Friday, January 31, 2020

S&W Appreciation Day - I'm In

Erik Tenkar announced he'll be a hub for a three-day Swords & Wizardry Appreciation "day."

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day to Return in 2020

I'm planning on being in. Monsters, of course, are high on my list of to-do things here. Although I run AD&D when I run "old school" games, I really love the clean, fast, and enjoyable version of the game that is Swords & Wizardry Complete.

There is a Kickstarter for a new boxed set . . . but I don't need that. If I'm running it, I'm using S&W Complete and asking my players to download free copies or borrow my hardbacks.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Lanyards in DF

What penalties do you get from a weapon dangling from a lanyard? Can you Fast-Draw a weapon dangling from a lanyard?

DF Adventurers, p. 24 / DFRPG Adventurers p. 111 have only the following to say about lanyards:

"Lanyard, Chain. Lets you retrieve dropped weapon on a DX roll. Each attempt requires a Ready maneuver.

And that's it.

In my own campaign, I allowed someone to Fast-Draw a weapon from a dangling lanyard. It's stuck as a basic ruling, although it's not actually a rule. That's had some very cinematic moments - PCs regularly take turns like this:

- Drop lanyarded weapon.
- Fast-Draw a potion and drink it.
- Fast-Draw the sword (at a cumulative -4 for multiple attempts.)

You can substitute other actions in there, too - throwing a potion, drawing and throwing a weapon, etc. It's very awesome, but also can get a little wonky. Even if it's not the same turn, the weapon hanging from a lanyard never seems to do anything but hover out of the way, as if a dancing weapon released into the same hex. It's right there for use, entirely out of the way.

There should be a penalty for the weapon hanging there, though, to any and all actions done with the hand which has the weapon lanyarded to the wrist.

Given that the basic set rules for grappling give a -4 for grappling, and weapons of large to small sizes have hit penalties of -3 to -5, it occurs to me that might be a way to go. Having your arm grappled is pretty bad, but doing anything with a hand while a weapon dangles from it - especially razor-sharp swords, spiked chain weapons, axes (!), some of which will be Flaming, poisoned, dripping corrosion, etc. - is going to be hard.

I'm debating either -4 flat to doing anything with the same hand other than readying the weapon (which takes a DX roll, as above, and a Ready maneuver) or a -3 for a small weapon, -4 for most, -5 for large weapons. It would even be fair - not popular, but fair, to apply that penalty to a Fast-Draw roll. So you dropped your broadsword and want to re-ready it and strike back on your next turn? Fast-Draw (Sword)-4. Want to do it slow-and-steady? Flat DX roll. Want to do it really slow and steady? I'd allow automatic success in two turns with a crouch, extra hand free, or other way to steady the weapon.

Any thoughts on this? I like lanyards and I'm fine with heroic reality . . . but I didn't give you 250+ points, DX 14+ on almost everyone, and supernatural support to mollycoddle you. And it should be less-than-ideal to use a hand or arm with a weapon dangling freely from it. I'm leaning towards the scaled penalties so I don't have people lanyarding on SM+1 greataxes and being only as impaired as the guy with a lanyard on his shortsword.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

OSR Christmas Arrive - Towns & Villages

I won this thanks to Tenkar's Tavern's OSR Christmas.

They're really attractive. I think I might need to copy them or cover them to use them and mark them up. But they're very beautiful and they'll be useful when I play a non-megadungeon-centric game. Very nice stuff.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

GURPS DF Session 126, Felltower 97

This is a summary of part II of DF Session 126. It was a split session as we'd wrapped up a long fight that stopped us mid-session weeks earlier. The PCs returned to town, time passed to the current, present day in game, and then we resumed.

Galen was added as his player had been at the whole session, waiting out the re-start.

We lost about 90 minutes between the end of the previous delve and this one, spent discussing the previous fight and planning the next delve.

Date: Sunday, January 26th, 2020

Weather: Moderately cold, rainy.

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)
Galen Longtread, human scout (409 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (370 points)
     5 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 off in town - or at least many of the PCs did. Galen and Astrid camped out. Mild Bruce stayed in town, as he had some cash. Many of the others needed to borrow from Gerry, Ulf, and others to pay for upkeep. They'd spent themselves broke getting ready for the draugr.

Hayden earned some money in town declaiming his poetry, and Ulf proselytized. Wyatt scrounged. The group gathered rumors.

The group headed off to Felltower, and chose to enter via the trapdoor in the fallen tower. A skeleton tried to open it, and did so without harm. They climbed down into the dungeon.

They carefully made their way to the GFS, and Aldwyn opened the door. Out rushed a black-and-grey colored pudding! It slammed into Aldwyn, who blocked it and drew his wooden sword and whacked it. A second later it did it again and crippled his left leg. He fell, and the pudding camped on top of him, digesting him slowly. The PCs jumped it. Ulf put Flaming Weapon on Hayden's sword. Crogar chopped it repeatedly with his axe. Gerry moved up, contemplating using Deathtouch. Wyatt sliced it a few times and then backed off, checking his swords carefully against corrosive slime. Someone, I'm not sure who, talked about readying a flash of wine to wash it off. (As you can see, the PCs aren't terribly expert on the varieties of slimes, oozes, and puddings. Crogar called it an "ooze" the whole time. It's a fun variation of Tiger Fear.) They managed to chop it up, but not before Hayden missed a swing into close combat and hit Aldwyn, wounding him badly.

They pulled Aldwyn out from under the pudding and moved on. Gerry wanted to know how the pudding got in there. Wyatt checked the ceiling. They saw no more puddings there.

At the bottom, Mild Bruce again debated destroying the optical illusion floor that makes the stairs seem as if they'll keep on going.

They passed through the metal door at the bottom, and Galen scouted a bit. Gerry created a Wizard Eye to send ahead as well, and they followed only after it moved to corners to check around them. They made their way toward the second GFS.

The stale air only bothered Ulf, who went -1 on his rolls after failing a HT roll.

They reached a room with a black hemisphere of crystal on the ceiling. They were sure they'd destroyed it before, and something was repairing it - maybe for the second time in this room. They sat back and shot at it with arrows from Galen's bow and Mild Bruce's harpoon. As they did, though, weird howl-cries came out, and five gargoyles flapped into the room and attacked. Galen shot one and pierced it twice with arrows. Another one slammed Galen back, wounding him and knocking him backward. It was quickly beat up with non-magical weapons and then killed by Crogar. The others flew away. No one pursued.

They resumed shattering the crystal hemisphere.

From there they made their way towards Phase Snake Junction, and stopped at what they call the Water Magic Room - the room with the deep blue pool of water. The new PCs drank from the pool. No one who drank before drank again. The water turned out to be Essential Water - marvelously filling and delicious. It made no one stronger. Wyatt wanted to jump in, but the others prevented him.

The stale air was still a problem - but again, only to Ulf, who was now at -2.

They moved into the hallway of the obsidian golems, but only after scouting it with the Wizard Eye. They edged up to the first opaque field on the left and cast another eye in it, and found nothing. The same was done on the next one up on the right. Nothing.

At the end of the hallway, Aldwyn unlocked the door by touching the six-fingered palm print.

Beyond they tried to pass the illusionary wall. This was tough - it took a successful Will roll, and failure meant attempts at 1 FP per attempt and a cumulative -1 to the roll. Ulf needed to cast Strengthen Will a number of times to get people by. Down some FP, they continued on and then right to the GFS. Above were painted stars. At the second GFS, Wyatt wanted to know if the stars on the ceiling were the same. He couldn't tell.

They couldn't see very far down, even with Dark Vision. Lightstones dropped down to the depths vanished after a short time, with seemingly shorter lives than expected. They did hear some distant whirring noises. The headed down, single file, along the 7' or so wide steps. Wyatt examined and measured steps to determine the rise and run, and later counted the steps (so the player could justify doing trig to determine depth - he said 180-200' later on after doing so.)

They reached a landing with a silvery metal door with a six-fingered handprint on it. As they did, the whirring got louder - and out of the darkness shot a pair of large spheres with four arms ending in scythe blades. The speeding blades blew past the party and attacked at random on the move. They moved up and down like saws, slashing at the PCs. So the PCs clumped up in twos and threes. Galen shot at them, damaging one. One swung a blade at Galen and injured him - and another slashed at Astrid . . . who rolled an 18 on her Dodge roll and fell. She was in the middle of the steps, so I gave her a flat DX roll to grab on and not fall off the ledge. She blew that roll fairly badly as well, and over the edge and down she went.

