to start back over with new PCs and finish the job of the existing PCs. Instead, the enemy captured them for nefarious purposes and found that they have some common goals. The PCs sure as heck aren't going to benefit as much as if they'd won (best case), or just come and negotiated to help (second best case). But third best case is better than a TPK, which was the other remaining option.

I wrote a whole article back for Pyramid 2.0 that dealt with this. I wish those were up online for linking. But in any case, this is a good example. Don't let the campaign end just because the PCs lose. And PCs, don't bet the farm on victory against all odds . . . but don't give up trying to improve your situation when you've lost. By all means don't pretend to be negotiating from strength you both know you don't have . . . but do offer up what you've got. And GMs, remember to negotiate as the NPCs, not as you. They may see an asset where you're just frustrated by your players (or gloating over their erroneous ways.)

This is basically a bad error on the part of the players turning into a whole new spin on the adventure, not an end of the adventure. Great stuff to read!

Monday, February 17, 2020

GM Tips from DM David

11 Great Dungeon Master Tips Revealed at Winter Fantasy 2020

I found some of these tips very helpful advice. Some new, some reminders of best practices. Here are a few of those:

1. When you have to deliver background, have players roll for it so it feels like a reward.


That's nice; it's a good way to pass out information. My rumors are like this, as is information about monsters, etc.

I still struggle a bit with what information to pass out - running a very player-knowledge heavy game clashes with a system that has very character-knowledge oriented skills. The players end up wanting the best of both - what I know, plus what my character knows, instead of either/or. But those same skills make useful ways to determine who gets what information and to ensure information that drives play and reduce table time wastage.

2. Try to award every attempt to gather information with something.

This approach is also really nice - it drives brief descriptions by the GM and careful investigation by the players.

3. Show the written names of key non-player characters. Pictures are even better.

And minis beat pictures.

8. Add, don’t subtract.

When I next run AD&D, I think I'll try counting up the HP instead of counting down. Perhaps I'll have the PCs keep track of damage inflicted on the monsters and just put them down when their HP reaches 0.

10. Every time you ask for a check, you write a check.

Roll for success only when failure is meaningful and success isn't required to have fun. That should be on the inside of a GM's eyelids.

I won't follow all of the advice. Much doesn't apply to my sort of games. But those tips are really good ones in my opinion, and evoked thoughts of better ways to run my game.

The comments section is, of course, rife with people explaining how the tips are wrong. Heh.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Sorting out the eternal question of "What's Next?" for February 2020

One of the great things about a megadungeon - and a limited sandbox play area - is that you can keep re-using what you make. Further, you can prep ahead so the game session can take various twists and turns but you're still ready.

Still, Felltower is big, and there are a lot of options in front of the PCs. If I'm to be on top of my game, with the right minis in the box, the right materials reviewed, etc., it's almost essential that I have some idea of what the plan is for the session.

Here is a rough list I provided to the players of what I see is ready to do. I've added to the end with the ones I'd overlooked and one of the players suggested.

- draugr
- Lord of Spite
- big orichalcum doors
- Various gates
- Lost City of D'Abo (gate destination, I'm double-counting here)
- orc fortress
- door beyond the iron golems
- big chained doors
- mid-point door on the GFS
- gigantic dragon
- five ooze corner
- black reaver
- Saints of Felltower
- Black Library
- Lenses/Mirrors

The PCs added

- Swampsedge, to fight trolls in the area and go back to Sakatha's Tomb
- killing Big John the troll

I left off things I knew weren't really options due to player rejection:

- going back after the beholder
- going after the dragon on the "beholder level"
- going back after the cone-hatted cultists
- exploring further down the second GFS

Some of these just aren't doable for the PCs right now, due to lack of knowledge (the lenses/mirrors and the repulsive door), lack of power (the gigantic dragon), lack of plan (the Black Library), or missing pieces (the tomb of Sakatha - they lack unholy water and have no knowledge of where to get it, and can't make it.)

