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.


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.

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.


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 south 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.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Felltower pre-summary

Today the PCs . . .

- choked a barbarian

- delved deeply into Felltower

- went down the second GFS

- and fought a pitched battle against cone-hatted cultists, norkers, golden swordsmen, an iron spectre, and obsidian golems!

It ended . . . heroically. Details tomorrow.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Game Inspiration - Myths in a Mythical World

Re-reading the Garret, P.I. series, I found this passage I always liked:

"Unicorns, vampires, mammoths, fifty kinds of thunder lizards, werewolves, and countless other creatures often deemed mythical I had seen with my own eyes. [. . .] But these flying horses and the bitty bowman [a cherub] constituted my first encounter with a class of creatures I thought of as artist's conventions. Symbols. These guys, griffins, ostriches, cameleopards, cyclops. All of them supposedly as uncommon as a lawyer driven only by a need to see justice done."
- Glen Cook, "Petty Pewter Gods."

Heh, ostriches.

In a mythical world - a world full of monsters - what beings are actually myths? Earth is covered with truly remarkable species, yet we've imagined a whole menagerie of creatures that don't exist. What kind of things do people in a world of strange monsters imagine? What normal creatures can you set off on such a list in order to drive home the strangeness of the world to real-world players?

Friday, February 7, 2020

Questions I need Equipment Descriptions to Answer

When I have equipment, I really need to know some things:

How big is it?

I need dimensions. Length, Width, Height. Diameter if it's circular.

I need to know how much internal space there is for holding things, too. Volume, yes, but dimensions, too. "Holds 6 cubic feet" is great, but It's easier for me if it's 3 x 2 x 1 so I can say no when someone tries to stick in a 5' tall item.

How tough is it?

HP, DR, and HT.

How much it weigh?

I also need this for animals, monsters, people, etc. They are going to get picked up and hauled around. My players are going to want to make it into a Zombie, sell it for parts in town, use it as a barricade, etc. Size Modifier is critical, but I need weight, too.

How much does it cost?

Usually included, but very important. It's going to get sold or bought, eventually. How much does it bring or take?

How long does it take?

How long does it take to put on or take off? Time might be critical, and I might not really have unlimited non-combat time to just have it work.

What game effects does it have?

I need to know what it does when it gets used.

I'm going to keep this list handy when I write my own specific pieces of gear, and make rulings on the above on existing pieces.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Lanyards in DF II: The Ruling

After some thought about Lanyards and the discussion that followed, I decided on a pair of rules for lanyards.

A loose lanyarded weapon is -4 to the limb involved and -1 to other rolls (including defenses with the non-affected limb or whole body.) Size doesn't matter for simplicity.

A weapon can be lanyarded to the upper body; this causes a -1 to the rolls listed above, and potentially fouls up movement - a DX roll is required (at -1) for each yard of movement to avoid tripping and falling. Weapons lanyarded to the body can only be readied with a DX roll, not Fast-Draw.

If not specified, a lanyard is wrist-to-weapon on the same hand. For a two-handed weapon, the dominant hand is assumed to be connected to the weapon unless specified otherwise.

I found what I feel like is the best way to handle lanyards and Fast-Draw. Readying a weapon in Close Combat requires a DX roll (per Readying in Close Combat on p. B391); doing so quickly requires the DX roll followed by a Fast-Draw roll. I'll port that rule over to lanyards - it will take two rolls to get a lanyarded weapon up quickly. Still easy for DF-level combatants, and I don't generally like to add additional rolls, but it's an existing setup we've used. And heck, it's another risk of a critical failure . . . which may have consequences beyond "drop the weapon" and a free restart.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Unwarping Resin Models

One of the treads on my Oddball Sherman model is bent. I'm debating fixing it myself before I go and bug Warlord for a replacement.

I found two seemingly effective ways to do this on Youtube. Does anyone have any experience with these? I have access to a hair dryer for the first one, but this is a very thick piece of resin for that.

Hair dryer:


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

DFRPG Companion 2 - BackerKit

The BackerKit surveys for the DFRPG Companion 2 book is out. It ended up costing me $26 - $20 pledged, $6 shipping.

I'm curious to see how fast I'll get the PDF. The books will need to get printed, but for the PDF I'm not sure how long they'll need to wait. I expect it's ready to go now. I don't actually expect to see it before, say, Sunday and our next game. But I do expect to see it soon after.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Anacreon 2.1

My latest video game time sink is Anancreon 2.1.

A friend of mine gave me Anacreon: Reconstruction 2041 for DOS back in the day. I played it for endless hours. I can see this happening here.

The DOS version is still available, but I went with the newer version. I loved the DOS version but I don't want to deal with the annoyance of setting up DOSBox for it. Or, especially, dealing with turn time limits.

The manual is entirely online. I'm digging around to see if I can find stats for the various ships, too. It's tough gauging a fight between 2,000 fighters, 750 hunter-killers, 1000 jumpships, and 20 penetrators vs. 1500 fighters, 500 jumpships, 200 penetrators, and 50 starships without any stats. I know which ships move how, and which are better than the next, but it gets a bit tiresome to think you'd better outnumber the enemy in everything to know you're likely to win. The manual only has some very basic descriptions.

Still it's a fun game . . . and the save-on-exit system means it's by default in hardcore mode. Give it a try and make sure you've got some spare time to spend on it.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Felltower, Wizard Eye, Exploration, and XP

The PCs exploring Felltower fairly routinely include wizards with the spell Wizard Eye. I noted in a previous game summary that I don't count exploration via Wizard Eye to be worth XP.

This is why.

Wizard Eye doesn't involve any risk. Risk of detection of a nearby wizard, yes. But of where that wizard is, no. Of setting off traps meant to kill, main, or annoy delvers, no. Of falling into dangers of any kind, no. It doesn't even cost a lot to cast - and it's trivial for wizards to get it high enough to be free to maintain once cast for a pittance of FP.

XP awards are meant to drive two kinds of behavior - taking risks for profit, and taking risks to discover things. It doesn't hurt that discovering things you can exploit for wealth helps profit, and profit helps improve your ability to explore and exploit wealth.

Giving XP for areas explored by Wizard Eye would be akin to giving XP for money earned in town or generated through non-exploration activities (mining or trapping in a safe area, for example, or payment for a job.) It would also result in XP being given to characters who are guarding the wizard but aren't actually even seeing the areas they are getting XP for "exploring."

I don't allow Invisible Wizard Eye and I don't allow people to cast Invisibility on a Wizard Eye to get around that. (Or put any other spells on it, either.) That plus Dark Vision and See Secrets on the caster would be a nightmare from a play perspective - just casual exploring, mapping, and zooming around cataloging monsters and treasures for extended periods while the other players sat around trying to keep themselves entertained. If that also gave XP, it would be pretty trivial for the players to "earn" 2 xp for exploration every session without real risk.

It's a nice spell for the PCs, and I don't mind it - but I do mind letting it be spammed out and abused to explore large areas of the dungeon so the PCs can earn XP for not taking risks.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Oddball Sherman: It Begins . . .

The assembly begins . . .

Looks like one tread is bent, though. Is there a way to bend resin? I'll have to find out or email Warlord games.
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