Gerry immediately stabbed out his staff and cast Levitate. She was a bit more than 10 yards away, and he had spells up, for a net -15 off of his 21 skill. He rolled and failed, then used luck - and then failed . . . and then rolled the 6 exactly. He halted her motion on his next turn.

Meanwhile the waiting PCs managed to hit the spheres, despite a lot of dodges early in the fray, and drove them berserk. They slashed crazily at the PCs but eventually got hacked down. In their frenzy to hit the agile spheres most of the attacks were Deceptive and one was followed by a Feint. (The players were way off of their game for dealing with Berserk foes.) Aldwyn disabled one with some stabs, and the other was smashed down by Hayden and Aldwyn. (IIRC)

The two spheres crashed down but neither landed on the stairs below - they dropped into oblivion. "There goes our loot!" was the consensus. They'd been planning on bringing them to Black Jans - although some others were opposed to doing that.

On the landing they opened up the door and found a similar setup to the level above - a short corridor to a 30 x 30' room with exits in all four directions including theirs.

In the center of the ceiling was a hemisphere of black crystal. A quick look by Wizard Eye showed them corridors in the other directions. Ulf cast Silence and Galen got to work shooting the crystal to pieces. It took some time but he destroyed it. The Silence was expensive so they dropped that soon after.

Galen crept ahead to scout. As he stepped into the room, he felt a tearing pain wrack through his body, and he took 11 HP of injury. He backed off. They tried the floor several times, with a skeleton Levitated into the middle of the room, a skeleton standing on a shield laid down on the floor, and so on. Nothing worked. Aldwyn tried, since he'd touched the handprint. Nope, injured (also for 11, if I recall correctly - it was a common number on the 3d I rolled.)

Eventually they decided it was time to cut and run. So they sent the Wizard Eye to explore the right corridor first. It passed a pair of 10' alcoves and then reached a room with oval windows through which streamed green and blue light. Flying out of them, the eye spotted a cave with no obvious exits. Its walls had jutting out crystals glowing blue, green, or a mix of blue and green in the same crystal formation. The room jutted out and over the cave like a balcony.

The eye was sent out of an exit to the left, and saw a balcony area ahead but disappeared when it got close. Destroyed? Dispelled? Who knows?

Another eye was sent but was destroyed or dispelled as it reached the niches.

The PCs had enough. They headed upstairs and out, and eventually wound their way out of the dungeon.


I hadn't generated rumors since I'd expected the whole session to be Draugr II. It was not, so I hastily wrote up a couple more to fill out a list of 12 to use for the session. I had maybe 9 ready. Now I've got maybe 5 . . . I have a lot of writing to do for next session.

Wyatt's character needed Instant Regeneration - priced at $2,500 using the price guide from Kromm. Regular Regeneration would have been much cheaper, but would take a month to recover. The current game date was just a bit short of a month from the previous one. His player asked if they could wait around in game for a few days. Nope. The game date is the real date unless in-game play forces it to be otherwise. I once allowed the group to go back home and come back the next day to get a specific scroll, and I didn't like how that went, so that won't repeat.

Wyatt successfully rolled Scrounging and found a crystal vial. That's been his go-to. I decided enough was enough - it's boring for a skill to be mostly "roll to find a crystal vial" with something better on a crit. I decided it had to be something different each time. That's much more fun.

No, I don't allow oozes to be Zombied. Mimics, yes, but they're an exception. It's not clear if they are "ooze" anyway. Amusingly, after my ghost post, someone suggested casting Affect Spirits, and others opined that blows only did 2 HP of injury maximum. Homogeneous and Diffuse creatures are really different, and Affect Spirits isn't useful except against a very small subset of creatures. I'm not sure why it's become a generic "Make my weapon kill things that are hard to kill with weapons" spell.

Once the session time was almost up, I was really surprised that they chose to fiddle around with the area they'd discovered. I'd have guessed they would have climbed down the stairs more. But they were concerned about the light-eating effect and weren't willing to see how far down it goes.

Speaking of stairs, the player of Wyatt is a former architect, which is why he's all about measuring and determining depth and so on. He's likely to pick up on errors I've made in depth, size, etc. due to me just freehand drawing on graph paper and not having the mathematical skills to determine depth between levels, require size of supports, etc. I just winged it; actual math is likely to turn up numbers that make perfect sense but don't match previous castings of Seek spells, correctly line up levels, factor in length and depth of stairs, etc.

Also speaking of stairs, Astrid's player wasn't feeling well and stepped away from the table for a bit. Her GM rolled for her on the dodge and DX rolls that would have killed her except for Gerry. Oops.

XP was 1 each for exploring a new area of significance (the bottom of the stairs - I don't count looking with a Wizard Eye as exploring.) In any event they weren't close to 10+ areas of significance. MVP was Gerry for the save.

Monday, January 27, 2020

GURPS DF Session 125, Felltower 96 - Draugr II

Today we finished part II of the split-session that resulted from the fight against the draugr in session 124 running long.

Nicely, our host used his latest Instagram pic to re-create the combat with placeholders. I put down most of the draugr before I realized that some shown as up were in fact down. That's when we discovered he used a mid-session, not end-of-session, shot. Oh well. Sweep . . . and start over.

Date: Sunday, January 26th, 2020
Game Date: Sunday, December 29th, 2019

Weather: Moderately cold, rainy.

Aldwyn Hale, human knight (278 points)
Astrid Cook, human barbarian (250 points)
Crogar the Lucky, human barbarian (268 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (370 points)
     5 Skeletons (~35 points)
Hayden the Ebon Page, human knight (307 points)
Hernando Velazquez, human knight (250 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (285 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (286 points)

We started in the middle of the fray, with the draugr using Wait and some Ready actions in their newly formed line.

The PCs were unwilling to advance against the draugr line, so they faced each other for several seconds as they readied weapons. Hayden put away his golden falchion and readied an oversized broadsword from a fallen draugr.

Buff spells ticked down in time, and a couple of Great Haste spells ran out. Gerry gave Wyatt 5 FP with Lend Energy. One of the draugr - Sven - threw his spear at Hernando, who blocked it.

Then Wyatt moved up on his own to engage the draugr. He ran over the row of fallen draugr with Walk on Air, two hexes up. At that height, he couldn't attack their heads without them being able to attack his groin, legs, and feet. He used Move and one draugr (Bjorn) hacked at his lower body and rolled a 4. Critical Hit. Wyatt used Luck and turned it into a normal hit and a normal miss - so it missed.

He poked out one of the eyes of another draugr, who otherwise defended against Wyatt's attacks and largely ignored his Feint thanks to a good roll of his own. Another draugr slashed at Wyatt and was parried . . . and then another rolled a 4. Without Luck, it just hit the left leg (random roll) for 22 cut. That was enough to sheer off Wyatt's leg mid-shin. (I forgot to roll for extreme dismemberment here - the blow had enough power to take off both legs.) Wyatt fell automatically and his Walk on Air broke. With a very penalized Acrobatics roll he managed to fall without injury, and wasn't stunned.

The party still waited, unwilling to come forward onto bad footing against superior numbers. The draugr advanced a step, still formed up, and attacked Wyatt. He managed to parry one attack so well his opponent critically missed and lost his balance. He used his elbows and remaining leg to push himself back onto the corpses behind. One of the draugr yelled, "You forgot something!"

Meanwhile, Ulf spit out a spellstone of Walk on Air he'd had in his mouth and Astrid took it from his hand. She crushed it and advanced. Crogar dropped his backup axe and readied his better one, dropped earlier, and stood up with that.

Wyatt scurried back and the front rank parted to let him in. Astrid reach the draugr and was quickly cut twice, wounding her terribly. She fell back for healing, not having gotten in a single swing.

The PCs decided enough was enough. Levitation on Wyatt would let Gerry move him, but he'd fight without Retreat or the ability to move on his own, and at a penalty. So Gerry cast Apportation on the leg and started to fly it back. The draugr steadily advanced, not quite willing to rush the PCs. The PCs fell back, with their spellcasters (especially Ulf) sucking down Paut over and over.

The draugr pressed but didn't rush the group, although they laughed a great deal. The PCs used Purify Air to clear the smoke, and fled up the stairs.