Obviously I can't prepare for them all. If I load up on all of my ice-and-snow stuff for the Arctic Gate, all of the minis for the cone-hatted cultists, beyond the Joker Gate, the gigantic dragon, the orcs, the oozes, the Air Gate, the draugr, the Lord of Spite, etc. and prep them all . . . when do I work, write, and sleep? I can't have them all ready on a hair-trigger in a high-detail game like GURPS Dungeon Fantasy with lots of tactical options turned to "on." The positive pluses for such a material-heavy gaming approach in actual play does make for more prep and more physical lugging than I can do between every session for every thing.

So we'll see . . . one of the players created a sorted list, but as yet no one has opined on what's next. We'll see what they come up with the night before. Which, incidentally, also leaves me no time to prepare for game. Heh.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Trick Monsters: the limited-shot foe

Time for another installment in the occasional "Trick Monster" series of monsters.

Some monsters have a limited-shot attack that is substantially better than normal. Their baseline attack might be strong enough, but their limited-shot attack will be much more powerful. Generally such an attack will have 1-5 uses. More than that and it's just an attack to be parsed out over a fight as needed. The lower the number of those attacks, the more like "trick" it will feel.

AD&D Dragons are a classic example of this "trick monster" - they have a 3-shot high-damage breath weapon (at least the evil ones do.) From my own Felltower campaign the Lord of Spite falls into this category (along with others) - he has a shout attack that he can't deploy that often, seemingly once per combat, but it's especially devastating.

Monsters which generally have a single ranged attack - a thrown weapon, say, or a crossbow they don't tend to reload - don't quite fit the bill. Nor do ones that have an attack with a cooldown or a pool of energy that can be deployed for other things. It's more like a low-maximum-use attack that does something out of the ordinary for the creature.

The fun of deploying these, to me, is that there is a short window in which you can kill or incapacitate them before they launch their best attack. After that, they're reduced threats. Do you let them get off the "nuke" and then leave them aside? Do you try to get them to run out their attacks in a wasteful manner, such as goading a dragon into breathing onto a well-protected isolated target to spare the rest of the group the damage? It makes for an interesting tactical choice once the PCs recognize these creatures for what they are.

I personally need to put a few more of these in to my campaign . . .

Friday, February 14, 2020

What's the turnaround on DFRPG Companion 2?

I'm a bit curious when I can expect my PDF, and my book.

SJG postedt this Kickstarter update the other day:

Dungeon Fantasy Companion 2 Has Arrived & Last Day to Complete Surveys!

So, the physical books arrived 4 days back.

The PDF must be done.

The BackerKit Surveys are shut down.

So . . . when can I expect my book?

Who knows?

I'm not a griper . . . but it does seem to me that if you can show me a picture of my physical book, and I've filled out my BackerKit, I should at least have the PDF in-hand. Yet, so far, I do not. I hope this isn't a repeat of DFRPG Magic Items 2 in terms of how long it took me to get my copy . . .

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Cheap Attacks - What makes an attack "Cheap"?

I've been GMing GURPS for a long time. I've heard a lot of complaints about enemy abilities.

I joke that the only time players consider an attack fair is when:

- the enemy has to roll "to hit."

- if the attack hits, the PC can roll an Active Defense of their choice.

- if the defense fails, the PC should get a resistance roll, with all applicable bonuses and some marginal bonuses. Success should completely negate all effects. Critical success should carrying immunity to further attacks!

- if the resistance roll fails, immunity should apply broadly.

- if immunity doesn't cover it, DR should apply. Preferably the heaviest DR possible.

- damage shouldn't have any special effects due to hit location other than typical injury modifiers.

- damage that results shouldn't be any harder to heal than other attacks.


Attacks that are missing some of those are cheap. For example:


- automatic hits are cheap. They bypass the essential fairness of forcing "to hit" penalties via movement, Blur, being SM -1 or lower, etc.

- Reducing the choice of defenses makes it cheap. Not being able to have their character predict what defense would work is also cheap. PCs should be able to eyeball any attack and understand the fundamental nature of its susceptibility to being Parried or Blocked.

- Penalized resistance rolls are cheap; lack of resistance rolls is very cheap. Damage that results even when you succeed is as cheap as cheap can be,

- Failure should inflict a small, flat effect but not be determined by Margin of Failure. That's cheap, too.

- attacks which reduce DR are fair, but not especially so. Ones that bypass DR are cheap.

- special damage effects, like scarring, blindness, stunning, etc. are cheap. Especially if they follow-up despite DR.

