Sunday, March 29, 2020

What disadvantages are mis-priced in GURPS DF Felltower?

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

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

Less Impact:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Impact

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. I have no disagreement with your list except two (well one and a suggestion):

    Weirdness Magnet - The best way I've seen to give this it's bang for the buck was to treat it as Elder Thing Magnet, or Danger Increase Magnet. I've seen it go a couple of ways, but basically, every time the Wizard fails (or critically fails, or even casts a spell*, YMMV) you check against Weirdness Magnet (2d6 versus target number, usually 6). If it triggers the next encounter has a beast/trap that is 'powered' up. Add a template to it (Dire, Elder, Giant, Anti-Mage, etc) and that beast has a desire to get to the Wizard. Either Wizards stop taking the "increase the GM's Workload Disad" or they have a great time fighting monsters every so often.

    Overconfidence - Was this really a PC killer or was it like SoD (Fellow Adventurers) in that they were getting points for acting the way they were going to act anyway?

    1. I like that idea on Weirdness Mangnet, but not for this campaign. Partly it's because it's work for me, right then and there, and also because it means WM changes reality as I already defined it. The idea that the dungeon reacts to your actions but isn't shaped by you or your abilities is a key aspect of this campaign for me. So it's a non-starter. It just needs to go away for this game, in my experience.

      It was Overconfidence. Guys entering melee when they shouldn't and getting killed, guys advanced solo vs. draugr and getting their legs cut off, guys refusing to back off from fights because they were sure they'd win . . .

  2. Chivalry is definitely a tricky one in a lot of games that aren’t “Save the Princess” or quest laden as much as they are exploration and loot heavy just because there are less opportunities to be chivalrous. The way I’ve been trying to play Aldwyn with this is Soldier’s Code plus doing more for my adventuring companions. The way that Aldwyn sees it is that if there is an opportunity where someone needs to put themselves at risk for the good of the group he will take it. He touches every silver door just in case it’s trapped. He tried stepping on the death touch floor in Felltower 98, see the entirety of the naked slime debacle in the lost city, he is willing to let the other PC’s buy and use the limited spellstones available. I think chivalry in our game is being willing to do the unpleasant thing or take the hit for someone else if it means that your friends will be better off because of it. This is also of course reinforced by the fact that Aldwyn has DR7, Hard to Kill 2 and is one of the few PCs who has >20 HP and isn’t SM+1, making him the person who can soak up damage and be most easily repaired.

    1. I can see that, but I don't think that really makes it worth -15 points, as some of what you've done could easily be a way of playing Sense of Duty. "I'll do what I'm best at, especially when I'm the best choice to do it from a group perspective" isn't really that severe of a disadvantage to you or the group.

      I think you've got the basis of a good code, there, but it's hard to see how it'll be 15 points worth just yet.


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