In the wide hallway, the formed a defensive front but knew the draugr could overrun them. But for some reason, they did not. They just taunted the PCs a few times, followed them to the end of the hallway, and jeered them further.

The PCs limped back to the trap door exit, and left, leaving their spikes and ropes at the main entrance.

Their only loot was the sword Hayden took - an oversized balanced broadsword. He kept it - the extra damage is nice and balanced offsets the penalty for size.


The PCs aren't sure if any of the draugr they "killed" will stay that way. Gerry's best guess (off an 18 skill and a solid roll) is that the trio Aldwyn decapitated may stay dead. The eye-stabbed ones, unlikely. "Regular" draugr don't ever heal; some heal if they rest in their tombs. And those some definitely include these guys based on experience from prior groups. Decapitation might be enough, though . . . fire, and total destruction of the corpse by fire or corrosion, or Final Rest, or perhaps an appropriate Holy Warrior perk, could do the job. Or maybe those plus decapitation? They don't know and it's unlikely sages, etc. would be able to tell them for certain for this bunch.

Sometime very late in the fight, Hernando's player announced that he was "continuing to taunt them." He hadn't taken any actions to use Intimidation or Public Speaking, and in the tumult of the session I hadn't heard that he'd said anything. Important rule - if you want to be doing something, make sure the GM knows.

Same goes for defensive spells, too, actually. A draugr critically hit Wyatt, and then someone said - "Even with Blur -5?" Well, yes, I rolled a 4. A 4 is a critical on a 4 or less to hit. But it's worth reminding me of NPC-facing penalties thanks to buffs, etc. right at the start of an interrupted session or a new fight.

By long-standing tradition, we allow Luck (and only Luck) to replenish between sessions. We have another long-standing house rule counting all fights as a max of 1 hour, so this is a big deal - it's a second use (or two more uses, or four more) in the same fight. This house rule keeps people from stalling as a fight goes on hoping to get Luck back to turn the tide or save a PC later.

We had a discussion and had to do an illustration to explain how a 2-hex weapon doesn't out-reach a 1-hex weapon when it's wielded from 2 hexes above the target. Wyatt really needed to be 1 hex up, not 2, to take advantage of his reach against the draugr and make them move to get him.

I'd thought the PCs would have been able to finish the draugr today. Despite the cost of the first casualties they inflicted, they were in a solid position, and had a lot of very successful buffs (especially very high rolls on Strength and Dexterity potions). But they were unwilling to rush the draugr, and couldn't figure out how to make them rush the PCs. With Overconfidence steering Wyatt into a one-man rush against the draugr plus the inevitable criticals they lost a good chunk of their combat potential. Could they have finished the draugr if that's hadn't happened? The group is mixed on that. But after it happened? Unlikely.

XP was Wyatt's 1 xp for MVP last session. MVP for this session was determined in the second delve with we on Sunday. The sword could have been sold - it's worth 4500, and thus would sell for 1600, enough for loot threshold for a lot of the new guys, but Hayden needs a better sword and this is a better sword.

Next session summary tomorrow (busy, busy day for me.)

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Felltower pre-summary

We had two delves today in this one session:

- we wrapped up the draugr battle.

then, the PCs returned to town and then came "right back" almost a month later, for another delve. This one featured Galen, added to the returning group. They:

- re-cleared some old territory they hadn't been in for while.

- brought the new party members to the "water magic room"

- and explored the next level down - after a harrowing fight on a staircase that led to a great fall.

Fun stuff - summaries tomorrow and possibly Tuesday.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

DFRPG Companion Ends Monday

I won't have time to blog about this before it ends due to Felltower, so:

Friday, January 24, 2020

Joining the fight late?

This Sunday is Felltower, again, and we're going to finish the half-fought battle against the draugr.

We may get a couple of extra players, though. Potentially Dryst and probably Galen.

Do I allow them to "catch up" and jump into the fight?

I've done it before, specifically for Bjorn.

For Sunday, though, I've gone with no. Show up please, but just run NPCs or the PCs of players who couldn't make it this time.

I have a few reasons.

1) Verisimilitude.

It's hard to believe that the reinforcing PCs were like 20-30 seconds behind the others the whole time, but never caught up. Or minutes behind and caught up only after the others got into a fight and stayed in it for a short time. They're far from the entrance, past a place that needs magic or some careful navigation to reach, in a place no sane person would drop in to check and see if the group is really in or not.

It's just hard for me to swallow.

2) It's No One's Second Session.

I had Bjorn run up because, well, it was the player's second session with us. I didn't want to leave him sitting there, maybe playing someone else's guy, when he could play his own paper man. It just didn't seem like that would be as fun.

3) It's a potential fight-changer.

And by potential, I mean is. It is a fight-changer to have Galen come rolling up and start blowing away draugr eyes at a full run. He's not a reinforcement who might help, he's a fight-breaker.

Same with Dryst. He'll come up, laden with potions, paut, FP, and magic items and start tossing around magic the group just doesn't have on tap right now.

I think that changes the fight from winnable but a challenge to win given the resources expended to a sure thing for the PCs, all over but for the rolling. The fact that the two PCs were missing earlier means they didn't have to put up with the draugr when they, themselves, had more resources to expend. Victory does go to the ones who throw in their reserves last.

4) Unfair loot distribution.

I don't think the PCs will mind, but it does seem unfair that guys miss half the fight and all of the sitting and planning and then roll up to finish a fight and loot the place.

Which leads to the following:

5) Dealing with XP is harder.

So, how do the guys who join later earn XP? Full for the delve? They missed half of it. Half of the XP? We don't do halves, not the least of which is because it could be an odd number. Half rounded down? Still no, that's bizarre. Full because the loot is all in the second half? Then what did the guys do in the first part?

I just don't like any of the answers.

So basically I feel like letting people reinforce in this situation opens up more questions than it closes off. The ones that do get answered do so in a way I don't really like. I'd rather stick with the standard "no" and leave Bjorn the exception made for a new player's enjoyment of the game.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Re-Revised Flight and Hawk Flight

A while back, I revised Flight and Hawk Flight.

I merged the spells, and gave them conditional movement rates

Actual play, though, has made me reconsider the conditional movement rates.

Basically, the players would cast Flight on, say, a lightly-armored high-Move Swashbuckler, boost him with Haste, and end up with extremely high speeds. We'd also spend considerable time - real life time, the most valuable commodity on game day - figuring out movement rates. Levitation gives a flat movement rate, so I'm okay with these doing so as well. I recognize that my change was both too powerful and a little clunky at the same time.

So I've decided to backtrack a bit.

Flight gives Basic Move 10, just as in DFRPG Spells.

Hawk Flight gives Basic Move 40, just as in GURPS Magic.

Encumbrance works normally - so Medium Encumbrance (0.6) reduces these to 6 and 24, for example.

Otherwise the spells are as listed.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

DFRPG Companion 2: How was my speculation?

When the DFRPG Companion 2 was first mentioned, I opined it might include the following:

Here is what I'm speculating will go in it:

- leftover magic items that didn't fit into Magic Items 2 thanks to not making the extra page count.
- new templates for player character professions
- new templates for player character races
- possibly more "power up" style additions to existing templates.

It would be a good place for new rules, but DFRPG isn't rules-heavy. Monsters, too - it could possibly include monsters left out of Monsters 2 (but for various reasons I suspect they'd get saved for Monsters 3.)

The actual book will have:

16 new magic items

6 monsters

A "rogue's gallery" of bad guys.

So I feel like I'm two for four or five, depending on how you count "possibly." Not bad as a guess. I was hoping for more PC races and professions, though, more than more monsters. But I'll take them. I'm in the Kickstarter for $20 + S&H for the PDF and the hardcopy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Dungeon Fantasy Companion 2 Kickstarter

This went up yesterday:

Thanks to Jon aka Caveman for letting me know this was up. Kickstarter announcement emails don't always make it through to my actual email, so I'd have missed this if he hadn't let me know directly.

It's only up for 6 more days, so if you're interested, take a look and decide quickly.

Monday, January 20, 2020

GURPS 101: Fighting Ghosts in DF

Occasionally in DF, you'll run into foes that are completely insubstantial, and which cannot be affected by normal weaponry.

Here are some ways to attempt to deal with them.

Make weapons affect it

This is the adventurer standby in my games. My players are so enamored of Affect Spirits that they'll use it on weapons against anything that they either fail to hit or fail to hurt with magical weapons. It's a cheap and easy spell once you have it.