- attacks which are hard to heal or resist magical healing are cheap.


I say I joke, but there is a lot of truth, here. Players get used to defenses, resistance rolls, immunity, and the ability to heal damage relatively easily in most games featuring supernatural effects. Once you get used to that, it seems . . . unfair when some damage just gets right on by. Or no matter how hard you've made it to hit you it seems crazy that some attacks just hit, especially if they have some kind of appearance that matches something with a "to hit" roll - eye beams? That's just a laser, you need to roll "to hit" with lasers, right? Therefore . . .

And so on.

Me, I lost all sympathy for this a long time ago. The more powerful the PCs, the more willing I am to dump out "cheap" attacks and "cheap" damage. Since players in GURPS seem to love to maximize defenses so as to have a 16+ to defend against almost every possible attack no matter how many come, plus Luck and Bless to negate criticals, it's important to be able to deploy automatic damage and "cheap" effects. They actually serve to provide a challenge more often than 1 in 36 times . . . and then only if you get that multiple times per PC per fight.

Don't apologize for your auto-hit armor-bypassing no-resistance attack. It's part of the game.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Iron Spectre

I finally found my Iron Spectre mini, latched onto another figure in another bin. It only took going through my whole collection twice. Sigh.

This is what attacked the party on Sunday in Felltower.



It's some kind of Mage Knight figure I got for $1 at a gaming store western NJ. I'd purchased stuff from them on eBay and drove out to pick it up and get more figures. I figured I could do something with it. So I broke it off its base, touched it up with more paint, colored its eyes different colors . . . and made up a monster to suit what I saw. An Iron Spectre.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Golden Swordsmen

Vic took a great picture of the golden swordsmen from last session:


(Click for a larger version)

The stats for these guys will have make some future DF Monsters of Felltower volume.

Monday, February 10, 2020

GURPS DF Session 127, Felltower 98 - Cone-Hatted Consortium

Date: Sunday, February 9th, 2020

Weather: Moderately cold, cloudy.

Characters:
Aldwyn Hale, human knight (278 points)
Astrid Cook, human barbarian (250 points)
Bruce "the Mild" McTavish, Jr., human barbarian (267 points)
Crogar the Lucky, human barbarian (268 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (370 points)
     5 Skeletons (~35 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (285 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (286 points)

The group gathered in town, mostly - Astrid roughed it outside of town. They gathered rumors - including one about druagr "definitely" being killed by decapitation, and one about how some undead groups can't be killed until every member is killed. Gerry declared them both plausible. They also heard that cone-hatted cultists were in town recently, come from Arras in the west. The PCs purchased more potions, more spellstones, and more consumables of all sorts.

After some discussion, they decided to head into Felltower to retrieve the crystals Gerry'd spotted last time with his Wizard Eye. They bought pickaxes and made sure the skeletons had theirs.

The PCs made their way up the mountain and through the trapdoor into Felltower. They carefully advanced, scouting ahead of their long group (they're 9 yards from lead to trail) with a Wizard Eye. They saw nothing and heard nothing out of the ordinary (I usually skip the rat squeaks, water drips, cobwebs in the corners, etc.)

They worked their way down to the Giant Fantastic Staircase, opened it up, and went in. Mild Bruce examined the stars painted above, trying to see if they matched the stars outside. It wasn't clear to him.

They reached the bottom of the stairs, and proceeded carefully toward the second GFS via the same route as before. The close air bothered Aldwyn, but the others were okay. They reached the room with the black hemisphere where they'd fought the gargoyles, but found no trace of them, nor was the hemisphere repaired. They examined it briefly - Wyatt checked to see if it was as damaged as they remembered. He hadn't checked before, so he couldn't remember. Crogar looked a little more closely to remember for next time, but only had a second or two before the group marched on.

They reached the door to the hexagonal room, and Alwdyn touched it to open it - and took 1 HP of injury from a short zap of some kind of magical energy. Beyond it, they found the illusionary wall and its Will barrier. Wyatt and Crogar forced their way through, but Astrid could not thanks to an untimely 18. She immediately suffered 1 FP of fatigue and a -8 on further attempts to pass. So they decided to just choke her out and pull her through while she was out. Aldwyn put her in a standing rear-naked choke and put her to sleep and they hauled through, then woke her up as the others passed. Aldwyn took a couple of tries but made it, and then Ulf came rearguard. The skeletons were unaffected.