The Ghost Weapon enchantment will allow for a permanent way to carry this on a given weapon.

This has few downsides. The ones that PCs encounter most often are creatures that are unaffected by weapons over and above their Insubstantial advantage, and ones that cannot be killed in a normal sense. For those, even Affect Spirits isn't going to do the job. Some ghost types may be temporarily banished or dispersed by appropriate weapons but may not

Foes that are both Insubstantial and Diffuse will be affected by this spell but even so, it just will take longer.

Make it tangible.

A much less used option is a spell like Materialize. It's slow and expensive. 1 minute isn't terrible, but 50/10 cost is.

Attack it immaterially

Not all undead are immune to Mind Control spells or Communication and Empathy spells. Directly affecting it with spells which do not require a physical form can work. Will-resisted spells aren't a good bet against willful spirits, however, and some ghosts are of slain wizard-types and retain a lot of IQ. But it might be your best way to approach the problem offensively.

Actually deal with them

As in, a deal deal. Find out what's causing the spirit to do its haunting best, and appease its anger by solving the problem. Stop robbing the tomb, put back the things you stole, bury the bones in holy ground, lay it to rest, kill the murderer who killed the victim, etc. This can get awkward - what if the ghost's murderer is dead and the ghost wants the murderer's kid killed? Probably not high up on the list of ways to stay on the side of good. But it's worth attempting this where you think it's possible. Psychology (Undead) is useful here. Hidden Lore (Undead), not as much - it might tell you this type of undead is one you can negotiate with, but not how to go about doing it in a practical way.

This takes a solid amount of roleplaying and clue-assembling in many cases, but also might need appropriate social skills. This isn't the time for your half-orc barbarian with Callous to talk to the ghost, it's probably time for your bard or whatever you have that's close to one.

Some methods flat-out don't work.

Pray for Criticals

The old swing-until-I-get-a-3. That just won't work if your weapons won't affect it. I've seen this done.

Explosive Spells and Air Spells

Players sometimes mistake Insubstantial for "easily dispersed by wind." Not even all smoke-like monsters with Diffuse take extra damage from air currents, so Shape Air isn't an effective way to deal with them. Ghost-types are that plus generally won't be harmed by physical spells anyway. Same goes for holy water - unless it's affected specifically by it, it's unlikely to do much more than pass through the space the ghost is transiting through.

Banish it

The Banish spell may work if it's a summoned spirit from another realm. If it's a native haunt of a slain but vengeful person . . . this spell is literally useless to affect it.

Similarly, other spells which affect other things - Turn Zombie, say - are not automatically able to affect ghosts.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

GT: Off to Ottawa

We've been talking about our inevitable downtime, and our next plan of action for Gamma Terra.

About a year back, we'd been trying to decide between these two options:

The Arsenal (Detroit)

• Amy visited it on her way to Ohio all those years ago, said it's bleak
• ruled by a humanoid chieftain called 6Mile who has a humanoid army
• there is the belief that he wants to leave the city and conquer parts of Midden
• Softie detected an "advanced energy bloom" there, seemingly higher TL than usual pre-War tech


• less destroyed than other big cities such as Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Detroit et al
• curiously in Softie's operational footprint
• was capital of the United North American States before the War
• Caveman has suggested that the Tomorrow Men's chips can be modified there

Back then we decided Ottawa.

Now, it looks like we'll go there next. I'm deeply tempted by The Arsenal and a lot of other things, but Ottawa is going to nag at me until we go. We'll never feel ready, so why not just say the heck with it and go soon?

Post-downtime, we'll head up to Ottawa. I suggested some possible actions when we get there:

- find out what we can about our chips;
- sell off some of our junk;
- find stuff we can buy, especially weaponry, medical tech, and information tech;
- find potential allies;
- learn as much as we can about the world, the Purists, and other groups.

Also, we'll try to catch an Ottawa Senators game. Surely the NHL survived the apocalypse, right?

We'll need to up some of our social skills before we go - Diplomacy, Fast-Talk, Leadership, Merchant . . . we'll have to set up a list and see who improves what.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Gaming Ballistic Financials (+ short posting break)

Doug Cole posted his company's financial information here:

Ballistics Report: 2019 Financial Overview

and he's offering a lot on Warehouse23:

Gaming Ballistic on Warehouse 23: Pretty Much Everything

Doug is always good about sharing the nitty-gritty of game publication. It's refreshing given how opaque most companies are with the details of their business.

Also, I'll probably be offline until Sunday, possibly Monday. If so, see you all when I get back!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Random Gamma Terra Facts & Notes II

This is an addendum to Random Gamma Terra Facts & Notes, published back in February of 2019.


The original five have been out of the bunker for 156 or 157 days now.


More Highlights:

- Permium (TM) - an alloy of Kaskium. It's not as strong and vibration-absorbing as duralloy, but it's the second-best material we've found. The "bank vault" in Muskegeon was a form of Permium (TM).

- There is at least one sub-type of the 8 generations of androids. The Mark VIIIi is a different variation. It's not clear yet what makes it so. Combat variation, perhaps?

- We've found another variation of the idiot-proof medical pens - the purple pens are a massive stimulant with a lot of really negative effects.

- Robots with genuine people personalities.


We discovered a number of new groups:

- Red Death aka Friends of Entropy. A group of warrior-priests who call themselves a "cancer" on the world, and find that glorious. Dedicated to the cessation of all, eventually . . . but who practice resurrection! Based in Green Bay.

- Radiants - a group of radiation-worshippers.

- League of Free Men - a pre=war group of pro-world government folks.

- Autonomists - a pre-war group of anti-world government folks.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Posts of Interest for 1/15

I found these posts really interesting in the past couple of days:

Can 5E Play Like an Old School Game? - well, can it? John Arendt ran a big open hexcrawl-style adventure with 5e and muses on how it can be (or is) more old-school like.

Tim Shorts is looking at larger combats in D&D. Me, I loved Battlesystem. Not great for tens of thousands of troops, but for big PC-centered battles it was fine and fun.

MiniPainter Jen made Goremaw a color I never would, but then again, it's very interesting and it's well beyond any painting I'll ever manage to do.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Turning Purists into Tomorrow Men

The Gamma Terra crew picked up some new recruits the old fashioned way - by recruiting NPCs.

We have about 16 new folks in the group - 11 mutated humans, 4 "pure strain" humans, and 1 scientist "pure strain" human.

All of them are ex-Purists. Some very, very recently ex-Purists, although clearly they'd made some kind of decision internally that it took just our offer to get them to switch.

But it's a big issue for us. We're now outnumbered almost 2:1 by new recruits of dubious upbringing. Heh.

Also, of different rank - many of them outrank us, two of them very badly (two Majors.) We already made it clear they can keep their rank titles but it's not coming with any command authority in our group. Surely within their group it will, which is its own issue. We need to avoid parallel command structures.

We need to figure out a way to integrate them into our group and into our goals.

I have a couple of ideas.

We Do Solemnly Swear . . .

We all have an oath on our character sheets. We're O.G. 20th Homeland, as the new recruits called us. Did they take the same oath?

I think they probably did not. They should take the one we took. We know it by heart, otherwise we wouldn't be bound by it now with no one to enforce it.

Time Off Together

They've been trapped for two year with just each other. We've got a medical base with reading materials of sorts, people who aren't them, proper facilities, and plenty of time to relax.

And safety. No one will shoot at them.

It's possible that hanging around with the crew might help us all get a little more friendly and familiar. Hillbilly's already done his part by befriending Lynne.

Team Building Field Trip!

It's trust fall time. We can take them out on a mission. Non-Purist related. Maybe visiting the Citadel at Greenbay would be touchy right now, but maybe going to the Proving Grounds wouldn't be Or going somewhere none of us have been - not Angel Hill, too much temptation to split off - and seeing what we can find. That big Pyramid to the west, maybe the wandering forest, the AFB? Something where we have to work together and get to know each other. Even just some maneuvers would help. And they know the world better than we do, so it's a good chance for them to feel like they're showing us their worth and bringing something to the table.

Code Names

We might have to consider giving them nicknames. No one calls Hillbilly Arnold. Maybe we need 15-16 more nicknames? That might help with the rank issues. If we call Major Cho "Major Cho" it implies that she's, say, a Major of some kind. If we call her "Notorious" or "Hardass" or something like that, she might feel like one of us.*

Plus it's easier than remembering their full names and old rank.

Something to think about . . .

* This isn't crazy. I know a guy named John, but no one calls him that. Not even him. His nickname is Mother****er. He introduces himself that way. It's a good part of why he's a guy everyone knows. His story is here, at the 43 minute mark of the podcast.

Monday, January 13, 2020

GURPS Gamma World, 20th Homeland - Session 21 - Unknown #1 = A2O

We played Gamma Terra on Sunday, heading off to hit the last of the "Unknown" markers on our area map.

"Barbie" - demo/EOD
"Fatbox" - demo/EOD
"Hillbilly" - medical specialist
"Love Handles" - demo/EOD
"Oinker" - demo/EOD
"Short Bus" - computer programmer

In reserve:
"Caveman" - demo/EOD
"Momma's Boy" - computer programmer
"Princess" - cryptographer/sniper

We took about a week off between our Grand Island adventure and this one - we're rapidly hitting targets before the black snows come. Then we'll decide if we want to hunker down for the winter or venture outside of the snow area. Both have strong positives and some negatives as well.

Our last target of opportunity was Unknown #1, a drilling platform out in the great lakes that seems to be drilling up rare metals. On the way, though, Hillbilly insisted we stop at Grand Island to bury the dead Purists we found. We did so. The dead VIP, too. Respect the dead.

We left Softie there, and headed out in a high-tech inflatable raft onto the oil-like waters of Lake Whatever They Call It Now, toward Unknown #1. Short Bus was worried about sinking in his armor, so we strapped a inflatable raft to his back and rigged a pulley for him.

It took about 12 hours of paddling to reach our destination, with each of us taking shifts.

What we saw ahead was this:

(The image orients with the stem of the inverted T facing north.)

We could get a solid look at it with the Bunny Scope and with a TL10 spyglass that Hillbilly owns.

The west side was overgrown, badly so. It was patrolled by birds - actually, when we got closer, fish. We'd later learn those were fleshens and terls - the former flying mola molas and the second feathered barracuda. The south central section was guarded by some humanoid figures we'd later make out to be t-shirted bullpup-gun carrying humans, and the east section was patrolled by drones. That section flew a flag:

After some quick discussion, we decided the best way to go in was right to the guarded middle. We could board a ship then climb up a scaffolding to the top. The other way up was a crane in the fish-patrolled and deserted section. We'd have to bushwhack our way from there and it would seem hostile - and the environment might be very hostile.

So we headed right for the nearest container ship. We were spotted, and waved and saluted. The sentry was joined by two more figures. We tied up our boat at the container ship, which rode very low in the oily water. We climbed up onto it and found it was full of dirt - it had been turned into a farm. We climbed up the scaffolding to the top.

There we were greeted by the three we spotted. They had 20th Homeland tattoos but we couldn't see any Purist tattoos. We saluted and they saluted back. Their leader, Major Loeb, wanted to know what the hell we were and where we came from. We said, "20th Homeland, Van Buren Bunker." He was suitably impressed. He was 20th Homeland, 5th generation. His companions included a green-skinned woman named Diedre. (I said, "She's from Orion. That's hot." Fatbox's player agreed that's how it goes.) We had a chat with them. They said they weren't Purists but were from the east. Er, Purist territory.

We spoke more and found they were actually former Purists. They had been there maybe 2 years? They were closed-mouthed about it but eventually it came out that there were four groups on the platform, which was called A2O - Advanced Alloys Operations - back in the day. They were:

- Purists, in the form of the Corvus Corporation, the science arm of the Purists. They have a suit of LEONIDAS power armor but it's in bad condition, and isn't radiation sealed. They need the Kaskium-269 for Big Rock Point Nuclear Power Station (NPS). They expected relief but it hadn't come.
- these Purist outcasts, who had become "contaminated."
- black-robed white-skinned mutants, who have unknown motives and seem non-hostile to the outcasts but hostility to the Purists.
- Frogmen over by the drilling cylinder called "the Pit."

Loeb was really reluctant to give us information. He'd come around later, but he didn't tell us a lot that we'd have to find out on our own. It was pretty clear we'd need to do that.

But it was late when we arrived, and they nicely offered to let us bunk with them in the building they were in. It was an old medical building with 11 of the outcasts in it.

Fatbox started to be very friendly to the green-skinned woman. Hillbilly picked out the most attractive one - Lynne Ren - and went right for her. He wasn't subtle about it - I rolled a 7 on a default 12 Sex Appeal. She was game to chat Hillbilly right back up but wasn't that quick about deciding.

We had a nice meal of vegetables from their floating garden and fleshen flesh. It was pretty good.

We quickly concluded that we had the armored suit to get into "the Pit," and potentially could resolve this conflict.

The next morning, bright and early, we headed out. Oinker spied on them with his scope. He saw two, marked on their white faces with painted symbols. ("Post-Apocalypic Kiss" - the Kiss Army cannot be destroyed by the apocalypse!) He reported this to us. Hillbilly joked that he should shoot at them in a friendly way, mind you, to attract their attention. Fatbox said, "Standard greeting fire." He watched them slinging something towards the Purist area. That would turn out to be Kaskium-269.

We walked over and spoke to them. One was waiting to see us - Eleventyseven. He said they were warrior-priests of the Red Death aka Friends of Entropy. They had been brought to the rig - summoned - by a group called the Radiants. Those were the frogmen. They'd been summoned to fight the Purists, who wanted the "manna" down in the Pit that the Radiants worship. The Radiants wanted the conflict won without harming anyone, if possible. So the Red Death were attacking the Purists by throwing radioactive material at them, and slowly irradiating the platform, to contaminate them and force them into exile. The Red Death see themselves as a cancer to destroy the world. And they find that glorious.

We spoke to them for a bit. They were immune to radiation and - if we're willing to come to the Citadel of Greenbay and join them - we could become so, too.

Love Handles handled the negotiations to this point.

We headed to the frogmen next, having told the Red Death we might be able to resolve this conflict.

We told the frogmen the same - one of them, we'd been told, could speak some Ancient. We asked for him - a frogman named Fracker Bravo. We spoke to him. He was a real peace-loving hippie type who worshipped radiation. But he was friendly. Hillbilly told him we could end the war. We could get rid of the Purists - and we promised to try talking first. We would want some manna in return, though. He wasn't happy but that's how he's paying the Red Death, and so he was willing. But he offered metal, instead. He showed us some - a 40-pound lump of Kaskium. Hillbilly etched an "H" in it when FB told us we could keep it.

Even better.

He let us see the Pit.

The Pit was an elevator down 20 miles. Halfway down is a Kaskium-269 storage area with the "manna." At the bottom were friendly metal monsters with lots of metal. They were "friendly." Okay.

We set up a morse code routine for Short Bus, who can't speak but can use radio in his armor. He went down 10 miles and checked out the radiation - lots of boxes of Kaskium-269, maybe 15-20? - and three open boxes.

He went down to the bottom. It was so hot he had to leave his gear behind. At the bottom it was over 200 degrees C. He met a six-legged mining robot standing in the middle of a bunch of tunnels sideways into the mantle. He asked its status.

"Standby. Doing crossword puzzles."

The robot had three full hoppers - one with osmium, one with Kaskium-269, one with Kaskium. Short Bus explored and found the tunnels had striations of non-mantle rock-material. What? He couldn't tell. He returned.

We went back to Loeb. On the way, we discussed our options.

The Purists needed to go. We could make a deal, Hillbilly suggested. Give them some of the Kaskium in return for them leaving and not coming back. But first we'd just offer them a way home, with their gear but nothing else.

Still, this was sub-optimal for us. They'd leave with excellent gear - Loeb told us they'd enchanced their armor with Kaskium-alloy known as Permium(TM). And they'd know about us. Also something Hillbilly wished to avoid. We also wanted to avoid the Purists seizing Short Bus and his armor to allow them to mine.

We met back up with Loeb and told him we had a plan to end it all. They could come home with us. Or just hitch a ride, whatever. They'd get off. We wanted to talk to the Purists. If that failed, we'd kill the hardcore resisters.

We headed out towards them, after sending a concealed Oinker to watch the negotiations. Loeb told us about a sniper. Oinker spotted him, on the platform on the connecting bridge, and aimed at his face. Hillbilly said that if he said, "So, I guess that's it then" that Oinker should kill the sniper. It was combat time.