They headed down the stairs to the next level below, and opened up the door. The crammed into the hallway and saw an intact hemisphere of black. Sure they'd destroyed it last time, they set to work on it this time. Ulf cast Silence on the hemisphere itself, and Mild Bruce chucked his harpoon at it - their only suitable ranged weapon. It hit silently but hit the floor with a bang. And then another, and another, and another as he threw, hauled it back in, and threw again. It finally cracked pretty badly.

They decided the best way across the floor towards the crystals was to cast Levitate on Astrid and have her carry others over. Even with ST 18 she can't managed most of the big fighters at Heavy encumbrance, so she grabbed Wyatt, instead. (Keep in mind our changed Levitation spell here.)

They started in on that plan. As Astrid was partway across the floor toward the right corridor, concealed figures in the left corridor loosed attacks before they got spotted. They tossed a pair of Demon's Brew grenades into the pack of PCs, wounding most of the front line types. Then out rushed those figures - short cone-hatted guys with armor exactly like Gerry's suit, armed with greataxes crackling with Lightning Weapon. They were backed by two Levitating taller cone-hatted guys with slim swords, maces, and mesh gloves on their left hands. Those two fired bolts of lightning and fire, respectively.

The first bolt of lightning hit Aldwyn but he Dodged and it eventually hit a skeleton in the final rank, who blocked it.

(An annoying case of player knowledge here - the back-ranked skeleton used Block so a second later the front rankers switched to Block, too, without any in-game way to know what happened.)

More Demon's Brew grenades exploded amongst the group, spiked at the feet of the lead fighter. No one could advance without risking 3d injury from the floor, which the enemy clearly wasn't affected by. So did more bolts. Ulf took a fire bolt but tossed his burning shield to the floor after it took the shot.

Gerry put Great Haste on himself and then brought Astrid (& Wyatt) back and deposited her in the back ranks. She let go of Wyatt, who had crushed a Walk on Air spellstone and headed out to attack the enemy after Gerry put Great Haste on him, too. He crushed a Resist Lightning spellstone, too, and Gerry gave him Missile Shield. Next, he quaffed a potion of Agility and got +5 DX.

Meanwhile Mild Bruce threw his harpoon into an axeman, wounding him slightly. The axeman knocked the harpoon out with his weapon. Mild Bruce dragged it back to re-ready for a later throw. Neither side was willing to engage in straight-up melee.

A fire bolt seared Astrid and lit her on fire at this point even as she dove prone, and Ulf put Resist Fire on her as she'd been engulfed in flames (10+ damage from fire.)

Wyatt moved up and attacked the axemen. He managed to blind one in both eyes and knock him back and down. He fended off their axe swings with cross parry to avoid risking breakage to his longswords (not sure why, they're 5# swords) but couldn't easily deal with the sword-armed taller figures, who parried his attacks very effectively even after Feint. His Feints didn't do so well, either, against them.

The he pushed them back, however. Amusingly, Aldwyn tried Intimidation and rolled a 17, making for a very poor attempt that emboldened the enemy. Crogar groaned at the enemy were cowards and fleeing, and they'd come all this way for nothing. Gerry pushed Aldwyn forward with Levitation, keeping him a foot off the ground. Alwdwyn used Wait and then activated it when the enemy was in reach as Gerry moved him. It worked to a degree.

The enemy, though, kept falling back - and one used Levitation on the fallen fighter to bring him back with them. Wyatt pursued. He took out one of the taller cone-hatted types and kept coming. As he closed in, though, he that behind the fighters was a mass of norkers, waiting to charge. They did, rushing past the axemen. Also, six golden swordsmen and three more tall cone-hatted figures came out of the passage facing the party, unnoticed in the confusion (I rolled Per for the only person who could see with Dark Vision, and he failed, badly, thanks to range and distraction.) They piled into the group. Lightning from one of the tall cone-hatted types hit Aldwyn and stunned him, leaving him at HT-6 rolls to recover. He would . . . many seconds later.

As this happened, an Iron Spectre joined the enemy and hit Wyatt with a death ray, and then Crogar with a numbing ray that lowered his ST and DX.