Hillbilly handed his max-area preset torc grenade to Short Bus to put in a holster in his armor. If they threatened to take us prisoner to seize his suit, he'd pull it out and say he'd set it off with zero delay and take the suit to his grave with him. Short Bus was onboard with this plan. Short Bus ran off to the Red Death to tell them to come if they heard gunfire, because we were ending it violently in that case.

We walked over, helmets off, MOPP gear off, etc. and weapons slung or carried casually. The sniper spotted us, and people came out to meet us - a guy in a badly battered LEONIDAS suit carrying a shield padded with pillows (to deflect those radiation grenades, I opined, correctly) and a gauss cannon on a back harness mount. We faced them and saluted. He saluted back, and eventually took off his head gear. Sgt. Tauruson was impressed that were were "O.G" 20th Homeland. We talked about going home. We're here to take you HOME. This mission can be over, Sergeant. We could make a deal. He wasn't ranked high enough, so he went to get the military commander.

He did, as we waited. He instructed us to take out magazines and rounds first. Some of us complied, but Fatbox quietly did not. It didn't matter.

We'd been warned that the commander was a "total hardass" named Major Geraldine Cho, who Hillbilly mentally tagged as Maragaret. The Notorious C.H.O. came out to talk. She was equally disarmed and was a tough-looking woman with acne scars.

We spoke again about home. Hillbilly said our offer was this:

- they go home, or elsewhere if they prefer.
- they take their personal gear and weapons and such.
- That's it.

Hillbilly made it clear that this was somewhat negotiable, but that we didn't have the transport for them to take Kaskium, etc. with them. The "hardass" wasn't. She wanted to go home. The science staff and mission was headed by a Dr. Culp, and he was hardcore Purist and a diehard. She said she'd take our offer and send a trusted person to Loeb to let us know how it went.

We parted and headed back.

We ate with Loeb and company, and left Oinker in position. It got dark.

Then it got friendly - Hillbilly made another pass at Lynne. I made Sex Appeal by 7, she rolled a 17 on her Will. And we were off.

Hours later, around 3:30 am, Oinker radio'ed that four Purists were heading our way. Four messengers?

No, four defectors. Lt. Ellen Colon, Neil Dunne, Sarah Ligari, and Major Cho. The sniper didn't notice them in the dark as he was looking out for Red Death folks.

Hillbilly came down from his room pulling his shirt on and asked them to disarm. They weren't willing. We didn't press it. Loeb trusted them, and Cho offered to have them held by Loeb at gunpoint. Bah. We just let them keep their guns. But they were it. The others wanted to finish the mission.

We told them we'd kill anyone who didn't surrender pretty thoroughly.

And that's pretty much what we did. We moved out right away. Hillbilly got his torc grenade back. We moved out in a wedge, with Short Bus in the middle. As we approached, Oinker shot the sniper in the unprotected face.

We advanced to the base of the platform. We started to shoot down the drones - half of them were armed drones, half spotters, so we shot down the armed ones. They were fragile and Short Bus saw them easily with his enhanced senses. Fatbox and Hillbilly shot them down.

The Red Death sent a couple of guys running up. Love Handles met them and accompanied them, protected by a forcefield generated by one. The other had a bow. The forcefield one had a backpack full of "manna." Great, suicide bomber with a nuclear weapon.

The LEONIDAS suited Sgt. Tauruson came out with his gauss gun. Oinker had been waiting for that. He put two rounds into it, wrecking it. Tauruson instead drew an oversized auto-pistol and ran towards us. He shot at the charging Red Death who passed up. Meanwhile, Barbie climbed up to the sniper roost. Someone on the helipad shot at him. He flipped them the middle finger without looking back and kept climbing ("I climb serpentine.")

Tauruson shot at the forcefield-protected Red Death and mostly bounced rounds off, but eventually killed the longbowman with gunfire and then ditched his empty pistol. He then killed the other one with a force sword of some kind. Short Bus was going to engage with his ninja-to, but then Hillbilly handed him Hoopslayer.

That was a good move.

Short Bus ran up and the two power armored guys fought in melee. Short Bus was hit with the sword, but his duralloy-coated shield bounced it. The LEONIDAS suit on his opponent, though, didn't stop Hoopslayer. In a series of attacks, Short Bus cut his chest apart and left him a bloody, dead mess in seconds.

Oinker kept up fire on two more, killing one and keeping the other pinned.

At this point, Hillbilly had gotten out his bullhorn and told them to surrender, it was over, give up and they wouldn't die, they'd get to go home. All true, if they had. Not on the same terms - "with me before Chicago" rules apply. Not stated, but true.

Barbie reached the sniper station and found his Barrett (!) He used it to shoot one of the two guys on the helipad shooting him. He killed him. The other shot back and some of his suppressing fire raked Barbie, wounding him. Barbie rolled over and red pen'ed himself, and then rolled back. When the gunfire died down, he popped up, sighted his target - out in a well-lit area, the fool - and killed him, too.

With those guys down, we stopped asking for surrender. Short Bus went ahead and killed the other two. We'd finished the combatants off.

The three scientists had locked themselves in the main building with a device called the gamma lathe - a tool to make Permium(TM) equipment. We'd been warned Dr. Culp was a true believer. He'd been contaminated from using the lathe, but saw that as a price he paid to help the cause.

The place was shielded with big blast doors, but not on the upper levels. Love Handles climbed up and smashed out a window. Hillbilly and Fatbox followed. We found the lobby, found the location of the lab (and found we couldn't open the doors from the lobby), and headed to the lab.

At the lab we found Dr. Lennin holding a gun on us, terrified and unable to fire. Hiding behind her was Dr. Vanessa Hodges. Dr. Culp was looking crafty and trying to do something, anything, with his computer console. We told them to disarm. They didn't. We gave them directions to lay down. They didn't.

Fatbox just walked up and took away her gun. "We're done here."

Culp surrendered, too, but Hillbilly didn't trust him. He took aim. Fatbox went to duct tape his hands. Culp lashed out with a vibrodagger!

And Hillbilly fire full auto into him. Nine rounds, six hit. He died. Dr. Hodges went catatonic.

We asked questions to Dr. Lennin. She said she'd never tell us anything. Okay. Hillbilly showed her his eyes. "Do you have a problem with this?" he said, and pointed at them. She was scared but seemed firm.

We brought them back and left them outside and went to talk to Cho and Loeb. They said Lennin was a true believer. Hodges we brought inside. Hillbilly went outside to talk to Dr. Lennin. He tried to reason with her but she kept saying she'd tell us nothing. Hillbilly made it clear this was her life on the line. She got stubborn.

So Hillbilly shot her in the face.

Ugh. Not where I wanted that to go.

We did some talking - the whole group of them will come with us and try our life. A post on that tomorrow, I think. The Red Death will leave, taking their dead with them - dead? Love Handles spoke to them. "They'll be fine." "Oh, you mean their souls will be fine." "No, they'd be up and around."

Turns out the Red Death can come back from the dead. A little weaker, sure, a little "smaller," but back. Wow.

We left it there - the hard-core Purists killed, peace restored. We had a bit meal of flying mola mola and we'll resolve the way off and the resolution by email. We need to manufacture some stuff for us, and decide how to leave it. Sadly, we probably need to disable the gamma lathe so the conflict doesn't re-start. We're not strong enough to garrison it.


We had an exchange by email during which Barbie's player mentioned how attractive Barbie was. The GM pointed out he wasn't. So Barbie's player invested 5 points in Attractive. Hah.

We rolled to level up - at least most of us, who had previous played a multiple of 5 sessions. IIRC Barbie rolled +2 Striking ST, Fatbox +1 IQ to bring him into a tie with Hillbilly at 13, Oinker and Hillbilly both got +1 HT. I can't recall what Love Handles got, if he in fact leveled up. With the +1 HT Hillbilly has HT 15 and Very Fit, which helped immensely in the session to follow.

So it turns out I'm the player who wants to know if there are any cute girls in the bar to hit on. Hey, Hillbilly probably didn't get any action the day he was frozen and it's been 155 days since then. The Restorationists weren't interested for some reason, so he was going to keep trying. Momma's Boy has his porn, but Hillbilly has a solid Sex Appeal default.

Omnium is actually a cycling race term.

Kaskium, I assume, is named for Tim Kask. We need some Wardium. It's bound to be really powerful but not enough to counter the DM's machinations.

We took turns as speakers today - Love Handles did some of it, we did some as a group, and Hillbilly took over in the end for the direct negotiations. I'm most interest, and my best, when I'm focused on a goal and negotiating. Hillbilly and Love Handles had some differences about the utility of white lies. Hillbilly prefers not to lie, so people believe his facts. Love Handles likes to spin things a little differently so we don't let on what we know until we've fished out some from the others. Interesting contrast I think. He's at his best just being conversational and asking for general information, in my opinion.

We used the map above as a handout. The GM didn't have this much clearer map ready. Honestly, it makes a big difference - seeing this I have a different idea of where I was. Less Zaxxon and more habitable platform.

When the LEONIDAS suit-wearing Purist readied his force sword and attacked the Red Death warrior-priests, I asked Fatbox's player for sound effects. "A Wilhem scream?" I said yes, but I meant a light saber effect. Oinker's player jumped in with that. So every time he hit a warrior-priest they played the sound effects. Woooosh. AAAAAAAH! Fatbox's player kept up the screams with each killed Purist combatant. We don't do MVP but they were MVP.

That's just one of the funny things in game. We had so, so many. Some of us - especially including me - just kept laughing really hard for big chunks of the session. "Standard greeting fire" was a classic Fatbox line - that player is the same one who came up with "Wizard Court" and "Wizard Jury Duty" in our DF campaign.

After the session, I thought of some ways we could have potentially turned or used Dr. Lenin. Ways we could have appealed to her, and made her convince herself that helping us really helped the Purists, too. They might not have worked, but it was late and I was in a rush so I just didn't think of them. Oh well. Great game. Very satisfying, even if Hillbilly ended up doing something I'd rather not have had Hillbilly do. I'd personally have felt as bad about it if I'd just handed her over to Fatbox, who'd cheerfully have cut her into pieces with his chainsword. Not a good way to end. At least it's a new beginning - we have our first new recruits!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Gamma Pre-Summary

We played Gamma Terra today, with a good crowd - six players.


- Buried the dead at our last exploration point

- traveled to Unknown #1 by rowing our inflatable Zodiacs

- saw flying fish, drones, and a habitable drilling platform

- met splitters from the Purists

- met Red Death warrior-priests

- met the Radiant - frogmen who worship radiation

- tested the rad-proofing of our LEONIDAS suit

- met hard-core Purists

- negotiated, for real

- negotiated, in the "bullet in the head" sense

- made some amazing discoveries

- and got Hillbilly some action, boo-yah.

Detailed summary tomorrow!

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Friday, January 10, 2020

No more FFG Star Wars?

Tenkar posted this about FFG jettisoning RPGs. Or at least fired the whole RPG staff.

We played that game a while back, GMed by my Star Wars fan cousin. It was great.

I wasn't terribly impressed by the FFG Star Wars system. Chargen seemed needlessly fiddly - making the guy you want took a lot of juggling around races and options and spending, and even then you had to cut corners (or at least I did.) The funky dice made it hard to judge whether I was actually going to succeed at what I rolled or not, or the odds. Yeah, I know - "Never tell me the odds." I couldn't - I genuinely had no idea how to figure out the risk level of my decisions. That made my actions more of a guess than a judgment call, and helped make me less connected to my character.

We haven't gone back to the system. The judgment I had on the system still feel accurate.

I'm bummed for the people who lost their jobs. Especially in this tiny industry. But the product I had contact with didn't thrill me so much I wanted to play with it again. Maybe our two GURPS-fan Star wars nut players will kitbash something out of GURPS. GURPS Action has a good set of rules for chases and for modifiers in general. Ultra-Tech has weaponry that'll do for most purposes. Force swords probably need a little tweaking (based on what I see, they cut really well but swinging them really, really hard has some benefit, so clearly they have a ST-based component in the only movies that matter - the first three.) Jedi powers are tougher, but hey, being a Jedi will rightly be expensive. I'd play.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Notes from the Post-Apocalypse - GM info dump for Gamma Terra

We've been dealing with lots of little things from our last Gamma Terra session.

Here are andi's notes on the android we shot for booting up near firearms, because we're a little jumpy:

In one of the suites in the Echo-Tower, the PCs destroyed a female Mark VIII Bodyguard Android by shooting her in the head, and using Oinker’s “bunny scope” they found her memory modules in the torso and extracted them. Once home, the PCs were able — with Short Bus’ knowledge of computing and android engineering — to connect her to a terminal and get her online. Doing that, they learned that she was a Mark VIIIi A-Level Bodyguard Android called Nike (pronounced NEE-kay) and had been assigned to protect a man (whose corpse the PCs found in a bed in the same suite) named Manny Ferraro. Ferraro was a wealthy and influential friend (and former University of Michigan classmate) of John Morrow’s, and an “expert consultant” to the UNAS’ United Intelligence Services. He lived in a fortified brownstone in Detroit and was buying a unit in the Echo-Tower (as well as a room in the Survival City). In the year before the War, Ferraro split his time between his home in Detroit and the starport at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio. Nike was always with him, but he could turn her long-term memory circuits off when he was doing “classified” things, so she doesn’t know much about what he did, exactly.

Our additional questions told us the following:

The Mark VIIIi is "high-end human" -- better than a Bishop-from-Aliens-style Mark VIII which is basically a baseline human in terms of physical abilities.

Talking to Nike, you ask about her capabilities -- I'll just translate what she says into GURPS terms to save me saying it all in words, which would be vague and take more time than I have.

The Mark VIIIi would have ST and DX in high human range (maybe 16-18 depending on how much you spend) with above-average processing power (IQ 12-ish, lower than Mark 8's "genius grade" IQ 14+ brain) and a HT score (plus Hard to Subdue and Kill) that makes it hard to put her down short of destroying her. Her reactions are impressive; she would have a higher Basic Speed (and thus Move) than her DX and HT scores would normally come out to, as well as Combat Reflexes. She has subdermal armor plating (DR capable of deflecting up to rifle rounds, so call it 4d or 5d of DR). She doesn't eat, drink, tire, breathe and so on. Her power source is in the form of an atomic battery which lasts more or less indefinitely. She had the juice to boot up when you found her, despite having been sitting there for centuries.

And of course all the Machine Body advantages like Injury Tolerances like No Blood and so on. That's in Basic.

Skills are what you would been for VIP protection detail, all at professional (or greater, 17-18+) levels. In her case, melee and unarmed were better (Level 20?) than guns (because people were really prickly about firearms during the shadow years).

Her gear is pretty simple. Mono-edge hyperdense ninja-to with an armor divisor, a (5mm?) needler pistol like the one you found on the dead security guard in the nuclear power plant (but slightly better) and those are "shock shurikens" which have very sharp micro-barbed points that stick in flesh/clothing/armor and deliver a taser-like incapacitating jolt of electricity.

Her needler ammo?

Single magazine (22 rounds) of disintegrating (as in dissolving, not "disintegration ray") poison. One or two hits is non-lethal, more rounds deliver more poison and increase lethality (ie require multiple HT rolls, or HT rolls at penalties, that kind of thing).

And here is what she looked like - Bridgitte Nielson. I called it by email without the GM saying so . . . she sounded like Bridgitte Nielson looked in Beverly Hill Cop II sans .44 Automag.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Random Links for 1/8

- Tim Shorts put up a nice post on playing with who shows up for game. As someone who is still running a "pickup" style of game eight years after starting it, I say he's right.

The Constant Reshaping of Campaigns

In fact, it's not a survival strategy, it's a strategy to thrive. We have more players now because you can just pop in when you can.

- Star Schlock looks like a lot of fun. There is a website now, too.

- Elfmaids & Octopi has a nice post with creepy signs The Old Ones lived here before you showed up to adventure.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

OSR Christmas Prize - Towns & Villages

So according to Tenkar's blog, I won this:

In print, no less. Neat!

I don't use city or town maps a lot, but if/when we get to another wilderness area it might be very handy to have some town and village maps. I've got castles covered with a Judges Guild book - Castles II - but not villages and towns yet.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Names and Ethnic Origins of my NPCs and PCs

I mentioned yesterday that we've seen a fair amount of characters in my current game with very specific historical backgrounds. Roman, Carthaginian, Spanish, Viking (lots of those), English, African to name a few. We've equally had a large number of folks with fairly generic backgrounds and more "fantasy game" style names.