The PCs decided to retreat. Gerry cast Stench over the group. The norkers pulled back as they could, dragging bodies with them. The golden swordsmen kept on fighting, as did the cone-hatted cultists. Ulf used his staff to heal several wounded PCs as more Demon's Brew grenades went off over them, and then used his Wand of Holding to paralyze one of the golden swordsmen. The idea was to create a "wall" of paralyzed guys to delay pursuit.

Gerry covered the group with Darkness (complete with its very bizarre effects). The enemy had taken a lot of casualties, including two golden swordsmen - one blinded and dropped by Wyatt, one paralyzed by Ulf, and then another taken down with a leg lopped off by Crogar. That one would continue to fight, even after Crogar crippled his other leg - only then did Crogar manage to take him down with a third blow.

The enemy kept pushing in - the Norkers pulled back bodies, and the golden swordsmen pressed. One pushed past the front ranks to attack from the flank, but didn't manage much before Ulf paralyzed him. The iron spectre kept hovering around, using its rays every once in a while to directly damage the PCs.

Around this time the PCs decided the odds were turning, and they could win. That didn't last. One of the tall cone-hatted guys cast Dispel Magic and knocked out a chunk of the Stench spell, most of the Darkness spell, many spellstones (Holy and magical), and many of their buff spells. Wyatt's Great Haste had just ended, and Gerry put another on him. One of the paralyzed golden swordsman was unparalyzed. Ulf quickly hit him again and paralyzed him again. Wyatt quickly stabbed him repeatedly in the eyes and left him standing there. The other was dispatched the same way.

Norkers crashed into the ranks, too, but one slammed into Mild Bruce ineffectively and then was knocked down; another was killed by Wyatt. Ulf tried to paralyze the "main wizard" of the enemy several times, but failed. The "main wizard" cast Dispel Magic again and took out another bunch of buffs and lightstones. The PCs decided to flee once that happened and a quartet of obsidian golems walked out of the same corridor that the iron spectre came from. The PCs started to fall back, again, under Darkness. The golems marched forward, and when they ran into something in the darkness, attacked it. Mild Bruce fell back, crouched down, and grabbed around for the fallen golden swordsman that had broken their ranks. He got him, and started to drag him. The others fled - skeletons carrying Astrid, Wyatt streaking ahead under yet another Walk on Air spellstone, and Gerry fleeing right behind him. The PCs kept falling back. The golems did some damage with hits in the darkness, but couldn't trap any of the PCs. Mild Bruce eventually dropped his swordsman, realizing barely in time that he'd be cut off and killed if he didn't let go.

Gerry ordered three of his skeletons to All-Out Defend and block the golems. They did so, but only lasted 3 seconds. That helped the PCs get organize and flee up the stairs. But they are slow - 2/yard cost for stairs, and Move 3 for their slowest, meant they couldn't outpace the Move 6 golems. Mild Bruce took the rear guard. Gerry put up Darkness over him and the rank behind him, and Shape Darkness to move it along. Even so, the iron spectre followed the golems out. The PCs couldn't really escape.

Luckily for them, Mild Bruce chose to rear guard it. As Gerry cast Haste on the slower types, and the skeletons set down Astrid so Crogar could carry her a bit faster (he's stronger than 2 skeletons), Mild Bruce slugged it out with the golems. He shattered its right arm. Ulf tried to Sunbolt on the spectre but both times it dodged. One of the golems hit Gerry with a paralyzation ray, but Ulf was able to Relieve Paralysis and get him moving again. The iron spectre turned his gaze on Gerry with his death ray and wounded him. But then Mild Bruce managed to cripple the golem chasing him. Its left leg crumbled. The other golems couldn't fit around it, and thus were slowed down. The iron spectre didn't pursue ahead of them.

The PCs made it up the staircase, dragging under fatigue, with the pursuit foiled by the fallen golem and lack of sufficient verve by the iron spectre . . . or perhaps other limitations.

They got through the Will wall with little problem - lucky rolls and choking out the badly wounded Astrid helped. They made it home, eventually, without any loot but without any casualties amongst the living.