These days I often make NPCs off of miniatures, or reasonably close to minis I have. But I have had some very specifically ethnically-inspired characters in my own stable of NPCs, although they are mostly dead these days - Raggi Ragnarsson and Father Hans leap to mind. Even so, the NPCs are generally generic fantasy types or of some really strange made-up ethnic group. The Meeposian brothers, the folks of Cashamash (Prince Vlashkalabash III, Black Jans), even Brother Ike (who had a mostly-Zulu name but wasn't really Zulu) . . . they're not really from any Earth group. I tend to blend and mishmash on purpose.

I grab names from random sources - Prince Vlashkalabash III and Rangol Grot, for example, were both named by Japanese kids I taught English to. Gort of the Shining Force got named because someone was playing some video game during the game session - someone, I say, but I mean the now-player who runs Crogar. Crogar is the kind of name I'd choose, given half of a chance.

My own characters are like that, regardless of the campaign.

I tend to make my characters off an idea of options, potential weapon use, or just a straight-up lack of interest in trying out difficult rules or complications. My names are often inspired by fairly odd sources - Arnold Maytreks and Tarjan Telnar and Mirado the Black Warrior, say.

I also tend to make my characters fairly bland. I'm not a half-drow with a reverse gripped sword in one hand and a custom kukri in the other. I'm a human fighter with a shield and a sword with a dagger, axe, and spear to round out my loadout . . . and a bow if it's affordable. I don't make a mutant with super powers, I make a martial artist crime fighter. I'm interested in a simple character who'll let me interact with the world as I see fit, rather than either restricting my options or forcing the world to react to my very specific approach.

So I'm sure that translates over to my game worlds, and they feed each other in turn.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Where in Pseudo-Europe is Stericksburg?

During our last game, someone asked Aldwyn's player where Aldwyn is from. He said, "From where this world's England is."

Since the players help define the world, this means there must be some Britain/England/Avalon/whatever type place, presumably bordered by where "Mild Bruce" came from.

But the same player stated that he thought that Stericksburg was in this world's pseudo-Germany, because of the use of the title "Baron" by Baron Sterick the Red.

Interesting. I actually hadn't defined this area as Germanic. I've got a Russian/Slavic area to the East, for sure - Molotov. I've got a French/Flemish/Belgian/Norman area to the West (the city of Arras, for example.) But this one? Germanic . . . I don't really think of it that way.

Sterick isn't actually from this area. He's been defined as a wandering adventurer type who showed up, seized Felltower with his troops on behalf of the Kingdom, and then eventually revolted (detailed here.) It's still not clear why, except that the players decided that it's because he's either Evil or just a bad person. That's not exactly the whole reason, but it'll do for now.

In any case, he's not a local. Neither are his Viking-esque men, who are less Viking-like than Hjalmarr was because I'm just not as into Vikings as he is.

So where is Stericksburg?

The map sure doesn't say much.

In my mind's eye map of the world, Stericksburg is rather far north. There isn't much north of it that's civilized, and that extends West and East pretty far. Molotov is notably north of Stericksburg but it's much further East of Stericksburg than it is North of it.

There is a big crescent-shaped area north of those cities that's howling wilderness at worst and semi-occupied borderlands at best.

Still, though, I haven't defined it as a specific European country, not like Darklands does with Germany and its neighbors. I don't really think there is sufficient value in doing so. The more defined the area is by comparison with some half-understood stereotypical Middle Ages version of a modern country it is, the less useful it is to me. The less I can stick in because, hey, that's sure convenient right now. I'd like to avoid definitions that pin me down instead of expand the value of the area as a campaign-boosting bit of background. To define something is to put boundaries on it.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Erol Otus's Shub-Niggurath

This has always been one of my favorite images in D&D:

It's completely awesome. Eyes peering out madly, strange beings sallying forth but still connected to the main being (including a member of the cone-shaped race inhabited for a time by the Great Race of Yith, there in the back up the stairs) . . .

At the same time, I'm not even sure how I'd run that. I could describe it, but it would be hard to keep having it spew out new beings constantly. You'd probably need to use a random generator to spit out stats for the "spawn" that keep coming out to fight and die on the blades of those trying to banish some bit of Shub-Niggurath back to where it came from.

It could be a great set-piece for a high-level AD&D game - you've got stats right there in the old edition of Deities & Demigods - or as a DF ultimate boss monster. It's hard not to think of ways to try and use this, thanks to the great feel of Erol Otus's art.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Oddball Heroes for Bolt Action

Since my Oddball Sherman was so cool, why would I not want more Kelly's Heroes themed minis?

My box arrive with:

The Turk
The Bavarian
Big Joe

The minis are nicely sculpted and have tolerable amounts of flash and mold lines. I'm debating prepping and painting them in the order they appear in the film, but I'm not sure that'll really matter in the end. Even so, that's probably a sensible approach as Big Joe, Kelly, Babra, and Crapgame all have similar uniforms, and Moriarty and The Bavarian are both wearing SS gear (the German in his issued gear, Moriarty in gear purchased off of the Germans.)

Fun stuff!

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Running intelligent foes - over at The Monsters Know

Nice post on running intelligent foes at The Monsters Know:

Intelligent Enemy Tactics

It's not really new advice, if you've been around gaming as long as I have. But it's a good, readable, and linkable source for it.

One idea I've toyed with for intelligent foes is to allow them a chance to retroactively plan for PC approaches. The GM can roll, say, an IQ roll with a cascading penalty for repeated attempts (-4 is probably workable). If successful, the monster did have something useful planned to forestall that PC tactic. A failure means exactly that - it wasn't ready.

Alternatively, make it a "Gizmo" - 5 points per use for "Tactical Gambit." Each use allows some retroactive planning using the creature's intelligence and native abilities to be ready for a situation it could have reasonably planned for had the GM thought of it ahead of time.

This can be a good way to do unplanned encounters with intelligent foes that would reasonably have planned. Because GMs don't always want to just wing it when the PCs veer left and end up in some area or situation the GM just didn't have time to plan for.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2019 in Gaming

2019 is over. How was it for gaming?

Running Dungeon Fantasy

We had 12 sessions of DF/DFRPG this past year. It was a tough start to the year, as most of the vets were wiped out when they ducked away from an alert dragon into a lurking beholder. So the first game consisted of a lot of new or lower=point PCs. We lost one player for the entire year (he hasn't played since the beholder effective TPK) and another was out except to drop in to play a different game.

Still, our group consists of eight regulars and a couple of drop-ins.

The players also (finally!) went through the "Forest Gate" and discovered the Garden of Trent Oakheart. It took four sessions for them to explore it, it was low-loot and could have been a drag. Instead it was a very exciting series of sessions. The big battles with the orcs and discovery of another way down were fun, even if neither was really taken to completion.

12 sessions, though, isn't great - we had 16 sessions of DF alone in 2018, out of 20 gaming sessions total that year. We had only 12 sessions in 2017, too. My schedule might allow for more Sundays for gaming, though - we'll see.

Playing Gamma Terra

We had three sessions of Gamma Terra, up from two last year. The crew that shows for the game has shrunk to a degree. But we managed to get in three good sessions. It's progressing, slowly, but it's so much fun when we play. I'm hoping we can get in at least two sessions this coming year, and I'd prefer four.

Not just because I get to play, but also because it's such a good change of pace from my style of GMing.


We kept up what's now a tradition of playing some old AD&D modules, too.

We had two sessions of AD&D - two parts of A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity.

This one I expected to be two sessions. The players still struggle with the very real tactical differences between decisions in AD&D and GURPS. But we enjoyed the play, and as they improve at AD&D we can try higher and higher level adventures.

Other Games & Gaming

None. I received Trogdor the Game but I haven't played it. I painted almost nothing in the way of minis. I managed to get a book released - Dungeon Fantasy Treasures 3: Artifacts of Felltower.

I played a lot of video games in chunks this year - Borderlands 2, as usual, was a good get-away-from-it-all game. I started Tides of Numenura, finally, once my new laptop arrived. And I played a good chunk of the challenging yet rewarding War in the East. Oh, and I restarted and have been cheerfully playing through GTA: Vice City on my XBOX.

Gaming was a key part of my life this year but we got so little in - 17 sessions, which is barely 1 more than 2018's DF gaming alone. I need to ensure my schedule includes more gaming this year - and painting.
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