Notes:

Tough delve today. The PCs inflicted a lot of casualties on their foes, but at best only managed to barely get away. They had no loot, expended a lot of resources (Gerry noted he'd spent 72 energy and 8 HP on on casting spells - that's a lot of paut), and didn't even get a glimpse of a new area. They're trying, hard, to delve above their expected abilities but they seemed clear after the escape that they needed to rethink this course. Maybe a lot of the tag-end areas on the upper levels, including the gates, need to be looked into. The gates don't all go to "easier" areas, but clearly they're not ready for what's below. Continually expending a lot of resources to gain zero loot is a problem - Felltower doesn't have infinite wealth within reach. If you spend 2-3-4X to gain 1X (or even zero), eventually there comes a time that characters simply cannot sustain the pace of required expenditure to survive.

Spellstones, and allowing their purchase, is a major game-changing decision for DF. If you're considering running a DF game, think carefully about this. I've had to make a ruling on every single spell castable at 4 energy or below (since the breakpoint of 5 is so pricey). The PCs have stocked up on endless amounts of these, so everyone can and will buff themselves. The major of money at this point seems to be spent on spellstones and potions, and it's routine for the PCs to expend at least the value of the resources they extract on the extraction in the form of expended spellstones. I'm willing to live with the consequences of this, but it's worth knowing ahead of time if you're thinking about how to run your own game in the future.

All of that said, Super-Wyatt was effective, to a point. It's a variation on a tactic I've seen in GURPS with my group for over 30 years, now - buff the living hell out of a high skill fighter, send him/her/it airborne into the fray, and form a defensive line around the buffers. It can work, and work well. But there is only so much a single fighter can do. Even with pretty much ideal foes - foes with eyes and lacking No Brain - Wyatt couldn't defeat them all. All it takes against one of them is a critical hit not stopped by Luck and it can go source for the fighter. And even if it doesn't, the others can get mauled by the remaining forces and damaged by area-effect attacks as they try to survive until Super Fighter wins. They just didn't have the firepower to defeat the enemy without inordinate damage to themselves - more than they could survive.

I forgot that Aldwyn should have had a -3 to DX skills for Levitation without being the caster. I can't rely on people to apply modifiers to themselves. GURPS has a lot of them, this is conditional, etc. but if airborne fighting is going to be standard it needs to be remembered.

I'm strict with Walk on Air. You can't use Acrobatic Dodge with it, you can't crawl, you can't dive prone. You can't kneel. You can walk, or run, or crouch, but that's it. Anything else breaks it. It's still a very, very effective spell with a very low casting cost for what you get. It doesn't need to be unlimited air move to be good, and it's too cheap at the price to be that. For that, get Flight.

The skeletons tried valiantly to rear-guard, but lasted only 3 seconds before they were all destroyed. And that was with the benefit of fighting within darkness. The golems couldn't see them - clearly they don't have Dark Vision - but simply walked until they made contact and then attacked what they ran into. The skeletons just couldn't deal with 2d+6 crushing punches and didn't have what it took to fight back effectively. Against lesser foes, they might have bought more time. But they were so overmatched that only the Darkness allowed them to even buy those three seconds. ~35 point skeletons vs. golems might to challenge 250+ point guys at less than 1:1 odds in their favor? Just a speedbump.

Oddly, today we had a lot of "does my character remember . . . " questions. Does my character remember how broken this was before? Does my character remember if these look like the same guys as last time? Does my character remember if such-and-such does so-and-so? I only let one of them fly, because it was a pure character-based question. Mostly, though, I just said no. My policy is, do you remember? We play differently in Gamma Terra, but this game is not like that. I don't remember what the players think they know. I don't want to be on the hook for providing details with conclusions, either. It's really a player-knowledge heavy game.

The Will Wall had some funny moments, and I had to put on my Out of Game GM hat at one point. Because it's tied to an illusion, we had people wanting to cover their eyes, get shown it's a fake wall with a rope through it, etc. It's a Will barrier, and you either have the Will to get through or you don't. Clearly being unconscious helps, and lucky rolls means they didn't need to try out "strong guy goes through and tug-of-wars you into coming through" with a rope. I will say there is a way around this that doesn't require brute force and Will, but the PCs haven't figured it out.

MVP was Mild Bruce for his heroic rear guard action. Everyone else earned 0 xp for no exploration and no loot.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...